A Note on Analytic Philosophy

File:Library Pengo.jpg

In a recent interview, philosopher Peter Unger talks about his forthcoming book about analytic philosophy, “Empty Ideas” (see http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2014/06/philosophy-is-a-bunch-of-empty-ideas-interview-with-peter-unger.html). The base line is that it is basically nonsense. I tend to agree. I always had the impression that most of analytic philosophy is not worth spending time on and I have actually avoided it. I always felt it was dry, barren and fruitless.

To cite Unger:

Generally, though, they’re mostly incorrect offerings, with counterexamples, and it keeps changing and keeps changing, until everyone becomes bored with the topic, and then they go on to something else. It’s not as though anything ever gets established, except for very trivial things, nor is it that anything ever gets refuted. Rather, things become old hat and fashions change. But this general way of doing things hasn’t changed. In about seventy or eighty years, as far as I can tell, in terms of mainstream English-speaking philosophy.

My own thought on this topic is that if creativity is the basic feature of human cognition and creativity is the ability to go beyond or step out of any single formal system, each formal system invented within analytic philosophy and related areas like classical artificial intelligence can only be viewed as limited analytical spaces. They cannot be fundamental.

What analytic philosophers are doing is, I suppose, the invention of formal systems for the description of thought and mind, language, meaning and so on. There are many such systems and they all only have a limited reach. If cognition does not have a fixed structure but is (self-re-)programmable and can therefore change, than any of the formalisms proposed can only be partial descriptions and none of them can have any fundamental status. The way our cognition actually works may change from stage to stage of our lives and it may be different from person to person and from culture to culture. If that is the case, the specific formalisms invented inside analytical philosophy are not really important.

If the mind is creative in the sense given above then classical analytic philosophy (and classical artificial intelligence) is bound to fail or to be of very limited value and the situation described by Unger is to be expected.

(The picture, showing a view inside a university library, is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Library_Pengo.jpg.)


One comment

  1. […] In https://creativisticphilosophy.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/a-note-on-analytic-philosophy/ I have already stated what I generally think about analytic philosophy. Cognition can always work in more different ways than any of the formalisms developed inside analytic philosophy or “Artificial Intelligence” (AI)is describing. […]

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