Philosophical Errors

Came across this wonderfully concise summary of commonly committed intellectual errors from Gould.

I regard the critique of biological determinism as both timeless and timely. The need for analysis is timeless because the errors of biological determinism are so deep and insidious, and because the argument appeals to the worst manifestations of our common nature. The depth records the link of biological determinism to some of the oldest issues and errors of our philosophical traditions—including reductionism, or the desire to explain partly random, large-scale, and irreducibly complex phenomena by deterministic behavior of smallest constituent parts (physical objects by atoms in motion, mental functioning by inherited amount of a central stuff); reification, or the propensity to convert an abstract concept (like intelligence) into a hard entity (like an amount of quantifiable brain stuff); dichotomization, or our desire to parse complex and continuous reality into divisions by two (smart and stupid, black and white); and hierarchy, or our inclination to order items by ranking them in a linear series of increasing worth (grades of innate intelligence in this case, then often broken into a twofold division by our urges to dichotomize, as in normal vs. feeble-minded, to use the favored terminology of early days in IQ testing).

mismeasure-of-maned. Introduction


mismeasure-of-man Gould, Stephen Jay. The Mismeasure of Man. ↩︎ 1