Monday, July 26, 2010

Absence of Mind and Other Notes!

A review of Absence of Mind by the ever-pleasant David Bentley Hart.

It sounds like a nice book, though it's almost depressing that such a book has to be written given the subject matter. Which is, apparently, a defense of such controversial ideas as self-consciousness. Yes, apparently there are places where that's controversial, now.

I don't say that as a surprise - I've read a fair amount about the Churchlands, Dennett, Blackmore, etc. To me it's something closer to black humor, like hearing there are still ardent communists, or people who believe the Y2K bug is still going to lead to catastrophe even now.

Ah well. Some other notes.

* According to the wikipedia, champion of evolutionary thought E.O. Wilson is a deist. Funny how I never heard this brought up in all the debates over evolution, though it only backs up my belief that many so-called atheists are, in fact, either closet deists or deeply sympathetic to a deist view. I've seen too many of them buckle on the point when pressed. I also note, curiously, that no one seems to bat an eye at a calling a deist a naturalist. Yet more reason for me to call myself a naturalist traditionalist Catholic.

* Also a deist? Infernus! ... Okay, he's apparently a serious satanist, but for some reason wiki lists him as a deist. Still, something to note in passing.


The Phantom Blogger said...

Hi Crude.

I seen an interview with E O Wilson here:

He Says in it (It starts with a question):

"Speaking of neuroscience, do you believe that consciousness itself is also an evolutionary adaptation?

Yes. Proof will require a lot more information about, for example, neuro-circuitry and the nature of memory and emotional inputs in reasoning. Once we get a grip on that, I believe it will become evident that consciousness is a Darwinian adaptation.

What does that do to the notion of the soul? Does that mean you believe there is no such thing?

Yes, in the religious sense. I think the Cartesian notion of dualism between body and soul is dead forever. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is. Which is another reason for having deep thinking about human values and where we want the human species to go."

So maybe he is a deist who dosen't believe in an afterlife, like Antony Flew.

Crude said...

Probably Flew-ish at most, yes. And he certainly doesn't play up his deism all that much.

His response strikes me as funny, though. Especially in contrast with Absence of Mind. Trying to explain how anything at all can be conscious given the assumption of materialism is legendarily difficult. So much so that eliminative materialists just out and out deny there's any consciousness to be explained. Others embrace consciousness as a fundamental force, or adhere to strong emergence, etc.

But Wilson? Wilson knows it just has to be an evolutionary adaptation. I have to wonder if a large part of his reasoning is, "Because could you imagine if it wasn't? God, what a nightmare that would be."

The Phantom Blogger said...

There reasoning is simple. The thought process of a materialist, in relation to this, can be summed up quite easy. It essentially consists of saying "Evolution is True, so the statement that Evolution created and can explain consiousness, must be true."