Saturday, January 7, 2012

TLS in the Telegraph

28 comments:

Frank said...

That's great. Know what isn't great though? I ordered the Last Superstition on Amazon.co.uk on the 21st of December and it still isn't here. I think they've had to order it from the .com USA based site. Two William Lane Craig books arrived by Christmas day. Maybe you should have a word with the folks at Amazon.co.uk :p.

Stuart said...

Absolutely agree Frank. I ordered one on Amazon UK and it is simply noted as: "Temporarily out of stock" with no indication of how long I'll have to wait.

Really disappointed at the moment.

You need a UK distributor Edward!

Iapetus said...

Any chance that The Last Superstition will become available for Kindle, Mr. Feser? If it will, when might we expect it to become available?

machinephilosophy said...

Get it from the US via amazon.com. Many of us dealers ship globally, and regularly and often to the UK.

Should be made available in ebook and audio. I would have purchased both along with the hardcover which runs on ambient light.

John said...

Mr. Feser, is TLS available as an ebook? Amazon only has it on paperback and hardcover.

The reason why I'm asking is because I want to be able to use a text reader to help me read it since my eyes aren't that good. Thanks.

Corrigan1 said...

Yes, it can be difficult to get EFs books in the UK (they're such pagans over there!) I managed to get 'Aquinas' at Blackwell's and 'The Last Superstition' through Amazon.co.uk, but I think it had to come from America.

Alex Rosenberg is a fool said...

TLS is a great book. Since the New Atheists have been refuted I think we ought to focus on the more 'sophisticated' atheists Specifically, I'm thinking of Alex Rosenberg. Here's a video where Rosenberg attacks Jerry Fodor's What Darwin Got Wrong (just watch the video-Rosenberg is foaming with rage!) I've already read some of Prof Feser's crushing refutations of Rosenberg's sophistry and I'd love to see him deal with the points raised in this video.

Alex Rosenberg is a fool said...

Here is the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4sJj888Qnc&feature=relmfu

Alex Rosenberg is a fool said...

Just type 'Debating Darwin: How Jerry Fodor Slid Down the Slippery Slope to Anti-Darwinism'

man with a computer said...

"Slippery Slope of Anti-Darwinism"

lolin' hard. You just can't make this shit up.

Pattsce said...

Man with a computer,

Seriously...

DNW said...

Alex Rosenberg is a fool said...

Here is the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4sJj888Qnc&feature=relmfu

January 8, 2012 1:34 PM"


I thought that that was an interesting video on a couple of levels. Thanks.

First of all and on the more positive side, there was some intrinsically interesting matter within the "debate" over the proper conceptualization of the "mechanism" of natural selection. (The relevant Fodor video showed up on the Youtube side listing)

Have Darwinists (even when they consciously try to strip out anthropomorphic projections from their use of analogical language) been saying all along that traits are selected *for*, as Fodor suggests with his diagram?

And if so, is there a logical or internal 'ideological' consistency problem with that paradigm?

Or does the environment merely sieve or I guess Rosenberg used the word, "filter" out some traits on average, leaving others; and presumably among those remaining others, sometimes leave those phenotypically expressed mutations which living men - part of the survivor population - then call "beneficial"?

I have to watch this again, but Rosenberg's argument about the effects of Fodor's argument on the natural selection paradigm, does have some logical interest.

And, Rosenber at least credits, in a backhanded or petulantly negative way, Fodor with contributing to a clarification of the general question.

I was however dumbfounded at Rosenberg's sneering waspish tone, his simpering malice, and the barely suppressed personal anger and denigration directed at Fodor for disrespecting what appear to be Rosenberg's intellectual allies, if not friends ...

Maybe Fodor, despite his impressive CV, doesn't in fact know more biology than we were all taught in basic genetics 210. But his logical point concerning intentionality seems unexceptionable enough, and seems justifiably provoked by the kinds of public framing evolutionary biologists have been using all these years as they propounded their doctrines.

It has looked as though there was some kind of irreducible intentionality lurking within their own explanations; especially if one looks at the kind of chromosome linked but disjunctive trait selections Fodor was referencing as his example.

And too, one wonders what selective role the concept of a filtering ecology would fill in the case of what we might call an autogenic disorder. For example, since the metabolizing of glucose is critical to all human organisms, it seems odd to say that that a particular environment would select against someone with juvenile onset diabetes caused by a mitochondrial DNA mutation (as opposed to say, Pima Indian genetics): since, it seems difficult to imagine what possible environment *would* allow such an organism to thrive.

The idea of defect, as differentiated from a mere mutation which is post hoc judged beneficial or harmful relative to a number of ecological possibilities seems necessary.

So what sense does it make to use the term "selection" or even filtering, in such a case?

The only way to save the case(or framing) seems to be to adopt a more radical monism which dispenses with the concept of organisms per se, altogether.

Ray Ingles said...

In the last discussion on Rosenberd, 'man with a computer' posted some links to Feser's previous posts on teleology. I'm hoping for answers to the following questions:

...I have difficulty following this statement (from here): "For a cause to be efficacious – including a final cause – it has actually to exist in some way."

But the term 'final cause' seems to presuppose the notion that B is a 'cause', rather than a result.

"for B to be the final cause of A, B must also exist, in some sense, otherwise, being nonexistent, it could not be efficacious."

But isn't there an obvious difference between 'pointing toward' (which A putatively does) and 'drawing toward' (which B would have to do to be a 'cause')?

I also have a visceral reaction to the idea that - as Feser states - "generating coldness is the final cause of ice"[emphasis added] . Why does he use the word "the" there, instead of what seems to me to be a far more natural and obvious "a"?

To take a simple example, what of the ice on top of a pond or lake in the winter, which actually insulates the water underneath, keeping it from freezing? Is the final cause of ice actually "retaining warmth"? (Or is eutectic freezing the 'final cause' of ice?)

Does anything in the real world 'point to' only one 'final cause'? I haven't thought of an example yet.

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - "...it seems odd to say that that a particular environment would select against someone with juvenile onset diabetes caused by a mitochondrial DNA mutation (as opposed to say, Pima Indian genetics): since, it seems difficult to imagine what possible environment *would* allow such an organism to thrive."

In the presence of, say, an E. Coli variant that overproduced insulin, an immunological response to insulin might be advantageous. A bit like sickle-cell anemia and the protection heterozygous individuals get from malaria.

DNW said...

Ray Ingles said...

DNW - "...it seems odd to say that that a particular environment would select against someone with juvenile onset diabetes caused by a mitochondrial DNA mutation (as opposed to say, Pima Indian genetics): since, it seems difficult to imagine what possible environment *would* allow such an organism to thrive."

In the presence of, say, an E. Coli variant that overproduced insulin, an immunological response to insulin might be advantageous. A bit like sickle-cell anemia and the protection heterozygous individuals get from malaria.

January 9, 2012 1:14 PM"


(Shrug) Not sure what delivery mechanisms - and you did not state them - for what would be a normally unwelcome exogenous insulin infusion produced by (gut dwelling?) e-coli you are envisioning; and thus, why a failure to self-produce insulin as an ultimate result of a Beta cell mutation, would be protective or helpful.

If, that is, I even understand what it is you are actually suggesting.

Thus:
"Unlike many medicines, insulin cannot be taken orally at the present time. Like nearly all other proteins introduced into the gastrointestinal tract, it is reduced to fragments (even single amino acid components), whereupon all 'insulin activity' is lost. ..." The always convenient Wiki.


Anyway, if this topic interests you or anyone else more than it does me ... LOL


Type 1 Diabetes and Beta cell Mitochondrial DNA mutations:
http://www.google.com/search?q=Diabetes%20and%20Beta%20cell%20Mitochondrial%20DNA%20mutations&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&source=hp&channel=np#pq=diabetes+and+beta+cell+mitochondrial+dna+mutations&hl=en&cp=7&gs_id=1e&xhr=t&q=Type+1+Diabetes+and+Beta+cell+Mitochondrial+DNA+mutations&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&safe=off&client=firefox-a&hs=FQ4&rls=org.mozilla:en-US%3Aofficial&channel=np&source=hp&pbx=1&oq=Type+1+Diabetes+and+Beta+cell+Mitochondrial+DNA+mutations&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=&gs_upl=&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.,cf.osb&fp=868032395a21deba&biw=1280&bih=855

Anonymous said...

Ray said: "In the presence of, say, an E. Coli variant that overproduced insulin, an immunological response to insulin might be advantageous. A bit like sickle-cell anemia and the protection heterozygous individuals get from malaria."

Ray overproduction of insulin in the gut would be inconsequential as insulin is a polypeptide molecule which is broken down first before absorption and has no function in the gut lumen. Antibodies against insulin and pancreatic islet cells would just lead to Type I Diabetes anyway and death would follow shortly from ketosis. In cases of E coli invading the organism proper - breaching the gut, what essentially has to follow is septicemia and eradication of the organism or death of the human being. This scenario is not plausible.

Ray Ingles said...

DNW, Anonymous - The intestinal flora (mostly) live downstream from the stomach, where the majority of the breakdown happens. By the point of the ileum protein breakdown is pretty much wrapped up and absorption has taken over.

But if you really don't like the E. coli idea, it's simple enough to posit a blood-borne pathogen.

Besides, we already have examples of 'passenger' organisms influencing insulin levels and metabolism. There's the famous gestational diabetes, but also recent insights into how intestinal microflora influence insulin resistance: "In conclusion, these results support the concept that intestinal bacteria induce endogenous signals that play a pathogenic role in hepatic insulin resistance and NAFLD and suggest novel therapies for these common conditions."

BTW, Anonymous - "Antibodies against insulin and pancreatic islet cells would just lead to Type I Diabetes anyway and death would follow shortly from ketosis." It's true that the immune response in Type I Diabetes results in lethally low levels of insulin. But in the presence of another source of insulin, glucose metabolism can proceed - that's why we treat it with insulin injections. (Although, DNW's quote of Wikipedia curiously ended just before this passage: "There has been some research into ways to protect insulin from the digestive tract, so that it can be administered orally or sublingually. While experimental, several companies now have various formulations in human clinical trials." So, apparently insulin can be absorbed if it makes it past the digestive phase...)

An individual with normal insulin production infected with such a hypothetical pathogen would wind up with excess insulin and hypoglycemia.

I agree that it's rather an unlikely scenario. On the other hand, DNW was, putting forth a case where "it seems difficult to imagine what possible environment *would* allow such an organism [with diabetes] to thrive." So - difficult, yes, but apparently not impossible.

Ray Ingles said...

Actually, the subject of gestational diabetes got me thinking. Pregnancy is another example of something where a single final cause is hard to find sometimes.

Gestational diabetes itself is an example. The placenta secretes hormones that interfere with insulin metabolism in the mother, which has the effect of elevating glucose levels in her blood, making it easier for the baby to scarf energy. Essentially the baby's repurposing the mother's whole metabolism. So which is 'the' 'final' cause there?

Menstruation is another example of competing purposes, it turns out. Only a few mammals actually menstruate. Most mammals only thicken their uterine lining in response to actual implantation.

But mammals differ in a relevant way - how deeply their fetuses implant. Some just gently nestle up to the uterine lining. Others penetrate the epithelium. The most 'aggressive' - the hemochorial - actually dig deep enough to get at the maternal blood vessels.

The mammalian species that menstruate are all hemochorial.

So that the mother can survive the pregnancy, she has to build up a protective layer of uterine lining before implantation occurs. Wasteful in many ways, and it would be simpler if the fetus and mother could come to some sort of détente, but...

So, what's 'the' 'final' cause of menstruation? At least two partially-competing interests are at work there.

Inky said...

Just saw the Rosenberg video. The poor lunatic is practically frothing at the mouth. Did anyone catch this opening statement: ''the way Jerry went wrong...shows how getting things wrong in the philosopphy of biology can lead to conclusions with...harmful consequences for human well being''

WTF?? How does Fodor's conclusion (if it is correct) damage human well being if we accept it?
The way I read this it sound as if
Rosenberg is saying 'if you're right you're helping the creationists! You MUST NEVER help the creationists EVEN IF THE COST IS THE TRUTH-Darwinism and a meaningless universe are the keys to human well being!' Did anyone get this vibe from his speech?

Inky said...

Just saw the Rosenberg video. The poor lunatic is practically frothing at the mouth. Did anyone catch this opening statement: ''the way Jerry went wrong...shows how getting things wrong in the philosopphy of biology can lead to conclusions with...harmful consequences for human well being''

WTF?? How does Fodor's conclusion (if it is correct) damage human well being if we accept it?
The way I read this it sound as if
Rosenberg is saying 'if you're right you're helping the creationists! You MUST NEVER help the creationists EVEN IF THE COST IS THE TRUTH-Darwinism and a meaningless universe are the keys to human well being!' Did anyone get this vibe from his speech?

Ray Ingles said...

Inky - if Rosenberg is specifically talking about Fodor "getting things wrong [emphasis added] in the philosopphy of biology", what leads you to believe he actually means "EVEN IF THE COST IS THE TRUTH"?

Mr. Green said...

Ray Ingles: But isn't there an obvious difference between 'pointing toward' (which A putatively does) and 'drawing toward' (which B [as the final cause of A] would have to do to be a 'cause')?

It sounds like you're thinking of "cause" as meaning just an efficient cause, something that pushes or pulls stuff around. A final cause doesn't "draw" anything anywhere (other than in a picturesque metaphorical sense, perhaps). A causa or αιτιον is whatever answers "why" something is the way it is. If A is "pointing towards" something, then there must be a something that is being "pointed at", which Aristotle dubbed the "final cause".

I also have a visceral reaction to the idea that - as Feser states - "generating coldness is the final cause of ice". Why does he use the word "the" there, instead of what seems to me to be a far more natural and obvious "a"?

Because he's not doing physics, it's just an example, so a vague oversimplification is good enough. I think by asking, "Does anything in the real world 'point to' only one 'final cause'?", you're getting too bogged down in semantics. It's like asking does anything really have just one shape — the standard "house" shape is really two shapes, a triangle and a square, right? But "the" final cause of ice is just the whole range of effects towards which ice points, when spelled out in detail. If it's more convenient in a particular context to think of those different aspects as "multiple" final ends, I don't think it matters much.

Stuart said...

Well, I've just been informed by Amazon UK that they can't access the book from their suppliers.

And there's not a another place in the UK to get hold of a copy.

Shame.

Ray Ingles said...

If A is "pointing towards" something, then there must be a something that is being "pointed at",

Still seems something fishy about that. Off the top of my head, some games can become unwinnable. Someone might not realize this, and keep playing, aiming their moves toward a victory condition that doesn't exist.

And in evolution, a population can develop into multiple species. Apparently the earliest mammals were 'directed toward' all the currently-extant mammals simultaneously. And if things had been different, they'd have been directed to other mammals entirely, ones that don't exist now and never will.

But in any case, calling it a 'cause', as I said, still seems presumptuous. To wit:

which Aristotle dubbed the "final cause".

I'm aware that 'final cause' is an awkward translation of an ancient Greek term, but it seems to me that in the end it's more problematic than helpful.

First off, I'm not sure about the 'final' - many things 'change direction' over time. (Becoming a pupa is something a larva does, but the final stage is an adult - or is the final stage 'compost'?) And when there are multiple 'ends' to which something like ice can be put, can any of them really be termed 'final'?

And, of course, as I've been noting (and you seem to agree), the 'final cause' as such doesn't do any causing. The oak tree doesn't make the acorn grow.

So neither part of the phrase 'final cause' seems accurate. I'm aware of historical mistakes getting 'locked in' and preserved forever (Benjamin Franklin guessed wrong about which way electric current flowed, and engineers have been stuck with the consequences ever since) but this particular 'quirky translation' seems almost tailor-made to engender mistakes.

For example, I've stayed out the nearby discussion on lying, but I note that Feser says "the natural end of our communicative faculties... is to convey what is really in our minds".

But why is it that "our communicative faculties" must have one end? Again, why not "a natural end"?

And even if they must have one end, why must it be that one?

What if I were to say that a screwdriver has, as its end, to drive in screws? And therefore, using it to remove screws was contrary to its end? I would hope you'd say something like, "The 'end' of a screwdriver is to manipulate screws, and both driving in and extracting screws are legitimate uses for one."

What if "the" purpose of our communicative faculties is to convey the information we wish to convey to others? Feser doesn't balk at misdirection - at knowingly causing someone to develop a false impression. (Though I presume he'd agree it can be misused.) Using our 'communicative faculties' to convey false information doesn't seem automatically problematic in that light.

Mr. Green said...

Ray Ingles: Someone might not realize this, and keep playing, aiming their moves toward a victory condition that doesn't exist.

It may not be attainable, but there still must be such a thing as "winning", or you couldn't be hoping to do it, even in vain. Similarly, you might be pointing south when you mistakenly think you're pointing north, but you're still pointing somewhere; just as it's impossible to point physically without pointing in some direction, so an efficient cause always "points" to some final cause. It may or may not be achieved, but it's directed at or tends to or has the power or ability to do something.

Apparently the earliest mammals were 'directed toward' all the currently-extant mammals simultaneously. And if things had been different, they'd have been directed to other mammals entirely

Yes.

But in any case, calling it a 'cause', as I said, still seems presumptuous.

It's not "presumptuous", that's just what the word means. A "cause" is simply something that explains why, a reason, a be-cause. The translation may or may not be awkward, but the "wrong" direction for electricity or oxymorons like "invisible light" cause problems for some people too, but every field has its jargon, and one just has to learn it.

I'm not sure about the 'final' […] And when there are multiple 'ends' to which something like ice can be put, can any of them really be termed 'final'?

"End" as in "goal". That's also sometimes the "end" as in "stopping point", because once something has reached its goal, there's nothing else for it to do, but even then goals like "being an oak tree" are really more like "maintaining life as an oak tree", which is an ongoing process. Final causes aren't as mysterious or inscrutable as sometimes is thought (perhaps because human goals are often very complex and subtle). That things fall down is because masses have the final cause of being attracted towards other masses. "Final cause" is just what philosophers call such a tendency or nature.

Masses being the way they are doesn't "make" something fall in the sense of effecting it (from efficare from facere, "to make") — that would be the efficient cause. But obviously it is a cause insofar as if masses weren't that way (weren't directed to such an end) then they wouldn't fall.

But why is it that "our communicative faculties" must have one end? Again, why not "a natural end"?

Again, that sounds like casual speech. Nobody denies that questioning and commanding are also ends of speech, but they aren't particularly relevant to a discussion about lying. In the latest post about lying, Ed talks about acts contrary to "the end" of speech, but there's nothing to suggest that that end doesn't cover a whole range of individual activities. In fact, he explicitly says, "None of this entails that F cannot have more than one natural end".


And even if they must have one end, why must it be that one?

Well, that is the question. Some ends are pretty obvious (e.g. that masses are moved by gravity, although a mathematically precise formulation takes a lot more work), others are more obscure. Clearly, language can communicate the truth, so it has to figure into its final end somehow, but a lot of the discussion on that topic is indeed disagreement over the exact nature of the end in question.

"The 'end' of a screwdriver is to manipulate screws, and both driving in and extracting screws are legitimate uses for one."

Right. And some philosophers would call that a single final end (manipulating screws), some would call it two. I don't think it matters much, especially in context.

Susan said...

I am half way through The Last Superstition and it is hard for me to put it down in order to take care of the household stuff;) Not more than a few days ago, I was having the worst existential bout of my life, so I am more than a little thrilled. I'm loved by Pure Actuality! How cool is that?! Who would want to study philosophy at Oxford when Pasadena has the honest metaphysian.

Ray Ingles said...

Mr. Green - Thank you very much for taking the time to help me out. I really do want to get a handle on this. I'm trying to determine if it's worth my time to check out a book like Feser's 'Aquinas'.

You say, "an efficient cause always "points" to some final cause... it's directed at or tends to or has the power or ability to do something."

Except you also say a 'final cause' can be an "End" as in "goal". So far so good, but then you give the example of 'goals' like "being an oak tree" or "maintaining life as an oak tree".

However, 'goal' seems a loaded term to me in such a usage. We might allegorize an acorn as 'wanting' to become an oak tree, but it seems actual goals would require an agent. A subject can have a goal; an object could only have a result, surely?

Frank said...

Susan,

I genuinely offer to buy your copy once you've finished with it. Can't get it for love nor money in the UK (see Stuart's post above).