Radical Empiricism – Working Understanding

Two pre-amble points.

Firstly, in a way, arriving at a “working understanding”, as opposed to a “definition”, is part of what radical empiricism is about. Going directly from phenomena experienced to definion is too intellectual too quick and misses out the radical empiricism itself.

Secondly, the term “radical” is easy to misuse. Dave Buchanan accused me of misunderstanding the term as used in radical empiricism (and he was right too) some time ago – but in fact we do need to be concern with two different meanings. Radical, as in outside established norms, reactionary to received wisdom … is relevant. Mentioned this aspect recently when looking at Zizek and Sloterdijk – some ideas only make sense in that non-socialized –  original “Kynic” – context. Interestingly Matt Kundert made this same point about James and his radical empiricism at the time – being radical in this counter-culture sense.

But this is just preamble. What of radical in the radical empiricist sense … radical as in fundamentally significant. What follows is my own rewording of an exchange between Matt, Dave and myelf from several months ago …. a snippet of conversation that has sat in my draft posts folder for quite some time.

This was my conclusion:

Radical Empricism takes the idea of empricism so far back from conceptualized models of the world as to take it back beyond even any preconceptualized, atomistic (greedy reductionist) view of the world as objects. A kind of “total” empiricism, (immediate or pre-conceptual) purged of any vestige of pre-conception. It is taking the preconceptions of objectification out of experience (out of both the senses of experience and the phenomena experienced).

What follows is the original mail snippets. (The water / river metaphor is a good one … used elsewhere,)

Ian – I’ve been trying to get an understanding of what radical empricism really is, beyond what I already understand by empricism, post-Dewey-James-Pirsig-Rorty. Thanks for picking this up Matt.

Ian – I actually think I agree more with DMB than you here in the end, but the point is I believe we have converged on an understanding (for me) of what “radical empiricism” is.

Matt-  James’s sense was that the relations between things (atoms) were as directly experienced as anything else, and this old thought of his, as > DMB said, eventually turned into his doctrine of radical empiricism.

Ian – Right, so if you don’t hold a reductionist / atomist view of the word to start with then (obviously) “relations are as directly experienced as anything else” …. we are still simply talking about what is experienced. (Turning anything into a doctrine sounds the potentially scary bit … the politics …) So beyond that simple statement what actually is “radical empiricism” …. ?

Matt – DMB is also right to suppose that thought of James’s is in line with what I called panrelationalism.  Atomism is when you think experiences, or perceptions, or language can be broken down into little non-breakdownable nuggets (qualia, sensa, words, etc.), and these nuggets are the real part of the bigger thing, and the bigger thing only works when it stretches back to these little things.  Opposed to this is holism, and James wanted to be a holist about experience, which is where his “stream of consciousness” metaphor comes from.

Ian – exactly. Whether we talk in “streams of consciousness” terms or not, I see that holistic view (non-reductionist / atomist view) of experience and what is experienced.

Matt – Experience isn’t sifting through a bunch of rocks, its more like water, which can be dipped into and separated from the river, but it all kinda’ depends on what kind of bucket you are using (a way of saying things are relative to purpose, a pragmatist master concept).

Matt – My entire so-called problem with radical empiricism is really just a problem with using the direct/indirect distinction at all at this level of conversation about experience (or language or whatever).  For the traditional empiricist, the senses are the direct part.  But James wants to toss that.  But then, what’s left to be direct?  I don’t believe DMB answered your question directly: are the first five [senses] also what a pragmatist considers direct experience?  The radical empiricist has to answer no, but once you’ve let thoughts into the area, what are we throwing up in the way so that something becomes indirect?  In the atomist picture, life is like a dude in a quarry, picking through reality-rocks, and when you aren’t in touch with the rocks, you’re not with reality (hence, the correspondence theory of truth).  But on James’s metaphor, life is like being in a river, and when you’re in a river, you’re never not in contact with the river.

Ian – Actually I have no problem with that metaphor … when you are in a river you experience the water and its motion etc. You are not experiencing “a river”, not without some pre-conceptual (pre-experienced) idea of a river as a whole collection of water with a lifecycle, beginning and end, non-salinity, bounded by river-banks, and some emergent identity as a river from all of that – you do not get that from the direct / immediate experience alone – just the water and its motion (it’s all process anyway).

Ian – If that’s what “radical empricism” is. I have no problem with it. It is taking the preconceptions of objectification out of experience (out of BOTH the senses of experience and the phenomena experienced).

Matt – I recently said, in a post to Bo, that Pirsig’s empiricist rhetoric can get in the way.  I don’t take this as a strike against radical empiricism, though, because I take holism to be the centerpiece (and the Quality thesis to be intrinsically holist).

Ian – An empricism that recognizes the holism in what is experienced before the holism in the concepts arising sounds right. When you say “holistic” where I might say “strange loopy” … this is just a choice of language. Language gets in the way of successful discourse about these subjects, hence the need to repeat, recycle the debate in different words. But it doesn’t get in the way of this direct-experience / conceptualized distinction. Not for me now anyway. All seems clear.

Ian – Radical Empricism takes the “doctrine” of empricism so far back from conceptualized models of the world as to take it back beyond even any preconceptualized, atomistic (greedy reductionist) view of the world as objects. A kind of “total” empiricism, purged of any vestige of pre-conception. I’d like to think I’m there. (It’s been obvious from Pirsig readings all along … just a matter of finding the words.)

Matt – A radical revolutionary isn’t an official part of the political system–they are in the business of overturning the political system. And just so with James’s radical empiricism.

Ian – I just know from prior experience that DMB is going to say that is misuse of the term “radical” here. (and I agree with him) Perhaps I missed your irony Matt, you old Rortian you 😉

Ian – The $64,000 question is how does this change the “values” and PoV’s in the applied world of pragmatism. I guess it stops us falling into a few more conceptual traps, avoiding applying our day-to-day logic to mis-conceived objects more thoroughly.

22 thoughts on “Radical Empiricism – Working Understanding”

  1. I read the preamble, and was quite shocked to see that I had said James’ radical empiricism was “being radical in this counter-culture sense.” That didn’t sound like me at all.

    And I read then I read the isolated bits of conversation, and found this is what I said: “A radical revolutionary isn’t an official part of the political system–they are in the business of overturning the political system. And just so with James’s radical empiricism.”

    I wasn’t making a claim about counter-cultures, or anything like that there. I was making an analogy between, say, the American Revolutionaries and a philosophical position. Just as Washington and Jefferson had signed their own death warrants for treason when they went off to war (by going outside the established political regime), I was suggesting that James’ “radical empiricism” wasn’t really a move in the chess game played between empiricists and rationalists, but–in a phrase Pirsig uses, I think–more like overturning the board.

    Is that legal? Do we count it as a move in the game? Eh. Some people like to cast the frame around what was going on so that it does. Just as the Revolutionaries at the time had, for PR purposes, to use certain labels and justifications for what they were doing, so did James. Some people think it’s worth sticking closer to the letter of what James wrote. Some people think there’s something larger afoot, and this larger thing is what makes him as powerful as he is.

  2. Matt – Well I guess I’m one of those who thinks we should stick to the letter of what people write, James included. I don’t think James thought himself as a philosophical revolutionary in the sense that he was overthrowing anything. I think his efforts were a corrective to the Hegelian leaps of fancy that were popular at the time. I suppose people could make him out to be doing something revolutionary, but I think the tag of radical he attached to his empiricism is there to mark a significant departure in meaning, announce his contribution as new and avoid having to answer people who would tell him he doesn’t know the first thing about empiricism. But chiefly it is meant to show how his empiricism differs from the traditional British empiricism – namely how you can take what amounts to an epistemology and expand it into a metaphysics. Was his naming choice intentionally made to appeal to the sympathies of philosophical radicals, political radicals, contrarians, zennies, and idealists everywhere? I doubt it. But when people see the word radical, their imaginations tend to be set off in all sorts of directions. The radicals turn it into their own cause, whatever it might be, and the squares shy away.

  3. I’m OK with a “radical” move “outside” the game in the Kynic sense. I didn’t have you making a strong claim that that was the main sense of Jamesian empricism, just as you say part of the game “at the time”.

    I prefer “the larger thing” to the “letter” … since the words always include these tactical / strategic moves … necessary hypocrisy. I doubt James was any different.

    The 60,000 dollar question do we have an understanding of the bigger picture “definition” of radical empiricism … the immediacy stripped bare of any objectification ?

  4. Hi Glenn,

    I agree with all of that except your opening line. I think we do have to look at the bigger picture “as well as” the letter of what he said / wrote.

    But radical is chiefly about making a distinction between his empiricism and any existing form (as we all have now said, including you), the revolutionary connotations being (real but) incidental.

    You probably also know I see this all as primarily epistemological rather than metaphysical – the world model is just that – a working “model” – claims of fundamental existence being ultimately unhelpful.

  5. Glenn –
    I’m not sure I understand your rebuff about the letter/spirit distinction: I’m just talking about the difference between intellectual history and philosophy. It’s what everybody does when they see a good idea and try and make it better. Frowning on that would be like telling Newton he got Galileo and Kepler wrong–it seems besides the point.

    And everything else you said doesn’t really seem counter to what I was saying, to me at least.

    Ian –
    On the big money question, I’m afraid I don’t really recognize myself in any of your re-presentations, so I can’t really say whether we, at least, agree on what radical empiricism is. I’m not big on immediacy-talk, or talk of the “pre-conceptual”: it strikes me as moving the wrong direction from Sellars.

  6. Hi Matt, so, that “immediacy / pre-conceptual” talk is what we need to unpick.

    That was the point (in the recent interactions on MD too) … after taking DMB’s clarification that we weren’t really talking about a time axis in pre or immediate sense … which I responded to.

    What do you see as the core of Radical Empiricism – significant enough to make it work discussing at great length ?

    PS on the letter/spirit distinction point – you are effectively agreeing the bigger (historical) picture is at least as important as the letter (interpretation of current words) (I wouldn’t have used “spirit” anyway.)

  7. Upon re-reading what you said, it still sounds to me that your claim is that James was a guy who made the right “PR” moves to justify his philosophical decisions at the time, but that secretly his intent was to be a revolutionary.

    I have no trouble with taking an idea and making it better, but I didn’t see that as the main point of what you wrote, and I’m amazed if you saw my response as frowning on that part of it.

    Also I’m not sure why “something larger afoot” has changed to “spirit”.

  8. Hi Glenn,
    Not sure if that comment was to me or Matt ?

    Remember that was only the pre-amble not the point, but … He did what anyone would do … tried to change / extend / improve on what existed … he probably did intend that the change itself be seen as “revolutionary” – radically different from what existed (as it is in my view) – but not simply for the sake of being revolutionary, for the sake of being better. None of that would be “secret” just part of understanding the “PR” as well as the factual side of communication too.

    I didn’t frown on what you said. In fact I said I agreed with every word of it – except the opening sentence – I don’t think anyone of us is “sticking” to the letter of what he says in any sense exclusively of his context and motives. We look at what he says as well as interpreting the bigger picture, surely ?

    None of which has anything to do with the “radical empiricism” point – just the pre-amble. Any thoughts on what radical empiricism is and if / why it is significant ?

  9. Ian,
    That was for Matt. I’m trying to understand the point he was making in his first comment.

    I’d be glad to give you my thoughts on what RE is, but, one thing at a time.

  10. Glenn-
    Honestly, I haven’t been exactly choosing my words with precision, nor giving long, considered thought to these thoughts. Rather than defend any of things I said, or the off-hand style (which always got Rorty into trouble, too), let me just say that I didn’t mean to make a distinction between “PR” and “honest intellectual labor.” I didn’t mean to give that impression. I was just trying to refer, if ineptly, to the fact that we have to communicate to each other, and we all use the language of our times. I don’t think he _secretly intended_ to be revolutionary, I think he _was_ somewhat revolutionary, whether that was his intention or not. The ideas that came out, I think when you build on them from their core, were an overturning of the chess board, not a Knight to Queen’s Rook (or whatever chess moves are supposed to sound like).

    Ian-
    1) Pirsig, at least, is often talking about time when he uses “pre-“.
    2) As I said in one of the comments you used in the post, I take radical empiricism to be a form of holism, which I take to be central to James ever since his attack on “sensations” in his Principles of Psychology.

    Both-
    Uh, I was simply using the idiomatic letter versus spirit “of the message” kind of distinction. So, yes, both of you interpreted it correctly.

  11. Hi Matt,

    You said
    “1) Pirsig, at least, is often talking about time when he uses “pre-”.

    Well yes, but that is why we are talking about interpreting and improving, rather than “the letter” of what he said. I’m just suggesting that the time aspect is a red herring to the “radical empiricist” debate. (Time is other than common sense suggests anyway … but that’s another story … so let’s just leave it out ?)

    “2) … I take radical empiricism to be a form of holism… ”

    Again, yes. But “what form of” holism ? What makes it “radical empiricism” ? It is certainly a kind of empiricism that “avoids attaching (reduced) objectified concepts to what is experienced (in the whole)”, except where it is necessary or useful to do so naturally.

    The fact that you continue to debate this (with DMB et al) suggests you do have a view – I’m just asking for a couple of sentences – I’m not the kind of person who is going to unpick your every word 😉 I just want the idea.

  12. Fair enough with “pre-intellectual.” I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with it, but that’s just because I’ve dialogued with people at the MD for too long. I find it easier to just go around it when not directly interpreting Pirsig’s thought. (And in short, pithy comments, that’s why I avoid it–there’s no room to erect the proper interpretational apparatus so to not be misunderstood, so I just avoid the issue.)

    But even when he’s unfortunately sounding like Bertrand Russell with an acquaintance/description distinction (like he did in that one lecture he gave years ago, though now I’m not sure where I saw the transcript), what Pirsig mainly means is a distinction between non-propositional know-how and propositional knowing-that. And my favorite philosophers have become very cognizant of what Barry Allen calls the “discursive bias” and have tried to emphasize the fact that proposition use (and therefore any knowing-that) is a skill, and therefore a smaller subset of the larger class of know-how. Even when Allen’s training the charge against his fellow Rorty-student Robert Brandom, the whole point of Brandom’s massively articulated language/logic system is to give one–for the first time–that is entirely a “social practice.” In fact, philosophers started turning around on this long before Pirsig wrote.

    One would think I have a fairly articulate view of radical empiricism, considering the on-going DMB debacle, but DMB’s probably right to call me to the carpet–I don’t have an articulated position (though in fairness to me, I also keep saying that I don’t have an articulated view of the matter yet, so I’m not sure what we’re arguing about half the time). I’m just not a professional who has time to really research something thoroughly, particularly something he find’s peripheral. In this sense, I spend most of my limited time reading Pragmatism, not the posthumously collected (a contentious subject among scholars) Essays in Radical Empiricism.

    The place to start, I guess, would be to say that for an empiricism to count as a philosophical empiricism (at least in the understanding I’m generating), it must be an atomism, just like it’s counterpart, rationalism–both rest on an ism-defining distinction between one atom (called nature/reality/whatever) and another atom (called mind/language/whatever). So, in this case we can draw a line from Locke’s impressions to Quine’s observation-sentences–both function in the same way to distinguish themselves as empiricisms (as opposed to something else, which because there were, really, no rationalists by the time we get to Quine, it was becoming increasingly difficult to suppose why we needed to keep checking people’s empiricist card).

    I take radical empiricism, summed up in Pirsig and Dewey’s pithy formula that experience is reality (thus breaking down the primary distinction generated to differentiate rationalism from empiricism), to be a holism because I take James’ pragmatism to be primary, and any pragmatism worth its salt doesn’t make too many metaphysical distinctions (any, to be precise)–they only make practical ones. When one takes James’ radical empiricism to be primary, I think one is more likely to make invidious distinctions between different pieces of our experience of the world (like between our non-propositional know-how and our propositional knowing-that). And that’s simply because a pragmatic metaphysics that isn’t an anthropology is going to be pretty short if you don’t (I talk about this a little in my ode to DMB–http://pirsigaffliction.blogspot.com/2006/10/dewey-pirsig-rorty-or-how-i-convinced.html).

  13. Ha. Thanks Matt. (I guess for you we have to count 5 dense paragrpahs as “a couple of sentences” from most people.)

    The discursive style I like … in fact did you see this MD exchange with DMB ?

    QUOTE
    DMB, you wrote to John…

    “In the sentences you’re responding to here, please notice that
    Kreuger is doing what I do so often, which is to use a variety of
    terms to refer to the same basic notion. In this case, “pure
    experience” is also called “concrete experience”, the “aboriginal flow
    of feeling”, “much-at-onceness” and “preconceptual phenomenal
    experience”. Each of these terms are just different ways to refer to
    the same thing.”

    Ian
    I agree with that approach, feel exactly the same way … what do we
    do with people (mentioning no names) who still expect “definitional”
    use of words like “pure”, “immediate”, “pre-conceptual”, “radical” ?
    UNQUOTE

    You are using “PRIMARY” here … yes ?
    That’ll do me.

    I’ll need to find a moment to digest the rest of your comment.

  14. Yeah, sure, I’ve been doing that kind of syncretist move for years in regards to SOM and its analogues. It’s hard to read a lot of Rorty and not pick that up and begin doing it.

    And, yes, in that sense, saying that know-how is primary to knowing-that is parallel–and, indeed, sometimes what they mean–by the other host of adjectives and distinctions.

    I’m not sure what you meant by “definitional” in the exchange, but my only hold out problems with certain collages of terms is that I don’t know how to work my way back and forth between, say, “concrete” and “pure.” I’m not against collaging, it’s after all a major part of my philosophical practice, but one of the risks is inability to understand what the center of gravity of the collage is.

    When you use a collage, and especially when you leave much of its use implicit, you demand more of your audience, and the trouble then becomes, “What if they don’t have the same understanding of those terms?” Sometimes getting the hang of a new vocabulary is more like know-how than knowing-that, which is perhaps what you meant with your “definitional” comment. Like dribbling a basketball around defenders, it isn’t something you can exactly teach with a few choice words, it’s something you just get the hang of (or not). But you have to be in control of your collage.

    My trouble with much of the vocabulary associated with DMB’s reading of Pirsig might be any number of things–I might be bad at dribbling, I might not understand the point of dribbling, I might not understand the point of the game of basketball, I might have a bad teacher. It could be any one of those things, and I’m not willing to say which because I haven’t spent a lot of time worrying and investigating it.

    My instinct is to say that the most important reason I have a problem is that, on this analogy, I don’t understand the point of dribbling, though I do understand the point of basketball. Now, from say DMB’s point of view, it would be absurd to subtract dribbling from basketball–that’s why he doesn’t understand how I can talk so little about “pure experience.” But, again on this analogy, what I’m suggesting is something like, you thought you were playing basketball this whole time, but you were actually playing football, and that’s why we can ignore dribbling, and a whole host of the other attributes of basketball loom larger and a whole host of other attributes you weren’t even aware in basketball are now evident in football.

    Maybe that analogy doesn’t clarify so well. But it’s something like that. “Concrete” is an adjective I can get a handle on, but when you pair it with “pure” and say, “that’s just the same thing,” I want to know why you would even use “pure” instead of “concrete.” Because the users of “pure” aren’t always just meaning “concrete.” And I’ve been all over the “these are just vocabulary differences” with DMB, and he vehemently denies even understanding what I mean by that (“God, Matt, we all speak the same language, pa-cha….”), so I suspect something else is going on when people use “pure,” or the other ones that are still a little suspicious.

    Let me put it another way: “pure” is a religious term. And for a virulent anti-theist like DMB to be using “pure,” something tells me a bad kind of sublimation is happening.

  15. Hi Matt, like you (and DMB it seems) I’m happy with using a “collage” of concepts and terms.

    I was simply referring to the many that find that difficult, confusing or simply cheating and unscientific – and would expect a logical conversation to involve well defined terms. The kind of audience that doesn’t accept the “demands” this style requires.

    But you make the point … even using the collage style … you have to be working-around / homing-in-on some evolving understanding of what the real “centre of gravity” concept is – even if it can never be “reduced” to a pat defintion.

  16. I’m not as against “well-defined terms” as I may have used to be. One of the things that has been helping articulate some of the stylistic qualities and value of various kinds of writing has been Brandom’s notion that a sentence makes something implicit explicit. In a very Aristotelian manner, if you ask what was that thing that was implicit, like what the potential was, the only answer can be, “Well, whatever is now explicit.”

    And in this sense, the notion of a “center of gravity” in a collage of terms began to become explicit for me just before, when Glenn pressed me on James. For a living tradition, and not just a single philosopher, there has to be a moving center of gravity of the terms in use for an identified tradition–otherwise, where’s the identity, which makes it a single tradition? So, in the case of empiricism, what makes empiricism empiricism is not solely Locke’s impressions or Quine’s observation-sentences–it is the center between the two. And making that implicit center explicit is what makes the tradition what it is, not solely one philosopher or another. That’s kind of what I meant by spirit–that evolving center of gravity as people pick up old ideas and use them on new material, or figure out what the old ideas actually meant for the old material, or any number of other interpretive acts with different purposes.

    A good collage doesn’t necessarily make explicit what the center of gravity of its terms is–sometimes that’s the whole point in making the collage: we don’t know yet, so we make the collage to look at it and think about it. But making the center explicit is certainly possible and I would think desired (except, I would imagine, for stipulated purposes). And there’s nothing wrong with using very explicit definitions of the terms of your collage–the whole point in having different terms in the first place is that there are different situations, contexts, in which different tools will be useful. So you define the terms as they are used in their own, used situation. All the collage is is a different context, but one we’d stipulate as being “bigger” or “wider,” simply by virtue of the fact that a collage is being made, contexts like philosophy as the sum of its various subdisciplines or life as a whole.

    The fact that a collage is something you make, and an actual addition to knowledge and a creative act (by the understanding of the implicit/explicit doctrine), is another reason in a long list why I don’t think people quite have their head on straight when they try and cut a distinction between people who do philosophy and people who study it.

  17. Yes. I think you hit the nail on the head with the idea that when you make a word “definitive” about making some idea explicit, you are always doing this in the context of some purpose.

    The same is true of the philosophologist “distinction” … it makes a point in the context it was made … but the thing it makes explicit doesn’t have much other purpose.

  18. Actually, your comment about the philosophology/philosophy distinction in relation to the explicit/implicit understanding of language allows me to formulate my problem with the distinction Pirsig draws in his text (and others try to appropriate to varying degrees) with greater precision:

    When you make explicit the kinds of conceptual commitments you must have to get the philosophy/philosophology distinction to work as Pirsig uses it in his text, those commitments are in tension (in the rubberband sense I articulated in my recent A Spatial Model of Belief Change) with other conceptual commitments Pirsig holds in other places in his text (in fact, I might even venture in the same chapter).

    If you leave these commitments implicit, then you might never notice the tension and so feel the distinction is just fine and dandy. Or, you might reconstrue the distinction away from just what Pirsig meant to parallel distinctions that do work, are untensioned (like the philosophy/intellectual history distinction or, as DMB just related again, the good philosophy/bad philosophy distinction, or–as DMB conflated the previous with again–the original philosophy/unoriginal philosophy distinction). However, if you do reconstrue as such, and never come to terms with how what you are doing is reconstruing, you won’t recognize your untensioning of a tension in Pirsig, because you don’t recognize the tension–because it was never made explicit to you.

    Now, if it’s never made explicit to you, then it would be difficult for you to recognize the tension as implicit, which means you won’t see a tension at all, and anybody who says otherwise (up to the moment in which you are convinced otherwise) is just misconstruing Pirsig.

    The onus is on me to show the tension, to make what I see implicit in Pirsig explicit. But, on the other hand, a person can only do so much.

    So, in essence, you’re right, Ian–the philosophology/philosophy distinction “makes a point in the context it was made.” My problem is that the context in which it was made was a bad context, one people should not find themselves in, nor by Pirsig’s own lights should Pirsig find himself in that position.

  19. I think I understand Matt, I guess I’m disagreeing how significant this particular point is.

    The “tension” was always clear, however implicit the real value was – the distinction was always one thing pitted against another. The tension was Pirsig feeling hard done by – having made a very personal struggle to “invent” his own metaphysics with minimal input from others(his own choice) – contrasted with those (the great books movement in Chicago) becoming rich and famous for promoting Aristotle. He was railing against that “tradition” – breaking a mould as he saw it. Pirsig now freely admits all ideas evolved and evolve, including his own. In highlighting opposing extremes he made a point … after that it’s all about filling in the gaps.

    What realy matters (now and in the future) is whether the radical empiricist / evolving levels model is any good … ie practically useful to humanity (whoever invented it) surely ?

    I’m goin to have to read that “spatial” model essay of yours – sounds interesting.

  20. It’s interesting that people are actually involved in such a commotion over the meaning of “radical” in radical empiricism. I’ve studied this very subject matter over the last couple of years. Radical is analogous to a holism of abduction or hypothesis. Since there is no distinction between knower or known, thought and thing; there is still the distinction between conjunctive and disjunctive relations which are both experience according to James in addition to physical things themselves. He, William James, is one of the few thinkers who have thought totally in terms of sensation. Idea as both thought and thing relies on a story about these relations since we experience them.

    In this way, Radical Empiricism represents a middle path between the “rational” and “empirical” traditions. Unlike the French rationalism of Descartes and the later occasionalist movement, Radical empiricism doesn’t exceed what is experienced by us while also maintaining that all we may by deceived by some experiences that we can always affirmed any experience in relation to others in a system of reality.

    Conjunctive relations are continuous while disjunctive ones are temporal. But since we experience both, each have their own phenomena that we can attribute to them. For Heidegger, ready-to-hand is grounded in such relations as the conditions of possibility of this way of being of equipment which itself is an inversion of the eidetic reduction of Husserl). James himself gives a similar account for his Type II cognitive relation.

  21. I like that conjunctive / disjunctive relations distinction Dion, thanks for the comment.

    Any confusion over the word radical (in isolation) was just a preamble point – not the issue, but a good understanding of “radical empiricism” …. or more to the point, why it is s useful concept remains a key issue in understanding Pirsig’s metaphysics being discussed over on MoQ-Discuss at moq.org

    Do you have a specific reference for what you had in mind where “James himself gives a similar account”. Many thanks.

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