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Comments by Chrysippus_Maximus

Go to: The Case for Naturalism

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Epistemic naturalism or metaphysical naturalism?

They're both problematic. The former commits you to the non-existence of a priori truths (which means you can't easily get 'method' off the ground in the sciences), and the latter commits you to a really screwy way of talking about things like numbers and concepts.

Mon, 07 May 2012 20:57:43 UTC | #940407

Go to: The Consolation of Philosophy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 57 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Here's another good one, with more comments from Albert:

Thu, 03 May 2012 03:52:17 UTC | #939248

Go to: The Consolation of Philosophy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 56 by Chrysippus_Maximus

I'm more of a Davidson guy, myself.

This article was posted on Leiter's blog, and does a half-decent job of mediating:

Thu, 03 May 2012 02:40:39 UTC | #939242

Go to: Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 50 by Chrysippus_Maximus

avoids the nitpicking over whether Wittgenstein and Russel were really philosophers

If you actually read more than the Principia, or the Tractatus, it's pretty obvious that they both are. Why else would there be about 50 pot-boiler books by Russell about "philosophy", or Wittgenstein, you know, living with GEM Anscombe, and working with her? Maybe scientists think only the male analytic philosophers aren't really philosophers?

Wed, 02 May 2012 06:52:19 UTC | #938946

Go to: The Consolation of Philosophy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 53 by Chrysippus_Maximus

@nowhereman1991, is that David Lewis in your avatar?

Tue, 01 May 2012 23:37:57 UTC | #938848

Go to: The Consolation of Philosophy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 43 by Chrysippus_Maximus

it is obsolete as far as I'm concerned. It's quite obvious that many intellectuals are reluctant to admit this, because the realisation that you simply can't contribute to the advancement of our scientific understanding of the universe without a very deep understanding of mathematics and the physical sciences is discomforting.

What exactly do you think is obsolete?

Tue, 01 May 2012 01:18:50 UTC | #938518

Go to: The Consolation of Philosophy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 38 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Comment 33 by epeeist :

Comment 30 by Mr DArcy :

I wouldn't want to deride Derrida, but de desire is strong.

Why not, other philosophers do. John Searle famously said Derrida gave bullshit a bad name.

Which is ironic, because Searle gives philosophy of mind a bad name.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 21:27:36 UTC | #938222

Go to: The Consolation of Philosophy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 36 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Comment 32 by Quine :

Comment 29 by Chrysippus_Maximus:

Quine the philosopher tried to cash out, e.g., water, as a "single scattered object".

I am not familiar with that, do you have a reference for it? Have you read " On What There Is" by W.V.O. Quine?

The source of the discussion of mass terms I was referring to is Word & Object (Specifically the section on 'divided reference'). I've read (and written on) "On What There Is" (and many other of Quine's articles/books) many times. (By the way, if you didn't know, "McX" is McTaggart, and "Wyman" is Meinong.)

Quine is, to my mind, one of the best writers of philosophy in the 20th Century. I also share his taste for "desert landscapes". Unfortunately time has not been too favourable to coherentism (hey, look, a reductio of Krauss's claim that philosophy doesn't make progress!)---and it's not hard to see why: on what grounds is a set of empirical beliefs judged to be coherent if that is all there can be? Coherentists cannot help themselves to principles which are external to their belief sets, and therefore, they suffer, as positivism did, from the ravages of Goedelian incompleteness.

With that said, there are elements of Quine's work that are salvagable, and he's one of the members of my personal intellectual pantheon.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 21:04:52 UTC | #938215

Go to: The Consolation of Philosophy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 31 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Comment 30 by Mr DArcy :

Well Krauss' philosophophy may not be up to some peoples' standards, but one thing is for sure. I know more about reality, because of people like Krauss, than any poxy "philosopher" has ever taught me. I wouldn't want to deride Derrida, but de desire is strong.

At least you have the decency to wrap the word 'philosopher' in scare-quotes, Mr DArcy.

Sat, 28 Apr 2012 19:43:42 UTC | #938036

Go to: The Consolation of Philosophy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 29 by Chrysippus_Maximus

I'm surprised that the poster QUINE hasn't pointed out that mass terms denote a funny kind of substance. Quine the philosopher tried to cash out, e.g., water, as a "single scattered object". You could do the same with space (though this would work far better in a Newtonian universe). But then, almost no one thinks Quine could be right about this (after all, it's absurd to think that water is a single object, but its constituent parts, like 'this water' or 'that water' are not discrete).

Point being that Krauss seems to have presupposed an interesting dualism about the universe: there are things, and where there are no things, there must be 'nothing' -- of the sort people are calling 'metaphysical nothing' (or is it 'physical nothing') here, for some reason. But this description isn't quite accurate, and I'm sure Krauss knows this, intuitively. The distinction between regions of space with ordinary particulate matter in them and regions of space without these isn't the distinction between 'something' and 'nothing', it's the distinction between 'things' and 'non-things'. But non-things are not necessarily nothing. And that's a large part of the conceptual confusion going on here.

Krauss's claim "If “something” is a physical quantity, to be determined by experiment, then so is ‘nothing’." is absurd. The negation of (a) physical quantity is not a physical quantity -- duh. This sort of unreflective empiricism is absurd on the face of it.

Sat, 28 Apr 2012 17:20:08 UTC | #938010

Go to: The Consolation of Philosophy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Nothing's happening here.

prior to quantum physics, everyone gave metaphysical nothing a free pass on existence

That's a strange claim. I'm pretty sure almost no one thought that nothing existed.

Sat, 28 Apr 2012 02:23:26 UTC | #937876

Go to: Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 47 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Krauss's clarification and apology here: address a lot of what I've said and are well taken. I have nothing (ha!) more to add.

Fri, 27 Apr 2012 22:20:12 UTC | #937831

Go to: Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 46 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Comment 43 by Jos Gibbons :

You define philosophy then, Chrysippis_Maximus. And your definition had better have a different reason from mine for why atomic theory used to be philosophy and now isn't!

Philosophy as an academic discipline (not as a world view nor as "new age" nonsense---these are entirely distinct enterprises which resemble academic philosophy in name only), like 'science', is simply and demonstrably too broad to admit of a single definition. Nevertheless, such offers are common, and inevitably lack clarity.

There are a couple of basic things that could be said here to begin to clarify the domain: Looking back at the history of philosophy prior to, roughly, Descartes, just is looking back at the history of science. There is a legitimate sense in which historical science isn't science, since it doesn't constitute the current cluster of propositions and practices utilized in the doing of current science. For example, most biology students don't read Darwin, not because they're stupid, but because they don't need to read Darwin to do biology, because not much of any direct import for particular sub-fields is contained in it. It is scientific history, as it were. Reading Darwin is, nevertheless, worthwhile for many other reasons. (Perhaps the Santayanan admonishment to remember the past could be invoked here).

After the post-Aristotelians (i.e., the post-Scholastics, the Early Moderns) began to focus on mechanism and method, progress came fast and furious in many areas of philosophical and scientific thinking. The Royal Society of London was founded around this time (mid-1600s) as a "group of philosophers", including Robert Boyle, John Locke, Henry Oldenburg, and others). There were a good number of folks around this time who began to very narrowly specialize -- Huygens and van Leeuwenhoek come to mind -- the Dutch Golden Age produced massive changes in science.

But the problem is this: we are not living in the past, and so to claim that historical philosophers were scientists is not to solve the issue of whether 'physics' has rendered philosophy obsolete. To justify this claim, those who believe this to be the case ought to be able to show a couple of things: 1) How and why philosophy as a whole is somehow obsolete. 2) How physics (since this is the claim, not science generally) somehow covers all the ground that needs to be covered in order to imply that no further philosophy needs to be done.

There is at least one other claim that has been asserted without much reason that could also be addressed: 3) The contentious view that philosophy doesn't make progress, and is therefore inferior in some way to something called 'science' (actually, 'physics', to keep things clear). (What exactly is that supposed to mean, anyway?)

The first question is arguable. True, since Kant (and again, since positivism and Strawson) the domain of philosophy known as 'metaphysics' has been severely restricted, if not rejected entirely. But this claim suffers from another unfortunate confusion of terms. Like 'philosophy', 'metaphysics' has a technical sense and a colloquiual sense. The colloquiual sense of 'metaphysics' is something like 'supernatural' (the implication being that 'meta' means 'super' and 'physics' means 'natural', and so if everything is natural then there's no need to have a domain called 'metaphysics' at all). In reality, what actually happened was that there was a dispute regarding the limits of human knowledge (go read the preface to Kant's first critique). It is often taken for granted that Kant showed us that metaphysics must be limited to elucidating categories of thought (cf. Aristotle). Ironically, a later development, logical empiricism, the early 20th century purview of Russell, Carnap, etc., ended up being vitiated by the a priori truth of Goedel's ITs, having to admit that not all of mathematics could be reduced to logic (but what had been produced was, in fact, the rudiments of computing languages. Another irony: Krauss asserts in this interview that he thinks logic is just mathematics, but as I said in a previous post, the truth is that the exact opposite is true). Contemporary 'metaphysics', or perhaps 'ontology' is a whole different ball-game. A lot of what is done is investigating the 'objects' of various systems -- computing languages may employ different 'ontologies' with vastly differing implications, and this work is not purely within the purview of the computing sciences -- a division of labour here is helpful, and philosophers do work on this.

As for the rest of the vast reservoir of philosophy, well, political philosophy is demonstrably practical (not just Rawls, but Cohen, Sen, Kymlicka, and many others, have, and still are making huge contributions to public policy and the overall political landscape). Physics has (and can have) nothing to say about this.

There are raging debates about the relations between moral psychology (a purely descriptive enterprise) and moral philosophy (normative and meta- ethics). To declare philosophy obsolete here is simply to beg the question (and to very badly commit the naturalistic fallacy). This is why almost no one takes Sam Harris's recent forays into this domain very seriously -- the debates already exist and are being worked out.

There are several other sub-fields I could cover, but won't because it's tiresome and unnecessary. All that was needed to render Krauss's claims false is to show that there is non-obsolete philosophical work being done, or that physics has nothing to do with it, and that is certainly true.

Philosophy is a cluster of practices that bear some resemblance to one another, and to science, to varying degrees. For scientists and philosophers to fight each other as if it's one or the other, all or nothing, is to pit brother against brother and to forget that we have a common enemy: ignorance.

Fri, 27 Apr 2012 21:29:47 UTC | #937821

Go to: Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by Chrysippus_Maximus

My working definition of philosophy is a way of thinking that on the one hand tries its best to be honestly rational, but on the other hand is so rudimentary we don’t even know the real field these questions belong to.

So.... not philosophy at all.

Fri, 27 Apr 2012 03:15:51 UTC | #937612

Go to: Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 35 by Chrysippus_Maximus

This is all a bit silly and pretty obvious. The titular question is malformed to begin with: it supposes that there is something (a practice or a body of knowledge, or both) called 'Physics' which is in some serious way competing with one or two others things (which may be practices, bodies of knowledge, or something else, it's not entirely clear here either), and which has made these other two things, by virtue of some feature, unnecessary.

While there are many different ways to jerk one's knees at this suggestion, it should be fairly obvious to any thinking person that knee-jerk reactions are not the way to go.

Let's take Andersen's words at face value, for what they actually say, not for what we think they say. I'll do this paragraph by paragraph, focusing on both what I take to be controversial claims, and on what I take to be the point of the paragraph as a whole -- at which point we might see what is actually being said here (if anything at all):

Here's a sketchy phrase: "the structure of the entire cosmos". Andersen claims that "science" is sketching 'the structure'. But this must be a gloss. Not only is it absurd to claim that 'science' is doing this, it is silly to claim, without argument that there is such a singular thing called 'the structure' which science tracks in a one-to-one correspondence with its sketches. Science writers should know better than to say stuff like this. A theory-neutral way of saying what I think he meant here might be something like: "science has quietly begun to try to unify its systematizations of its observations to produce a coherent picture of the whole", but such a phrase is far less triumphant-sounding. It also doesn't portray science as if it is endeavouring to capture literally everything at once, which is certainly not what, say, physics, is actually trying to do.

The last sentence of the first paragraph is a bit of a howler. What controversies? Does this writer even know anything about what academic philosophers do? Does he mean philosophy or does he mean new-age gibberish? The two couldn't be further apart.

The only thing worth mentioning in the second paragraph is that the author only refers to theology---no philosophy in sight, as the target of the book.

The issue with Albert is important -- it isn't enough for Krauss to say he doesn't care what philosophers tell him and that by 'nothing' he means the ''nothing' of reality. If you want to call quantum ground states or whatever exactly it is that involves constantly fluctuating virtual particles 'nothing', that's fine, but it's a non sequitur verging on ridiculousness to claim that this means the same thing as the word in ordinary sentences like 'there's nothing to stop him from trying' or 'I will accept nothing less than absolute semantic accuracy from academics'. The word 'nothing' there clearly doesn't mean what Krauss means. 'there's quantum vacuum ground state to stop him from trying' is ridiculous. For Krauss to claim that his sense of 'nothing' is the sense which is the nothing of reality is painfully silly. It's not a matter of philosophers worrying that Krauss, or scientists, are treading on philosophical territory, it's a matter of conflating two ordinary senses of a word.

Krauss's first response in the interview is silly -- imputing resentment to philosophers without evidence. There's no reason to think that the antagonism has anything to do with resentment. Perhaps Albert, for example, simply thought that this popular science book ought to have been clearer about what was meant by 'nothing'. That's not philosophy attacking science, that's just one guy pointing out that another guy's claim is questionable.

The paragraph with the Woody Allen joke is painful. What is Krauss talking about? Why does he think philosophers of physics are even trying to have an impact on physics? And anyway, philosophy of physics is a tiny speck of a tiny region of philosophy as currently done. This certainly doesn't justify the generalization to all of philosophy. To claim that 'philosophy doesn't progress' is insane. Especially without evidence.

The whole name-dropping thing trying to find particular philosophers who have created new fields or progressed philosophy is silly. Krauss shows he doesn't know what he's talking about when he says that he thinks the content of logic is "mathematical". Uh, no, it's the other way around, in spite of the failure of Frege's logicist project. The content of logic is more general than the content of mathematics.

Once Krauss starts talking about his book again, he stops talking about philosophy and starts talking about that old religious question "Why's there something rather than nothing?" Well, that's good, because many philosophers over the years have already dismissed that question as either trivial or nonsense. A little late to the party, Krauss, and coming at it from a funny angle, but okay, the content of the book is interesting nonetheless.

At last, an interesting clarification: ", but I'm applying it to nothing, to literally nothing. No space, no time, nothing. There may have been meta-laws that created it, but how you can call that universe that didn't exist "something" is beyond me"

Well, Krauss, you can't call it an 'it', either, because you're not talking about anything. This mistaken way of talking involves the same type of confusion as in taking a sentence like: "No one passed me on the road." to mean that a peculiar sort of thing did something. This is not mere pseudophilosophical mumbling, this is a genuine problem with Krauss's claim to be talking about a funny sort of something he calls 'nothing'. It doesn't take a philosopher to point this out.

Krauss's response: "I don't have to accept that argument, because space didn't exist in the state I'm talking about" is bad. He's talking about a state. So he's not talking about nothing. So what if there's no space? He then says "I don't know what laws existed then" --- so was there time, then, or wasn't there? It gets worse: "In fact, most of the laws of nature didn't exist before the universe was created; they were created along with the universe, at least in the multiverse picture"... why is Krauss conflating 'in fact' with 'the multiverse picture'? Are contentious models what pass for facts in physics now?

Krauss here calls Albert moronic, and claims that he didn't understand Krauss's claims -- well, that's not clear -- we'd have to read both. Maybe Albert did misunderstand Krauss, but so what? That doesn't say anything about philosophy as a discipline (it's not a monolith).

The next response from Krauss is actually very good, more or less. That he is at peace with an infinite regress of explanation tells me that he is thinking in a Spinozistic (even Russellian!) mode. Well, so not quite so anti-philosophical after all, he just may be unaware that these are old ways of thinking with well established arguments for them (in fact, he seems not to care, which is fine, but then he shouldn't care to talk about philosophy at all, and should instead have stuck to arguing with Albert mano-y-mano, as it were).

The rest of the article is more or less fine I think.

Wed, 25 Apr 2012 23:57:45 UTC | #937371

Go to: Free-Will

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by Chrysippus_Maximus

I take Spinoza's arguments against a free will to be sound. The issue is whether humans have an infinite capacity of self-determination, i.e., can function as the causal ground of action. There is a further question about whether and how this capacity or ground interacts with, or is exempt from, the natural causal order. (The rejection of free will generally rests on a rejection of the possibility of exemption from the natural causal order.)

There are some neo-Hegelians (I guess you can call them that, anyway) who have good arguments for there being such a capacity. (See: and )

But there is something to be said for the distinction between a free will and a non-free one being merely verbal. (That is, amounting to nothing more than an insistence that in ordinary parlance we should keep talking as if we have a free will even if scientific evidence points to that claim being false... this is generally what the compatibilist view amounts to... though they may disagree with such a cynical assessment.)

Anyway, it's also true that complex nervous systems generate emergent degrees of freedom, but this doesn't stem from the will, but from computational power and related powers of self- and future-representation.

Updated: Thu, 22 Jul 2010 02:18:11 UTC | #491448

Go to: Name this fallacy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by Chrysippus_Maximus

It's not identical, nor fallacious. My claim involves the following analogy:

Pasteurization doesn't remove all bacteria, it just kills enough (i.e., most) of it to make things safer for general consumption.

Likewise, vaccines are weakened/dead versions of often lethal viruses, set up, like pasteurization, to make things (in a more general sense) safer in general.

The claim that pasteurization can be done without (i.e., the weakening or killing off of sufficient bacteria to make things safe for general consumption) is exactly analogous to saying that we should just forgo vaccination since what we might call unvaccinated/"raw" experience, as in unpasteurized/raw milk, boosts immunity (even if a certain percentage of people will die as a result in either case).

The argument is not fallacious because it follows quite clearly by analogy, unlike the original fallacious argument, which doesn't.

Wed, 21 Jul 2010 22:52:18 UTC | #491386

Go to: Name this fallacy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Chrysippus_Maximus

By that logic, we should stop immunizing people against things because, at least if you don't die, you'll be building up your immunity (and the collective immunity of the human race).

Wed, 21 Jul 2010 20:37:01 UTC | #491336

Go to: Name this fallacy

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by Chrysippus_Maximus

The premise "There are risks with everything [you eat]." has nothing to do with an argument for drinking unpasteurized milk. In that regard, it is a red herring---it diverts attention away from the very claim it is intended to refute, namely that you shouldn't drink unpasteurized milk because you could die.

You could run a probability argument here to counter their claim, but it's unnecessary since the argument isn't that you shouldn't drink unpasteurized milk because it's more likely that you'll die from drinking it than from eating/drinking anything else, but rather that it's stupid to choose to drink unpasteurized milk when pasteurization is already the norm.

Updated: Wed, 21 Jul 2010 19:37:45 UTC | #491316

Go to: The Godless Delusion

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 57 by Chrysippus_Maximus

I don't know if this has been mentioned yet, but "philosophical apologetics" is a contradiction in terms.

Sun, 18 Jul 2010 21:29:33 UTC | #490027

Go to: The Terrifying Brilliance of Islam

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 63 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Philosophers don't have the authority to get to define the language everyone else is allowed to use. What you're doing would be like a physicist complaining every time someone uses the word "force" to mean something other than mass times acceleration.

I didn't define it, I said it made no sense.

Sat, 26 Jun 2010 04:37:20 UTC | #483725

Go to: The Terrifying Brilliance of Islam

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 62 by Chrysippus_Maximus

One of the reasons people are objecting to this article is that some of the claims are libelous, verging on equivalence to the blood libels against the Jews. E.g., point #21. That point is unequivocally false in its general form. While it may be true that SOME Muslims pretend to be friends with non-Muslims (maybe even for religious reasons) it is absolutely not true that they all do (any one of us with friends who happen to be Muslim are living reductio ad absurdums against this claim, and if you object that our friendships are all shams, well, then you're more paranoid and delusional than I imagined...).

What a stupid article.

Sat, 26 Jun 2010 04:36:44 UTC | #483724

Go to: The Terrifying Brilliance of Islam

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 56 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Long Johns Silver:

"Rationalist" is a word that speaks for itself.

No it isn't. That's not how words work. At the very least (without taking sides in an ongoing philosophical/linguistic issue of semantics) sentences and the contexts of the sentences often, if not always, determine the meaning of words. 'Rationalist' in the context you used it makes no sense, however. That is why I picked on it.

Sat, 26 Jun 2010 02:52:53 UTC | #483713

Go to: The Terrifying Brilliance of Islam

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Long Johns Silver, I don't know what you mean by 'rationalist', but that word is usually used in contrast to 'empiricist'. I'm also pretty sure most people on this website are not particularly rationalist, since most people don't think one can have knowledge of the world by reasoning from first principles (I do, but never mind...).

Claiming the 'rationalist' worldview for your views without really understanding what the word means is pretty ignorant.

Fri, 25 Jun 2010 21:33:06 UTC | #483639

Go to: The Terrifying Brilliance of Islam

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Yeah but being "provocative" doesn't excuse being mind-numbingly STUPID.

Fri, 25 Jun 2010 21:03:00 UTC | #483626

Go to: Prince Charles blames world’s ills on 'soulless consumerism' and Galileo

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 59 by Chrysippus_Maximus

"It is not surprising that those who have thought up occult qualities, intentional species, substantial forms and a thousand more bits of nonsense should have devised spectres and ghosts, and given credence to old wives' tales with view to disparaging the authority of Democritus, whose high reputation they so envied that they burned all the books which he had published amidst so much acclaim." ~ Spinoza, Letter 56

Updated: Thu, 10 Jun 2010 14:40:59 UTC | #478860

Go to: Donohue vs. Hawking

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Hilarious. This reminds me of the time that Dawkins was interviewed by another remarkably stupid Irish American with inexplicable media clout.

It's as if a five year old wandered into a graduate seminar.

Wed, 09 Jun 2010 17:38:01 UTC | #478542

Go to: Pat Condell - No Mosque At Ground Zero

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by Chrysippus_Maximus

A gurdwara, a mandir, and a stupa would be great too.

Architecture ftw.

Updated: Sat, 05 Jun 2010 05:05:36 UTC | #476571

Go to: Religion has nothing to do with science – and vice versa

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Well, some of you (in the comments) have, at least superficially, equivocated on 'value'. He doesn't mean data points, he means moral values/normativity in action.

Of course, that doesn't make him quite right. It is true that we don't have a 'good/evil meter' (despite Scientology). But, and this is where I will mildly agree with Sam Harris (even though I disagree with almost everything else he has to say on the subject), that values (of the moral/normative kind) are natural, and so fall under the scope of possible science. The question is how to respond to, evade, or otherwise trump the naturalistic fallacy, and systematize a scientific approach to normativity. All hitherto existing attempts to do so have dropped the ball on some level. Probably the closest things we have to a success is utilitarianism, but utilitarianism most often gets cashed out in too narrow a fashion (and responses to G.E. Moore's Open Question Argument have generally been weak).

What is needed is not merely a description of the neurobiology of moral talk, but an interplay between existing moral, social, political, and legal philosophical theories of normativity, reason, and value, and scientific approaches to the substantive content of those theories.

Ayala has already shot himself in the foot by denying systematic human intellectual discovery the means to understand this immensely meaningful facet of human life.

Sun, 30 May 2010 15:34:45 UTC | #474831

Go to: It takes faith to have a child, faith in mankind's purpose

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by Chrysippus_Maximus

The word 'faith' is problematic. In German, 'Glaube' means both religious faith and mere 'belief' (e.g., the difference between "I have faith in God" and "I believe I see a zebra over there.") It seems people use `faith' to mean something like a trusting belief that things are as they want them to be even in the face of ignorance (which often cannot be helped or avoided).

There's nothing horribly wrong with that in itself. In that same sense it is possible to say that all people, atheists included "have faith" that the ground beneath their feet won't suddenly give out at random. It isn't true that atheists will enter the upper floors of a skyscraper only because they know that the floor is sturdy and certain not to fail. If that were true, no atheists would ever die in building collapses.

In any case, it would be stupid to retain even this more limited sense of 'faith' in the face of obvious evidence to the contrary (E.g., "I know the man at the front said don't go up there because the wood is rotting and they need to replace it, but I have faith that I'll be fine.") There is an open question for any given person about where they need to retain some sense of `faith' qua trusting belief in order to function in their daily lives. It may be true that most people could get on with a lot less of it, especially the nonsensical kind, but perhaps they can be assuaged by a more nuanced criticism of the problem with that kind of belief, rather than taking a machete to the semantics of ordinary language.

Also, re: comment #6:

Atheist have the highest average IQ.

That really doesn't seem right. You'd have to believe something like that on faith, since there's no reason not to think that atheists are normally distributed.

Updated: Sat, 22 May 2010 13:06:41 UTC | #472412