Transcendentalism Vs. Naturalism

This is a very brief post to point people in the direction of a few other posts that I’ve enjoyed and commented upon (at length). I increasingly find myself using other people’s blog’s comment sections in the way many people use their own blogs, to expound and develop upon thoughts and topics that other people have brought up in brief, and saving my own blog for more fully developed thoughts.

I find this interesting, insofar as I increasingly feel like reading and commenting on other people’s blog post is part of my ‘job’ as a career researcher, not merely something I do on the side. I don’t mean this in a perjorative sense, as if this makes me enjoy it less. Rather, I mean that I feel like this is where many of my most interesting ideas get fleshed out, in much the way that philosophical correspondence or exchanges of short papers in journals has traditionally enabled various debates and ideas to blossom. This is weird, insofar as I still think that these forms of communication would be looked down on, as some sort of ‘hobby’ from the perspective of traditional academia, despite the fact that they’re often far more interesting and productive than some of the minor journal exchanges that a lot of us engage in to earn our keep. I’m not going to say much more than that, but it’s something that I intend to think more about in the future.

On to the posts and comments themselves, which deal with the implications of philosophical naturalism, and the extent to which this is compatible with transcendental philosophy. I’ve opined before that I think there’s a certain amount of excessive naturalism going around in contemporary philosophy (here and here), which, in its hostility to both transcendental and other forms of a priori philosophising, has a tendency to cut off its own nose to spite its face. I don’t say this as an anti-naturalist, but as a proud naturalist who thinks that naturalism requires careful delimitation, both in order to curb excessive ‘more naturalist than thou’ arguments, on the one hand, and weak ‘I’m a naturalist honest’ apologias that are about as meaningful as ‘I’m a spiritual person’ claims in religious/ethical debates, on the other. Performing such a delimitation is just what the Kantian critical project was about, and this applies equally to the successor project of his intellectual scion Wilfrid Sellars. This is the historical root of naturalism divorced from the epistemological and semantic baggage of empiricism (in its traditional and logical forms, respectively).

Anyway, bearing this in mind, here’s a short post by Catarina Dutilh Novaes on the normativity of logic (here) with a short exchange between her and myself on the topic in the comments, and a much larger post by David Roden on Ray Brassier’s development of Sellars’ ideas in the philosophy of mind (here) with a very in depth exchange between him, myself, and Scott Bakker (author of the existentially gripping Neuropath amongst other books, and whose own blog (Three Pound Brain) is now linked to in the sidebar). This exchange covers a massive range of topics, from the comparative advantages of Davidsonian truth-theoretic semantics and Brandomian inferentialist semantics, to the potentially nihilistic consequences of neuroscience and the nature of naturalistic skepticism. It’s a great exchange that I’ve enjoyed immensely (and too much for my own good, given my other writing commitments). I thoroughly recommend you check it out.

Now, back to the conceptual coalface!