Beyond the Divide (one view of the intellecutal payoff)

I came across this interesting account of analytic – continental divide,” Before and Beyond the Analytic Divide” (pdf), by Matthew Sharpe, wherein he suggests:

…a rapprochement between analytic and continental philosophers is a good we might at least pray for, as the ancients would have said. Why?
First, because both sides, as well as harboring virtues, also do harbor the type of vices and limits the others’ prejudices typically pick out. Continental philosophy often does verge into anti-realistic, unfalsifiable, and nonsensical formulations…Analytic philosophy, for its part, does not allow itself to raise many questions which are ‘philosophical’, certainly in the sense in which philosophy was understood until the seventeenth century, and is still understood by laypeople today: what is the meaning of being, or of our being? Can the sense of “truth” be reduced to something internal to propositions, rather than attitudes, systems of understanding, beliefs, ways of life, or certain experiences? What is the best way of life or regime? What is the relationship between ethics, politics, religion, art, and philosophy? Is our modern or postmodern age any better than previous societies? And if so, in what respects, and with what costs? It is legitimate to long for Heidegger or Hans Blumenberg, when asked to consider for too long, in a time of fast tracked social change, what it is like to be a bat, or to have a lead role in the prisoners’ dilemma. Continue reading

Interview with Shaun Gallagher

An excerpt from an interesting discussion with Shaun Gallagher:

I don’t think phenomenology is dead in any sense. You don’t have to take your phenomenological concepts just from Husserl or Merleau-Ponty, but you can also take their work and actively extend it and use phenomenological methods to make distinctions and to ask different kinds of questions. And then you can take whatever results you can gain from such analyses and use them in your own scientific experiments. Or, if you don’t get involved directly in the science, you can at least interface with experimenters and try to influence the kinds of questions they’re asking and the kind of procedures they’re using. So I don’t think of phenomenology just as the texts of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty; it’s indeed a practice – I agree with Varela on that. You practice phenomenology, and then you see if it can work to inform some experiments.  Also, it’s important to see where that goes – to see whether the results of the experiments suggest further phenomenological refinement.

Read the rest here

See also this lecture from December 2000: Phenomenological and experimental research on embodied experience”

Random Quote: Penelope Maddy

Picked up Penelope Maddy’s most recent book – Second Philosophy – and am liking it already:

These days, as more and more philosophers count themselves as naturalists, the term has come to mark little more than a vague science-friendliness. To qualify as unnaturalistic, a contemporary thinker has to insist, for example, that epistemology is an a priori discipline with nothing to learn from empirical psychology or that metaphysical intuitions show quantum mechanics to be false. There are those who take such positions, of course, but to lump everybody else under one rubric is clearly too crude a diagnostic. My goal in this book is to delineate and to practice a particularly austere form of naturalism.


A deeper difficulty springs from the lesson won through decades of study in the philosophy of science: there is no hard and fast specification of what ‘science’ must be, no determinate criterion of the form ‘x is science iff … ’. It follows that there can be no straightforward definition of Second Philosophy along the lines ‘trust only the methods of science’. Thus Second Philosophy, as I understand it, isn’t a set of beliefs, a set of propositions to be affirmed; it has no theory. [1]

I like that the Introduction lacks this victimology one has grown accustomed to in the discussions of realism – “we are so persecuted and ridiculed, we must fight against anti-realist hegemony” – it promises a straightforward engagement with ideas. Plus, Maddy, of course, is someone who could be trusted with her knowledge and understanding of a number of sciences. The book introduces a character of the Second Philosopher:

This Second Philosopher is equally at home in anthropology, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, linguistics, neuroscience, physics, physiology, psychology, sociology, … and even mathematics, once she realizes how central it is to her ongoing effort to understand the world. Her interest in other subjects, at least as far as we see her here, is limited to her pursuit of their anthropology, psychology, sociology, and so on. She uses what we typically describe with our rough and ready term ‘scientific methods’, but again without any definitive way of characterizing exactly what that term entails. She simply begins from commonsense perception and proceeds from there to systematic observation, active experimentation, theory formation and testing, working all the while to assess, correct, and improve her methods as she goes. [2]

Interestingly enough, the Introduction mentions Kant in a favorable way and even promises to incorporate some of his views into the final project, and the span of the work is astonishing in itself (at least in the promise of it) – from Descartes to Quine/Putnam – we’ll see how it goes…