An Interesting Overview of Manent's Work

Here, from Daniel J. Mahoney.

An important excerpt:

'I have noted the tendency of modern philosophy and social science to view human beings as “spectators,” incapable of true deliberation and action. Our neuroscientists work to explain consciousness away (and take great pride in that dehumanizing task), and our social scientists too often proceed as if human action did not depend on thinking and acting man. There is no place left for the freely deliberating and acting human being in the chain of social-science causality. Philosophies of history presuppose that grand historical forces “have made the choice for us.” “Things were decided by no one,” even as the “spectator,” in the form of the philosopher and social scientist, incoherently exempts himself from the chain of causality.'

This "incoherence" is found in every form of determinism I have encountered. For example, I have learned a good deal about persuasion, and our susceptibility to it, from reading Scott Adams. But when he says that we are "moist robots," or "programmable meat," he egregiously omits these very theories from being subject to their own application, because then they would immediately undermine any truth claim they might make: Adams himself must be simply "programmable meat," and anything he purports to present as "true" must simply be what his own lump of meat was programmed to present as such. And when he tries to deny he is making a truth claim, and says "The fun is seeing how well [my hypothesis] fits the data and predicts the future," he is actually relying on a truth claim that his hypothesis does (or does not) fit the data, and does (or does not) predict the future, the very sort of claims his theory says "programmable meat" is incapable of making.


  1. Agreed for sure on Scott Adams. Every time he goes into "moist robot" mode, how can he not see his own incoherence?

  2. I'm instinctually for free will. After all, I make choices all the time! But where is the scientific justification for free will?

    In a world governed by physical laws, why would we be exempt?

    1. "Physical laws" are an abstraction. The world is certainly not "governed" by them.