Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Habermas and McDowell (again!)

First, I want to refer the readers to Carl sach’s illuminating comments (as usual) on my previous post. Second, this great quote by Joel Anderson which puts the whole issue in a nutshell:

“For many free will theorists . . . the problem of mental causation is clearly at the heart of the free will debate. If actions are not ultimately explicable as merely the causal effects of brain events, it is suggested, it is hard to avoid the dualistic implications of saying that it was ‘the agent himself’ (as distinct force) who generated the actions. Habermas’ strategy to avoid this dilemma involves treating mental causation as essentially an interface between our brains (as a cognitive apparatus that has evolved to do just this) and our environment. Importantly, however, the environment is also cultural-symbolic, and this is what Habermas calls ‘objective mind’ [objectiver Gesit] . . . which includes the culture, language, intuitions, practices, norms, and so on that structure and facilitate our thinking and acting. Mental causation, for Habermas, turns out to be a matter of our brains interfacing with this cultural domain. The important thing for this argument about the objective mind is that it is not expressible in a physicalist vocabulary and can be described only from the perspective of those who have been socialized into it, and yet it is also something which itself has developed and has its own natural history. In this respect, as well as in his defense of a ‘weak naturalism,’ Habermas’ view shares some central tenets with McDowell’s view.” (Joel Anderson, Free will, neuroscience, and the participant perspective, p. 8, italics in the original).

I am not sure about the word “interface.” Apart from it. I would stand for everything in it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Is Habermas a compatibilist?

Here is the answer in Habermas’ own words.

“ . . . I am also a ‘compatibilit’ of sorts. The human mind, with its complimentary, interlocking epistemic perspective, is part of the universe of nature. Where I depart from the compatibilist mainstream, however, is in rejecting scientistic thesis that this universe is adequately characterized as the object domain of the established nomological sciences (on the model of contemporary physics).”

The text is a footnote to Habermas’ recent piece on free will.
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