For our atheism episode (which has, incidentally been pushed back to be recorded in late May or possibly June... sorry, Russ!), I'm trying to read through the most popular of the "new atheist" books, and I'm sure we'll only end up discussing some select portions of the books in any detail, so as I'm going through these, I'm going to generate a few blog posts to fill readers in on some additional points and help myself remember what I'm reading. My point here is primarily to give points from the books, not to cast judgment upon them, so don't take this as an endorsement (or rejection).
Daniel C. Dennett is the only actual philosophy professor among the most popular of these folks. (Sam Harris was a philosophy undergrad when he wrote his major works and has just recently earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience; Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist, and Hitchens is a "columnist and literary critic." I know Peter Singer also argues for atheism, and he's as famous a philosopher as they come, but he's not been considered part of this movement for some reason.) We read a little bit of him and devoted maybe 10 minutes of our discussion to him in our philosophy of mind episode, which didn't go very well, in that Wes at least really dislikes him, yet we didn't go into enough detail on the arguments of his article to clearly convey why Wes dislikes him. To sum up the critique, he's not known for, say, clearly and charitably presenting the views of past philosophers and saying exactly how his position differs from them. Instead, he uses a popular style to make his points, with a heavy emphasis on specifically citing scientific work
Part I of Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenonincludes three chapters and runs up to around page 90. Surprisingly, given that this is reputed to be a militant atheist text, Dennett doesn't here make any challenge to the truth of people's religious beliefs, but merely argue what to me seems a point barely worth arguing: that religion should be studied scientifically, i.e. systematically. Where did religion come from? Why are people religious? What do they get out of it? He's coming from a point of disgust, I think, with the utter baselessness of most arguments given in these God wars: if someone says religious people are on the whole more moral or less moral than non-religious people, then anecdotal evidence isn't enough to ground either claim. On p. 34-38, he lays out several predictions often given about the future of religion: it is in its death throes and will be gone soon; the false promises of Enlightenment science have been revealed and the value of religion is being rediscovered; religion will some day be barely tolerated as a private vice, as smoking is today; etc. Predictions in the social sciences are always risky, but Dennett claims that we lack the basic understanding of religion to necessary to persuasively argue for any of those predictions.
In chapter 3, Dennett reveals the kind of science he has in mind: evolutionary biology, giving a pretty clear explanation of "memes," i.e. any non-genetic information that becomes more or less frequent as usage adapts to local condition. For instance, the split from Latin into French/Spanish/etc., or how customs for building boats change, or any number of other things. By conceiving these on analogy with natural selection of genes, we can ask "who benefits?" about any given practice or behavior. Some memes persist because they help their bearers; some persist because they encourage behaviors that spread the meme but don't benefit their bearers at all (e.g. germs get us to sneeze, not because that's good for us, but because it's good for spreading the germs). Seemingly, the direction Dennet is heading with this is looking at religion as some kind of parasite, but at this point (p. 84-85), he's just arguing for the general approach:
When we look at religion from this perspective, the [who benefits?] question changes dramatically. Now it is not our fitness...that is presumed to be enhanced by religion, but its fitness... It may thrive as a mutualist because it benefits its hosts quite directly, or it may thrive as a parasite even though it oppresses its hosts with a virulent affliction that leaves them worse off but too weak to combat its spread. And the main poing to get clear about at the outset is that we can't tell which of these is more likely to be true without doing careful research. Your religion probably seems obviously benign to you, and other religions may well seem to you to be just as obviously toxic to those infected by them, but appearances can deceive. Perhaps their religion is providing them with benefits you just don't understand yet, and perhaps your religion is poisoning you in ways that you have never suspected. You really can't tell that from the inside... If (some) religions are culturally evolved parasites, we can expect them to be insidiously well designed to conceal their true nature from their hosts, since this is an adaptation that would further their own spread.
So, as with other things I've read by Dennett, he's set up a point of view that seems weird and interesting from which to study something, but whether his approach is worth anything or not is a matter of how well it's actually argued for in the rest of the book. I think actually seeing an attempt to persuasively explain meme theory is valuable, as opposed to merely hearing about it second-hand and dismissing it as obvious nonsense. In light of Dennett's explanation it seems perfectly plausible to do this kind of analysis of how social practices change over time and try to figure out what's a matter of random drift and what's a matter of adaptation of a practice according to some rationale, and evolutionary theory gives the conceptual tools to think about such rationales apart from thinking and planning agents: we can say that animals have nice sharp teeth "in order to" bite without thinking about an agent designing those teeth; instead, it's a matter of that kind of teeth becoming more frequent in a population over time because they work better. On the other hand, this kind of analysis is inevitably highly speculative; like Freudian analyses, these kinds of explanations are interesting, but seem always to admit of multiple reasonable options; we'll just have to see how plausible his particular analyses of religion seem.
One other point seems worth making here: On p. 9 we get Dennett's definition of religion: "Social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought." That characterizes typical Western religious practice, but not theologies of the Kant-approved, non-personal, and/or individualistic types.
Tom McDonald says
It’s amazing how much philosophical ink can be spilled trying to prove a metaphor!
Daniel Dennet and Steven Pinker are two of our great computer-man theorists. They lay out beautifully for us the metaphysics or ideological self-understanding of capitalist industrial science. One of the principals or ‘system imperatives’ of this metaphysics-ideology is that messy content MUST always be neatly separated from rigorously efficient formal processes (i.e., mechanical rules) for dealing with that content. You can count on these guys to show that maximizing efficiency and utility is tops when it comes to mind!
Consider this description of Dennet by philosopher Akeel Bilgami — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akeel_Bilgrami — from a paper on recent debate in philosophy of mind:
“Research in Artificial Intelligence has suggested to philosophers that the psychology of a human agent may be described by means of a flow chart, which outlines a breakdown into different sub-agencies and the paths of access that they have to each other that allow them to co-operate in carrying out the intentions of the human agent, the corporation whom they comprise […] At each descending stage of the heirarchy, a level that was at the previous stage conceived merely as a black box is described as a subsystem with organizational structure and functional detail, and with many and diverse access relations to other subsystems in the heirarchy […] Daniel Dennett has pursued this suggestion for the application of AI research, further perhaps than any other philosopher. He provides a constitutive account of our ‘dealings with content’ in terms of this cognitive-scientific suggestion.”
Here is a good question to consider in light of the significant distinction marked by Hegel and others between consciousness and self-consciousness (to be discussed in PEL topic 36):
Does Dennet even have a distinct concept of self-consciousness (and the more complex agency it implies) as opposed to mere (object-)consciousness adequate for empirical science and mechanical production processes?
Why is the computer metaphor of mind so attractive to Dennet, Pinker, and many of us? Is the historical advent of the computer a reflection of the fact that we were really computers ourselves all along? Or are human beings just always dupes for understanding ourselves on the basis of whatever object we find most ready-to-hand in our time?
Memes are what a fucked-up eliminative materialistic metaphysics comes up with when ignoring (ignorant of?) process vs substance.
AND, Dennett is a butthead ( I do hope the best for his health) for saying my dogs are not even conscious – what profound stupidity!
On the light side, just watch ’em…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVwlMVYqMu4&feature=player_embedded#at=216
Not a problem that “the new atheist” podcast will be delayed. That’ll give me more time to actually read some of these works. I’ll try to keep an open mind…oh, wait a minute, Dennett doesn’t think we have those. So I’ll try to keep an open assemblage of neurons and synapses…and set of software algorithms.
Mark Linsenmayer says
I think D. has mellowed over the years. According to the beginning of this book, he workshopped it quite a bit with students of different faiths, conducting some pretty extensive interviews with people on what their religion means to them. He mentions William James’s “The Varieties of Religious Experience” as a major influence. He also cites as an inspiration here Kinsey’s methods in exposing what people really think about sex by asking them things and looking for regularities in the answers. Again, I’ve not read enough to see what came of it, and I rather expect to be disappointed, but it’s not a bad idea. His beef re. past studies of religion is that most of them have an agenda, either in providing undue respect for religion or with an atheist beef to debunk it (and he’s certainly willing to acknowledge the good ones and incorporate them into the findings he’s reporting). The entire (stated) point of the book is to approach the phenomena with an open mind.
If we can get some blog readers here reading along with some of these books and citing specific points that they do or don’t agree with (like writing out the quotes, giving page #’s, etc.), that might be a fun exchange, and we’ll see what we can do to incorporate your thoughts into the actual podcast discussion.
Mark Linsenmayer says
One detail I should have added: He explicitly says that doing this kind of originary/teleological analysis doesn’t preclude the beliefs in question being true. Presumably (I’m paraphrasing; not sure which page this is on) if God created us to love him, he would still have to develop a mechanism to get us to love him, to have the kinds of constitutions that have this need to love him, which in turn requires an evolutionary mechanism or, alternately, an evolution of cultural products to get us in the mindset to love him. The analysis does not beg the question of the validity of the beliefs.
Likewise, there’s nothing I’ve said here that implies reductionism. Modeling things is what science does; coming up with a model doesn’t remove the original phenomena; it’s just a tool for trying to obtain some kind of understanding of the phenomena, namely one that allows you to see similar patterns in disparate phenomena and to (hopefully) be able to predict occurrences based on like occurrences. Just as with my approach to Freud, my response to the claims to have worked out a great scientific explanatory system is: go to it, and I’ll see what you come up with buys us.
At this point re. Dennett I’m no longer going to be satisfied with citations of criticisms in secondary literature or vague characterizations that don’t match what I actually see in what I’m reading (much less ones conflating wholly different topics written on some decades apart, as you’ve done here, Tom). I think actually stepping up to the plate and working with a text is very different from voicing off-the-cuff, second-hand impressions (not that there’s anything wrong with those, in their proper place). I will defend this distinction even for Ayn Rand, whose dreadful philosophical texts I once slogged through (in college), and the cheesiest New Age dudes, whom I was enamored with for a while around 1990, etc.
Mark, I agree with you. It’s easy to just assume we have a guy figured out because of the negative literature. He seems to be an easy target and I’m not sure exactly why. He speaks for quite a number of scientists and reductionist thinkers. I think he has mellowed probably because he’s had to come to grips with his opponents and their ideas. And although he certainly doesn’t agree with them, he probably can’t help but develop a certain amount of respect. But I need to read his latest offering to even say this. I just order “Breaking the Spell”. I’ll let Dan speak for himself.
Ethan Gach says
Looking forward to it Mark!
Tom McDonald says
@ Mark and Russ,
Consider this argument:
The debate between the New Atheists, including Dennett, and traditional theology is a lingering ideological residue of false assumptions from the 17th century Enlightenment debates about the nature of value and what beliefs became reified during that time.
In that time Anglo scientists, theologians, and commercial interests agreed that value had no place in the world itself.
For science this has become the dogma that facts are objective and independent of values which are subjective and not really in the world. Scientific Naturalism is aided by the convenient ignorance of normativity in its own foundation.
For theology this is the acceptable belief that values are outside in God’s heaven or transcendent to the world itself. Theology is aided by the convenient idea that it guards the gate to values outside the world.
For the commercial and colonizing interests this science-theology combo offered the convenient rationale for thinking of the world and nature as a resource to be exploited without any messy moral problems. This also made it convenient to judge colonized people by how far or not they had achieved this conceptual separation of value from the world. If they had not then they were mere primitives without moral status. (Lots of contradiction here).
Thus Dennett’s concept of science and the fundamentalist theology he opposes are just two sides of the same nihilism.
The American debate generally between science and religion is a farce concealing this underlying agreement that values are outside the world.
This two-headed beast will keep perpetuating itself until we are able to develop an account of human subjectivity and value that does not shut it out of the world itself.
Mark Linsenmayer says
Thanks for clarifying. However, I guess I find high-level descriptions of the ideology inherent in certain kinds of behavior like you’ve given there to be overly simplistic and unhelpful.
Yes, the method of science is “describe, predict, and control,” and it’s easy to make a giant metaphor out of this and condemn our unthoughtful time. I think the activity of science itself, though, is to a great extent philosophically neutral. A scientist makes a model of something, but it doesn’t follow from that that it’s the ONLY possible model or that you’ve now reduced the phenomena to the model. On the contrary, scientists post-Enlightenment recognize the likelihood of shifting paradigms; they are fallibilistic. Dennett says that most likely the story he’s giving is going to be wrong, but we need a story to start with (which seems better, so far as we can tell, than the available alternatives), to critique and improve. Yes, you could abandon the enterprise and say that there are things that can’t be known, or that are so subtle we can only get a flavor of them through literature or something, but there’s nothing wrong with trying.
Scientists also needn’t be ignorant of the normativity built into the theorizing act, e.g. there are standards for what makes a good theory, a useful explanation, a helpful prediction. That’s not covert: it’s admitted, but again, scientists are supposed to be fallibilists about these things: if you give them a good reason why some standards used to judge the felicity of explanations are themselves crap, then they’ll change their minds. They expect science and scientific methods to change over time. We’ve discussed Harris on morality here before (http://partiallyexaminedlife.com/2010/10/08/sam-harris-on-the-daily-show/), and my argument remains that a reflective utilitarian (or Kantian or natural law theorist like Locke) can admit that there is an is-ought distinction but think that the basic “oughts” are obvious, e.g. “suffering is bad.” Hey, look, says Harris (and Singer, Mill, Hume, etc.): there’s value, right there in the world, in our experience, where anyone can grasp it.
I don’t think bringing in economic and political considerations is relevant here. When you’re talking about the widespread appeal of certain points of view (the Geist of the times), then sure, but not when you’re actually judging an individual text written by a reflective philosopher. This does not lead to productive discourse. (Oh! I said “productive!” I must be expressing my obsession with economic gain that I have inherited from my corrupt capitalistic culture! I kid, I kid.)
Tom McDonald says
I’m not saying that science and our capitalist culture are completely corrupt from some extreme leftist type of view. I would agree that philosophy ultimately needs to be above any purely political play, but that does not mean that philosophical problems — and pseudo-problems — themselves are not generated by politics.
It would be misleading to say that simply post-Enlightenment scientists recognize the shifting of paradigms. This is a very recent concept for mainstream science, introduced by Kuhn just a few decades ago. From the 17th century up until the early or mid-20th century the scientific worldview was one of absolute progress toward a final representation of nature.
Yes, the Kuhnian turn is starting to take some of the arrogance out of philosophy of science, and it is making it more historically self-conscious. This is one reason philosophy of science is so interesting right now.
Yes, Sam Harris is giving us warmed-over utilitarianism. But what Harris argues is that the value for the maximum well-being of the maximum number is not a free choice that we would make, but rather an objective fact of nature itself that can be discovered by science, such that science doesn’t need philosophy to identify the correct human values. That is to deny human freedom. Can you accept that?
Mark Linsenmayer says
Re. Harris: It depends how detailed you want to get re. your ethics. Harris is about reaching a world-wide consensus that, say, female genital mutilation and honor killings are bad. Sartrean claims of absolute freedom to determine our own values seem pretty irrelevant in these cases. No, I don’t think we have the freedom to make mass suffering a good thing; my meta-ethics is pretty flimsy (i.e. I’m not much of a moral realist), but should at least allow positing as an instrumental value for this purpose that crap like that should go away, whatever various faiths may say about it.
Tom McDonald says
On moral realism, I would point out that morals are already real: the socio-historical norms which both compel us today and to which we appeal when negotiating — and which we may endeavor to change if we become self-critical about them — are already really effective because of cultural history.
It’s great if Harris wants to use appeals to science to try to persuade people that female genital mutilation is bad, but we have to ask philosophically what is in his argument to compel or persuade? That’s where the charge of warmed-over utilitarianism is important, because many people in the scientific community talk as if Harris has made some kind of revolutionary ethical advance. The utilitarian like Harris believes that we are all at bottom pleasure-maximizing animals, that norms are – or should be – determined by nature and calculative reasoning, and if he could only convince us of that, then we would make the scientific choice. He’s not going to convince because it’s not accurate. Through culture we’ve become more than natural creatures.
You say we should ‘posit as an instrumental value for this purpose’ that female genital mutilation, etc. should go away.
I agree, but this is our value, our norm — we feel it belongs to us and we desire to affirm it — because we are Westerners and we inherit the universalistic and humanistic Western tradition that is a product of Greek philosophy and secularization of the Christian religion of the principal of equality of all. We also appeal to the normative value already established in and by Western culture that women ought to be able to live more independent lives.
I say this only because it would be profoundly unrealistic if we went on like pure utilitarians ignoring the force of history.
Wes Alwan says
My conclusion that Dennet is philosophically incompetent comes after a long, arduous engagement with “Consciousness Explained.” It was the fact that I gave him the benefit of the doubt and had such high expectations (I was young) that may have contributed to my bitterness.
And as for the consciousness episode, I made my points about the Cartesian Theater and qualia as well as I could (I don’t what made the final edit of course). The former rests on the fallacy that using a metaphor requires that we extend it until it inevitably fails: that by talking about mental “images” we are required to model mental processes on the relationship between eye and object — precisely the (mediation) problem that theories of representation try to avoid (via internal immediacy).
You don’t have to take my word for this — it’s an objection repeated countless times in the secondary literature. Searle, Block, Nagel, Chalmers — leading figures in the philosophy of mind. See Block’s review of Consciousness Explained (http://www.jstor.org/stable/2940970). Granted these guys happen to share my views to some extent on this, but their criticisms shouldn’t be a mystery. Here’s Colin McGinn (“Consciousness Evaded” http://www.jstor.org/stable/2214220):
“Actually, the Cartesian Theater metaphor, so construed, looks to me like an exceptionally scarlet herring serving no useful theoretical purpose. I don’t know why we are even considering it. Nobody believes it; it is absurd; and nothing worth taking seriously presupposes it. Its only purpose appears to be that of polemically tarring non-absurd views with the same brush by the method of sloppy definition. Let us be clear, then, that the notion of a well-defined stream or field of consciousness in no way implies that there has to be an inner observer who perceives it; though there may well have to be a subject who has such a stream or field-he whose states are at issue. I could not rid myself of the feeling that Dennett roundly conflates these two ideas throughout the book, making illusory hay from the conflation.”
See also Nagel’s review: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2024889
And Dennet’s arguments about qualia fail, and they fail badly. As usual, I don’t have time to reiterate the points (I thought I actually went into detail in the podcast), but see: Johnsen, “Dennet on Qualia and Consciousness” (http://www.jstor.org/stable/40231974); and Lormand, “Qualia!” (available online); Robinson, “Dennet on the Knowledge Argument” (http://www.jstor.org/stable/3328467); Bricke, “Dennet’s Eliminativist Arguments” (http://www.jstor.org/stable/4319682); Slors, “Why Dennett Cannot Explain What It Is To Adopt the Intentional Stance” (http://www.jstor.org/stable/2956311); Fuller, “A Critique of Dennet” (http://www.jstor.org/stable/20116245).
What irritates me personally about Dennet and Harris is the use of the mantle of science to advocate a fundamentally anti-rational agenda; they require us to contort our thinking in ridiculous ways in order to avoid the conclusion that not all domains of inquiry are accessible to science. That’s because the adhere to the essentially religious hope for a totalizing, fundamental explanation of things — something that those who have really given up their religious predilections stop hoping for.
Michael Benedikt says
OK guys: NOW’s a good time to read God Is the Good We Do. 🙂
Have you a link to an essay summary of your tome suitable for a discussion session.
I of course appreciate the processual take on God that I glean from Amazon Reviewers (who all praise the work). One reviewer, Peter of Lexington, KY) said “The theopraxy God is not a being of any kind, nor did this God exist before a human being first performed an altruistic deed. ”
I am not sure of how you define God in your book, but from Peter’s summary, my criticism of such a God is s/he/it is an anthropocentrism typical of humanistic self-indulgence. As Hartshiorne would probably agree, such a vision of man does injustice to other creatures. Before us, and along-side us, there are creatures experiencing the world with claims of existential worth on the same order as our own. Dogs are a big part of my Tillichian ultimate concern.
If/when you’re addressing “New Atheism” & related subjecxts, could I recommend that you have a look at AC Grayling? I think you may get more sense out of him than Hitchens or Dawkins.
Here’s a fun place to start: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/apr/03/grayling-good-book-atheism-philosophy. You even get to learn about his dog & his haircut.
Wes Alwan says
thanks rinky — will do
Mark Linsenmayer says
I tend to read Dennett on philosophy of mind as a Hegelian. Also as discussed on our phil. of mind episode, I don’t think he’s committed to denying Nagel’s insight in “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” i.e. that creatures have inner lives. He simply (like Nietzsche) thinks that we deceive ourselves easily, and most of the things going on in us that we’d call “mind” (e.g. learning, recall, emotional reactions, calculation, etc.) are not conscious, i.e. not part of “mind” as Descartes conceived of it. Nietzsche talks about the “wisdom of the body” being superior to our puny reason (you can see this in Montaigne too, to cite a more recent episode); there are plenty of things that we’d want to call intelligent behavior that shouldn’t be confused with consciousness.
In books like “Kinds of Minds” (a more recent and much shorter read than Consciousness Explained… I never got through even half of Consc Explained), Dennett gives a cool picture of how animals getting more and more complex could start exerting intelligent behavior. He’s doing a functional analysis, which is like Burl said, kind of like figuring out the schematic for a computer program, i.e. how the inputs and outputs interact and what components would logically have to be in the black box for it to give the results we actually observe. I believe (though maybe I’m just conflating it with what I’m just reading now in Breaking the Spell) that he also gives some natural selection kind of explanations for how those various components might have come into being through gradual accretion… certainly he believes that whether he does it in that book or not.
To me, this is all fascinating (even if a lot of it is popular science reporting and not philosophy proper), and it parallels the kinds of analyses that Hegel performs in the Phenomenology, gradually building up sophistication in the kinds of minds he’s considering. Both of these approaches have the advantage of thinking of consciousness not as a light that is either on or off, but as something that involves a lot of distinct components and hence gradations, so that for Hegel, it’s not that we just encounter ourselves as having a soul (as Burl also said in another comment), but that this subjective experience is only possible because of a lot of growth, some of which we did in growing up, i.e. developmentally; some of which is a result of the culture developing to provide us with conceptual tools (what Dennett calls memes, again; language is itself made up of memes, or rather is a meme); and some of which is a result of our biology, i.e. the result of evolution/growth back through our ancestors.
People (like Wes and those here so far as I can tell) who rip on Dennett characterize him as denying subjectivity altogether. Personally, I don’t think so; he doesn’t actually deny the existence of the subjective phenomena (instead, he thinks we have to pay careful attention to them and explain what’s going on in them), though he does think (as Tom characterized at the beginning of this thread) that the subjective is part of what is to be explained, and these models are what does the explaining, i.e. science, which is taken to be an advance over messy, unexplained phenomena (certainly that’s not at all specific to Dennett; it’s just what science does).
Still, it’s barely worth it to argue over the interpretation, and even if he really is just a behaviorist who’s denying something fundamental about consciousness such that he’s missing the point of the mind/body problem completely, I find I still get something out of it ignoring that part. This is of course not unusual in how we read philosophers. Hobbes’s account of the social contract is interesting, even if his consequent support for absolute monarchs is repugnant. Heidegger… well, the same but moreso. Most philosophers, even if they find something interesting to say, have some icky parts (Nietzsche’s hatred of women, for instance) that we gloss over.
Wes has put in the time and decided that what Dennett does have to say, in giving computational explanations of mind, is ultimately philosophically uninteresting to him, and also not written rigorously enough to be worth trying to engage seriously. I’m again reminded of Heidegger, whom my undergrad mentor (Bergmann) roundly condemned as being a derivative and incoherent hack, but as Seth found, he’s a perfectly fine way into an interesting realm of thought, even if with enough exposure to other things (e.g. if Seth learned all his Hegel and Sartre and Merleau-Ponty and other guys to whatever depth Bergmann would approve of), you end up growing past that figure.
So, I’ve found that bits of Dennett that I’ve previously read (like “the intentional stance,” which I’ll write about in my next Dennett post, as it just came up in Breaking the Spell), resonate with me, and help me in my admittedly still very fuzzy thinking about this whole gradations of consciousness issue which I still think has got to be an essential component to giving any explanation of consciousness at all (I’m looking forward to eventually reading Chalmers’s book that invokes the notion of a weird proto-consciousness a la Liebniz or Spinoza that’s always there even before it’s built up into something like a recognizable subjectivity, i.e. a point of view is available from any point in the universe… I don’t feel qualified to really speak on that yet, though). On this evolutionary biology stuff, too, I’m not going around reading primary sources in that area, so the 2nd hand stuff pedaled by Dennett (and Dawkins) is interesting to me, whether that be because I don’t have the experience and critical faculty to reject it or not.
So, I feel the need to make my way through more of this stuff, and will not necessarily subject Wes to doing so (i.e. there’s no way more than a chapter or two of Breaking the Spell will be part of the atheism episode), since he already despises it. If my continued summaries save you the bother of having to read it and so serve a useful purpose, then I’ll try to keep doing them. If I’m just being self-indulgent, well, I’ll probably still keep doing them.
Please to indulge! It is very interesting to read your thoughts – it helps me learn tips and attitudes-fof-approach for philosophy. This goes for all the PEL community.
Dennett on his book…I link you to part 3 since its funny.
As long as he stays off dog consciousness, he seems pretty good.
Mark Linsenmayer says
Thought that link deserved its own post: http://partiallyexaminedlife.com/2011/04/06/dennett-on-brights-vs-murkies/
I’m new to this site & am navigating it on an Android phone so excuse me if I’ve missed them but, are there any more parts to this?
Just one thought, while many (especially here) may agree the argument as to should religion be subject to the scrutiny Dennett describes is not worth stating, surely it is not this audience he is addressing.
Mark Linsenmayer says
Hi, Neill, no I didn’t end up writing Part 2; however, our major discussion takes up a (very short) stretch at the end of our New Atheists episode: http://partiallyexaminedlife.com/2011/10/11/episode-44-new-atheist-critiques-of-religion/.