Thursday, October 22, 2020

Dupré on the ideologizing of science

Philosopher of science John Dupré, like Nancy Cartwright, Paul Feyerabend, and others, has developed powerful and influential criticisms of reductionism.  Whereas Cartwright is best known for her criticisms of reductionism in the context of physics, Dupré has tended to focus instead on biology (though both have addressed the other sciences as well).  Like Cartwright, his style is less mischievous and polemical than Feyerabend’s was.  Dupré’s essay “The Miracle of Monism” is a useful overview of his approach, and contains lessons especially relevant at a time when science (or at least the use to which it is put in public policy) has become ideologized.

The “monism” Dupré has in mind is related to the notion of the “Unity of Science,” which, he notes, can be interpreted in either or both of two ways: as entailing a unity of method or a unity of content.  On the first interpretation, there is a single “Scientific Method” that all the sciences apply in their respective domains.  Baconian inductivism and Popperian falsificationism would be stock examples.  On the second interpretation, there is a single subject matter that all the different sciences are ultimately about.  The stock example here would be the reductionist thesis that all the facts of chemistry, biology, psychology, etc. are really “nothing but” facts about basic particles and the laws governing them, so that anything we say about the former should at least in principle be translatable into statements about the latter. 

Belief in “unity of method” traditionally lent plausibility to the “unity of content” idea.  More ambitious versions of reductionism are now widely rejected, but as Dupré notes, the spirit of reductionism lives on (as is evident from the work of many prominent philosophers and scientists).  It is the metaphysical vision represented by the “unity of content” idea that Dupré has in mind by “monism.”  By calling it a “miracle,” Dupré is being cheeky.  The empirical evidence, he argues, is firmly against either interpretation of the “Unity of Science” thesis.  Hence it would be a miracle if monism were true.  The thesis is a “myth” or an “ideology,” he says, and like other myths and ideologies it thrives not because of any evidential merits but because it serves certain functions. 

Pluralism versus unity

The problems with attempts to formulate a single “Scientific Method” have been well-known in the philosophy of science for decades.  As Dupré points out, the very idea that there is some uniform procedure deployed by physicists when they search for a new particle, by molecular biologists when they look for the genetic basis of cancer, by coleopterists when they classify beetles, and by sociologists when they carry out a statistical investigation of a hypothesis (to borrow Dupré’s examples), was never terribly plausible in the first place.  In reality, scientific methodologies are as diverse as the domains scientists investigate and the very different problems those domains pose.

The bulk of Dupré’s attention is devoted to criticizing the metaphysical interpretation of the “Unity of Science” idea.  The problems with various specific reductionist projects are also well-known.  Reductionist positions in the philosophy of mind face notorious difficulties.  Dupré himself has made important contributions to the literature demonstrating the failure of reductionism in biology.  Powerful anti-reductionist arguments have been developed in recent years even in the philosophy of chemistry.  (I survey all of this anti-reductionist literature in the philosophy of science in Aristotle’s Revenge.)

One “monist” solution to the problem posed by the failure of reductionism is to opt for eliminativism.  If classical genetics cannot be reduced to molecular genetics, then, the eliminativist holds, we must simply eliminate classical genetics and replace it with molecular genetics; if mental phenomena cannot be reduced to neural phenomena, then we must simply eliminate the mental from our picture of human nature and replace it with a purely neural description of human behavior; and so on.

Now, none of these eliminativist positions is ultimately coherent.  (Again, see Aristotle’s Revenge.)  But more to Dupré’s point, there is no empirical evidence for them whatsoever.  They are motivated instead by the demands of an ideological metaphysical vision, not by any considerations from genetics, neuroscience, or what have you.

Dupré notes that the thesis of the “completeness of physics” is sometimes appealed to in defense of the monistic metaphysical vision.  This is the idea that whatever exists or happens in the world does so by virtue of what exists and happens at the level of basic particles and the laws that govern them.  As Alex Rosenberg likes to put it, “the physical facts fix all the facts.”  But this thesis is itself merely another part of the “monistic” ideological position dogmatically adhered to, for as Dupré observes, “there is essentially no evidence for the completeness of physics.”  Indeed, the failure of reductionism (in chemistry, biology, psychology, the social sciences, etc.) is itself empirical evidence against the completeness of physics.  There is simply too much about the world as we know it from actual experience (as opposed to tendentious metaphysical theory) that cannot be captured in a description that confines itself to the entities and laws recognized by physics.

People who think the predictive and technological successes of physics prove otherwise are drawing precisely the wrong lesson, in Dupré’s view.  It is, as he points out, extremely difficult to get physical reality into the right sort of artificial laboratory conditions in which the laws of physics will actually accurately describe it.  Most real world circumstances are simply too complex for the laws to be anything more than approximations.  The idea that the description physics gives us of such idiosyncratic systems is true of the world as a whole is an extrapolation for which there is no empirical warrant.  What physics describes are abstractions from physical reality, rather than physical reality in all its concrete richness.  Its precision is, accordingly, a “red herring” in Dupré’s estimation.  (Here Dupré is, of course, making a point that has also been developed in depth by Nancy Cartwright in a number of works.)

What actual experience reveals to us is a plurality of domains of physical reality to which a plurality of methods must be applied if we are to understand them – rather than a single monolithic reality that can be captured via a single monolithic “Scientific Method.”

Functions of the myth

Why does the ideology survive if there is no evidence for it?  Dupré notes that it serves a couple of interests.  First, the idea that there is a single monolithic “Scientific Method” that all scientists employ serves the function of lending unearned prestige to the less solid areas of scientific inquiry.  It “distributes epistemic warrant” and thereby “provides solidarity and protects the weaker brethren,” as Dupré says.  If physics, chemistry, evolutionary psychology, macroeconomics, meteorology, epidemiology, etc. are all really just the same thing – ScienceTM, applications of The Scientific MethodTM – then some of the eminence of an Einstein or a Schrödinger thereby rubs off on the likes of (say) a Neil Ferguson or an Anthony Fauci. 

If instead we see that there is no single “Scientific Method” but rather a patchwork of diverse enterprises, some of which are more solid and successful than others, then each has to fend for itself.  One can no longer pretend that, say, doubting the wisdom of lockdowns (my example, not Dupré’s) is like doubting quantum mechanics, as if they were somehow equally plausible deliverances of “the science.”

A second reason the myth survives, Dupré tentatively suggests, is that it sometimes serves the interests of the rich and powerful.  He gives the example of the overuse of drugs to treat emotional and behavioral problems, such as the use of Ritalin to deal with ADHD in boys.  The reductionist assumption that mental phenomena are really “nothing but” neural phenomena can make the use of drugs falsely seem “more scientific” than an approach that emphasizes the psychological level of description or environmental factors.  Those in authority can satisfy themselves that they have solved a problem with a chemical “quick fix,” and drug companies can reap profits.  (The way in which the myth of a monolithic Scientific Method can function as an instrument of authoritarian social control is a theme of F. A. Hayek’s classic The Counter-Revolution of Science.)

Science ain’t all that

Dupré rightly admires the achievements of the sciences, but rejects the scientism that would deny the necessity or legitimacy of other approaches to studying reality.  Though there is no single scientific method, there are “epistemic virtues” that science at its best exhibits, such as “understanding, explanation, prediction, and control.”  However, fields of study other than the sciences can exhibit such virtues as well.  Indeed, drawing on Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Dupré notes that in some ways, scientists often think less critically than people working in other fields (such as philosophy) do.  He writes: “Of course, scientists have very heated disputes about the details of their empirical or theoretical claims, but these take place within a context that is not, on the whole, called into question.”  (What he has in mind here is, of course, Kuhn’s thesis that “normal science” involves solving problems within a “paradigm” that is dutifully upheld rather than challenged.)

What the advance of knowledge requires is a plurality of overlapping approaches – both scientific (physics, neuroscience, etc.) and non-scientific (philosophy, history, etc.) – to the study of a plurality of kinds of reality.

Related reading:

Scientism: America’s State Religion

The particle collection that fancied itself a physicist

Fallacies physicists fall for

One Long Circular Argument

Science and Scientism

Blinded by Scientism

Rosenberg roundup

Mind and Cosmos roundup

Scientism roundup

122 comments:

  1. Dr feser I am very excited for your talk at the Pints with Aquinas conference!!!!

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  2. Epidemiology is a successful field of science in its own right, being used by millions of governments--such as Biden's administration when Ebola entered the USA--to succesfully control disease spread.

    It is those "apolitical" people who try to weaken the fields of certain sciences whenever they lead to the conclusion that their "apolitical" ideology is stupid. Like how climatology suddenly became a pseudoscience when it naturally led to the conclusion that supply-side economics has heavy externalities and therefore is stupid. Or how cybernetics suddenly went from the hero who would save us from eliminative materialism to pseudoscience just because it came to the conclusion that CEO's business, and the free market are unsuccessful at meeting all the needs of consumers and therefore libertarianism and Reaganism are stupid.

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    1. Climatology became a pseudoscience when it abandoned empirical data to base its conclusions on heavily massaged computer models and refused to acknowledge contrary physical evidence. Supply-side economics had nothing to do with it.

      Cybernetics never became a pseudoscience, but the extravagant claims of early AI researchers (who were supposed to have replaced us all with omniscient robots before now, according to their well-publicized predictions) were recognized as pseudoscience because they had absolutely no conception of the complexity of the task they had set themselves. Libertarianism and ‘Reaganism’ (whatever you mean by that) had nothing to do with it.

      You seem to imagine that these sciences could somehow prove the exclusive validity of your own brand of Leftist politics, when in fact they have nothing whatever to say on the subject. You then imagine that the same sciences have been rejected by an evil right-wing plot to keep right-wingers stupid, because, I suppose, if they were not stupid they would become enlightened Leftists like yourself, and then where should we be? In short, you are projecting a paranoid theory of politics onto the sciences – which is exactly the kind of procedure that is responsible for a great deal of the pseudoscience circulating in the world today.

      Congratulations on providing such a brilliant proof by example of the very thing you try to disprove by precept.

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    2. You then imagine that the same sciences have been rejected by an evil right-wing plot to keep right-wingers stupid, because, I suppose, if they were not stupid they would become enlightened Leftists like yourself, and then where should we be?

      Why does the right-wing have the stereotype of being ignorant?

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    3. Because the left likes to play at being "elightened"

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    4. Why is the Left so successful at fooling everybody all of the time?

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    5. Not everybody, just themselves. They are very good at self delusion.

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    6. Climatology depends entirely on empirical data, we wouldn't be able to make any predictions otherwise. Climate models are tools that predict general trends and averages of climate parameters such as temperature, precipitation, sea level, ect. In what way are they 'massaged' that make their predictions fraudulent? Also, there is a mountain of empirical evidence that confirms the predictions of various models.

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    7. OK, line by line:

      Climatology depends entirely on empirical data, we wouldn't be able to make any predictions otherwise.

      Computer models are not data.

      Climate models are tools that predict general trends and averages of climate parameters such as temperature, precipitation, sea level, ect.

      Computer models are not data.

      In what way are they 'massaged' that make their predictions fraudulent?

      It is well known to mathematicians, but apparently not to the people who believe self-styled ‘climate scientists’, that by applying approximately seven coefficients you can make any set of data fit any curve you wish – just tweak the scaling factors. There are far more than seven coefficients in any climate model, and modellers tend to choose them arbitrarily. They don’t actually understand what they are modelling, they just try to fit a curve in such a way that the immediate future calls for an unprecedentedly huge spike in temperature.

      Meanwhile, the curves do not fit the known past data. This is why ‘climate scientists’ like to deny that the Mediaeval Warm Period happened, or that the Holocene Maximum was substantially warmer than the climate is now, and they get positively testy when you point out that the bulk of warming in the 20th century occurred before 1940, whilst the bulk of carbon-dioxide emissions occurred after that date. The models routinely underestimate or ignore the known effects of long-term oceanic forcing factors like El Niño and the Multi-Decadal Atlantic Oscillation. They routinely underestimate the urban heat island effect, which is known to meteorologists and atmospheric physicists (please note, these are not the same people as ‘climate scientists’; you don’t get to call yourself the latter unless you agree with the alarmist predictions) to be about double the magnitude formerly estimated, which seriously alters the raw data – since many weather stations were formerly located in rural areas and have since had their weather radically altered by rapid urbanization. Meanwhile, large areas of land are covered by guesswork interpolations between weather stations hundreds or thousands of kilometres apart, and large areas of the ocean surface (71% of the surface of the Earth) are hardly covered at all. Satellite data, which do cover the entire surface of the Earth in an equitable fashion and can be used to construct meaningful averages, are routinely deprecated in favour of ground data which do not and cannot. I could go on and on.

      Also, there is a mountain of empirical evidence that confirms the predictions of various models.

      Where are the ice-free Arctic, the rapid rise in sea level, and the catastrophic increase in desertification that were all predicted by the models? They have not occurred, but there has been no admission that the models were falsified. And public policy – bad public policy – is still being founded upon those false models.

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    8. OK my turn:

      First, I don't want to distract readers from the original post so I will try to keep my points concise. I will say that not all of my colleagues are aware of what climate physics can and can not say. We know that the global mean temperature rising is due primarily to rising carbon dioxide levels. However, it is outside of our field to say weather this is good or bad.

      I never said that climate models were 'data' itself, that's a silly thing to think. Rather, numerical models depend on empirical observations of past conditions. They use a set of mathematically derived equations that describe the motion and conditions of the atmosphere which can in turn predict future predictions. They simply help us run experiments that are impossible to run in reality. There are errors and assumptions in any model, from engineering to biology. Climate scientists have been very transparent about the limitations and errors about climate models and they're constantly being improved.

      No model, even the most simplest of ones, use only seven coefficients. And no modeler chooses their coefficients arbitrarily, we have specific reasons depending on what we would wish to study. The models that the IPCC uses are incredibly complex and sophisticated yet their predictions have been verified many times over. You'd have to actually read the IPCC reports to know what they've been predicting and how the data, yes, the empirically observed data, matches their predictions closely. So I'll leave the link to the IPCCs website here: https://www.ipcc.ch/

      When you say the curves don't fit the past data could you be more clear? Are you saying that the way palaeoclimatological data being present isn't accurate, as is the case with the infamous 'hockey stick' graph. Or that the climate models consistently fail to match the palaeoclimatological data we do have? Most models do in fact take into account the Atlantic Multi - Decadal Oscillation and, contrary to what you think, are fairly accurate. They also account for the urban heat island affect which can be fixed by applying legitimate statistical methods. Here is a book on the matter: https://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319104249?gclid=CjwKCAjw_sn8BRBrEiwAnUGJDizqwgtTdAToCgM_PQrcVNVn6pOJR9CXapZ704D7RzdeBpcw743CuhoCjeYQAvD_BwE

      As far as the El Nino Southern Oscillation, we do in fact omit it because it is very difficult to predict, much less derive an equation for it. There is some serious prize money available if you want to give it a crack.

      True, about %70 of the world doesn't have a weather station because 1) it's in the ocean and 2) countries aren't developed to the point that they can't afford the complex and expensive instrumentation. More data is always welcomed. Sadly, politics often gets in the way of building weather towers. However, there is enough data to be able to use both in forecasting ( weather that takes place in the next two weeks ) and climatology ( the average weather in the past 30 years ).




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    9. Your remark about climate scientists being completely different from meteorologists and atmospheric physicists is terribly ignorant. Atmospheric science is generally split into three concentrations: broadcasting, forecasting, and climatology. Climate scientists are meteorologist and do study atmospheric physics. For instance here are a few of the text books I studied at university:

      https://www.amazon.com/First-Course-Atmospheric-Thermodynamics/dp/0972903321/ref=asc_df_0972903321/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312165853622&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=3511007190010606768&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9010321&hvtargid=pla-570276962328&psc=1&tag=&ref=&adgrpid=60258872297&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvadid=312165853622&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=3511007190010606768&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9010321&hvtargid=pla-570276962328

      https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/thermodynamics-of-the-atmosphere-a-course-in-theoretical-meteorology_andreas-bott_wilford-zdunkowski/1938369/item/41010809/?mkwid=%7cdc&pcrid=448963509244&pkw=&pmt=&slid=&plc=&pgrid=104673973815&ptaid=pla-926982115650&gclid=CjwKCAjw_sn8BRBrEiwAnUGJDv-QRDWnDZY5Qx887_eAA4h-DrgwveWNsa9_-Cc-8jN92z40R7cS0xoCDvAQAvD_BwE#idiq=41010809&edition=7290221

      https://www.elsevier.com/books/an-introduction-to-dynamic-meteorology/holton/978-0-12-384866-6

      https://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/earth-and-environmental-science/earth-science-general-interest/geophysical-waves-and-flows-theory-and-applications-atmosphere-hydrosphere-and-geosphere?format=HB

      https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1550606.Synoptic_Dynamic_Meteorology_in_Midlatitudes

      https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=fxPiH9Ef9VoC&gl=us&hl=en-US&source=productsearch&utm_source=HA_Desktop_US&utm_medium=SEM&utm_campaign=PLA&pcampaignid=MKT-FDR-na-us-1000189-Med-pla-bk-Evergreen-Jul1520-PLA-eBooks_Science&gclid=CjwKCAjw_sn8BRBrEiwAnUGJDuNjTslj6wh12EzUQSKrim9yLleWj7XHUebKbQyBT5vK7_mx6rVOVBoC1K8QAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

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    10. @Tom Simon

      You then imagine that the same sciences have been rejected by an evil right-wing plot to keep right-wingers stupid, because, I suppose, if they were not stupid they would become enlightened Leftists like yourself, and then where should we be?

      An admission of the reality of climate change would mean that the free market and corporate authority are bad ideas, because they caused climate change. It would also be an admission that you right-wing authoritarians generally speaking come up with bad ideas and also failed on a literal global scale to handle resources (fossil fuels, which are essential to make plastic). The admission of the reality of climate change would mean that all the authorities you hold as father figures (the president, wealthy entrepeneurs like Elon Musk, industrialists, etc...) are imbeciles and the people you cast as evil villains and seditious scum (young people, university professors, scientists in the soft sciences) are actually correct and the only non-supernatural hope of saving these United States. Those are too much for anyone to swallow.

      And no, I don't think you guys are evil. All you right-wing authoritarians are just self-righteous pricks who think you're divinely-inspired judges of character, but are merely judges of how well someone adheres to social conventions.

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    11. Conservative Jesus scholar John Meier criticized the Jesus seminar for producing a mild-mannered university professor, and such a personality type would never be consequential enough for the Jews to crucify...

      ...except for the fact that conservatives to this day accuse mild-mannered university professors of sedition and demand their execution. John C. Wright and Vox Day (he calls them gammas) said they're the greatest threat to all conservatives and must be killed first.

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    12. Tryte, come on. I've been lenient with you because of how you first showed up on John C Wright's blog and just seemed a bit lost and confused, but here you have done little beside make crazed accusations against conservatives in general and the readers of this blog in particular. You frequently make accusations that are both unfounded and irrational. Please stop acting in such an accusatory and unhinged manner, or if you cannot do so, please avoid commenting on this website.

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    13. @Cantus I'll just say this: I don't think you're evil.

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    14. BTO @ 1:23, Conservatives are self-righteous pricks? Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle.

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    15. @Fred Conservatives are the ones who rejoin with John 7:24 when they're told not to judge others, implicitly claiming that their judgments are divinely-inspired (noomancy).

      Conservatives are the ones who go to churches where unholiness results in immediate disowning and excommunication while liberals... go with the flow, and maybe scoff at you if you say something ignorant.

      Conservatives are the ones who claim that the other side are pedophile pizza-eating Satanists while liberals... say the other side is ignorant, or maybe if he's emotionally charged he'll say they're racist too.

      Any one of the above would qualify for "self-righteous prick." But all three?

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    16. BTO, who could possibly be more obnoxiously self-righteous than AOC? "Basket of deplorables" is one of the most self-righteous descriptions of political opposition I've ever encountered, although "bitter clingers" is a close second. I could do this all day. As I said, Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle. And consider this: If, by some miracle Trump wins in a couple of weeks, there will be violent riots in our major cities, all Democrat strongholds. In other words, those leftist morons will be protesting the election of Trump by destroying the livelihoods and in some cases the lives of people who voted against Trump. And conservatives are idiots?

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    17. And consider this: If, by some miracle Trump wins in a couple of weeks, there will be violent riots in our major cities, all Democrat strongholds.

      Yes, Democrats will riot when a president that personally hates Democrats as people is elected. Imagine that!

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    18. My point, which you seem to have either missed or ignored is that those Democrats will riot against Trump by destroying their fellow Democrats. Any way you slice it, that is sheer idiocy.

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    19. Tryte,

      Whether you think I personally am evil or not isn't really the point. Please stop making these absurd and deeply unfair generalisations about conservatives in general, or else I will have no choice but to drop any remaining reticence and conclude that you are a bad-faith actor and/or troll, much like Stardusty, or else a person with a mental condition that forces them to behave in such nasty ways to their fellow humans.

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    20. My point, which you seem to have either missed or ignored is that those Democrats will riot against Trump by destroying their fellow Democrats. Any way you slice it, that is sheer idiocy.

      A president is elected that openly declares he hates you and all members of your political party. Do you recommend..

      * Be submissive, obedient, and silence yourself so as to not avoid destroying the business areas of your city (btw those "small businesses" are crooked martyrs: they kept silent when all the bad things happened)? That's slavishness and goes against the American way.

      * Go take it out on Trump supporters who are armed to the teeth? Instant death or civil war, the latter would be an actual seditious act.

      * Embrace the president? But he will not be embraced.

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    21. You are a nut. I recommend obeying the law, treating your fellow citizens with dignity and respect and voting against the president's party in the next election. In fact, that is the only way a democratic republic can work. Otherwise, you have either permanent civil war or totalitarianism. In addition, I'm not aware of any public pronouncements by Trump that he hates Democrats, but let's assume for the sake of argument they exist. Trump is not a dictator. His power is limited by our constitutional order. He could not implement any large scale persecution of Democrats if he wanted to, which I seriously doubt he does. By the way, the penultimate sentence in your comment shows what cowards leftists are. Don't f**k with the people you actually blame for your troubles. You might get hurt. Instead take it out on defenseless people who agree with you in the first place. What's wrong with that picture?

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    22. @BalancedTryteOperators

      Good on you for being a dissenting voice in this otherwise howling pack of reactionaries. It's cool to read Feser's thoughts on philosophy, but his forays into politics always leave me scratching my head. How could anyone who takes the Bible seriously feel compelled to defend Trump or the GOP in any measure? I hate the woke shit as much as anyone but c'mon. Then there was the time he referenced the Alan Simpson quote about the evil party and the stupid party, which is just a blindingly naive take lacking any nuance and I can't help but feel someone who teaches philosophy for a living shouldn't be endorsing such a useless oversimplification. Feser's one thing though, his sycophantic peanut gallery is another. I suppose every blog develops this issue once the following reaches a certain size, but hot damn is it bad here. So bad in fact I always just resign myself to lurking, my perspective is clearly not wanted lol, but after seeing how massively uncharitable others are being toward you I just had to butt in. Oh well.

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    23. Xavier, we are being uncharitable because he is acting hysterically. He has accused conservatives of being hubristic, stupid, self-righteous authoritarian pricks thirsty for the blood of college professors, and has claimed that Donald Trump A)holds a personal, visceral hatred for Democrats *as people*, and B)has strongly implied that this hatred poses a threat to those Democrats severe enough to justify committing violence on Trump supporters in return. Those strike me not only as indefensible arguments, but as profound insults to the moral character of all conservatives. We've never had a problem with dissenting voices, but when someone posts something this absurd and defamatory, how is it uncharitable to call him out on it? But I admit I have been reading too much outrage media recently, so I should say that no matter what personal or political differences we have, I still bear you no ill will. I encourage you to try commenting if you have anything to add - despite the ferocity of the last few posts, we're a welcoming community; the nastiness of the last few days has happened because we have been dealing with outrageous accusations from Tryte and with Stardusty's tiresome tirades.

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    24. And to Tryte - despite everything I've written, I don't hate you either. I just find the accusations you make offensive and unsupportable. I dearly hope we can have a more productive conversation someday, as friends.

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    25. Cantus,
      "the nastiness of the last few days has happened because we have been dealing with outrageous accusations from Tryte and with Stardusty's tiresome tirades. "
      Awww, so sorry to be a source of your little victimology self pity rationalization for your own shortcomings.

      Ooops, was that nasty of me?
      Well, that must be your fault, right?

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    26. Stardusty, STFU you utter, mentally deranged moron. There's something deeply wrong with you psychologically that causes you spend so much time here trolling so pointlessly. You never persuade no one of anything, except that you are a troll and idiot. Get lost.

      Did anyone else notice that Unbalanced actually seemed to endorse rioting if Trump wins? Whether or not Trump hates Democrats (as if many Democrats don't hate Republicans), how would that justify rioting?

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    27. Anon,
      “You never persuade no one of anything”
      Thank you for acknowledging that I do persuade people.

      Since I never persuade no one I therefore always persuade some one.

      Simple logic, right? If it is never the case that no one is persuaded then in every instance at least some one is persuaded.

      A Freudian slip?

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    28. I hope you trip and stub your toe you odious wretch.

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  3. Thanks Professor!

    Great topic, great analysis.

    I'm used to just hearing the Scientism side of most topics. This really helps me put such things in perspective and gives me the terminology to address it without appealing to intuition or boxing myself into "their" language.

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  4. Professor Feser, it would be great if you would discuss also his processual stance in philosophy of biology.

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  5. And that is why Aristotle’s Revenge is such a great book (and probably my favorite) in a world where most books aren’t really about anything but the author’s ego. It’s not the lust for truth and certainty that are bad in the modernist theocracy, it’s the exaltation of the ego as possessor and arbiter of the truth: disagree with me and you are a “science denier”, so it goes. Having eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the modern dogmatists will not see their own metaphysical presumptions, and even deny they are there. Building the City of God, they are.

    “When a man does not believe in God, it is not that he believes nothing, but that he will believe anything.” -- G.K. Chesterton

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    1. Chesterton was a bloviating fool who loved to make absurd quips.

      Skeptics are not the sort who "believe anything", how ridiculous.

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    2. "Skeptics are not the sort who "believe anything", how ridiculous."

      Your comment history on this blog demonstrates otherwise..:-)

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    3. Ha Ha Ha. Well, not every conservative commenter is a humorless grumper!

      But, I can throw a little wet blanket on your amusement, since the belief that scientism is a real belief held by real people is a thing one might potentially believe, yet I do not believe it, then clearly that is a counter example to the assertion that I "believe anything".

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  6. Dupre is a good philosopher worthy of being read, which is why his reaction to Mind and Cosmos a few years back was so disappointing. If he hasn't disavowed his views since then he still thinks of himself as a materialist, but given his other competing commitments and strong anti-reductionism it must be a completely shallow definition

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  7. This reminds me of Dr. Feser’s “Sweep it under the rug” analogy. Arguably one of my favorite analogies in philosophy.

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  8. It's one thing to say that the only ontological realities are elementary particles, and all other higher entities claimed are in fact "nothing but" a collection of those particles. I'll agree this type of reductionism is beyond the bounds of science to claim.

    It's quite another thing to say the behavior of higher entities (which are, indeed, true ontological realities) is explained by the behavior of elementary particles. Not only is this empirically verifiable and verified (e.g. we don't see violations of physical laws in the function of animals and plants), but philosophically I think this conclusion follows from the A-T view of reality. Otherwise, the only way higher entities could function as they do is by God working a continuous set of miracles. Before anyone objects about humans/spiritual soul/free will etc., the above only applies to humans insofar as they are material entities; the behavior of the soul is not explained by physical entities, being as it is non-physical. However human acts, insofar as they are physical acts, do not entail a violation of physical laws and God working miracles.

    And this implies that Dupre is wrong and that there is in fact both a unity of method and a unity of content in science.

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    Replies
    1. There may not be violations of physical laws, bu there are still new phenomena that are irreducible to their component parts. We would expect there to not be violations of physical laws given virtual causality. Particles relate to substances somewhat like matter relates to form. Obviously there is going to be some relationship between the two. But relationship is very different from reducibility.

      Delete
  9. OP,
    “One can no longer pretend that, say, doubting the wisdom of lockdowns (my example, not Dupré’s) is like doubting quantum mechanics,”
    I suppose this statement was based on some notion that among scientists quantum mechanics is somehow beyond doubt.

    QM is highly doubtable, as Gerard t’Hooft has expressed many times. All science is provisional, every scientists knows that.

    Besides, everybody doubts the wisdom of lockdowns, including and most especially the government officials who order them.

    This OP is just a series of responses to strawmen.

    “Dupré rightly admires the achievements of the sciences, but rejects the scientism”
    There is no such thing as “scientism”. “Scientism” is just a fantasy strawman of the religious conservatives.

    “Dupré notes that in some ways, scientists often think less critically than people working in other fields (such as philosophy) do.”
    Philosophers have a terrible track record for “studying reality”. Philosophers did not develop the germ theory of disease, formulate accurate physics models, discover DNA, model stellar evolution, or any other aspect of “studying reality”.

    It turns out the people are exceedingly bad at simply thinking critically about how reality works. We need the scientific method to find out the truths of reality to the extent such truths are discoverable at all.

    ReplyDelete
  10. OP
    “Cartwright is best known for her criticisms of reductionism in the context of physics,”

    “But fundamental equations are meant to explain, and paradoxically enough the cost of explanatory power is descriptive adequacy. Really powerful explanatory laws of the sort found in theoretical physics do not state the truth.”
    http://joelvelasco.net/teaching/120/cartwright-How_the_Laws_of_Physics_Lie.pdf

    Cartwright, like Feser, is just another philosopher who mangles the obvious and then pretends to have exposed some dirty little secret of science.

    “But fundamental equations are meant to explain”
    No, Cartwright gets that all wrong.

    We have no fundamental equations, none whatsoever. Even if we ever obtain some fundamental equations they still will not explain why, ultimately, the universe proceeds according to those descriptions. Everybody knows all this already. I am not saying something new here.

    Higher level phenomena are only “explained” in relative terms to the degree of accuracy available via our provisional descriptions of reality, the most fundamental equations presently available.

    For example, blackbody radiation. Why does every object emit electromagnetic radiation of a characteristic spectral content as a function of its temperature? Prior to QM blackbody radiation was completely unexplained. QM “explains” blackbody radiation to a very high degree of accuracy, but ultimately, only in relative terms and only approximately with no ultimate explanation as to why the universe progresses according to the descriptions of QM.

    “and paradoxically”
    Cartwright does not have a clue, which is emblematic of how bad philosophers are at learning about reality. There is no paradox because Cartwright has merely expressed a strawman in order to fake a paradox so she can then offer a phony exposé as though she has shed light on some dirty little secret of science.

    “Really powerful explanatory laws of the sort found in theoretical physics do not state the truth”
    Another non-revelation by Cartwright.

    Of course the “laws” of physics presently available to us do not state the 100% accurate and complete truth. Everybody knows that. So what?

    Our available “laws” of physics truly approximate and track an underlying reality to an amazingly high degree of accuracy.

    It’s like driving your car through the city and describing your path. You truly did drive your car through that city, and the path described truly tracks an underlying reality, but you are utterly incapable of precisely describing every detail of your motion and position along that journey.

    By the language of Nancy Cartwright your description of your journey is therefore a “lie”. How inane.

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  11. There is no such thing as “scientism”. “Scientism” is just a fantasy strawman of the religious conservatives.

    Your side is incredibly gullible to keep falling for, and then using, all of these religious conservative myths, like court packing meaning adding seats and the use of scientism as an actual thing.

    Or, as an explanation that conforms to reality, they aren't just religious conservative ideas. Many atheists and philosophers all use scientism as a legitimate term. A Google search (why do I even bother mentioning it) will quickly demonstrate the truth of this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kevin,
      “scientism as a legitimate term”
      “Scientism” is a legitimate term like “unicorn” is a legitimate term. Both have many references, a wiki page, and much else.

      There are no self-identifying scientismists, just as there are no self-identifying unicornists. Sure, you might find some crackpots someplace who seriously believe in unicorns or scientism, but in the realm of actual serious intellectual discourse there are no self-identifying scientismists.

      The assertion that some particular person is a scientismist is just a vapid slur.

      Delete
    2. "There are no self-identifying scientismists"

      There are no self-identifying sophists, either, and yet here you are. Bad joke, because to be a sophist, one must have a degree of wit to his thinking.

      Delete
    3. So if one does not self-identify as something, one is not that thing? 'Kay.

      Delete
    4. Anon,
      “There are no self-identifying sophists, either, and yet here you are. Bad joke”
      Not at all, at least that is a coherent position on the subject.

      So, by your lights, scientism is not a position that anybody adopts in a positive sense, such as capitalism or socialism, or Marxism, or feminism. Nobody, in your apparent view, thinks scientism is a good or rational or defensible position. Nobody identifies with scientism, you apparently say, because they hold the sincere belief that scientism is rationally justifiable.

      Rather, like sophists, in your apparent view, scientismists inhabit a sort of netherworld of deceit and trickery, which they (of course) do not wish to admit to.

      Well, OK, then perhaps you can identify the names of some of these treacherous scientismists, and show how, in the fullness of their actual positions, they somehow meet your criteria for being scientismists, even though they deny being so themselves.

      Delete
    5. Scientism is often used as a criticism, yes. Just because no one (presumably) identifies with scientism does not mean there is no one that can wear the shoe. Scientism usually describes an excess, a position taken too far, and such people never believe they have done so.

      Delete
    6. Turns out there is at least one guy who fully embraces scientism, atheist Alex Rosenberg. And if what he describes is scientism, then there are many atheists who fit the description.

      Delete
    7. @Kevin:

      "Scientism is often used as a criticism, yes. Just because no one (presumably) identifies with scientism does not mean there is no one that can wear the shoe."

      There are explicit defenses of scientism out there, using the word itself, and with the usual meaning, and quoting the usual suspects. It is not difficult to find.

      Delete
    8. Kevin,
      One guy? The way Dr. Feser goes on about “scientism” one should expect legions of such scientismists.

      “In 2011 Rosenberg published a defense of what he called "Scientism"—the claim that "the persistent questions" people ask about the nature of reality, the purpose of things, the foundations of value and morality, the way the mind works, the basis of personal identity, and the course of human history, could all be answered by the resources of science.”
      Ok, is that your definition of scientism also? Reading it carefully and fully, what is the problem with that assertion?

      Sure, one can arrive a few superficial observations on the above subjects without scientific study, everybody knows that. That isn’t the point. The point is that to go beyond these superficial observations the only tool available to us is scientific study. Philosophy only scratches the surface and often gets things wrong.

      The purpose of things is relative, and a fit subject of scientific study.

      Of course the foundations of value and morality are functions of the way the brain works, which can only be determined scientifically. It is impossible to learn how the brain actually works in detail by simply thinking about how the brain works.

      Yes, the way the mind works can only be learned in detail by scientific study. It is impossible to merely philosophize your way to a detailed understanding of the way the mind works.

      Ok, of course, the basis of personal identity is dependant on the way the mind and brain work, so of course scientific study will be required for a detailed understanding.

      Indeed, human history, to the extent that it can be accurately determined, must employ scientific study to analyze past events.

      Note Rosenberg says “could”.
      “could all be answered by the resources of science”
      Not presently are. Not exclusively are. Only “could” be answered. Yes, all those subjects “could” be answered by the resources of science, potentially, eventually, if we don’t destroy ourselves as a species before we get that far.

      Delete
    9. The purpose of things is relative, and a fit subject of scientific study.

      If you mean the motivations of conscious beings, then sure I guess.

      Of course the foundations of value and morality are functions of the way the brain works, which can only be determined scientifically.

      Knowing how the brain works does not lead one to any sort of "ought". Science can tell you the biological and sociological effects of rape or murder, but it cannot tell you why it is wrong to rape or murder.

      It is impossible to merely philosophize your way to a detailed understanding of the way the mind works.

      But you can certainly philosophize your way to "oughts".

      Delete
    10. Kevin,
      “Knowing how the brain works does not lead one to any sort of "ought". Science can tell you the biological and sociological effects of rape or murder, but it cannot tell you why it is wrong to rape or murder.”
      Of course it can.

      How the brain works, how natural selection works, leads us directly to “ought”.

      Materialist reductionism clearly provides an ought from an is. What is not understood by the good folks here is what that means. What it doesn’t mean is a logical ought from a logical is as part of some sort of system of logical deduction agreed upon by convention.

      Our sense of ought, is an individual emotion, a thought, a brain process. Like all emotions a sense of ought is a complex and largely subconscious result of brain processing that culminates as what one experiences as a feeling, which is an internal communication mechanism, sort of a flag being waved whereby one part of the brain signals another part of the brain a conclusion it has arrived at.

      Most of us share, broadly, the same basic senses of ought, which are then encoded into laws that most of us support, and social behavior norms that most of us agree with and abide by.

      But not all. Those who do not share our majority sense of ought can and do act otherwise. We call such people murderers and rapists. They derive a different sort of ought from their is.

      All of which is entirely consistent with materialist reductionism, a spectacularly successful principle that contains zero self-contradiction when properly formulated and expressed.

      Delete
    11. Why should we follow the emotional impulses that we tend to have because of evolution, Stardusty?

      Delete
    12. Also, it just occurred to me that Stardusty's description of "morality" basically boils down to irrational bigotry - moral judgments based on nothing more than feelings we happen to have because of evolution, for entirely non-rational reasons.

      Delete
    13. Cantus, as a consistant atheist I would suggest that there is no absolute moral referance point,and that your conception of morality derives from a very deep, evolution generated illusion. There is no reason external to our psychology why we should do one thing rather than another. We can reach some agreement about 'oughts' because of our shared nature as an evolved social species, though on other occasions 'moral' perspectives have to be fought over, and may change conspicuously through time.

      Delete
    14. How the brain works, how natural selection works, leads us directly to “ought”.

      Not even close. How the brain works leads us directly to tendencies and instincts that we feel compelled to follow in most cases. There is no "ought" in any of that. How the brain works does not lead to the conclusion that rape or murder are wrong.

      Delete
    15. Cantus,
      "Why should we follow the emotional impulses that we tend to have because of evolution,"
      Up to you. You don't have to do what others consider to be good. Many people do not.

      But each of us must do what we want, it is the only thing we can do, act on the aggregate of our wants.

      Delete
    16. Cantus,
      "moral judgments based on nothing more than feelings we happen to have because of evolution, for entirely non-rational reasons."
      You very apparently have as part of your evolved sense of ought, the notion that you ought to consider your rational judgements.

      Various individuals act based on their emotions, rational judgements, or some personal mix of what drives that personal sense of ought for each individual.

      Delete
    17. Kevin,
      "How the brain works does not lead to the conclusion that rape or murder are wrong."
      ???

      A pack of wolves will attack and eat just about any animal they possibly can, yet the wolves in the pack rarely attack and eat each other.

      People are like that too. Most individual humans find murder abhorrent for about the same reason most wolves do not attack and eat other wolves in their own pack.

      The species has evolved a brain structure that avoids killing members of the pack because that is generally a net reproductive advantage.

      You will learn a great deal about the natural world when you stop viewing the world through the lens of idiotic assertions like "scientism" and start studying the natural world by the methods of science.

      Delete
    18. You completely missed my point. I'll reword.

      You can study the brain and learn why your average person would not rape or murder, but you cannot study the brain and learn why they SHOULD NOT rape or murder.

      Do you believe morality is defined as adherence to typical biological tendencies of the majority of a species?

      Delete
    19. Kevin,
      “You completely missed my point. I'll reword.”
      Nope, I completely got your point and answered it, as I have been down this road many times. You have yet to recognize that I have already answered your point, but that’s ok, continuing on…

      “but you cannot study the brain and learn why they SHOULD NOT rape or murder.”
      Sure we can. “Should” or “ought” is a personal emotion, an individual value judgment, an internal physical brain process entirely within the scope of scientific study.

      What else would it even mean to have a non-personal “should”? How does that make any sense at all?

      All attempts to arrive at an absolute “should” or “ought” fail, including the assertion of god as a source of absolute right and wrong. The god hypothesis fails to provide a source of absolute right and wrong because of the Euthyphro dilemma. The attempt to offer a third alternative, that god simply is the good, is merely and incoherent assertion, just a nonsense jumble of words of zero rational argumentation value. Thus the Euthyphro dilemma remains a true dilemma and thus not even the speculation of god offers a source of an absolute standard for “should”.

      “Do you believe morality is defined as adherence to typical biological tendencies of the majority of a species?”
      Morality is defined by each individual by his or her own physical brain processes.

      Delete
    20. Morality is defined by each individual by his or her own physical brain processes.

      Thank you! This is a beautiful quote.

      Delete
    21. Well, there we have it. The non-revelation that Stardusty is a moral relativist. However, I will point out two issues this creates for him: 1)Stardusty: "Of course science alone can get you to "ought". And by "ought", I of course mean something completely different than what you mean by "ought", making my reply mere sophistry. I admit that science cannot lead to what you call an "ought".
      2)Stardusty was extremely angry recently about Republicans "packing" the Supreme Court, and used extremely moralistic language about their actions. But as he would now have to admit, "It is wrong for the Republicans to confirm Amy Coney Barret so close to an election" means nothing more than "I don't want Republicans to confirm ACB so close to an election, because that would be detrimental to my goals and desires". To which Republicans can justly respond "well, we DO want to do that, because that's beneficial to our goals and desires. So screw you". Stardusty can scream and rage about injustice all he likes, but remember not to let any of those sway you even an inch, because to him, "injustice" simply means "things I don't want to happen". His attempt to use moralistic rhetoric is merely an attempt to beat us over the head with concepts that we believe in, but which he doesn't. They are merely a tool, much as a wolf might use a sheepskin as a tool to infiltrate the flock.

      Delete
    22. That's precisely why I wanted such a concise quote from him. It's a very handy defense any time he criticizes anyone else for, well, anything.

      Delete
    23. I have made this point earlier, but I will repeat it. With the same quote from Dr. Johnson:

      "Why, Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks, he is lying; and I see not what honour he can propose to himself from having the character of a lyar. But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons."

      Obviously, this also applies to the intellectual life.

      Delete
    24. Cantus,
      “science cannot lead to what you call an "ought"”
      Science cannot lead to your irrational fantasies, such as absolute morality. So, how is that a problem for science or morality, at all?

      “So screw you”
      Ah, another conservative shallow strawman. Learn how to think, OK?

      If one considers irrational arguments to be bad, and if one considers hypocritical power grabs to be bad then the Republican court packing already perpetrated by McConnell and Trump with the help of their henchmen is bad.

      If you think hypocrisy and dishonesty are good then you can consider the Republicans as good, up to you.

      “simply means "things I don't want to happen"”
      To a simpleton that is what it simply means.

      Delete
    25. grodrigues,
      "I have made this point earlier, but I will repeat"...
      ...the same inane pompous bloviating.

      As usual, another vapid grod post, completely devoid of any rational argumentation.

      Delete
    26. "If one considers irrational arguments to be bad, and if one considers hypocritical power grabs to be bad then the Republican court packing already perpetrated by McConnell and Trump with the help of their henchmen is bad.

      If you think hypocrisy and dishonesty are good then you can consider the Republicans as good, up to you."

      Except that on your metaphysics, a preference for reason over irrationality or honesty over hypocrisy is no better than a preference for chocolate ice cream over vanilla. All are merely personal preferences, "a personal emotion, an individual value judgment, an internal physical brain process entirely within the scope of scientific study". If I believed as you do, I would have no reason to be ashamed if I were dishonest or irrational. You are merely trying to use the stigma attached to those words to shame me into agreeing with you, even though you believe those stigmas to be based on completely false and wrongheaded beliefs.

      Delete
    27. To a simpleton that is what it simply means.

      Except he's right. According to you:

      Morality is defined by each individual by his or her own physical brain processes.

      So per your own position, you have defined your own set of morals via physical brain processes. Your morals are your behavioral preferences for yourself and others - in other words, the behaviors and outcomes you want to happen. This means that if someone behaves in a manner inconsistent with your preferences, inconsistent with what you want to happen, then they have acted "immorally".

      So how precisely is Cantus wrong?

      Delete
    28. Cantus,
      “All are merely personal preferences,”
      There is no absolute proof of any moral proposition that has been proposed generally. Name one if you disagree and provide your incontrovertible proof of it.

      “If I believed as you do, I would have no reason to be ashamed if I were dishonest or irrational.”
      If you believed as I do then you would feel you did something wrong by being dishonest due to your own personal sense that being dishonest is wrong.

      People who do not have a personal sense that being dishonest is wrong lie and steal with impunity. That is how the world actually is. Haven’t you noticed that?

      “You are merely trying to use the stigma attached to those words to shame me into agreeing with you”
      If you have a personal sense that that you ought to be rational then you may feel some sense of shame upon realizing that you have been so very irrational about morality, as conservatives almost universally are.

      If you do not personally value rationality then you will live your life in gleeful irrationality, which is how a very great many people do in fact live, haven’t you noticed that either?

      But, just supposing there is some real thing called absolute morality. Surely, in that case, it would be easy for you to name a moral proposition that is absolutely true, and to offer an incontrovertible reason that conclusively proves that absolute moral proposition to be true.

      Yet, no conservative I have ever conversed with has ever been able to name and justify such a moral proposition. They all speak of absolute morality only in the abstract, never offering any specific examples together with incontrovertible justifications.

      Can you name some, heck, even just one?

      Delete
    29. Kevin,
      "This means that if someone behaves in a manner inconsistent with your preferences,"
      The McConnell/Trump gang behaved hypocritically and dishonestly in the Merrick Garland/Amy Barrett gambit.

      That is wrong by their own purported standards concerning honesty and hypocrisy. It was wrong by the convention of right and wrong generally publicly expressed by most people.

      What part of this is so hard for conservatives to understand?

      Delete
    30. That is wrong by their own purported standards concerning honesty and hypocrisy.

      That is what hypocrisy is, yes. Unless it is another word that you have your own definition for, anyway. Dishonesty and hypocrisy exist in both parties, so being selective over which party you condemn over it proves it is the outcome, and not the action, that so inflames the physical brain processes that define your personal morality by which you arrogantly judge others, as if yours are more valid.

      It was wrong by the convention of right and wrong generally publicly expressed by most people.

      So? If each of us has an equally valid moral code wrought by physical brain processes, then majority opinion is simply an artifact. Hardly relevant to what is good. Particularly if dishonesty and hypocrisy served a greater good than "honorable" conduct could achieve. It's all about those physical brain processes and about motivations and goals.

      What part of this is so hard for conservatives to understand?

      What part of "Morality is defined by each individual by his or her own physical brain processes" are you struggling to apply here?

      Majority opinion has no relevance to truth. That your brain makes you feel certain ways about certain things has no relevance to truth. Republicans outmaneuvered Democrats and got their way. If there is a conservative who isn't bothered by that, his opinion is equally valid to your own. And like you, he will phrase it in rationalized terminology to make his opinion virtuous and yours not. And since both of you are simply acting and responding based upon physical brain processes over which you have no control, both of you are equally wrong.

      You were saying?

      Delete
    31. StardustyPsyche,
      As usual, another vapid grod post, completely devoid of any rational argumentation.

      Take care, lest he whip out his PhD in applied mathematics and beat you to death with it.

      Delete
    32. @One Brow:

      "Take care, lest he whip out his PhD in applied mathematics and beat you to death with it."

      Tsk, tsk. Still sore with the beating you got?

      Delete
    33. Kevin,
      “Dishonesty and hypocrisy exist in both parties, so being selective over which party you condemn over it proves it is the outcome,”
      Name an instance of genuine Democratic hypocrisy and I will condemn that as well.

      “as if yours are more valid.”
      Mine are more valid on the acceptance of the axioms of logic, the basic reliability of the human senses, and social norms of honesty that are broadly agreed upon.

      If you do not value logic or honesty I cannot prove to you that you absolutely ought to.

      If you do value logic and honesty then we have a common basis for communication and judgment, in which case my judgments are indeed more valid on the merits and in the context of that commonly accepted convention of logic and honesty.

      “then majority opinion is simply an artifact”
      Yes, moral judgments are personal and relative to conventions that others may or may not agree to.

      “Hardly relevant to what is good.”
      That is the only sort of good there is, relative good. You cannot name a provably absolute good, not even one. I am quite certain of your inability to do so, you are free to prove me wrong by counterexample.

      “Majority opinion has no relevance to truth.”
      There is no provably true good.

      “Republicans outmaneuvered Democrats and got their way”
      Indeed, providing ample justification for Democrats to expand and thus re-balance the court if they are able to outmaneuver the Republicans in response.

      “If there is a conservative who isn't bothered by that, his opinion is equally valid to your own.”
      Not if he also expresses that he values logic and honesty, no it most certainly is not.

      Logic and honesty dictate that the hypocrisy of the Republican court packing already perpetrated is morally invalid.

      “And since both of you are simply acting and responding based upon physical brain processes over which you have no control, both of you are equally wrong.”
      You clearly understand nothing about what moral relativism is, or means, or functions.

      You seem to think moral relativism is just some sort of free for all by which everybody just does whatever suits their selfish aims and no meaningful moral judgments can be made one way or the other.


      Relative morality works for us because we agree upon moral standards by convention. Those who violate those conventions while also claiming to adhere to those conventions can be validly shown to be making invalid claims.

      Under moral relativism judgments are made in the same way as under the fantasy of an absolute morality, by judging actions against a standard using logical processes that are also part of that standard.

      The analytical process is the same, analysis against a standard. The difference is that moral relativism is realistic in that we moral relativists make no claim that the standard itself is absolutely provably true, whereas those who believe in an absolute morality suffer from the unsupportable fantasy that there can be an absolutely provably true standard for morality.

      Delete
    34. Name an instance of genuine Democratic hypocrisy and I will condemn that as well.

      Fair enough, though your phrasing makes me wonder if you believe no such examples abound.

      If you do not value logic or honesty I cannot prove to you that you absolutely ought to.

      But you judge people as if you have already proven it.

      You cannot name a provably absolute good, not even one.

      Such a thing is secondary to foundational worldviews, so not a profitable discussion in this instance.

      Indeed, providing ample justification for Democrats to expand and thus re-balance the court if they are able to outmaneuver the Republicans in response.

      I've never disputed this. I was publicly critical of Republican behavior during the Obama administration, particularly over the Merrick Garland incident. As the bases get more extreme, the tactics to achieve and maintain power will get dirtier. Republicans do seem to be the leading edge on that front.

      Not if he also expresses that he values logic and honesty, no it most certainly is not.

      What I have found is that you express to value these things, but are quite inconsistent in their application. For example:

      Logic and honesty dictate that the hypocrisy of the Republican court packing already perpetrated is morally invalid.

      Logic and honesty dictate that one freely acknowledge that in virtually every single instance packing is mentioned by government, media, educational, or historical sources, they are referring to the practice of expanding the number of seats on the court - a definition and term agreed upon by convention. This is why Politifact hammered Grassley for his accusation against Obama - Grassley was not using packing in a manner agreed upon by common convention, and neither are you. Failure to recognize and admit this is neither logical nor honest. And if you are illogical and dishonest but insist upon holding others to a higher standard than your own behavior, that is called hypocrisy.

      Another example is saying my pro-life arguments were religious in nature, when in fact there is zero religious context in anything I said. Your accusation is illogical and dishonest, and makes you a hypocrite for criticizing others for not meeting the standards you also fail to meet.

      The hypothetical conservative could very well be like you, and only value them when they are beneficial to him. This is the heart of modern politics, rampant hypocrisy. You would both claim to value them, and would both be vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy and dishonesty.

      Furthermore, if being dishonest and hypocritical result in a "greater good" outcome, then they could be "regretfully" justified even by someone who values honesty.

      Everything you said about moral relativism is great for explaining how it practically functions, but what it does not address is the justification for condemning others for not adhering to your brain's standards. And that is the point of my criticism there.

      Delete
    35. The real question is why the hell you guys are feeding Stardusty? What's the point?

      Delete
    36. Kevin,
      “Such a thing is secondary to foundational worldviews, so not a profitable discussion in this instance.”
      As I predicted, you can only speak of absolute morality in the abstract. You are completely incapable of naming a single provably absolutely true moral assertion.

      What kind of mind claims the assertion for which no examples can be named is somehow true, yet the thing for which a multitude of examples can be provided is somehow false?

      Case in point, conservatives are, in general, highly irrational people.

      “Logic and honesty dictate that one freely acknowledge that in virtually every single instance packing is mentioned by government, media, educational, or historical sources, they are referring to the practice of expanding the number of seats on the court”
      False statement, as I have already provided a huge number of counterexamples to this patently absurd assertion.

      Besides, you are again committing the fallacy of affirming the consequent, that is, concluding the antecedent having affirmed the consequent.

      “Grassley was not using packing in a manner agreed upon by common convention”
      “Packing”, by convention, is dishonestly putting members into a panel, committee, or voting body of some sort that are likely to vote in ones favor, obviously.

      Grassley was not wrong because he was asserting “packing” without expansion, Grassley was wrong because Obama was not making the appointments dishonestly.

      “but what it does not address is the justification for condemning others for not adhering to your brain's standards. And that is the point of my criticism there.”
      I am criticizing based on common standards of logic and honesty asserted to be held by all relevant to the “packing” issue.

      I don’t need to prove the standard itself is absolutely true in order to prove that the Republicans have failed by that standard which they claim to agree to.

      Both McConnell and Trump, as well as all their Republican henchmen, were profoundly dishonest and hypocritical in the Merrick Garland/Amy Barrett gambit. That is a provably true statement that is fully deserving of vociferous condemnation by the standards of logic and honesty the Republicans claim to share with the rest of us.

      Delete
    37. As I predicted, you can only speak of absolute morality in the abstract. You are completely incapable of naming a single provably absolutely true moral assertion.

      I explained my reason for not engaging on that topic. Your "analysis" here is illogical and dishonest. You are a hypocrite for condemning Republicans for your own behavior.

      Case in point, conservatives are, in general, highly irrational people.

      Equally true of progressives, if one applies honesty and logic. Since you cannot even admit that the overwhelming majority of references to court packing by government, media, historical, and educational sources refers to expanding the court, you are a hypocrite for calling conservatives irrational.

      False statement, as I have already provided a huge number of counterexamples to this patently absurd assertion.

      I must have somehow missed this huge list, because the only sources I have seen from you refuted your own position.

      “Packing”, by convention, is dishonestly putting members into a panel, committee, or voting body of some sort that are likely to vote in ones favor, obviously.

      You and a handful of leftwing nutjobs is not "convention". The sources I quoted are far more reputable and comprehensive than anything you have presented. You are illogical, dishonest, and thus a hypocrite.

      Grassley was not wrong because he was asserting “packing” without expansion, Grassley was wrong because Obama was not making the appointments dishonestly.

      That's not what Politifact, your source, said.

      I don’t need to prove the standard itself is absolutely true in order to prove that the Republicans have failed by that standard which they claim to agree to.

      Yes, you can certainly engage in selective outrage.

      Delete
    38. grodrigues,
      Tsk, tsk. Still sore with the beating you got?

      No, just highly amused that you win to win an argument based on "rank" as opposed to knowledge (a tactic I have seen you use more than once), and that every time you try it, you do so by pulling out misunderstandings of the topic so elementary that they show an undergraduate level of understanding, at best.

      Delete
    39. @One Brow:

      "No, just highly amused that you win to win an argument based on "rank" as opposed to knowledge (a tactic I have seen you use more than once), and that every time you try it, you do so by pulling out misunderstandings of the topic so elementary that they show an undergraduate level of understanding, at best."

      This is actually a lie, but I will address it at the end..

      So let us dig some old, dry bones. To remind (and I am going by memory here, so anticipated apologies if I am misremembering something), the discussion in the thread of the post Pod People was sparked by your absolutely asinine and obviously false claim that there are no logical arguments in the empirical sciences and ended up, irony of ironies, with you quibbling with (some claims about) the principle of explosion.

      The principle of explosion does not arise out of nothing. And with one possible exception that I will get to later, nothing you said on that thread is even remotely relevant to it.

      The semantic argument for it is very simple: by the law of non-contradiction the class of models of a contradiction is empty so a fortiori the class of models of a contradiction and that do not satisfy p is likewise empty, therefore, trivially, every model of a contradiction is a model of the contradiction plus p. Apply Goedel's completeness theorem. How to block this argument? Obviously by denying the law of contradiction or equivalently, that the class of models of a contradiction is empty and this is precisely what paraconsistent logics do. As I repeatedly said. Nothing you said touches this.

      The proof-theoretic argument relies on the formal properties of material implication (and ultimately, by logical equivalence, of disjunction and negation) that justify the disjunction introduction and disjunctive syllogism inference rules from which the principle can be derived. Blocking the argument is therefore blocking these rules and that lands us in something like minimal logic. I don't think I mentioned minimal logic, so my bad there, although it is my impression that it is usually lumped with paraconsistent logics.

      This is all textbook stuff and can be easily checked. So in what consisted your quibbling? You introduced a 3-valued logic with a third value that you called undefined, or U for short, that purportedly did not have the principle of explosion as an inference rule but had all other properties like non-contradiction, etc. This is all completely irrelevant *unless* in your model True or U = U, as you seem to imply when talking about evaluation (but my memory is admittedly hazy on this) than I concede that this would block both disjunction introduction and disjunctive syllogism, and therefore the principle of explosion, so it would be a sort of 3-valued minimal logic, I guess. There is just one problem if this is what you meant; this is not disjunction but One-brow-disjunction and it is not a logic but I-don't-anything-about-logic One Brow logic. The refutation is so obvious that it is insulting to even print it.

      Delete
    40. (continue)

      Now finally on to the matter of qualifications. Again, if memory does not fail me, you mentioned that you frequented a graduate mathematics program. Maybe you did, maybe you didn't. Maybe you've learned nothing, maybe you've forgotten everything. The plain matter of fact is that you know jack about the subject as is abundantly clear from the cited thread. There are numerous blunders that anyone knowledgeable would not commit. Mathematicians speak in certain xiboleths readily recognizable to anyone in the know, you do not. And this is all demonstrably true. No amount of projection and bullshitting about my alleged "undergraduate level of understanding" changes this, because what I said can all be checked by those that actually know about the subject. So is beating people up in the head with a Phd in very poor taste? I agree, yes, it is. But it is also precisely all that a fraud deserves, and I will continue to do it, graduation program or no graduation program, to stop short a fruitless, pointless discussion that is seemingly engaged merely for the sake of quarreling, not to reach at the truth.

      Now, you can bark indignantly at all this as much as you want. Excuse me if I happen to not reply. This is all pretty pointless, really unimportant and unedifying, so the sooner it is buried and forgotten the better. For both of us.

      Delete
    41. Kevin,
      “Equally true of progressives,”
      If by progressive you mean SJW, intersectional feminism, critical race theory, and the BLM organization, then yes the level of irrationality is highly comparable to Republicans, Christians, and Trump voters.

      “if one applies honesty and logic”…
      …one inexorably converges on secular humanism, regulated capitalism, atheism, and reductionist materialism.

      “Since you cannot even admit that the overwhelming majority of references to court packing by government, media, historical, and educational sources refers to expanding the court,”
      So you admit that court packing does not necessarily refer to expanding the court.

      “you are a hypocrite for calling conservatives irrational.”
      You just admitted that what I have been saying is true, that court packing does not require expansion.

      There are very good reasons why jury packing always refers to a fixed size voting body and court packing has, in the past, most often referred to expansion.

      With jury packing there is no general mechanism available to expand the size of the jury. Where law sets the number of jurors at 12 there is no legal mechanism to increase that number for a particular jury that would provide an advantage to one side, so to pack a jury one must find some dishonest means to install desirable voting members into a fixed number of seats. Hence, jury packing universally refers to dishonest placement of voting members into a fixed number of seats.

      Similarly, the president, until 2016, has always seated a nominee of his in his term for every Supreme Court seat that has ever become vacant, within my lifetime and your lifetime. That has always been the case.

      Prior to 2016 there was no consideration given to opposite parties being in power, or the proximity of an election. Prior to 2016 the president always seated a justice in his term that he nominated. The opposing party, in the case that the president and the Senate were of opposite parties, always voted to seat a nominee of the opposing party president, if not his first nominee, then a subsequent nominee, but his nominee of his choosing in his term.

      Given that to be such a rock solid Senate practice prior to 2016 court packing was typically, but not always, referred to in most popular publicans in reference to expanding the court, because their exists a legislative process for doing so, and because prior to 2016 it was always the case that the president would seat a justice he nominated and in his term.

      McConnell, Trump, and their dishonest hypocritical henchmen blew that all up. They employed a jury packing technique to court packing by utterly destroying a lifelong democratic norm, a practice that every prior president in living memory could count on.

      Language adapts to social changes. Language is not static. When McConnell and all his henchmen destroyed a social and democratic norm the language adapted appropriately.

      I am not being even slightly irrational or dishonest in my analysis or use of language, you are, Dr. Feser is, every conservative poster here is, and all the Republican henchmen are.

      Delete
    42. Good grief, Stardusty - how on earth do you read:

      “Since you cannot even admit that the overwhelming majority of references to court packing by government, media, historical, and educational sources refers to expanding the court”

      and conclude that:

      "So you admit that court packing does not necessarily refer to expanding the court."
      ?

      That's literally the *exact opposite* of what he said. He said "I can't believe that you can't admit that nearly everybody agrees that court-packing requires expansion". The fact that you think he agreed with you proves that either A)you are being deliberately dishonest or B)you have failed basic reading comprehension.

      Delete
    43. Cantus,
      "Good grief, Stardusty - how on earth do you read"
      Simple logic.

      "That's literally the *exact opposite* of what he said."
      Nope. He didn't say "all", he said "majority".

      If the "majority" holds X then by simple logic the minority holds other than X.

      If a word has been used in context A by the minority then it is true that context A has been a part of the general usage language in the past, and it is not true that A has not been part of general usage language in the past.

      By stating that the “majority” usage of “court packing” has been in reference to expansion Kevin admitted that “court packing” also refers to dishonestly installing justices in a fixed number of seats.

      I detailed the reasons for these various usages relative frequency above.

      Logic, folks, logic.

      Delete
    44. If by progressive you mean SJW, intersectional feminism, critical race theory, and the BLM organization, then yes the level of irrationality is highly comparable to Republicans, Christians, and Trump voters.

      Irrational, dishonest, and hypocritical. Ideologues like you are not rational creatures.

      …one inexorably converges on secular humanism, regulated capitalism, atheism, and reductionist materialism.

      You got one of those right. Or so I thought...

      So you admit that court packing does not necessarily refer to expanding the court.

      I freely acknowledged that you and select other leftwing nutjobs use it differently than all the reputable sources I listed, which was not even close to comprehensive. Republican idiot Grassley also did, and your source Politifact nailed him on it. I said I found no reputable mainstream source in media, government, academia, or historical or scholarly spheres using it as you do, not that "no one" does. And I rightly pointed out that you absolutely refused to acknowledge your usage was highly atypical.

      You just admitted that what I have been saying is true, that court packing does not require expansion.

      So you admit that your usage is highly atypical. Finally.

      If this is the level of reasoning that leads one to atheism, secular humanism, and material reductionism, then I am seriously doubting my support for regulated capitalism.

      When McConnell and all his henchmen destroyed a social and democratic norm the language adapted appropriately.

      Only by you and a handful of leftwing nutjob sources and one Republican idiot. Everyone else stayed the same.

      I am not being even slightly irrational or dishonest in my analysis or use of language, you are

      Ah, another language adaptation. Prior to this exchange, your sentence would have read "I am not being even slightly rational or honest", and like court packing, the vast majority still use it in that manner.

      Though I certainly do appreciate the level of power you give your little minority, when the "little minority" that voted for Trump you completely dismiss. The double standard is a lovely thing to behold.

      Delete
    45. Kevin,
      “Republican idiot Grassley also did, and your source Politifact nailed him on it”
      Grassley was wrong because the appointments made by Obama were done so honestly, not because “packing” cannot be reasonably used in cases absent expansion.

      Packing, be it a jury, committee, the lower courts, or the Supreme Court is the dishonest or hypocritical installation of voting members, irrespective of the mechanism by which that dishonest or hypocritical installation is accomplished.

      “your source Politifact nailed”
      Politifact is not my “source”, as though I am somehow bound to their editorial judgments.

      Republican use of the term “court packing” in cases absent expansion is a historical fact reported by many news organizations.

      “I found no reputable mainstream source in media, government, academia, or historical or scholarly spheres using it as you do”
      Then you had blinders on while reading.

      “Only by you and a handful of leftwing nutjob sources and one Republican idiot.”
      Our likely future president has correctly used the term WRT 2016 Republican court packing.

      The correct use of the term “packing” as applied to the case of not expanding the court has become commonplace and mainstream since 2016 because the actions of McConnell and his henchmen were so very obviously a case of court packing that now there is a major such instance in recent history and of immediate and critical importance.

      Prior to 2016 use of “court packing” could be correctly applied absent expansion, but since 2016 that correct usage has increased in frequency because the 2016 Republican court packing was such an obvious and consequential instance of court packing.

      Delete
    46. I notice that Stardusty loves to engage in burden-shifting. Notice how, when confronted with the consequences of his own moral relativism (namely, that it robbed him of any legitimate grounds on which to condemn his opponents for their moral failings, since he is not entitled to claim that any behaviour ought to be normative for anyone), he ignored the problem and instead responded with a demand that *we* prove that objective morality exists. This, needless to say, is a red herring - we don't have to prove that objective morality is true to point out the problems with subjective morality, not that that seems to matter to Stardusty.

      Delete
    47. grodrigues,
      "No, just highly amused that you win to win an argument based on "rank" as opposed to knowledge (a tactic I have seen you use more than once), and that every time you try it, you do so by pulling out misunderstandings of the topic so elementary that they show an undergraduate level of understanding, at best."

      This is actually a lie, but I will address it at the end..

      I'm not sure which part you claimed to be a lie, because you did not address it at the end. I can link to at least one other occasion where you have tried to pull rank, and you still haven't presented any arguments that show more than an undergraduate level of understanding of logic. It's nothing to be ashamed of, your understanding seemingly surpasses 99% of humanity and 95% of the regular commentators on this board.

      So let us dig some old, dry bones. To remind (and I am going by memory here, so anticipated apologies if I am misremembering something), the discussion in the thread of the post Pod People was sparked by your absolutely asinine and obviously false claim that there are no logical arguments in the empirical sciences

      Well, I do like being precise, so this is the paragraph that set it off:
      Non-sequitur: a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement. Logic is the grammar of philosophy and mathematics. Science deals with evidence and models. It is a category error to introduce the concepts of logical argumentation into a scientific discussion. Evidence can be valuable or not valuable, relevant or not relevant, supportive or not supportive of a point. There are unsupported, even discredited hypotheses. There are no scientific non sequiturs, because science is not a logical argument.

      If you really feel that strongly about it, rather than quibble about logic, perhaps you could introduce a scientific non-sequitur that is not a discredited hypothesis?

      and ended up, irony of ironies, with you quibbling with (some claims about) the principle of explosion.

      Threads do tend to drift off into tangents.

      The principle of explosion does not arise out of nothing. ... This is all textbook stuff and can be easily checked.

      Exactly so.

      Delete
    48. grodrigues,
      So in what consisted your quibbling? You introduced a 3-valued logic with a third value that you called undefined, or U for short,

      Incorrect. That might be a choice for intuitionist-style mathematics, but I was trying to make a different point, and so chose a different construction. I referred to "meaningless", with the notion that having a F => T would be a meaningless statement. Meaningless statements would never be true or false.

      that purportedly did not have the principle of explosion as an inference rule but had all other properties like non-contradiction, etc. This is all completely irrelevant *unless* in your model True or U = U, as you seem to imply when talking about evaluation (but my memory is admittedly hazy on this) than I concede that this would block both disjunction introduction and disjunctive syllogism, and therefore the principle of explosion, so it would be a sort of 3-valued minimal logic, I guess.

      It would block disjunctive introduction for the introduction of meaningless statements only, and would retain disjunctive syllogism for statements with meaning.

      There is just one problem if this is what you meant; this is not disjunction but One-brow-disjunction and it is not a logic but I-don't-anything-about-logic One Brow logic. The refutation is so obvious that it is insulting to even print it.

      Every logic is a construction that we can use or not use as we see fit, and I agree that my construction is not standard nor classical. The notion of refuting a logic where every well-formed-formula can be evaluated is silly.

      The plain matter of fact is that you know jack about the subject as is abundantly clear from the cited thread.

      The plain fact of the matter is that you didn't understand what you were criticizing, because you were more interesting in winning the discussion that in understanding it.

      ... I will continue to do it, graduation program or no graduation program, ...

      Then I see no reason to stop needling you about it, as the occasion arises.

      ... so the sooner it is buried and forgotten the better. For both of us.

      This is likely best for you.

      Delete
    49. @One Brow:

      "Well, I do like being precise, so this is the paragraph that set it off:"

      I explicitly stated in the original thread, several times, what I was objecting to. So this "precision" of yours is just a dishonest attempt at obfuscation.

      "Incorrect. That might be a choice for intuitionist-style mathematics, but I was trying to make a different point, and so chose a different construction."

      Calling it "Undefined" or "meaningless" makes absolutely no difference for my point, neither does your change of words make a "different point" or a "different construction" in any relevant sense. God, are you *this* stupid?

      "It would block disjunctive introduction for the introduction of meaningless statements only, and would retain disjunctive syllogism for statements with meaning."

      So my guess was actually correct. You did meant that True or meaningless = meaningless (= in the sense of evaluation). Amazing, crank level of amazing.

      "Every logic is a construction that we can use or not use as we see fit, and I agree that my construction is not standard nor classical. The notion of refuting a logic where every well-formed-formula can be evaluated is silly."

      Evaluation is well-defined for every well formed formula, this follows from its recursive definition. So what the hell are you harping on? If what you want to say is that if ev(p) = M therefore p is meaningless, in the common sense of the word, this is just so stupid that I do not even know where to begin. Maybe ask a refund on that "graduation program"? "Refuting a logic"? What I said what that your construction is not a logic at all, because you do not even have disjunction (and *that* is that which refutation is so obvious that it does not even merit printing). Is it the case that you have elementary reading comprehension problems or is it a case of intellectual dishonesty? Do you even care about the truth? Obviously not. At any rate, to repeat myself, your construction is not a construction of a logic at all, classical or not classical, standard or not standard, but dumbass bullshit that you want to pass off as if you know anything about logic. It is even less than what I originally said it was: "not disjunction but One-brow-disjunction and it is not a logic but I-don't-anything-about-logic One Brow logic".

      Pathetic.

      "because you were more interesting in winning the discussion that in understanding it."

      Of course, the problem is always with anyone other than yourself, in this particular case, me. Just like when you finally conceded that multiple values in a logic was an issue orthogonal to the principle of explosion, the problem in the end was with "my ego".

      Right, right. Projection is a bitch.

      "This is likely best for you."

      Your bravado is... Well, I do not know if you are trying to fool me or yourself, at any rate, the issue is now resolved to my satisfaction and dead and buried.

      Delete
    50. Do you really have a PhD grodrigues, or are you simply a bloviating charlaton? You are clearly emotionally highly unstable.

      Delete
    51. @Anonymous:

      "Do you really have a PhD grodrigues, or are you simply a bloviating charlaton?"

      Does it matter?

      "You are clearly emotionally highly unstable."

      I highly emotionally stable. AAARRRRRRGHHHHH Kill kill kill! Damned padded walls.

      Delete
    52. Grassley was wrong because the appointments made by Obama were done so honestly, not because “packing” cannot be reasonably used in cases absent expansion.

      Politifact, the source you provided, disagreed with you.

      Packing, be it a jury, committee, the lower courts, or the Supreme Court is the dishonest or hypocritical installation of voting members, irrespective of the mechanism by which that dishonest or hypocritical installation is accomplished.

      Not according to the overwhelming majority of usage. This would not be such a problem for you if you would simply admit your usage is highly atypical.

      Politifact is not my “source”, as though I am somehow bound to their editorial judgments.

      So you provided a source you disagree with to support your argument?

      Republican use of the term “court packing” in cases absent expansion is a historical fact reported by many news organizations.

      The group you called irrational, dishonest, and hypocritical? That's your supporting cast?

      Then you had blinders on while reading.

      That would be Google that had blinders. In a Google search of "what is court packing", the first five pages of results had exactly one page using it as you are, and that was the leftwing Center for American Progress. Not mainstream, not reputable.

      Our likely future president has correctly used the term WRT 2016 Republican court packing.

      He has indeed correctly used it, when he said he wasn't a fan of it when asked if he would expand the court. He has also used it in your manner, which, just like you, he is partisan and using it in a highly atypical fashion to attack Republicans and muddy the waters. Unlike you, he is likely aware of what he is doing, or at least the people telling him what to say are.

      The correct use of the term “packing” as applied to the case of not expanding the court has become commonplace and mainstream since 2016

      Leftwing nutjobs are indeed common, but it is still highly atypical to use it in any other fashion. Asserting otherwise is quite baseless.

      Delete
    53. grodrigues,

      Calling it "Undefined" or "meaningless" makes absolutely no difference for my point, neither does your change of words make a "different point" or a "different construction" in any relevant sense. God, are you *this* stupid?

      I am that amused. Here you are trying to lecture me about classes of models, and you don't even seem to recognize the relationship between a model and its interpretation.

      So my guess was actually correct. You did meant that True or meaningless = meaningless (= in the sense of evaluation). Amazing, crank level of amazing.

      Indeed. Why should such a statement be true?

      Evaluation is well-defined for every well formed formula, this follows from its recursive definition. So what the hell are you harping on? If what you want to say is that if ev(p) = M therefore p is meaningless, in the common sense of the word, this is just so stupid that I do not even know where to begin. Maybe ask a refund on that "graduation program"?

      Can't ask for a refund to something I didn't pay a penny for. I'm still waiting for a reason to take your determination of "stupid" seriously, and so far, I still don't see anything past an undergraduate level of understanding on the topic.

      "Refuting a logic"? What I said what that your construction is not a logic at all, because you do not even have disjunction (and *that* is that which refutation is so obvious that it does not even merit printing).

      If a statement has meaning, there is disjunction. Should a statement have none, why would you need disjunction? Why would you want to inject meaningless statements into a chain of reasoning?

      At any rate, to repeat myself, your construction is not a construction of a logic at all, classical or not classical, standard or not standard, ...

      Again, I haven't seen a reason to take you seriously on this judgement. Pomposity is not authority.

      Of course, the problem is always with anyone other than yourself, in this particular case, me.

      Projection, much? I can and do take criticism from people that have earned my respect, and no, that does not mean people that agree with me. I read more carefully from people that disagree, when they engage in discussion.

      Just like when you finally conceded that multiple values in a logic was an issue orthogonal to the principle of explosion, the problem in the end was with "my ego".

      ?????

      My entire point in adding a third value was that the principle of explosion was an artifact of the use of only two values in classical logic. So, you're saying I "conceded" the point I was trying to make? Or, was the "concession" that you could have multiple values and retain the principle of explosion? I don't recall claiming otherwise.

      Your bravado is...

      not bravado at all. I have nothing to lose here, except time, with the hope of securing knowledge.

      I’ll repeat this question, in case you decide to read and respond, for emphasis: Why would you want to inject meaningless statements into a chain of reasoning?

      Delete
  12. Dear Dr. Feser,

    I'm a sophomore in college, studying neuroscience and psychology, and as much as I love everything you write about, these kinds of topics rock.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Since Kevin was so kind to mention Rosenberg, let’s take a look at how Dr. Feser jumbles things up in the OP.

    “As Alex Rosenberg likes to put it, “the physical facts fix all the facts.” But this thesis is itself merely another part of the “monistic” ideological position dogmatically adhered to, for as Dupré observes, “there is essentially no evidence for the completeness of physics.” Indeed, the failure of reductionism (in chemistry, biology, psychology, the social sciences, etc.) is itself empirical evidence against the completeness of physics. There is simply too much about the world as we know it from actual experience (as opposed to tendentious metaphysical theory) that cannot be captured in a description that confines itself to the entities and laws recognized by physics.”

    Citing “there is essentially no evidence for the completeness of physics” after “the physical facts fix all the facts” is a non-sequitur. How did Dr. Feser even connect these two?

    Of course the present state of physics theories is incomplete and only an approximation of an as yet undiscovered underlying reality, everybody knows that, which is why the search continues for a TOE. That is irrelevant to the assertion that physical facts fix all facts. We simply do not know all the facts yet, and likely never will.

    “, the failure of reductionism (in chemistry, biology, psychology, the social sciences, etc.)”
    There is no such failure. Reductionism is a principle, not a completed fact.

    “There is simply too much about the world as we know it from actual experience”
    Which reduces to physical facts.

    “that cannot be captured in a description that confines itself to the entities and laws recognized by physics.”
    Dr. Feser doesn’t even understand the basics of what reductionism is. This has to be one the most shallow statements I have yet to read from Dr. Feser.

    Reductionism is a principle, not limited by the present state of modern physics theories and observational capabilities. Isn’t that obvious?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Feser is well aware that reductionism is about ideal physics. Doesn't change the fact that this is is a bogus idea and the structure realism of the "new mechanists" in the philosophy of neuroscience is pretty much empirical prove of that

      Delete
    2. Dominik,
      "I think Feser is well aware that reductionism is about ideal physics"
      His non-sequitur statement I detailed above is a counter example to your assertion.

      "Doesn't change the fact that this is is a bogus idea and the structure realism of the "new mechanists" in the philosophy of neuroscience is pretty much empirical prove of that"
      Well, that is at least an identafiable assertion, although you provide no argument to support it, then again perhaps you simply wished to make that statement and did not intend to support it further, fair enough.

      So, rewording, it seems your assertion is that the structural realism of the new mechanists in the philosophy of neuroscience is pretty much empirical proof that materialist reductionism is bogus.

      I don't see that as the case. Philosophical neural mechanisms reduce to their constituent parts. Abstracting generalized mechanisms presents no challenge to reductionist explanations of those mechanisms.

      Delete
    3. Actually they don't, which is exactly what structure realism is about

      Delete
    4. Actually Stardusty is a noxious troll who you won't ever get any proper engagement from.

      Delete
    5. Says the noxious troll par excellance.

      Delete
  14. "Philosophical neural mechanisms reduce to their constituent parts. Abstracting generalized mechanisms presents no challenge to reductionist explanations of those mechanisms."

    Perhaps. Your arguments for this, though, are quite poor. Which is why everyone keeps expressing frustration with you.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Could someone tell me why..

    If the universe just happens to exist,

    If life just happened to evolve here,

    If we are just apes who happen to be rational and conscious,

    If people want to be evolutionists, atheists and secular humanists and believe all these things,

    If everything is ultimately relative and subjective,

    Why do such people bother with philosophy?

    Philosophy was begun by religious people in order to live a godly life by wisely applying eternal, transcendental principles to rational thinking and defining the same.

    Aren't evolutionists, atheists and secular humanists wasting their time? Shouldn't they be more interested in: being more fit, defining reality to their liking, and looking for ways to feed poor people.

    Do they only need philosophy like a criminal needs to know the law; to keep it from interfering with what they intend to do and think anyway, and to benefit from it while denying it's objective, theistic foundations.

    Historically, philosophy was considered the servant of theology. If theology is just superstition, then philosophy is just apes trying to rationalize their desires.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tim,
      “Why do such people bother with philosophy?”
      Because, my friend, being an atheist brings an urgency, a vibrancy, awe, preciousness, and wonder to this brief spec of time each of us has to be aware of the universe and to soak up as much of it as we can in the sliver of time we each have to do anything at all.

      To be an atheist is to hold life as being a truly precious and irreplaceable state of being. To believe in an eternity in heaven debases and devalues our life here on Earth.

      I do not hope to learn all about the universe or even the majority of its details, but philosophy picks up where science leaves off. The primary tool of humankind to learn about how our universe is actually structured is science. Our present science is limited so when we encounter the limits of science we can at least think about things in some organized way by using philosophy.

      “Historically, philosophy was considered the servant of theology. If theology is just superstition, then philosophy is just apes trying to rationalize their desires.”
      Who cares what philosophy used to be considered as? This is 2020. You may live in the past if you wish to.

      Yes, theology is superstition; philosophy is apes trying to organize their thinking, most especially to make some sort of inroads into exploratory reasoning beyond the present limits of scientific investigation.

      Delete
    2. Tim the White I study philosophy , despite being in all the catagories you list, because I am personally fascinated by them and desire to have them answered, or at least to see and understand the array of possibilities. It is not an instrumental thing at all.

      Delete
    3. Tim the White Correction to post at 11.42pm. I meant to type of course ' because I am personally fascinated by philosophical questions...'

      Delete
    4. Tim the White says: "Philosophy was begun by religious people in order to live a godly life by wisely applying eternal, transcendental principles to rational thinking and defining the same."

      No. Philosophy was not begun by religious people, unless you're conflating paganism with christianity. Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, indeed all the original great philosophical thinkers had begun grappling with the enormity of conscious thought and our relationship to the world, universe and cosmos hundreds and hundreds of years before christianity was even an imaginary twinkle in Paul of Tarsus' eye. And of course, history clearly shows us that Aquinas simply appropriated all of Aristotle's [a pagan no less] work and draped it whole cloth over christian superstition to give it the semblance of respectability and legitimacy.

      Tim the White says: "Historically, philosophy was considered the servant of theology."

      That is true only for the short period between Aquinas [1200s] and the Enlightenment [1600s]; the latter of which coincided with the beginning of the modern science as we know it today. A much more accurate description of that relationship between theology and philosophy is best articulated in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy:
      "The rise of the new science [modern science as we know it today] progressively undermine[d] not only the ancient geocentric conception of the cosmos, but also the set of presuppositions that had served to constrain and guide philosophical inquiry in the earlier times. The dramatic success of the new science in explaining the natural world promote[d] philosophy from a handmaiden of theology, constrained by its purposes and methods, to an independent force with the power and authority to challenge the old and construct the new, in the realms both of theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles." [Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy]

      The role of philosophy, undergirded by theology, is becoming increasingly problematic as an explanatory model of our relationship between ourselves, the world and the universe. It is inexorably being replaced [subsumed?] with an explanatory model that is orders of magnitude more powerful and which aligns more closely with reality . The role of philosophy, undergirded by the sciences, is a much more powerful explanatory model going forward.

      Professor Feser would do well to embrace the sciences and work with them rather than to craft a palpably anti-science message in this OP.

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    5. Is "enormity" the word you wanted to use, or was it enormousness?

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    6. Papalinton, get lost you pointless troll. We already have one prolific, colossal time-waster here, Stardusty, we don't need another.

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    7. Hi Papalinton

      The anonymous at 5.10pm pops up regularly to abuse people, call them troll and tell them to get lost, so inevitably fuelling debate about trolls and derailing the thread. He is clearly a troll himself, whose raison d'etre is to disrupt proceedings.

      Please ignore this loathsome creature and continue to post as you see fit. The presence of so many interesting and dissenting voices is one of the things that makes these columns worth persuing.

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    8. Hi, Anonymous at 5:35AM. It is quite fascinating trying to discern one Anonymous from the other, particularly if the comment is short and reasonable, such as the comment at 11:38AM which I am assuming is yours. On that assumption, yes, the word 'enormity' is the one I was wanting to use, synonymous with the immensity, seriousness and magnitude of that sense of understanding the conception of self. It's what Prof Scott Atran has termed, 'the tragedy of cognition' in which we truly understand the circumstantial happenstance of our existence and the inevitability of our eventual death.

      Coming back to the two Anonymouses, it's quite hilarious. It's as though, when read one after the other, one is observing the stream of consciousness of a schizophrenic, a reasonable normal persona one one hand and the psychotic other that's off their meds; angry, antisocial, discourteous.

      But it is both interesting and amusing.

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    9. The comment at 11.38pm was not me ( contributor at 5.35am.). I think it quite obvious which word you intended to use, and was puzzled by the question.

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  16. Christian ReptilianNovember 3, 2020 at 3:25 PM

    First of all, I'd like to say we need to stop this verbal shit flinging. I ask for the admins of this website to interfere and sort of out the increasingly toxic discussion in the comment sections.

    Yet I must admit that I find it oddly entertaining to watch people coming from these extremely liberal rationalwiki type standpoints to launch attacks at Dr. Feser's articles without comprehending their substantial lack of qualified license to do so. This is illustrated by their tendency to use well treaded generalities or textbook definitions to "disprove" or argue against specialized knowledge, the hallmark of a dilettante. Stanford Encyclopedia essentially is a student resource intended to introduce or delineate a given subject rather than to provide a definitive conclusion to its finer points. It's ok to cite such sources when you're trying to explain something, but not as a counter-argument to statements that go beyond the measure of their boundaries. To put it in the perspective it would be like a student who just grasped the concept of fractions from the first quarter of a grade school textbook to argue with a professor about the existence of real numbers.

    Still there's nothing worse than an echo chamber and the views of such people should be taken into account and treated with respect whenever possible. I will further concede they raise solid rhetorical questions at times regarding statements that are not so clear and obvious to the average reader, so answering them is absolutely helpful and necessary, and in this they provide us with an invaluable service.

    The very fact that we show any kind of aversion to those who pose us no direct physical threat proves that there's something wrong with the way some of us think at least.

    I think we can find common ground with progressives on many grounds, not the least of which is the political. For one, I don't view capitalism as a "conservative" idea. More specifically I believe the market needs to be subjected to public needs first and foremost. Otherwise you have an oligarchy, which is the plague of civilized society. "Freemarketism" and its associated right-libertarianism is therefore a cultural pathology peculiar to the Anglosphere that should not be automatically assumed of all conservatives everywhere else.

    Soviet NKVD chief Laurenty Beria once said, "show me the man and I'll show you the crime". The relevance of this quote here is that you will never be able to grasp every concept in terms of an entirely rational, complete and integral view of the world which at the same time, happens be entirely in tune with what the scientific community deems to be "scientific" at any given point in time. In other words there will always be a time when you either have to be consistent with regards to your beliefs even if it means being branded "pseudoscientific" or embrace a slippery mentality to think in accordance with the new body of evidence (or what is more common in our pal-reviewed publishing age, body of assertions) which might as well contradict everything that you've held to be true before.

    I strongly believe that the materialistic-empirical paradigm will be shortly overturned, none other than within the mainstream academic establishment, in the next few decades or so as evidenced by a gradually growing acceptance of some form of pan-psychism being present at the root of perceived reality. This will be especially facilitated by the ongoing merging of science and technology, where AI based technological systems will essentially guide and drive scientific development to the point where the creative and the empirical would be closely aligned with each other. This would perhaps in a way, reinvigorate the perennial microcosm-macrocosm conception of the medieval natural philosopher. The scientific materialist will then be viewed as a quaint academic remnant of yesteryore, much like the historic dialectician of the orthodox Marxist school.

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    1. First of all, thank you for posting such a calm and measured response to the rancour which frequently appears on this site. I agree with much of what you have to say, other than the promissory shift from the 'materialistic-empirical paradigm' to some form of pansychism. It seems to me that those who disagree with or dislike this paradigm have been anticipating a shift away from it for many decades now ( often because of supposedly mounting scientific evidence for alleged paranormal phenomena ), but it is showing little sign of occurring.

      As regards the motivation of the 'extremely liberal RationalWiki types' that post on here, are you sure that they are generally sincere, but lack adequate grounding in the topics they discuss? This may be so for some, but I get the impression sometimes that there is a quite deliberate ( and often successful ) attempt going on to confuse and destabalise the thread for either ideological reasons or ones of personal entertainment.

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    2. Christian ReptilianNovember 4, 2020 at 2:37 PM

      When I hear statements like "Joe Biden is a decent human being" I can't help but feel it's a right wing troll pretending to be an overeager left wing...enthusiast, let's just say.

      I consider every single paradigm in human history to be strongly associated with its cultural and economic environment. Quantum physics and the discovery of DNA radically redefined the meaning of the word "matter" and open vast new possibilities for novel fields of study. The reductionist world view of materialism is therefore, already untenable, and has been so for quite some time. Yet the scientific establishment still clings to this obsolete epistemological model largely because it is more practical for small-scale research common in most academic establishments. To go beyond that requires great vision, great minds and more importantly, great funds. The complexity of modern science makes it impossible for a single genius individual, like in the past, to drive scientific progress on their own accord. You would need a community of such geniuses working in unison. This would of course require some kind of selection program for such individuals, as well as a directed research effort as a matter of informed public policy. At the moment, this direction is stymied by lack of money and qualification, as well as great waste on unscientific programs, such as ideology driven climate change.

      In other words I do not believe that a change in paradigm is possible as long as the liberal-democratic-capitalist model remains in place, which of course is one political form of scientific materialism. However, thankfully, things are moving in the right direction, bit by bit.

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    3. Christian,
      "I strongly believe that the materialistic-empirical paradigm will be shortly overturned".
      Your beliefs are not a substitute for the application of reason to scientific investigation.

      The materialistic-empirical paradigm, properly expressed, is entirely free of self-contradiction, whereas, the Christian-faith-belief-scripture paradigm is inherently self-contradictory, irrational, and lacking in evidence.

      “acceptance of some form of pan-psychism being present at the root of perceived reality.”
      Pan-psychism is an evidence free idle speculation.

      What is the pan psyche made of? Nothing? Then in what sense do you say it exists? Something? Fine, what is that something? If the pan psyche stuff interacts with material so strongly as to manifest as our brain processes, why can’t it be scientifically detected?

      If the pan psyche pervades the universe does that mean the vacuum is conscious? Perhaps you say that pan psyche stuff is associated with material, but if that is so, why does it concentrate so acutely in the human brain, but show no accumulation in much more massive assemblages like boulders, or a coal vein, a cow's butt, or a star or a galaxy?

      How does pan psyche stuff connect to itself and coordinate its actions so intricately to account for human activity, and how does all this pan psyche stuff action link to our bodily actions, yet remain scientifically undetectable?

      Pan-psychism, like Christianity and similar religions, is just another idle, self-contradictory, irrational speculation that quickly breaks down under rational analysis and offers no realistic challenge whatever to the materialistic-empirical paradigm.

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  17. Stardust,

    You are then saying that the argument from evil is nonsense as it is not scientific in nature. You state that science is the only way we can have some ability to know things and demonstrate a philosophy more utterly pointless than logical positivism.
    Your argument is not scientific in nature so your argument makes no sense.

    In other places you say that all of reality is material but this not a scientific statement.

    In fact everything you write is filled with extra scientific arguments. So by your own standards your talking nonsense.

    You cannot on your grounds trust your perception of good and evil nor of there being objective values and so have no basis for moral obligations.

    You by your own admission cannot tell if a philosophical argument is true or false and are by your own view have no grounds to object except I want.

    If science is the only thing that gives probable knowledge your moral views are just your feelings.

    Yet you continue to post here because of envy?

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    1. Unknown,
      Your post is just a series of inaccurate mined "quotes" in combination with vague terms you then proceed to equivocate.

      If you care to make an actual rational argument, fine.

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  18. Papalinton

    Who you say that it is anti scientific to label any human action as inhuman?

    If humans lack any objective purpose then how could anything we do be what we ought not do?

    On the grounds of science alone our minds cannot be rationally viewed as powerful enough to think science is true.

    Since it contains a great deal of truth we must abandon the view that science alone explains human minds. Even if this is uncomfortable for modern man.

    Scientific materialism does a good job of explaining the world but a terrible job of explaining the human mind. It undermines our ability to know which means it's too small it's missing part of the picture.

    This isn't surprising since it left the human mind to the side and sought to understand material reality.

    We seem to have got caught up in the hype and thought it could explain everything.

    Depending the process that made us we can have greater or lesser trust in reason. All acts of insight into reality cannot be trusted beyond that which formed our minds. A process directed towards survival can't be trusted beyond that. Any abilities given by a free agent cannot be trusted unless that free agent is sufficiently honest and non deceptive as well as sufficiently knowledgeable. Same holds if there is an agent behind this agent. Since survival is actually the thing that gives a creatures mind on materialism all the think credibility for thinking that it has. A unguided process without that such as panpsychism would perhaps have less credibility.

    A being that trusts their mind that came into existence needs a creator sufficient for that level of trust if they come to a different view of their creation they should adjust their level of trust to compensate. If this is too low to account for their theory of their creation they have a dilemma.

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