The Neurofeminist


Richard Marshall interviews Anne Jaap Jacobson, in 3:AM Magazine:

3:AM: …In your paper ‘Dennett’s Dangerous Ideas:ediel science. Elements of a critique of Cognitivism’ you begin with the blunt statement, ‘Human beings do sometimes believe false generalisations about themselves… we have, or may have, false beliefs about our psychology.’ You give a thorough tour of the geography of this terrain. A key thinker for you, in that he helps set the terms of the discussion, is Steven Stich who claims that we may well not have beliefs and desires. Could you say something about how someone might think such a thing?

AJJ: We talk about beliefs and desires a lot, and it seems bizarre to say that that is all wrong. One sensible thing one might mean, though, is that beliefs and desires are not the natural kinds that we need for a deeper understanding of how the mind works. I do not think, as eliminativists are inclined to do, that we can simply give up such ways of talking. Our moral and prudential language is tied to our psychological ascriptions. I have tentatively distinguished between synthetic and analytic approaches, where the synthetic approach attempts to capture the phenomenology. The analytic approach looks more to the scientific explanations in a possible quite different language. I think we can expected there to be corrections in either direction.

3:AM: OK, so then you argue that there is a mistake at the very heart of recent philosophy of mind. You think this is a mistake inherited from eighteenth century thought and has been transplanted into the work of philosophers such as Dennett and Fodor. So first can you tell us about this error?

AJJ: Let me explain how my views have become enlarged, though not really changed. I thought for some time that I simply could not do philosophy of mind. I first encountered it in the taxonomies of Gilbert Ryle and Tony Kenny. Ryle was in fact my over-all BPhil supervisor at Oxford. Rather to my horror, I realised that, as it were, I was failing to grasp what it was to go on in the same way. It was completely eluding me. At that time, I was doing a lot of work on causation, and so I reckoned that I’d better stick to metaphysics and epistemology, which seemed to me more tractable. I now think that one problem was that mental terms were being assumed to have some unity that I now believe they do not.