Why Substance Matters

kick rocks

What matters about matter is that it’s a certain kind of substance, which is to say that matter is refutable and problematic because it is taken as something underlying or standing below (sub-stance) the outward appearances, such as the hardness and heaviness of Johnson’s rock. In other words, “substance” is a metaphysical reality, not an empirical or phenomenal reality. Pragmatists like William James and Robert Pirsig both reject what the latter called “the metaphysics of substance.”

Eliezer Yudkowsky and Luke Muehlhauser on Modern Rationalism (Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot)

Credit vimeocdn.com

I’m generally skeptical when someone proclaims that “rationality” itself should get us to throw out 90%+ of philosophy. So I was a bit puzzled when someone on our Facebook group pointed at some articles by Luke Muehlhauser (specifically “Philosophy: A Diseased Discipline” and “Train Philosophers with Pearl and Kahneman, not Plato and Kant”), host of […]

Scientism and Scientific Sensationalism

Not long after I wrote this post linking to Isaac Chotiner’s negative review of Johah Lehrer’s Imagine and its “fetishization of brain science,” Lehrer was forced to resign from The New Yorker for fabricating Bob Dylan quotes. A lot has been written about the meaning of Lehrer’s transgression; but I was bothered less by the distortion of relatively […]

Evolutionary Psychology’s Pseudo-Explanations of Art and Culture

Evolutionary psychologists seem to assume that all of an organism’s traits must be the result of natural selection. This is not the case. As Stephen Jay Gould pointed out, it is entirely possible that a given trait is merely a by-product of another trait that is adaptive. This by-product may in fact thwart reproductivity (“fitness”) as […]

Science-Based Anti-Intellectualism

On a regular basis someone publishes a book in which they attempt to apply neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, or the social sciences to questions that the humanities are actually better equipped to address. As a consequence, such authors typically end up dressing up their embarrassingly sophomoric musings related to philosophy, literature, and culture in the trappings of scientific […]

Hannah Arendt on Scientism

The question of the “pernicious influence” of scientism on modern life and philosophy gets raised fairly often here at PEL. I get the sense that Wes and Seth think the influence ‘quite pernicious’ while Mark thinks ‘not so pernicious’. (Correct me if I’m wrong guys). So I thought it would be helpful to clarify what […]

Topic for #48: Merleau-Ponty on the Role of Perception in Knowledge

Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s magnum opus–his equivalent to Being & Nothinginess or Being & Time–is The Phenomenology of Perception. It is reputed (by Seth, at least) to complete Heidegger’s project by paying proper attention to our embodiedness: we have bodies, with specific perceptual limitations and are not only culturally but physically situated in ways that (as Heidegger […]

Naturalism & Philosophical Thinking

[editor’s note: Here’s our guest blogger Tom McDonald with a bit of original philosophizing. You can read more like this on his blog zuhanden.com. -ML] I want to pose some general questions to all readers, but especially to those scientifically inclined and favorable to a naturalistic worldview. The questions are about the naturalistic worldview that […]

Naturalism & Philosophical Thinking

[editor’s note: Here’s our guest blogger Tom McDonald with a bit of original philosophizing. You can read more like this on his blog zuhanden.com. -ML] I want to pose some general questions to all readers, but especially to those scientifically inclined and favorable to a naturalistic worldview. The questions are about the naturalistic worldview that […]

McGinn vs. Ramachandran on The Tell-Tale Brain

We’ve talked quite a bit recently about neuroscience, not to mention scientism — which again, I take to be: the idea that science is applicable to any domain of inquiry that is meaningful, and will inevitably provide a solution to all meaningful questions Mark calls it “the dreaded scientism,” I think because he doubts it’s […]

“The Nation” on Brooks on Cognitive Neuroscience

We’ve bashed NY Times columnist David Brooks before on this blog for his attempts at philosophy, and I absolutely feel for the guy from a logistical perspective: he’s not an academic that can take a sabbatical and hole up to write and revise. He’s more or less a blogger who has to fumble around every […]

The Pernicious Influence of Scientism

Alright, Mark has successfully baited me into a response on the issue of scientism. I should begin by saying that Mark has an interesting reading of Dennet that makes him out not to be a reductionist (as I and many others interpret him). I won’t address that here; I’m more interested in the general question […]

When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong

A research physicist friend of mine who works at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is a bit of a global warming skeptic. When I brought up all the scientific research on the subject, he said, somewhat dismissively, “Yes, but anyone who gets a PhD in climate science goes into it with an agenda. No one goes […]

Massimo Pigliucci on In-Your-Face Atheism

Pigliucci strongly rebukes the organization of which he is a lifetime honorary member, for an ad calling all religions “scams”: First, the ad is simply making a preposterous claim that cannot possibly be backed up by factual evidence, which means that, technically, it is lying. Not a good virtue for self-righteous critical thinkers… Yet, several atheists […]

Thinking Hot Thoughts: “The Secret” as Manic Defense

Psychoanalysts have a name for this sort of thing: it’s called the “manic defense.” This isn’t the full-blown manic depression (now “bipolar disorder”) of DSMV fame. Rather’s its an avoidance of the inevitable mourning (and associated guilt) involved in a realization that we can’t have it all.