The Lingering of Philosophy

by rsbakker

Nietzsche Poster

The ‘Death of Philosophy’ is something that circulates through arterial underbelly of culture with quite some regularity, a theme periodically goosed whenever high-profile scientific figures bother to express their attitudes on the subject. Scholars in the humanities react the same way stakeholders in any institution react when their authority and privilege are called into question: they muster rationalizations, counterarguments, and pejoratives. They rally troops with whooping war-cries of “positivism” or “scientism,” list all the fields of inquiry where science holds no sway, and within short order the whole question of whether philosophy is dead begins to look very philosophical, and the debate itself becomes evidence that philosophy is alive and well—in some respects at least.

The problem with this pattern, of course, is that the terms like ‘philosophy’ or ‘science’ are so overdetermined that no one ends up talking about the same thing. For physicists like Stephen Hawking or Lawrence Krauss or Neil deGrasse Tyson, the death of philosophy is obvious insofar as the institution has become almost entirely irrelevant to their debates. There are other debates, they understand, debates where scientists are the hapless ones, but they see the process of science as an inexorable, and yes, imperialistic one. More and more debates fall within its purview as the technical capacities of science improve. They presume the institution of philosophy will become irrelevant to more and more debates as this process continues. For them, philosophy has always been something to chase away. Since the presence of philosophers in a given domain of inquiry reliably indicates scientific ignorance to important features of that domain, the relevance of philosophers is directly related to the maturity of a science.

They have history on their side.

There will always be speculation—science is our only reliable provender of theoretical cognition, after all. The question of the death of philosophy cannot be the question of the death of theoretical speculation. The death of philosophy as I see it is the death of a particular institution, a discourse anchored in the tradition of using intentional idioms and metacognitive deliverances to provide theoretical solutions. I think science is killing that philosophy as we speak.

The argument is surprisingly direct, and, I think, fatal to intentionalism, but as always, I would love to hear dissenting opinions.

 

1) Human cognition only has access to the effects of the systems cognized.

2) The mechanical structure of our environments is largely inaccessible.

3) Cognition exploits systematic correlations—‘cues’—between those effects that can be accessed and the systems engaged to solve for those systems.

4) Cognition is heuristic.

5) Metacognition is a form of cognition.

6) Metacognition also exploits systematic correlations—‘cues’—between those effects that can be accessed and the systems engaged to solve for those systems.

7) Metacognition is also heuristic.

8) Metacognition is the product of adventitious adaptations exploiting onboard information in various reproductively decisive ways.

9) The applicability of that ancestral information to second order questions regarding the nature of experience is highly unlikely.

10) The inability of intentionalism to agree on formulations, let alone resolve issues, evidences as much.

11) Intentional cognition is a form of cognition.

12) Intentional cognition also exploits systematic correlations—‘cues’—between those effects that can be accessed and the systems engaged to solve for those systems.

13) Intentional cognition is also heuristic.

14) Intentional cognition is the product of adventitious adaptations exploiting available onboard information in various reproductively decisive ways.

15) The applicability of that ancestral information to second order questions regarding the nature of meaning is highly unlikely.

16) The inability of intentionalism to agree on formulations, let alone resolve issues, evidences as much.