pinker problems


Consider this first difference, which is well illustrated by the starting point of Pinker’s article: He says that modern philosophers such as Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Kant were in fact cognitive neuroscientists, evolutionary psychologists and social psychologists who just didn’t have the right theories yet: “They were cognitive neuroscientists, who tried to explain thought and emotion in terms of physical mechanisms of the nervous system. They were evolutionary psychologists, who speculated on life in a state of nature and on animal instincts that are “infused into our bosoms. And they were social psychologists, who wrote of the moral sentiments that draw us together”. If this is so, then why is it that most contemporary neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists and evolutionary biologists do not read a single line by these authors (apart from some erudite pop scientists who take the time to Google some quotations from Descartes for their new bestseller), whereas philosophers do? Does Pinker seriously think that philosophers and humanities scholars still read Kant or Hobbes because they have not been informed that new results in science are available? Are they just dumb idiots who read Hobbes instead of von Neumann and Morgenstern because they did not update their reading list on game theory? The mere suggestion is ludicrous.

more from Gloria Origgi at The Berlin Review of Books here.