§7.1

a blog by josef johann

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The current status of 'beyond science'

Fuck imgur.com!!!

I love that simple images can illustrate profound points and wish it was done more often. On that latest hump you could find bloggers like Santi Tafarella, Chris Schoen and current generation philosophers on consciousness like Thomas Nagel and pretty much all philosophers of morality. I wonder what they think is going to be different this time.

Edit: I may as well elaborate while I'm here. I wouldn't pay so much attention to Schoen were it not for the fact that he's essentially me multiplied by -1. Given the extent to which we've rolled back these anti-(or at least non-)naturalistic assumptions in the past century, especially as they pertain to mind, it is flabbergasting for me to read something like:

To the extent we have a "lust to be good" as Richard Dawkins likes to say, there is no problem. But we have other "lusts" as well, often in direct conflict with one another. The multiplicity of desire is the "is," and the fact that we can only act on a limited number is the "ought." Biology and "social conditioning" are not sufficient to resolve the difference.


.. to read this here, to read it now, in 2010, without an attendant iota of suspicion of the implied inference. Just like that, we flick about a colossal ontological bifurcation like it's a nickel in a high-school poker match.

Once we've gone so far as to grant that the lusts themselves are an is, it is necessary to recognize how, just by doing this much, we've effectively retired a generation of moral thought to the dustbin that similarly claimed Descartes and Malebranche after it was proved that animals could experience pain.

Does anyone think we are anywhere near finished filling the dustbin? Does Schoen appreciate, as Marion King Hubbert did, that you could use the rate of discovery to anticipate future discovery, and what the implications are for the current question?

We can't measure the force of desire in units, but we can circumscribe their correlates, and we can know we have better ground to stand on than is offered by the naturalistic fallacy fallacy (not a typo). Requiring that we postulate, all over again, an "ought" entity that we might ground some schema of lust-prioritization on it, rather than simply defining the schema in terms of the strength and harmony of those lusts, is an unmotivated requirement.

I suggest to at least the atheists among us, that this isn't the problem so many have held it up to be. At least here, there is no opportunity for chiding us unbelievers into deeper introspection. The is is the ought; we can only manufacture Moore's open question by begging it.

This conversation is really a proxy for the larger battle of whether a mechanistic, empirical outlook can found itself on the same third person perspective it strives to apply everywhere. On this question empiricism returns the most beautiful answer: not an absolute proof but ever-incrementing hints in the affirmative direction.

1 comment:

Chris Schoen said...

I would suggest that whenever you allow someone to fill the negative space of "multiplied by negative one" that you may be entertaining a phantasmic projection. (Though at least this would mean we meet at the square roots.)

I'm not sure what you think I'm arguing, but it's hardly anti-naturalistic to propose that the facts of the world cannot determine for us whether we ought to, in Sartre's example, take care of our sick mother or join the French resistance, when there is no way to do both.

Gather together all the neural correlates you like. There is no critical mass of neurological data which allows us to differentiate what is desired from what ought to be desired. For that we will always require moral reasoning.

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