More Reading Notes 11/30/14

Just got Gilson’s ‘Unity of Philosophical Experience’ yesterday, and it’s great. So far a good, detailed historical exposition of medieval and early modern philosophical ideas. The sections on Descartes are really interesting. So far this is the best of the three Gilson books I’ve read.

Searle’s ‘Mind, Language and Society’ is fantastic. The opening section on basic metaphysics is just outstanding and once you get into the meat of his position on consciousness it just gets better. His view of consciousness as a biological phenomenon akin to vision or taste is pretty interesting and reminds me of Timothy O’Connor’s view of emergent individualism. But it’s definitely classic Searle – clear, precise and easy to understand philosophy and biology.

Pelikan’s ‘Spirit of Eastern Christendom’ has been a great resource. His sections on Maximus, nature, will and the christological debates are brilliant and should be required reading for anyone interested in theological anthropology.

I’ve started paging through my copy of ‘The Philosophy of Language’, edited by A.P. Martinich. Specifically, the section on speech-acts (John Austin, to be more specific). Philosophy of language is so fun – learning ‘How to Do Things With Words’ is one of the coolest things in philosophy.

I skimmed through a lovely little book called ‘This Book Has Feelings’, which is a broad overview of the psychology of emotion written in a very light and easy to understand way. It’s worth spending the few bucks on, in my opinion. I read it when I had a sudden urge to study nostalgia and the neurobiology and psychology behind it, which is a fascinating thing to study.

I’ve been reading ‘Tales From the Empire’, which is the first volume in the ‘Tales From’ series of Star Wars books. It’s pretty cool, because several of these short stories were actually source-material that was published in the ‘Star Wars Adventure Journal’, which was a companion to the Star Wars RPG. Great little stories – short, punchy, grimy. They feel like the old LucasArts games – like the Jedi Knight games. Dark corners, back alleys, and all manner of fun.

5 thoughts on “More Reading Notes 11/30/14

  1. koalaraptor November 30, 2013 / 6:08 pm

    “learning ‘How to Do Things With Words’ is one of the coolest things in philosophy. ”

    I’d love to hear more about what you mean by this…

    Also I miss playing through the first Jedi Academy game… sigh. I’ll definitely have to check out the ‘Tales From’ Series this summer when i’ve got some spare reading time, thanks!


    • whitefrozen November 30, 2013 / 8:00 pm

      ‘How to Do Things With Words’ is the title of J.L. Austin’s very famous book on speech-acts, which can be pretty complex but can also be fairly simply summed up as follows:

      A speech-act is something you say that does what it says. It is a performative utterance – it is an act as well as speech. Examples are things like:

      I forgive you.
      I apologize.
      I christen this ship the QE2.

      Each of these utterances does the thing that it says – when you say, ‘I apologize’, you aren’t simply reporting on a given state of affairs, you actually are apologizing. Now, of course, simply uttering such a thing doesn’t automatically mean you did it -saying ‘I apologize’, when you’re alone or when you haven’t wronged someone isn’t a speech act, but you get the idea.

      These are utterances that appear to be statements, but do not have a truth-value – they are not true or false, which was part of Austin’s attack against the logical positivists. Thus, via performative utterances, you are able to do things with words.


      • koalaraptor November 30, 2013 / 8:06 pm

        Oh interesting, I think I get it now. So ‘I banish you’ or even ‘I speak’ be considered speech acts…?


        • whitefrozen November 30, 2013 / 8:18 pm

          ‘I banish you’, would be considered a speech act, ‘I speak’, would probably not be considered performative utterance because that would be a statement of what i the case, rather than an utterance that actually performs.


        • whitefrozen November 30, 2013 / 8:42 pm

          It should be noted, however, that there isn’t really a strict formula for what does or doesn’t qualify as a speech act – again, the utterance itself isn’t worth much without the context.


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