When Jenny Lloyd published The Man of Reason, in 1984, she encapsulated a picture of reason well loved by many philosophers. This is the highly rational and effectively disembodied reason. That picture has been under fairly constant for about 3 decades; one of the most recent attacks will be released on May 18. It’s The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us, by Dan Simons and Christopher Chabris.
It has a web page now and on it one can find links to videos. So I’m going to put up a couple of videos, but first a party political broadcast. There seem to me to be two important issues for feminist philosophers to consider:
1. Given the current deconstruction of philosophy’s ideal of reason, what continues to serve and support feminist aims, and what doesn’t? One thing we might notice is that the project includes examining the biases that we do not and sometimes cannot be aware of. One startling thing vision research is uncovering is that valences (such as rewards and punishment) can affect our basic visual experience.
2. When the deconstruction takes down with it an important facet of our culture, should feminists work on a reconstruction of it? Presumably this answer could vary with the facet. For example, lots in our cognition excels at getting the gist of things, and is not very good at getting and retaining the precise details. Contrary to what many believe, vision and memory are good at gists, and not so good at details. We might celebrate a realization that eye witness testimony is often faulty, but how about the narratives of a life, including those of abused children?
I know of Sue Campbell’s stellar work on memory, but not a great deal more. So suggestions are really welcome.
Now, for some videos: The first is a version of the very famous experiment about what we may not notice. The second is of an experiment about which it was thought by many that women would do better than men. They didn’t, according to Dan (he was in my home town recently and so I had a chance to chat a bit). The third is from a different experimenters and just illustrates how little we may notice.
If you are wondering why this sensory stuff is being said to be an attack on disembodied reason, it’s because attention has been thought of as a mental action or process and not subject to the quirks of our bodies.