Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Raymond Tallis: philosopher

 “ … [T]he illegitimately and sometimes insanely, extended misuse of the terminformationis absolutely pivotal to establishing the conceptual confusions necessary to the seeming fruitfulness and explanatory power of much modern thought about the mind and the brain [in philosophy, evolutionary psychology, and cognitive science, for example]—and ourselves. This converges in the computational theory of mind [this can be traced back to the early work of Hilary Putnam, and becomes particularly influential with the philosophical work of the late Jerry Fodor and the writings of the philosopher and cognitive scientist, Daniel Dennett, and is well popularized by the linguist and cognitive psychologist, Stephen Pinker]. By playing on different meanings ofinformationand transferring epithets like a volleyball [across several nets], it is possible to argue that minds, brains, organisms, various artefacts such as computers and even non-living thermodynamic systems are all information-processing devices. Because they are deemed to be essentially the same in this vitally important respect, they can be used to model each other; homology and analogy can run riot. Once the concept of information is liberated from the idea of a conscious someone being informed and from that of a conscious someone doing the informing, anything is possible.” — Raymond Tallis*

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Raymond Tallis has published over 35 books, many of those in philosophy, and he remains one of my favorite contemporary philosophers. He is somewhat (i.e., comparatively) neglected by those trained as professional philosophers, but I dare say it is in part  because he is rather more bold and brighter than many if not most of them (another reason perhaps being professional envy). What is more, he is a true polymath. Like Grant Gillett (this link does not list all of Gillet’s published books) another contemporary philosopher well-deserving of our attention, he has been both a physician and medical science researcher, although he is far more prolific as a philosopher than Gillett (which is to take nothing away from the latter’s virtues as a philosopher). I enjoyed and learned much from Tallis’s trilogy in philosophical anthropology mentioned below, especially the second volume, I Am: Philosophical Inquiry into First-Person Being (2004). And I highly recommend Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity (2011). I thought to introduce his philosophical writings today because I recently picked up two of his latest books, the second of which I’ve begun reading: Of Time and Lamentation: Reflections on Transience (Agenda Publishing, 2017), and Logos: The Mystery of How We Make Sense of the World (Agenda Publishing, 2018). For what it’s worth, as this is where I part company with him, Tallis does not appear to have a favorable of view of either psychoanalytic psychology and therapy or Marxism, indeed, his political outlook, from what I can ascertain, is rather conservative, although not dogmatically or perfervidly so.

Raymond C. Tallis (born 10 October 1946) “is a philosopher, poet, novelist, cultural critic and a retired medical physician and clinical neuroscientist. Specialising in geriatrics, Tallis served on several UK commissions on medical care of the aged and was an editor or major contributor to two key textbooks in the field, The Clinical Neurology of Old Age and Textbook of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. [….] From 1996 to 2000, he was Consultant Adviser in Care of the Elderly to the Chief Medical Officer. In 1999–2000, he was Vice-Chairman of the Stroke Task Force of the Advisory Group developing the National Service Framework for Older People. He has been on the Standing Medical Advisory Committee and the Council of the Royal College of Physicians and was secretary of the Joint Specialist Committee of the Royal College on Health Care of the Elderly between 1995 and 2003. He was a member of the Joint Task Force on Partnership in Medicine Taking, established by Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, in 2001. For three years he was a member of one of the appraisal panels of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence. He retired in 2006 as Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester.
Philosophical Works

Aping mankind
Tallis attacked post-structuralism in books such as Not Saussure and Theorrhoea and After, and he contested assumptions of artificial intelligence research in his book Why the Mind is Not a Computer: A Pocket Dictionary on Neuromythology. He denies that our appreciation of art and music can be reduced to scientific terms. His philosophical writings attempt to supply an “anthropological” [as in ‘philosophical anthropology] account of what is distinctive about human beings. To this end he has written a trilogy of books entitled The Hand [2003]; I Am: A Philosophical Inquiry into First-Person Being[ 2004]; and The Knowing Animal [2004]. He has also argued extensively about the perceived misuse of scientific language and concepts to explain human experiences [and the mind and human consciousness in particular]. 

In 2007 Tallis published Unthinkable Thought: The Enduring Significance of Parmenides. His book The Kingdom of Infinite Space: A Fantastical Journey Around Your Head, which explores the range of activities that go on inside the human head, was published in April 2008. Michelangelos Finger: An Exploration of Everyday Transcendence was published in 2010.
Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity was published in 2011. In Defence of Wonder and Other Philosophical Reflections, a collection of essays from The Reader and elsewhere, was published in April 2012.” [….]

Tallis of time and lamentation 
* Tallis demonstrates the manner in which this slippery slope ends in a logical conclusion that postulates the “informationalization” of the universe itself (in particular, among both computer scientists and physicists, with some individuals, like Edward Fredkin and Stephen Wolfram, possessing expertise in both fields).
  Tallis Logos


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