Evolution, Rationality and Deduction

A few words about the ideas behind "HOT philosophy".
Links to drafts in PDF and HTML
This project has many faces, which include Blogs, open source projects, a mailing list with an archive, and web pages.
Introductory Sketch
A few words about the ideas behind "HOT philosophy".
This used to be a book writing project. But my ideas for the book changed so that the book is no longer coupled to the ideas expressed on this page. The ideas here about how to go about writing a book (ideas about how to go about something which is still a mystery to me) are still relevant to the replanned book project. What's probably not going to play as large a role as I had envisaged is this "big problem" which I describe here. The book is still intended to address the same underlying issues, but does not relate them so closely to my own experience. I'm leaving the account of the Big Problem here till I think of a better place to put it.
A Big Problem and its Resolution

This project is intended to tell the story of a special life-stopping (well, intellectual-life inhibiting) problem which I ran into round about 1995. It will describe the problem, and why it was, for me, a big problem. It will describe "the solution", tortuously engineered over many years, which is just beginning to let life (intellectually) flow for me as it should.

However, the main point is not just these anecdotes.

The main point is to subject various aspects of the problem and of my supposed resolution to philosophical analysis. And the main point of that, is to try out some ideas about the nature of philsophical analysis and see how well they work. The ideas about analysis are themselves, part of the supposed resolution.

If that all sounds too philosophically introspective, then I can offer two mitigations. The first part of the project presents the problem, my route to its resolution and the bare bones of the results. The next two parts develop in greater depth two aspects of the resolution, which may be thought of as answers to the questions:

  • How could it be so?
  • What should we do about it?
The answer to the first, which I think of as analogous to Hume's delivery of "A Treatise on Human Nature" to explain why we believe things which are not deducible from the evidence to hand, is a story about evolution. This is intended to make intelligible some of the infelicities which we find in the rationality of academic research.

The answer to the second involves "epistemic retreat", a constructive analytic response to scepticism, and the architecture of cognition, a study of how "knowledge" can be organised for exploitation in an open rather than a dogmatic way.

'Flow of Cogitation' Philosophical Writing

You may think of this as being an extremely tenuous analogue of "stream of consciousness" writing in literature.

The HOT philosophy project is so-called because it is intended to be a vehicle for documenting in the moment an ongoing philosophical investigation. Better put perhaps, it is my attempt to synthesise the processes of philosophical thinking and creative writing.

HOT is also a recognition of my own personal disabilities; my unsuitability for a more traditional non-fiction writing project in which one presents systematically some subject matter, or even in which one researches thoroughly and presents the results of the research. I have a hackers attitude toward philosophy, I enjoy the chase, I enjoy thinking about difficult problems, I enjoy coming up with solutions, or partial or putative solutions. Writing it all up is less exciting, at least, post factum. A hacker sees the challenge of a problem, he cuts the code, takes pride perhaps in its aesthetic as well as its practical virtues. But user documentation? The next problem is too tempting a lure.

Its even worse in philosophy, if you have this kind of mind. Because the problems are never solved anyway, I have to write as I go, because I'm not actually likely to arrive.

So the idea of HOT philosophy is to find a way of doing philosophy which generates intelligible product in the process, rather than demanding onerous exposition after the fact. Analysis by the construction of formal models does this, and the HOT philosophy project is intended to explore whether this can be made to work with a more liberal (pre-formal) conception of analysis (I don't rule out formal modelling, but formal material will go elsewhere).

Having said all that, "flow of cogitation" can't work for me as I might hope, because there is too much undocumented past innovation in my haed, on which today's cogitations are built. So its rather hard to explain what I am thinking now, without unravelling trains of thought which go back a few decades. A professional philosopher doesn't have this problem so bad as I, because he has been documenting his views all his professional life, and is less likely to have a backlog.

Honest, Open, Transparent

Declaring that an aim of the project is to be "Honest, Open, Transparent", is perhaps rather odd. It is an attempt to engineer an excuse for speaking my mind, for stating honestly why my problem is for me such a big problem.

Why should I need an excuse?

This is an "Emperor's New Clothes" thing. Does one need an excuse to say that the Emperor is naked? Or is it courage one needs? Or what?

To say that analytic philosophers are en-masse irrational, is not novel. But to publish a volume of philosophy which is essentially inspired or provoked by that kind of perception and the difficulty of doing philosophy in the face of it, is not easy.

Evolution, Rationality and Deduction - the book
Links to drafts in PDF and HTML

This is my current "book" project, which has become all-encompassing, one work to end them all. And to start them for that matter.

The general plan is this. Like many philosophers, I don't really care for the way philosophy is done. The complaint is that the conduct of philosophy, analytic philosophy as practiced by professional philosophers, ought to be "rational" and is not. I think it needs to be fixed. I have a clue how and why it is broken. I have some ideas on how it might be fixed.

With all this inside my head, its not possible to actually do any other philosophy before telling this whole story. But bear in mind, that telling this story would be "doing philosophy" (philosophy is its own meta-theory). So what I have to do is a philosophical tract in which "the problem with analytic philosophy" is described and diagnosed, and my prescription for its cure is articulated and illustrated.

The next level of detail is filled in in two stages. These provide two levels of diagnosis, prescription and prognosis. Think of these as similar to the progression in Hume from an exposure of the irrationality of various beliefs to a scientific theory of human nature which describes why people nevertheless hold such beliefs (and I would add, offers some ideas about how people might be saved from their folly, though I don't know that Hume did that bit). At the first level the defects are described, and ways of doing philosophy are offered which avoid the defects.

There is reason to doubt that the critique or the proffered alternatives will be accepted or adopted. It is necessary to understand not only what is going wrong, but why it is going wrong, and in the light of that knowledge to consider what remedies might be effective.

My reasoning at this second level involves evolutionary explanations.

The whole is speculative. The solution is intended to admit the rigorous conduct of speculative philosophy, which involves the formulation of speculative theories and then the analysis of their merits. The result of this philosophical analysis is our objective. This is not a proposal for how philosophy should be done, but an analysis of such ideas. The aim of the analysis is not to analyse a single proposal but to consider a range of solutions and systematically compare their merits against multiple criteria. We are looking at philosophical methodology as the development of an abstract theory.

Several different formats of document are generated from the sources of the book. These different forms have the same content so you may read whichever format you find most convenient. All except the paperback book format are provided for you to read or download for reading from this web site at no cost, and you are granted permission only to read them, not to make any other use of them. All formats will be available for drafts from the earliest stages of writing the book, with the sole exception of the paperback format, which will become available only when the book is deemed complete (-enough for a first edition).

A link for buying the paperback from Amazon will be included if ever "the book" does get published.

Other Collateral
This project has many faces, which include Blogs, open source projects, a mailing list with an archive, and web pages.
This blog is for ideas relating to any of my projects, but mostly at present for this one, excepting material which is specific to X-Logic for which I have another blog.
This is an archive and off-blog discussion list for all my blogs.
This idea is being resuscitated to go in Part IV of the book. The new incarnation will be more exclusively philosophical, but will be backed up by formal modelling. (this part of the book will nevertheless be informal). Previous incarnations have been less exclusively philosophical.
This is a blog for ideas relating to just this one aspect of the project.
This is primarily an online respository for the formal models which I hope to come up with for X-Logic, placed here just in case anyone wanys to join in.
More info on X-Logic.
A Previous Incarnation of X-Logic
My first stab at X-Logic was started in the year 2000, and was more broadly scoped, at least insofar as at that time I was not exclusively focussed on philosophical and architectural issues, and contemplated cutting code. Its not out of the question that it might yet head in that direction, but even if successful beyond my dreams the X-Logic project would lead primarily to standards against which many different implementation projects woul work, rather than to any single software development.
This is a web site which once was hosted at X-Logic.org, 'till I retreated to a subdomain of RBJOnes.com. It relates to the previous conception of X-Logic, and is very patchy, because at that time I wanted to make something work and was not focussed on the write up.
Here is the Sourceforge project for the previous incarnation. In fact the repository is out-of-date relative to the material I have here (and actually use for making the RBJones.com web site), but hopefully I will tidy things up some day.

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