Sunday, February 03, 2008

Three cheers for Andy Clark

Thursday's Routledge Lecture here was given by Andy Clark. I thought he did a terrific job for a lecture intended for an audience not just of philosophers. I don't know if he is right or indeed if I fully understand what his position about the messiness of the mind comes to (and for once "I'm not sure I understand ..." is not philosopher-speak for "I'm damned sure he is horribly confused ..."). But I certainly think that he is concerned with a bunch of interesting issues, the kind of thing that is actually worth working on in the philosophy of mind -- engaging hands-on with the sciences of the mind.

I always thought of my old intro book with Owen Jones, The Philosophy of Mind, as an exercise in getting out of the way the relatively uninteresting a priori arm-chair stuff, kicking into touch various bits of mystery-mongering, leaving the field clear to get on with the interesting stuff engaging with work in cognitive neuro-psychology, artificial intelligence and the like. To be sure, we no doubt didn't get the a priori story dead right. But who really cares? We only need to get it, so to speak, right enough to enable us stop worrying that there might be mysterious obstacles in the way to a many-pronged empirically-informed assault on the interesting stuff. When I dip into the journals is a bit depressing to find in some areas epicycles of armchair reflection still being piled up by philosophers of mind. So three cheers for the likes of Andy Clark who remind us that it doesn't have to be that way.

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