Philosopher Ernst Tugendhat on unfounded speculations in brain research
This is part of an interview German philosopher Ernst Tugendhat gave to Die Tageszeitung on July 28, 2007. The present translation was published by signandsight.com on August 20th.
"What function does philosophy have now? Is it becoming superfluous – because of the behavioural sciences, brain research and evolutionary biology?
I am very careful about that. As far as the behavioural sciences are concerned, I think that people are too rash in looking for analogies – for example between human morals and animal altruism. That is what Konrad Lorenz, among others, did. As for brain research, I think it's rather crazy what's going on today.
They can only find out what types of processes are going on in which parts of the brain. But then those professors of brain physiology appear and present theories about the nonexistence of human freedom. And those theories are only based on the fact that they see themselves as scientists and believe in determinism. They are not even aware of the philosophical literature of the last decades, which tries to not see determinism and free will in opposition. I consider that to be completely untenable speculation.
But brain research is still in its infancy.
Brain research may become interesting for philosophy in a hundred years, but it hasn't been until now. I admittedly am a naturalist; I see human beings as part of a biological development. But what the biological sciences do in relation to human beings hardly makes sense.
If brain research has so little to offer – does sure philosophical knowledge exist?
No. And we don't need it. The desire to be on sure ground is the relict of an authoritarian frame of mind. It's a relict of those times when people believed they would receive all that is essential through revelation from the Gods."