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MosiahFree

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  1. "Experience is the sum total of what it is to be conscious- it is one's stream of awareness of their interactions with the environment" is a keeper, I think that is the perfect first sentence. I think if you lead with something like this and follow it up with some carefully selected examples of what experience is, followed by some carefully selected examples of what experience isn't, and I think you'll have an intuitive and easy to understand opening paragraph.
  2. (Bolding mine) Be wary of the insider baseball here. If we look back the book you shared with us in your OP Eugene Fontinell remarks: Diligent readers are going to familiarize themselves with that essay of Dewey’s and in doing so are going to learn Dewey’s opinion of Kant’s project. The following comes from section II of the essay: Setting out to do a project predicated on pragmatic philosophy and then introducing Kantian epistemic distinctions is going to be discordant and incongruent to readers familiar with both.
  3. 175 word count. We can axe the first part because it asks a question and also mentions a philosopher. We should also ditch the part about “subjective experience” vs “objective experience” because it is a distinction between two different kinds of experience in the middle of a purported definition of experience. That will have to come later. 130 word count. You repeat yourself a few times, especially when you mention interpretations; “my interpretations and memories of everything”, “includes my interpretations of feelings”, “what is happening around me and how I interpret it.”. Rewrite the paragraph again and try to remember to use fuller sentences and make sure each sentence builds upon the one previous to it. Keep conscious of the topic and watch for drifting into rabbit trails. Remember: (a) audience is high school seniors, (b) no name dropping philosophers, (c) no questions, not even the rhetorical variety, (d) 50 words minimum and 500 word maximum.
  4. Let me explain the situation like this. If you took a copy of the ‘The Oxford Companion to Philosophy’ and turned to page 261, you would find an entry for “experience”. The definition has two senses of the word, the first being direct observation or perception by the senses. The second definition is restricted to debates in the field of epistemology (the area dedicated to the topic of knowledge) about the nature of human knowledge fundamentally being empirical or not. Now if you go back to the Original Post you will see the attached images from a book by a guy called Eugene Fontinell. Eugene is writing from the perspective of the pragmatic philosophical tradition (often called “American Philosophy”), which uses the word “experience” in philosophical ways that go above and beyond the two definitions provided by ‘The Oxford Companion to Philosophy’. He doesn’t want readers to get confused about what they are going to see if they see discussions of experience that don’t fit the common definition. Within philosophy, it is acceptable to redefine words as long as you have appropriate reasons to do so and you make your definition clear. The hazard here is that the more expansive your new definition, the more likely that definition is going to bump into other areas of philosophical debate. Worst case scenario is that there is a snowball effect where your new definition crosses enough lines that automatically you become embroiled on multiple philosophical fronts and your entire project gets subsumed under that. A possible example has to do with mathematics. What mfbukowski lays out is basically a definition of experience that includes mathematical reasoning, which looks like he is saying that mathematics is an empirical venture. Staking out such a position leaves you open to serious objections and one has to weigh their options on what exactly the kind of conflicts they want to get embroiled in.
  5. Excellent. So I have a two pronged process that I liken to training in boxing: bagwork and sparring. Writing and rewriting is like hitting a heavy bag with its emphasis on form, establishing muscle memory, and building endurance. Answering follow up questions is like sparring because it gives you room to improvise and think on your feet. You’ve done an iteration of bagwork, now it is time to get you in the ring. The following challenges come from me and they were the initial questions and observations I had while reading your definition of experience. You can answer them however you want and have no conditions to try and follow, these are just to get you thinking more about the paragraph you are going to be rewriting. I won’t be following up on these questions or disputing anything you answer with. Jargon is allowed. Objection 1: Your idea of experience seems to encompass every aspect of human existence. Doesn’t your description better fit with human ontology within philosophy proper as opposed to the word experience? Objection 2: Is there anything that happens within the inner life of a person that doesn’t fall under the rubric of experience? What about a student who is solving a math problem by working through the steps her teacher taught her? Most would consider this something approaching the a priori, but your notion of experience would seem to deny that it is. Objection 3: Your inclusion of interpretive acts as being part and parcel of experience indicates that advanced and deliberate cognitive functions are to be classified as experience. Doesn’t it seem counterintuitive to suggest that the activity of your composition of a message board post be considered the same class of thing as hearing your wife calling your name or feeling too hot sitting in the sun? Once you’ve replied, I’ll post my non-philosophical assessment of your paragraph (i.e. matters pertaining to composition) and we can start on the first rewrite. If this process is irksome let me know.
  6. I actually have a request to get the ball rolling. Could you provide us with a definition of experience that matches how you would use it in your philosophical discussions in paragraph format? I do have some conditions to help you focus your thoughts (and my reasons for including them are to follow shortly): (a) Your audience is American highschool students getting ready to graduate, they are literate but completely ignorant of philosophy in the formal sense, (b) No references to books or philosophers, but you can reference culturally relevant media if desired, (c) You can’t ask any questions, even of the rhetorical variety, in the paragraph, (d) You have a hard limit at 500 words and a hard minimum of 50 words, (e) You have as much time as you need to write it. You have a habit of going about these discussions in a socratic fashion where you often intersperse your answers with open ended questions, as if you are leaving a breadcrumb trail to your bigger point that the other person could follow on their own if so inclined. While I think this is entirely appropriate in some contexts, I think it works against you here on the board. This also leads me to bring up that you tend to respond to people in terse sentences and each sentence has an entire line break between them. This creates a psychological tendency in your readers to disconnect each sentence from each other and the thread of your thinking is lost. I’m not suggesting that you stop doing this in all your posts, only that for the purposes of this request you abstain from the habit. Don’t put too much effort into this either, because whatever it is you write will be insufficient and will undergo multiple revisions as we go on. The benefit of starting with the topic of “experience” is that it is totally universal to all humans and you needn’t work to make it relevant to an audience of Mormons. I want you to feel confident in this definition, you don’t have to rely on any sources other than yourself. You are the one going to be using the word in what is ultimately your philosophical project, you have complete autonomy if defining the word how you want as long as you make it clear to your readers what the parameters are. I look forward to reading it.
  7. I hope you had a pleasant Father’s Day. I’m gonna respond to your comments out of chronological order and in a way that is linked more thematically. Here I have to caution against mission drift. Are you trying to effect change on the LDS cultural attitudes towards the discipline of philosophy or are we trying to give a reasoned account of the hope that is within us while honoring Christ in our hearts? If it is the former then I am at a loss on what to do, but if it is the latter I might have something to say. Let’s say there is a young man by the name of Bill in his early 20s who has become disaffected with the Church. Suppose it started with something political, and through social media discovers the CES Letter and his motivation to maintain even a semblance of activity disappears. Bill enrolls at a community college and decides that he is going to fill out some graduation requirements in the Liberal Arts before diving into a Nursing program. Bill is attracted to philosophy and anthropology and takes a handful of courses in each: ‘Critical Thinking’ gives him a bit of logic and introduces him to basic reasoning strategies, ‘Introduction to Philosophy’ acquaints him with the standard array of philosophical problems in metaphysics, epistemology, and moral philosophy. A course in physical anthropology gives him a survey of human evolution and a course in cultural anthropology exposes him to the vast array of diversity in the practice of religion. Bill polishes off his associates degree and plunges headlong into his nursing program. During his down time he starts visiting atheist message boards, getting into atheist themed podcasts. He supplements his atheistic media consumption with books; A.C. Grayling’s ‘The God Argument’, Frans De Waal’s ‘The Bonobo and The Atheist’, and Bart Ehrman’s ‘God’s Problem’. At this point Bill is getting dissatisfied with his participation in atheist circles and decides to come to Mormon Dialogue and Discussion so he can talk to people who don’t already agree with him. Bill is no scholar, but then again he isn’t a rube either. He has a liking for bombastic atheistic rhetoric, but knows just enough about certain topics to sound authoritative. Eventually Bill is going to encounter someone like mfbukowski who has been an active Mormon longer than Bill has been alive and knows much more about the philosophical issues Bill employs in his attacks on the faith. How to proceed then? Well first is the issue of the audience, there are two dimensions to take into consideration. The primary audience is Bill himself and the various other participants posting exchanges with Bill. Now everyone wants to reach Bill and get him to question some of his presumptions and open him back up to the reality of Christ’s church here on earth, but Bill is human and we know that the likelihood of him having a change of heart at the end of a long disputation on the internet is almost nil. What we hope to achieve is imparting on Bill some questions and observations that stick with him that can later develop into having a meaningful change of heart and mind. The second dimension is the unseen audience. These are the lurkers on the website who are reading the exchange but not participating. Lurkers are largely going to consist of current members who are struggling privately, with some curious investigators thrown in who navigated their way here by means of a rabbit hole and are enjoying the show. Appropriately, a lot of LDS apologists and organizations focus on this audience, because those are two kinds of people apologists are interested in reaching; keeping people in and bringing the Gospel to those who don’t have it. Guiding a former member back can be an involved and difficult process, there are so many factors that contribute to someone leaving that often an apologist just isn’t equipped to help someone in the way they need to be helped. Better to help folks avoid ever getting to where Bill is. This is where occupational hazards come into play, because now apologetics stops being a private intellectual practice and becomes something more performative. We become conscious of how we are interacting with Bill and how that might come across to the unseen audience out there and we find ourselves torn between acting with grace and throwing back at Bill the same attitude he gives us. We want to exude confidence in confronting Bill’s arguments while dismantling them because there are stakes above and beyond our respective egos and sense of personal satisfaction. Temptations become abundant, ranging from wanting to indulge in exaggeration, doing unnecessary flourishes to show off, developing tunnel vision, and using risky shortcuts, among other dangers. Now even if we set aside our disagreement about the substance and quality of Kevin Christensen’s apologetic writing, he still engages in these temptations more often than not and I can’t help but point out how much they undermine his apologetics. An example might help illustrate my point. I think Kevin’s review of Thomas Riskas’ book ‘Deconstructing Mormonism’ is a good piece to use, because Kevin and I probably fully agree that the Riskas book has no redeeming qualities to it and probably does more to misinform and confuse people than help them get a solid grip on the attending issues, ex-mormon or otherwise. Now consider this snippet from the essay: If I were writing a review of Stephen P. Stich’s ‘Deconstructing the Mind’ for a philosophy journal and I wrote the following: Now I can tell you the above would never be printed in a professionally referred philosophy journal. Even though it is completely true that Stich’s book never mentions anything related to Derrida and bears no resemblance to Derrida’s work, the English word “deconstructing” isn’t some neologism that Derrida coined and has a semantic domain above and beyond the philosophical project of Derrida. Stich’s use is totally appropriate and so is Riskas’s use. More to the point the editor would never include this criticism, not only because it is an absurd complaint, but because the damage it could potentially do not only to the author, but to the journal's reputation. If I put that in print and included it on my C.V. and a hiring committee saw it, I’d immediately no longer be in consideration. I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic here in the least, just stating a reality. Now this throwaway comment from Kevin isn’t that much of a problem in the big picture, The Interpreter isn’t some academic journal, but a parochial publication and it doesn’t need to meet academic standards in every piece to do good work. The meat of Kevin’s critique doesn’t rely on or need this comment in any way and it could be discarded without impacting the integrity of the review. It is a mistake, but not a fatal one. From an apologetic framework this is a tactical error. A knowledgeable critic could capitalize on this and make a big show of it as a means to discredit Kevin and cast doubt on his entire review. Now is that fair and measured? Not at all, but this is a matter of being rhetorically effective in the contentious world of apologetics and if we are being honest, at least this hypothetical critic is actually highlighting an actual mistake where Kevin was not. Now I obviously don’t know the state of Kevin’s mind when he wrote the review, but if I’m allowed a bit of speculation I’d say he fell prey to the temptations I mentioned above. Just like me, he probably saw Riskas stumbling through philosophical matters in the introduction and could tell right away the guy was out of his element. I bet Kevin focused in on that and in trying to flex on Riskas with his own familiarity with philosophical literature, got carried away and included that Derrida comment. There isn’t anything wrong with what you are saying here as far as I’m concerned and I totally get what you are saying and understand you are telling me all this to give me a bit about your background and where you are coming from. That is all kosher, so to speak. Yet we might as well be two trekkies vigorously debating the leadership capabilities of James T. Kirk vs Jean-Luc Picard in the foyer. Nearby people might get amused and try to listen in, but the nuances and charm of the conversation isn’t going to be available to them unless they are already initiated into the strange world of the fandom. When Bill shows up to talk about how the scientific method is the ideal epistemology, how strong naturalistic accounts of morality are, and how the problem of evil shows how the Gospel fails to materialize, I think you would meet Bill head on. I think your go to strategy would be to talk a bit about your education, name some philosophers you studied under, and start referencing books Bill isn’t aware of and likely won’t read anytime soon. You’d probably finish off with some open ended questions accompanied with some emojis to help de-escalate the exchange. I’d like you to re-think that strategy, while you may be mentioning names and giving references in an attempt to shorten the length of response and to be helpful, it can create a lot more avenues to dispute that can be counterproductive. For example, I think the philosophy of William James is actually quite hostile to the beliefs of the Saints. I think the conjunction of ‘The Meaning of Truth’ and the essays in ‘Radical Empiricism’ are about as compatible with the Book of Mormon as the work of Sigmund Freud. Now I’m sure you’d disagree with my sentiments and are tempted to challenge them, and we might even have a fun and fruitful discussion, but we’d be back to being trekkies in the foyer. You have a certain charm in your posting that can work to your advantage; there is an authenticity to your mannerisms that I think make people more open to you and your enthusiasm helps a great deal as well. I think you’d have a lot more success in reaching people if you focused on your own ideas and developed your writing/thinking towards a more general audience in lieu of giving Richard Rorty interviews. All due respect to Rorty, but even a number of philosophers today don’t have the constitution for listening to him talk about Cartesian Dualism and the correspondence of language to reality in his wilting trans-Atlantic accent. I’m more than happy to help you do this, but this post is too long as it is and I want to read everything you’ve said so far in regards to experience.
  8. mfbukowski, Look, I came out of the gate hard and it probably wasn’t the best choice. I appreciate you deciding to engage me regardless and so I’m now much more inclined to offer more meaningful input. All cards on the table, I have a methodological concern. The concern is that you are going into this project and follow the dialectical strategies that LDS Apologists like Kevin Christensen use. These strategies work a bit like a shell game where LDS beliefs are a sterling silver coin and are hidden under the canopy of different seashells. Along comes a critic from Reddit that says something along the lines of “Mormons make untestable claims!” and then the shell marked “Empiricism” gets lifted to reveal no sterling silver. With a flourish the shell marked “Kuhn” gets lifted to reveal the silver to which the dealer remarks, “ OUCH! Sorry friend, not paradigmatically relevant!” That might be something that has currency in some places, but literate people will see through it immediately. Kevin doesn’t grasp this and that is why he has been writing the same paper since the mid 90s, recycling the same strategies with the same people involved. There is no growth, no development. So when I see you highlighting passages from an obscure book on William James and the philosophy of religion, which is drawing a distinction between the sense of experience as read in classical empiricism from Europe and the sense of experience as read in pragmatism from America, I get worried. Worried that what you are tempted to do is say something like “Dawkins is coming from a narrowed perspective conditioned by English empiricism when we LDS are coming from a broader pragmatic perspective. Have you not read Eugene Fontinell?!?” As an aside, I actually disagree with the way Fontinell contrasts Hume with pragmatism. I think Le Bon David is far closer to William James than he would be to other Empiricists, like the Bishop of Cloyne. Hume was an amazing folk psychologist in the same manner James was an amazing modern psychologist, you can see it clearly in his work of causation. Here you have this guy who reads all the speculative metaphysicans who want to frame the relation of cause to effect as this component of necessity baked into the world, much like geometry was once conceived, and dismisses it all. In its place Hume says we shouldn’t be seeking out hidden necessities in the joints of nature but rather watching humans when they are observing nature. By attending to the habits of the human mind he gives us his regulatory theory predicated in constant conjunction. This isn’t markedly different from the methods of James in ‘Varieties of Religious Experience’. But I have advantages over Fontinell, living in a post-Jonathan Israel climate. So you want to write or make some kind of presentation of philosophy that is influenced by modern pragmatism that can fruitfully be used to frame LDS theology and make a viable defense against modern criticisms. That sounds both plausible and doable to me, but I have a further question… Is the above organic from your own thinking or did you get it from somewhere else? It doesn’t matter which, but I think this is a really good starting point to get said project off the ground, conceptually speaking. I wouldn’t call it non-existent, here are some snippets taken from ‘Culture and Value’ ( 32e, tr. Peter Winch): There is also this interesting bit (33e):
  9. From the context alone we can tell this is incredibly early on in the text and the author is addressing readers who are already familiar with the western philosophical tradition and wants to make a distinction between two different uses of the word "experience". Why does this portion of the text need to be made relevant to an audience that is unfamiliar with the practice of philosophy? Why not just move on to the portions of the text that go into greater detail on what is meant by "experience" in the pragmatic tradition that doesn't depend on a prior knowledge of Empiricism? Perhaps a better question is, why am I explaining basic pedagogical strategies to a "Wittgensteinian Pot-Stirrer"?
  10. It is the only response merited by someone trying to crowdsource explanations of a philosophical text that is supposedly "important" to their conversion. This isn't a "test" but rather a way to get other people to do philosophical labor on his behalf, absolutely no one with graduate training in philosophy who goes to such lengths to advertise their admiration of people like Wittgenstein and Richard Rorty would do this.
  11. Mfbukowski understood, having lived it himself, what constitutes the mystery of a philosopher’s life. The philosopher appropriates the ascetic virtues—humility, poverty, chastity—and makes them serve ends completely his own, extraordinary ends that are not very ascetic at all, in fact. He makes them the expression of his singularity. They are not moral ends in his case, or religious means to another life, but rather the “effects” of philosophy itself. For there is absolutely no other life for the philosopher. Humility, poverty, and chastity become the effects of an especially rich and superabundant life, sufficiently powerful to have conquered thought and subordinate every other instinct to itself. This is what Alma calls Nature: a life no longer lived on the basis of need, in terms of means and ends, but according to a production, a productivity, a potency, in terms of causes and effects. Humility, poverty, chastity are his (the philosopher’s) way of being a grand vivant, of making a temple of his own body, for a cause that is all too proud, all too rich, all too sensual. So that by attacking the philosopher, people know the shame of attacking a modest, poor, and chaste appearance, which increases their impotent rage tenfold; and the philosopher offers no purchase, although he takes every blow.
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