"Armchair philosophy and experimental studies of mind"

9 January, 2022

V.V. Vasiliev's report at the meeting of the seminar "The Sciences of Man and Society in the Digital Age" at the IF RAS

Abstract of the report:

We live in a time of crisis of armchair philosophy. Its main tool has traditionally been conceptual analysis. Conceptual analysis was interpreted as a procedure that clarifies the concepts available to people. The results of such an analysis should have been recorded in analytical judgments. However, in the middle of the XX century, W. Quine undermined confidence in the existence of non-trivial analytical judgments. Numerous followers of Quine began to talk about the need to bring philosophical methods closer to the methods of experimental sciences. In recent times, this trend has intensified even more due to the spread of the ideas of "experimental philosophy". And although some authors, and above all T. Williamson, try to defend the ideals of armchair philosophy, they do not associate its future with conceptual analysis. However, it can be argued that with this approach, their philosophy will remain armchair only in words. Quine's followers, such as D. Dennett, say that if cabinet philosophy should be like Williamson's, then they are cabinet philosophers. It is possible that its true revival can be associated only with the reform of conceptual analysis. Conceptual analysis in the old sense really deserved criticism. And it's not even Quine's objections (which can be answered), but the fact that in its original form it was a superficial procedure, too closely related to words and their use. One can try to deepen the conceptual analysis by moving to the level of conceptual schemes associated with such "natural beliefs" of people as the belief in the existence of physical reality beyond their sensations, the belief in the existence of the causes of what is happening, the belief in the presence of consciousness in other people or the belief in the correspondence of past and future experience. By clarifying such beliefs and their relationship, we can come to an idea of under what ontological assumptions about the nature of consciousness and its relationship to physical reality, these natural beliefs of ours can form a coherent, consistent whole. Along this path, it is possible to develop an armchair philosophy of mind, which will be relatively independent of experimental studies of mind and complement them.