Oliver Wendell Holmes jr was a survivor of the Civil War. Wounded three times and left for dead once, he survived endless pain and death for a war for which he believed more in the beginning of the virtues of the war than he did at the end. But it was this important experience that pervades his long life. And we now know how to think about how trauma turns to memory sculptured onto the brain. Holmes’ emphasized experience in adjudication and context dependent problem solving or inquiry. Yet while he championed freedom, he had a rather limited view towards those for which the war was fought.
Joseph Margolis’ philosophical work is both sanguine and fair. It is sanguine because much of it captures the inherent worth and dignity of the human condition. This includes aesthetics, anthropological diversity and history, the diversity of cognitive orientations and objectivity without foundations. Margolis embraces science and naturalism without reductionism. His pragmatism, though, is rooted more in James’ perspectivism, his local nice adaptation, and his relativism than that of Peirce and Dewey and their sense of science and the community of inquirers. Margolis’ strength is his attempt to reconcile positions and his fairness towards others as he tries to wedge his pragmatist position amid others (e.g. Quine, Davidson, Rorty, Brandom). But he celebrates the subjective stance of James, and downplayed the communal sense of Peirce and Dewey so vital to epistemic advances.
Foraging for coherence is a pragmatist philosophy of the brain. It is a philosophy anchored to objects and instrumental in understanding the brain. Our age is dominated by neuroscience. A critical common sense underlies inquiry including that of neuroscience. Thus a pragmatist orientation to neuroscience is about foraging for coherence; not overselling neuroscience. Foraging for coherence is the search for adaptation – diverse epistemic orientation tied ideally to learning about oneself, one’s nature, and one’s history in the context of learning about the brain. Neuroscience is about us: Our desires, habits, styles of reason, human vulnerability, and abuse. The language of the neuron, or the gene, or the systems does not replace the discussion about us as the person, in the social and historical context.