I glanced over at Victor Reppert's blog to see the esteemed host arguing philosophy of mind with Keith Parsons. Some things never change. But it got me to thinking back of the many years I've spent on his blog, and what originally got me into it to begin with - clawing around, in a younger age, for insight and answers on questions of God, metaphysics, and the philosophy of mind. It used to occupy a lot of my thoughts (is that ironic? not sure), but lately it hasn't. I asked myself why, and I had my answer immediately.
It's no longer interesting, because the fight is over. And the anti-materialists won.
God, if you guys could only remember some of the claims. I remember, about a decade ago now, the resident atheist neurologist talking about these *exciting* happenings in neurology that were going to explain consciousness. Oh, they weren't ready for primetime yet - he couldn't even explain the gist - but it was exciting, it was addressing the hard problem and this and that. We just had to wait, and soon that check the materialists had written would be cashed. Any day now, any day..!
Complete load of crap, of course - nothing came of it, and nothing will. The hard problem is as hard as ever. The soft problems, as Feser has pointed out, are even harder than expected. The arguments came from all angles - some of them very old and updated for modern audiences, others more modern and sophisticated expressions of skepticism - but the replies never materialized. Dennett, once a rising star, has faded into academic shadows, respected by peers that nevertheless few others care about. Consciousness remains a mystery. Puzzles and problems raised by the anti-materialists have remained, grown, and largely are recognized as legitimate.
And by now, thanks to the internet, a larger audience than ever has heard the claims of promissory naturalism, and have lived long enough to know that they'll die before seeing the check paid.
Watching Keith Parsons do that sad little dance of 'well maybe it IS all physical after all', after all these years, just seems sad now. These were the foot soldiers in the army of reason, armed with the power of science, to dispel skepticism of the great materialist worldview? Some army that turned out to be. Some reason.
Still, it was the opposite of a waste of time, and the arguments are of value to this day. But as it stands, the tigers Reppert and Feser and others sought to fight, are now quite defeated. Other concerns need attending to, and thus my attention drifts (though both, particular Feser, remain extremely relevant in other contexts.)
Good job, guys. To all you anti-materialist intellectual warriors of the past, take a moment - in these days of nevertheless intensified insanity - to congratulate yourselves on a job well done.