For a Non-Ideal Metaphysics

6a00d83453bcda69e201bb07e3203c970d-350wiJustin E.H. Smith at his blog:

A very telling example of the dismissive approach to the sort of ineliminable dimensions of human existence I am stressing is Dan Dennett's account of why we continue to fear ghosts and ghouls when we, say, enter a dark attic. It is, Dennett explains, because our brains have evolved into 'hyperactive intentionality detection devices'. Dennett is certainly correct on this point, but the interpretation of what we should do in light of it is just the opposite of what I am suggesting. Dennett believes that empirical science and critical thinking can correct the brain's hyperactivity, and that once we have established what is really there, in the attic, we can move on. The final account of what is there will include only the entities of natural science, and all the products of that earlier hyperactivity will be confined to the history books.

But is the list of these entities really the most useful account we can give of the phenomenology of being-in-dark-attics? Even if we are all committed to a 'just the facts' approach, might not the facts about the particular character of the hyperactive brain's phantasms –that they, say, produce pale dead girls in one time and place, dark old men in another–, be just as relevant to the final description the human sciences would want to give as the list of physical entities present will be to the final description offered by natural science? At issue here, ultimately, is the philosophical question of what counts as a fact, and what I am trying to do is to press for an answer as to why it should be natural science that gets to determine, for philosophy, the answer. To pursue such questions is not to abandon science as a final arbiter, but simply to acknowledge what even the most heavy-handed 20th-century philosophers of science were prepared to recognize: that different levels of description are relevant for different tasks.

more here.