Reaching Niche Markets

swmirskyswmirsky Publisher Publisher
Even though POD publishing has become common place today, and no longer has quite the same negative connotations it did years ago (when my wife argued with me about going POD on the grounds that it's just vanity publishing), it still requires targeting of one's audience. My newest book, the one I have been working on for the last few years and am now getting ready to publish, falls in a narrow niche category and so will require some special effort on my part to get it a readership.

While my first POD was an historical novel that found a respectable audience (my second was a throwaway I put together to take advantage of a favor my old POD company's management had offered me -- free publication -- though I had no manuscripts ready at the time, and my third was under contract to an elderly woman who asked me to write a book for her about her experiences in World War II), my newest, a work of philosophy, is unlikely to have appeal to a general audience.

A work of philosophy mostly finds its audience, if any, in the academy among professional philosophers or their students. Alas, I am long out of that world and have no ready ingress to it at this juncture. And yet we don't write books so they won't be read! I am trying to figure a way to reach out to the academic world of philosophy. Yet, that is not only a small world, relatively speaking, but a highly insular one and every professional philosopher (employed as such to teach the subject at a university) has written (or is writing) his or her own. They mostly read each others' works (along with the classic texts of course) so expecting them to have time to read, let alone be interested in, the work of someone who is not in their special "club" looks like an unachieveable task.

Of course, that will not discourage me from proceeding with this project after so many years of work. After all, there is always the possibility that people will find and read my contribution to the field after I'm dead. But I would also like some of the pleasure associated with having readers while still alive! So my question is simple: What is the best way to reach the academic world, a world in which everyone is busy publishing or perishing and in which there is so much to read that its members can have little to no incentive to read yet another work and that by an entirely unknown person in their field?

Any thoughts on this from those who may have been down this or a similar road would be appreciated. Thanks.  
«1

Comments

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher Teacher
    I hear you.

    I wrote a book on apologetics (Caveman Apologetics, by Og Keep) and it found a very tiny market, primarily among people whom I knew either in person or online. It still sells a copy here and there -- it seems to be doing best in Australia of all places.

    I found the same material much better received when I wrote it into a novel, in which a small group of friends are dragged into the world of philosophy and apologetics by an aggressive assault on their belief system. The Atheist's Tale, by Og Keep, touched on the smae points, but gave them a perspective and a framework. It seems to have been better received, and by better I mean not as badly.

    So my suggestion would be to follow the examples of Sartre or Camus, and to put the material into a novel framework. Philos Sophia is a fading passion, and those who pursue the LogoS shrink in numbers -- but fiction is as popular as ever. Perhaps the wisdom of the ages needs a coating of sugar.

    On the other hand, there are those who publish monographs for their own amusement, and the readers may take or leave what they see fit to take or leave, and that also is a valid path.

    I would be interested to know the title when your project comes to fruition.
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher Publisher
    edited August 2018
    Thanks for your suggestion. Alas, it is unlikely to lend itself to novelization. It's to be called Value and Representation and will be an exploration of the implications of a pragmatic epistemolgy for moral thought. In a nutshell, its aim (my aim) is to make a contribution with it to moral philosophy (also known as Ethics in the world of philosophy), i.e., how we come to differentiate between what we think of as the right thing to do vis a vis others and what that implies for us in the way of the choices we make. Existentialist philosophy lends itself more easily to dramatization in fiction but my background is in Anglo-American analytic philosophy though, over the years, I have gravitated to a position more closely aligned with American pragmatism (Peirce, James and Dewey in the late 19th/early 20th centuries) and people like Robert Brandom (an awful windbag but a cogent thinker) today. (I come to this by way of the later Wittgenstein whose insights I have only belatedly come to see, thanks to people like Brandom, were very much in sync with classical American pragmatism.)
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher Publisher
    Now this is interesting. Another glitch in Lulu's website, perhaps? I just wrote a comment here in response to Skoob_ym and noticed some typos. I clicked on the gear icon and corrected and clicked "Save" and it was saved. Then I noticed something I missed, clicked on the gear again, corrected THAT typo, too, and lo and behold the comment was gone entirely. Is it a problem with the website or does Lulu have some kind of rule about frequent corrections? This is the second time one of my comments has vanished after I made a number of edits using the gear icon!
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher Publisher
    edited August 2018
    Anyway, Skoob_ym, I won't try to reconstruct what I had written again. Suffice it to say, the quick answer to your question is the book will be called Value and Representation: Three Essays Exploring the Implications of a Pragmatic Epistemology for Moral Thought.

    Unfortunately, unlike the work of Existentialists like Sartre and Camus, I write in the Anglo-American analytic tradition and the subject matter in question, Ethics and Meta-ethics, doesn't really lend itself to dramatization a la fiction. One doesn't experience angst over ethical problems in this sense (or, if one does, it has nothing to do with the exposition of moral thought I am trying to bring to fruition through Lulu).

    As I said, I would love to reach an academic audience but am under few illusions that I will be able to, being long out of the academic milieu and without any access to its current halls and their denizens! 
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius Lulu Genius
    As said in another thread, very often when a message vanishes, it is Saved to your My Drafts, Clicking on the particular item will return it to where it came from. Some may be missing still because it autosaves to the same My Drafts every now and again.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius Lulu Genius
    swmirsky  I hope you will be providing a dictionary and thesaurus with your book. :)
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius Lulu Genius

    Even though POD publishing has become common place today, and no longer has quite the same negative connotations it did years ago (when my wife argued with me about going POD on the grounds that it's just vanity publishing), it still requires targeting of one's audience.

    I am afraid it still does, but that does not stop people buying self-published books, not realising they are self-published. Often many people think > "it is/you had to have it self-published? It must be crap then."

    POD is not really the term to use, anyway, in regard to self-publishing, because it's a system not only used in SP, but for many other printing needs, also. There also are some self-publishers who do not use POD at all.

     My newest book, the one I have been working on for the last few years and am now getting ready to publish, falls in a narrow niche category and so will require some special effort on my part to get it a readership.

    To be honest that could be true of any book that does not have the advantage of a massive publishing house behind them, and an agent also. They have the inbuilt mechanism to get a book to the market very fast.

    While my first POD was an historical novel that found a respectable audience

    It does have an enticing name, and while such TV series as Vikings is on air, a good time to 'push' it again.

     (my second was a throwaway I put together to take advantage of a favor my old POD company's management had offered me -- free publication -- though I had no manuscripts ready at the time, and my third was under contract to an elderly woman who asked me to write a book for her about her experiences in World War II), my newest, a work of philosophy, is unlikely to have appeal to a general audience.

    A work of philosophy mostly finds its audience, if any, in the academy among professional philosophers or their students.

    99% true no doubt. But it helps if you have the credentials to back up your books, and perhaps even a 'name'. Are you a professor of such at some Uni for example? Students also only bother to read books their tutors recommend.

     Alas, I am long out of that world and have no ready ingress to it at this juncture. And yet we don't write books so they won't be read!

    Well, we may not publish if we don't want them read, but some only write for recreation. Free SP via POD such as Lulu makes many think, "well, OK, why not publish it, then?"

     I am trying to figure a way to reach out to the academic world of philosophy.

    It helps to know them. They may then think, "let's see what such and such as to say then ..." Throughout history they seemed to spend most of their time arguing with each other.

     Yet, that is not only a small world, relatively speaking, but a highly insular one and every professional philosopher (employed as such to teach the subject at a university) has written (or is writing) his or her own.

    Very true, and many Unis have their own publishing department, and at times even their own mini-POD machine. It is possible that they write them just for posterity and they get stuck on a shelf in their own Uni library.

    They mostly read each others' works (along with the classic texts of course) so expecting them to have time to read, let alone be interested in, the work of someone who is not in their special "club" looks like an unachieveable task.

    I doubt that has ever stopped them writing. But don't forget that such fields often also have their own periodicals they contribute to. Just one example >>  https://philosophynow.org/ (and possibly a place to advertise in.)

    Of course, that will not discourage me from proceeding with this project after so many years of work.

    It can be useful and satisfying just to get it all combined in to one book, just for you.

     After all, there is always the possibility that people will find and read my contribution to the field after I'm dead.

    That's very philosophical of you.

     But I would also like some of the pleasure associated with having readers while still alive!

    Ah, we all often wish that, even if not great wealth.

     So my question is simple: What is the best way to reach the academic world, a world in which everyone is busy publishing or perishing and in which there is so much to read that its members can have little to no incentive to read yet another work and that by an entirely unknown person in their field?

    Well a search can always help, such as this >>>   https://www.bing.com/search?q=philosophy+magazine&qs=n&form=QBRE&sp=-1&ghc=1&pq=philosophy+magazine&sc=6-19&sk=&cvid=A4CE6204920943B986959B4D872D6254

    Any thoughts on this from those who may have been down this or a similar road would be appreciated. Thanks.

    In the past I have published magazines to relatively small audiences.   Subscriptions often gained by giving many away! However, paid for adverts in them helped.

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher Teacher
    swmirsky said:
    Anyway, Skoob_ym, I won't try to reconstruct what I had written again. Suffice it to say, the quick answer to your question is the book will be called Value and Representation: Three Essays Exploring the Implications of a Pragmatic Epistemology for Moral Thought.

    Unfortunately, unlike the work of Existentialists like Sartre and Camus, I write in the Anglo-American analytic tradition and the subject matter in question, Ethics and Meta-ethics, doesn't really lend itself to dramatization a la fiction. One doesn't experience angst over ethical problems in this sense (or, if one does, it has nothing to do with the exposition of moral thought I am trying to bring to fruition through Lulu).

    As I said, I would love to reach an academic audience but am under few illusions that I will be able to, being long out of the academic milieu and without any access to its current halls and their denizens! 
    Well, I will agree that the field of readers for a purely expositional book on Ethics and Meta-ethics would be narrow. On the other hand, there are books on a topic which transcend their genres. I recently enjoyed -- yes, enjoyed -- discovering Alexander Wolf's A Textbook of Logic and I even stopped to take notes on his diagram of the Sap/Sep/Sip/Sop relationships.

    There again, I've had a fascination with Logic for decades, but nonetheless, that book goes beyond the merely expositional. From without, the book seemed an absolute snoozer, but Wolf's smooth style of writing had an unusual clarity and simplicity. The last books that I encountered with such -- for lack of better terms -- savory and flavorful writing were the six volumes of Matthew Henry's commentary. If your style can approach either of those men, you may yet have a winner.

    It is interesting to me, that you are proposing a pragmatic approach, and that you are exploring moral thought from the perspective of what can or cannot be determined within it. I am curious to know if you propose that morals require an assumed framework, and if so, how one might pragmatically determine the fundamentals of such a framework -- natural law, perhaps?

    Intriguing project.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher Teacher
    swmirsky  I hope you will be providing a dictionary and thesaurus with your book. :)
    Thesaurus I've ever been was when I was struck by a truckload of dictionaries.

    Seriously, I suspect that anyone requiring even a glossary would not be interested in this work, as I assume that it builds upon a foundation one will be presumed to have acquired elsewhere.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher Teacher
    I took the liberty of looking up a bit of your prior work -- I hope that this is alright -- and I found an interesting blurb describing the problem of goodness as a property of things. I have long advocated for three distinct meanings of goodness, which I (and perhaps others before me) have called experiential good, moral good, and spiritual or inherent good.

    The experiential good merely means that we place value on a thing because it pleases us, as food, environment, possession, or aesthetic value; moral good derives from the compliance of an action or a person (by extension a people and the actions of that people) with a set of mores, which in turn are derived from values espoused by the community; and spiritual or inherent good is the first cause or foundation to which we attempt to appeal in order to establish mores. To a lesser extent, even experiential good may have a foundation in the inherent good (or universal/objective good).

    I believe that both J.S. Mill and his predecessor, Bentham, took a wrong turn in not distinguishing the moral good from the experiential good. That ice cream is good (e) does not make ice cream moral.

    But I ramble.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius Lulu Genius

    Seriously, I suspect that anyone requiring even a glossary would not be interested in this work, as I assume that it builds upon a foundation one will be presumed to have acquired elsewhere.

    Such books are not always as niche as it may be assumed. People often read them as Self-Improvement books. 'Ordinary' people. Such books are also not uncommon, surprisingly enough.   https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_10?url=search-alias=stripbooks&field-keywords=philosophy+books&sprefix=philosophy,stripbooks,157&crid=IQX5LBV02Q5Z  some even aimed at children. https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_3_10?url=search-alias=stripbooks&field-keywords=philosophy+for+children&sprefix=philosophy,stripbooks,160&crid=3606R3F4SKGO7

    Anyway, it was said tongue in cheek-ish.

  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher Publisher
    edited August 2018
    Skoob_ym wrote:

    It is interesting to me, that you are proposing a pragmatic approach, and that you are exploring moral thought from the perspective of what can or cannot be determined within it. I am curious to know if you propose that morals require an assumed framework, and if so, how one might pragmatically determine the fundamentals of such a framework -- natural law, perhaps?

    No, not natural law but it does rest on an insight on my view, one that is available to all of us though one which we don't always achieve. That availability, I argue, is not grounded in any particular society or set of social mores (which would render moral judgments relative to the society espousing them and thus ultimately undermine the moral status we take them to have) but in ourselves, that is, in our natures, in the sort of creatures we are. This is just to say creatures which are aware of their subjective status. Many entities have subjectness (a term I have coined to express this particular notion but which seems sensible to me in this context) to varying degrees, assuming they have the nervous systems that enable experience of anything, of course. But only certain kinds of creatures have awareness of subjectness itself and I argue that it is having that awareness that prompts us to think in terms we ultimately understand as moral when interacting with others. I spent the last two years condensing a 200 page manuscript on this to 106 pages and then discovered that it was too thin on Amazon to warrant my name on the spine so I returned to it to beef it up again so it now consists of 121 still pretty tight pages. But I am inclined to use Lulu if I can, even though on Lulu the books will be more costly for readers to buy.

    I expect that those not familiar with the issues of moral philosophy it addresses would not find it an easy read. And no, a glossary would not be enough, I fear, because the issue is less about the meanings of the sometimes fairly technical terms than about the underlying thinking which support the particular usages I employ (e.g., "subjectness). My background, as I said, is in analytic philosophy and while I am a great believer in simple terms if possible and in writing in a straightforward way, philosophy, even at its simplest, requires some background to read it.

    So I have to acknowledge what I have known from the first, that this book is not going to be a seller or make me rich. But it is my small effort to make a contribution in a field I studied as a young man and which I flirted with pursuing at the time before choosing another path.

     Of course it's fine that you chose to take a look at some of what I've previously done. If it weren't, I wouldn't have it up there, on amazon and some other sites, nor would it make sense for me to be aiming to produce another book along these lines now. My first philosophy book, which I thought would be all I needed to write on the subject turned out to be too unfocused and lacked the deeper attention to the core issues that I now think it needed and so I decided to do a follow-up. I think the follow-up, though much shorter, is significantly better than my first go at it (Choice and Action) but it may also be more challenging to read because I have winnowed out all the chaff, all the side discussions, all the excursions into various examples, nearly all the commentary on others' ideas, etc. Instead I have tried to just boil down my own thinking into these 121 pages with only a little attention to others' thoughts as needed, and hope that my ideas, presented this way, will resonate with some readers interested in what I'm interested in.

    I liked your three level analysis of goodness and must admit there are points of similarity with my own approach although mine hinges on an initial analysis of valuing as an aspect of operating in a world we can describe and talk about. From there I attempt to build on the concept of valuing to explore the various kinds of valuing we do, linking all together through the initial analysis of the nature of valuing itself. (For the record, I differentiate between normativity which is the idea of acting according to norms or standards we adopt and valuing per se which I see as the underlying mechanism through which norms are set and followed, so normativity is not the basic underlying feature but just another expression of valuing as a mode of operating in the world.)

    By a "pragmatic epistemology" I mean an epistemology (the study of what we can know and how we can know it) that is driven by the practical considerations of operating in a world, i.e., where truth is not about correctly reflecting the elements of the world before us but about representing the environment in which we find ourselves in a way that most effectively enables us to get along within it. Thus, I reject the classic correspondence theory of truth as well as Wittgenstein's Tractarian picture theory of meaning, and also the coherence theory of truth (which holds that true statements are just those that fit with other statements we take to be true) --  unless coherence is conceived in the way William James did in his book Pragmatism and the Meaning of Truth (in which he argued that it is not the individual statement that corresponds with some state of affairs it alludes to that defines truth but the overall system of statements which work best when some of their constituent statements are expected to correspond some of the time and do correspond).

    But this is probably already getting too technical for a discussion in this forum (though if you are interested in pursuing it I would be glad to do so).

    One important point I would make is that by proposing a pragmatic epistemology to underlie our linguistic usages I am not suggesting that moral claims are ultimately pragmatic in the usual sense of being okay if they happen to work and not if they don't. The pragmatism I am concerned with is epistemological, not ethical, which is to say it explains how we discover and produce true statements and beliefs rather than claiming that whatever works is good.

    Anyway, as you can probably see by now, this book doesn't have the makings of a best seller!        
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius Lulu Genius
    Quite often a Best Seller depends only on the marketing put behind it.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher Teacher
    edited August 2018
    Swmirsky, do let me know when you've published. It's possible that I'll get lost -- I only got 14 pages into L'Etre Et Neant before Sartre had me in a tailspin, though his idea of nested Cogito statements has been a ready source for contemplation at times. Still, I think I'd enjoy giving your book a go.
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher Publisher
    Thanks, Skoob_ym. I think I'm close but I just noticed some missing commas in the most recent proof in a complex sentence that makes the sentence hard to understand so I guess I've got another round of corrections ahead of me. (As I said, I want to make sure I get it right, though by this point, on my fourth Lulu proof and my eighth amazon proof I think I'm going to have to admit that the chances of wringing every typo, grammatical error or other ill-formed statement out of this text are probably nil.)

    But I do think finalization is close now as the errors I'm still finding are now pretty small. On the other hand, even though the book is short (intentionally so), it is dense and technical so probably not for everyone. But if one has an interest in philosophy and especially Ethics, and a bit of a background in these areas, it might be of interest (at least I hope it will be since otherwise I will have wasted my time).

    By the way, one of the things I did to boil down the material to make it as concentrated as possible was to remove extensive discussions about other approaches and the history of those, relegating what I could not fully remove to footnotes. However in the last section I do address Kant's ethics, and Schopenhauer's, in the body of the text since I take them to have a direct bearing on what I am trying to say. (Schopenhauer famously skewered Kant for his argument that morality can be grounded in reason itself and I thought that worth addressing.) As for a general background in Ethics and Meta-ethics within philosophy, I take that to be in the hands of the reader. Otherwise my book would have had to cover lots of ground already covered in hundreds of other books and might have run to over three or four hundred pages, becoming a survey of the field rather than my own hopefully somewhat original contribution to it.       
  • SeamusSeamus Creator Creator
    Wow, and I thought I had a tough niche to reach with 'skiers who read'
    Tim Reinholt Author of Pow, a ski bum heist adventure
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher Teacher
    edited August 2018
    SwMirsky has the advantage that philosophers do usually read; it's just a question of what they read...

    I've held for some time that Kant's categorical imperative is just a restatement of societal mores. Glad to know Schopenhauer took him to the woodshed.
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher Publisher
    Yes, Skoob-ym, but Schopenhauer gets it wrong, too. Kant's view essentially aims to reduce the Golden Rule to a rule of reason (logic in our modern parlance) by asserting that whatever we do we do for reasons, and the only reason that can ultimately matter for us is the one that secures reasoning itself, i.e., that is expressed in the idea that the only thing that is right to do is that thing or things we can "will that everyone else would do if in the same circumstances in which we find ourselves." If we act otherwise, without regard for the universal implications of our behavior (because what we do implicitly endorses others doing the same), then we are acting in a way that is inconsistent with our own interests. For Kant the only true interest of a rational being can be to secure rationality itself as a mode of acting for only through reason is free will preserved. 

    If we do something we would not want others to do if they were in our place, then we cannot justify doing it ourselves -- and if we can't, then we cannot have a reason to do it at all.

    Absent a reason to do it, proceeding to do it is irrational, on his view, an act not of free will (which can only be free when it acts according to reason) but of the passions and, when we allow our passions to rule us, anything goes. Then there can be no morality.

    A strong Christian, Kant yet came to believe that there is no rational way one can prove God's existence or the truth of any particular religion but that the existence of free will itself implied rationality and that implies a moral law. And moral law, he argued, requires that we posit a divine lawgiver, namely God. Thus he argued for the Golden Rule as a justification for believe in the Christian notion of God rather than vice versa.

    Schopenhauer argued that reason alone can never prompt us to act if we don't feel that we want to do, therefore, he argued, Kant got moral judgment wrong. But he rested his motion of the moral it on having a mystical experience akin to the experience spoken of by Hindus and Buddhists, i.e., a realization that the universe is illusory and hostile to its conscious constituent beings and therefore only dissociation from the attachments of existence can lead one to a spontaneous sense of compassion (such as is felt by the saints, the Buddha and other holy men of old). It is that sense of compassion alone, he argued, that can motivate moral behavior.

    I argue (but not until the end of my rather short book) that both Kant and Schopenhauer got it wrong.   
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius Lulu Genius
    These are some very old names being thrown around. Are they still relevant? Much of what they mooted was later taken over by psychiatry and sociology. Very much like Natural Philosophy was taken over by actual Science. 
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher Teacher
    Well, at the risk of raising howls from the Realists, I have sometimes espoused a position that I refer to as Neoberkeleyeanism in order to torment some of the modern Sophists that one encounters online. It began largely for the purpose of trying to back Neo-Sophists into a corner and forcing them to reason their own positions as opposed to merely regurgitating arguments they looked up online. In that regard, it met with middling success. On the other hand, perhaps because it is my own pet, I have not been able to find an unmendable flaw in it.

    With regard to Kant, I considered the most extreme possible case, and asked how KCI would cause a person to act differently. For example, it was the custom of the Ancient Mayans to rip beating hearts from their enemies, and to offer them as sacrifices. Were a Mayan priest to independently conceive of KCI, how might he act differently?

    Well, he would say to himself that, were he captured by his enemies, he might accept that everyone else would do the same if in the same circumstances, that is, they would expect to be sacrificed, and would find it to be normal. They might regret being on the wrong side of the knife, but they would not oppose the existence of the rule per se. So KCI alone, within what was normal in Central America in 800 CE, would not deter him from acting as he had always done.

    In a sense, this leans near a known flaw of reasoning, namely Bertrand Russell's chicken that inductively concluded it would never be his dinner; the individual cannot but make an exception for himself. In another example, if one were on the verge of being eaten by a pre-Christian tribe on Vanuatu, one might raise KCI or the golden rule with one's captors, but the most likely response to, "You wouldn't like having this done to you," would be "But I'm not in the stewpot."

    If Schopenhauer opposed Kant with ethics ultimately based on a mystical commonality, or what I refer to as inherent or spiritual good, then he is really not that far from Berkeley, albeit on the realist side.

    My Neoberkeleyean argument holds that of Berkeley's two theses, the first is poorly proven (that Esse est Percipi) but that the second does follow logically from the first (that a purely subjective universe populated with minds requires a subject, that is, an omniscient superobserver whose dream it is).  To torment the Neo-sophists, who are usually willing (as Modernists do) to dismiss any thought older than last week, I usually then invoke Schrodinger's cat, pointing out the dual wave required by the mathematics of the Copenhagen interpretation. If the cat can be both alive and dead, and if his state ultimately collapses into one or the other condition only when he is finally observed, then by definition we live in a subjective universe. And if there is therefore an omniscient superobserver who causes reality by perceiving it -- God, if we don't mince words -- then ethics must be based on the moral preferences of that God.

    I sometimes get an argument about "Many Worlds" before the Neo-sophist slinks away into cyber-hiding, but the argument usually ends somewhere about there. Once in a while they cap it off with an argument from incredulity, as I think we will see very quickly.

    As I said, I thought it up to torment Neo-sophists with counter sophistry, so it is not without weaknesses. For example, if the omniscient superobserver causes the persistence of the unseen (as Berkeley argued for his second thesis) then why doesn't the omniscient superobserver collapse the cat's dual wave? But it may be (I will need to ruminate on the matter for a while) that the superobserver does collapse the state of the cat, and that it is our epistemological limits which cause us to perceive the cat as a mathematical dual wave.

    But now I've dragged us out of the epistemology of ethics, and into the metaphysical, so I apologize for the digression.

  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher Teacher
    These are some very old names being thrown around. Are they still relevant? Much of what they mooted was later taken over by psychiatry and sociology. Very much like Natural Philosophy was taken over by actual Science. 
    In a philosophical context, Kevin, you would be called a Modernist, based on your belief that later thought trumps earlier thought. But the high does not stand without the low; a skyscraper does not reach the clouds unless its foundation is firmly in the bedrock.

    Also, you might wish to examine another old idea, that is, Duhem's thesis. Duhem held that when any idea is "falsified" (that is, a proposed experiment fails to reach the desired conclusion) we do not merely falsify the instant proposition, but rather the chain of propositions as a whole. We cannot localize the failure at the most recent proposition.

    We must therefore return to the foundation and question every assumption (the auxiliaries that Duhem speaks of, which we must accept as axioms). So, yes, the ancient names still have great relevance.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius Lulu Genius
    Only in the same context as "what did the Romans ever do for us?" Roads was pointed out, but they did not invent tarmac or road laying machines, or tunnelling ones. (And it's not true they only ever went in straight line, anyway.) Central heating? They had hollow floors, did they invent gas or electric fired boilers and all the pipes etc., that goes with those? I am sure you can come up with other ideas of "what did the Romans ever do for us?" that have drastically been improved on since, not to mention things they never even thought of.
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher Publisher
    edited August 2018
    Skoob_ym, I try to stay away from the speculative metaphysics aspect and stick with more concrete things like epistemology and ethics. There is clearly a metaphysical dimension, as Schopenhauer's effort especially shows but I don't think that's too helpful in addressing moral concerns (as I hope I show in the new book).

    Just Kevin. the old hat philosophers you allude to are part of the philosophical tradition and their ideas are always being explored because they laid the groundwork for our contemporary thinkers. Kant, especially, is, as Robert Brandom of the University of Pittsburgh sometimes likes to put it in his all-too-often verbose way, "the great gray mother of us all." Kant's ideas are pivotal to the shift from early modern philosophy in the 18th Century, the Age of Enlightenment, to the later modern era in the 19th century and into the 20th and now the 21st. You can't really get a good handle on contemporary thinking without some familiarity with the issues and notions developed and introduced by Kant. His work, addressing the two great strands of his era (Rationalism and Empiricism) underlies both the later developments in so-called Continental philosophy (German Idealism, Romanticism, Phenomenology, Existentialism, Structuralism and so forth) and in the Anglo-American tradition (Postivism, Logical Empiricism, Analytic, Pragmatism, Ordinary  Language and so forth).

    Schopenhauer wrote in the German Idealist tradition but can best be understood as a Romantic era writer firmly grounded in Kant, despite his rejection of Kant's ethical thinking. 
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher Publisher
    By the way, Skoob_ym, Kant's ethics are not so much based on not doing what you wouldn't want done to you because, as you correctly note, sometimes we can be confident in getting away with stuff because no one will ever find out. Nor must we suppose ourselves bound to treat everyone as we ourselves would be treated or think that we would not be okay to be treated as we treat them if we were in their shoes but, since we aren't, who cares?

    Kant's position hinges on the idea of universalization, i.e., that if EVERYONE acted in a way we would not want everyone to act (because it would be contrary to our interests as rational creatures), then nothing could hold together. The community of rational creatures in which we live and thrive as fully human beings could not be sustained. Reason would fail. As rational creatures, we rely on reason so we must act in ways that ensure others will act rationally, too. Kant thought the ultimate in rationality was to act consistently. If I lie or steal or commit murder, what kind of society would it be if everyone were to do it? There could be no truth telling, no trust in such a world and no way to rely on the things others say. A community of rational creatures requires that rationality be preserved or the community itself cannot persist. He thought all moral claims could be boiled down to this and that this was inviolable for rational beings of any sort.

    But it leads to some very counter-intuitive ideas such as, because lying is always wrong from a purely rational perspective you are obliged never to do so, even if it is to save an innocent person from his would-be killer or to ease the last moments of a dying man. Certainly neither of these choices seem like the morally correct ones on their face. But for Kant, they would be.

    Kant also supposes that rationality is an abstract condition which would be the same for every creature that is rational (that uses discursive reasoning to make its choices). But would an alien civilization, capable of reasoning, have reason to see its members as participants in a shared community of the rational with us?

    Perhaps being rational is just to have the ability to think about, compare and sort different options, choosing as the best those which we determine will serve us the most?

    If so, then Kant's notion of an abstract community of the rational would break down and the underlying reason he gives for thinking we are obliged to only endorse, through our own choices, those things we would want to see universalized would lose its traction. After all, whose universe should we be concerned with, ours or that of the alien species? And whose interests are tied up with this or that way the universe might be or become?  
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius Lulu Genius
    Oh well, I will stick with such modern problems, such as, is this wall I am papering really real? And does it matter? Because I still needs papering.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Teacher Teacher

    To amend the examples -- The Mayan Priest might say to himself, "Everyone who captures an enemy should perform a vivisective cardiectomy on that enemy, including my enemies, should they capture me." This would be the universal application, and would be "reasonable" within the framework of that society.

    Or a Vanuatuan (of prior generations*) might say to himself, "Any enemy, or anyone who offends the tribe, should be eaten (myself included, should I so offend, or be captured by my enemies)."

    It is my understanding that this complies with KCI to the letter, while still not producing the effect that Kant intended. Of course, Kant assumed that all societies would have a Christian basis, even if they were not Christians per se.

    ________________________________

    * I am given to understand that Vanuatu is almost exclusively Frummers and Christians these days, both of which religions discourage live lunches.

  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher Publisher
    edited August 2018
    The issue for Kant was less about avoiding being harmed by others if you harmed them than about the implications of universalizing certain kinds of behaviors which undermine a society of rational beings like ourselves. Cannibalism or human sacrifice would not, on his view, pass muster among rational beings IF THEY WERE BEING RATIONAL because they would see that such practices undermine amicable relations and expectations among the society's members. But, of course, just being a rational being doesn't imply that we will act rationally (if it did there would, on his view, be no morality since he held morality to be grounded in having the free will to make a choice -- meaning that we also have the potential to be non-rational or even irrational). Particular societies and individuals have a choice at any given moment whether to be guided in what they do by the rules of reason or not, nor are they always informed or enlightened enough to recognize when something they do runs counter to reason in every case. But Kant argued that attention to the implications of rationality itself would support the moral point of view and that it could thus be shown that moral judgments have an objective character, after all, and are not just the expressions of the sentiments we are born with or have learned (either voluntarily or by conditioning) in the course of our lives.   

    Moreover, Kant's view doesn't preclude differences in what counts as harming others either, since one could have a society where being sacrificed is not viewed as a form of being harmed or theft or lying are respected forms of social interaction. But in general he argued that the morality of Christian Europe had it about right insofar as it recognized that harming others without some rationally justifiable reason was socially disruptive and that such disruption undermined the rational character of human societies. Sufficient attention to the facts and the reasons we have for acting, he supposed, would bring any rationally competent individual into accord, thus moral progress, at both a social and personal level, could be made. (If morality is just a matter of a particular group's or individual's opinions or sensibilities, then no such progress is possible, only change and no moral rule or rules we adopt can be shown to be any better than any others and that, of course, leads to moral relativism and ultimately moral nihilism.)  

    I think his account gets it wrong by the way, mainly because I think, as you seem to, that his approach can only deal with the form of our moral judgments (that they are inherently rational in nature) and not the content since why we should care enough to act in ways that avoid causing others harm is never really answered by a purely rationalistic account (which hinges on being logically consistent in what one does). After all, as you have pointed out, there are all sorts of scenarios that we can imagine in which universalizing something we do might not have the negative consequence of destabilizing society (what if we can be sure no one will ever find out?) OR which may just go against our intuitive sense of what moral judgment should support (refusing to lie to a dying man in a way that causes him added pain or to a murderer seeking his victim).

    Kant is about more than just doing unto others as we would have them do unto us but that certainly is an element in his account though it's not the definitive one which, once overturned, must undermine all the rest.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor Professor
    Do you know why Genghis Khan?
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor Professor
    Because Immanuel Kant.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher Publisher
Sign In or Register to comment.