Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review of Wilson and Scruton


In the Spring 2015 issue of the Claremont Review of Books, I review Edward O. Wilson’s The Meaning of Human Existence and Roger Scruton’s The Soul of the World

17 comments:

Crude said...

Seemed a bit light on the Wilson. I'd have prefer seeing you intellectually split him in two.

Kathleen said...

Is it possible to read your reviews without a subscription to The Claremont Review?

Anonymous said...

Er, it may or may not be possible to quickly highlight all the text with ctrl+a and copy and paste it into a Word document before the paywall popup comes up.

Sorry if I should've kept this hypothetical possibility private.

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: highlight all the text with ctrl+a and copy and paste it into a Word document before the paywall popup comes up.

If things pop up, they can probably be prevented from popping by turning off Javascript in one's browser. Or one can view the raw source of the page (which may not be a particularly pretty sight).

Sorry if I should've kept this hypothetical possibility private.

Well, it's surely hard to argue that general knowledge about how common software acts ought to be kept secret. But of course just because something is possible doesn't mean one ought to do it. For example, one can publish articles that readily show up in search-engine results:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:rQdSqRz0aOUJ:www.claremont.org/article/looking-for-meaning-in-all-the-wrong-places/&hl=en&gl=ca&strip=1

...and then obscure the content when somebody visits the page, even though this is expressly disallowed by Google. (It's a sort of bait-and-switch, making the content available to Google so that readers are lured to the site only to find that the content is not (apparently) available after all.) But to actually do so would surely be at least mildly shonky behaviour.

Daniel said...

Re Scruton, he recognizes Kant and Wittgenstein as his greatest influences - hardly a recipe for classic metaphysics. That said I would like to see someone defend a Kantian moral argument coldly and consistently - that is responding to the usual emotive brow-beating 'we don't need an argument to show squashed Bambi deer are wrong - all know it's true' with 'Why say 'wrong' or 'bad' instead of 'delightful'?

To state the obvious: the one thing a certain type of scientist can't stand is for people not to pay them attention, for people to say that their own field of expertise isn't of paramount importance in certain discussions. This is why a couple of generations back individuals like Julian Huxley and Ernst Haeckel were willing to tolerate Chardin and Steiner: they flattered their 'scientific' vanity.

(That said theologians should stop bringing up quotes from idiots like Lewontin and co in order to scaremonger over evolution rubbish)

Christopher Michael said...

*cough* http://www.claremont.org/download_pdf.php?file_name=9183Feser.pdf *cough*

Jumbo Jim said...

Feser, what fiction do you read?

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Christopher Michael!

Feser reviewing and Scruton -- my two favorite philosophers in one place.

Kathleen said...

Thanks to Mr. Green and Anonymous, too.

John West said...

It's well written.

dover_beach said...

Thanks to Mr Green. A wonderful review.

Gary Black said...

Now I admit that I have not read Scruton. However, from your description of him, I don't think his position is ambiguous between Rosenburg and Nagel. What strikes me about Scruton is that it is seems to be a Kantian position. In other words, our facts are determined by our conceptualization of nature. We conceptualize nature in two ways: the perceptible and the abstractions - "color" and "wavelengths". Either way, we only get back first what we have put in. Maybe I'm giving him too much credit here. And maybe he is open to all the same relevant criticisms of Kant - an unbridgeable skepticism.

PS I read everything except your last two paragraphs before writing this. I see you mentioned Kant and conclude Scruton is making a metaphysical position instead of an epistemological one. Assuming your learned position to be accurate, my interpretation likely has no merit. Although, I don't believe even Kant makes only an epistemological position. Either way, I'll leave it here.

Peter said...

I was wondering in this post, how does A-T philosophy help with the qualia problem? As I understand it, the redness of the red ball isn't just that the ball reflects certain wavelengths of light, but that it has inherent redness. But doesn't that still leave the question of how the wavelengths of light get translated into "redness" into our brain?
And how does A-T philosophy help with the difficulty of consciousness?
Thanks,
Peter

Anonymous said...

Peter, I imagine that redness and the mathematical aspect of qualia are, considered apart from light itself, partial abstractions from the nature of the whole. A-T helps this, I think, by supplying a metaphysical framework in which these two abstractions can sit together comfortably- that is, hylomorphism, where colour and wavelength are different aspects of Light's formal nature.

Anonymous said...

http://web.maths.unsw.edu.au/~jim/wrongthoughts.html

English Catholic said...

Does Scruton anywhere give a sustained argument against Aristotelian metaphysics? There's something very brief at the beginning of Modern Philosophy, but it's pretty easily refuted. (IIRC, he says that we can't exactly define some substances, such as snow and lakes, which of course may be true but does nothing to undermine the principle per se. He is also conflating, I think, nouns and substances, since a noun can easily refer to a substance-with-a-set-of-accidents.)

Is there a sustained argument anywhere? Similarly, does he anywhere attempt to defend Kantianism against the fatal flaw that Prof Feser discusses in TLS (and perhaps elsewhere)?

Anonymous said...

Is it truly morally licit to read the article without paying for it, as the article publishers require? I mean this as a serious question.