G. A. Cohen, Finding Oneself in the Other, 2012: Chapter 5: “Complete Bullshit.” This chapter is a reprint of an article which appeared in Sarah Buss and Lee Overton, eds., Contours of Agency: Themes from the Philosophy of Harry Frankfurt, 2002. In this festschrift, Frankfurt replied: “Reply to G. A. Cohen.” In this piece, Cohen marks the important distinction between a bullshitter and bullshit.
The Supreme Court case which gave the right to patent life forms: Diamond v. Chakrabarty. The Supreme Court case was argued on March 17, 1980 and decided on June 16, 1980. The patent was granted by the USPTO on Mar 31, 1981.[
First, everything which I write here, please consider as a draft which may be modified or retracted.
Second, when I look back at things which I have written, they are mostly criticisms — rejections of this or that.
Third, what I have to say about metaphysics and epistemology, I have said in my Ph.D. dissertation, Critique of Wilfrid Sellars’ Materialism, 1990. I characterize myself as an Emergent Materialist, and I agree with Sellars that “in the dimension of describing and explaining the world, science is the measure of all things, of what is, that it is, and of what is not that it is not.” In light of the existence of artifacts (things created by humans), the Sellarsian claim has to be qualified. When Sellars uses the term “world” he must be talking about — to use his term — the “physical-2” world (this is the physical world before the emergence of life, i.e. the inanimate world). If he includes the “physical-1 world,” then the term “science” must be expanded to cover intentional phenomena (function, teleology). And “explanation” must be expanded to cover not only causal explanations but explanations by reasons.
Fourth, I believe that Curt Ducasse was correct in viewing philosophy as dealing with appraisals — both positive and negative. To call something bullshit is to express a very strong negative appraisal.
Accepting or succumbing to bullshit is foolish; rejecting bullshit is wise.
The proposition above is an example of an appraisal, a value judgment. And what field of learning studies appraisals? According to the late philosopher Curt Ducasse, the primitive or basic subject studied by philosophy is precisely various appraisals. And the knowledge of the norms of appraisals is wisdom. A philosopher, on this line of reasoning, is a lover of — in the sense of a searcher after — wisdom, which happens to be the etymological description of philosophy.
However, knowing what wisdom is, does not make one wise. The reason is quite straightforward. Wisdom consists of knowing how to act A in given circumstances C, which can be expressed by the conditional statement.
If one is in circumstance C, one should act (or do) A.
Now, it is possible to know this rule or norm, but not know that one is in circumstance C, or not to have a clear idea of the circumstance C. But the difficulty in acting wisely is further complicated by the phenomenon called “weakness of the will.” In other words, although you know how you should act, you do not. You may be lazy, you may procrastinate, you may be pulled by some other desire, with the result, you fail to act at all, or you fail to act in a timely manner. My point is, that wisdom is one thing, and acting wisely is another. Philosophy, according to Ducasse, studies the nature of wisdom; it does not make you wise. Put otherwise, the necessary condition for acting wisely, is having wisdom. But having wisdom is not a sufficient condition for being wise.