There's a reason they call that guy "Hacker"

Thu 23 Jan 2014 12:44 PM

Following a link from Brian Leiter's blog, I happened upon an article in which Peter Hacker defends an old-school conception of philosophy.

As Hacker sees it, there are two things that philosophers might be doing:

The first is metaphysics, enquiry into "the essential, necessary features of all possible worlds."

The second is a priori conceptual investigation, "investigations into what makes sense and what does not."

On the former conception, metaphysics is supposed to be like the sciences in producing facts and findings. The difference is just in whether the findings are necessary (metaphysics) or contingent (empirical science). Yet, Hacker asks, where are the established results of metaphysics? All philosophers have to show for millennia of work is controversy and paradox.

So Hacker advocates the latter conception, on which there are no substantive facts to be gleaned from philosophy at all. Rather, what one learns is that some would-be facts turn out to be nonsense. Yet, I ask, where are the pseudoproblems condemned forever to the dustbin? All philosophers of Hackers' stripe have to show for centuries of work is disagreement and dismissive hand waving.

Hacker's disjunction is plausibly associated with analytic philosophy so called. Claiming that would-be problems are dissolved by criteria of meaning was the method shared by logical positivists and Wittgensteinians, and conceptual analysis is perhaps what gives us the term 'analytic'. And the conception of metaphysics as fundamental ontology and the science of necessity is typically billed as 'analytic metaphysics'.

My rejection of the disjunction is one reason I do not self-identify as an analytic philosopher.


from: Edmundas Adomonis

Wed 29 Jan 2014 08:40 AM

That's interesting. Is there any text where I could read your metaphilosophical views and your attitude to analytic philosophy in general? We had some discussions about the status and definition of analytic philosophy but reached no firm conclusions. It seems there is the narrow and wide description of analytic philosophy, e.g. this is kind of wide: see General presentation of ESAP

from: P.D.

Fri 31 Jan 2014 08:56 AM

I talked about the "analytic" label in this old post. I discuss my metaphilosophical outlook here and there, but I haven't written much about it at length. There are probably some other blog posts I could link to, and there's a bit in my book (Scientific Enquiry and Natural Kinds esp. in ch 1 and in ch 4).

from: Edmundas Adomonis

Sun 02 Feb 2014 03:20 AM

Thanks, your book seems to be important for me in other respects as well; I'll try to find it. "Kindification" is quite interesting even without the metaphysically-laden problem of natural kinds.

PS Perhaps Heidegger might belong to the mystical tradition and some even say that then he joined the ideological tradition :)