Life as Perpetual Motion Machine: Adrian Johnston and the Continental Credibility Crisis

R.Scott Bakker’s take on Adrian Johnston’s new book

Three Pound Brain

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman cites the difficulty we have distinguishing experience from memory as the reason why we retrospectively underrate our suffering in a variety of contexts. Given the same painful medical procedure, one would expect an individual suffering for twenty minutes to report a far greater amount than an individual suffering for half that time or less. Such is not the case. As it turns out duration has “no effect whatsoever on the ratings of total pain” (380). Retrospective assessments, rather, seem determined by the average of the pain’s peak and its coda.

Absent intellectual effort, the default is to remove the band-aid slowly.

Far from being academic, this ‘duration neglect,’ as Kahneman calls it, places the therapist in something of a bind. What should the physician’s goal be? The reduction of the pain actually experienced, or the reduction of the pain remembered

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8 Responses to Life as Perpetual Motion Machine: Adrian Johnston and the Continental Credibility Crisis

  1. David Roden says:

    Brilliant stuff. Thanks for re-blogging, Terrence. And thanks to Scott for reading this stuff so the rest of us don’t have to.

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  2. terenceblake says:

    No, it is not brilliant. It is long-winded, repetitious, badly written, badly argued. It does not engage Johnston’s text except for a few sentences that Scott ripped out of context and just baldly contradicted. I re-blogged it not as a sign of approval, but as a call for more dialogue,

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  3. rsbakker says:

    Okay… So I read the first one. I plumb just don’t get most of it. And I recommend people read the ACTUAL back and forth we had prior the prolegomena posts. I can’t say I’ve ever had anyone recapitulate a debate I had with them in the form of an interior monologue before!

    When questions like, “Why should anyone take your discourse seriously?” get poo-pooed in that discourse, I think it’s a pretty good sign something fishy’s going on in that discourse. Don’t you?

    Theoretical incompetence entirely applies to my claims: why do you think I try to avoid ontology as much as I’m able?! It’s the bullet I bite on my About page on TPB. It’s the whole reason why I restrict BBT to actual claims about our actual capacities that will be empirically sorted. Otherwise I marshal my cartoons the best I can, resigned to the fact that the further I theoretically stray from the sciences, the more ersatz bullshit abounds.

    But this facile charge of performative contradiction, I can’t help but feel, is simply a dodge for your inability to answer the problem of theoretical incompetence. Praytell, what do you do, Terence, to avoid running afoul Theoretical Incompetence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases)? Just follow your ‘metacognitive instincts’? Because as far as I can tell, that’s what Johnston does! Or do you acknowledge that, no, you did not win the Magical Belief Lottery, and that you, like me, are very likely, totally filled with shit?

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  4. terenceblake says:

    I used your questions to construct a problematic that goes beyond your or my actual positions, so it is not an interior monologue. I recommend that people read the posts, as the discussion is unfortunately mere anecdotal occasioning of reflexion on a larger issue. I say “unfortunately” as I hoped for more, a real dialogue;

    In my posts, I consider your type of position (scientistic determinist materialism) as one in a series of attempts to escape from constructionism, along with Kolozova’s, Johnston’s and Stengers’ positions. Yours is the worst, empty rodomontades instead of doing the philosophical work.

    I gave the dialogue a week of my spare time, virtually every evening when I came home from work, in the train and the bus on the way to work, Sunday all day long. I don’t “poo poo” your question, but I give it the best answer I’m able to. You do not see the arguments, I’m done.

    The charge is “facile” because you are doing performative contradiction all the time, using scientific knowledge to prove we are incapable of knowledge (“theoretical incompetence”). Wikipedia won’t save you. Wikipedia is full of mistakes, but it is also full of knowledge, including knowledge about cognitive biases, which you cite.

    You don’t avoid ontology, you just close your eyes and brag “No ontology here!”

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  5. rsbakker says:

    And I would appreciate all that hard work if I could just understand how any of your arguments are supposed to work. Almost all of them depend on straw – copious amounts of obvious straw – and when I call you on it, you raise your verbal hands a say, “I’m just trying to give you an argument, man!” *Whose* arguments is the question, and why the hell do you keep attaching my name to them?

    To whit:

    “I keep wanting to say: “it’s all heuristic, it’s all motley, so see yourself as that and you will talk differently. It’s not enough to say the words when the subject comes up, and then to forget about it the next minute and to present yourself as empirical and the other guy as speculative. “Experience without concepts is blind”, that means it’s theoretical all the way down, there is no raw empiricity. It’s speculation all the way down, so apply that to your way of engaging Johnston, you are in the same speculative boat.”

    Where have I argued ‘raw empiricity’ (where has *anyone* argued that within the last fifty years)? Speculation plays a role in all theory certainly, but does that make all theory equal? No. So what distinguishes good theory from bad theory, words that describe what plausibly might the case versus words that merely describe what might possibly be the case? This is just my question from above (which you evaded) asks. What is the cognitive difference? The speculative boat has a bridge and steerage, so what distinguishes those clustered about the bridge from those packed in steerage? Now BBT makes a number of testable predictions and is susceptible to falsification. It actually lies within the muddy-yet-miraculous self-corrective ambit of the sciences. If verified, it will a transformational effect on our self-understanding. If not, then we can move on. Johnston’s theory… Yours?

    So again, given the *fact* of theoretical incompetence, Why should anyone take such discourses seriously? Answer it, assuming that at least 50% of what’s on that Wikipedia page is factual (!). Please, save everyone the labour and just answer the question. If you don’t believe that theoretical incompetence applies to you or your discourse, then explain what renders it exempt. I’ve claimed no exemption, save where my theory makes empirically testable claims.

    Here’s a provocative way to put the question: What distinguishes ‘reality gap theory’ from ‘intelligent design theory’ such that the former is superior?

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