A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

A Plea For Bullshit

I've been toying with the idea of creating a new academic discipline or field of study. The purely evil (or at best selfish) reasons for this are:

The basic plan is pretty simple: come up with a new field that is not immediately obviously bullshit (in Cohen's sense). Write a bunch of essays advocating different perspectives on it. Publish these online as a "journal", with most of the essays attributed to pseudonyms. Publicise it, inviting submissions to a second volume of the journal. Occasionally actually produce another volume.

Here, then, are some ideas for what this new discipline could be. I have not checked to see whether or not these are already being studied. Some of them I know to be discussed in places, but are not (so far as I am aware) fully fledged disciplines.

Numerical Mereology
Philosophers have devoted great energy to whether or not numbers exist, but relatively little to their internal structure. Russell and Whitehead defined numbers in terms of sets, but one can imagine a whole range of answers. Perhaps numbers consist of smaller numbers - but which smaller numbers? All of them? Their factors? Their prime factors? Perhaps they just exist, and have no parts. And does the same number exist in one way that is instantiated in many places, or should we adopt a "trope theory" of numbers according to which each number exists separately in each of its instantiations?

Example arguments: "Any account of numbers ought to shed light on what it means for one thing to be 'more than' or 'larger than' another. The best explanation is that numbers contain all smaller numbers; without this presumption, there is no way to explain the fact that 7 is strictly bigger than 5."
"If numbers consist of all smaller numbers plus the successor relation, it is hard to see what most of the numbers are doing. Allowing numbers to consist of their prime factors clearly explains why each component is crucial to the identity of the greater number."

Epistemology and Metaphysics of the Paranormal
Some people claim that ghosts don't exist. I would suggest we need to have a firm handle on exactly what ghosts are before we can make that kind of judgement. One might argue for:
  (a) reductionism: the paranormal is misnamed, and many paraphenomena can be explained in the terms of ordinary physics
  (b) the paranormal stands in contradiction to ordinary physics, and therefore
     (b1) there are no paraphenomena
     (b2) we should revise our beliefs about physics
     (b3) the laws of the universe are dialethic and contradictions are realised in the actual world
  (c) paraphenomena and physics are neither complementary nor in contradiction, they describe different aspects of the universe

Normative Architecture of Cosmology
Cosmology studies how the universe works. NAC studies the considerations going into the design of new universes.

Study of Autoethnography
Autoethnography has come in for a lot of stick, but very little in formal venues or in a clearly argued format. We would invite practitioners, defenders, and critics of autoethnology to engage on the ethical and methodological issues surrounding both the production of and the response to autoethnographies. In what ways does one's location within a situation give one special insights into that situation? If these insights can only be directly perceived from within a situation, how far can they be communicated to and understood by people outside the situation?

What makes something normal? Is there a property of "normalness" in which normal things participate? Or is normalness to be reduced to other properties? Why indeed should we suppose that "normality" is the default, rather than taking heterogeneity as the default and normality as something to be explained? Studying this would hopefully grant important insights into related issues, such as what makes something "transgressive".

The study of studying. What is to study something? What makes a particular enquiry legitimate? (Should we study things with potentially harmful implications?) Is there a unity between the "correct" methods of inquiry in different fields of study, or is the correct method of study relative to a particular discipline?

No comments:

Post a Comment