Category: education

Lange, The Cognitivity Paradox (1970)

I found this little (117 pages) monograph quite thought-provoking. Its topic is philosophy itself, explored primarily using tools from the analytic toolkit. This meme that compares the analytic and continental traditions comes to mind:


Without doubt,┬áthe richest possible treatment of fundamental questions of the true and the good would necessarily bring to bear great works of literature, mythology, historical insight, etc. Nevertheless, Lange’s treatment of the subject is sharp and interesting, despite the restricted palette. It seems like you can read it and understand it without being particularly educated, which suits me fine right about now. (My coverage of icy’s reading list is quite fragmentary at the moment. I’m also making my way though Jordan B Peterson’s.) But keep a dictionary at hand.

It seems quite obscure to start with, and in fact criticises its own supposed lack of clarity and orderliness in its opening section. Is this tactically deployed false humility, meant to disarm the reader whose about to get their conceptual foundations rustled hard? The approach draws up carefully-defined distinctions, and explores their logical implications. The style is conceptually densely-packed, full of ironic hedging and qualifying, lecturely prose.

Key point given halfway though: first order philosophy is proposal. Subsequently, Lange explores the paradoxical nature of this characterisation and develops a way towards establishing philosophical statements as, despite being proposals one could seemingly freely accept or reject, cognitions with some sort of objective, matter-of-factness to them. So: a round-about way of grounding what practically amounts to a common-sense realist stance. The book’s closing statement: “So now everything is just the same except that it is all different.”

There’s a brief mention of the possibility of an evolutionary aspect to philosophy, which strikes me a profitable avenue for deeper investigation. The book’s implicit conception of philosophy as primary, rather than the philosopher, would be a critical weakness, but the conclusion seems to re-set these to their proper orientation. Primacy of the life-form over its life-processes.

This book has convinced me to read some more of Lange’s work. Most of it is fiction. That’s what he’s most known for: writing the Gor series under the name John Norman. These explore social and psychological themes from Nietzschean perspective, in a science fiction/adventure fantasy setting. They’re notoriously polarising, provoking both scathing criticism (sexism and slavery, oh no!) and enthusiastic fandom, including a subculture of Gorean roleplayers.

I haven’t read any of those yet. I watched the 1988 Gor film, which was alright, I suppose.

Goreanism has come up in recent controversy in the Drupal realm.

A prominent contributor to the open source Drupal content management system has been asked to distance himself from project because “his belief system is inconsistent with [the] project’s goals.”

The beliefs at issue involve participation in the BDSM and Gorean (NSFW) communities, the latter involving people interested in recreating the culture of male dominance and female sexual servitude depicted in John Norman’s poorly regarded Gor sci-fi novels.

I often work with that CMS in my day job. Funny world we live in.

The uniqueness of the advice merchants

Professionals in fields like dating advice work to differentiate themselves, for marketing purposes. If what you sell is rare and unique, you can sell it at a high price compared to commodity goods.

So, as expected, we see speakers, writers and coaches who heavily emphasise the uniqueness of the approach. They bring attention to the differentiating qualities of their teaching compared to that of others in the same field.

This approach stands in sharp contrast to that of the academics, and those of religious traditions. Those communities of thinkers strive to connect their work to that of their peers and antecedents. They tend to emphasise the fact that their work stands within a larger tradition.

Some level of free-thinking, maverick-like behaviour is allowed. If these qualities are somewhat stifled in traditional arenas, it’s good that they have a place to flourish in the commercial world.

But the shrewd marketing approach may lead a teacher of genuinely valuable advice to miss the opportunity to enhance his students’ understanding by exploring connected ideas from outside the packaged info he’s selling. That would be a shame.

It could also be a way of preventing confusion by keeping things focussed.

The more curious students can go explore the wider context on their own initiative, of course. Amateurs, like me, can publish our attempts to collate ideas from various sources.