Tradition and cognitive science: Oakeshott’s undoing of the Kantian mind

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 33 (1):53-76 (2003)
Abstract
In this discussion, the author asks the question if Oakeshott’s famous depiction of a practice might be understood in relation to contemporary cognitive science, in particular connectionism (the contemporary cognitive science approach concerned with the problem of skills and skilled knowing) and in terms of the now conventional view of "normativity" in Anglo-American philosophy. The author suggests that Oakeshott meant to contrast practices to an alternative "Kantian" model of a shared tacit mental frame or set of rules. If cognitive science, in its connectionist forms, allows us to give a naturalistic though nonreductive sense to his words, Oakeshott, like other philosophers who have employed the concept of tradition, expanded his discussion into a broader reconsideration of the nature of theorizing, a metaphilosophy. And this extension can be understood in relation to such recent thinkers as McDowell and, in particular, to the problem of the acquisition of the normative. Key Words: idealism • Oakeshott • connectionism • normativity.
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