Thursday, November 2, 2017

Review of Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back (Updated)


UPDATE 11/19: The review can now be read online for free.

My review of Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds appears in the Fall 2017 issue of the Claremont Review of Books.  (This is the issue that also contains Janet Smith’s review of By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed.  Good excuse to buy a copy!)

143 comments:

  1. Dennett is an eliminativist, so he can't be taken seriously anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He's beginning to infect the ranks of University students. The other day a fellow philosophy student told me he finds convincing Dennet's little blurb that our minds are just electrical signals and flashing synapses. Though it's hard to take such a position seriously, sometimes we need to point out how inane and insane said position is in order to repel the growing dogmatism of scientific materialism.

      Delete
    2. Dennet's little blurb that our minds are just electrical signals and flashing synapses

      Strictly speaking this is not Dennett's position. The gentleman agrees that the mind is not reducible to 'electrical signals and flashing synapses' which is why - spooky, dark noir voice - 'the mind does not exist at all'. He is after all an Eliminativist rather than a Reductionist.

      Delete
    3. Doesn't Sennett hedge his bets between eliminativism and reductionism?

      Delete
    4. Eliminativism and reductionism are very seductive. Sure they might not hold up when crefully examined, but I can see how people are convinced, as thy just need to say "our brain is just a complex computer, nothing more, no other explanation needed".
      That's what atheists need to put their mind at rest.

      Delete
    5. our minds are just electrical signals and flashing synapses.

      And the Waldstein Sonata is just twitching fingers and vibrating strings.

      Delete
    6. He's not an eliminativist. He's an instrumentalist.

      Delete
  2. Is it just me, or is the review behind a paywall?

    Prof. Feser, if you could please put the full review on this blog, that would be greatly appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes, I could not get access to the review either.

    ReplyDelete
  4. http://www.claremont.org/download_pdf.php?file_name=3115Feser.pdf

    You can thank me later.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Slightly off topic, but welcome nonetheless: the Kindle version of Feser's intro to Aquinas is now on sale for 2 bucks:
    https://www.amazon.com/Aquinas-Beginners-Guide-Guides-ebook/dp/B00O0G3BEW
    I think it's part of their monthly Kindle deals.

    ReplyDelete
  6. How is Dennett a professional philosopher?

    When Dawkins (or Hawking, or whoever) says something that makes you arch an eyebrow you know at least he’s brilliant at biology (or physics, or whatever). If he is ambiguous or imprecise or falls into circular reasoning, you can say, “this isn’t his area really.” But surely a professional philosopher must be able to spot such flaws?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Dennett is both better and worse than someone like Dawkins.

      Delete
    2. When Dawkins (or Hawking, or whoever) says something that makes you arch an eyebrow you know at least he’s brilliant at biology (or physics, or whatever)

      He's not. He's an ex-scientist who rose to prominence for his literary skill, not his scientific work. And even his science is literal decades out of date.

      Delete
    3. I would have thought that any scientist should have a basic knowledge of logical fallacies, so I don't think "it's not his area" is much of an excuse.

      Delete
    4. Crude and Anonymous are both right.

      Somehow it still seems to me that the likes of Dawkins and Hawking are at least competent in biology and physics in a way that Dennett doesn't manage with philosophy. And philosophy is Dennett's speciality.

      I mean Prof. Feser's review makes it plain that Dennett's case is ambiguous, imprecise, and circular - so the fact that Dennett is a card-carrying Professor of Philosophy and yet can't see the flaws just feels sort of preposterous.

      Delete
    5. The problem with Dennett, in the last 10 years at least, is that he has become militant atheist first and a philosopher second.

      I did gain respect from other philosophers before he joined the Dawkins' club, but now he's only interested at peddling atheism.

      Sadly Hawking is also becoming like this.


      Delete
    6. Dennett is an atheist apologist. Apologetics comes first, and philosophy second. He must always be ready to have an answer for God-ridden savages in case they ever ask about the euphoria and enlightenment within.

      Delete
    7. If you think Dennett is bad, I dare you to subject yourself to the comedy of errors that is Sam Harris

      Delete
  7. For evolution to occur there needs to be reproduction, variation and selection.

    Although brains (and their biological support systems)reproduce, vary, and are subject to selection, it is begging the question to assume that minds can reproduce or undergo any form of biological selection.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Rather depressing to see that the book's average rating on Amazon is 3.9 out of 5 stars, and that out of the 27 negative reviews there was no criticism of the blatent circular arguments Dr Feser has pointed out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, never thought of that. I will.

      Delete
    2. Just because it's a pet peeve of mine, I'd advise against reviewing the book unless you've read at least a reasonable portion of it. Regardless of what you might think of Dennett, I think authors who put work into their books ought to be afforded at least the courtesy of having their book read before it is reviewed.

      Delete
    3. When it comes to Amazon reviews on books on debated topics, such like this one, you can hardly trust the score.

      Mostly it depends on how many from one side managed to "out-review" the other side.

      Delete
    4. hmmm... what do you mean by "out-review"? If you're talking about the numbers of positive vs negative reviews, isn't that appeal to majority? Surely a review has to be judged on its merits; is it fair and objective, does it reflect the actual content of the book? More importantly in this case, does the author present good arguments for the thesis? Dr Feser has shown that it hasn't.

      Delete
  9. @ RomanJoe
    "a fellow philosophy student told me he finds convincing Dennet's little blurb that our minds are just electrical signals and flashing synapses."

    So one configuration of this neural mechanism produces the feeling of love, and another configuration produces the feeling of hate.
    Therefore the next link in the explanatory chain must be a hypermechanism which converts the quantitative states of the neural machine into the qualitative states of the mind. Perhaps you should ask your fellow student to give a very generalized explanation or model of how such a hypermechanism might work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why bother? The idea is so fundamentally and self-evidently stupid that it implies either a low level of intelligence or else a prior fanatical commitment to materialism despite everything. In other words a mind brainwashed and content with its state.

      Delete
  10. Having read Dennett's book over the summer, I must say the review seems quite accurate. Hilariously enough, by switching out a few key words, you could probably turn it into a review of Consciousness Explained too! Rhetorical abuse of those who hold opposing views + nice summaries of interesting empirical work that doesn't show what he thinks it does + extremely imprecise and question begging arguments = Dennett's philosophical formula.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Prof. Feser, I think you mean From Bacteria to Bach and Back in the title, right?

    ReplyDelete
  12. When I read Frank Sheed's 'Theology for Beginners' it made me aware of rational arguments for the immaterial. "Spirit produces ideas. Since we are continually producing things which have no attribute of matter, it seems reasonable to conclude that there is in us some element which is not matter to produce them. This element we call spirit." IOW's, it would be absurd to claim that matter produces offspring that have not one attribute in common with it. As Sheed says...we are the sane and rational ones.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I had a discussion...a dialogue...with a die-hard evolutionary, atheist (on YouTube...where you must have thick skin) who said that, if there was a God, he could have designed a better eye and then proceeded to list its many perceived faults. I replied that he was assuming that brain evolved without any faults. Perhaps the brain has faults to prevent it from understanding the eye, evolution or God.

    I then proceeded to say that one had to believe the senses are per se 'infallible' to have rational thought but the discussion turned into name-calling so I wasn't able to go any further

    It is for the same reason that I have a hard time taking a book like Dennett's seriously. They try to stand above their own theory as if they weren't subject it. Indeed, man didn't create God but he created the idea of evolution to pretend there wasn't a God.





    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, theism is not at all incompatible with evolutionary theory. That misconception is a byproduct of the fundamentalist Protestant worldview that culturally dominates the USA. Actually, most theists in other developed countries, including the people here in this blog, accept the scientific knowledge regarding evolution, as does the Catholic Church herself and the other historical Christian denominations.

      Now, the philosophical stances of neo-Darwinism and materialism (especially in their most extreme version, scientism) are a different matter entirely. But then again, there is absolutely no good reason to accept those views; on the contrary, there are plenty of excellent ones to reject them.

      Delete
    2. Is not the 'mind of man' immune from evolutionary theory and incompatible with it? Are not the senses 'infallible 'per se'?

      Delete
    3. Sure, the human mind, being immaterial, cannot be explained by a naturalistic thesis. Implying that it can is to subscribe precisely to those erroneous philosophical stances.

      But that is very different from saying that evolutionary theory itself is wrong or that it invalidates God (which would be playing the neo-Darwinist's game).

      Delete
    4. I don't believe it is very different at all since the senses have to be, per se, 'infallible' to apprehend reality correctly. Evolution doesn't guarantee that.

      Delete
    5. But the fact that evolution doesn't explain everything is not the same as it's being wrong. It explains what it can explain, such as how the organs of sense developed; from there it goes no farther (except in the minds of sciencists like Dennett.) Analogously, the design and construction of my car tells us nothing about how and where I drive it.

      Delete
    6. Our senses are not infallible per se, however. Illusions and certain mental illnesses are a case in point. Unless you are perhaps referring to our senses being trustworthy and reliable (in general), in which case you'd be making an argument about how evolution, left to itself, could not guarantee the reliability of our cognitive faculties. Alvin Plantinga has made such an argument. But that is not an argument against evolution, but against naturalism or "naturalistic evolution". If God is in the picture, for example, he can guarantee that our senses would evolve to be reliable.

      The issue is not evolution per se, if we limit it to whatever it can actually explain (our biological constitution, the matter that makes up human beings, etc). The problem is philosophical naturalism which is always attempting to latch onto evolutionary biology like a parasite

      Delete
    7. "theism is not at all incompatible with evolutionary theory. That misconception is a byproduct of the fundamentalist Protestant worldview that culturally dominates the USA. Actually, most theists in other developed countries, including the people here in this blog, accept the scientific knowledge regarding evolution, as does the Catholic Church herself and the other historical Christian denominations."

      "theism is not at all incompatible with evolutionary theory. That misconception is a byproduct of the fundamentalist Protestant worldview that culturally dominates the USA. Actually, most theists in other developed countries, including the people here in this blog, accept the scientific knowledge regarding evolution, as does the Catholic Church herself and the other historical Christian denominations."

      Firstly, it depends what you mean by theism. Evolution is most assuredly incompatible with classical theism--that of orthodox Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and for that matter of Hinduism. Evolution substitutes an illusory "horizontal" causality for a metaphysically true "vertical" causality. The doctrine of the Word, which is an immutable reality, is the very negation of evolution. The archetypes or Divine "ideas" do not evolve.
      So, secondly, the so-called "misconception" is hardly the monopoly of Protestants.
      Thirdly, the metaphysics of the Word are not synonymous with fundamentalist "creationism."
      fourthly, the fact that "most of the readers of this blog," etc. accept evolution proves nothing at all.
      Fifthly the betrayal of the Catholic Church of its own orthodoxy is nothing new, but follows from its fundamental betrayal of Vatican II.

      Delete
    8. Please excuse the typos. This site does not provide for editing a post.

      Delete
    9. Kaminksy

      a) The Church taught nothing regarding evolution until Pius XII, who permitted us to believe in the biological theory so long as we maintain the historicity of Adam, Eve and Original Sin, along with the fact that each soul is a special creation.

      b) As others have put it eloquently elsewhere (not on this particular post) you will find speculation on what might be considered 'proto-evolution' in both Aquinas and Augustine.

      c) we can know of God's existence, and the immateriality of the soul through reason alone.

      d) acceptance of the biological facts of evolution does not negate the classical metaphysics from which C can be proven, if anything it reinforces the act potency distinction, as well as the realist approach to the theory of Universals. Acceptance of evolution does not entail acceptance of the materialist interpretation foisted on us by the likes of dennet and dawkins.

      Delete
    10. Kaminsky, you are confusing evolution with neo-Darwinism (that’s like confusing science with scientism). Neo-Darwinism is nonsense, evolution is not.

      And I won’t deny that a sizable portion of Catholics does deny evolution, especially in the US. But the truth is that, not only do those Catholics tend to be completely ignorant of the Faith they profess, they don’t even understand they’re just buying into the simpleminded scheme invented by the Protestant fundamentalists of “evolution = liberal = libertine = atheist = bad, creationism = conservative = pious = believer = good” (typically the very same fundamentalists that consider themselves the archenemies of Catholicism, even going as far as to think Rome is Babylon and the Pope the Antichrist).

      The fact that worldwide Catholic education is in shambles, allied to the ever-growing collection of fundamentalist cults that spread like a virus by infecting gullible illiterate people, with secularist and money-hungry Hollywood always eager to help perpetuate this absurd stereotype, is the root of the entire problem. The Catholic Church is not and never has been in conflict with the findings of natural science.

      Bad science, bad history, bad philosophy, bad theology. They go hand in hand.

      Delete
    11. "Kaminsky, you are confusing evolution with neo-Darwinism (that’s like confusing science with scientism). Neo-Darwinism is nonsense, evolution is not."

      I am? No, I just disagree with you. Evolution is not science, it is a hypothesis. Nothing more. Don't ask me to join the club. Bad science, bad theology, zero metaphysical insight. But let's not squabble. You're free to believe what you please, and evolution is indeed a belief system.

      Delete
    12. Yes, Kaminsky. You are. You are confusing the findings of natural science and the scientific theory that better describes them (which at this point are almost completely non-controversial to any honest person who has studied them) with the gravely erroneous philosophical assumptions some people tend to read into them.

      In fact, Prof. Feser himself has covered the issue in great detail in the past. If you want to know why your fears that evolution might be incompatible with classical theism have absolutely no reason to be, you can start by here:

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.pt/2010/05/id-versus-t-roundup.html

      Delete
    13. I don't have the "fears" you are imputing to me. If you want to consider me ignorant and/or dishonest, go ahead, but kindly have the breeding to keep your disobliging thoughts to yourself. I despise cheap bullying: "are almost completely non-controversial to any honest person who has studied them)." I also believe that a person should have the courage of his convictions and not hide behind an anonymous address. Admittedly there are occasions for prudence, but this is a blog dedicated to Scholasticism, hardly a politically dangerous venue.

      Delete
    14. Well, evolution is a well established scientific theory and Scholasticism is perfectly compatible with it. Happy?

      Delete
  14. I think there are many of us that highly appreciate you being able to combine highly entertaining phrases like these:

    "Dennett puts the cart before the horse so many times, he risks prosecution for animal abuse."

    "Dennett is in fact an extreme Cartesian, rather than the anti-Cartesian he takes himself to be."

    "From Bacteria to Bach and Back is Dennett’s demonstration that he can stay on this merry-goround for hundreds of pages without getting dizzy."

    With paragraphs of deep insights, such as these:

    "Dennett’s position is self-defeating in another way. He maintains that what philosopher Wilfrid Sellars called the “manifest image”— the world as it appears to us in everyday conscious experience (as opposed to the “scientific image,” or the world as represented by physics, chemistry, biology, and the like)—is a “user-illusion.” That is to say, our perceptual awareness of the external world is a set of convenient fictions that allows us to navigate a reality whose true nature is too complex for our brains to handle.

    Now, there are at least two fatal paradoxes here, which Dennett does not even address, much less resolve. The first is that the human self or “user” is, in his view, itself part of the illusion. Hence there is no one there for the “illusion” to be an illusion for. Dennett’s account thus destroys the foundations of its own intelligibility. Second, natural science, in the name of which Dennett puts forward his various theories, ultimately rests on the empirical evidence provided by conscious experience. Hence if conscious experience really were a “user-illusion,” it would follow that the foundations of empirical science are illusory."

    I've been contemplating this for several years now. It's hard to understand how self-refutation doesn't even occur to the very intelligent persons that launch these attacks on reason, consciousness, qualia, intentionality, self, (free) will and so on.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "Our perceptual awareness of the external world is a set of convenient fictions that allows us to navigate a reality whose true nature is too complex for our brains to handle."

    C.S. Lewis calls this "looking at" as opposed to "looking along." If we "look along" a sunbeam coming in through the window, we see the trees outside, the sky, and so on--reality, in other words. If we "look at" the sunbeam, we see only a bunch of swirling dust motes. Dennett thinks that the operation of the brain is the true reality, and our perceptual awareness is the "fiction."

    He's so caught up in "looking at" the brain's operations, in other words, he no longer accepts the reality gained by "looking along" the mind's faculties.

    ReplyDelete
  16. "Dennett puts the cart before the horse so many times, he risks prosecution for animal abuse."

    So more like 'From Descartes to Dennett and Dubious'

    ReplyDelete
  17. OP "natural selection, ... is sensitive to survival value alone."
    --False.
    It's reproduction. Survival is necessary but not sufficient to reproduction.

    "If comforting falsehoods and fallacious reasoning happen to be conducive to our survival, then they will be selected for."
    --Substituting "reproduction" for "survival" we get a true statement.

    "But then, if Dennett’s account of the origin of human thought processes were correct, we could have no reason to suppose that those processes track truth or conform to canons of logical inference"
    --False.
    If we define truth as that which is real, but human processes fail to track truth how likely is survival and reproduction?

    If I imagine sand is nourishing and tastes good so all I eat is sand what is the likelihood I will produce offspring that also like to eat sand?

    If I find a tree sexually attractive how likely is it I will produce arborphiliac offspring?

    If I reason that gathering food is bad because it means I have less food, and throwing away food is good because it means I have more food what are the chances I will produce offspring of similar logical capabilities?

    We have every reason to suppose that those processes track truth and conform to canons of logical inference, else the harsh realities of life in the wild would soon lead to our extinction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, everyone please hold the line and not reply to him, except to say go away.

      Delete
    2. Anti-SP November 5, 2017 at 12:35 PM

      "Yes, everyone please hold the line and not reply to him, except to say go away."
      --Doesn't it concern you in the slightest that Feser displayed a lack of knowledge on the subject of the book he is reviewing?

      OP"Furthermore, natural selection, whether among organisms or among “memes,” is sensitive to survival value alone."
      --This is clearly an error. Yet you remain satisfied that Feser is qualified to pass judgements on a book on this subject?

      Are you at all interested in scientific facts or is this just a mutual admiration society where facts are irrelevant?

      The review was harshly critical of the book, ok, that's academia for you. When an academic puts his work out into the public he had better learn to embrace vigorous criticism. A man with strength of character welcomes strong criticism because it exposes weaknesses that would be beneficial to correct, or reinforces strengths in the original argument if the criticism can be shown to be unfounded.

      That includes vigorous criticism of his vigorous criticism. It's all part of the process of science, yet you seem to be deathly afraid of it.

      Delete
    3. Shoo! Shoo! Shoo!

      Delete
    4. When I read "survival alone" I immediately understood that this meant species survival, and included reproduction. You may well be the only reader who failed to understand this.

      Delete
    5. Michael C November 5, 2017 at 5:35 PM

      "When I read "survival alone" I immediately understood that this meant species survival,"
      --Then you know more about how evolution works than Feser, which is not surprising.

      Feser said "Furthermore, natural selection, whether among organisms or among “memes,” is sensitive to survival value alone."

      "Organisms"
      "memes"
      These are individual entities, not species.

      It is a common mistake of people who are not familiar with evolution beyond a few basics to cite survival, as opposed to reproduction, in this context.

      But Feser does not stop there. He goes on to say "But then, if Dennett’s account of the origin of human thought processes were correct, we could have no reason to suppose that those processes track truth or conform to canons of logical inference".

      If Dennett is aware of this book review at all he undoubtedly would skim it, read such, and quickly realize the author does not understand the basics of evolutionary theory.

      Part of the problem is that Dennett seems to have just stopped caring about Aristotelians, theologians, mysterians, and anybody else who reads his work from such perspectives. He laces his prose with words like "design" and "illusion" and has apparently reached the point that he just doesn't give a damn if guys like Feser just don't get it.

      Other science popularizers have grown wary of the way theists misuse terms like "god doesn't play dice" and on and on. Scientists sometimes wax poetic and throw around words like "god", "design", and "illusion" because they know their intended audience knows what they mean.

      But popularizers pf science see how theists use their pretzel logic on those terms so they avoid using them.

      Dennett appears to have stopped caring if the mystical minded folks don't get it. He uses the words he feels like to convey the message he has to his target audience and if theists and mysterians run with their misunderstandings of those words he just doesn't seem to give a damn.

      Delete
    6. Get lost.

      Seriously, no one please respond to his conceited, idiotic tripe.

      Delete
  18. OP "natural science, in the name of which Dennett puts forward his various theories, ultimately rests on the empirical evidence provided by conscious experience."
    --True. That's why a scientific truth is necessarily a provisional truth. A scientific proof is necessarily a provisional proof.

    " Hence if conscious experience really were a “user-illusion,” it would follow that the foundations of empirical science are illusory. "
    --Feser simply does not understand what is meant by "illusory" in this context.

    Plot a swath of dots representing some set of measurements. Now plot a trend line through the dots. The trend line is "illusory" in this sense. It is an approximation. It is a simplification. It is an analogy.

    We say the trend line is a valid approximation when we have reason to think it tracks reality. If we plot a different set of dots but use the same method of calculating the trend line we see that our approximation method tracks reality.

    That's what scientific models do. A physics statics diagram is "illusory" because in reality there are no such things as weightless chains and frictionless wheels and the materials themselves while seeming static are actually dynamic systems of vast complexity.

    We can't do a lever force calculation by modeling the characteristics of every atom in the lever, the pivot, and the weight, even though that would be closer to the truth if we could somehow do that.

    Our physics statics model provided a useful "illusion", where "illusion" does not mean a fantasy wholly divorced from reality, rather, a simplification that converges on reality when applied consistently over a wide variety of circumstances.

    A rock sitting on the table seems to be sitting still. That is a user-illusion, or simply "illusory". In truth that rock is a mad beehive of activity with every molecule jiggling to and fro.

    For thousands of years nobody knew the truth about molecular motion in solids, but we could sense an approximation of it, an aggregate indication of it, we call "temperature". Motions of vast numbers of molecules in the rock are transformed to a single sensation of temperature such as hot or warm or cold.

    The "illusion" of temperature is not a baseless fantasy, even though nearly all humans have had no idea what was really going on, rather, our sense of temperature tracks reality. There is a fairly consistent functional relationship between molecular motion and our user-illusion of temperature.

    I have a mild color blindness to certain dull shades of green, which look gray to me. A clever arrangement of colored dots seems to have a "9" in it for me, but it seems to have a "4" in it for somebody else.

    Which of us is suffering from an illusion? Both. Reality is photons streaming onto the ink and being selectively reflected in certain wavelengths, which are focused on the retina, which sends signals to the brain, which are processed in networks distributed in space and time.

    One of us has the user-illusion of "9", the other of us has the user-illusion of "4".

    There is nothing self defeating about understanding the mind as brain function in these terms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just give that poor SP a tranquilizer, and then final sedation. Him asserting nonsense and being unable to read Feser's OP and other comments... and seeing, on every of his comments, just the same repetition of his pseudoscientific dogma hurts. Don't make him suffer no more, I feel bad for him. I mean, when one both deny the self and affirm it, it's dementia. ;v;

      Really, SP. Really. I pity you. Don't try licking a chainsaw, shooting yourself in the head or drinking poison : these ARE BAD THINGS, and they can KILL YOU. And you know, dying is bad. I know I'm just stating the obvious, but with you, one might never know.

      Delete
    2. We have a word for what you describe - "approximation". If Dennett uses "illusion" to mean what you claim, he needs lessons in remedial English.

      Delete
    3. And the resolve to not feed the troll didn't last long.

      Delete
    4. Michael C November 5, 2017 at 5:41 PM

      "We have a word for what you describe - "approximation". If Dennett uses "illusion" to mean what you claim, he needs lessons in remedial English."
      --For you, perhaps. Some people have such a wide gulf of world view between the writer and themselves that very explicit language must be employed at length to bridge that gulf. Dennett seems to have stopped caring about doing that. His target audience appears to be scientifically minded people and if others don't get it he seems to no longer care.

      Sometimes an old man just says "screw it, if those nitwits don't get what I am talking about that is their tough luck".

      But, he took the time to much more fully discuss the illusory nature of our perceptions of self
      here:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPGvu8lT8HY
      Daniel Dennett - Can Brain Explain Mind?

      and here:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE6CNETNJvk
      Daniel Dennett - What is the Nature of Personal Identity?

      Delete
    5. SP, go away. Go find the answers to your silly objections elsewhere.
      Stop clogging the comment section.

      Delete
    6. I think this thread is a good illustration that even the briefest substantive responses to SP's posts, like Michael's, cause him to spread like a rash. This is why he must be utterly ignored, or at least no substantive replies made.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous November 6, 2017 at 3:10 PM

      " or at least no substantive replies made. "
      --Are you capable of a substantive reply or are you just making excuses?


      If collection of mindless robots A produces assembly X.
      And
      If collection of mindless robots B produces assembly X.

      What preference should we give to one X or the other X in calling one a design, but not the other?

      Does a design require a top down designer?

      If a collection of mindless robots produces assembly X, and a human being produces an assembly X, is assembly X a design or not? Perhaps only the latter X is a design?

      What if the top down designer turns out to also be a collection of mindless robots, a human brain, for example?

      Delete
  19. This is sort of OT and sort of not: why say that angels are immaterial substances rather than, like the spheres of Aristotle's heaven, endowed with bodies of aether? That way there aren't the difficulties that seem to arise when treating the immaterial substance analogously to matter and the act of existence analogously to form in a material composite substance. Plus, the angels w/ aetherial bodies could do all the intellectual operations, AND move other embodied substances lower than they in the hierarchy of being.

    I assume that Prof. Feser has discussed this; any suggestions where to look will be welcome.

    ReplyDelete
  20. When a "philosopher" is celebrated/praise by the establishment media It ALWAYS means they like his conclusions.
    The times are super lame. the establishment is super worthless. Was it once better? must of been!
    anyways.
    this is another book trying to figure out human thought while denying a Soul made in Gods image.
    Simple.
    Then take that soul and connect it to the body above the neck.
    then what is it connected too?
    Simple.
    The thing that is material. The memory.
    so people are like oiur computers.
    The glory of the modern computer is the memory.
    So its the equation , redunctionist, of the soul reading the memory and the memory controling the body.
    not complicated.
    by the way this is what Jesus had to do.
    When he became a man he was stuck in a human memory machine.
    Thats why as a child he had to learn wisdom etc. He couldn't remember what he knew when in the trinity state.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Here is Thomas Nagel's review of Dennett's book, which is worth reading also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks.

      "To say that there is more to reality than physics can account for is not a piece of mysticism: it is an acknowledgment that we are nowhere near a theory of everything, and that science will have to expand to accommodate facts of a kind fundamentally different from those that physics is designed to explain."

      Amen.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous November 6, 2017 at 4:03 AM

      Thanks.

      "To say that there is more to reality than physics can account for is not a piece of mysticism: it is an acknowledgment that we are nowhere near a theory of everything"
      --This confuses "physics" meaning human abstractions, human models with "physics" meaning the way materials interact.

      All that is needed to account for the appearance of mind is materials interacting.

      Delete
    3. SP, I, for once, think that "materials interacting" is done thanks to cheese.

      Lots of cheese. What do you think?

      Delete
    4. I think the cheese account is better than SP’s.

      Delete
    5. lets not forget the wine, and the cheese straws, and the cheese crackers, oh and best let the after eight mints that they're invited as well.

      Delete
    6. Feser doesn't quote enough of dennett to really showcase the mind numbing stupidity of this work. His stabs at it don't do it justice at all and I was under the impresson that it cannot be that bad, but simply laying out his comparisons is enough. It's almost a self parody of materialism.

      Delete
    7. Am I the only one who sees Strawdusty's profile picture as some sort of ominous face? I realise it's actually space, but I see a horrid face in it. the two bright blue dots are the eyes, and below them there is an open mouth with teeth (lower left corner) as if screaming in pain

      Delete
    8. Dunno. I think I see a cheesy grin 😁

      Delete
    9. and i thought that SP was a particularly cheesy mouse luxuriating in a palace made entirely of cheese. Perhaps we should start calling him 'Jerry'.

      Delete
    10. Why, Miguel? Why?! ;(

      What has been seen cannot be unseen... ��

      Delete
    11. BTW, I don’t know why, but every time I try to use an emoji (this time it was a crying face) it shows up as these two weird exclamation marks, while other people seem to be able to use them however... :(

      Delete
    12. 😢 = &#128546 ;
      Without the space

      Delete
  22. Has Feser ever written on Thomas Metzinger's "The Ego Tunnel - The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self"?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Greetings, Dr. Feser.

    Just out of curiosity, whadda you think about writing a review on some of Susan Blackmore's publications as well? I looked up but did found any!

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Is Aristotelianism/hylomorphism about mind, *construed in a certain way*, a version of reductive (though not eliminative) materialism that should be tossed out on the supposition that mind is just explanatorily an antirely different thing than matter? (In Aristotelian hylomorphism, we understnad the matter to be *organized* in such and such a way that *of course* there will be conscious thought processes going on within that "hunk of (*organized*) matter.")

    Dennett and others doubt the existence of anything immaterial. Now, "immaterial" is a word that has to be treated carefully here, lest straw men abound. Is Aristotelian form *immaterial*? I know that the likes of Mortimer Adler want to use Aristotelian-style arguments to establish the immateriality of intellect (since, supposedly, the object of intellectual activity - the universal aspect of things - is irreducibly material itself). But I don't know of any argument against adopting a hylomorphic approach and treat form in terms of the way the matter is organized, such that mental activity is an emergent feature of the living *organism* or *system* and not some isolated part like a "neuronal synapse" (and how does a neuronal synapse properly speaking come to be what it is, without having a place within an organized system?). The best sense I can make of the "mind/body" distinction in a hylomorphic analysis is to say that it's not brains that think but subjects that think, but then what is a subject? Can you have subjects without brains? If not, then *in what sense* (that makes sense to a skeptic about the immaterial such as Dennett) can subject-minds be treated as immaterial?

    I'll add that Dennett confirmed in an email response a few years back that the Aristotelian-hylomorphic account of mind makes plenty of sense (and without having to make some supposedly necessary distinction between the material and the immaterial to explain the body-mind relation, when it can be explained in terms of material-and-organization, or material-and-form to use Aristotle's scheme). Dennett is also apt often to make claims that his position is mischaracterized a lot by critics. (How about if, in criticizing Dennett's view, Dr. Feser explicitly adheres to the Rapoport Rules for serious criticism that Dennett touts in 'Intuition Pumps'? How does a suitably fortified characterization of Dennett's view differ from an Aristotelian hylomorphism, and on top of that, how do we construe such hylomorphism in such a way that we must be committed to the existence of immaterial objects?)

    UP/CRC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Feser would argue, and has done at length, that the mind is irreducibly immaterial. For example, he has argued based on its ability to understand abstract concepts, just as Adler and others (going back to Plato and Aristotle) have.

      How a form understood in the Aristotelian sense could be material is hard to see. A form is universal.

      Delete
    2. If we're talking about form in a more strictly Aristotelian and less Platonic sense, and especially as it applies to biological organisms, we treat of soul as the form or *organizing principle* of the organism. (A given form will have both universalizing and individuating aspects: a human's DNA contains programming for both humanity generally and for that specific human's unique makeup.)

      How treating form like this leads to the conclusion that there is something immaterial, is odd to me; the "hard problem" is odd to me given a commitment to hylomorphism. What we treat of as mind or soul is something to do with the way the matter is organized, rather than looking beyond matter to something that happens somehow to interact with the material.

      If the core distinction is between what it is to be a subject and what it is to be an object, that doesn't line up with the immaterial/material distinction, either.

      Delete
    3. But that isn't the Aristotelian notion of a form. A form is an organising principle but a it us a genuine universal. Aristotle and other Aristotelians agree with Plato on that.

      Delete
    4. That might make me a neo-Aristotelian of sorts on the issue of form. I don't treat form and universal as synonymous. (But I could be mistaken about this; I haven't thought it all the way through yet.) And when it comes to universals, I don't accept an interpretation of their character that involves Platonism, e.g., treating whiteness as a real being over and above individual instances of whiteness. (We are nonetheless able to spot the whiteness-similarity among them, for which we need an account without appeal to the "third thing", a self-subsisting universal, against which the comparison of the two similar objects is made. I would count myself among neo-Aristotelians who are very un-Platonic and generally skeptical about real abstract existences external to human cognition. My own background context to date has been significantly Randian/Objectivist....)

      Delete
    5. Whether Aristotle accepted that forms could exist outside a particular substance is disputed (Gerson, for example, argues that he did, or at least that he thought they existed in the mind of God), but the forms within things, enmattered forms, for Aristotle don't exist on their own. Nevertheless, Aristotle is a realist and thinks they are universal. For example, the form of a triangle is for Aristotle the same in all triangles, despite the fact a particular triangle has all sorts of individuating qualities, like its particular size, shape, color, etc. Though some (like Gerson) would argue that a position like this must collapse into a kind of Platonism, it is not explicitly Platonist, so it is wrong to call it Platonism. I'm not sure if you are referring to a position like this when you talk of whiteness-similarity, or if you mean a form of conceptualism or nominalism. Aristotle, as noted, is generally considered a realist, not a conceptualist or nominalist.

      Delete
    6. Whether the form is a universal in Aristotle is a very controversial topic, esp. in light of Metaphysics Z. Section 10 of Marc Cohen's SEP article goes into the problem.

      https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-metaphysics/

      Delete
    7. Ficino,

      I think very controversial is somewhat exaggerated. There is a concerted attempt by some contemporary scholars to naturalize Aristotle, often not very successfully. Aristotle simply can't be made into a materialist.

      If the suggestion is Aristotle is suggesting some kind of nominalism, this is just not plausible given the role he wishes forms to play, both in the composition of substances and in knowledge/intellect. Gerson's account, in which he argues Aristotle affirms both an enmattered form and one that is separate from matter (and ultimately resides in the divine intellect) is much more plausible. It is easier to see harmony between Plato and Aristotle than Aristotle as a materialist and nominalist.

      Delete
  25. I also take issue with the Plantinga-style arguments to the effect that naturalistic evolution is in some way self-undermining. Plantinga wants to make a sharp distinction between "truth value" and "survival value" that can only be reconciled if there is some Being that guarantees that these are harmonious values. In a purely naturalistic context, these values (truth and survival) are supposed to be in irreducibly sharp distinction or contrast. Why? I kind-of imagine an Aristotle taking much issue with such a hardline division.

    Anyway, seeing as how there are now long-established canons of evidence and reasoning, and that a bunch of evidence and the non-assumption of miracles leads to the view that minds apparently emerged from a process of natural selection, how is this supposed to be self-undermining according to those canons of logic? It's the canons of logic against which we test the plausibility of such an evolutionary explanation for minds. Do the canons of logic and evidence work as they do only because they are miraculously guaranteed to do so by a Creator? Where does sort of premise that lead us? (These canons exist whether we emerged entirely naturalistically or with God's formal guarantee of their truth-trackingness. Yes?)

    Even if naturalistic evolution gave us imperfect-enough brains that their *primary* function is survival-value and only incidentally or secondarily their good-enough ability to track truth (after about 50,000 years ago, at any rate?), the canons of reasoning and evidence emerged nonetheless, precisely to better weed out the less-truth-tracking reasoning processes. If our minds are good-enough at arriving at these canons whatever the ultimate origins of our minds, then I don't see how Plantinga-style arguments can get going in the first place. There's got to be some big equivocation going on in them, about what "tracking truth value" means. If evolution purely by natural selection is *true* then *what other* conclusion would we be expected to come to on the basis of our established logical canons, than that it is scientifically true?

    UP/CRC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe I'm misreading, but your main argument seems to beg the question. You seem to be saying an evolved mind is reliable because we have an evolved mind that is reliable.

      Delete
    2. I can't say much on Plantinga's argument myself, but it is not Feser's argument. Feser argues from the universal and determinate character of concepts and thinking in general. You can find different versions of the same argument defended by people like Gyula Klima, John Haldane, David Oderberg, James F. Ross, etc. There are also some wittgensteinian-flavored variations that center around language, such as Herbet McCabe's argument or Davie Braine's.

      Anyway, Feser argues (correctly, in my view) that the mind is irreducibly immaterial because of the universal and determinate aspects of thought. Also because of our capacity to think about other things, which in the hylomorphist view would mean that the very same thing exists both in the world (as the particular dog we perceive) and in our intellect (as the universal form), but if the intellect were material then it would actually become a dog whenever it thought about it (which is absurd), since for matter to receive form in hylomorphism is for it to undergo this kind of substantial change.

      Delete
    3. Anon: "Maybe I'm misreading, but your main argument seems to beg the question. You seem to be saying an evolved mind is reliable because we have an evolved mind that is reliable."

      We have a *mind* (evolved or not, Created or not) that is reliable enough to arrive at and work well with long-established canons of logic and evidence. We should assess the quality of arguments for non-Created evolution by natural selection, on the basis of how well they are supported by those canons, and that alone. It might be clever in an undergraduate kind of way to point out that evolved minds are suited first and foremost to survival value, and to proceed to the conclusion that such an argument is self-defeating. But no such argument would ever establish that our minds aren't good-enough to arrive at canons of reason, so it wouldn't be self-undermining even conceding that survival value explains our cognitive machinery. It's not so clever after all, in other words. Or maybe Plantinga's argument is more sophisticated than I'm giving it credit for, although its sophistication is not well-advertised, then.

      Delete
    4. Miguel:
      "Anyway, Feser argues (correctly, in my view) that the mind is irreducibly immaterial because of the universal and determinate aspects of thought. Also because of our capacity to think about other things, which in the hylomorphist view would mean that the very same thing exists both in the world (as the particular dog we perceive) and in our intellect (as the universal form), but if the intellect were material then it would actually become a dog whenever it thought about it (which is absurd), since for matter to receive form in hylomorphism is for it to undergo this kind of substantial change."

      We have different form-matter phenomena going on here that we should not run together. I'm speaking about hylomorphism in philosophy of mind, where we grasp the nature of mind in terms of its being a form or *organizing principle* of a living body. (Here "mind" in the human organism would be either synonymous with "soul" or with some major sub-component of soul.) Hylomorphism applied to things generally treats of form and matter as being united as or in composite substances. Now, unless we are going to put a Platonic-style inflection on our hylomorphism we might not be doing Aristotelian hylomorphism proper. If we begin talking about form as being universal only rather than (to use my example in a response above with human DNA) something that both universalizes as well as individuates, then that sounds less true to the spirit and intent of Aristotle's position as a real alternative to Platonism about form.

      What's more, I would have to see a more detailed argument for how our capacity for discerning universal elements in knowledge has something to do with the material/immaterial distinction. That latter distinction is certainly relevant to understanding Plato's view given the immateriality of Forms in his view, but I've never gotten clear on how Aristotle's argument for the "separability" of nous is supposed to work if he is staking out a real alternative to Platonism. Provisionally I have taken Aristotle's argument here as something that doesn't in any clear way follow from his general approach to form and matter (that's supposed to constitute a rejection of key distinctive Platonic theses).

      It might be that I simply don't get Aristotle's argument here (he did make some mistaken arguments sometimes), or how generally speaking the universal element in our knowledge implies any immateriality anywhere. For instance, the idea that "if mind were material then in thinking about a dog it would undergo a substantial change to that of a dog" doesn't register for me as something other than a confusion or nonsequitur over what it is to regard the mind as material (i.e. as *not immaterial*). I'm suggesting that a hylomorphic approach treats mind as a feature of a composite substance - a human being - and that this substance is a material body (which is conscious). I treat of Cartesianism about mind as constituting a rejection of a hylomorphic analysis, treating of "nature" and "spirit" as radically irreducible substances. I don't think of an Aristotelian approach as amenable to this. I also don't see that/how a hylomorphic analysis necessarily applies in the way Aristotle suggests when it comes to "mentally receiving substantial form"; there are other accounts than just Aristotle's (I'm thinking of Rand's for example, but my knowledge of the history here is quite limited) of how we come to have a mental grasp of universalizing elements in knowledge.

      Delete
    5. UP,

      I'm not sure I understand your argument then. Plantinga is assessing whether our faculties can be reliable if they evolved, at least when it comes to more abstract and speculative reasoning, given it is hard to see why evolution should guarantee their reliability. His argument is inductive or probable, unlike other versions of the argument from reasoning. Your response seems to be to point to our very reasoning abilities, but I'm not sure how you are turning that into an argument.

      Delete
    6. Anon, I would say something like: our faculties are reliable enough to have established canons of reasoning, which is reliable enough even if evolution didn't "guarantee" that our beliefs would line up with the facts. But note the difference here between *beliefs* and an entire *canon of the sciences*. Sure, 50,000 years ago we would say that humans were governed cognitively much more by beliefs per se than by anything resembling a systematic episteme. But lo and behold, some 2300 years ago, the idea of a systematic episteme and indeed of a worked out basic canon of logic came into being. So our minds (evolved or not) went beyond mere consideration of belief or opinion and began working out systematic theoretical accounts of knowledge. Humanity has moved from a state of lesser to greater knowledge as a result. No evolutionary accounting of our history could negate this point; survival-value explanations could coexist right alongside truth-value canons. Plantinga's argument would only apply to beings perhaps well beyond 50k years ago who were cognitively primitive and not self-reflective enough to systematically distinguish belief/opinion and knowledge. Plantinga's argument rests on a crucial idea that given naturalism we couldn't *know* naturalism to be true, i.e., as something we could reliably come to know over and above being an opinion or belief. But we know that there is an opinion/belief vs. knowledge/science distinction, based on the sort of thing we know can be *reliably* established as true despite our capacities for error or bias. Once we have that opinion/knowledge distinction at all, and know (fairly well) systematically about the preconditions of knowledge, I don't see any work that Plantinga's argument can do.

      I don't see any "guarantee" of the reliability of human faculties beyond what we can get from using those faculties themselves in a refined way, which has been quite a lot. What problem is there epistemically without such a "guarantee"?

      Delete
    7. I'm afraid I still don't really follow you.

      Are you saying that we have opinion and not knowledge? But this is enough?

      I'm not an expert on Plantinga's argument, but I take him to be saying that an evolutionary account of our faculties understands them to be gradual adaptions to our environment that are inherited due to their survival value. This, he claims, means they aren't likely to be reliable in telling us about the world, especially in terms of more abstract reasoning, because that is necessary for their survival value. I'm still not sure exactly what your response is. To say we have canons of reasoning would be begging the question. Plantinga is trying to assess whether those canons are compatible with naturalism.

      I would think a proper response to Plantinga would require either a good reason we should expect natural selection to give us reliable faculties, even for abstract reasoning, or an argument that our reasoning (whilst still being a material process) if reliable in one area (and can shown to be reliable in that area), such as for surviving in the wild, must be reliable in others because of the nature of reasoning.

      Delete
    8. Sorry, I meant that is not necessary for their [our rational faculties] survival value.

      Delete
    9. UP,

      " our faculties are reliable enough to have established canons of reasoning, which is reliable enough"

      Reliable enough for what? Survival? If so, what does that have to do with truth or knowledge?

      "So our minds (evolved or not) went beyond mere consideration of belief or opinion and began working out systematic theoretical accounts of knowledge"

      So far so good!

      "Humanity has moved from a state of lesser to greater knowledge as a result"

      That doesn't follow, nor is that equivalent to what you said above. You could come to whatever account of knowledge you like, it does not follow that you have actually gained knowledge. Our accounts of knowledge could still be a completely dubious and we don't even realise, because we developed to survive and reproduce, not get to the truth.

      Delete
    10. If we begin talking about form as being universal only rather than (to use my example in a response above with human DNA) something that both universalizes as well as individuates

      I have a problem with that. One thing Aristotle is pretty clear about is that it is matter which individuates, not form.

      (It is also true that one of his criticisms of Plato was that the latter ended up as treating forms as a kind of particular.)

      Delete
  26. "Organization" is pretty much the same idea as SP's "materials interacting," above. The problem is that any emergent property of materials interacting is still going to be material. Let's say we take hydrogen, which is not wet, and oxygen, which is not wet, and organize them in such a way that they become liquid-state water, which is wet. In this case, the wetness is the emergent property. The problem with the comparison to mental activity is that the emergent state of wetness is just as physical as the initial state of non-organized hydrogen and oxygen.

    In the case of thinking, however, the faculty of mind, even if using chemistry and synapses and so on, is able to understand--which is a non-physical result of the cognitive process. In that sense, thinking goes beyond "organization" of materials or "materials interacting." It is a different level of result altogether: a non-physical result.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Craig:
      I'm just not seeing it. I can see how the mind's ability to understand is an *emergent* result the organization of material elements, but I don't see how we get from that to non-physicality.

      It's been some years now that I have encountered and thought about the "hard problem" from time to time, and I've yet to see how it's supposed to be a problem beyond misconceiving what it is for a mind to be (un)physical. As best as I have been able to make out, it is distinction between subjectivity and objectivity, and that subjective first-person experience can't be "reduced" to something that is non-subjective (thereby erasing the ultimate reality of the subjectivity, something Dennett is being accused of doing in his work). But the object/subject distinction isn't tantamount to any hard problem that I can make out. And it isn't tantamount to a material/immaterial or physical/non-physical distinction. Without begging the question *against* materialist naturalism, I'm not clear on what "non-material or non-physical existence" would refer to in the context of mind-having beings like us (who inhabit a physical world). (This is not to affirm or deny either materialism or immaterialism as metaphysical theses applied to anything and everything; but when it comes to physical-world-inhabiting *beings like us*, and without begging metaphysical questions, I tend to look for good reasons or evidence for thinking that there is anything immaterial or that there is something immaterial about beings like us.) The science/humanities distinction doesn't line up with material/immaterial, either. The issue of symbolic or other meanings for beings like us doesn't support such a division (does it?).

      Speaking of meaning, I don't know what "non-physical result of a cognitive process" is supposed to *mean*. I don't think one has to be a committed materialist about everything to wonder what on earth a non-physical result of something involving activities carried out by beings like us is supposed to resemble conceptually (in the context of our conceptual framework). Best as I can make out, something immaterial or non-physical would be something not tied down to the nexus of the physical world; scientism dismisses such notions as beyond any and all knowledge or meaningful inquiry, and I'm not embracing that view. I am "embracing" the view that to each domain, whether physical or non-physical, whether hard-scientific or humanistic, there is a conceptual model we have for dealing with each. "Non-physical such-and-such operating within the physical world" sounds like a category error, the sort of thing that Descartes inevitably runs up against when trying to account for apparent substance-interaction (which in hylomorphism is real and not merely apparent and which probably isn't even properly described in terms of *interaction* between substances or between anything else, but rather in terms of operations or activities occurring by or within a composite substance).

      Delete
    2. "Organization" sounds quite a bit like "harmony" or "atunement", which Aristotle explicitly rejects. In what way is it different?

      Delete
  27. William Hasker, rightly in my opinion, calls the interaction problem one of the most overrated objections in philosophy. It is hard to see why it is supposed to have much of a bite. Why can't two distinct kinds of substances interact? We have lots of experience of very distinct things interacting.

    Anyway, I would suggest some background reading to understand Feser's position on the mind:

    http://www.newdualism.org/papers/E.Feser/Feser-acpq_2013.pdf

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/oerter-and-indeterminacy-of-physical.html

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html

    ReplyDelete
  28. Anyone notice the difference in reception here of UP and SP? SP's anon supporters should certainly take note. And SP himself should (we live in hope!) have a little think about just why he is treated so harshly whilst far from all skeptics are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anti-SP November 6, 2017 at 10:31 PM

      "Anyone notice the difference in reception here of UP and SP?"
      --Is there a difference? I hadn't noticed. UP can speak for UP. For myself I point out errors of the OP others just don't seem to observe.

      This could be a big benefit to Feser's career if he would take advantage of it. Unfortunately, he has already published his errors regarding "survival" when he should have said "reproduction", and the misguided bit about illusion and untruth and illogic.

      OP"Of course, evolution,
      which is an entirely impersonal natural process, "
      --Oh my, there he goes again, as though Dennett isn't keenly aware of this.

      Must a design have a designer? Perhaps, if that is how you define "design", but perhaps not. Here is what Dennett has to say about it:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZefk4gzQt4
      Daniel Dennett: "From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds" | Talks at Google

      Suppose a designer, say Gaudi, directs a design to be constructed. He does so by transmitting symbols such as drawing and words to people who build things accordingly. Top down design.

      Now, the top down designer could, in principle, not transmit symbols of his design, rather, he could program robots to move about in 3 space, each robot not knowing anything about the design, just executing movements. Still a top down design, but executed without passing design symbols to humans.

      Now suppose those robots somehow got programmed absent a designer to do all the exact same movements. The design gets built, but there is no designer. A design without a designer.

      But how could robots get programmed without a mind to program them? Indeed. Consider the termite castle. Built by a multitude of mindless robots who know nothing about why they are doing what they do, yet they are programmed to each make moves in 3 space that all together buildsa castle. A bottom up design without a designer.

      The programming was done by the process of evolution, and in this sense Dennett says evolution designs.

      Dennett apparently no longer cares if Aristotelians mired in ancient misconceptions are unable to grasp the sense of his words, his target audience is the young men at the end of the video.

      Dennett is stimulating young intellectuals, highly educated, already professionally successful, forward thinking rationalists...stimulating such fine young minds with forward analytical thinking, leaving Aristotelians to wallow in the mire of medieval past.

      The title of the book ends with "and back". Dennett closes the loop. Our neurons are much like the termites, each one a little robot with no mind, no notion of why they do what they do, just little mechanisms that form all there is about the brain, that like the termites, were not designed by a mind and do not in total have an emergent mind, only the illusion of a mind.

      Delete
    2. SD, even such fundamental mistakes such as the ones you list by Feser doesn't seem to disturb the clapping seals here. Somehow you're the one who is confused? I wish they would point out where but childish insults are always easier.

      Delete
    3. "SD, even such fundamental mistakes such as the ones you list by Feser doesn't seem to disturb the clapping seals here. Somehow you're the one who is confused? I wish they would point out where but childish insults are always easier."

      Does "clapping seals", directed to an entire audience, qualify as a "childish insult"? Or is it just a mere insult? Or you are a just a stupid moron?

      Delete
    4. Dennett is stimulating young intellectuals, highly educated, already professionally successful, forward thinking rationalists...........

      And what on earth is typing this drivel? an intelligent mind trying but failing to make an argument.... or a termite who doesn't know what the hell it's doing and trying to 'convince' others that they don't exist.

      Well I got news for the troglodyte you ain't welcome here, the age of denent and dawkins and churchland et al is over. The New Aristotelians are here and beneath the guiding lights of the 'Philosopher', the Angelic Doctor and uncounted Priests we are going to kick your sad sorry ass back to the Jurassic age. In fact we're not the New Aristotelians at all, we are the Aggressive Aristotelians and our job to reclaim the physical sciences for the Glory of God using the gifts of the Philosopher to do so.

      Wherever we gather; be it online or in the real world, the names on our lips will be Haldane! Kreef ! Feser! Oderberg ! Koons! & Pruss to name a but a few. You better run back into Plato's cave....... cause the BOYS are most certainly back in town and they brought Legions of Angels with them!!

      Delete
    5. An intelligent mind would also think twice about calling Dennett a rationalist, given the meaning of that term. He may be an empiricist, but he certainly isn't a rationalist. His kind of empiricism has problems explaining reason, as Feser points out in the review.

      Delete
    6. Just another mad Catholic November 7, 2017 at 10:08 AM

      " an intelligent mind trying but failing to make an argument.... or a termite who doesn't know what the hell it's doing "
      --Close, sort of. A brain made of "termites". The analogy is that a termite is a mindless robot and a brain cell is a mindless robot. Collections of mindless robots produce designs.


      " the age of denent and dawkins and churchland et al is over."
      --Hilarious.

      " The New Aristotelians are here and beneath the guiding lights of the 'Philosopher', the Angelic Doctor and uncounted Priests we are going to kick your sad sorry ass back to the Jurassic age."
      --What's the matter Catholic, are you mad?

      Delete
  29. grodrigues: Not just a moron but a "stupid moron". That hurts so much especially when you have no idea who I am.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Anonymous:

      "grodrigues: Not just a moron but a "stupid moron". That hurts so much especially when you have no idea who I am."

      Oh, I can feel your inteeeense pain from down here. I am clapping. You know, like seals do. Throw me a fish.

      Delete
    2. Stupid moron seems about right. As I said, look at the reception given to UP compared to that of SP, and then try to claim SP is insulted and dismissed for anything but being a rank troll. Unless Anon answers this point properly, he's himself is just a troll praising SP because he is anti-theist.

      Delete
    3. "SD, even such fundamental mistakes such as the ones you list by Feser doesn't seem to disturb the clapping seals here. Somehow you're the one who is confused? I wish they would point out where but childish insults are always easier."

      Anonymous, Stardusty Psyche is a troll. The protocol here is to not feed them.

      If you genuinely think Stardusty Psyche’s comments have merit you might want to rehearse them here yourself without all the trolliness.

      That said, it’s easy to see where he’s confused. For example, Feser criticises Dennett for being ambiguous and imprecise. Stardusty Psyche defends Dennett by pointing out that Dennett doesn’t actually mean illusion when he writes “illusion” - he means approximation. And of course it’s our problem that we might somehow think he’d mean illusion, because who cares about clarity and precision when discussing hard stuff? Only "ancient" "medievalist" "nitwits" apparently.

      “Sometimes an old man just says "screw it, if those nitwits don't get what I am talking about that is their tough luck”.” — That was Stardusty Psyche attempting to justify Dennett’s ambiguousness and imprecision. It’s also explains why many here will not waste time pointing out his many confusions (again).

      Delete
    4. David Ezemba November 7, 2017 at 2:15 PM

      " Stardusty Psyche defends Dennett by pointing out that Dennett doesn’t actually mean illusion when he writes “illusion”"
      --Strawman, your words, not mine.

      " - he means approximation."
      --An approximation is a sort of illusion. An approximation is wrong, it is false, in the sense that it is not the true answer.

      An approximation can be a useful illusion if it is close, because close is often close enough.

      Delete
    5. grodrigues November 7, 2017 at 11:09 AM

      " I am clapping. You know, like seals do."
      --Indeed, as usual you post nothing of substance relevant to the content of the OP. You merely hurl insults while applauding the leader.

      " Throw me a fish."
      --That's what happens when Feser publishes another one of his erroneous essays. You clap along having been fed another fish.

      You rarely post anything of more substance than a seal could, yet you claim to have a PhD in mathematics and to be a published mathematical physicist. One would think such a person could write more substantively.

      Can there be a design without an individual top down designer? Can a mindless process produce a design?

      Is a snowflake a design? People often speak of natural patterns as designs, meaning an arrangement that is aesthetically pleasing.

      If arrangement X is produced at one time by a top down individual designer, and at a different time arrangement X is produced by a bottom up mindless process is arrangement X a design in the first case but not the latter, even though the arrangement is identical in the two cases?

      Delete
    6. SP, go away. Start your own blog and discuss your silly objections there.

      Feser doesn't want you clogging up the combox with your silly objections. At least be willing to honor that request.

      Delete
    7. Dear SP: Aquinas doesn't give an argument from design, so I am unsure of your target.

      Delete
    8. SP reminds me of Zach from TBBT, perhaps we should test his intelligence with a swimming pool, a couple of dozen hoops and a bag of whatever bite sized treats he likes.

      Unlike Zach however he doesn't realise that the joke is on him.

      Delete
    9. Craig Payne November 8, 2017 at 5:59 AM

      "Dear SP: Aquinas doesn't give an argument from design, so I am unsure of your target."
      --I was responding to the OP found here:
      http://www.claremont.org/download_pdf.php?file_name=3115Feser.pdf

      If you want to hear Dennett explain his points about design here is one source:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZefk4gzQt4

      If 2 collections of mindless robots produce identical assemblies then on what basis do we call one such assembly a design and the other such assembly not a design?

      Delete
    10. Okay, I see what you are arguing. However, Feser deals with this objection (not in terms of robots, but in terms of computers). Saying that robots are "mindless" in their designing makes no sense since robots (and computers) themselves are products of human intelligence. The metaphor and implied analogy break down.

      Delete
    11. Craig Payne November 9, 2017 at 5:51 AM

      " Saying that robots are "mindless" in their designing makes no sense since robots (and computers) themselves are products of human intelligence. The metaphor and implied analogy break down."
      --Indeed that is what Feser said but it is not so much a breakdown as an instance of being incomplete.

      Dennett goes further. That is is "and back" aspect of the title of the book.

      What if there were some way to program the robots that build the design but without a mind to program them? It turns out there is, evolution by natural selection.

      Dennett uses the example of the termites as little mindless robots with no clue as to why they are doing what they do.

      The "and back" aspect refers to human brain cells, also mindless little robots, programmed though natural selection, that each have no clue as to why they do what they do, but together, in the aggregate, direct all we do.

      We are, each of us, a colony of little mindless robots.

      Delete
    12. Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree. As I wrote to Ultimate Philosopher, up above, the end result of "understanding" which arises through the cognitive process seems obviously to contradict the "mindless" charge. Robots, computers, and so on, do not understand their operations, no matter how quickly or reliably those operations may be performed. Humans, however, do.

      The termite example seems to support Aquinas's argument that mindless natural operations directed toward a meaningful end indicate the Mind behind them. Otherwise, the natural operations of the termites would have no meaning at all, which of course they do.

      Delete
    13. Stop feeding the troll, please.

      Delete
    14. Craig Payne November 9, 2017 at 7:08 AM

      " the end result of "understanding" which arises through the cognitive process seems obviously to contradict the "mindless" charge. "
      --Many things seem obvious but turn out to be false. I am not immune to this problem. Nobody is. That is, in part, why the scientific method was developed, to go beyond what seems obvious to get closer to the reality of existence as it actually is.

      Each individual neuron in the brain is a little robot, which is by itself mindless, I think you would agree.

      I also think you would likely agree that the aggregate actions of the brain cells in, say, an insect or a reptile, are sufficient to account for their sensory/motor system actions.

      What is so different about a human brain? In short, the sensory data processing that is a somewhat open loop transfer function from stimulus to response in an insect or lizard has an additional pathway in the human brain.

      In the human brain the stimulus/response open loop transfer function is augmented by a closed loop feedback path, that of inspection of the elements of the brain.

      While the lower animal brain only looks outward and responds, the human brain is sufficiently complex to also sense itself.

      There is no need to invent another dimension of being to account for mind or self awareness. We need only consider a system of sufficient complexity to incorporate self examining pathways in addition to the outside stimulus response structures of the lower animal brain.

      Delete
    15. You are not welcome here period you miserable little Troll, You do not engage with the metaphysical arguments put forth, you are rude and condescending, and the host of this blog has himself said you are not welcome (hint think of a blog as as someone's home and act accordingly)

      At least UP (who I think is at least on the right path although not quite at the destination) engages with the arguments, you just spout and spout and spout and to be frank we've all lost patience with you.

      GO AWAY!!

      Delete
    16. Just another mad Catholic November 10, 2017 at 5:23 AM

      " You do not engage with the metaphysical arguments put forth,"
      --What metaphysical argument negates the fact that each individual brain cell is a mindless little robot that was programmed through the process of natural selection?

      You don't engage in the manifest facts evident to our senses. At least Aquinas set that criteria as a foundation expressed in the first words of the First Way.

      All the brain does is the aggregate action of a collection of mindless little robots that were programmed in a mindless process of evolution by natural selection. Engage with that manifest reality.

      "host of this blog has himself said you are not welcome"
      --That is an error for an academic, who would advance his own positions by welcoming criticism on the merits. By inviting criticism on the merits we discover our own errors and hone our ability to voice our arguments to better anticipate the misunderstandings of others.

      You, however, do not engage in the manifest reality before you, as Aquinas himself pointed to. For example, you were not able to provide any rational explanation as to why the unchanging existential respect of the materiel would call for any changer at all, since it is not changing. All you do is call names when faced with such questions.

      You have not engaged with the fact of the OP, which is a book that draws a link between the clearly bottom up design methods of a collection of mindless robots that were programmed mindlessly, compared to the design methods of another collection of mindless robots that were programmed mindlessly, the human brain. Engage that manifest reality, or are you only capable of calling names?

      Delete
    17. Academics welcome intelligent engagement, not straight personal abuse, question begging and ducking the question. You demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge of the A-T position or anything that Dr Feser has actually published (by your own admission you have not read his books), and have spent the best part of the last 6 weeks (at least) clogging up the comment boxes. Either that or this is some kind of Andy Kaufman pardoy on your part.

      I don't even know what you are referring to when you use the abbreviation OP and I'm sorry that I haven't been able to publish answers to every single question you have, I have previously signposted resources which I think will help you, but I cannot do it all for you. I am somewhat busy planning my wedding, writing a collaborative journal article with colleagues in the US, teaching undergraduates and conducting extra drills with my fellow reservists.

      I make no claim to be the best of philosophers but as I lover of wisdom I outrank you. For you are a sophist of the worst order who does not love wisdom but only the sound of your own voice. SO GO AWAY!!!! YOU are NOT welcome, Kindly EXIT and try to hit your head on the way out.

      BTW this post from six years ago sums you up perfectly http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/to-louse.html

      Delete
    18. Just another mad Catholic November 10, 2017 at 10:17 AM

      "Academics welcome intelligent engagement, not straight personal abuse,"
      --As an accusation against me you are making that up out out whole cloth. I challenge erroneous arguments on the merits, if that triggers you to get all butt hurt that is on you.

      " question begging"
      --Name some specific examples on this thread or the thread where nobody could answer why the unchanging existential respect of material calls of any changer to account for its persistent existence.

      " and ducking the question."
      --Ducking what question? Your last two posts against me have been a string of unsupported and vacuous charges.

      " You demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge of the A-T position "
      --I am very familiar with the A-T position on a variety of subjects and have written significantly here and elsewhere on their argumentation defects.

      "or anything that Dr Feser has actually published (by your own admission you have not read his books),"
      --There are many forms of publication and I have read them. The ancient works are all available on line as are 10s of thousands of words by Feser and others.

      "I don't even know what you are referring to when you use the abbreviation OP "
      --It means Original Post. It is one of those text messaging abbreviations like LOL, or ROTFLMAO, or WTF.

      "and I'm sorry that I haven't been able to publish answers to every single question you have,"
      --You haven't published much of anything, other than vacuous charges against me.

      You completely failed to address why the unchanging existential respect of material would call for a changer at all to account for persistence of material existence.

      Further, you have made no attempt to answer the analysis of the human brain as a collection of mindless little robots that were programmed through the mindless process of evolution, which in the aggregate account for all the human brain does, including design, a major topic of the OP.

      " I have previously signposted resources which I think will help you, but I cannot do it all for you. "
      --I always appreciate links to wherever but when they point to Aristotelian sources they invariably turn out to be ridden with errors.

      "I am somewhat busy planning my wedding,"
      --Best wishes to you, and many years of wedded bliss.

      " writing a collaborative journal article with colleagues in the US,"
      --On A-T subjects?

      "I make no claim to be the best of philosophers but as I lover of wisdom I outrank you."
      --Only the unwise think themselves wise, did you learn nothing from Socrates?

      BTW this post from six years ago sums you up perfectly http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/to-louse.html
      --I am very familiar with the first way, A-T arguments, and I read the OP carefully.

      I have commented on the actual words actually found in the actual OP. Somehow, you find that objectionable in some vague emotional way, but then why are you unable to form specific rational arguments that show my specific criticisms to themselves be erroneous?

      Delete
    19. The best pay back for SP is to just ignore him totally. He just isn't worth it. Any genuine attempt to respond to him, even angrily, just feeds him and spreads his idiocy like the vile rash full imbecility and personality disorder that it is.

      Delete
    20. Can you point to some actual examples of his "idiocy...full imbecility and personality disorder" that you detect in SP's arguments? Emotional assertions are really hollow. This blog isn't very philosophical when it comes to engaging the arguments with dissenters.

      Delete
    21. Anon, you're a liar. That you have the gall to say that say that on the very thread in which UP was maturely engaged with shows you yourself are just some pathetic gnu troll. Get lost.

      Delete
    22. I'll ask again: What specifically does SP have wrong?

      Delete
    23. The problem, as I have observed it, is not any particular arguments SP has wrong (even though several have been addressed, such as the "mindless robots" claim). The problem, and what differentiates him from a serious questioner, is that IT DOES NOT MATTER what anyone will say or not say in reply or rebuttal. He will simply re-assert the previous comments as though nothing substantive had ever been posted in reply. In fact, he will assert that no one has been able to answer any of his objections, even as he repeats them. After a while, it gets tiresome.

      So I am taking the pledge: Professor Feser, I apologize for not following your directive regarding SP, and I promise not to engage him in discussion any more.

      Delete
  30. David Bentley Hart's take on 'From Bacteria to Bach':
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-illusionist

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hart and Feser certainly see eye-to-eye on philosophy of mind and the inadequacy of metaphysical naturalism.

      Regarding natural law and dogs in heaven? No so much ;)

      Delete