- George Berkeley
I have posted a new draft, "How Berkeley's Gardener Knows his Cherry Tree" to my writings page. As always, comments and criticisms are welcome.
Have you read Alasdair MacIntyre's 1977 Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative and the Philosophy Of Science? Among other things, he criticizes Descartes for thinking that he has doubted everything when in fact there is a tradition he is not doubting, but instead using as his foundation for doubt. MacIntyre applies this same criticism to Kuhn's incommensurability, his denial that one can say that science "progresses". MacIntyre argues that an invalid view of tradition is the culprit, whereby tradition is static instead of self-critiquing.
Believe it or not, I have read literally zero pages of MacIntyre. He's just not part of the curriculum in analytic philosophy, unless you either get into virtue ethics or have a Catholic bent. But allow me to refer you to Wittgenstein's little book On Certainty, which contains the line: "If you try to doubt everything you won't get as far as doubting anything. The game of doubt presupposes certainty." (Quoting from memory; don't have the book handy.
In any event, it's widely agreed that Descartes was mistaken in his starting point; you just can't reject everything and start over from scratch like that.
I'm making my second attempt to read your paper (yay for keeping tabs open forever); the quotation which kicks off section 1 reminds me of the following in Emil Brunner's Man in Revolt:
> Before and behind all scientific, philosophical and theological anthropology there lies this ordinary, universally human, naïve, pre-reflective understanding of man, very variously interwoven, concealed, enriched and distorted by those other views, and yet independent of them. All that the poets and artists tell us about man usually comes from this source. It is possible that genius consists mainly in a specially high desire of such naïveté, which is able to maintain itself against all that is conventional, against all clichés, against all the established forms which have been set up by tradition. But wherever a poet or a thinker in a special degree probes into the depths, there, to the extent in which he moves away from this sensus communis, he comes under the influence of a scientific, philosophical, or definitely religious anthropology which both enriches and distorts, deepens and injures his view of man. As naïveté disappears the 'isms' become powerful—Realism, Idealism, Pantheism, each of which makes one element of human nature the principle of interpretation, and in so doing possibly brings to light truths which are not accessible to the others, but at the price of a one-sidedness which distorts the picture of man. There seems to be only one exception to this rule. Where the poetic naïveté of this view of human nature has been combined with the Christian faith, there has arisen—for instance, in Pascal, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Gotthelf—a penetrating view of man which has no rival. That which the non-reflective simple human being, whose highest point is attained in the genuine poet, knows about man seems to be fulfilled int eh Christian faith alone. This, however, means that we have already entered the sphere of religion. (46–47)
Ironically, I didn't mean to call out Idealism as one of those 'isms', instead I find it fascinating that Brunner too compares the common person's common sense, to the erudite scholar.
Have you spent time thinking about how the Cartesian Anxiety damaged the human sciences much more than it damaged the hard sciences? I've had this intuition for a while, but only recently have I found solid support (e.g. Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self).
I have posted a substantially expanded version of this paper.
Return to blog.kennypearce.net