Friday, January 18, 2013

Philosophy TV: The Correlation of Church and State

Here's a video of a talk Graham Harman recently gave at Purdue:

It's mostly about the trials and tribulations of correlationism, a topic I've never really been able to take seriously. It seems to me that that fly escaped from the bottle some time ago. But what do I know?

More specifically, the various alternatives Harman discusses feel like voices in a conversation among people who have never acted in the world. They live in a truncated version of the spaceship Enterprise, of Star Trek fame. In this version the transporters are down so no one ever leaves the Enterprise and no one ever arrives. Further, the Enterprise never engages in battle. So the offices just hang on on the bridge, watch what appears on the screen, and eat the food that magically appears in the replicators. It's in THAT world that they discuss correlationism, whether or not something exists outside thought.

But, in THAT situation, what difference does it make? Things appear on the screen and they disappear. But nothing happens on the Enterprise except for conversation. So who cares?

Here's a much humbler video. This is a short discussion of whether or not the USA should have an inaugural prayer. The problem is that America is religiously diverse, so which religion would be represented in the prayer? As David Gushee asks: "Who is praying to what god for what purpose?"

The easy answer, of course, is to dispense with the prayer entirely. And I suspect that may be the philosophically preferred answer. But the problem implied by this discussion won't thereby disappear: How do diverse people live together under the umbrella of a single state? You spin correlationism however you will, but it doesn't touch that question.

1 comment:

  1. Going to sound horrifically negative. A flat ontology in which all objects are of equal status. Turn that to the usual objects that lurk in the shadows of a philosophy department and I think everyone that was referred to in that lecture was the proud possessor of a philosophical beard (in old school thought philosophical beards were bestowed on men for ornamental purposes and to distinguish them from women).

    The only object referred to that did not appear to have one was the philosophical table but perhaps they are imagined to have beards as well.

    O.O.O it strikes me as like the institutionalized long term convict who rants and raves in court about the system in dramatic fashion and then when taken below stairs to the cells behaves like a model inmate as they system is so ingrained.

    No particular axe to grind against continental philosophy but with this brand I can't get past the posturing. I think one of the ways it maintains difference is by using such a rigid and tight referencing system. It refers only to a few high status objects. I note that lecture seemed to be introducing a new one to a somewhat exclusive and limited club.

    I hate academic groups and labels strikes me as an utter waste of time and energy. Issue is not limited to O.O.O but it does seem pretty naked and particularly mindless here.

    Still I suppose the academic gang mentality does stop them from hanging around street corners and night and harassing the elderly etc.

    What he was teaching young students about philosophy did strike me as not well thought out. Big beast, big man subject.