The primary problem with putting anyone on any kind of pedestal is that the positioning in the spotlight contains quite a bit of power, power that can be misused or abused. Anyone possessing the spokespersonship of a particular academic discipline, in promoting their discipline, as a rule, should never knock other disciplines. Rather unfortunately, Neil deGrasse Tyson occupies one such position as a science advisor to the government and a science popular, and he has also misused (abused?) his position by knocking another discipline, philosophy. During a podcast that featured his presence, he spoke condescendingly of philosophy, spoke of its uselessness, and pointed out that it can ‘mess you up,’ presumably, meaning to say that philosophy can adversely affect the general mode of one’s thinking. (For the complete podcast, click on this sentence.) The objective in this blog is to address some of what Tyson has said, and hence partly a work of philosophy apologetics to a certain extent, but I also want to besmudge his reputation a bit, as he is in serious need of deflating —and I think the reader will find that very little needs to be done to each either of these ends, just a bit of thought.
Monthly Archives: May 2014
Neil deGrasse Tyson and Philosophy: The Voice and Never-Was of Science Insults the Foundation of All Intellectual Thought
There is a fellow by the name of Mike A. Robinson running about and self-publishing just about everything he writes, blogging the rest. I have yet to find, within the expanse of his writings, anything that is particularly good or well informed. I stumbled upon one of his blog postings, entitled “The Brain and the Mind Are Not Identical,” and I felt it was closely enough related to my last blog post that I should comment on it. Originally, my intention was to demonstrate how assumptions made by any side of a debate, such as the free-will/determinism and soul/no-soul debates, make it unlikely that we will ever have a clear and definitive answer; but this blog has turned into a review of Mike A. Robinson, as an author. I cannot recommend avoiding his writings enough.
I want to take a look at an article published in the Atlantic a few years ago, called “The Brain on Trial” by David Eagleman. (The link to the original article can be found here by clicking on this sentence.) I will not critique the general legal conclusion that Eagleman pushes for, because I largely agree with him, i.e., the conclusion that neuroscience can be used to determine whether some temporary abnormality can and should exculpate an alleged criminal offender. What I will address is the sloppy philosophy that Eagleman performs. I do appreciate that Eagleman is well aware of the intellectual domains of which he speaks, but his craft in each varies widely —his philosophy, in particular, needs critiquing.