Let us calculate.

Mind: 5 Questions Coming to a Theater Near You

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Recently I mentioned the 5 Questions volume on Epistemology; now, Vince Inc. is cooking a volume on the Philosophy of Mind. David Chalmers posted his answers few weeks ago, and pointed out David Rosenthal‘s and Michael Tye‘s (here and here). I barely got time to read DJC’s story, and now Stephen Stich has provided his.

Apart from allowing nerdy students to peek into their rock-star-professors’ biographies, these are very illuminating for the state of the field, and the multiplicity of perspectives and approaches it encompasses. As an illustration, I’ll leave you with two quotations from Chalmers’ and Stich’s answers to the question, „What is the the proper role of philosophy in relation to psychology, artificial intelligence, and the neurosciences?”:

Different philosophers have different attitudes here. It is not uncommon for scientifically oriented philosophers to hold that there is something deeply old-fashioned or conservative about a priori philosophy, and that the real action lies in the sciences. Perhaps one’s background makes a difference here. If one started in traditional philosophy, science can seem refreshing and liberating. But from my own perspective, starting in science, I moved into philosophy precisely because it seemed to address the big questions than science didn’t settle. From this perspective it is no surprise that a priori methods should play a major role. I may well also be influenced by having a background in mathematics, which has made enormous progress using largely a priori methods.

Of course this is not to say that philosophers should ignore science. At the very least, philosophers should make sure that their ideas are at least compatible with scientific results. Thinking about science is also a terrific way to help one’s thinking about philosophy, not least in expanding one’s imagination. Scientific results can be expected to have a major impact on some philosophical questions, and at least a minor impact on almost all philosophical questions. But scientific results are just one tool among many in the philosopher’s arsenal. (Chalmers)

The idea that philosophy could be kept apart from the sciences would have been dismissed out of hand by most of the great philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries. But many contemporary philosophers believe they can practice their craft without knowing what is going on in the natural and social sciences. If facts are needed, they rely on their „intuition”, or they simply invent them. The results of philosophy done in this way are typically sterile and often silly. There are no proprietary philosophical questions that are worth answering, nor is there any productive philosophical method that does not engage the sciences. But there are lots of deeply important (and fascinating and frustrating) questions about minds, morals, language, culture and more. To make progress on them we need to use anything that science can tell us, and any method that works. (Stich)


Written by Stefan Ionescu

octombrie 20, 2008 la 1:02 pm

Publicat în EN, Mind, Propaganda

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  1. I especially liked the last answer, concerning the role of scientific inquire in philosophy. Those who still think that there is some „pure” philosophical knowledge or method should give it a thought. 🙂


    octombrie 20, 2008 at 5:19 pm

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