Endless Incoherence— A Review of Shoemaker's Physical Realization (2009)(review revised 2019)

In Talking Monkeys-- Philosophy, Psychology, Science, Religion and Politics on a Doomed Planet-- Articles and Reviews 2006-2019 Michael Starks 3rd Edition. Las Vegas, NV USA: Reality Press. pp. 284-301 (2019)
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Over 40 years ago I read a small grey book with metaphysics in the title which began with the words “Metaphysics is dead. Wittgenstein has killed it.” I am one of many who agree but sadly the rest of the world has not gotten the message. Shoemaker’s work is nonsense on stilts but is unusual only in that it never deviates into sense from the first paragraph to the last. At least with Dennett, Carruthers, Churchland etc. one gets a breath of fresh air when they discuss cognitive science (imagining they are still doing philosophy). As W showed so beautifully, the confusions that lead to metaphysics are universal and nearly inescapable aspects of our psychology. They occur not only in all thinking on behavior but throughout science as well. It’s easy to find examples in Hawking, Weinberg, Penrose, Green, who of course have no idea they have left science and entered metaphysics, that the statement they just made is not a matter of fact at all but a matter of conceptual (linguistic) confusion. “Law, event, space, time, force, matter, proof, connection, cause, follows, physical”, etc., all have clear uses in certain technical contexts, but these blend insensibly into quite different uses that have little in common but the spelling. Since it is pointless to waste time deconstructing Shoemaker line by line, showing the same errors over and over, I will describe some facts about how our psychology (language) works and with this outline and the references I give it is quite straightforward to give a meaningful description of the world in place of the metaphysical fantasies. If I were to debate Shoemaker we would never get beyond the title. Horwich gives one of the most beautiful summaries of where an understanding of Wittgenstein leaves us that I have ever seen. “There must be no attempt to explain our linguistic/conceptual activity (PI 126) as in Frege’s reduction of arithmetic to logic; no attempt to give it epistemological foundations (PI 124) as in meaning based accounts of a priori knowledge; no attempt to characterize idealized forms of it (PI 130) as in sense logics; no attempt to reform it (PI 124, 132) as in Mackie’s error theory or Dummett’s intuitionism; no attempt to streamline it (PI 133) as in Quine’s account of existence; no attempt to make it more consistent (PI 132) as in Tarski’s response to the liar paradoxes; and no attempt to make it more complete (PI 133) as in the settling of questions of personal identity for bizarre hypothetical ‘teleportation’ scenarios.” Those wishing a comprehensive up to date framework for human behavior from the modern two systems view may consult my book ‘The Logical Structure of Philosophy, Psychology, Mind and Language in Ludwig Wittgenstein and John Searle’ 2nd ed (2019). Those interested in more of my writings may see ‘Talking Monkeys--Philosophy, Psychology, Science, Religion and Politics on a Doomed Planet--Articles and Reviews 2006-2019 3rd ed (2019) and Suicidal Utopian Delusions in the 21st Century 4th ed (2019).

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