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        a sense of trans-pragmatic philosophy
gary e. davis
January 7, 2015

My sense of pragmatics is derivative of a sense of philosophy that is essentially enhancive of life, of generativity, of humanity, and of evolving—which of course becomes a very abstract venture.

So, practicality of philosophical pragmatics is, for me, not basically integrative, homeostatic, or systemic (let alone instrumentalist or strategical), yet includes all of that. The practicality is enhancive. Relative to rhetoric about foundations, I regard pragmatics as tenably having a trans-pragmatic philosophical foundation. I give a lot of attention to what “philosophy” can tenably be; and understand pragmatics as derivative.

I’m confident by now that post-metaphysicalist philosophy can be rigorously tenable, inter-domainally inclusive (meta-theoretically comprehensive), and commensurable with a plausible meta-physics. Yet, I regard philosophy as basically beyond establishing maximal commensurabilities. We can be devoted to enhancement of Our being (so to speak) without ontologism (which easily becomes ideological). Pursuing appeals of high inquiry for the sake of Our humanity, for the sake of promoting and supporting wholly flourishive living, can be done without mystifying pretense. (I know it’s odd to turn ‘flourish’ into a modifier, but why not.)

I have a conception of philosophy which is clear to me, but brevity gets misleading. For example, what sense is there to saying that philosophy can be authentically post-Heideggerian or post-Habermasian, when (1) Heidegger insisted that there is no Heideggerian “philosophy”; (2) being Habermasian is, to my mind, an essentially open venture (as was also the case for Heidegger’s thinking); and (3) I’m not basically thinking relative to either, but claim to be working post-both? Like both of them, my sense of philosophy is essentially an open venture. I call my venture an Appropriative way of working. It’s derivately trans-pragmatic, relative to pragmatics, which is itself an appropriative way of working. Appropriative pragmatics—trans-pragmatic thinking—involves a sense of Appropriativity that includes trans-pragmatic perspectivity. Problematic pretenses of “transcendental” pragmatics (i.e., the Apel/Habermas debate on “discourse ethics”) can be resolved without transcendentalism, I would argue. “De-transcendentalization” can be done for pragmatics without abandoning interest in philosophical comprehensiveness—without reducing philosophy to only what pragmatics can tenably address. Philosophy without ontologism does not have to be regarded as essentially pragmatic. My sense of pragmatic philosophy is essentially Appropriative, in a yet-unexplicated sense.

So, I’m rendering two “levels” of appropriativity: (1) a proximal conception of pragmatics that is appropriative in a normally-practical sense (congruent with Habermas’ notion of “discourses of appropriation,” Justification and Application); and (2) a conception of Appropriativity which is not based in being trans-pragmatic. The Appropriativity I have in mind is proximally trans-pragmatic, relative to pragmatic interest. Pragmatics is appropriative because philosophy is (can be) at best Appropriative.

‘Appropriativity’ is lexically indeterminate at the moment, but I do not want to associate the notion with myself. It’s not a matter of my philosophy which I resist giving my name. It’s a claim about the potential of philosophy itself. My sense of an Appropriative way of doing philosophy is not constituted by being trans-pragmatic; rather, it’s also trans-pragmatic (relative to pragmatics), derivatively pragmatic, because practical appropriativity is, to my mind, best derived from an Appropriative conception of philosophy.

A useful analogue is Julia Annas’ notion of “intelligent virtue,” which isn’t a largely analogical perspective on what I have in mind (let alone representative), but it provides a good analogue for now. Annas finds her sense of virtue covered by 3 classical Greek modes: eudaimonic (associable with basic flourishing), aretéic (admirable excellence that is commonly associated with virtue altogether), and prudentia (prudence). How do the three fit together as a cohering “intelligent virtue” or Virtue (capped, let’s say)? What interests me here is not Annas’ view, rather that such a notion of Virtue is not constituted by the common notion of virtue which is one modality of Virtue. Its conception of prudence provides no basis for defining Virtue as trans-prudential. To say that Virtue is trans-prudential is true of Annas, but that doesn’t suggest how Virtue is itself that of which prudence is a derivative mode. Yet the practicality, the appropriativity, of prudence, born somehow of excellent flourishing, is integral to what such Virtue is. Relative to prudence, it’s the case that such Virtue is trans-prudential.

Yet, that analogy has limited usefulness. Philosophy has always been more than ethical theory, regardless of one’s view of ethics (which could be regarded as the basis of philosophy altogether; cf. Emmanuel Levinas). I’ve never regarded philosophy as fundamentally about ethical theory, which is normal in academic philosophy. Doing philosophy is also or componentially ethical-theoretic, understanding ethical theory as a derivative of one’s way of doing philosophy. (For example, Philip Kitcher is a philosopher of ethics; he recently wrote The Ethical Project. But he’s also an influential philosopher of science, firstly so and largely so, in his career.)

Also, what I’m calling Appropriative philosophy is post-metaphysicalistic, i.e., involving a sense of meta-physics and conceptual analysis which is post-ontologistic. In particular, I’m confident that a fair philosophical conception of cognitive science can avoid empiricism (e.g., avoid physicalist reductions to evolutionary psychology in terms of cognitive neuroscience), yet also avoid strict logocentrism and exotic conceptual claims about the “nature” of cognition.

Yet, appeals of logocentrism can be enhancively non-strict—educationally generative for development of comprehensive thinking and for understanding the historical nature of conceptual domains. This can be conducive and educive for gaining flexible perspectivity. Inviting logocentric notions can be opportunities for better understanding cultural relativities and evolving in terms of progressive engagements of intelligent life beyond assimilated dispositions and conceptions.

After all, intelligent selection began distancing us from natural selection hundreds of millennia ago, even though the nature of intelligence remains partially natural-selective (along with the Baldwin effect of psychal-cultural and sociopsychal selection). Global ethics, regional ethos, and living well are vitally relevant, obviously.

Appropriative philosophy is primordially about Our evolving as such. We exist in proximally-anthropic physicality, yet mind as such remains as mysterious as almost anything else. Suggestively, Nobel Laureate neuroscientist Gerald Edelman (who died in 2014) portrayed mind as a “second nature,” but he was no Cartesian. Berkeley bioanthropologist Terence Deacon elaborately portrays mind as Incomplete Nature (book title). We are Earthlings, darlings of a known Universe that is largely unknown to us.


    Be fair. © 2015, g. e. davis.