Wimsatt Re-engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings

Posted on August 10, 2007

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As I have previously mentioned, I am currently reading Bill Wimsatt’s new book. It is proving a difficult read – I have only managed to get to about page 100 of what is a fairly thick book. Wimsatt’s book is focussed around the implication of Simon’s notion of bounded rationality for philosophy. Thus far, I find myself almost overwhelmed by the rich connections that Wimsatt makes and the number of ideas contained in the pages. The book is extraordinarily dense. At the same time most of the ideas tend to re-appear a number of times in various guises. Thus, two possible faults with the book manage to somehow partially counteract each other – you get to understand most of what Wimsatt is trying to get across after you have read it for the fourth time. It is extremely fortunate for me that Wimsatt’s book has come out just now as reading it will play an essential role in developing much of the philosophical grounding for my own application of bounded rationality to superstition. For one thing, I think one of the very important points that Wimsatt makes is that the kinds of heuristics that Gigerenzer studies are only the simplest from what is bound to be a very large and constantly evolving hierarchy of heuristics that is available to us. I have also already found very useful his list of traits shared by all heuristics as well as his analysis of the relationship between heuristics and algorithms (the later are a special class). I just wish that he’d been able to corral the ideas into a somewhat less unruly form.

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