It's because of statements like this that philosophy as a profession is dead: "philosophy is not a quest for knowledge about the world, but rather a quest for understanding the conceptual scheme in terms of which we conceive of the knowledge we achieve about the world. One of the rewards of doing philosophy is a clearer understanding of the way we think about ourselves and about the world we live in, not fresh facts about reality." This is from an interview with Oxford philosopher Peter Hacker (see full interview here). I don't really understand what he means (and there's nothing in the article that clears it up). In any case, can't I make this same claim about the rewards of doing psychology, or artificial intelligence, or linguistics, or mathematics, or virtually any intellectual discipline that requires disciplined reasoning?
Hacker becomes downright confusing when discussing his distaste for neuroscience:
“Merely replacing Cartesian ethereal stuff with glutinous grey matter and leaving everything else the same will not solve any problems. On the current neuroscientist’s view, it’s the brain that thinks and reasons and calculates and believes and fears and hopes. In fact, it’s human beings who do all these things, not their brains and not their minds. I don’t think it makes any sense to talk about the brain engaging in psychological or mental operations” (emphasis added).
Hacker makes a three-way distinction between human beings, brains, and minds, with nothing more than fluff to draw the distinction. I happily admit that I'm pretty strongly on the meat-puppet end of the spectrum, so I see no reason to posit that there exists a thing HUMAN_BEING that is somehow magically not a function of the physical stuff that makes up the human body.
But more to the point, Hacker seems incapable of discussing this in a way that is easy to follow. Exactly what is Hacker's HUMAN_BEING? I wish I had a clearer understanding of what he means. How do I objectively distinguish this from new-age hippie gibberish? It sounds remarkably similar to this passage: "It doesn't require a three-dimensional descriptive identification as the totality of it's unseen dynamics can be seen everywhere, in everything. Without the spirit, the physical and the mental would have no reason to exist as neither would be whole." This quote is from the wise sage Shirley MacLaine.
I'm a reasonable adult with a graduate level education and yet I cannot follow what should be a simple interview about what this man does for a living without encountering vague claims and incoherent distinctions. Am I supposed to sit through suffocatingly boring and pretensions philosophy seminars in grad school before I can come to an understanding of what Hacker means? If that is true, then philosophy is dead, truly.
The ironical part is that Andrew Sullivan referenced this interview with the pompous heading The Hubris Of Neuroscience. The only hubris I found in the interview was Hacker's.
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