The postmodern 'dismantling' of the self is often regarded, in sensationalist terms, as threatening to undermine most if not all of our familiar ideas concerning philosophy and morality. This is so because in challenging our 'commonplace' concept of what it is to be a person - a concept with a heavy Cartesian legacy (or at least a legacy that commonly traced back to Descartes) - it also challenges the standard visions of how we stand, or fail to stand, as knowers (...) in relation to reality and causes upset to the grounds for many of our ethico-political practices. (shrink)
Enactivists seek to revolutionize the new sciences of the mind. In doing so, they promote adopting a thoroughly anti-intellectualist starting point, one that sees mentality as rooted in engaged, embodied activity as opposed to detached forms of thought. In advocating the so-called embodied turn, enactivists touch on recurrent themes of central importance in Wittgenstein's later philosophy. More than this, today's enactivists characterize the nature of minds and how they fundamentally relate to the world in ways that not only echo but (...) fully agree with many of the later Wittgenstein's trademark philosophical remarks on the same topics. (shrink)
Colombo (Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 2012) argues that we have compelling reasons to posit neural representations because doing so yields unique explanatory purchase in central cases of social norm compliance. We aim to show that there is no positive substance to Colombo’s plea—nothing that ought to move us to endorse representationalism in this domain, on any level. We point out that exposing the vices of the phenomenological arguments against representationalism does not, on its own, advance the case for representationalism (...) one inch—beyond establishing its mere possibility. We criticize the continual confounding of constitutive and explanatory claims and the lack of recognition of a Hard Problem of having to provide a naturalistic account of content, coupled with an inability to face up to it. We point at the inadequacy of various deflationary moves that end up driving representationalists towards the idea of neural representations with non-standard contents or without content altogether, both of which either render neural representationalism unfit for purpose or vacuous. Referring to possibilities for neural manipulation and control, or to established scientific practice does not help representationalism either. (shrink)
This comment on Stueber’s article clarifies the nature of the core disagreement between his approach to understanding reasons and mine. The purely philosophical nature of the dispute is highlighted. It is argued that understanding someone’s narrative often suffices for understanding the person’s reasons in ordinary cases. It is observed that Stueber has yet to provide a compelling counter case. There is also a brief clarification of some of the empirical commitments of the narrative practice hypothesis.
Any adequate account of emotion must accommodate the fact that emotions, even those of the most basic kind, exhibit intentionality as well as phenomenality. This article argues that a good place to start in providing such an account is by adjusting Prinz’s (2004) embodied appraisal theory (EAT) of emotions. EAT appeals to teleosemantics in order to account for the world-directed content of embodied appraisals. Although the central idea behind EAT is essentially along the right lines, as it stands Prinz’s proposal (...) needs tweaking in a number of ways. This article focuses on one—the need to free it from its dependence on teleosemantics. EAT, so modified, becomes compatible with a truly enactivist understanding of basic emotions. (shrink)
The core claim of this paper is that mind minding of the sort required for the simplest and most pervasive forms of joint attentional activity is best understood and explained in non-representational, enactivist terms. In what follows I will attempt to convince the reader of its truth in three steps. The first step, section two, clarifies the target explanandum. The second step, section three, is wholly descriptive. It highlights the core features of a Radically Enactivist proposal about elementary mind minding, (...) revealing it to be at least a possible explanans. The final step is to consider the comparative virtues of the contending proposals; section four. The exercise is to decide which of the possible explanations is best. Various evidential appeals and theoretical considerations that might aid us in this choice are reviewed. The conclusion is that the scales would be tipped in favour of the Radical Enactivist option, decisively, if it should turn out that there is (1) no reason to believe that basic forms of mentality are representational (in a semantically contentful way) and (2) if no good theory is likely to explain how they could be so. It is concluded that all that we need for understanding basic forms of intentional (with a ‘t’) mentality and what it takes to attend to basic cases of mind minding. (shrink)
Concentrating on their treatment of folk psychology, this paper seeks to establish that, in the form advocated by its leading proponents, the Canberra project is presumptuous in certain key respects. Crucially, it presumes (1) that our everyday practices entail the existence of implicit folk theories; (2) that naturalists ought to be interested primarily in what such theories say; and (3) that the core content of such theories is adequately characterized by establishing what everyone finds intuitively obvious about the topics in (...) question. I argue these presumptions are a bad starting point for any naturalistic project and, more specifically, that in framing things in this way proponents of the Canberra plan have led us unnecessarily into philosophical quagmires. (shrink)
This commentary will seek to clarify certain core features of Thompson’s proposal about the enactive nature of basic mentality, as best it can, and to bring his ideas into direct conversation with accounts of basic cognition of the sort favoured by analytical philosophers of mind and more traditional cognitive scientists – i.e. those who tend to be either suspicious or critical of enactive/embodied approaches (to the extent that they confess to understanding them at all). My proposed way of opening up (...) this sort of dialogue is to concentrate on the close similarities between Thompson’s biologically-based proposal about non-representational forms of basic cognition and what I take to be a reasonable modification to the ambitions of teleosemantic theories of content. Insofar as today’s theories of mental representation are less concerned to understand content in properly semantic terms they are moving ever closer to the sorts of account proposed by enactivists of the Thompsonian stripe – close enough to have meaningful debates about the nature of basic mentality. It is against this backdrop that I put a spotlight on the true promise and value of enactivism, providing some compelling reasons for wanting to go Thompson’s way. (shrink)
This paper explores the idea that when dealing with certain kinds of narratives, ‘like it or not’, consumers of fiction will bring the same sorts of skills (or at least a subset of them) to bear that they use when dealing with actual minds. Let us call this the ‘Same Resources Thesis’. I believe the ‘Same Resources Thesis’ is true. But this is because I defend the view that engaging in narrative practices is the normal developmental route through which children (...) acquire the capacity to make sense of what it is to act for a reason. If so, narratives are what provide crucial resources for dealing with actual minds – at least those of a certain sophisticated sort. I argue however that to the extent that we mindread at all, it is likely that we – i.e. those with the appropriate linguistically scaffolded abilities to make mental attributions – rely on our basic mind minding capacities to do so. So theory only comes into play when we mind guess, but theory of mind doesn’t come into it at all, neither when we deal with actual or fictional minds. (shrink)
Human beings, even very young infants, and members of several other species, exhibit remarkable capacities for attending to and engaging with others. These basic capacities have been the subject of intense research in developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, comparative psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind over the last several decades. Appropriately characterizing the exact level and nature of these abilities and what lies at their basis continues to prove a tricky business. The contributions to this special issue investigate whether and to (...) what extent the exercise of such capacities count as, or are best explained by, a genuine understanding of minds, where such understanding depends on the creatures in question possessing capacities for attributing a range of mental states and their contents in systematic ways. The question that takes center stage is: Do the capacities for attending to and engaging with others in question involve mindreading or is this achieved by other means? In this editorial we will review the state of the debate between mindreading and alternative accounts of social cognition. The issue is organized as follows: the first two papers review the experimental literature on mindreading in primates (Bermúdez) and children (Low & Wang), and the kinds of arguments made for mindreading and alternative accounts of social cognition. The next set of papers (Hedger & Fabricius, Lurz & Krachun, Zawidzki, and de Bruin et al.) further critique the existing experimental data and defend various mindreading and non-mindreading accounts. The final set of papers address further issues raised by phenomenological (Jacob, Zahavi), enactive (Michael), and embodied (Spaulding) accounts of social cognition. (shrink)
Analytic philosophy (AP), some proclaim, is dead or in crisis. It should be so lucky. Its status may be, in fact, much more ephemeral. In this readable and accessible monograph, Preston makes out an interesting and engaging case for the claim that AP has never really existed at all. At first blush this news is a bit hard to swallow. After all there seem to be many, many existing practitioners in our discipline that regard themselves as analytic philosophers and these (...) adherents clearly exert a powerful influence on professional philosophy in Anglophone countries (and this influence is felt elsewhere too, even if only negatively). So, it certainly looks as if there is such a thing as AP, whatever its state of health. (shrink)
Many psychopathological disorders – clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia and autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) – are commonly classified as disorders of the self. In an intuitive sense this sort of classification is unproblematic. There can be no doubt that such disorders make a difference to one’s ability to form and maintain a coherent sense of oneself in various ways. However, any theoretically rigourous attempt to show that they relate to underlying problems with say, such things as minimal selves or, (...) even, so-called narrative selves – where these latter constructs are invoked to do genuine explanatory work – would require, inter alia, philosophical clarification of what it is that one is precisely committed to in talking of such things (if things they be). It would also require justification for believing in selves of these various kinds. I have elsewhere put on record some of my worries about proposed justifications for believing in minimal selves (Hutto 2008b). But – lest I be accused of favouritism – it should be noted that I also have concerns about the very idea of narrative selves. Several authors have made strong claims about the role of narratives in self constitution (e.g. Dennett 1991, Flanagan 1996, Schechtman 1996). Under standard interpretations these proposals are ambiguous, underdeveloped in key respects, embed obvious tensions or generate puzzles. For these reasons I think we should be cautious of lax talk of selves that are woven from narrative cloth. This is not to say that I agree with Strawson (2004) that adopting a narrative perspective might not be essential for being a self (or at least being a self of a certain sort – even an ethically interesting sort).1 It is rather that I think that before we get around to assessing such claims we need a better understanding of just what we are committed to in talking of selves in general. This is a major philosophical programme, and not one with which I will attempt to engage in this paper – not even in passing.. (shrink)
De Jaegher’s (2009) paper argues that Gallagher, who aims to replace traditional theory-of-mind accounts of social understanding with accounts based on direct perception (hereafter DP), has missed an important opportunity. Despite a desire to break faith with tradition, there is a danger that proponents of DP accounts will remain (at least tacitly) committed to an unchallenged, and perhaps unnoticed, sort of individualism inherent in traditional theories (i.e. those that regard our engagement with others as a ‘problem’ to be solved: a (...) problem of other minds). Taking a more root and branch approach, De Jaegher recommends a complete shift of focus. She proposes that a more thoroughgoing and fruitful response to traditional approaches must attend to, and seek to understand, interactional phenomena proper—for it is the nature of interactions themselves that importantly influence individuals. Hence, it is the processes of interacting which ‘span individuals’ and their specific, dynamic evolution over time that should take pride of place in research into social cognition. De Jaegher wants to put interactional processes – those that can ‘take on life of their own’ and ‘influence interactors’ – at the heart of enquiries into intersubjectivity. Citing other recent work she has done with Di Paolo, she bills this as ‘‘the central task of any account of intersubjectivity” (De Jaegher, 2009, p. 2; De Jaegher & Di Paolo, 2007). The trouble is that this way of putting matters can make it look as if there is just one task facing researchers in this area; that we are faced with an either/or choice. But it is clear that any fully illuminated understanding of interactional phenomena will require accounts of what individuals and their sub-personal processes/mechanisms are doing in this larger process and, presumably, how their mechanisms/tendencies of response constrain and shape local bouts of interacting, even if we assume it is the dynamics of such encounters that importantly influence and shape what comes next.. (shrink)
There has been a long-standing interest in the putative roles that various so-called ‘theory of mind’ abilities might play in enabling us to understand and enjoy narratives. Of late, as our understanding of the complexity and diversity of everyday psychological capacities has become more nuanced and variegated, new possibilities have been articulated: (i) that our capacity for a sophisticated, everyday understanding of actions in terms of reason (our folk psychology) may itself be best characterized as a kind of narrative practice (...) and (ii) that acquiring the capacity for supplying and digesting reasons explana- tions might (at least normally) depend upon having a special training with narratives. This introductory paper to the volume situates the claims of those who support the narrative approach to folk psychology against the backdrop of some traditional and new thinking about intersubjectivity, social cognition and ‘theory of mind’ abilities. Special emphasis is laid on the different reasons for being interested in these claims about narrative practice and folk psychology in light of various empirical and philosophical agendas. (shrink)
It is possible to pursue philosophy with a clarificatory end in mind. Doing philosophy in this mode neither reduces to simply engaging in therapy or theorizing. This paper defends the possibility of this distinctive kind of philosophical activity and gives an account of its product—non-theoretical insights—in an attempt to show that there exists a third, ‘live’ option for understanding what philosophy has to offer. It responds to criticisms leveled at elucidatory philosophy by defenders of extreme therapeutic readings and clearly demonstrates (...) that in rejecting the latter one cannot assume Wittgenstein’s approach to philosophy was theoretically based by default. (shrink)
In the action-space account of color, an emphasis is laid on implicit knowledge when it comes to experience, and explanatory ambitions are expressed. If the knowledge claims are interpreted in a strong way, the action-space account becomes a form of conservative enactivism, which is a kind of cognitivism. Only if the knowledge claims are weakly interpreted, the action space-account can be seen as a distinctive form of enactivism, but then all reductive explanatory ambitions must be abandoned.
We argue that theory-of-mind (ToM) approaches, such as “theory theory” and “simulation theory”, are both problematic and not needed. They account for neither our primary and pervasive way of engaging with others nor the true basis of our folk psychological understanding, even when narrowly construed. Developmental evidence shows that young infants are capable of grasping the purposeful intentions of others through the perception of bodily movements, gestures, facial expressions etc. Trevarthen’s notion of primary intersubjectivity can provide a theoretical framework for (...) understanding these capabilities and his notion of secondary intersubjectivity shows the importance of pragmatic contexts for infants starting around one year of age. The recent neuroscience of resonance systems (i.e., mirror neurons, shared representations) also supports this view. These ideas are worked out in the context of an embodied “Interaction Theory” of social cognition. Still, for more sophisticated intersubjective interactions in older children and adults, one might argue that some form of ToM is required. This thought is defused by appeal to narrative competency and the Narrative Practice Hypothesis (or NPH). We propose that repeated encounters with narratives of a distinctive kind is the normal route through which children acquire an understanding of the forms and norms that enable them to make sense of actions in terms of reasons. A potential objection to this hypothesis is that it presupposes ToM abilities. Interaction Theory is deployed once again to answer this by providing an alternative approach to understanding basic narrative competency and its development. (shrink)
E-approaches to the mind stress the embodied, embedded and enactive nature of mental phenomena. In their more radical, non-representational variants these approaches offer innovative and powerful new ways of understanding fundamental modes of intersubjective social interaction: I-approaches. While promising, E and I accounts have natural limits. In particular, they are unable to explain human competence in making sense of reasons for actions in folk-psychological terms. In this paper I outline the core features of the 'Narrative Practice Hypothesis' (NPH), showing how (...) it might take up that burden in a way which complements non-representationalist E and I accounts. I conclude by addressing a new-order eliminativist challenge from Ratcliffe that questions, inter alia, the very idea that there is anything like a well-defined folk-psychological competence that needs explaining, thereby rendering the NPH otiose. Additionally, I respond to Ratcliffe's claim that the relevant structures needed for the development of that competence do not reveal themselves in relevant narratives, rendering the NPH's developmental story impossible. (shrink)
The Narrative Practice Hypothesis (NPH) is a recently conceived, late entrant into the contest of trying to understand the basis of our mature folk psychological abilities, those involving our capacity to explain ourselves and comprehend others in terms of reasons. This paper aims to clarify its content, importance and scientific plausibility by: distinguishing its conceptual features from those of its rivals, articulating its philosophical significance, and commenting on its empirical prospects. I begin by clarifying the NPH's target explanandum and the (...) challenge it presents to theory theory (TT), simulation theory (ST) and hybrid combinations of these theories. The NPH competes with them directly for the same explanatory space insofar as these theories purport to explain the core structural basis of our folk psychological (FP)-competence (those of the sort famously but not exclusively deployed in acts of third-personal mindreading). (shrink)
Focusing on the manifesto provided by Gallagher and Zahavi's The Phenomenological Mind, this paper critically examines how we should understand and asses the prospects of allying phenomenological approaches to mind with work in the cognitive sciences. It is argued that more radical and revolutionary adjustments to our standard conceptions of the mind than suggested by (at least some) the proponents of the phenomenological movement are required before such alliances will bear fruit.
This paper spells out just how the Narrative Practice Hypothesis, if true, undercuts any need to appeal to either theory or simulation when it comes to explaining the basis of folk psychological understanding: these heuristics do not come into play other than in cases of in which the framework is used to speculate about why another may have acted. To add appropriate force to this observation, I first say something about why we should reject the widely held assumption that the (...) primary business of folk psychology is to provide third-personal predictions and explanations. I then go on to demonstrate how the NPH can account for (i) the structural features of folk psychology and (ii) its staged acquisition without buying into the idea that it is a theory, or that it is acquired by means of constructing one. This should expose the impotence of the standard reasons for believing that folk psychology must be a kind of theory. In the concluding postscript, I acknowledge that we need more than the folk psychological framework to understand how we understand reasons, but I deny that this something more takes the form of a theory about propositional attitudes or simulative procedures for manipulating them. For example, I claim it rests in part on a capacity for co-cognition, inter alia, since that ability is necessary for understanding another’s thoughts. Nevertheless, I deny that co-cognition equates to simulation proper or that it plays anything more than a supporting role in understanding reasons for action. (shrink)
Deciding what role perspicuous representations play in Wittgenstein’s philosophy matters, not only for determining what one thinks of the contributions of this great figure of twentieth century philosophy but also for recognising the ‘live options’ for conducting philosophical enquiries full stop. It is not surprising, given this importance, that perspicuous representations is the topic of the opening chapter of Gordon Baker’s posthumous collection of essays on philosophical method. In that contribution he offers grounds for thinking that the relevant passage in (...) which the notion is explicitly mentioned (cited above) should be read as promoting a strongly therapeutic approach to philosophy: he exposes ‘this possibility’ in the modest hope of persuading receptive readers to explore it further for themselves (see Baker 2004, 46). I endorse some of Baker’s central insights about understanding and use of perspicuous representations but I firmly reject his conclusions about the end of philosophy. Specifically, I agree with him that Wittgenstein set his face against the very idea of philosophical ‘theorising’, but I deny that this led him (or ought to lead anyone) to promote a purely therapeutic philosophy. In the first three sections, I supply reasons for preferring an account of Wittgenstein’s approach to philosophy that emphasises its clarificatory ambitions. In doing so, I say something about: (i) what I take perspicuous representations to be and how they function; (ii) what motivates Baker’s reading and its implications; and (iii) how perspicuous and other forms of representations have been misused in attempts at so-called philosophical theorising. I conclude by proposing that in steering clear of both theory and extreme therapy, it is possible to prosecute a positive philosophy – one that employs perspicuous representations to bring ‘relevant connections’ to light for the purposes of enabling us to understand and reflect on aspects of various domains of human being. (shrink)
The human world is replete with narratives – narratives of our making that are uniquely appreciated by us. Some thinkers have afforded special importance to our capacity to generate such narratives, seeing it as variously enabling us to: exercise our imaginations in unique ways; engender an understanding of actions performed for reasons; and provide a basis for the kind of reflection and evaluation that matters vitally to moral and self development. Perhaps most radically, some hold that narratives are essential for (...) the constitution of human selves. This volume brings together nine original contributions in which the individual authors advance, develop and challenge proposals of these kinds. They critically examine the place and importance of narratives in human lives and consider the underlying capacities that permit us to produce and utilise these special artifacts. All of the papers are written in a non-technical and accessible style. (shrink)
Ask nearly any analytic philosopher of mind how we understand intentional actions performed for reasons and you are bound to be told that we do so by deploying mental concepts, such as beliefs and desires, in systematic ways. This way of making sense of actions is known as commonsense or folk psychology (or CSP or FP for short). There have been many interesting debates about CSP over the years. These have focused on questions including: How fundamental and universal is this (...) practice? Which species engage in it? What mechanisms underwrite the competence? How is the ability acquired? And, what exactly is its status (e.g. is it a kind of theory or simulative ability? If it's a theory, is it a good theory, etc.)? Philosophers divide in their responses to such questions, but practically all of them agree that CSP is at least a prominent and important part of our everyday understanding and that it grounds at least some very important social practices. (shrink)
This paper promotes the view that our childhood engagement with narratives of a certain kind is the basis of sophisticated folk psychological abilities —i.e. it is through such socially scaffolded means that folk psychological skills are normally acquired and fostered. Undeniably, we often use our folk psychological apparatus in speculating about why another may have acted on a particular occasion, but this is at best a peripheral and parasitic use. Our primary understanding and skill in folk psychology derives from and (...) has its primary application in special kinds of second-personal engagements. (shrink)
This is a truly groundbreaking work that examines today’s notions of folk psychology. Bringing together disciplines as various as cognitive science and anthropology, the authors analyze and question key assumptions about the nature, scope and function of folk psychology.
We want to say that there can’t be any vagueness in logic. The idea that now absorbs us, that the ideal ‘must’ be found in reality. Meanwhile we do not as yet see how it occurs there, nor do we understand the nature of this ‘must’. We think it must be in reality; for we think we already see it there.
Much of the difficulty in assessing theories of consciousness stems from their advocates not supplying adequate or convincing characterisations of the phenomenon (or data) they hope to explain. Yet, to make any reasonable assessment this is precisely what is required, for it is not as if our ‘pre-theoretical’ intuitions are philosophically innocent. I attempt to reveal, using a recent debate between Chalmers and Dennett as a foil, why, in approaching this topic, we cannot characterise the data purely first-personally or third-personally (...) nor, concomitantly, can we start such investigations using either first-personal or third-personal methods. (shrink)
The binary divide between traditional cognitivist and enactivist paradigms is tied to their respective commitments to understanding cognition as based on knowing that as opposed to knowing how. Using O’Regan’s and No¨e’s landmark sensorimotor contingency theory of perceptual experience as a foil, I demonstrate how easy it is to fall into conservative thinking. Although their account is advertised as decidedly ‘skill-based’, on close inspection it shows itself to be riddled with suppositions threatening to reduce it to a rules-and-representations approach. To (...) remain properly enactivist it must be purged of such commitments and indeed all commitment to mediating knowledge: it must embrace a more radical enactivism. (shrink)
There is a paradox about how our social understanding develops if we take seriously both theory theory and the cognitivist dictum that all skilful interaction has robust conceptual underpinnings. On the one hand, it is clear that young infants demonstrate a capacity to reliably detect and respond to other’s intentions. For example, recent experimental evidence confirms that they have the capacity to appropriately parse what would otherwise be an undifferentiated behaviour stream at its mentalistic joints. If we follow the cognitivist (...) trend in thinking that having the appropriate concepts is an antecedent requirement for such recognitional capacities then it follows that we should ascribe to these infants the concept of intention (or, at least, a concept of intention). But if we also hold that mentalistic concepts are constituted by their links with other mentalistic concepts, such as belief and desire, as assumed by proponents of theory theory, then we ought to conclude that infants lack certain concepts, such as intention, because at their tender age they lack other concepts, such as belief, which are required to constitute their contents. I will consider two possible atomistic ways of squaring this circle, in the process ultimately rejecting cognitivism in favor of the idea that various nonconceptual capacities best account for our initial abilities for recognizing and responding to intentional agency. I hold that it is what these responses are directed at that remains common throughout the developments of our mentalistic concepts, enabling us to make sense of talk of conceptual change. Not only does this resolve the paradox with which theory theorists must content, it shows how we can start our folk psychological careers without a theory or even any concepts. (shrink)
Interpretations of Wittgenstein’s work notoriously fuel debate and controversy. This holds true not only with respect to its main messages, but also to questions concerning its unity and purpose. Tradition has it that his intellectual career can be best understood if carved in twain; that we can get a purchase on his thinking by focusing on and contrasting his, “two diametrically opposed philosophical masterpieces, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921) and the Philosophical Investigations (1953)” (Hacker 2001, 1). This is allegedly justified by (...) the supposition that these provide us with two, distinctive, “powerful complete world-pictures” (Hacker 2001, p. viii). Others object; holding that this simple division fails to take account of all the major breaks. They claim that, minimally, we ought to recognise at least three major moments in the progression of Wittgenstein's thought, taking stock of a final period in which On Certainty dominates. Still others reject the idea that the best interpretative results will come from regarding the development of his thinking in the stark terms of involving 'complete' changes of mind at all. On the contrary, they argue that we will better understand his works if we emphasise their methodological continuity. For anyone interested in these matters, The Voices of Wittgenstein is an absolutely fascinating collection. It presents us with dictations by Wittgenstein and a series of other writings with his solid imprint; all of these were compiled and arranged (if not partly composed) by Waismann. Although Baker is clear that they did not come with any explicit account of their origin or purpose, it is possible to draw some reasonable inferences about these by consideration of the salient historical facts. (shrink)
Drawing heavily on Aristotle, Tabensky attempts to establish ‘an ethic that flows from the very structure of our being’, but he also calls on Davidson’s arguments about the essentially social character of rationality to shore up Aristotle’s claim that we are essentially social beings. This much of his project, I argue is successful. However Tabensky takes this a step further and proposes a pluralist ethic on the grounds that a ‘fully’ or ‘properly’ instantiated account of the ‘ideal’ conditions for rationality (...) requires encountering innumerable other points of view. Firstly, while confronting alternatives is essential to truth-seeking it hardly follows that an unconstrained pluralism represents an ideal condition for this kind of inquiry, since such an approach risks falling into mere clash of perspectives on practical grounds. Secondly, it is unclear how confronting more and more perspectives is supposed to help in enabling us to lead our lives well. In conclusion, picking up on this theme and looking again at Aristotle, I give reasons for questioning that the kind of rational choice involved in leading the good life, for reasons in part highlighted by Tabensky, benefits from analogy with the modes of conceptual rational inquiry in other domains in any case. (shrink)
It is almost universally agreed that the main business of commonsense psychology is that of providing generally reliable predictions and explanations of the actions of others. In line with this, it is also generally assumed that we are normally at theoretical remove from others such that we are always ascribing causally efficacious mental states to them for the purpose of prediction, explanation and control. Building on the work of those who regard our primary intersubjective interactions as a form of 'embodied (...) practice', I defend a secondpersonal approach in this paper. (shrink)
In his contribution to this volume, Avrum Stroll makes the assertion that there is ‘a feature of [Wittgenstein's] later philosophy that occurs only in On Certainty. This is a unique form of foundationalism that is neither doxastic nor non-doxastic' (Stroll, this volume, p. 2). He also holds that Wittgenstein’s increased attention to metaphorical language in explicating this foundationalism is yet another feature that sets it apart from the rest of his corpus. I raise doubts about appealing to either of these (...) aspects as a rationale for identifying a third Wittgenstein. I argue that Wittgenstein's commitment to foundationalism – to the extent we should recognise it at all – and his concern with the non-literal are not unprecedented; they are present in his earliest writings. (shrink)
This paper builds on the insights of Jerome Bruner by underlining the central importance of narratives explaining actions in terms of reasons, arguing that by giving due attention to the central roles that narratives play in our everyday understanding of others provides a better way of explicating the nature and source of that activity than does simulation theory, theory-theory or some union of the two. However, although I promote Bruner’s basic claims about the roles narratives play in this everyday enterprise, (...) I take issue with his characterization of the nature of narrative itself. In so doing, important questions are brought to the fore about what makes our understanding of narratives possible. In line with the idea that we ought to tell a developmental story that looks to a the social arena for the source of narratives about reasons, I promote the idea that what is minimally required for becoming conversant in such everyday narratives need not be anything as sophisticated as a theory of mind or a capacity for simulation. The paper concludes using evidence concerning autism as a test case to help support this conclusion. (shrink)
What is the true worth of Wittgenstein's contribution to philosophy? Answers to this question are strongly divided. However, most assessments rest on certain popular misreadings of his purpose. This book challenges both "theoretical" and "therapeutic" interpretations. In their place, it seeks to establish that, from beginning to end, Wittgenstein regarded clarification as the true end of philosophy. It argues that, properly understood, his approach exemplifies rather than betrays critical philosophy and provides a viable alternative to other contemporary offerings.