R.Scott Bakker is basically a disappointed structuralist: because there is no method or structure in the brain and its workings that can give certainty and infallibility in cognition, Bakker draws the conclusion that we have no cognition of our own cognition. Yet this very messiness and anarchy of the brain, involving a multitude of trials and errors, is precisely what allows it to attain meta-cognition quite regularly, even if not universally. The “blind” brain is the only one that is equal to the task of seeing itself, fallibly and intermittently, and so is blind only when seen from a foundationalist perspective, treating the brain as a subject confronted with an environment as external object.
Bakker is one of those nostalgics disappointed by the failure of the old quest for certainty. Despite his fascination for a pot pourri of findings of neurocognitive science, he has not changed that fundamental paradigm. As a result, he has no understanding of most of the philosophies he critiques, that go beyond that paradigm. He has not grasped that anegoic “messy” complexity is the solution and not the problem. He can say that the all cognition is “heuristic”, but he treats this idea as synonymous with cognitive incapacity and neglect. But the heuristic brain is the non-algorithmically creative brain.
Thus Bakker is caught in a metaphysical picture drawn on the basis of the bifurcation of subject and object and of the consequent quest for certainty in knowledge (that reductively he identifies with “cognition”). This quest fails, and messiness or disorder can no longer be seen as obstacles to cognition or to meta-cognition but as active facilitators of them. This is the lesson of Michel Serres’ THE PARASITE amongst many other works that Bakker “refutes” so glibly with his repetitive scientistic mantras.
Bakker has no idea of the paradigm change that makes disorder and uncertainty, in other words “error” and “neglect”, into key components of knowledge. He announces the “death of meaning”, but all that he can really assert is the death of the primacy of signification, which is no news at all. Despite criticising contemporary philosophers Bakker has no idea of the difference between meaning and signification. He has no idea of the difference between knowledge and cognition. He has no idea of collective, materially inscribed, constantly tested knowledge, he thinks that modern philosophy is all about intentional predicates, which only goes to show that he has never picked up a book by Zizek, Badiou, Deleuze, Zizek, Serres, Stiegler, or Latour. Or if he has, he doesn’t have the slightest clue about what they are saying. He is bluffing, and this is plain for all to see, if they have even the slightest acquaintance with the thought of any of those philosophers.
In engaging with Bakker, it is good, to keep him to specifics. When discussing Continental Philosophy, Bakker abounds in blanket condemnations and sweeping generalisations, but there is nothing behind, it’s all fluff. For example, he takes Lacan, Zizek, and most other Continental philosophers as “intentionalists”, that is as saying the reverse of what they actually say:
“You do realize that Lacan and Freud are both thoroughgoing intentionalists” (quoted from the comments to this post).
Lacan is most definitely not an intentionalist. On Lacan’s reading neither is Freud, and Freud is post-intentionalist from the beginning (over 100 years ago). How can Bakker even begin to understand Zizek?
Bakker definitely does not speak in the name of the scientific community, no matter what he insinuates. Apart from a few careerist opportunists, how can the “scientific community” be interested in a position that is never in fact clearly formulated? Bakker’s BBT (really more a Stimmung than a theory) is neither science nor philosophy. It is composed of cherry-picked scientific findings and speculationshastily thrown into opposition with long-abandonned philosophical views. The resulting argument is internal to Bakker’s own worldview, as he bravely tries to update his own philosophical culture by means of his cogsci gleanings. Bakker is arguing with himself, and trying to get us to take sides, and to help that side out. His BBT is truly a case of the blind leading the blind, an intra-personal drama where Bakker is trying, and failing, to re-educate his antiquated philosophical self to neuro-newspeak.