In short, the conclusions reached in philosophical disquisitions do not travel. They do not travel into contexts that are not explicitly philosophical (as seminars, academic journals, and conferences are), and they do not even make their way into the non-philosophical lives of those who hold them. The fact that you might give one set of answers rather than another to standard philosophical questions will say nothing about how you will behave when something other than a point of philosophy is in dispute.
He is specially addressing Paul Boghossian’s criticism of hin in an earlier NY Times article. His criticism seems to me to be sufficiently wrong to make one wonder if it was written in a fit of pique.
Why wrong? One way to show Fish is wrong is to provide counter-examples. So here are two:
1. If you accept much of virtue ethics and the accompanying that acting morally is not a matter of rule following, then how one educates children or students in right behavior changes. It can’t be that teaching rules and punishing breaking the rules is the way to go. Philippa Foot maintained at least at one stage we should teach moral behavior as a matter of what we do. We do not tell lies, we do give to the poor, and so on.
2. It is very difficult to see how one could accept Freudianism without some version of a theory of ideas. After all, Freud’s view is committed to a theory of causally active vehicles of contents knocking around in one’s unconscious. Hence, if one looks instead at those embodied cognition theories that avoid causally active inner contents, one’s view of how one explains others actions may well change. Since it is, it seems to me, a national pastime in the US to create accounts of others’ actions in terms of hidden desires, giving it up changes quite a bit.
What do you think?