Humanism Amidst Our Machines   /   Summer 2011   /    Book Forum: The Retrieval Of Ethics By Talbot Brewer

Timothy Chappell Comments

Wilfrid Sellars thought the point of philosophy was to see how things—in the broadest sense of the word “things”—hang together—in the broad- est senses of the words “hang” and “together.” Different possibilities emerge when we get more specific about what it is to see how things hang together. Someone who thinks that the things that hang together include God, or Plato’s Forms, or Leibnizian monads, or the Jungian collective unconscious, inevitably has a very different over- all picture from someone who thinks that the only things there are to hang together are genes, or matter in motion, or varied manifestations of a Nietzschean will-to-power.

Won’t the details of our metaphysics settle most other details? Isn’t one of the details that can only be settled this way the place of special- ization in philosophy? We can’t, it seems, start off by deploring academic specialization as inher- ently antiphilosophical. A priori it could turn out that the world is inherently modular or atomistic. If so, presumably our style of philosophy should match this modularity.

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