In a prior post, I hummed a few bars of “Ecological Psychology needs to be evaluated within the context of AmericanPhilosophy.” I then started wading into one of the pivotal debates in the history of Ecological Psychology, the 1981 debate that pitted Fodor and Pylyshyn against Turvey, Shaw, and Mace. F&P’s criticism was published in Cognition, shortly after Gibson’s death, and TSM’s reply established the new direction for the field. In the last post, I summarized F&P’s arguments, and interspersed brief notes about when they did, or did not, seem to be giving Gibson a fair shake. In this post, I want to try to avoid nit-picky details about where F&P went wrong. Instead, I want to outline a broader reply to F&P’s criticism.
The overall problem, it seems to me, is that Gibson is playing an American Philosophy game, working within the intellectual lineage of Peirce, James, etc., while F&P want to play a Continental Philosophy game. I don’t want to go into too much details about the historic differences between the two approaches, or how they arose. My more meager goal is to defend ecological psychology in a way that stays true to its roots. American philosophy, in general, is concerned with earthly particulars, is suspicious about intellectual distinctions, and does not privilege a first-person point of view. While F&P want solutions to the traditional problems of perception to happen on an intellectual level, Gibson proposes that the supposed problems are typically solved in the grit of everyday interactions.