jerry fodor ruminates on a new philosophy book and other things


Frayn is the kind of philosopher who can’t quite believe that what he believes is mostly true; that, by and large, things are much as we all suppose them to be, and that we suppose them to be that way mostly because that’s the way they are. And yet, on the face of it, that’s surely the view that has much the most to recommend it. As a matter of fact, there’s no competition; it’s the only story that anybody has a glimmer of how to tell. It’s one thing to remark that there could be other stories; it’s something quite else actually to tell one that is remotely plausible. No doubt, there’s plenty to worry about at the fringes of what we believe; quantum entanglement really is hard to swallow, and I, for one, can’t get my head around black holes. But Bossie? And the car in the garage? What’s the likelihood that we’ve got it all wrong about them? How could we have? What on earth would conceivably explain Bossie being in my story if not Bossie being in the world?

I will tell you a philosophical joke. Once upon a time, a visiting scholar presented a lecture on the topic: ‘How many philosophical positions are there in principle?’ ‘In principle,’ he began, ‘there are exactly 12 philosophical positions.’ A voice called from the audience: ‘Thirteen.’ ‘There are,’ the lecturer repeated, ‘exactly 12 possible philosophical positions; not one less and not one more.’ ‘Thirteen,’ the voice from the audience called again. ‘Very well, then,’ said the lecturer, now perceptibly irked, ‘I shall proceed to enumerate the 12 possible philosophical positions. The first is sometimes called “naive realism”. It is the view according to which things are, by and large, very much the way that they seem to be.’ ‘Oh,’ said the voice from the audience. ‘Fourteen!’

more from the LRB here.