Thursday, August 08, 2013

Feser Nails It

Here, discussing Alex Rosenberg:
The first argument claims that “neuroscience makes eliminativism about propositional attitudes unavoidable.” A propositional attitude is a relation between a thinker and a certain proposition or content. When we say that Fred believes that it is raining, we are attributing to him the attitude of believing the proposition that it is raining; when we say that Ethel hopes that it is sunny, we are attributing to her the attitude of hoping that the proposition that it is sunny is true; and so forth. Neuroscience, Rosenberg tells us, shows that there is no such thing as believing, hoping, fearing, desiring, or the like.

Now in fact, it takes very little thought to see that “neuroscience” shows no such thing. For there is nothing in the neuroscientific evidence cited by Rosenberg that couldn’t be accepted by an Aristotelian, a Cartesian, a Wittgensteinian, a Whiteheadian, or an adherent of some other metaphysics. What Rosenberg should say is: “Neuroscience, when conjoined with the specific version of naturalism taken for granted by many (though by no means all) contemporary academic philosophers of an analytic bent, makes eliminativism about propositional attitudes unavoidable.” That claim is plausible, if, for obvious reasons, not quite as earth-shattering as Rosenberg’s way of putting it was.
Rosenberg's argument is on a par with Ken B.'s contention here that the fact of evolution somehow refutes idealism, despite the fact that idealists were suggesting evolutionary biology before Darwin and that no idealist after 1858, of whom I am aware, ever rejected Darwin or saw any problem at all for idealism in his findings. Except at least Ken B. has the excuse that he is not a professional philosopher.


  1. Well Gene I have never denied the usefulness or even necessity of concepts of mental states etc. I am in fact deeply anti Skinnerian for example. I just argue that these arise from the operation of brains. There were no mental states just after the Big Bang, and there are now.

    I would say that neuro science shows there is no PRIMITIVE like hoping, not that there is no hoping. Hemoglobin likewise is not a primitive of matter or cells or life, but its real enough. (Lord knows I've shed enough of Bob Murphy's.) So the periodic table or the atomic theory does not show there is no hemoglobin.

    1. Rosenberg does very good job of demonstrating that your reductionism implies eliminativism. Thinking you can have your reductionism And hoping too is Simply wishful thinking on your part.

      But here is the really interesting thing: You offer no argument against Feser's careful argument That neuroscience shows no such thing. Fact: There simply are no good intellectual arguments for reductionism: It can only be explained as a pneumopathology.

    2. Has hemoglobin been eliminated? If your definition of inflati, er eliminativism says yes then I can live with eliminating hope. Mental concepts are useful, but if science reveals flaws or limitations in our concepts, like quantum theory or relativity did, then I'm happy to go with the flow.

      The argument for reductionism is its record of success Gene. From life to cells, cells to non vitalist chemistry, to atoms to quarks. The wishful thinking is believing "soul" can escape reduction.

      As you note, my views are pretty mainstream.

    3. "The argument for reductionism is its record of success Gene."

      Hilarious Ken. As Eric Voegelin put it, this is te check that has been in the mail for 250 years now. The ACTUAL record is of the complete failure to ever deliver this check. Inheritance can't be reduced to genes, genes can't be reduced to DNA, biology can't be reduced to chemistry, chemistry can't be reduced to physics, and quantum physics itself, as I've shown in many quotes from the people who founded it, is, in fact, radically anti-reductionist. There are NO even decent arguments for reductionism. It is a symptom of a spiritual illness.

      "As you note, my views are pretty mainstream."

      I noted that? I don't think so. The failure of reductionism is now widely acknowledged in mainstream philosophy of science. There is just a small crew of hard-core cultists hanging on and they'll all be dead in 25 years.

  2. Epistomological calculus, anyone? There are several out there.


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