Burgess-Jackson and What Philosophers Do

July 12, 2006 at 12:22 am Leave a comment

Keith Burgess-Jackson is at it again. His conception of philosophy and philosophers is so limited that it amazes me. KBJ seems to think that in discussions such as those concerning Intelligent Design, philosophers are nothing more than glorified logicians, and thus that their opinions are not more important or informed than a ‘common’ person.

His most recent post quotes the philosophy of law Richard Posner who happens to agree with KBJ. An argument for limiting philosophy and philosophers in such a way can be formulated as follows,

1. If philosophers are simply ‘glorified’ logicians, then their expertise is too limited to make many public policy pronoucements.
2. Philosophers are simply ‘glorified’ logicians.
3. So, their expertise is too limited to make public policy pronoucements.

But why should we accept any of these premises? I would grant KBJ the first premise. And of course three follows from one and two since the argument is valid. But two is questionable. There are two problems with it (at least); first it begs the question, and secondly there are numerous counter examples.

First, accepting the first premise rests on two contingencies, that there are no counter-examples of premise two and that there are some examples of two, which leads to my second point.

There are counter examples. Part of the issues involving ID is, (1) whether or not ID qualifies as science and (2) whether we should teach ID in a science, another subject or not at all.

Much of this revolves around the philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, political and social philosophy. But aren’t these subjects which philosophers excel at? Aren’t professional philosophers trained to deal with these topics. Yes! Of course they are.

Additionally, it would seems the philosophers need a grasp of much empirical data (philosophy of science and philosophy of biological), a good historical and contemporary grasp of theories and ideas (political and social philosophy) and how they relate to one another in answering the issues which revolve around the ID debate. Testing theories, building theories, putting theories in their historical context, criticizing the views of dissenters, constructing cogent arguments. These are all relevant to professional philosophers.

But you would never guess that from KBJ’s meta-philosophical reductionism. It is unfortunate.


Entry filed under: general philosophy.

Sociology, Social Construction and Logic Baggini, Philosophizing and Blogging

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