Modern scientists tend to possess an almost complete ignorance of philosophy, which renders many of their more general claims naive and parochial. Conversely, however, much of 20th-century philosophy was driven by a careerist desire to build an academic discipline which could stand independently of scientific discovery and understanding. Many 20th-century philosophers received an arts-based education just as narrow as that of modern scientists, and, lacking an understanding of science, strove to build an 'analytic philosophy' centred around the analysis of natural language. These philosophers sought to believe that their discipline was logically independent of science because their careers were dependent upon such a claim.
This is not what philosophy should be. Philosophy should be the great over-arching, unifying, synthesising discpline. In an age of deepening academic specialisation, philosophy should be reacting against this trend. Philosophers should be competent in the arts and the sciences. In particular, a lack of mathematical and scientific competency in a philosopher should be considered a crippling disability, comparable to a lack of logical competency.
A perfect example of the lack of ambition and imagination in modern philosophy is provided by Andrew Kania's survey of the philosophy of music. The key phrase in this account can be found in the preamble, where Kania states that the work considered is "in an analytic vein." This, amongst other things, is philosophic code for "there will be no discussion of scientific research here." The ensuing discussion therefore makes no reference either to neuroscience or biological evolution. Vital issues such as the purported universality of musical appreciation, or the emotions evoked by some music, can only be fully understood by integrating conceptual discussion with evidence from neuroscience and cognitive evolution theory.
Which parts of the brain are activated during the production and appreciation of music? What types of interaction occur between the cerebrum (the part of the brain responsible for conscious thought), the cerebellum (the part of the brain responsible for unconscious, 'second-nature' behaviour), and the amygdala (the 'levers' of the emotions). When music is emotionally ambiguous or neutral, but nevertheless evokes an aesthetic appreciation in the listener, which parts of the brain are then activated? How do such patterns of brain activity help us to understand music, if at all? All the scientific theory and evidence here needs to be incorporated into the philosophical discussion if the philosophy is to be of any real interest or relevance.
What role, if any, does music play from the perspective of biological evolution? What light, if any, can evolution throw upon the ontology of music, and the emotions sometimes expressed by music? Consider the following argument by John Barrow: "neither musical appreciation, nor any dexterous facility for musical performance, is shared by people so widely, or at a high level of competence, in the way that linguistic abilities are. In such circumstance it is hard to believe that musical abilities are genetically programmed into the brain in the way that linguistic abilities appear to be. The variations in our ability to produce and respond to music are far too great for musical ability to be an essential evolutionary adaptation. Such diversity is more likely to arise if musical appreciation is a by-product of mental abilities that were adaptively evolved primarily for other purposes. Unlike language, music is something that our ancestors could live without," (The Artful Universe, p196). Is this true? Kania's survey does not enable one to access such discussions, because such discussions are not within its remit.
There is a need for broadly-educated philosophers, with sufficient will and courage to look beyond their careerist aspirations, and to write genuinely unifying, all-embracing philosophy; work which cannot be published because it doesn't fall into the narrow domain of any particular journal; work which doesn't, therefore, enable those philsophers to gain promotion by increasing their citations ranking.
Am I asking too much?