Monday, February 1, 2010

The Absurdity Trap

A long time ago, I proposed collecting moments when philosophers were led to say ridiculous things, things that they simply wouldn't say, take seriously, or take to be important were it not for having been led astray by philosophical argument. Well, add this to the list:

"My point is that we could happily conceive of a photograph where every detail lies outside the photographer’s control, yet nonetheless every one of those details could pierce us in an aesthetically significant way."

(I'm not going to include citation information, though it's easy enough to find it yourself by googling the text.)

I take this statement to be on par with saying something like: "We could happily conceive of a paragraph in which every word was put there by accident but which as a whole gives us a true general theory of the physical structure of the universe." We can conceive of such a paragraph, just as we can conceive of such a photograph. Do any such paragraphs or photographs exist? Nope. Should we spend time thinking about such paragraphs or photographs? Nope. Most importantly: should we take them to be our starting points for thinking about scientific realism or our aesthetic interest in photography? Nope.

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