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January 26, 2015



Great post. Cognitive science, as you point out, has done a decent job of addressing this at the micro level: it has done a fair amount of exploration of the ways in which our minds tell us useful stories about the world (e.g., turning an undifferentiated field of light into discrete objects, turning a relativistic spacetime field into a series of almost discontinuous moments and then retrospectively into a linear narrative). But nobody is doing serious research on the useful stories our minds tell us about the way the world works at the macro level. The closest thing might be social psychology, but the project there is a bit more antagonistic and reductive: it starts with a baseline objective truth supplied by the physical sciences and then delineates psychological biases and fallacies. We need someone to seriously look at the ways in which some of these stories are useful for making sense of the world's ambiguity and complexity.

Art Grymes

Thanks very much for this. I look forward to the full essay!


Very interesting. It fits closely some of my own wishes about what philosophy might be about. I can see the practice of such a metaphysics as being rather like doing moral philosophy under an anti-realist metaethics. You can believe that morality is mind-dependent without thinking that this undermines questions about what we ought morally to do. Similarly, perhaps we can believe that ghosts are mind-dependent without thinking that this undermines philosophical questions about their nature, what they are for us.

Robert R. Cheatham

good post. There are perhaps people working these pastures (Derrida for one, at least as acting with a breaker plow)...but they perhaps don't look so 'philosophical' on the surface.


When I tried to describe the world, first as a theologue and for a short time as a philosophe (or -stine), the rush of demons and falling leaves and stones rising to the boat, whatever, iife, exploded my best efforts. Do your job. I love your work.

Tim Adamson

Yes, Cassirer is a great hero, if overly optimistic about the project of the enlightenment in the face of myth. I would see Edward Casey and Robert Innis as good examples of this kind of philosophy. Also Richard Schusterman and Mark Johnson on the bodily dimensions of cognition and meaning. John Dewey is not a bad resource.

Eliminativism is the dominant paradigm right now. The paradox and shame is that while these theorists rush to identify the causes or origins of experience, they take no time to study experience in its own terms. They draw maps of territories they have never explored, give explanations for phenomena they have never bothered to examine, and theorize about events that never actually occur in our experience of the world. They tell stories about people who have never existed. They are always rushing behind the curtain of experience to tell us what is really going on, but they have no idea what is happening on stage.

Ormond Otvos

So, if I read you right, Joseph Campbell is chopped liver?

Ray Davis

This is as heartening as your earlier post on institutional constraints* was saddening, and I look forward to more.

* http://www.jehsmith.com/1/2012/12/this-is-not-a-philosophy-blog.html

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