I chanced upon this painting entitled “Cosmos and Taxis“. The inspiration is, of course, as the artist states:
One effect of our habitually identifying order with a made order or taxis is indeed that we tend to ascribe to all order certain properties which deliberate arrangements regularly, and with respect to some of these properties necessarily, possess. Such orders are relatively simple or at least necessarily confined to such moderate degrees of complexity as the maker can still survey; they are usually concrete in the sense just mentioned that their existence can be intuitively perceived by inspection; and, finally, having been made deliberately, they invariably do (or at one time did) serve a purpose of the maker. None of these characteristics necessarily belong to a spontaneous order or cosmos. Its degree of complexity is not limited to what a human mind can master. Its existence need not manifest itself to our senses but may be based on purely abstract relations which we can only mentally reconstruct. And not having been made it cannot legitimately be said to have a particular purpose, although our awareness of its existence may be extremely important for of successful pursuit of a great variety of different purposes.
Shapin’s London Review of Books review of Michael Polanyi and His Generation: Origins of the Social Construction of Science by Mary Jo Nye. (Both Hayek and Oakeshott are mentioned by Shapin).
Michael Polanyi lives on in the footnotes. If you want to invoke the idea of ‘tacit knowledge’, Polanyi is your reference of choice. You’ll probably cite his major book Personal Knowledge (1958), maybe the earlier Science, Faith and Society (1946), maybe the later The Tacit Dimension (1966). ‘We know more than we can tell’ was Polanyi’s dictum. We know how to ride a bicycle, but we can’t write down how to do it, at least not in a way that allows non-cyclists to read our instructions, get on their bikes and ride off. We can reliably pick out a familiar face in a crowd, but we can’t say just what it is about the face that we recognise. And, crucially, since Polanyi is now known mainly as a philosopher of science, a scientist can’t adequately describe how to do a bit of science through any version of formalised ‘Scientific Method’. Whether the craft is cooking, carpentry or chemistry, the apprentice learns by watching and doing. Where knowledge and skill are concerned, it’s not all talk.
Here is a rather scathing review of David Weinberger’s Too Big To Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now that the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room.
The renaissance of Marshall McLuhan in the era of the Web is disappointing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its rather dull obviousness. There is little surprise that the quotable, evidence-free, technology-obsessed Canadian English professor would thrive in a technology-obsessed era where pithy quotes about the deep meaning of digital devices too often stands in for evidence. McLuhan, of course, was the master theorist of the medium; beyond the over-used “medium is the message,” McLuhan’s major insight was to argue that socio-technological systems — such as the media — operate on a grand scale, largely independent of the day-to-day interest us mere mortals might have in their actual content. McLuhan’s primary flaw, on the other hand, was to decouple this understanding of socio-technical system from any relationship to economics, politics, or society. As leading communications theorist James Carey put it, “McLuhan sees the principal effect [of communication technology] as impacting sensory organization and thought. McLuhan has much to say about perception and thought but little to say about institutions.”
German philosopher Martin Heidegger is less quoted in Silicon Valley than Marshall McLuhan, and not just because he was a Nazi. McLuhan and Heidegger are equally poor writers, but whereas McLuhan’s inscrutable prose has led to him being more read than he ought to be, unintelligibility has had the opposite outcome for Heidegger. A dazzlingly complex philosopher — probably the greatest of the 20th century — the most important aspect of Heidegger’s thought for our purposes is his understanding that human beings (or rather “Dasein,” “being-in-the-world”) are always thrown into a particular context, existing within already existing language structures and pre-determined meanings. In other words, the world is like the web, and we, Dasein, live inside the links.
Here is the table of contents for my forthcoming (in press) edited volume focusing on The Sensory Order – this is the first salvo of shameless promotion.
“SOCIALIZING” THE MIND AND “COGNITIVIZING” SOCIALITY
“MARGINAL MEN”: WEIMER ON HAYEK
PART I: NEUROSCIENCE
HAYEK IN TODAY’S COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE
THE NON-CARTESIAN VIEW AND THE BRAIN
PART II: PHILOSOPHY OF MIND
HAYEK’S QUESTION: HOW CAN PARTS OF THE WORLD COME TO MODEL THE REST OF THE WORLD
HAYEK’S SPECULATIVE PSYCHOLOGY, THE NEUROSCIENCE OF VALUE ESTIMATION AND THE BASIS OF NORMATIVE INDIVIDUALISM
HAYEK, POPPER AND THE CAUSAL THEORY OF THE MIND
PEIRCE AND HAYEK ON THE ABSTRACT NATURE OF COGNITION AND SENSATION
HAYEK’S POST-POSITIVIST EMPIRICISM: EXPERIENCE BEYOND SENSATION
Jan Willem Lindemans
A NOTE ON THE INFLUENCE OF MACH’S PSYCHOLOGY IN HAYEK’S PSYCHOLOGY
PART III: MIND AND SOCIALITY
THE EMERGENCE OF THE MIND: HAYEK’S ACCOUNT OF MENTAL PHENOMENA AS A PRODUCT OF SPONTANEOUS PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL ORDERS
Gloria Zúñiga y Postigo
HAYEK’S SELF-ORGANIZING MENTAL ORDER AND FOLK-PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES OF THE MIND
BEYOND COMPLEXITY: CAN THE SENSORY ORDER DEFEND THE LIBERAL SELF?
COGNITIVE OPENING AND CLOSING: TOWARDS AN EXPLORATION OF THE MENTAL WORLD OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
GETTING TO THE HAYEKIAN NETWORK
Born on this day in 1899
I chanced upon this freely available review of Rorty’s notorious PMN (30th anniversary edition). It reminded me that I’d read PMN long before reading Oakeshott and that coming across Rorty’s invocation of Oakeshott’s conversational metaphor had no resonance for me. Even though I’m not in sympathy with Rorty and Oakeshott’s relativism I’m amazed at the kerfuffle it engenders.