Saturday, February 09, 2008

Consciousness: Recent public squabble between philosophers of mind rates better than most sitcoms

Better even than a Britcom, which it actually is.

A hilarious public feud between two philosophers - Ted Honderich and Colin McGinn over consciousness (as recounted by Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian Unlimited), mainly shows how little is known of the subject:

The row started decades ago over a girl (well, that's the claim, anyway) and culminated with a damning review of yet another book on consciousness:
"Is there anything of merit in On Consciousness? Honderich does occasionally show glimmers of understanding that the problem of consciousness is difficult and that most of our ideas about it fall short of the mark. His instincts, at least, are not always wrong. It is a pity that his own efforts here are so shoddy, inept, and disastrous (to use a term he is fond of applying to the views of others)."

Meanwhile, Jeffries asks the dissed author Honderich for a response:
What does the man on the receiving end think of this review? "It is a cold, calculated attempt to murder a philosopher's reputation," says Honderich. The review has reignited a feud between the two philosophers that shows how bitter, unforgiving and (to outsiders) unwittingly hilarious academic disputes can be. It certainly makes the bear pit that is journalism seem like sunshine and lollipops by comparison.

and, last I heard, he wanted compensation from the journal.

In case you thought philosophy of mind was boring ...

Chill, guys. Books on consciousness are difficult by their nature. We all know we're conscious, but what does that mean? Maybe they should just have kept going on about the girl?