This post is going to be a sort of a review of Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, but also partially a review of John Dupré’s review of the book and some of my commentary/thoughts. I’ll be using Dupré’s review as a segue in explaining Nagel’s position, for reasons that will soon be obvious (https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/mind-and-cosmos-why-the-materialist-neo-darwinian-conception-of-nature-is-almost-certainly-false/). Since I have so many thoughts of my own on the topic Nagel covers, I can’t say that this is properly a review, as I won’t be sticking so closely to the text, in analysis.
Category Archives: Science
Ahmed Farag Ali and Saurya Das recently published a paper in Physics Letters B, “Cosmology from Quantum Potential,” in which they discuss the reasonableness of a liquid quantum potential contra big bang. You can imagine something like this:
I whole-heartedly believe a number of their “interpretations” in the paper are correct. However, I also find some of their thoughts extremely puzzling, in light of drawing certain interpretations to their logical conclusion, as one philosopher, Kant, has hundreds of years ago. I will give a little technical breakdown of the paper —just bear with me through the math/math-speak, which I only include for the sake of the clarity that my colleagues in the sciences would prefer—, and then discuss issues I see. Given that I have been, for a long time, working with another philosopher of physics on a scientifically-technical philosophical paper that forcefully argues some of the same points, I will not comment on those items I agree with, so as not to give anything away from unpublished work.Continue reading
A Reflection on the Introduction of Josh Waitzkin’s “The Art of Learning” and the State of Academic Philosophy
I was rereading Josh Waitzkin’s The Art of Learning the other day, and it resonated with me much more so than when I read it in 2007. I suspect part of this has to do with the fact that I was studying physics at the time, and, by now, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in philosophy departments and at workshops/conferences/get-togethers with graduate students in philosophy. In the introduction, in addition to recounting some of his experiences as a young chess sensation —perpetually the highest rated chess player in his age group from the very beginning—, he talks about his experiences in Columbia University’s philosophy department from his days as an undergraduate student. His discussion includes the frustration of having to deal with philosophers (i.e., philosophy professors) who constantly deride certain ideas, take on a smug countenance when presented with difficult to verbalize ideas, and switch to a mode of think that is anything like serious whenever faced with an idea that is not easily resolvable in focus, especially vague terms, terms that are moderately or extremely mystical, Eastern in philosophical disposition, and so on. Waitzkin says, ‘Whenever I had an idea, I would test it against some brilliant professor who usually disagreed with my conclusions. Academic minds tend to be impatient with abstract language— when I spoke of intuition, one philosophy professor rolled her eyes and told me the term had no meaning’ (p. xvi). This is the thing that bothers me about the circles I have roamed in, to this point, and maybe things are different in different departments, but I my experience corresponds to this. The student of philosophy very quickly learns what cannot be said around the tenured professors. Admirably, and no doubt partly due to his undergraduate naivety and partly due to his willfull nature, Waitzkin didn’t seem to go down without a fight when such instances arose.
If I am not careful, I am going to begin sounding like my friend, Matt Segall —not a bad thing, just this blog post’s content is more his forte than it is my typical fare. I was recently hiking Mt. Pisgah, which is in North Carolina, and I was struck by some ideas; dualities in reflection, mostly. Near the top of the craggy trail, which is hardly “moderate,” as at least one website claimed, I chanced upon a tree and shrubbery-like growth that looked like something out of a movie. Continue reading
Serendipity often leads to some of our most fruitful realizations, creative ideas, and understanding —and are even responsible for our most citation-worthy bits of supporting information. Such is the case to be discussed here. It so happened that, just after writing the blog in response to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ignorant position on philosophy, I read Richard P. Feynman’s The Character of Physical Law to unwind. The Nobel laureate was always notoriously, even devilishly, anti-philosophy. Continue reading
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.
Some time ago, I was discussing the qualitative-quantitative divide with a friend, a medical doctor, who happens to be very interested in the philosophy of science. The discussion became a debate, where we trying to get to the bottom of whether it was as I said, that the world is a qualitative entity, wherein the mind supplies quantity; or as he said, that the world has a mathematical ontology, something like the worldview championed by Meillassoux or Galileo. To be clear, I was just arguing that it could be either way, with some slightly greater likelihood that the world may not have quantity in it, apart from that supplied by the mind. By contrast, my colleague, the M.D., did not understand how it could be that there is no such thing as quantity in the world, in the sense that he could not envisage as scenario in which number does not inhere in the world. Between us was the barrier of language and experience, which was constituted in the difference between education of a physicist —though I did do a pre-med track and have interests in the philosophy of medicine— and that of a physician. We ended up settling on an example that is grounded in physiology. I will set up the groundwork for the discussion, then, give the example, and, finally, provide the resolution that has come to me only recently.