Over at Footnotes2Plato, Matt made a post linking to Adam Robbert’s Noë and Uexküll: Ecology, Style, and Meaning on Knowledge Ecology. Scott’s response to Matt is in the comments and I’m re-posting my response to Scott here. The post is below – de-personalized a little and with some minor edits:
If I verbally state “I’m speaking French [in English]” and mean to claim that I am literally speaking French, it is a performative contradiction. If someone responds by pointing out that I’m speaking English, responding that they’ve begged the question because they have assumed that language exists and that I’m speaking English is ludicrous. You have spoken English.
That’s the simple part.
In effect Matt is asserting the opposite, explaining that you cannot say what you’re saying without first having a mind. In much the same sense that one could assert validly that you could not even say the English sentence “I’m speaking French” without speaking English. If Matt simply asserted that the mind exists as an immaterial entity, that it exists as a brute fact, QED. Then your charge would make sense. But he’s not doing that. He’s claiming, effectively, that you could no do what you’re doing without assuming what you explicitly deny even though you verbally claim not to.
Now, of course, there is a dispute about the nature of the mind as such. This is where charges of question begging actually make sense since it is the nature of the mind that is up for dispute. However, the BBT is not simply making a claim about the nature of the mind but making claims about cognition and thinking as such. BBT explains why the mind seems to be the way it is by explaining away its existence; as a result of neglect, the mind and all its intentional facades arises heuristically, which of course, meta-cognition confuses as substance.
The claim of performative contradiction, particular to BBT, is the fact that it depends on resources it explicitly tries to deny. For example, the distinctions between first and third person, natural/scientific and “meta-cognition” with the expressed purpose of denying the validity of first-person and meta-cognition. Questions you have yet to satisfactorily answer, for example, are (1) how what you’re doing is not meta-cognition and (2) how your distinction between Scientific and meta-cognition is valid.
On (1): the distinctions between first and third person could not have come to be without the first person regardless of its nature. If the first-person is systematically confused then the validity of its initial distinctions are open to question – the distinction between how the brain cognizes the environment generally and how it cognizes itself, for example. This cannot get of the ground without conferring validity on which is denied in total ( the first person and meta-cognition).
On (2): How, for example, is scientific cognition not a just a particularization of meta-cognition? Why is the former more akin to “how the brain cognizes the environment generally” and not “how the brain cognizes itself cognizing the environment generally”? Making the distinction superfluous? That is, it is just a meta-cognition of itself cognizing the environment and the ‘hook’the BBT purports to make to the environment evaporates because it has not shown how the brain has managed to cognize the environment independently of cognizing itself. If there is question begging, it is in areas like this and the guilty party is the BBT.
Since you’re not an alien (assumption) I assume you’re making use of the same resources as everyone else and just as susceptible to meta-cognitive neglect as everyone else. The point being that you undercut your own argument against the validity of meta-cognition by meta-cognizing scientific results and shouting at everyone that does not come to the same conclusions you do. In much the same sense, for example, that no one has seen a Brandomnian norm ( as you’ve said elsewhere), no one has ever ‘seen’ the Blind Brain Theory in a lab. If BBT can continue to postulate unknown causes, depending as it does on meta-cognition, then there is no reason why other, different ideas can’t also attempt to explain why things appear the way they do, namely, because they are that way. Or for some other reason. What cannot be done is to pretend as if the issue is already settled, that one meta-cognitive idea rules them all, especially when it undercuts its very ability to make such claims.