Thursday, March 21, 2013

It's Always Nice to Get Support from Thomas Nagel

As noted by Ed Feser, Thomas Nagel pins the tail on the exact same donkey I have in some recent posts:
The modern mind-body problem arose out of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, as a direct result of the concept of objective physical reality that drove that revolution. Galileo and Descartes made the crucial conceptual division by proposing that physical science should provide a mathematically precise quantitative description of an external reality extended in space and time, a description limited to spatiotemporal primary qualities such as shape, size, and motion, and to laws governing the relations among them. Subjective appearances, on the other hand -- how this physical world appears to human perception -- were assigned to the mind, and the secondary qualities like color, sound, and smell were to be analyzed relationally, in terms of the power of physical things, acting on the senses, to produce those appearances in the minds of observers. It was essential to leave out or subtract subjective appearances and the human mind -- as well as human intentions and purposes -- from the physical world in order to permit this powerful but austere spatiotemporal conception of objective physical reality to develop. (pp. 35-36)
Just so: The "objective world" and the "subjective world" are abstractions from the totality of experience. It is those abstractions that create the illusion of a terrible mind/body problem in need of being solved. Descartes and Galileo (and their epigones) could have made the same abstractions and not generated this problem if they had kept in mind that "the subjective" and "the objective" are merely abstract, and while useful distinctions for modern science, are in no way ultimate.

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Pearce: British Journal for the History of Philosophy Deneen: The American Conservative Chao-Reiss: Computing Reviews