Bennett and Hacker: Village Idiots or Philosophers?

David Longley David at longley.demon.co.uk
Thu Feb 12 10:17:27 EST 2004


In article <fa69ae35.0402101743.4c532f87 at posting.google.com>, Eray 
Ozkural  exa <erayo at bilkent.edu.tr> writes
>David Longley <David at longley.demon.co.uk> wrote in message 
>news:<OIhMTrQqqMKAFwqJ at longley.demon.co.uk>...
>> I haven't read it, but I will now (unless someone such as Glen, Wolf,
>> Rolf etc suggest that it isn't worth it - I've read parts of Baker and
>> Hacker's "Language, Sense & Nonsense" 1984 which was a hatchet job on
>> theoretical linguistics and semantics). From what I've just read of the
>> reviews of the new 2003 book, it looks like they may well cover some of
>> the same issues which have been outlined and discussed in this newsgroup
>> over recent months (if not years)
>
>It may be worth the read actually. It recapitulates a good deal of
>history of and developments in neuroscience in addition to their
>arguments. I think I might agree with some of their criticism, but I
>know that I don't agree with a significant part of their criticism
>which seems to be sheer non-sense. Of course, they are saying that
>philosophy is concerned with discovering boundaries of sense, and
>maybe that makes some sense given how they indulge in non-sense. They
>may have been influenced too much by Wittgenstein. ;)
>
>They are also stressing that not all their criticism is negative, they
>are proposing ways to counteract the conceptual confusions which they
>see.
>
>[snip]
>
>Regards,
>
>--
>Eray Ozkural

I've received it thismorning, and it *does*, as you say, seem (prima 
facie), to be rather too long. The authors know this, acknowledge so, 
and suggest that it's used as a reference book. It looks like their 
"Mereological Fallacy" appears to be another word for Ryle's "Category 
Mistake" argument, but instead of being applied to "The Concept of Mind" 
as it was in 1949, it's now applied to "The Concept of Mind (as Brain)" 
now that Cognitive Science has moved house. They've gone on to apply it 
to whatever they can in "Cognitive Neuroscience" so it seems, and had a 
few pot-shots at Dennett and Searle at the end for good measure saying 
that Dennett didn't really seem to understand his mentor Ryle (which may 
well be true) but there's something 'not quite right' about what 
Hacker's up to here either. I've only browsed it so far, so I'd better 
reserve judgement, maybe I'm being unjust and premature..

Glen and I have been through much of what they are saying both in this 
newsgroup and in others over the years. When one looks to all the 
examples, it can be like plugging holes in dykes, and as I said earlier 
in this thread, I'm not sure it's worth it - it's been said before, and 
it's been said for decades. People make these mistakes largely because 
they don't do their historical homework and think that (as "scientists") 
they can ignore what philosophers, or psychologists (e.g Skinner) etc 
have said in the past because it's not their field. One should not 
forget that science *is* a philosophy - it's empiricist philosophy - in 
some people's hands it just isn't very good empiricist philosophy - even 
when they assert themselves to be accomplished scientists!.

-- 
David Longley



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