Stephen Ames

My starting point for this paper is the common view: nature has produced human beings. Accordingly, I seek an account of nature that can support an account of how human beings have come into existence on this planet. I regard human inquiry as an extraordinary phenomenon, especially our scientific inquiry into the natural world. An account of nature would be deemed a failure if it turned out to block an account of how human inquirers have come into existence on this planet. It would also call into question its own claim to be known. Such a failure would motivate seeking a richer view of nature. From this starting point I approach Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back, The Evolution of Mind which aims to draw on the best scientific theory today of how our minds came into existence. The book aims to show how increasing competencies of biological organisms passes over into comprehension facilitated by the evolution of communities where people are called on to justify their actions, thoughts. The paper argues that the book fails in this aim, signalled for example, by Dennett’s partial appropriation of the work of W. Sellars on the logical space of reasons. Dennett overlooks Sellars’ distinction between the logical space of reasons and the logical space of explanation in terms of natural laws, and that the former cannot be cashed out in terms of the latter. The last part of the paper considers what would be involved in a principled approach to forming a richer view of nature.

Keywords : nature; laws of nature, logical space of reasons, logical space of explanation by natural law, reasons without reasoners.

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