Hot Thought

Psychology meets philosophy: knowledge, reality, morality, meaning

Eleven Dogmas of Analytic Philosophy

Philosophy attempts to answer fundamental questions about the nature of knowledge, reality, and morals. In contrast to the dominant approach that uses the study of language and logic to analyze existing concepts, I prefer an approach that is closely tied to scientific investigations and aims to improve concepts. Read More

An opinionated evaluation of the "dogmas" from an analytic philosopher.

I'll summarize how a traditional analytic philosopher, especially a non-naturalist, would respond to these.

It's rare to encounter analytic philosophers today who insist on ##1-2 or ##5-7. (I'd like to see a recent citation there.) Thus it seems to me kind of irrelevant to include those.

##4, 9 are very unclear. (I'm not sure how the parts of #4 are supposed to contrast with each other, nor is it clear how the parts of #9 are supposed to contrast with each other. In the latter case, can't both the "analytic" and the "naturalistic" side be true?)

The denial of #3 is self-defeating, as many philosophers have pointed out in recent years. (Ultimately, how is naturalism justified? The naturalist's response is usually to embrace a circular argument: science works because we scientific observe that science works.) Of course, no one thinks intuitions are infallible anyway, so #3 is also a bit irrelevant.

As for #8: No argument for naturalism has premises as overall plausible as the claim that necessarily, 1=1, so we should accept that necessarily, 1=1. If that means rejecting naturalism, so be it.

Similarly, as for #10: No argument for naturalism has premises as overall plausible as the claim that necessarily, if P and Q are true, then P is true. Once again, if naturalism is inconsistent with that claim, then we should abandon naturalism.

Last, #11 changes the subject. Many people want to know how they ought to live their lives, not "assuming that you want to be nice to people," how they ought to live their lives.

So in general, I think these "dogmas" are either not accepted by many analytic philosophers, or obviously true.

I should know better than to

I should know better than to respond to the analytic response to the anti-analytic thread, but I cannot help myself. If none of these apply to the analytic philosopher and/or the ones that do are trivial, what pray tell is the mode of operation of the analytic philosopher? What's the goal of contemporary analytic philosophers, and how shall they get there?

How can people’s concepts be

How can people’s concepts be incorrect? They fully understand the function of the words that they do in fact employ, and Scientists, of course, are just as dependent upon ‘ordinary’ language as anybody else. And as such, if, as they tend to do so in so-called Cognitive Science, employ perfectly understood terms in highly idiosyncratic fashions, we should not demur from pointing this out. Likewise, if, for example, a renegade physicist talks non-sense, in the Wittgensteinian sense of that term, about ‘time’ or some other common source of conceptual confusion, a small girl, if she is so inclined, is fully capable of correcting their usage.

More pertinently perhaps, although this list rightly references a fair number of issues that have as of yet not been adequately addressed, well, at least not publically, the list itself, for reasons Guy Robinson might have been capable of explaining, introduces, for reasons that are really quite beyond my ken, its own fair share of unexamined non-sense.

Par example, if ‘thoughts are brain processes’ how come I can find out what Newton or Kant thought about such and such, or indeed, so and so, by reading the ‘Principia’ or any of the ‘Critiques’? Do you, perchance, by the word ‘thought’ merely mean sub-vocalisation? An activity parasitic upon language, which is itself as a result of communal human labour. If so, when you ask someone what they think about mice, and they, being a thoroughly cooperative chap, reply, would you regard the resultant sound(s), the sentence composed of words, as some sort of brain process? Despite the fact, as I’m sure you’d agree, and if not, how strange, that it occurs ‘outside’ of the brain? Have they not told you what they thought? Are thoughts then vibrations through the air? Or is thought all message and no medium, as a certain Wittgensteinian once amusingly claimed?

Likewise, when you say that ‘inferences operate as parallel neural processes that can use representations that involve visual and other modalities’, how is it that ‘inferences’, which as far as I know are not agents of any kind whatsoever, unless one happens to be some sort of pseudo-linguistic animist, ‘use’ anything at all? Also, what representations? Re-presentations of what? How? Why? Wherefore? Whence? My daily interaction with other worldly bodies does not seem to me to be in any way mediated by any system(s) of representation.

Also, unless one is a closet-Platonist, why would anyone believe that there are ‘many areas of mathematics relevant to determining the fundamental nature of reality’? What do you suppose that that could even mean?

"Adopt a normative procedure

"Adopt a normative procedure that empirically evaluates the extent to which different practices achieve the goals of knowledge and morality".

By virtue of what should morality be a goal? And if it is, how do we know what counts as having achieved it? How about for knowledge?

Has This Already Been Addressed?

Since the mid 90's philosophers have been addressing intuition and philosophical cognition by looking to science for guidance and answers. As a result, there is a growing literature about how philosophical cognition. Some results should worry phiosophers, but many should not. (NB: intuitions/heuristics can be trusted in many contexts; there do not always fail us).

See the following introductions to the literature:
Depaul and Ramsey (1998). Rethinking Intuition. Rowman & Littlefield.
Gendler, Tamar (2010). Intuition, Imagination, and Philosophical Methodology. Oxford U Press.

Also, many philosophers would object to the claim that analytic philosophers rely heavily on intuition and imagination. Perhaps the most thorough account of this objection is Herman Cappelen's Philosophy Without Intuition (Oxford, 2012). An excerpt is included below:

No matter what area you happen to work in and what views you happen to hold in those areas, you are likely to think that philosophizing requires constructing cases and making intuitive judgments about those cases. A theory of a topic X isn't adequate unless it correctly predicts intuitive responses to X-relevant cases. This assumption also underlies the entire experimental-philosophy movement: if philosophers don't rely on intui- tions, why would anyone do experiments to check on intuitions? Our alleged reliance on the intuitive makes many philosophers who don't work in metaphilosophy concerned about their own discipline: they are unsure what intuitions are and whether they can carry the evidential weight we allegedly assign to them.

The goal of this book is to argue that this concern is unwarranted since the claim is false: it is not true that philosophers rely extensively (or even a little bit) on intuitions as evidence. At worst, analytic philosophers are guilty of engaging in somewhat irresponsible use of 'intuition' vocabulary. While this irresponsibility has had little effect on first-order philosophy, it has fundamentally misled metaphilosophers. It has encouraged metaphilosophical pseudo-problems and misleading pictures of what philosophy is and how it is done.

If this post was showing up 10-20 years ago, then it might be more well-timed. As it stands, this post might count as what Herman Cappelen calls a "pseudo-problem."


I am not sure I agree with Paul on many of the above critiques. It's a cheeky polemic.

But in fairness, I don't think the most felicitous response is to revisionistically insist that nobody uses intuitions. Or, at least, a revisionist must make a strong case. Unfortunately, Cappellen's scholarship in that book is sometimes quite problematic.

We can't give complete

We can't give complete justifications for our beliefs. The problem of induction and the underdetermination of theory by evidence tell us that. There are always gaps in our justifications. We rely on subconscious judgemental processes to get us across those gaps. And we can reasonably call those subconscious judgements "intuitions". (In practice I think we tend to reserve the use of the word "intuition" for those judgements for which we are most obviously unable to supply a justification. But that's a matter of degree.)

So intuition in the broadest sense is a normal part of our process of making judgements. We can't do without it. The problem is when we rely on it too heavily. We should subject our intuitions to skeptical rational scrutiny as far as reasonably possible, while accepting that there are limits to such scrutiny. It's a matter of degree. The problem, in my view, is not that philosophers accept intuitions at all. It's that they often accept them too readily, without sufficient skeptical scrutiny.

Dogmas of Analytic Philosophy


I'd hate to say how many years it's been since I've formally studied analytic philosophy--in which I skipped the exam and went home--but here are my thoughts on the matter.

It seems that doing "natural philosphy," as you say, is a turn that formal philosophy should make, harking back to its roots in Bacon, Newton, etc., who contributed to science in some manner but did not have all the accoutrements of the modern physicist or chemist, who today work in collaboration in large laboratories with a ton of computing power and technical equipment.

But it seems to me that doing "natural philosophy" today would not get us far in building coherent, confirmable hypotheses about the world--since you are really acting as an "armchair" scientist--something that is inadequate today without the aforementioned accoutrements (no way to verify your hypotheses or find scientific evidence on the grand scale needed).

Now that does not mean that an armchair "natural philospher" could not come up with heretofore unknown mathematical proofs--which could add to mathematics--and indirectly be used as a tool in physics or chemistry. That's good stuff--but rare.

Contrary to this article, I think philosphy needs to take an imaginative, creative turn back to grand theories in metaphysics like Hegel, Heidegger, Kant.

We may not be able to "verify" these hypotheses, but they sure are entertaining--at least as entertaining as string theory and braneworld theory which we can't verify either.

The Sage of Wake Forest

Dogmas 1-4

1. Conceptual analysis is simply the practice of clarifying the criteria for whether or not a concept does or not does apply in a situation. The concepts developed by scientists are in even more need of clarification than our ordinary concepts, because science is so important. For example, this seems like a very useful question: "What concept of perception are experimenters who study animal psychology using? Does their concept include anything phenomenological? Does it require linguistic representations?"

2. Developing new concepts is useful and good, but how will we relate them to the old, familiar ones? How will we translate them for the folk who want to know whether or not we have "free will"? Well, we'll have to interpret the old folk concepts and recollect what we wanted them for to begin with, and see how that fits into the conceptual scheme. The alternative to translation is a kind of intellectual authoritarianism, dismissing the concepts that the folk actually use (and will keep using, in practice) in favor of those used by an intellectual elite while they're in the office (but never out on the street).

3. By this account, rather than giving a list of eleven intuitions about what seems like the "natural alternative" or an explanation of what "naturalize" means (intuitively), one should ask about the psychological causes of the naturalizer's naturalizing. What if the psychological causes of the naturalizer's naturalizing involve various complexes or prejudices? Would that discredit the naturalizer's account of what it is to be a naturalistic philosopher? Would the psychological causes of being a naturalistic philosopher tell us what it is to be a naturalistic philosopher?

4. Thought experiments are hypothetical questions, yes. Those which can be empirically tested should be tested rather than accepted as obvious truths, contra Aristotle. But if I wanted to explain to someone what counted as "evidence" or "systematic observations" or "controlled experiments", I should have to guide them through a series of thought experiments -- well, such and such would be a controlled experiment, but not such and such. If someone asked me for a controlled experiment to demonstrate that what I had called a controlled experiment really was one, however should I answer him? "You just need to know the criteria for a controlled experiment", I say. "But how do you know *those* are the criteria?", he says. "Call it whatever you like -- that's just what we do!" I say. "But why not do something else instead, like use a divining rod?" he asks. Either I start with the concepts my interlocutor has about truth and verification, and guide him through the concept of a controlled experiment, and why this way seems to make sense . . . or else I appeal to brute authority (the naturalistic alternative to analytic philosophy).

Dogmas 5-7

5-7. Let's acknowledge up front that people are not always rational, that they do not always make inferences in a step-by-step way that could be modeled as an argument, and that emotions influence and shape their reasoning to conclusions.

The question is one of how we should train people in order to help them think critically -- that is, to help them reason to conclusions which are more likely to be true and useful.

One method is to train them to use the model of an argument to test inferences. In doing so, they can see that the inferences they like may be invalid, and the inferences they don't like may still be valid. They learn to be more rational, to slow down their thoughts, to clarify their concepts, and to reason step-by-step. They learn to call out and identify beliefs behind their emotions, test them out as premises, and reject those that aren't probable. When there is a debate between two people, they can both look at the arguments the other presents and go through them, step-by-step, and thereby identify their points of disagreement. The result will be citizens who are trained to run a democratic society.

A different method is to manipulate their social environment so that they naturally make inferences to true conclusions rather than false ones. Instead of teaching them to be rational, we can change their set of motivations and emotions: encouraging them to want different things, or getting them to fear different things. We can perform psychotherapy rather than train them in logic. The end result may be much more effective at getting them to come to true conclusions. But they haven't learned to think for themselves -- the same process could be used for sinister or politicized ends that get them to come to false conclusions. And so, we've not trained citizens who can run a democratic society. We've trained adherents.

Dogmas 8-11

8. What exactly is an "alternative" if there are no modal truths? If we abandon necessity, then "we can abandon the concept of necessity" is nonsense. We *can*, can we? The naturalistic philosopher is saying this: "it's not necessary that we not abandon the concept of necessity." Exactly what possible world is the naturalistic philosopher suggesting we move to? Someone who rejects modal talk is talking about a way we can do things differently than the way we actually do them.

Of course, necessity is difficult to figure out. Important concepts that one *can't* do without usually are.

9. Most analytic philosophers accept the evidence that thoughts are correlated with and dependent upon brain processes. The debated open question is whether either of these things are evidence for identity, or if there remain good reasons to think they're not identical, but we can put that ontological question aside. (A similar question arises for sentences and propositions.) Even if we accept thought/brain-state identity, the question remains whether modeling thoughts as propositional attitudes is helpful or not -- sort of like modeling collections of particles as "organs" or "organisms" or "species" is helpful. We know it is helpful to model collections of particles as organs and organisms. So, we should expect it to be helpful to model thoughts in some way besides discussing brain processes. So, the question is: are propositional attitudes helpful for modeling thought. And the answer is: for a lot of purposes, they are helpful.

10. Does the naturalistic philosopher really think there is a fundamental metaphysical nature to reality? Isn't that so much metaphysical hooey anyway? If one doesn't care for metaphysics, natures, fundamentality, or so on, and prefers to settle for science, then more power to them. But if one wants to talk about metaphysics, natures, and fundamentality, then one has got to talk about modality, reference, meaning . . . and yes, logic.

Is the analytic metaphysician "reading in" the logic 'of the day' (as if classical logic were a recent whim) and attributing it to the world? Well, either we've got a world which is capable of representation, or we've not. If we've got a world which can be represented, then what applies to representations -- logic, mathematics, order -- will apply to the world. If we've got a transcendent unrepresentable world with no logical structure where contradictions dance amid paradoxes . . . well then, science is surely in the same boat as analytic metaphysics!

11. "What are the goals of morality?" seems like a moral question if there is any. Suppose we set out to establish the goals of morality empirically. What could we do without presupposing a goal for morality? I suppose we could take some population (or evolutionary model of a population), and do a study of the causal role of moral concepts in that population. Would that tell us that the causal role of moral concepts for them was the goal of morality? If it did, would it tell us that the goal is any good?

Finding norms empirically sounds like a recipe for ethical totalitarianism. Rather than the process of discussing and reasoning together and comparing cases (real and hypothetical) and factors to come to discover the good -- the traditional philosopher's method -- we instead establish that the goals of some population (whether a present majority, a technocratic elite, or our evolutionary ancestors) are in fact the goals of morality, and define morality accordingly.

Analytic philosophy is difficult. It's also liberating.

The form of 'naturalized' philosophy presented here -- mistrusting intuitive common sense, allowing emotional manipulations to override rationality, replacing our old concepts with the new concepts (which we are not permitted to analyze) handed down to us by an elite, receiving our moral norms quite literally through what we see and hear, considering no alternative possibilities but the way things are -- all this sounds like the crudest form of cultic superstition ever invented to maintain the status quo.

I too reject much of

I too reject much of traditional philosophy, and I consider my own approach to philosophy to be a "naturalized" one. But it seems very different from Paul Thagard's.

Perhaps the most important single difference is that I take a broadly Wittgensteinian (or Ordinary Language) approach to language. Paul wants to change people's concepts. I wonder what he means by "concept".

I certainly agree that we should subject intuitions--including our own--to skeptical scrutiny. And I think that taking the right approach to philosophy leads to some deeply counter-intuitive conclusions. So in that sense philosophy should change our beliefs. But I don't consider this to be a case of changing "concepts". To me, talk of concepts refers to words and their meanings. And, if Paul thinks we should try to change the meaning of ordinary words like "knowledge", "justified" and "moral", then I suspect he's going down an old and misguided path, not a new one.

I would also question Paul's assertion that, "Philosophy needs to educate people, not excuse them." While I wouldn't go quite so far as Wittgenstein's assertion that "Philosophy leaves everything as it is", I think philosophy has rather little to say that is of value to outsiders.

I should say at this point that I think "philosophy" is a very broad and fuzzy category, covering more than just epistemology, metaphysics and ethics. We might refer to those as the core philosophical subjects. But under the rubric of "philosophy" we also find discussions that border on and overlap with those of other fields, including physics, biology, psychology, anthropology, cognitive science, the arts, and social/political comment. There are certainly useful things to be said in those areas, and insofar as it borders on and overlaps with those areas, we might say that philosophy has something to contribute to them. But the more distinctively philosophical our discourse, the less relevance it has to anything outside philosophy itself.

These "dogmas" are more like

These "dogmas" are more like strawpersons. Each claim is supported by few contemporary analytic philosophers. These so called dogmas ( at least some of them) are probably the dogmas of the logical positivists, a school of analytic philosophy that died about 50 years ago (due to the devastating criticisms from Quine, Carnap, and Wittgenstein).

The only dogma that seems accurate of contemporary philosophers seem to be 7. I agree that emotion are separate from rationality but that doesn't mean they aren't intimately linked.

Also, though philosophers think that thoughts *have propositional content*, I think it's a strawperson to say that analytic philosophers don't think thoughts are also brain processes. Most do think so.

A few comments on some of

A few comments on some of Paul's remarks.

"Philosophy is theory construction, not conceptual analysis."

Unless philosophers think carefully about the meanings of their words (and with a correct understanding of how language works) they will remain largely confused. Wittgenstein wrote that, "Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intellect by our language." I think he should have said "should be", not "is", since too few philosophers are seriously engaged in that battle. It sounds like Paul is denying its necessity.

"...evaluate intuitions critically to determine their psychological causes, which are often more tied to prejudices and errors than truth."

Indeed. Our intuitions are evidence to be explained by an inference to the best explanation. One possible explanation of a common intuition is that it's the result of truth-conducive processes. That must be weighed against alternative explanations.

"Inferences are based on arguments. Natural alternative: whereas arguments are serial and linguistic, inferences operate as parallel neural processes that can use representations that involve visual and other modalities."

I would put it differently, but perhaps we broadly agree. Our inferences are the result of causal brain processes, primarily operating subconsciously. Verbal reasoning (including arguments) constitutes only the tip of the iceberg. Arguments are a very useful tool, but we shouldn't see them as the primary element in our rational (truth-conducive) inferences.

"The best thinking is both cognitive and emotional."

This makes little sense to me. I would say that our inferences come to us largely from subconscious cognitive processes, and so we must rely to a considerable extent on unverifiable personal judgements. We might call these unverified judgements "intuitions". But as far as I'm concerned they are the result of cognitive processes, which, when functioning well, can be called "rational". I don't think "emotion" has anything to do with it.

"There are necessary truths that apply to all possible worlds. Natural alternative: recognize that it is hard enough to figure out what is true in this world, and there is no reliable way of establishing what is true in all possible worlds, so abandon the concept of necessity."

Translating modal speech into the language of "possible worlds" is at best a linguistic convenience, but I think it causes more confusion than it's worth, and is probably best abandoned. I think the necessary/contingent and analytic/synthetic distinctions probably have their uses, but need to be treated with far greater caution that they often are. They should be seen as fuzzy and problematic distinctions, not as simple dichotomies. When we use them, we need constantly to be thinking about what we really mean. But I'm open to persuasion that they're more trouble than they're worth.

"9. Thoughts are propositional attitudes. Natural alternative: instead of considering thoughts to be abstract relations between abstract selves and abstract sentence-like entities, accept the rapidly increasing evidence that thoughts are brain processes."

I think it's better to say that thoughts supervene on brain processes, not that they are brain processes. But I don't think that entails a denial of propositional attitudes. I just see "propositional attitudes" as a term for referring to entities like beliefs, desires, etc. I don't think it comes with a commitment to any particular model of those entities.

"Then we can avoid the error of inferring metaphysical conclusions from the logic of the day, as Wittgenstein did with propositional logic..."

I don't think you understand Wittgenstein.

I liked this article very

I liked this article very much. For those who are dismissing it as an obvious mischaracterization, perhaps you should recall the "principle of charity" we're always recommending to undergrads.

Prof. Thagard wrote an article for the popular press, i.e., not for professional philosophers, and he tried to explain some of his impressions of what has long been typical of analytic philosophy. I don't know him, but from his picture, I'd say he's gotta be at least, what, maybe 30? Perhaps even older than that. So he may well remember some of what was typical of analytic philosophy in the long past era -- shrouded in the mists of antiquity though it is -- known as the "20th Century."

If I'm right in thinking he's presenting a picture of analytic philosophy -- in broad strokes -- that spans at least a few decades, then he's not so obviously way off in his description. And it strikes me as disingenuous to see philosophers' protesting, "What's this guy talking about? Where has he been? We stopped doing conceptual analysis, like, two weeks ago!"

So how 'bout you cut the guy some slack?

My uncharitable guess as to why you're giving him a hard time: He touched a nerve, didn't he, intuition pumpers? :-)

Right, unfortunately Thagard

Right, unfortunately Thagard refused to extend the principle of charity to Analytic philosophy. In fact, he makes some out right howlers showing little knowledge of the contemporary field.

Thanks for your response to

Thanks for your response to my cheeky comment, NChen.

I meant to argue that perhaps he's not commenting on the "contemporary field" so much as taking a long view of what has been typical of analytic philosophy from when Russell met Wittgenstein to when, say, NYU and Rutgers headhunted all the other departments and suddenly became good.

Here's my actual -- as in not rhetorical -- question: If that's the right way to conceive of what Thagard is trying to do, rather than trying to display "knowledge of the contemporary field," would the "howlers" you mention still be howlers?

Would his description of "analytic philosophy" qua "what has been typical of analytic philosophy for most of the time it's been around" be uncharitable, inaccurate, and/or risible?

"Philosophy needs to be

"Philosophy needs to be extraverted, directing its attention to real world problems and relevant scientific findings, not introverted and concerned only with its own history and techniques."

Were there no better words to use? "Introverted" comes across derogatory here.

"I meant to argue that

"I meant to argue that perhaps he's not commenting on the "contemporary field" "

This is what Thagard said

"There are also many contemporary philosophers making progress on problems concerning the nature of knowledge, reality and ethics, without succumbing to the dogmas of analytic philosophy. "

So he was making a generalization of the contemporary (but as the quote above suggests, he makes some exceptions) field.

The problem is that he has it backwards. Most analytic philosophers don't subsribe to those "dogmas". It wouldn't make sense to criticize analytic philosophy for how it was practiced by a small group of adherents more thn 50 years ago (actually, I'm not even sure the logical positivists would hold many of those views either). Those dogmas have been thoroughly rejected. It's an inaccurate generalization of the contemporary field.

Thanks again, NChen. I'll

Thanks again, NChen. I'll take your word (and that of those who share your opinion) for it. For one thing, I'm so fundamentally confused that if you'd asked me before I read this article, I would have said that naturalist philosophers were, in some sense, analytic philosophers.

The false dichotomy we treat as roughly true, for the sake of convenience, is that philosophy in the western world comprises two camps: analytic and Continental. If I had to shove naturalism into one of those camps, I'd pick "analytic." So maybe his whole article is one big category mistake.

Nonetheless, when I read Thagard's article, much of what he describes is familiar to me. Moreover, he describes attitudes, assumptions, perhaps even "dogmas," that piss me off on a regular basis. So I'll buy that he wasn't charitable and that his depiction of "analytic philosophy" wasn't spot-on accurate, but I won't buy the subtext of much of the criticism in these comments, namely, that Thagard doesn't know what he's talking about and can safely be dismissed.

Perhaps he's incautious, uncharitable, or otherwise peccable. But he ain't nearly so wrong nor so out to lunch as some of y'all would like to think.

My response to Thagaard's 11 points

1. "Philosophy is theory construction, not conceptual analysis" the analytic tradition may be over-critical, but it has a seriousness that is useful for arriving at real concepts. The phenomenologists do not have an adequate response for Kant, for instance, despite the fact that Kant was a continental philosopher. Some would assume that Kant was a naturalist.
2. "Philosophy is conservative, analyzing existing concepts". No, analytic philosophers are precisely the ones who seem avant-garde, at least outside of psychology. Analytic philosophers are the ones who attempt to define a logical system AT ALL. Even if logic is abandoned, it shouldn't be a matter of abandoning paradoxes and contradictions, as some continental philosophers (e.g. Derrida) seem to propose.
3. "Evaluate intuitions critically to determine their psychological causes, which are often more tied to prejudices and errors than truth." It cannot be argued that Plato and Socrates were not analytic, only that they had a more grounded sense of morals. Analytic philosophers do not make psychological assumptions when they seek to arrive at NEW IDEAS, which may not be inherently social, emotional, or mired in a mere construence of logical terms (as I think Derrida was).
4. "Use thought experiments only as a way of generating hypotheses" from a philosopher's point of view, hypotheses are everything. True philosophical naturalism belongs to the realm of ideas, and so it belongs to hypotheses. Otherwise there's a proneness to sexualizing and debasing philosophy. It's like saying 'where are the suppositions?' and the result is to find suppositions, not philosophy. The material world (including science) is more deterministic than the mind is a firm belief for me.
5."People are rational (but) their beliefs and concepts are often incoherent." You are saying people are irrational, or that analytics has no potential. But science could be analytic, couldn't it? What about Quality Science as philosophy? Is that your idea or somebody else's?
6. "Inferences are based on arguments" Analytic philosophy has a strong suit in defending 'whole objects' or entities, according to category, in some ways this is the same thing as what you describe later as "neural processes that can use representations that involve visual and other modalities. Critical thinking" I highly agree, I suspect this is partly an interface question, e.g. there are more color prints now and so on.
7. "Reason is separate from emotion vs. The best thinking is both cognitive and emotional." I agree that the non-emotional quality of the tradition is a sticking point. But surely for someone or other, that deliberate quality was itself emotionally valuable. Presumably. At least, we wouldn't always have to draw a distinction. Earlier theorists thought that emotionalizing was a way of losing track of the 'sense' of things, it was less psychic, it was less deliberate.
8. "Abandon the concept of necessity (in all possible worlds)" you're confusing relavist morals with modal realism. Most philosophers in modal realism seem to agree that a moral standard may apply in one world and not another, because those worlds have very real truth differences. And accordingly, where there are truth differences is precisely where earlier theorists saw a weakness for moral relativism. What analytic people mean to say I think is that 'relative to relativism' moral theories hold true. I think not everyone would find this irrational, even as an analytic universal moral theory. It defends objectivity in forms like 'such and such a practice looks crazy to the other society' e.g. therefore it is crazy, because all other societies which develop according to such and such truth conditions agree that such and such a practice is crazy. In other words, universal morals amounts to a defense of the non-arbitrary.
9. "Accept the rapidly increasing evidence that thoughts are brain processes" Analytics is cognitive in the extreme. Analytic philosophers are realists about brain function, because they know magic is possible.
10. "Appreciate that formal logic is only one of many areas of mathematics relevant to determining the fundamental nature of reality" Logic is more universal than mathematics. And logic is not mathematics, even if it seems technical on paper amongst 'professionals'. Professionals often enough are 'actors' who have adopted some form of behaviorism. They reject the best theories because they think they are no longer tenable. They use reasonableness as a general rule in place of the radicality necessary for generating ideas.
11. "Adopt a normative procedure that empirically evaluates the extent to which different practices achieve the goals of knowledge and morality". This makes the scientific assumption that science can be original. If science CAN be original, it isn't necessarily about setting guidelines for HOW it should be so. According to a natural anthropology perspective, science is doing its darndest to be unoriginal, or we defer to consumer politics, in which the specialized programs that do original scientific things are creme d la creme reserved for billionaire moguls and some such. Certainly the precepts of philosophy shouldn't be about brokering power struggles or analyzing the least common denominator. It is a much simpler program to be analytic. It isn't about sitting in an office. It's about ANYTHING.

For more of my positions on philosophy, see my forthcoming book, The Dimensional Philosopher's Toolkit (2013).

Reason and emotion

There is a distinction between saying that both reason and emotion are needed for acting ethically, and saying that reason and emotion are not seperate things/faculties. One may agree with the former (which you argue for in the linked article) but not the latter (which you appear to be claiming above).

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Paul Thagard, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo and author of The Brain and the Meaning of Life.


Subscribe to Hot Thought

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.