Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The divisions of philosophy

David Chalmers at Fragments of Consciousness is attempting a taxonomy of philosophy (what us Thomists would call a "division" or "system of classification of philosophy). You can find the monstrosity he is currently working on here.

I don't call this a monstrosity in the pejorative sense of that word, I mean it in its literal sense: something frightening in size or complexity. Compare the unwieldy thing he is trying to get a grip on, which, I kid you not, has got to be about 50 pages long, to the more ordered and manageable Thomist classification:

Now of course the Thomistic classification assumes things he doesn't assume, since he is clearly not a Thomist. His classification also gets very detailed, including actual schools of thought and their exponents. It also includes things that don't properly belong to philosophy, such as scientific sub-disciplines. I mean are things like "homology," "robotics," and "computers,"--much less things like "trade union rights" and "life"--actually a part of the classification of philosophy?

Chalmers taxonomy is a draft, and he has invited comment, so I guess this is my comment: In order for any taxonomy to be useful, it has to be manageable and incorporate principles of division that make sense. It also has to limit itself to philosophy, and not attempt to encompass all of thought. After all, philosophy has to have some limitations to be a distinct discipline, doesn't it?

The above division is the one used in my book Material Logic: A Traditional Approach to Thinking Skills.


Anonymous said...

I think at a cursory glance I'll go with John Wilkins' comment:
At the risk of sounding merely irritable, I wish to note that a taxonomy must be exclusive and founded on positive properties, not contraries. And I think that my namesake's experience in the 17th century about arbitrary structure to taxonomic trees ought to give some reason to pause. There are as many genera and species as there need to be, not what we impose for reasons of convenience. [In other words, Locke was wrong...]


Martin Cothran said...

Is there something in this quote that conflicts with either the Thomistic division or the division offered by Chalmers?