Cognitive dualism and incommensurable ways of thinking – Kieran Quill

Date(s) - 06/06/2021
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

We seem to be quite stricken with incommensurate ways of thinking, and this cannot but translate into incommensurate ways of acting. Roger Scruton, echoing Kant and Spinoza, recently made prominent the concept of “Cognitive dualism” (e.g., his book “The soul of the World”, 2014): “the world can be understood completely in two incommensurable ways, the way of science, and the way of interpersonal understanding…that which, from the point of view of the understanding, is subject to biological laws that determine its behaviour, is from the point of view of practical reasoning a free agent, obedient to the laws of reason. These two points of view are incommensurable: that is to say, we cannot derive from one of them a description of the other. Nor can we understand how one and the same object can be apprehended from both perspectives…”

Similar themes appear in Wilfrid Sellar’s “the manifest image” and the “scientific image”, and in the whole notion of “The Two Cultures” of the humanities and of the natural sciences (C. P. Snow). Even at the very basis of modern physics itself, we have, notoriously, incommensurability: the wave ontology and the particle ontology. Though “wave-particle duality” causes little practical trouble for most of physics and chemistry (though an immense amount of philosophical controversy in the infamous proliferation of “interpretations” of quantum physics), cognitive dualism is much more troublesome in the modern world in general, as seen in the cultural, and even medical science and jurisprudence, struggles about neuroscience: the human as a mechanism; the human as a moral, free person, accountable for his actions.


This will be an online session on Zoom.  For access please click on the following link SLPC Zoom Meeting.  The meeting starts at 12:30, but the link will be open from 12:15 to allow attendees to connect before the meeting