Darwinism and Philosophical Analysis

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About the Book The book promises to revitalise analytic philosophy by extending its method so that it could be discovered how the mind's rationality evolved. Several novel results of this extension are presented, for example, surprising types of defense of religion, morality and free will. Reinvigorated by Darwinian insights, the author contends, philosophical method can yield greater understanding of self-hood, consciousness of time and the nature of relation of thought to language. ...
About the Book

The book promises to revitalise analytic philosophy by extending its method so that it could be discovered how the mind's rationality evolved. Several novel results of this extension are presented, for example, surprising types of defense of religion, morality and free will. Reinvigorated by Darwinian insights, the author contends, philosophical method can yield greater understanding of self-hood, consciousness of time and the nature of relation of thought to language.

The philosophy that emerges is within the naturalistic tradition as represented by W.V.O. Quine, the eminent American philosopher. The book defends this tradition against its strongest contemporary competitor — the Kantian tradition.

About the Author

Professor Arthur E. Falk did his M.A. at Yale University, USA in 1962 and obtained Ph.D. from the same university in 1965. Earlier he had the distinction of being a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a Junior Sterling Fellow at Yale during 1960-62 and in 1964 respectively. He has been teaching at Western Michigan University since 1966 and was elevated to the post of Professor of Philosophy in 1977.

A Visiting Professor in Indiana University, USA in 1968, Dr. Falk was a Fulbright Visiting Professor in Jadavpur University, where he lectured and taught for 10 months. Recently he lectured at Utkal University as a Visiting Professor.

An expert in Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Mind, Professor Falk's other areas of interest include Logic and Moral Philosophy.


DARWINISM and Philosophical Analysis is primarily the outcome of a project on which Professor Arthur Falk worked and lectured at Utkal Philosophy Department as a Visiting Professor under the Special Assistance Programme of the University Grants Commission during November-December, 2001. Some parts of the contents were also lectured at Jadavpur University immediately prior to his visit to Utkal. In this work, readers will find the uniquely original and a strikingly different approach of the author to philosophical analysis which, when Darwinised, could add significantly to the shaping of our world-view rather than leaving 'everything as it is'.

In biology, Darwinism means the theory of the origin of species from a common ancestor by the mechanism of natural selection — a mindless and thoroughly anti-teleological process. In philosophy, analysis means the elucidation of important concepts and linguistic modes of expression. Arthur Falk proposes that philosophers Darwinise their analytic techniques when they use them to study the concepts of the mind and the person, and thus construed, analysis can reveal ancestral forms of mentality. He promises nothing less than a grand reconciliation of our conception of ourselves — our mentality, our values, our freedom — with the physical world as science is revealing it to be. As he says in chapter 4, Lady Philosophy, embodying our self-conception, will no longer be the reluctant bride in her marriage to the world as science describes it, but will propose the marriage herself. And as he says in chapter 10, she will find Sir Physical kissable even when science reveals him to be stupid, purposeless, and most ugly; naked Fate. In short, this book is about what analytic philosophy could add to the shaping of our emerging world-view, rather than leaving it all to science and other cultural forces. Constructing this world-view surely is a philosophical task and the author makes an eloquent plea for this naturalistic conception of philosophy's task in the postscript to chapter 2.

At the dawn of this century in Australasia and North America, where Falk teaches, the naturalist turn in philosophy has taken a strong foot hold. But the Darwinian manifestation of naturalism, that is, the emphasis on evolutionary continuity between human spirituality and the mindless physical world, is still a minor current within naturalism. Most naturalists there are still engrossed in exploring the computational theory of the mind, very much a non-historical project. Elsewhere, even this naturalism struggles in competition with a Kantian project for analytic philosophy to carry out. According to the Kantian transcendentalist, philosophy is something that must precede science in the conceptual order, because otherwise skepticism will not have been adequately dealt with. On the Indian subcontinent and the British Isles, this transcendentalist project still perhaps has the larger allegiance. Consequently, there is resistance here to the idea that the very methodology of analytic philosophy should be Darwinised, since it compromises the precedence of philosophy to science and undermines the transcendental deductions by which the Kantian hopes to cage the sceptic. A persuasive presentation of this view, combined with a Wittgenstein an tinge, is to be found in a recent work of Professor Ramesh Chandra Pradhan of Hyderabad — a work which Falk cities in this book. It is fitting and also challenging, therefore, for Falk to present his case for a radically historicized naturalism to us in India. If he can convince a few of us here, convincing our American counterparts should be easy — as the author himself tells me.

Perhaps the crux of the methodological issue can be put this way. The human community is not going to relinquish the basic features of its conception of human beings as having states of mind that represent state of affairs and as beings immersed in a world of meanings, purposes and values. The philosophical position in the philosophy of mind called eliminativism is not an option. Both Falk and the Kantians would agree to that. So either Falk is successful in showing that the very analytic methods which articulate and validate this scheme of ourselves grow naturally in a Darwinian direction to make a happy and seamless connection between minds and the physical world, or we shall have to resort to a transcendental argument for the a priori necessity of this conception of ourselves for the very possibility of experience and science of the world. If Falk is right, and I am inclined to think he is, the transcendental argument is not needed.

For those who incline to the view that naturalism gives up philosophy, perhaps an analogy to the dispute over intuitionism in the philosophy of mathematics will help reframe the picture and dispel the suspicion. The intuitionist avoids certain assumptions and certain methods of proof, which other mathematicians accept. Today, all mathematicians are at least interested to know what parts of mathematics can be justified with the limited means the intuitionist allows himself. No one denies that the intuitionist mathematician is a mathematician. Analogously we can think of the naturalistic methodology as imposing a constraint on philosophical argumentation. The avoidance of transcendental arguments is like the intuitionistic avoidance of non-constructive proofs. And so, similarly, all philosophers should be interested to see what parts of philosophy as traditionally conceived can be justified within the naturalistic constraints. It may come to seem that 'less is more'.

Although the first three chapters are highly polemical, where Falk strikes the pose of the embattled guardian of the truth, the central chapters, from 4 to 7, extract the evolutionary history of the mind form data that typify analytic philosophy over the last 50 years, indeed over the last decade, including the work of Quine, Dennett, Geach, Perry, David Lewis, Chisholm, Fodor, Dretske, to name but a few. This material is up to date technical philosophy of mind in the analytic tradition. It is not meant for casual reading but for wrestling with; for a least one reason — it is counterintuitive. Falk often rejects the reader's expectations about what a Darwinian should say. For example, he is more concerned with the design flaws in the mind than he is with adaptations. Taking his cue from biologists who find the useless traits of an organism to be vestigial and revelatory of ancestry, Falk looks for the mindlessness in nature's construction of minds. Don't look here for rhapsodies about the functions of the mind. His 'Just so' stories are comedies of errors. Would you believe we are conscious because nature made a mistake in our construction? Falk would say just this.

Falk's capacity for surprise continues in the last three chapters, in which he draws the moral of his central story for our values and active life. Having spent so much effort highlighting the dysfunctional aspects of mind, he comes to the mind's propensity for religion. Would he say it too is dysfunctional? No, he presents a justification of religion that is very much reminiscent of Kant's as well as Pascal's. Falk loves to throw his audience off-balance with paradoxes; it is his chief rhetorical trick for enlivening what would otherwise be dry and soporific. Let me try it too: His chapter on values will scandalize many, since it is a paean to Nietzsche. Having defended the rational permissibility of theism in chapter 8, he implies in chapter 9 that atheism is preferable on the basis of the immoralist (amora list, shouldn't we say?) values that underlie it. Then in the last chapter he manages to suggest that fatalism captures the essence of freedom. Well, if I have convinced you that the book is too absurd to bother with, I will have overshot my mark. Remember, I did say this was rhetoric. The readers will realize that his philosophy is most acute, both in controverting the positions he rejects and in constructing the most novel alternatives he offers and adduces, which have a good chance of being the truth. According to the author, it will be the sort of truth that will make you free.

The Philosophy Department at Utkal has been enriched by Falk's refreshingly novel ideas and will treasure his brief but effective intellectual interaction with the faculty and students here.


  Preface vii
1 Analytic Method, the Naturalisation of the Mind, and Evolution 1
2 Dennett's Dangerous Idea: Design Before Mind 23
3 A Better Idea: Information Prior to Mind 41
4 An Update of the Good Idea Underlying Descartes's Idea of the Pineal Gland 55
5 Perceiving Temporal Passage: An Indicator of the Nature of Consciousness 79
6 Beyond Wilfrid Sellars's Jumblese: the Invention of the Verb 103
7 A Defence of a Quinean Holism 119
8 The Rational Basis for Religion's Attempt to Gain Extra-Scienific Information 137
9 We Immoralists…': Evolution and Ethics 167
10 Freedom: A Metter of Selfhood, not Modality 187
  Bibliography 213
  Index 225

Sample Pages

Item Code: NAO649 Author: Arthur Falk Cover: Hardcover Edition: 2003 Publisher: Decent Books ISBN: 8186921249 Language: English Size: 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch Pages: 242 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 490 gms
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