Thursday, December 28, 2006

liveblogging the APA 2

I just came back from my talk. I got an objection that I should have anticipated and that I think I can deal with, but which forces me to think again about the shape of my argument.

Backing up a second: I am presenting my paper on Buddhist nature appreciation. Basically what I do is look at the contemporary debate in analytic philosophy over the correct way to appreciate nature, and suggest that some ideas from traditional Buddhist poetry can solve it. My original post on the idea is here. More specifically, I create a logical space of two dimensions for the debate in analytic philosophy, place the Buddhist attitude that interests me (I call it the Theregatha model) in the same corner of that space as Kant, and say that it does a better job that Kant does. (I'll post my nifty chart later on.)

The objection: That's not Buddhism! Buddhist nonattachment has nothing to do with Kantian disinterestedness! You can't call mindfulness either cognitive or noncognitive! The metaphysical background is too alien to draw any comparisons!

My first attempt at a reply: Well, obviously there are differences, that is what makes the Theregatha model better.

Objection: There isn't even a family resemblance between them, because Kantian disinterestedness is still grasping.

Hmm. Maybe. The question I have to ask myself, though, is how important is it for my argument that the Theregatha model occupy this portion of the logical space I defined for the western debate. I placed it there as a way to frame the issue, so that I could formulate arguments tightly. But my ultimate goal is simply the acceptance of the Theragatha model. I could do that if the model wound up in another quadrant of logical space, or even in a different logical space altogether. I would need different arguments if that were the case, though. I can't provide arguments for every possible translation of the Theregatha model into the western debate. So maybe I should just stick with this one.

The problem is the same for any translator. I'm serving two constituencies: the ideas I'm translating, and the people I'm translating them for. Putting the model in a specific quadrant of logical space is a way of serving my audience which might not serve the ideas.


On a different note: There were some good talks on my panel, including a nice talk by Sarah Kenehan which used van Frassen's notion of empirical adequacy, and Heather Douglas's treatment of inductive risk to show that climate models provide a stronger reason for action than economic models. The shorter version of the talk: Weather is easier to predict than people. I'll talk more about it later.

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