0 0 Colin McGinn Colin McGinn2017-01-17 19:20:362017-01-17 19:20:36Implicit Bias
The recent collapse of this psychological theory is not even a bit surprising. Five minutes thought could have persuaded anyone that this was yet another rickety psychological concoction. But people are gullible and will believe virtually anything if a psychologist tells them it is so. I gave up psychology over forty years ago because of methodological problems (among other reasons). Philosophers, in particular, should not accept uncritically what psychologists claim to have discovered.
Psychology certainly has its problems from the replication crisis to methods that are not powerful enough to discriminate theories. I think it’s good that a weak theory, with weak evidence, has been shown to be wanting. You’re right, and there are many more in psychology that should go the same way. But if I wanted to design a better altimeter, a better questionnaire, or interview an eyewitness, I would ask the advice of a psychologist rather than a philosopher or other scientist. Psychologists have their uses and I’m sure Philosophers do to. But I also expect Russell was right when he wrote “I still think that what we can know about the world outside the thoughts and feelings of living beings, we can only know through physical science”. Personally I’m just not so sure when I would seek the advice of a philosopher. If I wanted to know about machine intelligence the work of the deep learning engineers (from Hinton to Hassabis) seems so much more impressive and informative than the work of Searle.
Part of my point is that philosophers do not properly understand the methodological problems of psychology, which is why they they are so credulous about psychology. I was originally trained as an experimental psychologist so I do understand these problems.
I would suggest seeking the advice of a philosopher only when you have a philosophical question, but that is a good time to do it.
So what is a philosophical question?
Is it possible to demarcate between a philosophical question and a science question?
I guess I’ve just answered my first question….
There are different ideas about the nature of philosophy (and the nature of science come to that): my view is set out in my book Truth By Analysis. It is a mark of a philosophical question that science can’t answer it.
But I take your point. Philosophers should be more critical of psychology.