Presentation at Reading, Jan. 2013

Presentation at Reading, Jan. 2013

2013年9月22日 星期日

So Long, Fred

To my memory I met Fred Dretske twice. The first time was at Rutgers Epistemology Conference 2011. During one long coffee break (30 mins or so), he was left alone in the middle of the crowds by random. I was not going to talk to him, since although my thesis back then was related to his hyper OVERFLOW view about the content of consciousness (i.e., an extreme version of Ned Block's relevant view), at that moment I was not ready to ask questions about it. But in any case he had been left alone for a while (which is not normal given who he is), so I made a move and brought up the issues I'd like to talk about. He was keen to discuss it and found a table for us, which was unexpected - I thought he might have simply said something quickly and tried to leave. As a result we discussed relevant issues for at least 20 minutes. The overall message is that he was provoked by Daniel Dennett's extreme sparse view and attempted to count against it, and my position was that Fred's view is an overreaction and is not well supported by his arguments. I still hold this verdict today.

The second time we came across was at Pacific APA 2012, where he presented his critic of Susanna Siegel's book on the content of visual experience. My view was different from both, but I learned something important from Fred's comments. I was surprised by the fact that he not only showed up at conferences given his age, but also presented something for us. During that conference I did not have a chance to further talk to him, but both of us attended a session where Josh Weisberg and Adrienne Prettyman were presenters and Richard Brown was a commentator. Fred asked helpful questions during the session. He saw me in the audience and waved to me. I believe he might not recall my name but it does not matter. That was a nice farewell.

Given that Fred was still active last year, I presume his last days were not too painful. I might be wrong, but that is my wishful thinking.

Like many philosophers in my generation, I have not had a chance to study his classic works carefully. But I will. My thesis at CUNY has the title "Consciousness and the Flow of Attention," which was unabashedly inspired by Fred's seminal work. I am glad that as a philosopher in this generation I overlapped with this great philosopher.

So long, Fred. We will miss you.