Throughout its history philosophy has been thought to be a member of a community of intellectual disciplines united by their common pursuit of knowledge. It has sometimes been thought to be the queen of the sciences, at other times merely their under-labourer. But irrespective of its social status, it was held to be a participant in the quest for knowledge – a cognitive discipline.
In recent years philosophers have given much attention to the ‘ontological problem’ of events. Donald Davidson puts the matter thus: ‘the assumption, ontological and metaphysical, that there are events is one without which we cannot make sense of much of our common talk; or so, at any rate, I have been arguing. I do not know of any better, or further, way of showing what there is’. It might be thought bizarre to assign to philosophers the task of ‘showing what (...) there is’. They have not distinguished themselves by the discovery of new elements, new species or new continents, nor even of new categories, although there has often been more dreamt of in their philosophies than can be found in heaven or earth. It might appear even stranger to think that one can show what there actually is by arguing that the existence of something needs to be assumed in order for certain sentences to make sense. More than anything, the sober reader will doubtlessly be amazed that we need to assume , after lengthy argument, ‘that there are events’. (shrink)
In the preface to the Tractatus Wittgenstein acknowledged ‘Frege's great works’ as one of the two primary stimulations for his thoughts. Throughout his life he admired Frege both as a great thinker and as a great stylist. This much is indisputable. What is disputable is how he viewed his own philosophical work in relation to Frege's and, equally, how we should view his work in this respect. Some followers of Frege are inclined to think that Wittgenstein's work builds on or (...) complements that of Frege. If that were true it would be plausible to suppose that the joint legacy of these two great philosophers can provide a coherent foundation for our own endeavours. But it is debatable whether their fundamental ideas can be synthesized thus. The philosophy of Wittgenstein, both early and late, is propounded to a very large extent in opposition to Frege's. They can no more be mixed than oil and water – or so I shall argue. (shrink)
While thinking philosophically we see problems in places where there are none. It is for philosophy to show that there are no problems. Those of us who are not colour blind have a happy command of colour concepts. We say of trees that they are green in spring, that they are the same colour as grass and a different colour from the sky. If we shine a torch with a red bulb upon a white surface, we say that the surface (...) looks pink although it is white. And if we suffer a bout of jaundice we claim that white things look yellowish to us, although they are not yellow, nor do they look yellow. We employ this tripartite distinction unworriedly and unthinkingly. But when, in doing philosophy, we are called upon to elucidate colour concepts it becomes evident that these elementary concepts present intricate problems to the philosophical understanding. It is extraordinarily difficult to obtain a proper surview of colour grammar, and the temptations of philosophical illusion are legion. We go wrong before the first step is even taken, and hence do not notice our errors, for they are implicit in every move we make. We multiply impossibilities seriatim , getting better, like the White Queen, with practice. We then either slide into scepticism, or alternatively exclude it on empirical grounds - appealing, as is so popular in American philosophical circles, to the wonders of science, in particular physics and neurophysiology, to keep the malin genie from the door. (shrink)
P. M. S. Hacker 1. The poverty of philosophy as a science Throughout its history philosophy has been thought to be a member of a community of intellectual disciplines united by their common pursuit of knowledge. It has sometimes been thought to be the queen of the sciences, at other times merely their under-labourer. But irrespective of its social status, it was held to be a participant in the quest for knowledge – a cognitive discipline. Cognitive disciplines may be (...) a priori or empirical. The distinction between what is a priori and what is empirical is epistemological. It turns, as Frege noted, on the ultimate justification for holding something to be true.1 If the truths which a cognitive discipline attains are warranted neither by observation nor by experiment (nor by inference therefrom), then they are a priori. Otherwise they are empirical. The natural and moral sciences (the Geisteswissenschaften) strive for and attain empirical knowledge.2 The mathematical sciences are a priori. Cognitive disciplines have a distinctive subject matter, concerning which they aim to add to human knowledge. Physics deals with matter, motion, and energy, chemistry with the constitution of stuffs out of elements, biology with the nature of living beings, history with ‘the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind’ (Gibbon), and so forth. The empirical sciences aim not only to discover truths but also to explain the phenomena they study. The natural sciences produce theories (typically with predictive powers) to explain the facts and laws they discover. The moral sciences too aim to explain the phenomena they study – although not to the same extent by way of theory and general laws; and their predictive powers, if any, are more limited. Mathematics and logic strive to produce theorems by means of proofs, and are.. (shrink)
P.M.S. Hacker 1. _The problems of Intentionality_ The problems of intentionality have exercised philosophers since the dawn of their subject. In the last century they were brought afresh into the limelight by Brentano. Famously he remarked that.
1. Naturalism Naturalism, it has been said, is the distinctive development in philosophy over the last thirty years. There has been a naturalistic turn away from the a priori methods of traditional philosophy to a conception of philosophy as continuous with natural science. The doctrine has been extensively discussed and has won considerable following in the USA. This is, on the whole, not true of Britain and continental Europe, where the pragmatist tradition never took root, and the temptations of scientism (...) in philosophy were less alluring. Contemporary American naturalism originates in the writings of Quine, the metaphysician of twentieth-century science. With extraordinary panache, he painted a largescale picture of human nature, of language and of the web of belief. I believe that in almost every major respect, it is, like the picture painted by Descartes, the great metaphysician of seventeenth-century science, mistaken. But it evidently appeals to the spirit of the times. So it is worthy of critical examination and careful refutation. I shall argue that the naturalistic turn is a cul-de-sac – a turn that is to be passed by if we are to keep to the highroad of good sense. Naturalism, like so many of Quine’s doctrines, was propounded in response to Carnap. As Quine understood matters, Carnap had been persuaded by Russell’s Our Knowledge of the External World that it is the task of philosophy to demonstrate that our knowledge of the external world is a logical construction out of, and hence can be reduced to, elementary experiences. Quine rejected the reductionism of Carnap’s Logischer Aufbau, and found the idealist basis uncongenial to his own dogmatic realist behaviourism, inspired by Watson and later reinforced by Skinner. The rejection of reductionism and ‘unregenerate realism’, Quine averred, were the sources of his naturalism (FME 72). What exactly was this? We can distinguish in Quine between three different but inter-related programmes for future philosophy: epistemological, ontological and philosophical naturalism. Naturalized epistemology is to displace traditional epistemology, transforming the investigation into ‘an enterprise within natural science’ (NNK 68) – a psychological enterprise of investigating how the ‘input’ of radiation, etc., impinging on the nerve endings of human beings can ‘ultimately’ result in an ‘output’ of our theoretical descriptions of the external world.. (shrink)
Th e con fusion a nd b arren ness o f psycho logy is no t to be e xplain ed b y calling it a “yo ung science”; its state is not comparable with that of physics, for instance, in its beginnings. (Rather with that of certain branches of mathematics. Set theory.) For in psychology there are experimental methods and conceptual confusion. (As in the oth er case, con cep tual co nfusion and m ethod s of pro of.) (...) The existence of the experimental method makes us think we have the means of solving the problems that trouble us; though problem and method pass one another by. (PI p. 232). (shrink)
Wittgenstein's Method: Neglected Aspects By Gordon Baker. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004 pp. 328. £40.00 HB.. Wittgenstein's Copernican Revolution: The Question of Linguistic Idealism By Ilham Dilman. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002. pp. 240. £52.50 HB. Wittgenstein: Connections and Controversies By P. M. S. Hacker. Oxford: Oxford University Press,. pp. 400. £45.00 HB; £19.99 PB. Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations: An Introduction By David G. Stern. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. pp. 224. £40.00 HB; £10.99 PB.
In this long and detailed book Bennett and Hacker set themselves two ambitious tasks. The first is to offer a philosophical critique of, what they argue are, philosophical confusions within contemporary cognitive neuroscience. The second is to present a ‘conceptual reference work for cognitive neuroscientists who wish to check the contour lines of the psychological concept relevant to their investigation’ (p.7). In the process they cover an astonishing amount of material. The first two chapters present a critical history of (...) neuroscience from Aristotle to Sherrington, Eccles and Penfield. Chapter three (to which I shall return), offers the philosophical basis for much of the book. Chapters four to twelve present detailed philosophical criticisms of a wide variety of neuroscientists (and some philosophers) on a large number of topics. These include: Crick, Damasio, Edelman, Marr and Frisby on perception (particularly the primary/secondary quality distinction and the binding problem); Milner, Squire and Kandel on memory; Blakemore and others on mental imagery; LaDoux and Damasio on the emotions; Libet on voluntary movement; and Baars, Crick, Edelman, Damasio, Penrose, Searle, Chalmers, and Nagel on consciousness (with a great deal on qualia and self-consciousness). Chapters thirteen and fourteen, along with the two appendices, contain an elaboration and defence of the book’s methodology and present explicit contrasts with the Churchlands, Dennett and Searle. Bennett and Hacker maintain that whilst neuroscientists have made significant discoveries concerning the workings of the brain, these discoveries have been obscured by their presentation within an incoherent conceptual framework. Their complaints, therefore, are often not with neuroscience itself but with what might be called its philosophical self image. (shrink)
In ‘Wittgenstein on Language and Rules’, Professor N. Malcolm took us to task for misinterpreting Wittgenstein's arguments on the relationship between the concept of following a rule and the concept of community agreement on what counts as following a given rule. Not that we denied that there are any grammatical connections between these concepts. On the contrary, we emphasized that a rule and an act in accord with it make contact in language. Moreover we argued that agreement in judgments and (...) in definitions is indeed necessary for a shared language. But we denied that the concept of a language is so tightly interwoven with the concept of a community of speakers as to preclude its applicabilty to someone whose use of signs is not shared by others. Malcolm holds that ‘This is an unwitting reduction of Wittgenstein's originality. That human agreement is necessary for “shared” language is not so striking a thought as that it is essential for language simpliciter.’ Though less striking, we believe that it has the merit of being a true thought. We shall once more try to show both that it is correct, and that it is a correct account of Wittgenstein's arguments. (shrink)
Thirteen leading contributors offer new essays in honour of the eminent philosopher and Wittgenstein scholar Peter Hacker. They discuss issues in the interpretation of Wittgenstein, investigate central topics in the history of analytic philosophy, and explore and assess Wittgensteinian ideas about language, mind, action, ethics, and religion.