I think skyhook is a good name for a particular kind of bad explanation. Namely, one that doesn’t attempt to ground the phenomena it describes in things that we already think exist, having them free-floating instead. Hence the opposite of a skyhook is a crane.
Allegedly I “condemn all skyhooks” (#64) and have a “fear” or “hatred” of them (#62). But all I said about them was that they “are a bad bet” (#63). I think you have a fear of my non-fear of skyhooks. It’s true that I think they’re a waste of time, but I don’t think they’re certainly wrong. Normally they’re just dearly held beliefs. The ones we’re talking about (creativity out of nothing and spooky consciousness) are the traditional, incumbent theories that have been around for as long as writing. They’re not bold new conjectures that free us from the trammels of the orthodoxy; they are the orthodoxy. Continue reading #65 On the orthodoxy
First off, we’re accusing one another of “essentialism” and “foundationalism”. I think we’re both against those things and think that science should be done accordingly. Truce? More importantly, I feel we’ve lost sight of what these skyhooks are, the ones for which I have a “hatred”. I don’t think we’re talking about discredited skyhooks from the past like creationism or vitalism. Personally, I’m thinking of spooky theories of consciousness — which Popper was into and Deutsch refuses to dismiss — and a kind of magical version of knowledge creation “ex nihilo” as in Deutsch’s idea of creativity. These remaining skyhooks are, tellingly, all about the knower, not the known.
With that in mind, here’s something interesting about magic tricks: every bit of stage magic has three audiences. Continue reading #63 On magic tricks
I’m pondering my reasons for adopting a no skyhooks policy. I’d be genuinely interested in what you think the political agenda is behind my stance. This rambling letter is me trying to figure it out and maybe you’ll spot some clues.
First, I genuinely don’t think it’s political in the way you hint at in letter #60. I’ve just written the final chapter of a PhD about popular science. Ensconced in my ivory tower, I’ve spent the last three years reading the thoughts of philosophers of science, historians of science and — most of all — scientists themselves. I can genuinely attest that the Dennettian anti-skyhook view is highly unorthodox. Indeed Dennett’s long list of skyhook merhcants are professional philosophers and scientists — people nominally committed to naturalism. Continue reading #61 On cranes and skyhooks