Friday, March 10, 2017

Get linked

At The New York Review of Books, Thomas Nagel reviews Daniel Dennett’s new book From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds.

Charles Murray versus the campus brownshirts: His personal account of the Two Hours Hate at Middlebury.  Commentary from Noah Millman at The Week, Ronald Radosh at The Daily Beast, Peter Beinart at The Atlantic, and Peter Wood at The Federalist.

At Physics Today, physicist Richard Muller says that the flow of time is not an illusion.

Psychology Today interviews philosopher Susan Haack.

A Christian’s job interview, with comedian Tracey Ullman.

Computer scientist and conservative thinker David Gelernter interviewed at The Atlantic.

At the Classical Theism, Philosophy, and Religion Forum, a Q&A with philosopher Rondo Keele, author of Ockham Explained.

Science fiction meets Aristotelian causality.  The latest from Michael Flynn, in the March/April issue of Analog.  Reviewed here.

At The New York Times, conservative philosopher Roger Scruton on human nature.  Scruton’s new book on the subject is reviewed by James Ryerson.   And at The New Criterion, Scruton on populism.

Interview with Fr. Thomas Joseph White about the second edition of his book Wisdom in the Face of Modernity: A Study in Thomistic Natural Theology.

Uh oh.  Early reviews indicate that with the Netflix series Iron Fist, Marvel’s finally blown it.

At Catholic World Report, philosopher Joseph Trabbic on Vatican II and the Catholic state.  And at Public Discourse, Trabbic defends Plato’s Republic.

YouTube video of philosophers John Searle and Luciano Floridi discussing artificial intelligence.

Conrad Black on Judge Richard Posner, in The New Criterion.

As any mu major dude would tell you, if there were such a thing as a greatest Steely Dan song ever, this might be it.  The making of “Deacon Blues.”  Then there’s Anthony Robustelli’s new book Steely Dan FAQ.

The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Logic, edited by Catarina Dutilh Novaes and Stephen Read’s, is reviewed at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

Turns out right-wingers are better looking than left-wingers.  Hey, it’s science.

Give ‘em an F.  Moronic university students demand the exclusion of Plato and Aristotle from the curriculum.

At the New York Review of Books, physicist Steven Weinberg on the trouble with quantum mechanics.

On the heels of the excellent Man in the High Castle: Amazon will be streaming a Philip K. Dick anthology series.

Also at Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Steven Jensen reviews Riccardo Saccenti’s Debating Medieval Natural Law and Paul Symington reviews Anthony Lisska’s Aquinas's Theory of Perception.

One more from The New Criterion: The career of Vatican Latinist Reginald Foster.

Trabbic on Trump and the travel ban, also at Public Discourse.

Better bring a bathrobe.  The Independent on the hotel room without walls

Two more from Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews: a review of Timothy Pawl’s In Defense of Conciliar Christology and a review of Brian Davies’ Thomas Aquinas's Summa Contra Gentiles: A Guide and Commentary.

You be willin’.  Philosopher Alfred Mele defends free will.

A “disastrous papacy,” concludes Phil Lawler at Catholic CultureA Church “in de facto schism,” judges E. Christian Brugger at Public DiscourseA “full-blown civil war over doctrine,” says Dan Hitchens at the Catholic Herald.  Even progressive theologian Fr. Timothy Radcliffe urges the pope to engage the dubia.  At First Things, Fr. John Hunwicke reminds us of why we have popes in the first place, and Matthew Schmitz awaits a young one.


  1. I've never like Iron Fist. I bet you like Daredevil? Catholic and a superhero.

  2. I noticed this:

    'Fr Timothy said: “I think it would be good to engage more closely with the four cardinals.'

    Since Radcliffe is English, I'm pretty sure he's at least subconsciously echoing the final signal Nelson left flying at Trafalgar: "Engage the enemy more closely." (That came after "England expects...")

  3. on that Richard Muller interview ...

  4. Interesting from the Muller interview:

    Einstein considered his inability to account for the flow of time and the meaning of “now” as a failure. Some modern theorists aren’t up to his standard; they think that anything they can’t explain with their current theories must be dismissed as illusionary. They address the time–space asymmetry―one flows, the other doesn’t―by denying it. They call the flow of time an illusion. But if the flow of time does not appear in their theory, that doesn’t mean that the flow should be dismissed; it means that their theory is incomplete. The legitimate goal of physics is to account for reality, not to deny it. The fact that standard physics doesn’t incorporate the flow of time is a clue, a clue to new physics.


  5. Well He is not quite right,first of all the scientific and philosophical theories which take this Now as objective reality has serious philosophical and scientific problems and secondly why does a physicist need to bother if they can do science just fine without accounting for this Now? If the empirical evidence confirms the prediction of a theory they re justified in denying this supposed Flow of time. and Neuroscience and NeuroPhysiology can take care of our subjective experience of this illusion.

  6. From the Murray account:

    "Both Bill Burger, who made the initial remarks in the lecture hall, and President Patton spelled out Middlebury’s code of conduct and warned that violations could have consequences up to and including expulsion. Those warnings were ignored wholesale. Now what?"

    That last question is an easy one to answer: Follow through.

  7. Let's assume that the flow of time is an illusion. By the definition of an illusion, the flow of time exists only by means of perception and neural processes in the brain. Therefore, it is possible in principle for me to take a drug which allows me to experience the past, the present, and the future all at once. Therefore, clairvoyance drugs would be considered "performance-enhancing" and be banned by the United States government thereby causing an enormous black market of clairvoyance drugs to proliferate. Because none of these things have happened, therefore our first assumption, that time is an illusion, must be mistaken.

  8. Anon,

    That would only be the case if the theory and the evidence entirely explained a phenomena (time) to the point that there was absolutely no room for this additional aspect (the flow of time). I'm no expert, but I don't think the current physics is in anything like such a position.

    Besides, surely the flow of time is something so inherent to our experience of the world, like the connected experience of change, that to call it illusionary is to come close to radical scepticism?

  9. Is there a specific term for the phenomenon that a concept could be logically considered and perhaps even embraced, while remaining psychologically impossible to hold? Two examples: (1) rejecting the flow of time; (2) a sort of Cartesian rejection of sensory experience. It seems to me that both of these could be argued for (logically), but remain virtually impossible to accept (psychologically). Again, is there a name for this phenomenon in philosophy?

  10. You won't be able to master the flow of time until you're able to carry a yesterday in your back pocket as a measuring stick.

  11. Speaking of links, you've got an awful lot of dead links in the blog recommendations bar. Just thought you might like to know.

  12. the error here is I think in holding the view that only presentism can do justice to our experience of passage of time and rejecting it leads to incoherence. both of these assertions are mistaken I think.

  13. Red, that rejecting presentism would lead to the incoherence of no change?

  14. On Dennett
    I find this guy all speculation. just like his statement THAT hand movements we use in talking are evidence of the origin of language. Like everything in evolutionism its speculative passing as conclusive enough to be seen as scientific.
    I fail too see the accomplishment of folks like this.
    In fact I just read the old DA Architecture by a old roman and he gave a better hypothesis for language origin even if also denying Adam as speaking instantly.
    He saw tones of voice as the origin of language. Inflection.

    On Judge posner.
    Oh brother. This is the reason for the jurisprudence crisis in america. people from a marxist european ethnic background interfering with the laws of america9and canada).
    truly not having a heritage in the great presumptions behind the laws of a people/nation is a roadblock to getting the right and better support of a law system by those in the top positions.
    A issue of identity and not mere philosophy.
    they do select the supreme court and lower courts with identity in mind. Ethnic/sex etc beside liberal/conservative and so they have a point. It matters about results.
    However the law is no selection except on ability. Ability is not defined by pre emptive conclusions.

  15. Callum,

    Well at least its not abundantly clear how it will be incoherent.

    Its only a rejection of this privileged Now. The way we experience time and what does Change involves can be accounted for in other ways..

  16. Red,

    So could you point out how Popper was wrong in showing that you couldn't coherently deny change in consciousness?

  17. Callum,

    As said previously, I don't think most eternalists would deny change completely.what they would want to deny is temporal becoming or that only present or now exists.
    They maybe want to replace this talk of change in this sense with the talk of replacement.

    now I don't know how does one wrap his head around the fact that we only experience the present and we experience time as somehow flowing but at least its not very clear how denying this would be incoherent and that nothing other than accepting presentism can account for what we experience.

  18. Red,

    So eternalists can't, afterall, deny change within consciousness as that would be incoherent?

  19. " Turns out right-wingers are better looking than left-wingers. Hey, it’s science."

    Who could have doubted it?

    Actually there is a fair literature as well on the topic of sexual dimorphism and political leanings ... Conservative women are more pronouncedly female looking whereas progressive womyn ... or wmyn or whatever, well we know the answer to that already.

    Then there is the correlation between the "Barbie" figure and fertility; and the reported findings that so-called liberals are more neurotic and depressed ... and medicated.

    Strange, in retrospect, that is should have ever seemed mysterious. Much of what we identify as "progressivism" is, in the first place, a demand by X for Y in the name of fairness ... which translates to acceptance ... on their terms.

    That is why although Marxists speechify about "equality", they have no more interest in equality before the law or indifferent treatment, or real liberty, than a dog has in a fiddle.

    Their real axiom is "From each ... to each ..."

  20. Callum,
    I don't know how can anyone deny change in there .. but there seems to be nothing incoherent about the view that objective world doesn't involve the change in the same way as we consciously experience it ..

  21. "But if the flow of time does not appear in their theory, that doesn’t mean that the flow should be dismissed; it means that their theory is incomplete."

    Yeah, Muller's reasoning might be circular but there still is a good point to be extracted from it, one that Feser has made before:

    "I noted that it would be fallacious to argue from the premise that Kepler’s laws describe the orbits of the planets without making reference to any cause of those orbits to the conclusion that Kepler’s laws show that the orbits of the planets have no cause. And it would remain fallacious whatever you think about Kepler’s laws and whether or not you think the orbits of the planets have a cause. For the point has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of either the premise or the conclusion. It has to do instead with the logical relationship between the premise and conclusion. The premise doesn’t entail the conclusion, and it doesn’t even make the conclusion more probable. It is evidentially irrelevant to the conclusion."

    So maybe the future does exist, as well as the past. But who is to say that they exist in the same way as the present does? Perhaps actuality and potency can be understood as two types of existence?

  22. ozero91,

    The passage you quote is from a post about quantum mechanics so its content might be irrelevant to anything here.

    I don't think its true that Eternalists reject flow of time just because it doesn't appear in their theory rather its because its incompatible with it. Bill Vallicella is pointing that its dubious argument anyway that The flow of time is not an illusion because time flows! There is no spacetime symmetry because there is a special moment in time called 'NOW.'

    though I don't know why is he being so dismissive given that Muller Articulates his theory in his book.. whether its any good is another issue.

    Suffice to say that Its just not the case that presentist view of time is rejected because of some prejudice is genuinely problematic

    So maybe the future does exist, as well as the past. But who is to say that they exist in the same way as the present does? Perhaps actuality and potency can be understood as two types of existence?

    not sure what you mean, this might be related to some eternalist,moving spotlight A-theory ..or something simply referred as taking the tense seriously ...I don't know maybe it can save act/potency but the amount of prominent defenders of this view can be counted on one hand I suppose ...or as other users and Feser himself point out maybe act/potency can even apply to block universe too. It would seem problematic though.

  23. "I don't think its true that Eternalists reject flow of time just because it doesn't appear in their theory rather its because its incompatible with it."

    Well I was speaking with regard to physicists who aren't necessarily philosophically literate, not hardcore eternalists.

    "not sure what you mean, this might be related to some eternalist,moving spotlight A-theory ..or something simply referred as taking the tense seriously"

    I'm not espousing any view in particular, I'm just pointing out that the question of whether or not there is only one type of "existence" may impact discussions of presentism vs. eternalism. Also, maybe act and potency can be understood as the "intersecting" of 4-dimensional time worms (or whatever you call objects that extend into the past and future in a block universe). The presence of a cause (heat source, also a time worm) is necessary for one end of another time worm (a ball) to be goo. Without the heat source intersecting with the ball, the time worm would be a ball at any time point in the block.

  24. As Gaudiya Vaishnavas would argue, disbelief in time is just another form of atheism. "Limits aren't real, so I must be God."

  25. Hey Ed,

    I know this is probably out of the blue, but could you write a post explaining in a little detail the scholastic and medieval view of the nature and basis of human dignity and how it differs from modern accounts. I have read The Science of Ethics, and of course some of the larger works of the sacred doctor, but remain confused on this topic.

  26. Nagel seems closer and closer to some kind of theism every time I read something of his. He was incredibly honest and possibly even sympathetic with Plantinga's book. And don't even get me started on Mind & Cosmos.