1 min read

Back facing outwards

I'm reading Brian Cantwell Smith's The Promise of Artificial Intelligence and am in the middle of writing a longish review, but today I just wanted to write a short post about this one paragraph:

That the world outstrips these schemes’ purview is a blunt metaphysical fact about the world—critical to any conceptions of reason and rationality worth their salt. Even if phenomenological philosophy has been more acutely aware of this richness than has the analytic tradition, the richness itself is a fundamental characteristic of the underlying unity of the metaphysics, not a uniquely phenomenological or subjective fact.

He's talking about early attempts at AI and how the world exceeded all attempts to describe it in terms of discrete well-defined human-scale objects, and how some of the resources for understanding this failure originally came from phenomenology. The phenomenology link can make it sound subjective, to do with internal experience, whereas really it's the whole world that has this surprising amount of detail, not just your thoughts or something.

I had some similar realisation today thinking about what Gendlin would call 'felt sense'. This stuff can be extraordinarily detailed and subtle and precise, and so it becomes interesting to get really into introspection and investigate it deeply...  but of course it's like that because the whole world is extraordinarily detailed and subtle and precise, so it's necessarily pushed us into this subtle shape in order to be able to respond skilfully enough to do anything at all.

So then we're back facing outwards, towards the world, and I prefer this orientation.