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4/27/2018 2:11 pm  #21


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

DanielCC wrote:

About Ryle, relatively few people who drop his name or use the 'ghost in the machine' phrase quote his argument in whole or in part (in fact they are more likely to assume it has something to do with the interaction problem - just as many people may mention Ockham's name in connection with Nominalism but virtually no one actually gives an Ockhamist argument beyond wailing about parsimony). Likewise few of Ryle's other philosophical arguments e.g. his anti-Platonist stuff, are actuelly referenced - he is appealed to as a rhetorical device and thus cannot be rebutted (one gets the same with Wittgeinsten re private language and language games).

I think that's roughly true, but not exactly Ryle's fault. I don't even think that it shows that more recent derisive rejections of substance dualism were caused by Ryle; it's just that if you want to reject substance dualism derisively, you will standardly cite the "ghost in the machine" line. Neither Ryle nor the "ghost in the machine" line is the reason why materialists don't take substance dualism seriously.

​(There's a resurgence of interest in Ryle's knowing-how/knowing-that distinction, though that's the chief example I had in mind when I said I think Ryle's rhetoric and arguments tend to be overblown. I do think that there is practical reason and practical knowledge, but Ryle's characterization of know-how largely proceeds by contrasting it with mere habit, which he denigrates. That is just his style.)

DanielCC wrote:

Take that as concluding from the fact that a certain mental state is often accompanied by a certain behavior that said behavior is identical with or part of that mental state (here I think it's the 'part of' side of the disjunct where we will disagree). Granted Wittgenstein's own comments along these lines sometimes had a Morean 'against the sceptics' bent rather than a deliberately materialist one.

No such inference appears in Ryle or in Wittgenstein.

​Wittgenstein doesn't hold that "said behavior is identical with or part of that mental state." You're evidently thinking of type identity or type parthood, since you think the warrant for such a view is that "a certain mental state is often accompanied by a certain behavior," which only makes sense if types are in question. But there's no question that Wittgenstein doesn't hold that.

I've elsewhere spoken as Anscombe does when she is channeling a Wittgenstein-inspired thought, when she proposes that one's thought might be​ one's calculation on paper. That might look like a kind of token identity of thoughts with behavior. Wittgenstein doesn't speak that way himself, and some of what he says suggests reasons for objecting to it, certainly if the proposal were that token identities of that form show the essence of or explain thought in those cases. Anyway Anscombe and Wittgenstein would agree, in any case, that there can be thought without any such behavior, and that behavior so-described does not suffice for the thought ('the same thing' might be going on occurrently in someone else, without the thought).

​Ryle is a behaviorist, and I didn't intend to defend his whole philosophy or to suggest that he is not a behaviorist. When I said not every "something like Behaviorism" is objectionable, I was replying to your comment that "Ryle's argument is linked to something like Behaviorism." By "Ryle's argument," I took you to be referring to the "Ghost in the Machine"/category-mistake argument, which I said I thought ​in some form sticks to Descartes, and which is stated in The Concept of Mind​ before Ryle goes on to set forth his own positive view. (My "in some form" indicates that I don't intend to defend Ryle's version of it either.)

DanielCC wrote:

Granted Wittgenstein's own comments along these lines sometimes had a Morean 'against the sceptics' bent rather than a deliberately materialist one.



Just to zero in on this line... "sometimes​ had a Morean 'against the sceptics' bent rather than a deliberately materialist one" insinuates that sometimes​ Wittgenstein's comments did​ have a deliberately materialist bent. That is incorrect. The late Wittgenstein's arguments against identifying (explaining) certain mental states with (by) what he called "inner processes" are also arguments against identifying (explaining) mental states with (by) the sort of states appeal to which the materialist finds unobjectionable.

​(The project is anti-skeptical but uneasily assimilated to Mooreanism, of which he is explicitly critical in On Certainty.)

DanielCC wrote:

Well Russell had a wealth of arguments and interesting positions e.g. the theory of descriptions, knowledge by acquaintance/description, lots of work on universals, the archetonic project in philosophy of mathematics and late period arguments about truthmakers (those later alone I think are more valuable than anything Wittgenstein produced). Even if they were wrong they were (normally) clearly argued and present more material to grapple with than Wittgenstein's oblique and often oracular utterances.

I am curious though why you think the Tractatus is superior to Russell - how is it not a variation on Russell's own Logical Atomism albeit with a greater reliance on Imagism (the Image theory of the proposition) and splashes of Wittgenstein's quitistic mysticism?

I think the Philosophical Investigations​ successfully critique a pervasive form of philosophical explanation and that people working on mind and language ignore that critique at their peril.

The action in the Tractatus​ concerns its metaphilosophical ambitions, the probing of the aspirations and limits of philosophy, and the relation between its aim and its genre. (The same could be said of the Investigations.) The main point of the Tractatus​ isn't to provide a variant of Russell's Logical Atomism, for there is this glaring difference between Russell and the early Wittgenstein: the latter thought his own work was nonsense.

​Anyway, what we have here are two very different conception of philosophy. Russell's works are indeed voluminous, much of them brilliant, and to be sure they contribute a great deal to contemporary debates, whereas the point of both early and late Wittgenstein is very much not that there should be more material to grapple with on topics he argued were idle. I am sure that it is more difficult to see the genius at work in that project if one does not sympathize with it at all, whereas the reverse is not true (a precondition of the sort of projects early and late Wittgenstein engages in is that he was​ gripped by traditional philosophical problems). That is why I'm not trying to convince you that Wittgenstein is better than Russell. (And that isn't a claim I care to make either. The claim was that Wittgenstein didn't leave us any genius philosophy. My reply was that his major works were "very much at and above the level [of genius] of a great deal of what Russell wrote." The point is that they were both great philosophers, whose contributions were on a par, which is I think the most one can reasonably say about the contributions of philosophers of such radically different characters.)

 

4/27/2018 3:34 pm  #22


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

Brian wrote:

I suspect in the Christian Middle Ages or in pre-communist China you would find a similar sort of provincialism from Christians and Confucians.  It seems to be a natural result of being part of a majority worldview for many people.  It may be exaggerated in atheists because of the natural hubris that accompanies humanism/atheism, and I don't necessarily mean that in a judgmental way.

I wouldn't be surprised to find that monks were better behaved than contemporary academics but, also, they could, with subjects like God and the soul, stop works that were too radically against the grain from being published or even accuse their authors of heresy. I wouldn't expect as much invective in the middle ages as today.

I see this much more as a problem of democracy than of atheism.  If we lived in a society where every idiot child wasn't told that their opinions and beliefs are as beautiful and valid as anyone elses, then it wouldn't matter that people were provincial because they wouldn't be as inclined to speak up with their uninformed opinions.

I suppose, but I'm not sure silencing opponents is much of a solution either. (I know you're probably thinking of an ideal society where only the truth is permitted or something, but I also know you don't think that is practically possible. In actual practice, probably most of the people here would get silenced.)

 

4/27/2018 4:18 pm  #23


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

John West wrote:

Brian wrote:

I suspect in the Christian Middle Ages or in pre-communist China you would find a similar sort of provincialism from Christians and Confucians.  It seems to be a natural result of being part of a majority worldview for many people.  It may be exaggerated in atheists because of the natural hubris that accompanies humanism/atheism, and I don't necessarily mean that in a judgmental way.

I wouldn't be surprised to find that monks were better behaved than contemporary academics but, also, they could, with subjects like God and the soul, stop works that were too radically against the grain from being published or even accuse their authors of heresy. I wouldn't expect as much invective in the middle ages as today.

I see this much more as a problem of democracy than of atheism.  If we lived in a society where every idiot child wasn't told that their opinions and beliefs are as beautiful and valid as anyone elses, then it wouldn't matter that people were provincial because they wouldn't be as inclined to speak up with their uninformed opinions.

I suppose, but I'm not sure silencing opponents is much of a solution either. (I know you're probably thinking of an ideal society where only the truth is permitted or something, but I also know you don't think that is practically possible. In actual practice, probably most of the people here would get silenced.)

Well to be fair, I don't think you find provincialism as such among the majority of ademics.  You might find stubborn refusal to take an author seriously, or a faddish dedication to sone inferior philosophy, but even staunch atheists teach some weak version of the proofs of God's existence to their students.

I don't see any reason to equate democracy and freedom of speech.  I wasn't actually talking about suppression, I was referring to a society that is obsessed with opinion, while simultaneously hostile to the idea of expertise.  The solution is not suppression, but an acknowledgement that there are people who know a lot more than you, and their thoughts on the subject are worth a lot more than yours.  This is typically democratic problem, not a typically atheist problem, at least as I see it.
 

 

4/27/2018 5:45 pm  #24


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

Brian wrote:

I don't see any reason to equate democracy and freedom of speech.  I wasn't actually talking about suppression, I was referring to a society that is obsessed with opinion, while simultaneously hostile to the idea of expertise.  The solution is not suppression, but an acknowledgement that there are people who know a lot more than you, and their thoughts on the subject are worth a lot more than yours.

I see. I thought you were talking about suppression in a non-democratic society (albeit not necessarily of the most extreme kind).

 

5/06/2018 6:46 pm  #25


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

I'd like to take this thread in a different direction if anyone is interested. How exactly, do we promote philosophy in a culture that is ignorant of it, too indoctrinated by scientism (Dawkins, Krauss, Harris, even Steven Pinker) to engage with the arguments of classical theism?

There are several groups of people I think we need to engage: scholars, lay people online, and lay people in real life.

1. Scholars- Obviously, Feser, Davies and others are working on this and unless you have the fortitude to earn a PhD in philosophy and enter the field, there isn't a whole lot we can do. Nonetheless, most scholars are reachable and if you see them spreading ignorance on their blogs or on twitter, I believe we should engage with them (unless they are obvious trolls and can be ignored).

2. Lay people online- I have come across all sorts of weak arguments for atheism in the following places:

- twitter
-reddit (atheism, ask an atheist, and even on the classical theism subreddit)
-youtube comment sections
-blogs
-opinion pieces in the NYT, etc.
-amazon and goodread reviews

Here is one channel that literally has a video called "Accusing an atheist of scientism is an admission of defeat"

https://www.youtube.com/user/EssenceOfThought/videos

I know opinions differ here, but I strongly believe that anyone who is equipped to deal with these arguments philosophically, should consider picking one venue, making an account, and entering the debate. Obviously, no one has time to just respond to every little thing on the net, but even just picking one channel/subreddit, becoming a regular, and arguing (respectfully) would help debunk this idea that classical theism is bankrupt.

3. Lay people in real life- Anyone you know in person is worth talking to obviously. Especially those who are otherwise sympathetic to theism but don't understand the philosophy at all. I heard a sermon in which the priest questioned the value of arguing about these matters--I got coffee with him, discussing why I thought he was wrong (this was a church on a college campus, where reasoned argumentation is critically important). I plan on sending him a copy of one of Ed's books to add to the library.

I'd love to hear any of your thoughts on this issue.

-Mike
 

 

5/06/2018 8:32 pm  #26


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

mnels wrote:

I'd like to take this thread in a different direction if anyone is interested. How exactly, do we promote philosophy in a culture that is ignorant of it, too indoctrinated by scientism (Dawkins, Krauss, Harris, even Steven Pinker) to engage with the arguments of classical theism?

Just a quick clarifying question: are you looking to spread philosophy simpliciter, classical theism, or philosophy because you think it will lead people to classical theism (or theism, or Christianity, or what have you)?

 

5/06/2018 9:32 pm  #27


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

John West wrote:

mnels wrote:

I'd like to take this thread in a different direction if anyone is interested. How exactly, do we promote philosophy in a culture that is ignorant of it, too indoctrinated by scientism (Dawkins, Krauss, Harris, even Steven Pinker) to engage with the arguments of classical theism?

Just a quick clarifying question: are you looking to spread philosophy simpliciter, classical theism, or philosophy because you think it will lead people to classical theism (or theism, or Christianity, or what have you)?

 
Could be all of those, right? Philosophy being the love of wisdom and classical theism being true, naturally one would want to spread the love of wisdom and truth, including such a noble and beautiful truth like theism.

Last edited by Miguel (5/06/2018 9:32 pm)

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5/06/2018 10:20 pm  #28


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

Miguel wrote:

Could be all of those, right?

Right, but I think the difference in focus could lead to a difference in approach. For instance, there are some brilliant atheist metaphysicians in the Sydney tradition. (I think they're wrong about important things, but I think Aquinas is too.) I don't think it would hurt for people who incline towards atheism or materialism to study them instead of (say) Ed. The same goes for the Iowans.

But if your main goal is to lead them to classical theism, you might be inclined to slap down a copy of Scholastic Metaphysics instead. (I think Cotter's The ABC of Scholastic Philosophy* is a better first book in scholastic philosophy, but never mind. Scholastic Metaphysics is as solid a second book in it as you will ever find.)

I also think it will influence how you approach professionals. If you're not going in with the idea that “If they just studied more philosophy, there would of course be more classical theists!”, but just with the interest of educating people in philosophy, well, it's questionable whether they need education in philosophy simpliciter. (They're more qualified to decide what conclusions philosophy leads to anyway, for whatever that is worth.)

*Online here, if anyone is interested.

 

5/06/2018 10:24 pm  #29


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

I'll be upfront: I don't think philosophy leads to the kind of knowledge many of you do. (This is tied up with my metaphilosophical views. I'm not happy about them, but I think they're right.) I think it leads to a salutary decrease in dogmatism, but that is different than what most of you probably think it leads to. I'm writing this not to be controversial, but because it will colour all my comments on this subject. It also means that I'm pretty much going to ignore the professional philosophers heading.

Now, having written all this (and my earlier rather disillusioned comments about people being interested in philosophy for its own sake)*, I've started reading groups with the aim of educating people in philosophy, and this forum was started in no small part for it as well. Ontological Investigations is also (in part, it's not the whole reason) there to help people learn philosophy (see my comment about “ontological literacy” and some of Dan's introductory posts), and will pick up in terms of sheer quantity of content at the end of the month when Dan's schedule starts to clear up and then even more when mine does in the Fall. So I've done some things to help increase “philosophical literacy”, and this in spite of my general tendency towards being what Greg has labeled a “philosopher's philosopher” (see next paragraph). 

On the “people being interested in philosophy for its own sake” head, I think you guys would do well to gain an interest in practical philosophy. I think most people are going to find that far more enticing than the abstract stuff that tends to dominate our theoretical philosophy forum.

*Undergraduate philosophy students are, most of them, especially dispiriting.

 

5/07/2018 12:07 am  #30


Re: How to end atheist provincianism/promote philosophical education?

John West wrote:

I'll be upfront: I don't think philosophy leads to the kind of knowledge many of you do. (This is tied up with my metaphilosophical views. I'm not happy about them, but I think they're right.) I think it leads to a salutary decrease in dogmatism, but that is different than what most of you probably think it leads to. I'm writing this not to be controversial, but because it will colour all my comments on this subject. It also means that I'm pretty much going to ignore the professional philosophers heading.

Now, having written all this (and my earlier rather disillusioned comments about people being interested in philosophy for its own sake)*, I've started reading groups with the aim of educating people in philosophy, and this forum was started in no small part for it as well. Ontological Investigations is also (in part, it's not the whole reason) there to help people learn philosophy (see my comment about “ontological literacy” and some of Dan's introductory posts), and will pick up in terms of sheer quantity of content at the end of the month when Dan's schedule starts to clear up and then even more when mine does in the Fall. So I've done some things to help increase “philosophical literacy”, and this in spite of my general tendency towards being what Greg has labeled a “philosopher's philosopher” (see next paragraph). 

On the “people being interested in philosophy for its own sake” head, I think you guys would do well to gain an interest in practical philosophy. I think most people are going to find that far more enticing than the abstract stuff that tends to dominate our theoretical philosophy forum.

*Undergraduate philosophy students are, most of them, especially dispiriting.

 
So? We can agree to disagree, so long as we don't think the other is an "ignorant moron who just believes in obscurantist and unscientific bullshit". That's the point. I understand how philosophy can lead one to more informed doubts against positions I actually take to be true, and I can understand how some people could find such doubts reasonable even though I ultimately find them implausible, or at least less plausible than my own views. For instance, I think Hume was wrong; I may even think he was very seriously wrong, but he had arguments for his positions, and it's worth engaging them. False as they are in my view, they are deserving of a serious response and refutation, which is more than what logical positivists would often grant to their opponents ("not even wrong!")

But that's the thing: the provincian atheist doesn't think like that. He just thinks we are retards who are engaged in wishful thinking and/or fail to grasp basic fallacies in "unscientific arguments". Aristotle, Aquinas and Leibniz were idiots who can be refuted in 5 sentences or less. That's how they think.

Last edited by Miguel (5/07/2018 12:11 am)

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