Friday, May 14, 2010

The "EC = Science, Anti-EC = a priori speculation" meme 4

In Radical Embodied Cognitive Science, Chemero presents the meme in the guise of what he calls "Hegelian Arguments":
In what follows, I will call arguments like this Hegelian Arguments.  Specifically, Hegelian arguments are arguments, based on little or no empirical evidence, to the conclusion that some scientific approach ... will fail. (p. 7).
You can see how this will play out.  Criticism of Gibsonian psychology and radical embodied cognitive science consists of Hegelian arguments.

There is a nice irony here.  Chemero accuses Chomsky of giving Hegelian arguments against behaviorism.  But, does Chemero go through a painstaking dissection of the evidence or argumentation in, say, Syntactic Structures?  No.  Chemero's reply is an argument based on little or no empirical evidence.  Not exactly a Hegelian argument, but an argument that apparently shares the objectionable feature of a Hegelian argument.

Chemero also describes Fodor and Pylyshyn's critique of connectionism as a "nearly Hegelian argument".  So, rather than working through the long details of the F&P paper, or any background literature, Chemero is able to set aside the F&P critique.


  1. Except he's right about F&P.

  2. It depends on what you make of the fact that Fodor and Pylyshyn have spent a reasonable amount of their careers around psychologists. Maybe they take certain conclusions of psychological research for granted. Perhaps they take the following as just "what every psychologist knows":

    "What does it mean to say that thought is systematic? Well, just as you don't find people who can understand the sentence 'John loves the girl' but not the sentence 'the girl loves John,' so too you don't find people who can think the thought that John loves the girl but can't think the thought that the girl loves John. Indeed, in the case of verbal organisms the systematicity of thought follows from the systematicity of language if you assume-as most psychologists do-that understanding a sentence involves entertaining the thought that it expresses;" (Fodor and Pylyshyn, 1988, p. 39.)

    So, why would they bother to document what they take to be completely obvious? So, for example, I'm pretty sure that Dretske is sensitive to this "meaning for the organism" idea and tries to address it. But, could I lay hands on a text that says exactly that? That would take a bit of effort.

    Note my caveat regarding background:
    "So, rather than working through the long details of the F&P paper, or any background literature, Chemero is able to set aside the F&P critique.

    I know that some philosophers have complained about not getting more definition and explanation of what systematicity is, but that's a weak tea objection compared to the much stronger objection that there is no such thing as systematicity. The stronger conclusion would require some investigation of background science.

    Complaining that F&P don't have references, while correct, is not all that troubling in the grand scheme of things. Give me some empirical evidence there is no systematicity.