The epoch of intentional philosophy is at an end. It will deny and declaim–it can do nothing else–but to little effect. Like all prescientific domains of discourse it can only linger and watch its credibility evaporate into New Age aether as the sciences of the brain accumulate ever more information and refine ever more instrumentally powerful interpretations of that information. It’s hard to argue against cures. Any explanatory paradigm that restores sight to the blind, returns mobility to the crippled, not to mention facilitates the compliance of the masses, will utterly dominate the commanding heights of cognition.
– R. Scott Bakker, Reactionary Atheism
One almost expects to see the Wizard of Oz step out from behind the proverbial curtain. But instead we get the prognostications of a posthuman rabble rouser, daring philosophical speculators to trump his magic cards; or, better yet, walk down the golden brick road of BBT and rewire the world as a blind bug in a dark cave. The Saviour is among us, but he is not Jesus, no it seems to be none other than the veritable god of Science come round at last like some monstrous progeny or machinic entity of naturalism offering its special prognosis for the blind brains of the earth. Suddenly the new Cognitive Imperium rises before us, its latest spokesman, R. Scott Bakker, with pomposity and egoistic grandeur burying its supposed distant brethren within the prescientific domains of what used to be termed ‘philosophy’. The Imperium of BBT (Blind Brain Theory) is among us, no longer the fictional creature of a cartoon fantasy, this monstrosity purports to reduce everything to the three-pound lump of neuronal bliss we call our brain, the last frontier of cognitive theory and therapy. And, who is the emperor of this new Empire of the Mind? Is the grandiose ego of R. Scott Bakker taking the helm? A rock star of mythic fantasias and neuronal crime novels he seems ready to replace all Master Signifiers of phenomenology and its epigones with just one GRAND UNIFIED THEORY of the Brain: Blind Brain Theory as Maximus Philosophicus, the Emperor of all Sciences. But before we bow down to such neuronal gods shouldn’t we make inquiries into this latest reductionary naturalism of which his science is the heir? Should we not ask a few questions of this grand system of discursive and explanatory power just why it is that Mr. Bakker with his if not magic, then scientific, wand can now cast all prescientific thought into the dustbin of lost notions?
On BBT, all traditional and metacognitive accounts of the human are the product of extreme informatic poverty. Ironically enough, many have sought intentional asylum within that poverty in the form of apriori or pragmatic formalisms, confusing the lack of information for the lack of substantial commitment, and thus for immunity against whatever the sciences of the brain may have to say.
Let’s take a peak at that first statement: all traditional and metacognitive accounts of the human are the product of extreme informatic poverty. Now we know that informatic poverty is defined as that situation in which individuals and communities, within a given context, do not have the requisite skills, abilities or material means to obtain efficient access to information, interpret it apply it appropriately. It is further characterized by a lack of essential information and a poorly developed information infrastructure. Bakker argues that if “…philosophy is our response to informatic poverty, our inability to gather enough of the information required to decisively arbitrate between our claims, then philosophy itself becomes an important bearer of information. It is an informatic weather-vane. In this case, philosophy tells us that, despite all the information we think we have at our disposal via intuition or introspection, we actually represent a profound informatic blindspot.”2
The whole point of this argument for Bakker is that philosophy was fine and dandy as a prescientific tool, but compared to science it is no longer adequate to the task accept as an ‘informatic weather-vane’ for attracting information, yet blind as a bat when trying to apply theoretical or conceptual practices on that very information.
On another Blog post Bakker succinctly defines BBT:
This is the approach Blind Brain Theory takes: crudely put, instead of looking at our deliberative access to conscious experience as an example of *turning the lights on,* you look at it as *turning the lights off,* as peering through an informatic gloom you can’t recognize as such for lack of comparison – neglect. Then, taking the mechanistic brain revealed by the sciences as your interpretative baseline, you can begin interpreting all the puzzles and conundrums that have so plagued philosophy of mind as ARTIFACTS OF MISSING INFORMATION, as what happens when our environmentally oriented cognitive systems find themselves welded to a single informatic perspective in a crowded, almost totally dark room.3
A sort of Plato’s cave for departed information specialists who are using the latest BBT apparatus to seek out and destroy the missing artifacts of informatics Borg like conclave that just happens to reside in the missing spaces of our blind brain. Something like William Blake who thought eternity resided in a grain of sand, Bakker’s prognostications for us all tend to the nihilistic fold of ultra hip doomsters:
Our ‘epoch of thinking’ teeters upon the abyssal, a future so radical as to make epic fantasy of everything we are presently inclined to label ‘human.’ Whether it acknowledges as much or not, all thought huddles in the shadow of the posthuman–the shadow of its end. (ibid)
Looks like we’ll have a lot of zombie parties in the dark loam of the coming post-philosophical apocalypse… problem is with such dark laughter arising from the corpse of philosophy who will gather all those lost artifacts of information so that our machinic progeny will remember the truth of their own very human flesh and blood ancestors? If that three-pound lump in the skull is finally eliminated, finally subtracted from the transcendental field, enveloped in some machinic semblance of a strange attractor who will teach them that it all started with thinking brains if thought itself is no more? Will that blind god in the informatic shadows speak of those old ones who stirred the mud of life under a dying sun?
Previous review I did on Scott’s BBT: Post-Intentional Philosophy