I am more convinced than ever that what some guy who happens to be alive right now, and employed by a university to tell us what he happens to think about, e.g., whether there is a hard problem of consciousness or not, can be of next to no interest for our understanding of the philosophical question in question. The truth is I don't think it's very grown-up, intellectually, to set about actually trying to answer questions like these, at least in the way we are used to seeing philosophers try to answer them. In this respect, I am sympathetic to the approach of experimental philosophy, even if I have not yet been able to convince any experimental philosophers that I'm on their side. Like them, I think the more sophisticated and fruitful approach to questions like, e.g., whether the mind is distinct from the body, is not try to answer them directly, but to somehow take a survey of the range of possible positions human beings take up on the question. Now, the experimental philosophers today think it is enough to survey their contemporaries, by methods borrowed mostly from psychology. I'm starting to think that what we need to do is, so to speak, to survey the past, using methods adapted from archeology, historical linguistics, and evolutionary biology, and recently applied with impressive results in unlikely fields such as comparative literature.Can I blame my cold for not being able to think about this (or much of anything else)? Anyway, if you have thoughts on what Smith says, feel free to tell me what to make of it.
Friday, October 26, 2012
Ordinary language philosophy and the democracy of the dead
There's something democratic (at least in flavour) about ordinary language philosophy, and tradition is what Chesterton called the democracy of the dead. Both come to mind when I read J.E.H. Smith saying this: