KN’s new book — a discussion thread

Someone suggested a discussion thread for KN’s new book:

So I’m starting such a thread.  My Kindle copy arrived shortly after the turn of the month to November.  According to Kindle, I have read 5%.  The readability is pretty good (but I already have disagreements).

Open for comments.

29 Replies to “KN’s new book — a discussion thread”

  1. petrushka
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    says:

    I do not wish to offend anyone, but it will be difficult to discuss a book without reading it, and it will be some time before anyone here reads it. Perhaps those who intend to read it should bookmark this thread and come back to it.

  2. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    If people here want to read and discuss it, I’m all for it, whether now or in the future. Alternatively, I could reactivate my old blog and we could move the conversation over there.

  3. Richardthughes Richardthughes
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    How does one purchase a signed copy?

  4. keiths keiths
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    I’ll sign your copy in exchange for a beer, Rich.

  5. Tom
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    Kantian Naturalist,

    Hey KN, I’m interested in your book, but I’m somewhat of a philosophical newbie. Are there any books or writings you would recommend for reading that would prepare one for your book? Because I’m a bit intimidated just looking at the Kindle excerpt…

  6. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    Tom: Are there any books or writings you would recommend for reading that would prepare one for your book? Because I’m a bit intimidated just looking at the Kindle excerpt…

    My book isn’t intended for non-specialists, I’m afraid, for a whole bunch of reasons. I construct the book around interpretations of two major philosophers, Wilfrid Sellars and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and there are excellent introductory works to both of them. I can certainly make recommendations as far as that goes! Robert Brandom and John McDowell play a slightly less important role, and there are also excellent introductory works on each of them.

    If you’re looking for a survey of philosophy of mind, Searle and Churchland are both really good. I also think pretty highly of Noe’s Out of Our Heads and Flanagan’s The Problem of the Soul as good books for non-specialists.

    Since I deal in large part with the history of American pragmatism, there are some good (and bad) books there that might be helpful. I think that Misak’s The American Pragmatists is outstanding but others find it problematic because she talks a lot about their theories of inquiry and justification and not much about their work on democracy and justice.

  7. BruceS
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    says:

    petrushka:
    I do not wish to offend anyone, but it will be difficult to discuss a book without reading it, and it will be some time before anyone here reads it. Perhaps those who intend to read it should bookmark this thread and come back to it.

    Thanks to Neil for starting this thread and to KN for as much participation as he has time for.

    I don’t plan to read the whole book before asking questions. I think I will try to skim it to understand the structure of the argument, then ask some questions about why KN chose that approach. Then I will likely take it one chapter or even part of a chapter at a time, asking questions as I go.

  8. BruceS
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    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: My book isn’t intended for non-specialists, I’m afraid, for a whole bunch of reasons. I construct the book around interpretations of two major philosophers, Wilfrid Sellars and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and there are excellent introductory works to both of them. I can certainly make recommendations as far as that goes!

    For a basic introduction specific to the topics of mental representation and intentionality, I recommend Tim Crane’s The Mechanical Mind: A Philosophical Introduction to Minds, Machines and Mental Representation, especially the chapters 1, 2, and the last one. This is a basic introduction to the analytical philsophy’s conception of the issue.

    KN, I’d be interested in your recommended introductions to Sellars and M-P to keep for future reading.

    Do you have anything shorter on M-P that you’d recommend as an introduction that is on the web? The challenge for me is that so much of the language of the phenomenologists is new to me. So probably what I really need is an intro to their work and terminology. I’ll be trying SEP and IEP of course, but anything else you know about what be helpful.

    By the way, Key Thinkers in Philosophy of Mind (ed: A. Bailey) does have a readable essay on M-P by Sara Heinamaa .

  9. Neil Rickert
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    I’m still on chapter 1.

    KN wants to divide intentionality into “discursive intentionality” (roughly the intentionality of propositions), and “somatic intentionality” (the intentionality of real world interactions.

    I think the division is good. KN wants to argue for original intentionality for both of those divisions. And I’m inclined to disagree with that. I would favor the idea of an original somatic intentionality, but it seems reasonable to me to see discursive intentionality as a kind of derived intentionality (derived from original somatic intentionality).

    My main disagreement with philosophy, when boiled down, amounts to my view that philosophy puts too much emphasis on propositions.

  10. walto walto
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    says:

    A lot of philosophers would deny your apparent contention above that there are such things as propositions in the first place.

  11. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    For Sellars, there are two introductory works: Wilfrid Sellars by Willem deVries and Wilfrid Sellars: Naturalism with a Normative Turn. Both are outstanding and I would hesitate before recommending one over the other. DeVries also wrote co-authored with Timm Triplett) a systematic explication of Sellars’s best-known essay “Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind”, published as Knowledge, Mind, and the Given.

    There are numerous introductions to Merleau-Ponty (and to phenomenology) but the two I think of most highly is Routledge Philosophy GuideBook to Merleau-Ponty and thePhenomenology of Perception by Komarine Romdenh-Romluc and Merleau-Ponty by Taylor Carman.

  12. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    Neil Rickert: I think the division is good. KN wants to argue for original intentionality for both of those divisions. And I’m inclined to disagree with that. I would favor the idea of an original somatic intentionality, but it seems reasonable to me to see discursive intentionality as a kind of derived intentionality (derived from original somatic intentionality).

    There’s this question about what the original/derived contrast really means. I took it that discursive intentionality is original in the following sense: a sign, mark, or noise has ‘derived intentionality’ because its significance is a result of the linguistic activity that brought it into being, whereas there is nothing further behind the linguistic community as a whole which ascribes meaning to the linguistic community. (The chapter on Brandom makes this point somewhat more clearly but I could have done a better job with it.)

    But holding that discursive intentionality is original in that sense is perfectly compatible with thinking that came into existence through a series of modifications of somatic intentionality.

    walto: A lot of philosophers would deny your apparent contention above that there are such things as propositions in the first place.

    I’m not afraid of talking about propositional states or statuses, because I think that Sellars and Brandom show us pretty well how to domesticate and naturalize such talk. We don’t need to worry that we’re committing ourselves to mysterious abstract objects of a Platonic or Fregean sort when we talk about such things.

  13. Neil Rickert
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    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: I took it that discursive intentionality is original in the following sense: a sign, mark, or noise has ‘derived intentionality’ because its significance is a result of the linguistic activity that brought it into being, whereas there is nothing further behind the linguistic community as a whole which ascribes meaning to the linguistic community.

    I’m inclined to think of ordinary informal conversation between friends and neighbors as being better described as somatic than as propositional.

  14. Neil Rickert
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    walto: A lot of philosophers would deny your apparent contention above that there are such things as propositions in the first place.

    I do not contend that there are propositions — only that there is a lot of philosophical talk about propositions.

    I see propositions as idealizations of certain kinds of assertions. So there can be a point in talking about them even if they don’t actually exist.

    The problem I have, is that I doubt that our cognitive abilities evolved to give us the ability to make proposition-like assertions. I see the evolution of language as more likely about the kind of speech we see in backyard gossip.

  15. walto walto
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    Neil Rickert: the kind of speech we see in backyard gossip.

    You mean like “Joan’s getting so fat!”?

  16. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    I think that one problem in the book is that I follow Brandom too closely in putting too much emphasis on assertoric speech acts as my paradigm of discursivity. In the last chapter I mitigate this by drawing on Yo!’ and ‘Lo!’: The Pragmatic Topography of the Space of Reasons by Rebecca Kukla and Mark Lance. But by then its perhaps too late. In subsequent work I’ll make it more clear that I’m not restricting discursivity to declaratives.

    Neil Rickert: doubt that our cognitive abilities evolved to give us the ability to make proposition-like assertions. I see the evolution of language as more likely about the kind of speech we see in backyard gossip.

    I think that one can accept a thesis like Robin Dunbar’s or Michael Tomasello’s — that social coordination and interaction was a selective pressure on the evolution of language — while still affirming that the contents of speech acts are propositional. There might be quite good reasons to deny that assertoric speech acts are the down-town of language, or that the contents of speech acts are propositional, but I’m not sure that evolutionary considerations can be the right kind of reasons for denying that.

    (They would be only if one assumes a Fregean conception of propositions; Darwinism about our cognitive capacities and Fregeanism about propositions are almost certainly incompatible.)

  17. BruceS
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    says:

    KN,
    As I understand it, your book proposes that an approach to intentionality must meet three constraints:

    1. No use of the Myth of the Given for either epistemological or semantic purposes.

    2. Demonstrate transcendental friction (TF); that is, the approach must make contact with the world so that it could in principle be tested for correctness empirically. (Is that a fair summary of TF?)

    3. Support non-conceptual content. As I understand it, you believe this is needed to allow sentience without sapience (eg for animals, babies). Non-conceptual content is used as part of your concept of somatic intentionality; it helps to make possible a naturalistic argument to explain the history of discursive intentionality. Non-conceptual content is needed to provide the TF for discursive intentionality.

    You argue in chapter 2 that Lewis came close to your approach, but failed to avoid the semantic version of the Myth (he may also have failed the TF requirement).

    In Chapter 3, you explain how Sellars recognized the semantic form of the Myth in Lewis, but you argue that Sellars’s attempt to avoid it does not have TF.

    Chapter 4 discusses how Brandom and Davidson carried on from Sellars. You argue that Brandom rejects non-conceptual content AND experience which means he cannot provide a distinction between sapience and sentience. Davidson, on the other hand, rejects non-conceptual content but provides a conceptual account of experience; however, his account lacks TF.

    You then argue that all of these approaches fail because they are based on the starting point of passivity in a person’s perception, experience, and judgement. Only by understanding the embodied, enactive approaches to these issues, as provided by phenomenologists and in particular by Merleau-Ponty, can we justify non-conceptual content and hence somatic intentionality in a way which has TF and avoids the Myth (as argued in the appendix for M-P). Chapter 5 provides the details.

    In the final chapter 6, look at how your approach to intentionality might be naturalized.

    The arguments of chapters 2-4 are too technical for me to attempt to understand in detail, although I have skimmed them to see what I might want to learn more about. I do want to spend some more time trying to understand Merleau-Ponty and how you use his ideas, but that will take some effort before I could post any questions and thoughts.

    However, I do have some questions on chapter 1 and 6. But I’ll wait to post them to make sure that I have got the above summary at least approximately right.

    I also will wait in order to see if you are still paying attention to the thread.

  18. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    I’m paying attention, just not as compulsively as before. Too much to do in real life.

    That’s a pretty decent summary of my view, though.

    Transcendental friction is the big idea here, and if you’re not concerned with it, then my work will leave you unmoved. (Fodor’s dismissal of McDowell is a case in point.) The idea is that we want to guarantee that our thoughts reach all the way to the layout of reality. (This is a McDowellian way of putting the point.) In other words, we want to avoid idealism (or a certain variety of idealism); we don’t want to be committed to idealism simply by virtue of adopting a transcendental attitude on how to do epistemology. (One reason why we want to do that is because the transcendental/empirical distinction distinguishes between philosophy and the sciences, though ultimately I’m quite receptive to interdisciplinary inquiry.)

    A key contention of the book is that C. I. Lewis was right in holding that the demand for transcendental friction requires “non-conceptual content”, so the book then looks at the following: (i) Lewis’s, Sellars’s, and Merleau-Ponty’s versions of “non-conceptual content” and (ii) Brandom’s and McDowell’s reasons for rejecting non-conceptual content. The core claim is that if by “conceptual” one means something in the Sellarsian/Brandomian lines like “constituted by norm-governed inferences”, then Merleau-Ponty-style somatic intentionality is “non-conceptual content”, at least with regard to satisfying the demand for transcendental friction.

    That said, by all means fire away with questions and criticisms! I’ll respond as frequently as my schedule allows and as adequately as my competence enables!

  19. BruceS
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    says:

    Kantian Naturalist:

    I’m not afraid of talking about propositional states or statuses, because I think that Sellars and Brandom show us pretty well how to domesticate and naturalize such talk.

    For introductions to some of the basic ideas in Brandom, there are interviews with him on Youtube here and here, as well as this series of blog posts (scroll to bottom for first post in July 2010).

  20. BruceS
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    says:

    I’m still reading the book, although I am using it more as a jumping off point for ideas which are both interesting and accessible to me. As I said, I am not in a position to grapple with the meat of the book which covers the arguments regarding Sellars, Brandom, McDowell, and Merleau-Ponty in Chapters 2-4 and the last 2/3 of 5.

    For example, I am trying to understand the relation between transcendental roles, their “empirically-specified role-players”, transcendental friction, and what you mean by a liberal naturalism. But I want to explore a bit more before trying to formulate questions on this.

    Another area of interest for me is Merleau-Ponty. I am more interested in his ideas as a precursor to the current enactavist program in cognitive science rather than his metaphysics. (However, I came across this paper by Gardner that claims he meant his ideas on perception to be taken as metaphysics. )

    I think you are relying on M-P for the metaphysical aspects for the norms for somatic intentionality, norms which are not describable (explainable?) in scientific language. For example, this passage: “That is, our situated and embodied being-in-the-world involves being attuned to motivational saliences that belong to a different logical space than those of mechanistic causation” (near Kindle location 4127).

    Also, I think you are relying on an idea of teleology that cannot be expressed scientifically and is based on Merleau-Ponty’s metaphysics (as well as on Okrent, but I need to read Chapter 6 in more detail to confirm).

    Is that a fair reading of your approach to Merleau-Ponty? (I realize I am only skimming the surface of your arguments).

  21. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    BruceS,

    There’s a lot that needs to be said in response to this, and I tried to be careful in the book but I’ve since realized that I needed to be much more careful than I was.

    I would not say that teleology or rationality cannot be expressed in scientific language. In saying that “our situated and embodied being-in-the-world involves being attuned to motivational saliences that belong to a different logical space than those of mechanistic causation”, I was trying to say that the categories deployed in enactive cognitive science are irreducible to the categories deployed in physics (esp. fundamental physics).

    Now, “mechanistic causation” is a red herring here. In the book I had to use it because it’s the notion that everyone I’m writing about is using — Sellars, McDowell, Merleau-Ponty, etc. But I now suspect that this concept doesn’t capture what philosophers of physics think is really important. (Reading Ladyman and Ross’s Every Thing Must Go and Thompson’s Mind in Life in close succession has had a big impact on me.) I think I would have not worried too much about “mechanistic causation”, because it’s not clear to me that “mechanistic causation” gets at the right issues in contemporary philosophy of physics (at least, not if Ladyman and Ross are right!). In other words, not even physics deals with ‘mechanistic causation’! If I could do it over again I would have just insisted on the irreducibility of enactive cognitive science. But I’m still wrestling with these problems and don’t have a clear view yet.

    Likewise, in a different version of the book I would have made it clear that, as I see it, autopoiesis is a scientific theory of teleology! As Evan Thompson makes quite clear in Mind in Life, autopoiesis and enactivism mean that natural science has caught up to embodied phenomenology, and that means that Merleau-Ponty’s own anti-naturalism, which (I think) made perfectly good sense in 1945, is much less attractive in 2014.

    I’ve been wrestling a lot with the whole issue of “naturalism,” as you know. My current view that I’m a metaphilosophical naturalist but not a metaphysical naturalist. (I’m getting this distinction from Joe Rouse’s How Scientific Practices Matter and Steven Horst’s Beyond Reduction. Rouse and Horst are colleagues and friends at Wesleyan and they both use this distinction.)

    Metaphilosophical naturalism holds that philosophical speculation in some domain should be conducted in close dialogue with empirical science about that domain or relevant domains. So, metaphysicians should take seriously fundamental physics, etc. I ground that in the further thought that science has privileged access to objective reality because in science, our discursive practices are engineered to be answerable to how things are, and so that makes science a kind of constraint on our thinking that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

    However, metaphysical naturalism seems much more questionable to me, because I don’t see any way of defending metaphysical naturalism without endorsing reductionism, and reductionism is (I think) indefensible. (But I still haven’t read Bechtel on it!) I don’t see any good alternative to epistemic pluralism, and so I don’t see how we could warrant or ground either “yes, it’s not reducible to physics, but it’s still natural in some broader sense of natural!” or “yes, it’s reducible to physics, even though we have no idea how!”

    And without working through the epistemology of metaphysics, metaphysics becomes mere dogmatism. The ID crowd is right about this much: metaphysical naturalism is a statement of faith. (Actually, they’re right about a lot — they’re right about the concept of teleology for biology, for example — it’s just that what they are right about is deeply buried inside a huge pile of nonsense.)

  22. BruceS
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    says:

    Thanks for the latest detailed reply.

    As I said, I am most interested in the first chapter, the first 1/3 of the chapter on M-P, and the last 2/3 of the last chapter which cover Okrent and approaches to naturalizing. I’ve been using your discussion in the book as an entry to further discussion in the references you provide, or at least online version of papers by a few of the authors your reference.

    I also went back to read many of your posts over the last year or so at TSZ. It was interesting to see how your ideas developed as your wrote the book. It turns out that you had already answered many of my questions in these posts.

    The first area that interests me is the relationship between the philosophy you are doing and science. I found a couple of papers by Pihlstrom on transcendental analysis, pragmatism, and Kuhnian paradigms helpful to get a deeper understanding of what you might mean by “transcendental roles”. Your discussion of CI Lewis’s pragmatic a priori at TSZ also helped.

    But I am still unclear on whether the word “role” has any special significance in the phrase “transcendental roles” especially when you also say there must be empirically-specifiable role-players. Do you mean there is to be, at least in principle, a direct mapping between the transcendental roles and terms in a scientific paradigm or theory?

    For example, you carefully distinguish pre-personal from sub-personal at one point and say the pre-personal is about “lived embodiment” whereas the subpersonal is theoretical in science. But is there supposed to be, at least in principle, a mapping between the two types of roles for pre-personal and sub-personal?

    The other topic that interests me as the scientific approach to what you call somatic intentionality, specifically comparing your view, Okrent’s view, and Millikan. Note that for now my understanding of Okrent is limited to your summary and an online interview with him from earlier this year, and an NDPR review of his book.

    I understand you that your somatic intentionality shares many of Okrent’s ideas but where you differ is in how you move “upwards” from somatic intentionality to the discursive intentionality of linguistic communities. Is that fair?

    Millikan only gets referenced in your book through a footnoted criticism by Okrent. From that, I read the difference as based on whether goals or functions are biologically more basic. At some point I will have to consult Okrent’s book for details, I suppose, but if you have any further comments on the difference between Millikan and Okrent for somatic intentionality, that would be helpful.

    I do have one question about your and Okrent’s reliance on the goals of individual organisms: how to you deal with cases with individuals animals sacrifice themselves, eg spawning salmon, male spiders, bees that die when they sting. These are the cases where it seems the gene, not the individual, has the goal in the sense the the individuals goals are not aligned with its individual survival but rather with propogating the gene as determined by kin or possibly group selection.

    I’m also interested in what you mean by reconciling Aristotle with Darwin (footnote 26 loc 5671). It seems you are unsatisfied with the standard biological approaches to teleology, but I am not sure of what you are suggesting instead. You do reference a paper by Okrent on pragmatism and Heidegger for more information. It is available online but which I have not tried it yet beyond a quick skim; I think I need to overcome an allergy the the word “Dasein” before attempting it.

  23. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    BruceS,

    Hello, BruceS! I hadn’t seen your comment till now, hence the delay in response!

    BruceS: But I am still unclear on whether the word “role” has any special significance in the phrase “transcendental roles” especially when you also say there must be empirically-specifiable role-players. Do you mean there is to be, at least in principle, a direct mapping between the transcendental roles and terms in a scientific paradigm or theory?

    Yes to the ‘direct mapping’, no to the ‘terms in a scientific theory’. I wanted to put the emphasis on empirical role-players, but I don’t restrict the empirical to the scientific (whether posits or carefully observed). The looser, vague and open-textured concepts of ordinary discourse would do just as well, if not better for some purposes.

    I didn’t develop this too much in the book, since it would have taken me too far afield, but I think of the relation between the transcendental and the empirical here as being identified through a Rawls-like ‘reflective equilibrium’. We have our well-grounded empirical concepts for navigating through everyday life (including science); we reflect on the minimal necessary conditions for any being like us to have our cognitive capacities and incapacities; we then see if there are good reasons to think that we are in fact the kinds of beings that we transcendentally describe ourselves as being, and so on. So the transcendental isn’t isolated from the empirical, as it is for Kant, Husserl, and C. I. Lewis; rather the transcendental is revised in light of the empirical.

    For example, you carefully distinguish pre-personal from sub-personal at one point and say the pre-personal is about “lived embodiment” whereas the subpersonal is theoretical in science. But is there supposed to be, at least in principle, a mapping between the two types of roles for pre-personal and sub-personal?

    No, there isn’t, and I should have been clear about this. The personal and the pre-personal are regions at the transcendental level; the sub-personal is a theoretical but empirical concept. There is a mapping from both the personal and the pre-personal to the sub-personal, and we need that mapping to figure out how personal-level processes (beliefs, desires) and pre-personal level processes (grasping, pointing, maintaining poise) are implemented, or causally realized, in neurophysiological activities.

    I feel as though my thinking about this is still very confused, and I’m deeply unhappy about it.

  24. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    BruceS: I understand you that your somatic intentionality shares many of Okrent’s ideas but where you differ is in how you move “upwards” from somatic intentionality to the discursive intentionality of linguistic communities. Is that fair?

    Well, Okrent also moves upwards in that direction, too. The difference is that he, following Davidson, wants to restrict the notion of “intentionality” to linguistic beings. So he emphasizes “teleology” where I emphasize “somatic intentionality”. The big difference there is that teleology is a third-person concept — it’s a term we use to explain why animals do what they do. (Okrent’s oft-repeated example is the Sphenx wasp.) Whereas somatic intentionality is a first-person concept; it is one’s own embodiment as perceived by the agents whose embodiment it is.

    Millikan only gets referenced in your book through a footnoted criticism by Okrent. From that, I read the difference as based on whether goals or functions are biologically more basic. At some point I will have to consult Okrent’s book for details, I suppose, but if you have any further comments on the difference between Millikan and Okrent for somatic intentionality, that would be helpful.

    Both Millkan and Okrent are talking about the third-person level, how we explain animal behavior from our observer/experimenter standpoint. Neither of them is talking about somatic intentionality in my sense. Okrent argues that goals are explanatorily more basic than functions; functions are identifiable on the basis of goals. I have no views whether his criticism of Millikan is valid or not.

    I do have one question about your and Okrent’s reliance on the goals of individual organisms: how to you deal with cases with individuals animals sacrifice themselves, eg spawning salmon, male spiders, bees that die when they sting. These are the cases where it seems the gene, not the individual, has the goal in the sense the the individuals goals are not aligned with its individual survival but rather with propogating the gene as determined by kin or possibly group selection.

    Okrent’s response — which I would endorse — is that even though it is only individual organisms which have goals [the species as a whole does not], why an organism has the goals it has will be, in many cases, a function of the kind of organism it is. The goal of the individual worker bee is to gather nectar and protect the hive, but it has those goals because of its role within the communal life of the hive. That it dies after stinging is a by-product of its goals, together with the design of the stinger.

    I’m also interested in what you mean by reconciling Aristotle with Darwin (footnote 26 loc 5671). It seems you are unsatisfied with the standard biological approaches to teleology, but I am not sure of what you are suggesting instead.

    Fair enough; this is one of the places where I needed to be much more explicit than I was. I don’t know if I’d say that I’m dissatisfied with standard approaches in biology to teleology. I’m dissatisfied with any approach that purports to do away with teleology on the grounds that its inconsistent with physics.

    I think that there is really something quite ontologically distinctive about life. Indeed, I think that I.D. is sustained by a correct intuition about the ontological distinctiveness of life; I just don’t think that I.D. has enough conceptual rigor to be empirically testable.

    For my money, I think that the autopoiesis theory of Maturana and Varela is the best thing currently going as a theory of what life is, and that complexity theory based on the work of Prigogine and Kaufman is a good direction for how to get from non-living dynamical systems to autopoeitic dynamical systems.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t incorporate anything from Thompson’s Mind in Life. Thompson shows, among other things, how (i) we can ‘naturalize teleology’ in terms of autopoeisis theory and (ii) how we can think about autopoeitic systems in terms of an set of autocatalytic reactions weakly coupled to the environment by a semi-permeable membrane. Okrent couldn’t have referred to Thompson’s book because they were published the same year (2007); I should have referred to both.

    You do reference a paper by Okrent on pragmatism and Heidegger for more information. It is available online but which I have not tried it yet beyond a quick skim; I think I need to overcome an allergy the the word “Dasein” before attempting it.

    “Dasein” is just a technical word that’s hard to translate into English, so we keep it as-is. But we do that with Spanish, French, Chinese etc. words all the time. Learning a bit of vocabulary is not a big deal.

  25. BruceS
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist:

    Yes to the ‘direct mapping’, no to the ‘terms in a scientific theory’. I wanted to put the emphasis on empirical role-players, but I don’t restrict the empirical to the scientific (whether posits or carefully observed). The looser, vague and open-textured concepts of ordinary discourse would do just as well, if not better for some purposes.

    This surprised me, since it seems to me that the book is about topics which can be studied by science (e.g. about what (intentionality) norms are , and not what norms should be). Of course, we are far from understanding how best to do that science; hence the key role for philosophy. Now I take “ordinary world discourse” to mean that intuition, language analysis, and thought experiments may be sufficient (and not just helpful) and scientific study is not needed; such a position seems wrong to me.

    “Dasein” is just a technical word that’s hard to translate into English, so we keep it as-is. But we do that with Spanish, French, Chinese etc. words all the time. Learning a bit of vocabulary is not a big deal.

    My reference to an “allergy” to “Dasein” was (yet another) failed attempt at humor. My true challenge is that understanding that word goes beyond reading some SEP and Wiki articles, I suspect; it requires study of the whole philosophical system in which the concept is embedded. And that amount of work is what I am not ready for.

    Speaking of humor, I have to say the Haugland paper “Intentionality All Stars”, besides being very informative, has the best punch line of any philosophy paper I have read.

  26. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
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    says:

    BruceS: This surprised me, since it seems to me that the book is about topics which can be studied by science (e.g. about what (intentionality) norms are , and not what norms should be). Of course, we are far from understanding how best to do that science; hence the key role for philosophy. Now I take “ordinary world discourse” to mean that intuition, language analysis, and thought experiments may be sufficient (and not just helpful) and scientific study is not needed; such a position seems wrong to me.

    I have a different take on the difference between philosophy and science. I don’t think that the demarcation is between the prescriptive (philosophy) and the descriptive (science); taking that line of thought means that ‘theoretical philosophy’ (metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language) is out of a job. I do think that theoretical philosophy should be conducted in close dialogue with the empirical sciences, and it’s on that basis that I count myself as a ‘metaphilosophical naturalist’.

    But, for a metaphilosophical naturalist, what is the demarcation between philosophy and science? My thought (following McDowell quite closely on this particular point) is that philosophy deals with “constitutive explanations” and that science deals with “enabling explanations”. Constitutive explanations tell us what criteria have to be satisfied in order for a concept to be applicable; that’s the upshot of questions like, “what is mindedness?” “what is empirical content?”, or “what is intentionality?” Enabling explanations tell us what real-world conditions have to be satisfied in order for those criteria to be realized in the order of nature. Scientific study of normativity (whether sociological, ecological, etc.) fleshes out the enabling explanations nicely, but we can get a provisional grip on what it is for something to be a norm or a habit without empirical science. It may turn out, as a result of empirical inquiry, that what we thought was a norm or habit was mistaken. No doubt we need empirical inquiry of all sorts to figure out how norms and habits fit into the order of nature, but that’s not crucial to what I was doing in the book. (It would be necessary to complete the project I outline in the book.) But all I’m trying to do in the book is argue why both discursive norms and bodily habits are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for the kind of empirical content that can count as a move in the space of reasons.

    BruceS: My reference to an “allergy” to “Dasein” was (yet another) failed attempt at humor. My true challenge is that understanding that word goes beyond reading some SEP and Wiki articles, I suspect; it requires study of the whole philosophical system in which the concept is embedded. And that amount of work is what I am not ready for.

    I knew you were being humorous; it wasn’t a failed attempt. I only responded as I did for the sake of those reading our discussion (if anyone is). I often pass along to my students advice I got from my theology professor in undergrad: “people don’t like reading Hegel because they’re too lazy to learn a little vocabulary.”

    Speaking of humor, I have to say the Haugland paper “Intentionality All Stars”, besides being very informative, has the best punch line of any philosophy paper I have read.

    Absolutely! The genesis of the book was in trying to figure out what Haugeland could have meant when he said, “Wittgenstein might have been a short-stop”.

  27. BruceS
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist:

    But, for a metaphilosophical naturalist, what is the demarcation between philosophy and science? My thought (following McDowell quite closely on this particular point) is that philosophy deals with “constitutive explanations” and that science deals with “enabling explanations”.

    Thanks for that. The distinction you draw is too subtle for me, but I’ll keep plugging away at it.

  28. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: My thought (following McDowell quite closely on this particular point) is that philosophy deals with “constitutive explanations” and that science deals with “enabling explanations”. Constitutive explanations tell us what criteria have to be satisfied in order for a concept to be applicable; that’s the upshot of questions like, “what is mindedness?” “what is empirical content?”, or “what is intentionality?” Enabling explanations tell us what real-world conditions have to be satisfied in order for those criteria to be realized in the order of nature.

    That sounds about right to me–with respect to the philosophy side, anyhow (not sure about the science side of the fence, or whether it we get everything and there’s no overlap with that particular split.)

    I ‘m not terribly fond of the names chosen, but that’s neither here nor there.

  29. BruceS
    Ignored
    says:

    walto: That sounds about right to me–with respect to the philosophy side, anyhow (not sure about the science side of the fence, or whether it we get everything and there’s no overlap with that particular split.)

    When it comes to ought-to questions, I see philosophical discussion as prime, with support from science.

    But for what is/why/how questions I see continuity between philosophy and science.

    I could understand a position that said some types of philosophical discussion in the what is/why domain were anchored solely in the first-person and so preceded and were not subject to verification by science or other third-person means. (That is, I could understand the nature of the position without necessarily agreeing with it).

    But that does not seem to be KN’s position since he includes the requirement that the philosophy is provisional and may turn out to be judged mistaken after empirical investigation. Yet I also I understand him to maintain that philosophy and science are addressing different types of questions.

    That is where it gets too subtle for me. I don’t understand how the questions could be disentangled in the case where the philosophy is provisional and subject to empirical review. That’s why a continuum of philosophy and science makes more sense to me.

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