Monday, April 25, 2011

Dennett's Kinds of Things—Towards a Bestiary of the Manifest Image

Kinds of Things—Towards a Bestiary of the Manifest Image

Daniel C. Dennett final draft for SCIENTIFIC PHILOSOPHY AND METAPHYSICS. Edited by Don Ross, James Ladyman & Harold Kincaid. Oxford U.P. March 25, 2011

The main goal in the rest of this paper is simply to draw attention to the riotous assembly of candidate things that we find in the manifest image. Wilfrid Sellars (1963) “discovered” the manifest image much the way Columbus discovered the western hemisphere, but he, like Columbus, was more the explorer than the systematic cartographer, and, as just noted, our Mercator has yet to appear. But what about a Linnaeus, a systematic taxonomist of all the things we find in this new, if all too familiar, world? Ontology, it seems to me, has been resolutely reductive and minimalist in its attempts to come up with an exhaustive list of kingdoms, classes, genera and species of things. No doubt the motivation has been the right one: to prepare the disheveled cornucopia for scientific accounting, with everything put ultimately in terms of atoms and the void, space-time points, or (by somewhat different reductive trajectories) substances and universals, events and properties and relations, As is well known, these procrustean beds provide metaphysicians with no end of difficult challenges, trying to fit all the candidates into one austere collection of pigeonholes or another. Where do we put numbers, or melodies, or ideas, for instance? Do numbers even exist, and are there different kinds of existence? Instead of attempting any answers of my own to these oft-asked questions of systematic taxonomy, I am going to push, informally, in the opposite direction, like the bestiarists of yore, recounting with as much ontological tolerance as I can, a few of the neglected candidates for thinghood that everyday folks have no trouble countenancing in their casual ontologies. Metaphysics as folklore studies, you might say.