Friday, September 8, 2017

A Philosophy of Mind Retrospective

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.


3 comments:

Wesley C. said...

So...I guess this means the mind really is immaterial after all.

The materialists and their accolates, both in philosophy and in the sciences, were ready to prove their ideas with all they had, all of the enthusiasm and support of reason they could muster, and yet they completely failed.

Arguments advanced by writers such as Edward Feser and many others were actually the ones that saw the light of day, and had proven their complete solidity with this test of time.

It seems the issue is now fully decided in favor of the immaterialists, and it's time to move on to greener pastures.

The materialists swore that their arguments were true till' the cows come home; and the cows did come home, and not only that; they even provided some milk.

Crude said...

So...I guess this means the mind really is immaterial after all.

Well, time marches on, and I'm sure they will keep trying to argue. I believe Bill Valicella when he says that philosophical issues never really die. People will argue this way and that to this day.

But the materialists never really recovered, I think, from internal secular dissent in the form of David Chalmers. The impact of a seemingly prominent, non-religious skeptic of materialist claims was a cultural explosion, primarily in intellectual circles, but that sort of thing has a way of leaking out to the populace at large. Also, their best 'argument' against the non-materialists was a hands on hips sneering about how the non-materialists were 'unscientific', but that meant the heat was on to have science actually *deliver* for a change. Promissory notes won't cut it. But notes were all they had.

People are now more open to the idea that, well, the universe is a big, strange place and we only know so much, so maybe there's something fundamental missing to our understanding of the mind. (It doesn't help that the New Atheists promptly split, and now can't even agree on what good science and philosophy is anymore. Quick, how many genders are there? Is feminist philosophy valuable or a joke? Ask these questions to start a secular fistfight.)

So the immaterialists have won, particularly in the sense that utter skepticism of materialism, especially with regards to the mind, now seems reasonable. Materialists are left in a fighting retreat position, where their main hope of being taken seriously is in exploding the definition of 'materialism' so broadly that you can practically categorize Feser himself under the label.

It's not all celebratory, since at least part of the reason they lost (and here I mean culturally) is because the seculars have intellectually degenerated. But hey, it is what it is.

Wesley C. said...

Crude: Well, time marches on, and I'm sure they will keep trying to argue. I believe Bill Valicella when he says that philosophical issues never really die. People will argue this way and that to this day.

Except this time, it seems like the materialists really did hit a truly dead end here. The arguments from the opposition really did manage to send them running for their influence.


Crude: Also, their best 'argument' against the non-materialists was a hands on hips sneering about how the non-materialists were 'unscientific', but that meant the heat was on to have science actually *deliver* for a change. Promissory notes won't cut it. But notes were all they had.

Really? So an appeal to science really was one of their main arguments for their case? If that's so, then this just makes it look like their position has been discredited even more than I previously thought.

As for the science, isn't it supposed to be obvious that science can't completely settle a philosophical issue like that? Man, I really didn't know they had such terrible arguments.

That, combined with Keith Parsons hopeless appeal to ''But it may still be material!'' makes it really hard to ignore the fact that this points out quite clearly that the immaterialists were right, or at least have the much more rational position here.