Thursday, September 17, 2015

Philosophical Conversations

a guest post by Regina Rini

You’re at a cocktail reception and find yourself talking to a stranger. She mentions a story she heard today on NPR, something about whether humans are naturally good or evil. Something like that. So far she’s just described the story; she hasn’t indicated her own view. There are a few ways you might respond. You might say, "Oh, that’s interesting. I wonder why this question is so important to people." Or you might say, "Here’s my view on the topic… What do you think?" Or maybe you could say "Here's the correct view on the topic… Anyone who thinks otherwise is confused."

It’s obvious that the last response is boorish cocktail party behavior. Saying that seems to be aimed at foreclosing any possible conversation. You’re claiming to have the definitive, correct view, and if you’re right then there’s no point in discussing it further. If this is how you act, you shouldn’t be surprised when the stranger appears disconcerted and politely avoids talking to you anymore. So why is it that most philosophy books and papers are written in exactly this way?

If we think about works of philosophy as contributing to a conversation, we can divide them up like this. There are conversation-starters: works that present a newish topic or question, perhaps with a suggestive limning of the possible answers, but without trying to come to a firm conclusion. There are conversation-extenders: works that react to an existing topic by explaining the author’s view, but don’t try to claim that this is the only possibly correct view and clearly invite response from those who disagree. And there are conversation-enders: works that try to resolve or settle an existing debate, by showing that one view is the correct view, or at least that an existing view is definitively wrong and must be abandoned.

Contemporary analytic philosophy seems to think that conversation-enders are the best type of work. Conversation-starters do get some attention, but usually trying to raise a new topic leads to dismissal by editors and referees. "This isn’t sufficiently rigorous", they will say. Or: "What’s the upshot? Which famous –ism does this support or destroy? It isn’t clear what the author is trying to accomplish." Opening a conversation, with no particular declared outcome, is generally regarded as something a dilettante might do, not what a professional philosopher does.

Conversation-extenders also have very little place in contemporary philosophy. If you merely describe your view, but don’t try to show that it is the only correct view, you will be asked "where is your argument?" Editors and referees expect to see muscularity and blood. A good paper is one that has "argumentative force". It shows that other views "fail" - that they are "inadequate", or "implausible", or are "fatally flawed". A good paper, by this standard, is not content to sit companionably alongside opposed views. It must aim to end the conversation: if its aspirations are fully met, there will no need to say anything more about the topic.

You might object here. You might say: the language of philosophy papers is brutal, yes, but this is misleading. Philosophers don’t really try to end conversations. They know their opponents will keep on holding their "untenable" views, that there will soon be a response paper in which the opponent says again the thing that they’ve been just shown they "cannot coherently say". Conversation-enders are really conversation-extenders in grandiose disguise. Boxers aren’t really trying to kill their opponents, and philosophers aren’t really trying to kill conversations.

But I think this objection misses something. It’s not just the surface language of philosophy that suggests a conversation-ending goal. That language is driven by an underlying conception of what philosophy is. Many contemporary analytic philosophers aspire to place philosophy among the ‘normal sciences’. Philosophy, on this view, aims at revealing the Truth – the objective and eternal Truth about Reality, Knowledge, Beauty, and Justice. There can be only one such Truth, so the aim of philosophy really must be to end conversations. If philosophical inquiry ever achieves what it aims at, then there is the Truth, and why bother saying any more?

For my part, I don’t know if there is an objective and eternal Truth about Reality, Knowledge, Beauty, and Justice. But if there is, I doubt we have much chance of finding it. We are locally clever primates, very good at thinking about some things and terrible at thinking about others. The expectation that we might uncover objective Truth strikes me as hubristic. And the ‘normal science’ conception of philosophy leads to written work that is plodding, narrow, and uncompanionably barbed. Because philosophy aims to end conversations, and because that is hard to do, most philosophy papers take on only tiny questions. They spin epicycles in long-established arguments; they smash familiar –isms together in hopes that one will display publishably novel cracks. If philosophy is a normal science, this makes perfect sense: to end the big conversation, many tiny sub-conversations must be ended first.

There is another model for philosophical inquiry, one which accepts the elusiveness of objective Truth. Philosophy might instead aim at interpretation and meaningfulness. We might aspire not to know the Truth with certainty, but instead to know ourselves and others a little bit better. Our views on Reality, Knowledge, Beauty, and Justice are the modes of our own self-understanding, and the means by which we make our selves understood to others. They have a purpose, but it is not to bring conversation to a halt. In fact, on this model, the ideal philosophical form is the conversation-opener: the work that shows the possibility of a new way of thinking, that casts fresh light down unfamiliar corridors. Conversation-openers are most valuable precisely because they don’t assume an end will ever be reached. But conversation-extenders are good too. What do you think?

The spirit of this post owes a lot to Robert Nozick, especially the introduction to his book Philosophical Explanations. Thanks to Eden Lin and Tim Waligore for helping me track down Nozick’s thoughts, and to several facebook philosophers for conversing about these ideas.

image credit: Not getting Involved by Tarik Browne

30 comments:

Wesley Buckwalter said...

Can you give some examples of laudable research articles opening or extending but not closing in the manner you describe? I don't oppose the general virtues of opening and extending as I understand them here, and definitely think more intellectual humility would improve scholarly inquiry in lots of contexts. But I'm having trouble seeing how they are incompatible with "conversation-enders" where that = "works that try to resolve or settle an existing debate, by showing that one view is the correct view". (1) Unlike individuals at non-boorish cocktail parties, research articles eventually must present novel results at the expense of the status quo to some degree or other, the claim that it is better than/falsifies other hypotheses often sparks more conversations (i.e. research) than it closes, (2) philosophers typically do value results with lots of implications for future theorizing more generally (i.e. extending?) even at the expense one particular theory is abandoned, (3) we needn't take too strong a stand about objective and eternal Truth to weigh the merits of one hypothesis over others, which sometimes warrants revision or rejection (i.e. closing a conversation?) of a research hypothesis.

Luke said...

Very interesting stuff! Maybe when you're professor emeritus and sufficiently immune from the kinds of things academics do to each other, you can revisit this and list examples in all three categories—especially "conversation enders". The idea makes sense, but my not being a scholar makes it hard to think of examples.

> For my part, I don’t know if there is an objective and eternal Truth about Reality, Knowledge, Beauty, and Justice. But if there is, I doubt we have much chance of finding it. We are locally clever primates, very good at thinking about some things and terrible at thinking about others. The expectation that we might uncover objective Truth strikes me as hubristic.

This language seems a bit odd, given the fact that [realist] science portends to be zeroing in on "Truth about Reality", via successive approximation after successive approximation, with new theories which are Ceteris Paribus Laws over more and more domains. It could be that this process will go on forever, that reality is infinitely complex. But that doesn't preclude truly getting to know more and more about reality.

It seems that much turns on whether the "eternal Truth about Reality" is finite—finally representable by a Turing machine—or incompressibly infinite. Of course, if reality is incompressibly infinite, then only certain kinds of infinity would allow continuous discovery. That being said, when folks increasingly treat e.g. quantum theory as final reality (Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine notes this tendency in The End of Certainty), they seem to assume that reality is finite and we're really on our way to understanding it completely, in finite time. Perhaps it is this attitude which undergirds the bit I've quoted, above?

Anonymous said...

Shout out to Gary Watson for being a great example of a conversation-starter type of philosopher, and a very successful one at that.

M. Silcox said...

Totally disagree with almost everything here. Why on earth suppose that anyone - but perhaps especially a scholar - who started a conversation with "P is the correct view on this topic" would be anything other than delighted to hear an attempt at defending ~P? The quoted claim is just as likely to be a signal of passionate interest as it is to be an instance of paternalism; one can't help but feeling you're actually inveighing against both here, at least implicitly.

And even more significantly, why on earth should we suppose that the right place to look for standards of conversational etiquette within our discipline would be cocktail parties, of all places?

I mean, by all means, let us try to be patient and encouraging to folks outside of our field who exhibit a bit of honest public curiosity, but let's not make this into an excuse for sanctimonious faux-populism.

Unknown said...

In support (Regina Rini) of 'Philosophy of Self-Observation'...It entails leaving post modern philosophy and philosophy to the past/future, by beginning-searching Ways to live in the present...with only one's unknown self to rely on...Monks Yogis and Fakirs know this too...

The influence of self-observation in America is barely a hundred years old and may be losing its persuasion to 'everything we need is right in front of us'...

if one begins to discover their unknown self it will probably be from verifiable reciprocal exchanges with others having similar aims...

Hanno Sauer said...

It seems to me that the starting/stopping distinction is not the same as the adversarial/friendly distinction. I think we have good reason to adopt adversarial social systems of various kinds (the market, the legal system, science) because allowing the selective decline of cooperative morality within these (properly regulated) systems best serves various particular purpose (efficient use of resources, justice, finding workable answers to interesting questions).

This is compatible with your claim that there is some bias against conversation-opening contributions in favor of conversation-ending ones, and I agree that this is not a good thing.

Guy Crain said...

Rather than the profession as a whole, this post made me think mostly of classroom pedagogy. i'd say a lot of textbooks and standardized lecture dialectics for certain topics, especially at the introductory level, function as conversation-enders. And so it's awkward after covering a textbook chapter or giving the same old dialectic of views to ask questions like "So what do you all think about this?" i'd like to see teaching materials with conversation-starter ideas for all the major topics typically taught in introductory level classes.

Vanitas said...

I was just at a conference this summer in Glasgow, and I asked a fellow philosopher a question about Rousseau. I was immediately informed that my question contained two false presuppositions and that it was "confused". I almost punched the guy (hey, it WAS Glasgow...) Then, after extracting myself from his company as quickly as possible, I decided to punch myself for choosing a career path so densely populated with people like him.

The cocktail-party behavior you describe is not hypothetical: it happens in our field. And it is as problematic there as it is in scholarly writing. For God's sake everyone, this is a conversation, not a war where we machine-gun truth-values at one another.

M. Silcox said...

Vanitas, does it perhaps matter just the tiniest bit whether your question actually _was_ confused in the way that this person described? And if it was, would the person in question have been showing you _more_ respect by neglecting to point this out?

Anonymous said...

The statement of a strong claim like "P must be true" can be a great conversation-starter. Philosopher spidey senses should go wild when they see claims like this, and a whole literature can emerge on the merits of the premises and inferences leading to P, best of all when P is counterintuitive and the premises intuitive. A lot is learned from trying to undermine these kinds of arguments. The goal isn't just to bloviate about P being the only thing anyone ought to believe (the impression it would give if this kind of thing were said out of the blue at a cocktail party!), but rather to attempt to (hopefully) validly argue for it and, by the hand of logic, to be forced to assent to it (unless some other clever philosopher can help us out of the web by dealing in a clever way with a premise.) I agree that this shouldn't be the only model of a good Philosophy paper, but it's at least something like the standard case, and it's the one taught to undergraduates as the basic model of good Philosophy. Philosophy crucially involves, at the least, the reasoned defense of a claim.

The conversations distinction seems strange for that reason to me. It's relative to what the conversation is going to be about. If our conversation is about what the viable alternatives are on a topic, a paper that argues that X, Y, and Z are views we should consider could be considered a conversation-ender if it's taken to be the final word on what the possible views are. If it's not, if it's modest and says only that these are a few views we should consider, why should we consider them? Why do we care? Isn't it because they might be the correct accounts? If we never pursue that work, what's the point of cooking up different possible solutions to some philosophical problem? I'm not saying that unconvering the theoretical landscape isn't tremendously valuable, and some of the best papers I've read aim to do exactly and only that, but that can't be the endgame, can it? If there's any sense to the idea that the views uncovered in the landscape are potentially views we should take, the work isn't done yet. If this should-ness is absent, if there's no sense of one view being potentially better than another, by contrast, isn't this another form of conversation ending? It's itself a definite conclusion. It means it doesn't matter what we say about the topic - the landscape has been unearthed, the problem is likely a pseudo-problem, etc... and nothing trades on what we say about it, we should move on to a different topic. It's true that the other case introduced, a paper that merely defines and introduces a topic, can't really fairly be construed as a conversation-ender, but then, if it's any good, any Philosophy paper ought to define and introduce its topic at the start before the rest of it. It starts a conversation, and it then starts a second critical conversation in which it defends a position on the topic and on which philosophers can then provide criticism and additional insight. I agree that Philosophy papers can do lots of different and great things, but the conversation starter-ender distinction seems like the wrong measure for a useful taxonomy.

Vanitas said...

Silcox: no, it doesn't matter. Suppose that the strong, if defeasible, presumption against trained philosophers being actually confused was actually false in this case. My interlocutor's epistemic access to that fact was exhausted by a single, offhand question. There is no way that he *knew* that I was confused. This generalizes: rarely is any philosopher in a position to know that another is actually confused, so conversationally implicating that she is is rarely justified.

M. Silcox said...

Vanitas, I think the minimally charitable assumption for you to have made (instead of, y'know, rushing out of the room cultivating violent fantasies) was that he was suggesting you yourself were only confused to the extent that your question seemed to indicate. Perhaps these sorts of exchanges would go better in general if folks started out with the assumption that philosophical argument usually _isn't_ the same thing as personal criticism.

E. Walker said...

Thank you for the post!

Insofar as I understand your taxonomy, let me say: I usually get more out of reading conversation-starters and -extenders. But sometimes I can't help enjoying a punchy conversation-ender or two -- like I can't help enjoying an all-too-tidy television crime procedural every now and then.

What I find dissatisfying about conversation-ending philosophy is its tendency to assume that philosophical views are things that can be crisply articulated as hypotheses for or against which evidence may be adduced. The assumption seems to be that articulating a view, or understanding an articulation of a view, is a matter of course, and that the real philosophical work -- Producing Results! -- is done in arguing for or against the hypothesis.

This is a forgivable assumption, but I think we should acknowledge that the meaning of a hypothesis, or our understanding of the view it is supposed to stand for, is as much at stake as is the truth-value of the hypothesis. This is especially so in philosophy, where we often use familiar words in artificially constrained and thus eccentric ways. (Although the ersatz rigor of casting everything in logical notation -- now thankfully dwindling -- has sustained the idea that meaning is usually settled.)

This makes philosophy a more dizzying enterprise than the normal-science practitioner of philosophy is inclined to think. What understandably disturbs the normal-science practitioner is that the methods and criteria for answering the question "Do we understand this view (this term, this hypothesis, etc.)?" are not as "scientific" as the methods and criteria for answering the question "Is this hypothesis true?"

chinaphil said...

But if philosophy is a conversation, can it still be an academic discipline? What standards would be enforced? What would mark a paper as distinctively philosophical?

The comparison to the sciences is apt, I think, but there's another comparison to be made as well, to the humanities and critical arts. An article in a history journal can be an opener or an extender: proposing a new way of looking at a particular bit of history, or applying someone else's new historical theory to a different historical period. The same could be true in a journal of literary or musical criticism. But all of those articles would be anchored to their discipline by their subject matter. It's not obvious what the subject matter of philosophy is, so it's hard to see how the discipline would retain its shape.

It's also hard to see how the discipline would justify its own existence. If philosophers aren't trying to find out the truth, and structuring their discipline to incentivise that effort, then what the hell are they doing? What is the value of an ongoing conversation about ethics, and why should it be done in journals rather than down the pub?

(k)nowable said...

Some of the comments above prove the rigidity as the de rigueur of the field that is critiqued in the blog. The blog pleads us to look at the academic practices differently or at least entertain the possibility, but of course such an idea will be violently resisted in a culture obsessed with what Vanitas calls machine-gunning truth values at one another -- the crows on the upper wire, in short. Thankfully, in my field (Linguistics) there are still quite a few women left!

Unknown said...

Anonymous, your..."Isn't it because they might be the correct accounts? If we never pursue that work..." Is the Nature of these questions that "some philosophical problem(s)" confound thought and provide incentive....

Vanitas said...

Right, Silcox, so we philosophers, when we talk to one another, are suddenly supposed to suddenly start speaking a new language, with very different conventions than the one we actually speak.

Thus, in ordinary language, when someone offers a thought or question and it is called "confused", rather than "not quite right" or "in need of improvement" a personal insult is strongly implicated. But we can just carry around little red flags on sticks, and when we mean to suspend entirely the "personal" implications of ordinary language, we can raise them, indicating that nothing is to be taken personally because we have now started speaking English*. At conferences, we can tape them to our shoulders in the morning, thereby cancelling any and all personal implications of our speech until the proceedings are over. Excellent idea!

And is it not fairly common to get angry in the face of insult and to wish to express that anger? Goodness, the amount of ordinary human conventions and responses you wish me to suspend is growing by the moment!

M. Silcox said...

(k)knowable, if you want to describe the comments in a blog discussion as "violent," shouldn't there perhaps be another word for people who, you know, throw bricks and stuff?

Also, would it be too revelatory of my sympathies with the "crows" that you mention to ask if you've ever perhaps heard the term "ad hominem?"

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Let's try to keep it mellow and friendly, folks!

M. Silcox said...

Euthyphro: (holding a corned beef sandwich) Mm, look, a delicious peanut butter sandwich, think I'll take a bite.

Socrates: Um, Euthyphro...?

Euthyphro: (sandwich hovering near mouth) What, already?

Socrates: I think you might be confused.

So I would suggest that this ordinary discussion actually cleaves pretty faithfully unto familiar, everyday discursive norms, and that if Euthyphro were to rush from the room in a fury or start fantasizing about clobbering Socrates, his response would be, at best, somewhat premature. But perhaps the rest of you are more impressed by the tone of deep moral conviction that Vanitas exhibits on the topic. Live and learn, I guess.

Regina Rini said...

Thanks for you comment Wesley!

I understand why you ask for examples, but I've deliberately avoided giving any here. I'm wary of the discussion turning into dispute over whether such-and-such paper counts as a conversation-ender or extender or whatnot. Such disputes tend to be especially unenlightening on the internet, so I'm going to stay out of it. (But other people are welcome to highlight works they admire for opening conversations, as Anonymous does with Gary Watson.)

I don't think I agree with you when you say "research articles eventually must present novel results at the expense of the status quo to some degree or other". That's true in science, but philosophy isn't a science, and I don't think it's most helpfully thought of in those terms. I really don't like the idea of "results" as the aim in many areas of philosophy. Perhaps logic and formal decision theory are exceptions, but I just don't see why this must be the goal in ethics or metaphysics.

You also say "we needn't take too strong a stand about objective and eternal Truth to weigh the merits of one hypothesis over others, which sometimes warrants revision or rejection (i.e. closing a conversation?) of a research hypothesis." So, I'm not claiming that we can never revised or reject an existing view. That would be silly. But I don't think that this should be the primary aim of philosophy. The world, and our subjective experience of it, is very messy. It permits many meaningful interpretations. It is possible for me to explain, and even persuasively argue for, one interpretation without insisting upon anyone else surrendering an interpretation that is meaningful to them. I take this to be part of Nozick's point when he talks about a "philosophical explanation".

Regina Rini said...

Thanks for your comment Luke!

One thing I think you've drawn out is a part of the difference between philosophy and science. Science, as you say, "portends to be zeroing in on "Truth about Reality", via successive approximation after successive approximation". I'm willing to agree with this, to a large extent. But we should note that the kind of Reality that empirical science describes is a Reality that responds to predictions. It provides an external check on our theorizing. Much of the subject matter of philosophy isn't really like this, especially in normative domains. Some people in history (logical positivists, etc.) have taken this as a reason to doubt the value of these areas of philosophy. I draw a different lesson, which is simply that philosophy has a distinctive set of aims and values that are not the same as science. But they are still values - and they have implications for how to pursue philosophy.

Regina Rini said...

Thanks for your comment Unknown.

I wonder what you mean by the "unknown self"? I read you as suggesting it in a somewhat mystical way. Is that right? I'm struck though by the connection to Plato's view that we in one sense always already know important things (such as the Forms) due to acquaintance with them prior to particular human existence. Is that close to your thought?

Regina Rini said...

Thanks for your comment Hanno.

I think I see what you are getting at, about the opening/ending versus friendly/adversarial distinctions. But I think the connections between each pair are tighter than you suggest. Adversarial interaction isn't just incidentally out of keeping with conversation-opening. Adversarial interaction implies that the parties might share a commitment to a final outcome (say, the Truth), but it also implies that they shouldn't attempt to share a starting point. I think it is unhelpful in philosophy to assume we shouldn't even try to share starting points. Nozick (again from the intro to Philosophical Explanations says something about this:

"I find I usually read works of philosophy with all defenses up, with a view to finding out where the author has gone wrong. Occasionally, after a short amount of reading, I find myself switched to a different mode; I become open to what the author has to teach."

I don't see the value, in philosophy, of presuming that it is one's role to tell someone else where they've gone wrong, and only being open to learning things once that has failed. I don't think the tendency Nozick describes is an accidental one, given how we've structured philosophical interaction.

Regina Rini said...

Thanks for your comment Guy.

That's a really interesting thought! I've had the same frustration at times. Often it's simplest to teach material as conversation-ending: you put a precise claim up on the board then show how to attack it with arguments. This helps to limit digressions and focus minds, but it also discourages input from those who are looking for a more open-minded approach. I do wonder if contemporary analytic philosophy's obsession with conversation-ending is in part a selection effect. Given the way that many of us teach, and the papers that our students read, we are driving away most people who might favor another approach. Those who survey all the way through analytic philosophy grad school are likely to be the most enamored with ending conversations.

Regina Rini said...

Thanks for your comment Vanitas.

I'm experienced the same sort of thing you describe. Sometimes, in front of an audience, it seems like status-seeking and intellectual posturing. If philosopher A shows that philosopher B is "confused" then philosopher A gets status points with the audience. Almost everyone agrees that this is ugly, but it persists. Even more troubling, I think, is when it happens without the audience. In many cases, I think this indicates that philosophers have internalized the posturing to such an extent that they continue doing it even when it has no purpose at all, not even a self-aggrandizing one.

Aragorn said...

I'm at most a dabbler in philosophy, but I can't understand the wilting-violet sensitivities over simple disagreement. If somebody tells me that my question is confused, my first instinct is not to run away but to ask what my confusion was supposed to be. If anything, it's a great conversation extender - I will get a chance to examine his assumptions and I get to explicate further what I mean. Sure, it's a little bit off-putting to be challenged in this manner but it's not a big deal - at least I don't see it as a conversation-ender.

Luke said...

Hi Regina,

I'm not as convinced that philosophy fails to have predictive aspects, even in normative domains. Normative claims are frequently accompanied by descriptions of what will happen if they are integrated into society. Or we could look at the hopes of Enlightenment folks of what would happen as more and more people bought into their conception of 'Reason'. (Alasdair MacIntyre has some scathing criticisms of these particular criticisms).

Instead, I'd say that philosophy is much more integrative and thus the kinds of predictions it makes tend to be quite different from those in science. Teaching a person how to apply F = ma leaves most of that person's life untouched, unless a result is that the person adopts a mechanistic view of all reality, recapitulating certain strands of the Enlightenment. As long as the area of effect is small, the character seems quite different. When it gets bigger—such as applying atomism and reductionism more and more widely—the distinction blurs.

This isn't to say that philosophy is the same as science or ought to be; I stay far away from scientism (e.g. Sorell 1991). One can see a distinction between the "shut up and calculate" folks in quantum mechanics, compared to those very interested in interpretation even if the mathematics stays equivalent. There is a drive to understand which does not supervene on prediction and control. On the flip side, the idea of philosophy making zero predictions whatsoever seems odd to me. Surely there are consequences for looking at reality this way vs. that way, some of which can be predicted?

Unknown said...

Rini...I mean...to know oneself as unknown may begin with my thoughts, as separate from experiencing self...then mystical, in the form of transition could occur...The hope is this 'particular knowledge' is brought from the past to the present for observation without the buffer of thought...

Regina Rini said...

Thanks for your comment Anonymous.

I guess I can see how the taxonomy I've described isn't useful on your conception of what philosophy is trying to do. But I don't think I share that conception. I don't accept that when making a philosophical claim, one's aim must be "to attempt to (hopefully) validly argue for it and, by the hand of logic, to be forced to assent to it (unless some other clever philosopher can help us out of the web by dealing in a clever way with a premise.)" I agree that this is a characterization of how many analytic philosophers self-conceive, but it doesn't have to be how we approach philosophy. One problem here is the idea of being "forced to assent" by "the hand of logic". What sense of 'force' is at work here? Nozick has some fun with the idea that the perfect philosophical argument is one such that if you accept its premise but deny its conclusion, then you instantly drop dead. If this isn't what's meant by the force of logic, then what is?

"If our conversation is about what the viable alternatives are on a topic, a paper that argues that X, Y, and Z are views we should consider could be considered a conversation-ender if it's taken to be the final word on what the possible views are. If it's not, if it's modest and says only that these are a few views we should consider, why should we consider them? Why do we care? Isn't it because they might be the correct accounts?" Why are we so obsessed with the 'correct' account? Why not a useful account, an account that makes sense of of how we experience the world? Lots of accounts can do this, perhaps at the same time. Exploring a new way of thinking needn't compel us to abjure some other way of thinking. We have surprisingly flexible minds.