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It doesn't seem surprising to me that 'philosophers of religion' tend to be believers, no more than if a survey were taken of astrologers and the findings indicated many believed in the influence of the stars and planets on the human personality. It seems like it would be a self-selecting set. Whether it's probative of anything about the claims of religion is another story.
Toggle Commented Oct 31, 2010 on The survey results at Neurath's Boat
Many so-called conservatives want to 'turn back the clock' to the Age of Reagan, or to the conformist 1950's, or even the Robber Baron era, but Feser seems to want to throw out the clock altogether and replace it with a sun dial! It's difficult how he's going to garner much sympathy for his views when he characterizes the philosophy of America's Founders as deluded and the basis of the liberties and toleration we currently enjoy unfounded. Whether a 'justification' for post-Enlightenment values can be wrenched from 'natural law' cannot be doubted - such systems are ultimately capable of supporting any conclusion as they are built on word games and nothing more. But the fact remains it was only after the rejection of the intellectual straight jacket of Scholastic philosophy that science flourished and popular democracy became possible.
Toggle Commented Oct 31, 2010 on The Last Supertition at Neurath's Boat
Just a side note: I recommend Plato Unmasked by Keith Quincy which supplies a much-needed context for Plato's dialogues. http://www.amazon.com/Plato-Unmasked-Dialogues-Made-New/dp/0910055904 Knowing more about who the characters are based upon makes me much more sympathetic to Socrates's interlocutors than I was before. Typically Plato prefers to make a strawman out of those with whom he disagrees, and thus valorizes his preferred anti-democratic agenda.
I've never been able to understand the attraction of Platonic forms. I see where it might be fun to talk about there being some changeless perfect transcendent Dog somewhere 'out there' but I can't think that 'dog' is more real than the dog that is biting my leg. Platonism seems to me the stuff of dorm room bull sessions that doesn't stand up to the light of day. What empiricism reveals about the world is so much more complex and so much more interesting than what the armchair philosophers posit that it's difficult not to talk of the chasm between the ivory tower academics who make their living spinning such 'rationalist' theories and those who are studying the world we have to actually live in and making tangible contributions to society.
I've never quite understood why women would have more reason than men sex as an essential property. I'd have thought that the most obvious way of psychologically coping with belonging to a low status group was to think of that group identity as something imposed from outside, and unrelated to one's true self. This reminds me of the idea that (in the United States) African-Americans are more conscious of racism because it impinges on their daily life and seldom allowed to forget their 'place', while many 'whites' as a privileged class can be blissfully unaware of the basic injustice of a social system where they are the beneficiaries and come to think of the way things are as simply 'natural'. It's more important for the oppressed to be aware of their relatively low status because transgressions are punished, and more necessary for the oppressed to have some understanding of their oppressors because that is a part of their environment with potentially lethal consequences unless understood. As far as the discussion on transsexuals in the link is concerned, I must admit that there is a lot I don't understand and clearly many of the posters don't agree either (though clearly a lot of thought has gone into it). Being in a privileged caste, I suppose there is so much which I am free to ignore.
Toggle Commented Oct 31, 2010 on Male and female brains at Neurath's Boat
I've read the Venus and Mars book, and it certainly does hew pretty closely to the cliches about how different men and women are supposed to be in this culture. Was interested to read about Deborah Cameron's work: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/oct/01/gender.books Any man who's gotten into a heated discussion with a woman would quickly be disabused by the notion that women are not direct when they want to be. Sounds like your proposal about studying the tentativeness is style among philosophic papers would be a good research opportunity.
Toggle Commented Oct 31, 2010 on Interesting research at Neurath's Boat
Something about this story smells of the Bell Curve. We know that the concept of IQ is a slippery one at best. Yet there are some who want to use it to 'prove' that certain people (the poor, ethnic minorities, etc) 'deserve' what they get from a politico-economic system which depends upon egregious disparities to function. But it always makes a good headline to say that this or that thing causes something else. Often the science is more subtle than that. But what seems to be successfully kept out of the papers is the well-supported fact that economic inequality, racism, sexism, etc are better documented causes of much undeserved suffering in this society.
Toggle Commented Oct 31, 2010 on What counts as an explanation? at Neurath's Boat
I do find it rather disingenuous for theists to proclaim that 'materialism is a religion' or 'atheism is a religion' as if that tu quoque were a productive solution to the sorts of problems under debate. It seems some theists are unable to conceive of any kind of worldview outside of their own. If Feser indulges in this kind of sophistry it doesn't bode well for the rest of his work. That he goes from there to the Motivation Fallacy is not surprising. It is not at all uncommon to see such penny-ante antics from theists who have little confidence in their actual arguments and prefer to attack the source instead. Naturally we are interested in the motivations of others, and it is tempting to 'poison the well' in advance by saying "They're only saying that because..." But this is a self-consciously polemical work, and this is the level to which much 'debate' has descended. Most naturalists are too busy investigating the real world and making useful contributions to society to waste much effort debunking the infinite variety of nonsense of the superstitious. It is only the official wool-gatherers who have time to pump out book after book trying to explain why their 'self evident' and 'simple' gods are so hard to prove and understand.
Toggle Commented Oct 31, 2010 on Feser's superstitions, chapter I at Neurath's Boat
It does seem that the Omelas story is a direct response to the theologian's notion that suffering is necessary for this 'best of all possible worlds'. I think it is absurd to posit that the kind of undeserved suffering in the real world is made up by the noble things people do to end that suffering. There's just more suffering than nobility. In fact there's more suffering than we can do anything about, and much suffering which we never even *know* about. How does that make humanity any better? What makes the story more pointed is that instead of world-wide suffering as in the real world (which people seem very able to ignore because it becomes a mere statistic) the suffering is down to one innocent person. Any system which depends on undeserved suffering for its 'greatness' is one which truly moral people would abandon. Those that leave at least are sacrificing the goods of that world since the price is too high, and any existence is better than one based on such injustice. That theologians are forced to confess that their gods are responsible for such injustices (even if they argue it's for the 'greater good') makes them seem like battered spouses making apologies for their abusive partners. Though it would make a good movie script to have some of the citizens of Omelas try to free the suffering child...
Toggle Commented Oct 31, 2010 on Recommended Post at Neurath's Boat
I think you hit the nail on the head with your characterization of Aristotelean notions of causation being rejected because "...[t]he early nominalists and conceptualists decided that no explanation at all was better than the comforting pseudo-explanation offered by realism (in the tradition of Socrates' view that wisdom is knowing when you don't know something), and so they rejected realism even before there were rival explanations." Better to have no presuppositions at all than misleading ones. It seems that the Thomist project is rather like trying to salvage the 'pure circular orbits' of early astronomy by adding ever more epicycles to a theory based on a fundamental mistake. The whole thing smells of an adventure in ad hockery. Sure it keeps academics employed, but it turns out that just going back to the blackboard and starting over again was a more fruitful approach.
Toggle Commented Oct 30, 2010 on Feser chapter 2 at Neurath's Boat
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Oct 30, 2010