dialogue with Blue Devil Knight
BDK: How much do the Balfour-philes focus on studies of common mistakes in human cognition that are typically weeded out only after the study of formal logic or mathematics? Such results suggest that what is especially unique about humans is not an innate ability to reason well, but our ability to use external symbol systems in a feedback loop which modifies our cognitive practices. This feedback loop allows us to escape some of our natural tendencies in reasoning (e.g., while it is common for humans to commit the fallacy of denying the antecedent, once this inference is made public and subject to empirical scrutiny, it becomes eliminated as an acceptable inference rule: it isn't built into our nervous systems).
VR: The feedback loop may be helpful for us in accessing what we know about reasoning, but I still have a problem. What we seem to be aware of when we reason is a truth that is not local, either spatially or temporally. How is that that we spatio-temporal creatures can be aware of something, like the law of non-contradiction, that is not local to space or time? Do feedback loops go up to Plato's heaven?
BDK: Most importantly, these arguments are sort of a tempest in a teapot in the absence of a good theory of animal cognition: if we don't know the basic architecture(s) of animal cognition, it is hard to argue about whether it could have evolved. Psychology has been building serious models of animal cognition for about 50 years, neuroscience has been studying it about the same amount of time, and we are nowhere close to having an accepted theory of such things. My bet is that in 100 years this debate will be approachable from a more empirically informed viewpoint, as there will be a naturalistic consensus based on solid data.
VR: It just seems as if the terms we use to describe our lives as cognizers, and I think, must use if we are to think of ourselves as rational cognizers, are terms that have to be left out if we are to follow the dictates of a genuinely naturalistic methodology. Getting specific mental content from physicalistically acceptable data, having genuinely normative logical norms, having truth and falsity, having mental states that are causally efficaceous in virtue of their content, are all things that, if you stick to the "rules" of methodological naturalism, you're never goiing to get.
BDK: There will still remain philosophical questions then, I'm sure, but they will be better posed (right now it's like philosophers arguing about the nature of space before Newton).
VR: But it looks to me as if the best models are going to be ones that break the methodological rules of science as we now know it. An account that is naturalistic in the full sense just does not seem to me to be a coherent possibility.