Thomas Nagel has a new book coming out in September, titled Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. To me, this is such a ridiculous title. Of course, it’s not surprising coming from Nagel given all his previous work, but still, “almost certainly false”? Where does he get off with such an overblown title? I wonder if his editors changed it in order to be more “punchy”. I look forward to reading it nevertheless, but I can’t imagine there will be any new arguments that haven’t already been responded to by materialists ad nauseam.
Monthly Archives: July 2012
“Money lives in the cloud; the old forms are vestigial tokens of knowledge about who owns what, who owes what. To the twenty-first century these will be seen as anachronisms, quaint or even absurd: bullion carried from shore to shore in fragile ships, subject to the tariffs of pirates and the god Poseidon; metal coins tossed from moving cars into baskets at highway tollgates and thereafter trucked about (now the history of your automobile is in the cloud); paper checks torn from pads and signed in ink; tickets for trains, performances, air travel, or anything at all, printed on weighty perforated paper with watermarks, holograms, or fluorescent fibers; and, soon enough, all forms of cash. The economy of the world is transacted in the cloud.”
James Gleick, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
I just wanted to report that I started to read Nassim Taleb’s brilliant book The Black Swan. A Black Swan, as he defines it, has three attributes:
“First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact (unlike the bird). Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.”
A good example of a Black Swan is 9/11. I first heard about The Black Swan when I read Dan Kahneman’s latest book Thinking, Fast and Slow. I don’t know why I put it off for so long, perhaps because I thought it would be a dull read concerning probability theory. But Taleb is far from a boring mind. In fact, he is overflowing with interesting insights and his work has a deep, theoretical angle that reveals his familiarity with philosophy. It’s a breath of fresh air, told in narrative form, and given the nature of what a Black Swan is, a highly gripping yarn. Taleb also has a new book coming out called Antifragility, which I will have to pick up when I finish The Black Swan.
In other news, I will be speaking at a conference dedicated to Julian Jaynes next spring, but the paper I submitted to the Central States Philosophical Association was not accepted. I have also been slacking on my blog writing lately, being consumed with (1) reading (2) chess and (3) working on my qualifying paper. I have some ideas for posts, but I have just been lazy lately and haven’t felt like writing them up. Hopefully my motivation will return before the school year starts, because then I will be even more busy.
“Breathlessly, [the media] repeated ISSMP&D speculations about MPD as a late-twentieth century epidemic. Before Sybil, fewer than a hundred people over the past two centuries had been identified in Western medical literature with conditions resembling MPD. By 1984, only four years after the condition was first listed in the DSM, an ISSMP&D leader was suggesting that 25,000 Americans suffered from it. Another leader estimated that 3 percent of the population had MPD – over seven million people.”
~Debbie Nathan, Sybil Exposed
I will be writing some blog posts in the future with more my thoughts on Nathan’s highly interesting book. It casts great doubt on the claim that MPD is a “natural kind”. The evidence indicates instead that it is a diagnosis spun purely out of the therapeutic couch and championed (i.e. pushed) onto the medical community by psychiatric quacks, enabling mentally ill patients (almost exclusively women) to unconsciously adopt this diagnosis as it is widely popularized in the mass media. This problem is worsened by how such “alters” are usually discovered: through questionable methods of psychoanalytic hypnosis, with patients often confabulating wild stories about horrific and gory parental abuse in line with the original Sybil story. Wild stuff.
Just picked this up at the library today:
“God in the Age of Science? is a critical examination of strategies for the philosophical defense of religious belief. The main options may be presented as the end nodes of a decision tree for religious believers. The faithful can interpret a creedal statement (e.g. “God exists”) either as a truth claim, or otherwise. If it is a truth claim, they can either be warranted to endorse it without evidence, or not. Finally, if evidence is needed, should its evidential support be assessed by the same logical criteria that we use in evaluating evidence in science, or not? Each of these options has been defended by prominent analytic philosophers of religion.
In part I Herman Philipse assesses these options and argues that the most promising for believers who want to be justified in accepting their creed in our scientific age is the Bayesian cumulative case strategy developed by Richard Swinburne. Parts II and III are devoted to an in-depth analysis of this case for theism. Using a “strategy of subsidiary arguments,” Philipse concludes (1) that theism cannot be stated meaningfully; (2) that if theism were meaningful, it would have no predictive power concerning existing evidence, so that Bayesian arguments cannot get started; and (3) that if the Bayesian cumulative case strategy did work, one should conclude that atheism is more probable than theism. Philipse provides a careful, rigorous, and original critique of theism in the world today.”
I’m really exited to read this one. At least in regards to Heideggerian scholarship, Philipse is a careful and diligent scholar. I expect nothing less from his new critique of theism.