Monday, March 31, 2008


- Philosophers' Carnival #66.

- Paul Bloom and Josh Knobe discuss moral psychology on

- This discussion thread (on dualism) is more than a little frustrating, for all the reasons previously noted here. It's curious: you have one side offering arguments, and the other mere ridicule and sloganeering, and yet somehow the latter group thinks of themselves as 'rationalists' in contrast to the so-called "religionist stance" of those of us who were actually offering arguments. Extraordinary. (See: scientism.)


  1. I don't see two sides on the Overcoming Bias thread. I do see mere ridicule and sloganeering from some people (Caledonian most notably, but others too) but if that is ALL you see from the people who disagree with you I am going to have to take the following two paragraphs from your recent post and throw them right back at you with "philosophers" and "non-philosophers" juxtaposed,

    "One is that our beliefs are shaped in reaction to others. Intelligent non-philosophers typically only come across stupid, woolly-headed non-reductionists. The most prominent public intellectuals are typically scientists of a reductionist bent, like Dawkins, whose most prominent opposition is from anti-intellectual rubes and intellectually bankrupt religious apologists. From a purely sociological perspective, it's no surprise that intelligent people might initially be drawn to the former camp. (I know I was.) But that's no substitute for assessing the strongest arguments -- the ones you've probably never even come across unless you've spent a few years doing academic philosophy, or associate with others who have -- on their merits.

    Since Eliezer's posts are mostly directed at a general audience - most of whom have not carefully reflected on their beliefs - I agree with 99% of his criticisms. Folks often commit the mind-projection fallacy, are fooled by an empty dispute that 'feels' substantive, and can be irrationally resistant to perfectly legitimate scientific reductions. These are all important insights (though hardly news to philosophers). But he overgeneralizes -- just as to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

  2. Yikes!

    You got yourself in a middle of scientism mob! :)

  3. Hmm I think some people think that you are opposing something that breaches key laws of physics. I'm not sure about that - since i find the concept conceivable without doing that - just not particularly interesting.

    But if it is, it might also be reasonable to think that some of those laws actually, with experimental evidence, outrank what we would normally understand as inconceivability (logical contradiction etc).

    that might leave a person with that position ... frustrated I guess.

  4. "I think some people think that you are [proposing] something that breaches key laws of physics."

    That would be hard to square with what I've actually written.

  5. That would be hard to square with what I've actually written.

    And yet you'd be surprised how much that doesn't matter. Once I got involved somewhere in a comments-thread argument over Thomas Nagel's version of nonreductionist physicalism; and tried, unsuccessfully, in a number of ways, to get across the basic point that you could be a physicalist without being a reductionist. And Nagel's is an especially simple and easy version to see this with: some true descriptions of a physical object don't in any meaningful sense reduce to other descriptions, even though the object described is exactly the same physical object, and even though in principle both can be approached scientifically (by different scientific methods). But to the end they saw this as saying that, in addition to all the physical properties of the object, there were extra non-physical properties. For them, physicalism = reductionism, and they simply could not wrap their minds around anything that would deviate from that equation. No matter how much Nagel's view was explained, it sounded to them like "nonphysicalist physicalism." And these were not stupid people.

    I think you're hitting a wall like that, and you'll just keep hitting it.


Visitors: check my comments policy first.
Non-Blogger users: If the comment form isn't working for you, email me your comment and I can post it on your behalf. (If your comment is too long, first try breaking it into two parts.)