Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A well-placed sui generis

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes: a happy sui generis, courtesy of Jerry Fodor.

For example: there has been, for centuries, a debate going on between people who think that each of the various kinds of mental process is more or less sui generis, and people who think that they are much of a likeness, all consisting of the same elements although differently arranged. With occasional anomalies, the argument between homogeneous minds and heterogeneous minds aligns with the argument between empiricists and rationalists; and, far from being settled, it keeps popping up in unexpected places. Do you think that a classical education disciplines the mind for whatever pursuits it later undertakes? If so, you should think that learning Latin gives rise to intellectual capacities that are more or less equally in play in devising a foreign policy, or designing a bridge, or making money on the market. Similarly, if you think there's such a thing as 'general' intelligence - what IQ tests are supposed to measure - then you should also think that designing bridges and designing foreign policies manifest much the same kind of cleverness, albeit applied to different tasks. People who are good at the one should then be, potentially, equally good at the other. So Veblen held, maybe naively, that society ought to be run by engineers; and Plato held, maybe even more naively, that it ought to be run by philosophers.

And if you don't like that, here's an asteroid that looks like a cock and balls from underneath.

Rest in peace Mandhla, at least Rigor Mortis will have slightly less work to do.


Paul said...

1. Fodor is brilliant. He did a recent review in the LRB of Galen Strawson on Consciousness, which should be read.

2. Obviously you know more of the undersides of male genitalia than I.

Eric Olthwaite said...

1. I note that Fodor's byline is still "Everyone wonders why he is writing still another book about the language of thought." after eight years, but he is very good.

2) I have mirrors on my floor. No wait. Girls tell me that's what it's like. Come to think of it there's no way to dig my way out of this...