Thursday, September 13, 2007
I tell myself I stopped reading philosophy because I'd been there and done that. This isn't true. I'm just too busy which is, of course, just another word for idle. But in my (imminent) old age I intend to get to grips with Jerry Fodor. I've linked to one of his articles before. It's a gem - witty, charming and profound. I thought of this because I am reading a book which quotes Fodor saying perhaps there are things we can't explain about ourselves - "Perhaps we're just that kind of creature.' He says the same thing in the linked article - 'Why not just say some things are true about the world because that's the kind of world it is; there's nothing more to make of it. That sounds defeatist perhaps but it really isn't since, quite plausibly, it's the sort of thing that we'll have to say sooner or later...' He also says, 'To be sure, we can't prove that we are conscious; but that is hardly surprising since there is no more secure premise from which such a proof could proceed.' That last point is one I have been trying to get into the heads of various bone-headed scientists for fifteen years now - entirely without success. But the deep point - and it is partially concealed by Fodor's Mozartian lightness of touch - is that the explanatory power of science may be logically limited. Of course, the essential metaphysic of science says that this is impossible, that we have the power to think, as it were, superhumanly and to see all things from beyond our own narrow perspective. This is not being rude to science. It simply can't be done without this highly effective metaphysical assumption. (This is, incidentally, the right context in which to read Hawking's famous line about knowing the mind of God - he meant we should know as a god might.) Anyway, all I wanted to say was check out Fodor, as I intend to when I stop being so idle. Just on the basis of what little I've read, I can assure you he's a good thing, a very good thing.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:45 am