Thursday, September 06, 2007

New philblogs

Avery from The Space of Reasons recommends spontaneity&receptivity, a blog dedicated, as the name suggests, to John McDowell; Brian Leiter points us to Tim Crane and Colin McGinn, while John Protevi likes 4EA Cognition and Outside Philosophy (not surprisingly given their addresses). The first and last sound most interesting to me, but time will tell.

At Outside Philosophy, John McCumber is posting a talk he gave at the International Association for Philosophy and Literature a few years ago. It's not entilrely clear what his point is yet, but in the second installment he writes, with respect to the question of "realism":
Is there a world out there? If so, do the differences and similarities we see in it come from it, from us, or both? These are not exactly burning issues for the rest of the intellectual world by now; the answers, since Kant, have been “yes” and “both” respectively. Various versions of this "soft realist" view, if we may call it that, long ago become endemic in literary studies. Among the sciences, quantum mechanics has generally reinforced it. So do such diverse forces as empirical psychology, Karl Popper, and contemporary work in virtual reality.
If I were to grant these questions sense (which I might), I would indeed find the given answers ("yes," "both") the least unobjectionable ones, and the resulting "soft realism" a decent enough quick-and-dirty attitude for non-philosophers to take. But quick-and-dirty is all it is; and even so, I don't see what quantum mechanics, empirical psychology, and virtual reality have to do with the metaphysical issue. (Plus, Popper is a ... well, let's just say his fallibilism is unattractive to my sort of pragmatist.) If McCumber's point is that this issue has actually been long since settled and some people still haven't gotten the memo, then I must protest. If we feel obliged to enshrine commonsense anti-sophism as a philosophical doctrine called "realism," it won't achieve a stable degree of "softness" without a proper philosophical understanding of why exactly that degree is indeed "just right" (as Goldilocks would say). Haven't we seen what happens, inside philosophy and out, when we leave this job undone?

This, of course, is part of my frustration with Rorty and others like him. "Quietism," whether or not "Wittgensteinian," is the proper move (or principled refraining from same) only in particular circumstances, ones where the Cartesian thing to do is to demand an answer to a supposedly pressing question. Wittgenstein himself sets up the dialectic in the Investigations very carefully in order to bring this out. It's all ruined if we just boil it all down to "Metaphysik? Nein danke!" or the equivalent. That's what naturalists do; and I wouldn't want to accuse Professor McCumber of that.


Dr. James M. Dow said...

might i (as modestly as possible) suggest that you also check out my blog on self-consciousness, kant's philmind, and the Others thesis...

Duck said...

Thanks, I will!