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« "There is no argument that the mind extends" | Main | An Appropriate Topic for Discussion? »

12/05/2012

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Sam

What a bunch of straw men! It is embarrassing to have such large swaths of mainstream philosophy be so misrepresented in a public forum.

Just to take one example: Thagard says that "dogmatic" analytic philosophers think that "thoughts are propositional attitudes." By contrast, enlightened "naturalist" philosophers believe that "thoughts are brain processes." But that very idea is itself an orthodoxy of analytic philosophy today! Virtually everyone thinks that the propositional attitudes are instantiated by (or identical to) brain processes. Even Chalmers, if I'm remembering right, is only a dualist about qualia; he accepts something like functionalism about the propositional attitudes...

Similar criticisms could be made about everything else on the list. The actual positions that real "analytic" philosophers hold are much more subtle and plausible than the ones Thagard criticizes. (And the actual positions that so-called "naturalist" philosophers hold are much more extreme and, to my mind, less plausible than the ones Thagard attributes to them.)

Brad Cokelet

Not too bad: 3, 4, 8

Particularly absurd straw men: 5, 7

Least compelling naturalist alternatives: 8, 11

Apparently he left of this:

12. Fair, charitable representation of opposing views and rational debate about respective merits. Natural philosophers recognize that philosophy is rhetorical through and through and they have thrown off the protestant demand that we treat opponents with respect and rely on reason rather than brute persuasion to propagate their preferred memes.

Paul Gowder

How could anyone disagree with 6? What else could inferences be based on?

Clayton Littlejohn

13. A lot of us are glib.

There's lots in this list that's unrecognizable to me. Is that because I've been in the armchair too long? Not long enough? I find this all really, really fascinating, in part, because I don't quite get what he's getting at. Like this:

"Philosophy is conservative, analyzing existing concepts. Natural alternative: instead of assuming that people’s concepts are correct, develop new and improved concepts embedded in explanatory theories. The point is not to interpret concepts, but to change them."

I guess I don't get the correct/incorrect concept distinction. Three interpretations:
(i) Correct concepts are true/incorrect concepts are false.
I don't think he means that!
(ii) Correct concepts are non-empty/incorrect concepts are empty.
That's better, but then the charge is baseless. We argue about whether the concept of knowledge, responsible action, and chair have non-empty extensions.
(iii) Correct concepts carve things at a joint/incorrect concepts don't.
We argue about that, too! And we argue about the meta-point as to whether (iii) or something else could capture the distinction he's after. What more could he want?

Brad Cokelet

This one is funny: "4. Thought experiments are a good way of generating intuitive evidence. Natural alternative: use thought experiments only as a way of generating hypotheses, and evaluate hypotheses objectively by considering evidence derived from systematic observations and controlled experiments."

Ok. I am thinking about a fat man on a bridge. I form the hypothesis that it would be wrong to push him to stop the train. Now I leap from my chair, having done all I can there, and aim to evaluate my hypothesis by considering evidence derived from systematic observations and controlled experiments. Shall I procure a fat man, a train, and set things up so I can see whether I think the same when I am actually in position to push a fat man? Perhaps I should vary the fat man's weight and the color of the train? Or maybe I should spray fart spray in a nearby trash can to make sure there is not some surprising change in my thinking under those smelly circumstances? Hmm....

Brad Cokelet

All joking aside, I think this sort of manifesto will not serve anyone well; we should hope people stop making these kinds of misleading claims.

Better to point to evidence of a growing consensus between traditionalists and experimentalists..

For example, the current discussion at PEA soup shows that defenders of intuitionism and reason in ethical theory (Crisp, Singer) are taking questions about the reliability of intuitions very seriously & they think it is important to draw on evolutionary biology to answer questions about said reliability.

Taylor

Here's an alternative approach. If we are being charitable about the fact that he has limited to 1 sentenc & counter per dogma, let's not take it literally and see what he is, charitably, trying to say, or propose. The dogmas and alternatives are at most vague tendencies in philosophical methods. For example, many papers that refer to intuitions, common sense or accepted principles behave so as to avoid violating them. Now there is danger of being a skeptic or Berkeley or an idealist that denies the material world, etc, and going too far, but I take it his position is something like: a good way to be counterintuitive is to accomplish something we are trying to do, not in light of other justified principles, intuitions, examples, considerations etc, *independently* of some explicitly stated and useful purpose that one is mindful of.

Moti Mizrahi

Like Paul, I am puzzled by (6). And, like Clayton, I am not sure what (2) is supposed to get at.

However, if we're being charitable, as Taylor recommends, then (3), (4), and (8) are probably true when properly construed:

(3*) Some Anglo-American philosophers believe that the intuitions of professional philosophers are evidence for philosophical claims.

(4*) Some Anglo-American philosophers believe that the sort of intuitive evidence mentioned in (3*) can be gained by considering hypothetical cases.

(8*) Some Anglo-American philosophers believe that there are necessary truths.

Do these seem right to y'all?

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