The Hermeneutic Circle

The hermeneutic circle,” he was saying. “That’s what Dilthey called it. You don’t know what to do with the details unless you have a grip on the structure, and at the same time, you don’t know what to do with the structure unless you know the details. It’s true in life and in literature. The hermeneutic circle. It’s a vicious circle.”

David Denby quoting Columbia professor in the essay Does Homer Have Legs?

Moral Rules and Exceptions

Dealing With The Exception

The exception is perhaps the greatest obstacle for any moral theory to deal with. You adopt a supposedly ideal moral system which should tell you what to do to act morally in any possible case: all you have to do is deduce the proper action from your principle or set of principles, then follow it. No problem. You’ll be doing the right thing, and acting without sin. But then you run into that odd, unexpected situation where following your rulebook doesn’t seem so neat and tidy. This new case is special, unique, and unanticipated by your ethical system. In fact, it just feels wrong to follow the rules here in this instance. Do you go with your rulebook, or your current intuition?

There are many who would step in and try to defend principled (rulebook style) ethics. They have three obvious defenses:
(1) Simply deny that apparent problems create exceptions.
(2) Hold the view that principles can be rewritten so that the apparent exceptions are no longer exceptions.
(3) Argue that each apparent exceptional case is really a case of conflicting principles, where two or more principles both apply, but one is overruled by another of greater priority.

Why You Shouldn’t Be A Person Of Principle,
Ramsey McNabb, Philosophy Now

Schopenhauer – Desultory Quotes

If you want to know how you feel about someone take note of the impression an unexpected letter from him makes on you when you first see it on the doormat.

Every parting is a foretaste of death, and every reunion a foretaste of resurrection.

After your death, you will be what you were before your birth.

Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.

The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.

Money is human happiness in the abstract; and so the man who is no longer capable of enjoying such happiness in the concrete, sets his whole heart on money.

We seldom think of what we have, but always of what we lack.

Life and dreams are leaves of one and the same book. The systematic reading is real life, but when the actual reading hour (the day) has come to an end, and we have the period of recreation, we often continue idly to thumb over the leaves, and turn to a page here and there without method or connection. We sometimes turn up a page we have already read, at others one still unknown to us, but always from the same book.

Searle’s Chinese Room

Chinese room thought experiment

“Searle’s thought experiment begins with this hypothetical premise: suppose that artificial intelligence research has succeeded in constructing a computer that behaves as if it understands Chinese. It takes Chinese characters as input and, by following the instructions of a computer program, produces other Chinese characters, which it presents as output. Suppose, says Searle, that this computer performs its task so convincingly that it comfortably passes the Turing test: it convinces a human Chinese speaker that the program is itself a live Chinese speaker. To all of the questions that the person asks, it makes appropriate responses, such that any Chinese speaker would be convinced that they are talking to another Chinese-speaking human being.

The question Searle wants to answer is this: does the machine literally “understand” Chinese? Or is it merely simulating the ability to understand Chinese? Searle calls the first position “strong AI” and the latter “weak AI”.

Searle then supposes that he is in a closed room and has a book with an English version of the computer program, along with sufficient paper, pencils, erasers, and filing cabinets. Searle could receive Chinese characters through a slot in the door, process them according to the program’s instructions, and produce Chinese characters as output. If the computer had passed the Turing test this way, it follows, says Searle, that he would do so as well, simply by running the program manually.

Searle asserts that there is no essential difference between the roles of the computer and himself in the experiment. Each simply follows a program, step-by-step, producing a behavior which is then interpreted as demonstrating intelligent conversation. However, Searle would not be able to understand the conversation. (“I don’t speak a word of Chinese,” he points out.) Therefore, he argues, it follows that the computer would not be able to understand the conversation either.

Searle argues that, without “understanding” (or “intentionality“), we cannot describe what the machine is doing as “thinking” and, since it does not think, it does not have a “mind” in anything like the normal sense of the word. Therefore, he concludes that “strong AI” is false.



In philosophy, anamnesis (/ˌænæmˈniːsɪs/; Ancient Greek: ἀνάμνησις) is a concept in Plato’s epistemological and psychological theory that he develops in his dialogues Meno and Phaedo, and alludes to in his Phaedrus.

It is the idea that humans possess knowledge from past incarnations and that learning consists of rediscovering that knowledge within us.

via Wikipedia