THERE IS NO BLIND BRAIN THEORY: neuro-fantasy and pseudo-philosophical legitimation

This is the provisional cover for a projected book devoted to the Blind Brain Theory (BBT) proposed by R.Scott Bakker, an author of science fiction and science fantasy. The full title is “Through the Brain Darkly: The Blind Brain Theory of R. Scott Bakker (Preface by Ray Bassier; Edited by Dan Mellamphy)“.

The book is supposed to contain commentaries on, and criticisms of, Bakker’s “theory” (a materialist account of the mind as reducible to the brain, a radical eliminativism) with replies by Bakker. Bakker’s aim seems to be to create a new type of “hard” science fantasy based on the cognitive sciences rather than on physics. This project of creating a new type science fantasy in a unified work is reliant on Bakker’s reading of a certain number of books and articles concerning cognitive science, which has led him to attempt to create his own fictional pop-philosophical scientific theory.

The aim of of this fictional pop-philosophical theory is to establish the non-autonomy of the mind in relation to the brain, and to proceed to its ontological elimination. The method is to appeal to cognitive science, relying heavily on a rhetoric of the unity and the certainty of contemporary science. This project of legitimating Bakker’s supposed philosophical theory is based on the selective extrapolation of findings cherry-picked from publications from the field of the cognitive sciences.

The proposed book is meant to permit the creation of a unified image projected backwards to become the unified source of the fictional and philosophical extrapolations. The project of such a book, in order to gain philosophical recognition, was to be accompanied by a preface by Ray Brassier, an established philosopher in the domain of “hard” neurophilosophy, who could thus legitimate the theory’s philosophical status.

The path proceeds from a diverse selection of (cherry-picked) results from the cognitive sciences to the extrapolation of a unified worldview, which is then projected as the rationale underlying Bakker’s hard science fantasy epic. The unified worldview would be able to be expressed in a pop-philosophical theory expounded in a unifying book. This book was to be packaged with a legitimating preface, written by Ray Brassier, a recognised philosopher.

The convergent composition of these elements, theory+sf epic+book+preface, would be advanced as an argument for the inescapable scientifically, philosophically, and fictionally established worldview propounded by Bakker: neuro-philosophical eliminativism.

Unfortunately, there is no “Blind Brain Theory”. What Bakker expresses is a Stimmung based on a ragbag of impressions and disjointed readings, that cannot even be coherently formulated as a theory. In his bloated ramblings Bakker himself sticks to dithyrambically listing the consequences of a “theory” that he can never quite get round to stating. But by mobilising various actors Bakker has attempted to provide a pseudo-legitimation for his soft science fantasy series, that he hopes can be given all the appearances of having a hard scientific and philosophical foundation.

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2 Responses to THERE IS NO BLIND BRAIN THEORY: neuro-fantasy and pseudo-philosophical legitimation

  1. rsbakker says:

    The theory, stated in its highest altitude form, is that we are natural in such a way that we cannot intuit ourselves as natural. Thus the continual appeal throughout the ages to something beyond the natural, or supernatural. Two introductory pieces on the neglect and heuristic angles of the theory can be found at, https://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cognition-obscura-reprise/ and, https://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/meaning-fetishism/ accordingly. It tracks scientific developments carefully, uses them to critique the pretensions of traditional philosophy, as in https://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/the-philosopher-the-drunk-and-the-lamppost/ .

    Intentionalists find the theory incoherent because they presume that any use of intentional idioms must presuppose one of the endless thousands of accounts of intrinsic intentionality. Since these accounts are precisely what is at issue, the incoherence charge begs the question, and reveals the curiously religious character of intentionalism.

    The question it endlessly poses intentionalist philosophy is: What evidences its claims? (Armchair contemplation?) Why is it chronically underdetermined? (Awaiting some messianic breakthrough in thought?) Why, given that science is transforming everything, warrants supernatural claims in this day and age? (Because it ‘feels that way’ when we ‘reason’ through issues?).

    Given that intentionalists have no way of answering these pretty obvious questions without raising even more troubling questions, they typically retreat into rhetorical handwaving and assertoric foot-stomping.

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  2. Michael S. Pearl says:

    Intentionalists find the theory incoherent because they presume that any use of intentional idioms must presuppose one of the endless thousands of accounts of intrinsic intentionality. Since these accounts are precisely what is at issue, the incoherence charge begs the question, and reveals the curiously religious character of intentionalism.

    1. A “begs the question” charge differs from an accusation of irrelevance (or utter lack of engagement).

    2. Consequently, a “begs the question” charge does not diminish the viability of the opposing/objecting approach.

    3. At best, the begging charge merely tends to assert that there persists some presumably significant incompleteness or indecisiveness with regards to the discourse concerning the issue at hand.

    4. This is why a “begs the question” charge is never particularly powerful – much less decisive.

    5. With regards to the matter of the “use of intentional idioms”, the theory at issue lends both relevance and credence to the opposing view for so long as the theory uses idioms espoused by and relied upon by theory-opponents.

    6. If the particular theory at issue is not reliant upon the “intentional idioms”, then it is reasonable to expect that the theory at issue can be expressed in a way which makes apparent that the currently contentious idioms are unnecessary and even superfluous.

    7. Were that theory expressed in a manner rid of those “intentional idioms”, the theory would succeed at isolating the “use of intentional idioms” by and to “intentionalists”, and that isolation seems likely necessary either to indicate that the “intentionalists” erroneously reify intentionality out of their preferred idioms or to produce some other sort of illusionism argument.

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