Sunday, June 29, 2014

Money Wisdom #282

"A deeper complexity underlies Kantian reason: If the noumenal reality can only be refracted by reason's own laws, if the real is a synthesis of mind and nature, if the very self that knows the world is itself a noumenon, what could reason's own foundation be? Kant's answer: 'Reason operates according to laws that it gives itself' (Neiman 1994, 91). In other words, reason is independent of the natural world of appearances and causation.  [...]

...Kant meticulously derived reason's 'laws,' which include the unrequited search for the unconditioned (the ground or foundation of the world) (Neiman 1994, 86) Simply, reason becomes 'the capacity to act according to purposes' (88), which is comprised by the search for its own grounding. Further, by seeking 'its own reflection in nature' (88), reason structures reality according to a human perspective, not as the world really is in any final sense, but only in reason's terms. In other words, human minds are 'the lawgivers' to nature. [...]

Thus the 'concepts of the understanding give order to experience, the principles of reason are the standard by which it is judged' (Neiman 1994, 6).


...unlike certain human behaviors that have an obvious empirical content and thus deterministic causality, reason possesses no temporality (or what we perceive as natural causality) 'and thus the dynamic law of nature, which determines the temporal sequence according to rules, cannot be applied to it'.

Thus to fulfill its function, reason must be free of experience, and, on this view, the ability to survey the world and make judgments depends on reason's independence of that world. Reason, accordingly, resides outside the natural domain, free and autonomous, to order nature through scientific insight and regulate behavior through rational moral discourse."

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.125-127

Money Wisdom #281

"Freud, through a complex convolution, extrapolated neurophysiology to psychology, and thereby aspired to establish mechanisms of disease. In configuring psychoanalysis as a scientific discipline, he simply ignored the gapping [sic] chasm between the causal mechanistic laws of the natural domain, which defined his idea of scientific explanation, and the interpretative reconstructions he devised to explain mental phenomena. In short , Freud applied what he thought were scientific causal links, because he believed he was dealing with natural phenomena that could be discerned through spectacles devised for physics and biology, when in fact he supplied reasons that were derived from inferences and interpretations of mental phenomena that had no explanatory power in the natural sense he wished to apply. Simply, he mistook two different ontologies as the same and in the process applied the same epistemologies when different strategies were required. In a sense, he ignored one of Kant's cardinal tenets: two kinds of reason were required to address the physical and the metaphysical, and [...] Freud failed to recognize the metaphysical character of the unconscious and thus made a fundamental category error in his analysis of the psyche.

If Freud had succeeded in making the unconscious a natural object suitable for scientific study, then his naturalization of the mind would be credible. The position taken here, albeit in debt to the vast critical literature, accepts that he failed. On that view, the 'mind' and 'the ego' and 'the unconscious' serve as placeholders for the corresponding targets of scientific scrutiny. On this account, the unconscious, then, is a metaphysical construction whose definition has served useful purposes, but it cannot be confused with the brain functions from which behavior emerges. This hardly denies its reality, but that reality is configured in a universe that excludes natural objects and forces. Kant, and in a different voice, Wittgenstein, considered each domain as separate and distinct, so the character of knowledge and reason employed to achieve its ends were also distinguished. In this vein, Freud's triumph rests on the successful application of 'practical' reason, when ironically he thought he was employing 'pure' reason. That misassignment accounts for Freud's error (or in Whitehead's term, 'misplaced concreteness,' to characterize this general mistake [1925]), which nevertheless yielded success. Ironically then, whereas Freud thought he was doing science, he in fact was conducting a highly novel, creative, and fecund interpretation of how humans think, conduct their lives, exhibit character and create personal identity. Simply, he conducted a moral investigation, one that remains a steadfast testimony to his insights."

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.127-128

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Money Wisdom #280

"Windelband's understanding of the place of value in epistemology introduced a challenge to positivist ideals, since he was dissatisfied with the philosophical grounding of objectivity. The aspiration of positivism to lead the human sciences to the naturalistic ideal required a value system that would order the respective inquiries. Positivism's approach depended on a dichotomy between facts and values, the objective and subjective ways of knowing, respectively (Putnam 2002). Long before the current post-Kuhnian views of the value structure of science achieved wide acceptance (Tauber 2009), Windelbund would ask, What is the relationship of facts and values? What is the standing of 'facts', and how are they qualified? Where did 'value', specifically in reference to the human sciences, find its philosophical place? The ability to define or maintain a system of values to support the notions of a radically objective science (Tauber 2009) rested upon the fact/value distinction (traditionally strung on an objective/subjective axis), but the basic division could not be maintained, because facts assume their meaning through a much wider constellation of values than the particular objectivist values positivists embraced. Indeed, facts attain their standing through the values that structure the very acquisition of data, and another array of values determine their significance and meaning. On this view, the dichotomy of 'facts' (products of a stark objectivity) and 'values' (typically construed as subjective) collapses in analytic practice. (This line of criticism proved important, since the collapse of the fact/value distinction became the fulcrum of positivism's fall in the last half of the twentieth century).

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.106

Money Wisdom #279

"As a neo-Kantian, Windelband recognized that the limits of pure reason (directed at the natural world) espoused by Kant could not support science's epistemology and that other element, 'value', not only defined knowledge (its basis and application), but also conferred a necessary telos for reason's direction in the pursuit of any epistemological enterprise."

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.105-6

Money Wisdom #278

"Freud connived to walk on both sides of the street: On the one hand, he followed an idealist course in explaining the unconscious and applying transcendental principles for its development (Bergo 2004), and on the other hand, he professed a positivist confidence in establishing laws of the unconscious through empirical methods that seemingly ignored transcendental commitments. The unconscious scrutinized as a natural object thus presented itself as both a biological entity suitable for positivist examination and a deduction from some transcendental requirement for establishing cause in the psyche realm. [....]

This bivalency would plague psychoanalysis throughout its development and offer critics ample opportunity to attack its weak flank, the putative scientific theory. By insisting on making psychoanalysis an objective science, Freud betrayed the more fundamental commitment to the deductive understanding of the unconscious. That inconsistency would leave psychoanalysis open to scathing criticism, for instead of claiming the approach as a method of interpretation through inferences and narrative constructions, limited by constraints easily identified and embracing a circumscribed skepticism, Freud sought to establish psychoanalysis as a means to decipher psychic cause - a positivist science of the mind - and thereby lost the support of those who understood the philosophical errors he committed."

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.104

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Money Wisdom #277

This basic tension, arising between a scientific explanation and a hermeneutical interpretation, resides at the foundation of psychoanalysis and has been recognized by many. Stan Draenos succinctly states the conflict, one embedded deeply in Freud's bivalent approach:
A contradiction runs through Freud's writings like a fault line. It arises form the fact that psychoanalysis presents itself as knowledge of two different kinds. On the one hand, psychoanalysis takes the form of an understanding of mind obtained through the disclosure of hidden meanings in dreams and neurotic symptoms. On the other, psychoanalysis takes the form of an explanation of mind secured in the elucidation of the mechanisms and systemic relations of a 'mental apparatus.'
  To bring these two forms of knowledge together within one science is like trying to square a circle. For they carry with them visions of mind that are fundamentally at odds. In seeking to understand mind through interpretation of meaning, Freud takes the mental as a property of a subject and his inner life. In seeking to explain mind as a mechanism, he places mental phenomena among the natural objects of the external world. Mind as meaning and mind as mechanism, however, lie on opposite sides of a great divide first enunciated by Descartes's famous dualism, in the distinction between res cogitans and res extensa, consciousness and matter, subject and object.
Freud, of course, straddled the line."

Stan Draenos Freud's Odyssey: Psychoanalysis and the End of Metaphysics (1982) p.7 
quoted in Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.67

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A brief note on Fact/Value dichotomies

You'll know I'm a fan of Tim Johnson's Magic, Maths and Money. His most recent post is Scientific Facts and Democratic Values. The comment thread is worth reading. The EP (experimental physicist) that Tim mentions in the post has recently added his thoughts, and identified himself as Philip Moriarty.

As I say in my own comment on the post, I'm exploring these fact/value issues in psychoanalysis at the moment through my reading of Albert Tauber's book Freud - the Reluctant Philosopher. I've barely got beyond the first chapter so I'm not going to say too much on Tauber here, but there are a couple of notes I wanted to make.

Tim thinks that the definition of science should be broad enough so that it can incorporate claims from the social as well as the natural world. He backs up this idea with the following striking statement;
.".. I believe it is equally justified to claim the "E=mc2" [is right] and that "Raping three year olds is wrong" and I need to have a framework that acknowledges the equivalence of these claims. The reason I use an extreme example is that the question of raping children is clearly predominantly a moral question, so what I am claiming is that my intellectual framework needs to be equally robust in supporting "facts" as "values".
In his comment Philip says that Tim is over-reaching here and that his 'attempt to equate universal physical laws with the idea of a universal moral framework makes no sense at all'. He agrees with an earlier commenter - Kaleberg - who claims that 'there have been, and quite likely still are, societies where raping toddlers is seen as perfectly acceptable.' In other words, moral values are inherently relative, whereas scientific facts are not.

I'm not so sure about Kaleberg's claim from both a practical and a philosophical position.

First, my practical objection. Freud's claim was that society itself - i.e. the very idea of society - was based upon some form of sexual repression. Indeed, some form of prohibition on incest is the closest thing anthropologists have to a 'universal social law' [the closest thing to 'a truth' given certain error bars  :o) ]. Marriage too, is a pretty widespread phenomenon both geographically and historically. So much so that even today, most of the world take some form of monogamous marriage to be a 'natural' state. To identify a variance in sexual norms over time and space does not falsify the claim that our social being is fundamentally built on sexual prohibition - or put another way, it doesn't disprove the idea of a universal moral framework.

Secondly, my philosophical objection. I regard the idea that 'morality is inherently relative' as an axiom, rather than a truth. Its a powerful axiom, for sure. And perhaps a very useful one that helps guard against all sorts of horrors. But it is a truth before the fact, not after it. My own take it - which comes primarily from considering the relationship between value and money - is that of value monism; that there is one value that we perceive as manifest in different forms. It's an axiom too, but one that works better for my experience of life and my understanding of money. I should add that I see a equivalence between the terms 'value and moral'. There's a good quote here from David Graeber that explores the notion of value as its used in an anthropological sense and, for me at least, hints at a kind of value monism.

'Value monism' is not a popular philosophical position. But I'm always struck how if one can frame some of the ideas it encompasses - of universality, the absolute, the 'good' - in an appropriate term, it is readily accepted. One such term is 'humanism'. Its the term Tauber uses about Freud to describe a sort of moral dynamic that he identifies in Freud's work. We're all humanists, aren't we?

I think much of what Tim has been doing in his work generally is to try to uncover how humanism and science relate to one another. The focus on value and fact in Tim's latest post is, in this sense, a specification of that wider humanism/science relation.

The following quote from Tauber contains a couple of ideas that I think are very relevant both to the 'micro' fact/value debate and to the 'macro' humanism/science relation.
Freud's 'physics envy' belied his scientific aspirations, for he could not overcome the insurmountable normative structure of his enterprise. Scientific theories generally fall into two camps: Some are simply descriptive with no judgments about optimal or suboptimal states.  Such theories, which characterize the natural sciences, for example, Newtonian mechanics or general relativity, are value-neutral (i.e., relative to human or subjective values) and thus non-normative. Of course, they are not value-free, but rather judged and governed by their own hierarchy of values, for example, objective, universal, coherent, parsimonious, 'aesthetically elegant,' or simple. Older kinds of theories embed different social or personal values in their descriptive structure that are necessarily derived from human experience, and, accordingly account for conditions on a normative spectrum of values. Physics is not evaluative in this way, because there is no value judgement on whether an eclipse of the moon, itself, is good or bad, better or worse (at least not in Western secular society). Needless to say, the effects on human life of such phenomena are valued, but the phenomena themselves, at least in their descriptions, are neutral and only elicit a normative judgement relative to how that phenomena or theory affects well being.

Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.33
The key terms then, are value-neutral and value-free.

Science has the goal of value-neutrality, in the sense that it seeks to neutralize certain values in experiments so that it can measure and therefore confirm the effects of certain causes. This is perhaps why facts - such as E=mc2 - are presented as value-free, because for most practical purposes they are indeed free of value. Strictly speaking though, they should properly be regarded as value-neutral, and not value-free.

Now, Freud (if he wasn't such a materialist physics-envy type concerned with the status of psychoanalysis as science) could have a field-day with the associations between castration and neutralizing. All I want to do though, in terms of psychoanalysis, is, in just a few sentences, explore a theme that this distinction between value-neutral and value-free suggests.

I came to Tim's website because of its title. When I read that he was a fan of the work of Joel Kaye, I knew Tim's work would be of real interest to me. Tim's (and Joel's) exploration of the moral framework within which proto-science (or natural philosophy) developed and that framework's relation to money is very important. But there is always a problem with these historical stories about the relation between money and thought. Simply put, its difficult to know when to start. Broadly, Joel Kaye's idea was that the monetization of society, and the reaction of scholars to it, was the driving force behind the advances which led ultimately to Newton. The difficulty is that Richard Seaford in his brilliant Money and the Early Greek Mind tells pretty much the same story, only set in a different time and with different characters.

The theme then, that I think links these stories about thought and money, is repression (we could get technical and talk about it being sublimation, but let's not). This is important to understand in respect of the issue of value-neutral vs value-free. For me, Tim's work can be read as story about how values in finance have been repressed (literally neutralized). His recent efforts seem to focus on the idea that we need to bring those values back to consciousness.


A last couple of points:


I said in my comment that 'Facts are the currency of science'. I don't mean this as analogy. I think they really are. Value, Money and currency between them seem to traverse the boundaries between subject and object, and transcend the distinctions we create - or that exist - between the real and the abstract. It may help here to repeat one of my axioms;

  • Money is an aspect of reality that mediates Value and enumerates certain relations through currency.

What links currency and facts then, is their relation to Money and Value.

I conceptualize Money a 'bifurcating force' which has a unique (and primary) relationship to a 'value singularity'. I consider the truth of a fact and the value of a coin as related in a fundamental way. 


This line from Tim's post triggered a memory; 
In response, the EP raised a cup as if to drop it and the claim was made that it will accelerate at 9.81.. m/s2 and this was a fact, known within definite errors. 
I had a wonderful Spanish PHD (or post?) guy take our philosophy of science seminars at the LSE. His schtick (and I think possibly his thesis proper) was that gravity doesn't exist. It would really annoy some of my fellow students, but I loved it.  To get across the idea he'd drop a pen onto the desk and ask 'what just happened?' The annoyed students would explain, with varying degrees of detail the effect of gravity on a given mass etc. Then he'd say, 'prove to me that the whole world didn't just move toward the pen.'
How we come to know, what we think we know, is an important question that should be asked repeatedly - not so it becomes like a debilitating neurosis - but enough that it reminds us of the value of facts.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Money Wisdom #276

"Freud's grandiose ambitions have been extensively listed and examined by his biographers, an suffice it to note a single famous anecdote:
'Freud clearly fancied himself an Oedipus, defeating the dark riddling voices of the subconscious. When on his fiftieth birthday (1906), a number of his intimates presented him with a medallion engraved with a portrait of himself on the obverse, and a replica of Oedipus answering the Spinx on the reverse, he turned pale. Next to the nude Oedipus the following words were inscribed (line 1525): "Who divined the famed riddle and was a man most mighty.' (Scully 1997, 230)
Ernest Jones explained the 'pale and agitated' reaction as due to Freud's belief that he had encountered
'a revenant, and so he had.... Freud disclosed that as a young student at the University of Vienna he used to stroll around the great arcaded court inspecting the busts of former famous professors of the institutions. He then had the phantasy, not merely of seeing his own bust there in the future, which would not have been anything remarkable in an ambitious student, but of it actually being inscribed with the identical words he now saw on the medallion.' (Jones 1953-57, 2:14)
Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.13