We argue that skilled human activity generally requires the acquisition and manipulation of knowledge, as well as implicit processes that do not depend on propositional knowledge (for example, increased dexterity). It is hard, and perhaps not possible, to forge a theoretically significant distinction between working with one’s hands and working with one’s mind.
Hume is on my mind especially in regard to my current work on Adam Smith. To this end, I’ve been re-watching Bryan Magee’s series The Great Philosophers from ’87. I’ve especially enjoyed the Hume discussion with John Passmore. Magee is an expositor second to none despite the fact that his expert guests are more intimate with- and have produced more distinguished work on- any of the target thinkers. In this Passmore interview (see below) one has the distinct sense that Magee is getting a great deal of pleasure by letting Passmore rattle on and then with utmost clarity and brevity restating the issue. This is not to put Passmore down – it is more to highlight Magee’s very special talent. I think Tony Quinton had that expository talent in writing but even he got flustered in his chat with Magee on Spinoza and Leibniz. Hume has a special place amongst my intellectual furniture. He speaks to me as the first modern: his discussion of personal identity, political philosophy, epistemology and ethics seem so germane to me as a so-called situated theorist. In any event, anyone who considers themselves a well-read person and who has not read Hume, is really quite impoverished, stylistically and substantively.
Moreover, what I particularly like about Hume is his even temperament and good nature along with his cutting wit. I’d have him by my side at my imaginary dinner party which wouldn’t be comprised by self-ascribed “intellectuals”: only people who love food, wine, conversation and laughter would be there.
He built a house in Edinburgh’s New Town, and spent his autumnal years quietly and comfortably, dining and conversing with friends, not all of whom were “studious and literary,” for Hume also found that his “company was not unacceptable to the young and careless.” One young person who found his company particularly “acceptable” was an attractive, vivacious, and highly intelligent woman in her twenties — Nancy Orde, the daughter of Chief Baron Orde of the Scottish Exchequer. One of Hume’s friends described her as “one of the most agreeable and accomplished women I ever knew.” Also noted for her impish sense of humor, she chalked “St. David’s Street” on the side of Hume’s house one night; the street still bears that name today. The two were close enough that she advised Hume in choosing wallpaper for his new home, and rumors that they were engaged even reached the ears of the salonnières in Paris. Just before his death, Hume added a codicil to his will, which included a gift to her of “ten Guineas to buy a Ring, as a Memorial of my Friendship and Attachment to so amiable and accomplished a Person.”
He also become the rage of the Parisian salons, enjoying the conversation and company of Diderot, D’Alembert, and d’Holbach, as well as the attentions and affections of the salonnières, especially the Comtesse de Boufflers. (“As I took a particular pleasure in the company of modest women, I had no reason to be displeased with the reception I met with from them.”)
From The Hume Society
With regard to politics and the character of princes and great men, I think I am very moderate. My views of things are more conformable to Whig principles; my representation of persons to Tory prejudices. Nothing can so much prove that men commonly regard more persons than things, as to find that I am commonly numbered among the Tories.
Cited in Ernest Mossner classic biography The Life of David Hume (Clarendon Press, 2001), p. 311.
Let’s give the final word to his dear friend:
Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.
My chum Steve Turner has a new book out. It has much Oakeshott interest and as many will know Steve has been a longstanding Oakeshott commentator. For me, one of his key articles is “Tradition and Cognitive Science: Oakeshott’s Undoing of the Kantian Mind”, a piece that I reference quite regularly. OK, so the book is ridiculously expensive – just put in a request to your library. Here is an excerpt: Tacitness in Practice Theory Practices Then and Now.
Review essay of A Companion to Michael Oakeshott
by Suvi Soininen
Redescriptions: yearbook of political thought, conceptual history and feminist theory. 2012/2013, vol. 16, pp. 172-187 (in downloadable pdf)
GETTIERIZED KNOBE EFFECTS James R. Beebe and Joseph Shea
A RELIABILISM BUILT ON COGNITIVE CONVERGENCE: AN EMPIRICALLY GROUNDED SOLUTION TO THE GENERALITY PROBLEM Martin L. Jönsson
A NEW PROSPECT FOR EPISTEMIC AGGREGATION Daniel Berntson and Yoaav Isaacs
PHOTOGRAPHICALLY BASED KNOWLEDGE Dan Cavedon-Taylor
EXPLANATIONIST EVIDENTIALISM Kevin McCain
IS FOUNDATIONAL A PRIORI JUSTIFICATION INDISPENSABLE? Ted Poston
LEARNING TO SIGNAL WITH PROBE AND ADJUST – CORRIGENDUM Brian Skyrms
Here is the intro and conclusion to Chris and my paper:
To know is to cognize, to cognize is to be a culturally bounded, rationality-bounded and environmentally located agent. Knowledge and cognition are thus dual aspects of human sociality. If social epistemology has the formation, acquisition, mediation, transmission and dissemination of knowledge in complex communities of knowers as its subject matter, then its third party character is essentially stigmergic. In its most generic formulation, stigmergy is the phenomenon of indirect communication mediated by modifications of the environment. Extending this notion one might conceive of stigmergy as the extra-cranial analog of artificial neural networks or the extended mind. With its emphasis on coordination, it acts as the binding agent for the epistemic and the cognitive. Coordination is, as David Kirsh (2006, p. 250) puts it, “the glue of distributed cognition”. This paper, therefore, recommends a stigmergic framework for social epistemology to account for the supposed tension between individual action, wants and beliefs and the social corpora: paradoxes associated with complexity and unintended consequences. A corollary to stigmergic epistemology is stigmergic cognition, again running on the idea that modifiable environmental considerations need to be factored into cognitive abilities. In this sense, we take the extended mind thesis to be essentially stigmergic in character.
This paper proceeds as follows. In Section 2, we set out the formal specifications of stigmergy. In Section 3, we illustrate the essentially stigmergic characteristics of social epistemology. In Section 4, we examine extended mind externalism as the preeminent species of stigmergic cognition. In Section 5 we illustrate how the particle swarm optimization (PSO) algorithm for the optimization of a function could be understood as a useful tool for different processes of social cognition, ranging from the learning of publicly available knowledge by an individual knower, to the evolution of scientific knowledge. In Section 6, we offer some concluding remarks.
A great deal of ground has been covered in the course of which we have made a case for two central claims:
1. Social epistemology has the formation, acquisition, mediation, transmission and dissemination of knowledge in complex communities of knowers as its subject matter. Such knowledge is, for the most part, third party and as such it is knowledge that is conditioned and modified. Understood thus, social epistemology is essentially stigmergic.
2. One might conceive of social connectionism as the extra-cranial analog of an artificial neural network providing epistemic structure. The extended mind thesis (at least the Clarkean variant) runs on the idea that modifiable environmental considerations need to be factored into cognitive abilities. This notion of cognition is thus essentially stigmergic.
With 1 and 2 in mind, two disclaimers are in order. First, a stigmergical socio-cognitive view of knowledge and mind should not be construed as (a) the claim that mental states are somewhere other than in the head or, (b) the corollary, that as individualists, we do not think that what is outside the head has nothing to do with what ends up in the head. A stigmergic approach, necessarily dual aspect, does not require one to dispense with one or the other. There is no methodological profit whatsoever to throwing out the Cartesian baby along with the bath water. Second, a socio-cognitive view of mind and knowledge be not be mistaken as a thesis for strong social constructivism, the idea all facts are socially constructed (a denial that reality in some way impinges upon mind) – again, it would be inconsistent with the environmental emphasis entailed by stigmergy.
For Clark, “[M]uch of what goes on in the complex world of humans, may thus, somewhat surprisingly, be understood in terms of so-called stigmergic algorithms.” (Clark, 1996, p. 279). Traditional cases of stigmergic systems include stock markets, economies, traffic patterns, supply logistics and resource allocation (Hadeli, Valckenaers, Kollingbaum, & Van Brussel, 2004), urban sprawl, and cultural memes. New forms of stigmergy have been exponentially expanded through the affordances of digital technology: we’ve expounded upon Google’s RP and Amazon’s CF but of course include wiki, open source software, weblogs, and a whole range of “social media” that comprise the World Wide Web. These particular examples serve to make the wider stigmergical point that the Janus-like aspect of knowledge and cognition must be set against a background fabric of cultural possibility: individuals draw their self-understanding from what is conceptually to hand in historically specific societies or civilizations, a preexisting complex web of linguistic, technological, social, political and institutional constraints.
It is no surprise then that it has been claimed that stigmergic systems are so ubiquitous a feature of human sociality, it would be more difficult to find institutions that are not stigmergic ( Parunak, 2005 and Tummolini and Castelfrananchi, 2007). If stigmergy were merely coextensive with “the use of external structures to control, prompt, and coordinate individual actions” (Clark, 1997, p. 186), then the concept would amount to a claim about situated cognition in all its dimensionality Solomon, 2006b. While stigmergy includes these aspects, it distinctively emphasizes the cybernetic loop of agent → environment → agent → enviro nment through an ongoing and mutual process of modification and conditioning, appearing to dissolve the supposed tension between the self-serving individual and the social corpora at large through indirect interaction. Though this process of behavior modification has long since been identified by both PSE and SSE theorists, only recently has there begun a concerted effort ( Turner, 2001 and Turner, 2003) to, as Ron Sun puts it (Sun, 2006) “cognitivize” human sociality. Social theory and cognitive science must now recognize the virtues of a “cognitivized” approach to all things social.
Plato’s simile of light – the images of the Sun, the Divided Line and the Cave are outlined in the Republic at the close of Book VI and at the beginning of Book VII. The simile of light has attracted a vast literature from Nettleship’s Victorian lectures, down through the work of James Adam, Henry Jackson and A.S. Ferguson’s brilliant series of articles, to the more recent work of Cross and Woozley, Raven, White and Annas. Of course, there are too many shades and possibilities of interpretation to be canvassed fully in such a limited space but I have been influenced at different points by different scholars. I merely put forward the views I hold about the context, functionality and continuity of the three images.
The simile of light has both a “forward” and a “backward” context. By the forward context I mean that the simile anticipates, and is a metaphorical representation of, the education of the guardians as spelt out by Plato in the remainder of Book VII, after the Cave. And it is through this education that the philosopher will come to know the Form of the Good, the foundation of all value, to be able to govern effectively. So when Socrates presses men to define, what is meant by justice? they resort to characterizing justice in terms of certain just acts. To avoid ethical particularism Socrates needs to abstract from the individual action. So if you claim to know what justice is then presumably you can capture the conditions for justice in a definitional claim. Socrates thus appeals to a universalizability, i.e. the Form of Justice or any other virtue which ultimately participates in the one great universal, the Good. Just as the Sun provides a teleological picture of the world (Rees 1965: xxxv) so too by analogy, consciously or unconsciously, does man participate in the Good. This is reiterated lucidly by Boyd (1922: 128) when he says that ‘in effect that what justice or any other virtue is, we must see it in its relations to life as a whole’.
Now to the “backward” context. Plato does say what the Form of the Good is not – it is not pleasure and it is not knowledge. The point is: can he reasonably assume that there is such a thing, given the metaphysical arguments of the Republic so far? It’s the metaphysical role of the Form of the Good that’s primarily important to Plato. He feels the need for an ultimate explanatory principle – and the Form of the Good fits the bill. There is the temptation to view the Form of the Good as omni-explanatory (Cross and Woozley 1964: 183 cite Cherniss as commending the theory for its philosophical economy), a framework for a kind of theodicy or impersonal God. The Form of the Good “only explains the existence of goodness wherever goodness occurs”. The Form of the Good is the principle of reality, since goodness and reality are interrelated, and is fundamental to any attempt to making the world intelligible. Plato is thus committed to the idea that there is no difference of ultimate nature between facts and values in the world: goodness and values are just as real or indeed more real than other things. Just as the sun provides light, the intermediary between the eye and its object, so the Good provides the intermediary between the mind and its object, thereby making knowledge possible. The Line further illustrates this relation between the two orders of reality, the visible and the intelligible, but from a cognitive point of view – the states of mind in which one apprehends.
That the sun is primarily metaphysical in purpose is the least contentious of the three similes’ interpretations. The Sun is the child of the Good (508b) occupying in the visible world a position analogous to that of the Form of the Good in the world of Forms. Without the Good other Forms would not be known. Further, all the universals whether they be moral properties or mathematical entities (perfect virtue, perfect circles etc.) necessarily exist even independently of any particulars to exemplify them. The Good by analogy with the Sun is the source not only of their intelligibility, “but also of their being and reality; yet it is not itself that reality, but is beyond it, and superior to it in dignity and power” (509b). Likewise “the Sun . . . not only makes the things we see visible, but causes the processes of generation, growth and nourishment, without itself being such a process.”
I do need to reiterate that Plato does not suggest that the Idea of the Good provides a complete explanation of the entire universe, comprising both the intelligible and sensible realms, recalling the comments on the omni-explanatory function of the Form of the Good in the previous section. Cross and Woozley (1964: 183) make this point that the “completely real” world of Forms cannot deny the “semi-real” world of our banal reality. It is a common inference that because Plato constructs only one line, i.e. a common scale, that its segments represent a progression through its four stages. This orthodoxy (Nettleship 1901: 238-258) emphasizes this progression or “passing” that the mind needs to go through. Ferguson (1921: 147-150) refutes the view arising from the assumption of the Line’s being an exhaustive classification by maintaining that the Line is a continuation of the Sun simile (indeed as Plato says at 509c) whereby the Line simile is an illustration of “how two successive methods of studying the intelligible may lead to knowledge of that transcendent Good, still using the convenient symbolism of the visible” (Ferguson 1921:136), highlighting the contrast between the two methods of mathematics and philosophy, represented in the two upper segments.
This from Philosophy of Brains.
In this age of histrionics, he was a thoughtful, honest, and thorough thinker. He was often more thorough in discussing the weaknesses of his position than the people who thought they were providing original critiques of his work.
In ‘The conscious mind’, David Chalmers (1996) develops a multifaceted argument to show that the phenomenal nature of conscious experience is not reducible to functional properties of a physical substance. For Chalmers, this conclusion is inevitable if one is to ‘take seriously’ the justified belief that we are phenomenally conscious (what he calls ‘phenomenal realism’). The argument turns, in particular, on the logical possibility of zombies that share their physical/functional relational properties (hereafter P/F properties) with us, but experience no phenomenal properties (hereafter Φ-properties). It can be summarized as:
1 Zombies are conceivable (‘epistemic gap’)
2 If zombies are conceivable, they are (metaphysically) possible
3 Zombies are possible (‘ontological gap’)
4 Φ-properties do not logically supervene upon the P/F realm.
5 There are non-P/F properties.
This conclusion is generally taken to mean that physicalism is false.
(2) has been the most debated premise (e.g., Tye, 1995, Levine, 1993, Loar, 1997, Papineau, 2002)2, but the more fundamental divide is with those philosophers who reject premise (1) (e.g., Dennett, 1991, 2005, Churchland, 1996). The grounds for rejecting premise (1) amount to the claim that it is a misunderstanding of the phenomenal which gives rise to the belief that zombies are possible. And the error, it is argued, is analogous to that made by vitalists who claim that a system could have all the appropriate biochemical properties without being alive. The mistake is to assume there is something ineffable (Dennett, 1988) that remains unaccounted for, once a description of what it is to be conscious has been given in terms of P/F properties. The claim is therefore that the phenomenal can and must be conceptualized in terms of functional features of a physical system. I shall not examine these various criticisms, but take premises (1) and (2) are true, and assume that the argument is valid as it stands.
Note that Chalmers’s PD includes the following additional claim. If the property of psychological awareness (hereafter Ψ-awareness) characterizes ‘a state wherein we have access to some information, and can use that information in the control of behavior’ (Chalmers, 1996, p. 28), properties of Ψ-awareness are assumed to logically supervene upon P/F properties. They are therefore independent of Φ-properties. This supervenience claim is however not fundamental to PD; I shall indicate where I make use of it.
A key feature of PD is that it rests upon the assumption that we have a justified belief that we are phenomenally conscious. This has implications for the relation between Ψ-properties and Φ-properties. For it requires that we have cognitive access to, i.e., that we be Ψ-aware of the contents of our Φ experience (Chalmers, 1996, p. 221). This does not imply that ‘to have an experience is automatically to know about it’ (ibid., p. 197). Rather, ‘we have the ability to notice our experiences’ (ibid., p. 221), i.e., to make the contents of our Φ experience into the object of a cognitive belief. Such a belief corresponds to what Chalmers calls a second-order phenomenal judgment, such as the judgment that my Φ experience is currently that of a red object. This is a judgment about the content of the first-order phenomenal judgment ‘It’s red’.
Such phenomenal judgments and their verbal expression lead to difficulties that Chalmers discusses at some length. One of these concerns the issue of self-knowledge. Φ-properties are irrelevant to the causal explanation of behavior, on the assumption of the closure of the physical realm3: this is the quasi-epiphenomenalism of Chalmers’s position.4 And Chalmers notes the difficulties raised by this quasi-epiphenomenalist position: ‘for second- and third-order phenomenal judgments (…), explanatory irrelevance seems to raise real problems’ (ibid., p. 182). Indeed, given the zombie has identical behavior to mine, he therefore makes the same claims about being Φ-conscious (causal closure of the physical realm), and, on the assumption of logical supervenience of Ψ upon P/F properties, he forms the same phenomenal judgments5 as I do. How do I know, therefore, that I am not a zombie? Chalmers answers that it is precisely because I haveΦ experience. This provides the epistemic warrant for my belief. Such a warrant characterizes the epistemology of conscious experience. Below, I shall identify a logically possible situation which raises problems for this epistemology.