Sunday, September 19, 2010

Feser on Dretske

For all you Dretske fans.

40 comments:

PhysicistDave said...

Vic,

Both Dretske and Feser could avoid all the weird contortions if they would just go back to the roots of modern empiricist epistemology a la Descartes and start from the inside and work their way outwards (sure Descartes got almost everything wrong, but he had the right starting point – our own consciousness).

Of course, logically, empiricism tends to imply Cartesian dualism, or something of the sort, and Feser seems to be an Aristotelian monist (the mind as the form of the body and all that) which has always seemed to me bizarre for a Christian.

If you want to see a very good modern working out of the Cartesian-inspired empiricist program, try Alan H. Goldman’s “Empirical Knowledge.”

Of course, everyone knows Feser is afraid of empiricism (as any Scholastic should be – after all, it murdered Scholasticism!), and Goldman does not seem to be a materialist, so perhaps that would frighten away Dretske.

But as a plain, simple, hardworking scientist, wed neither to Scholasticism nor materialism, I find Goldman pretty convincing. I think most people educated in modern science would, too.

Dave

P.S. As an atheist, I love Feser. We atheists keep telling people, “A resurgence of Christianity means a return to the Midlle Ages.” Feser tells people that the only way to save Christianity is to return to the way of thought of the Middle Ages. If Feser did not exist, we atheists would have to invent him. As my college friends always put it, “Catholicism is better than Christianity.”

Anonymous said...

Feser is hardly afraid of empiricism, and he himself says outright that Cartesian dualism is not some quaint idea thought up without provocation, but a natural result of reimagining the physical world the way the moderns (largely starting with Descartes) did.

Sadly, Feser is vastly more fair towards cartesian dualism than you are fair to Feser. Then again, you think "most people educated in modern science" would reject materialism, so you have a number of adorable ideas.

Blue Devil Knight said...

When did Descartes become an example of empiricist epistemology?

PhysicistDave said...

The old con artists BDK wrote ot me:
> When did Descartes become an example of empiricist epistemology?

Hi, you old scamster!

Read some history of philosophy and learn to read what people post. I said the “roots” of modern empiricist philosophy. Empiricism starts with going back to one’s internal consciousness – introspection and sense qualia. Descartes did that and seems to be the first to do it systematically. Did he follow through on the project in a way later empiricists found satisfactory?

No. He had all that nonsense about a good God, validating the existence of the real world, for example.

But, his starting point was the same as all empiricists, hence the “root.”

Read Goldman, and you might learn something. On second thought, don’t bother – you’re ineducable.

Loftus is right about you, you know.

Your baby is cute, though – congratulations.

PhysicistDave said...

Someone too cowardly to post his name wrote to me:
> Then again, you think "most people educated in modern science" would reject materialism, so you have a number of adorable ideas.

A lot of physicists do as do many scientifically oriented (atheist) philosophers – e.g. McGinn and Chalmers.

The little coward also wrote:
> Feser is hardly afraid of empiricism, and he himself says outright that Cartesian dualism is not some quaint idea thought up without provocation, but a natural result of reimagining the physical world the way the moderns (largely starting with Descartes) did.

Oh, Feser is *very* afraid of empiricism, because he knows that if empiricism is true, then Christ be not risen and his faith is vain. Personally, I think the biggest thing for Crazy Ed may be the Eucharist: go to his Website and you’ll find the poor old duffer actually endorsing full-bodied transubstantiation!

How to measure a Catholic’s IQ: ask them what they really think of transubstantiation.

PhysicistDave said...

BDK,

By the way, as “Anonymous” points out even Crazy Ed Feser agrees that empiricism, in its roots, goes back to Descartes (even though, yes, Descartes was not a fully consistent empiricist).

It’s History of Philosophy 101; everyone knows this, just as everyone knows that the Romans did not conduct censuses as Luke relates.

PhysicistDave said...

Anonymous wrote to me:
> Then again, you think "most people educated in modern science" would reject materialism…

You lied, didn’t you?

While it is true that many people educated in modern science reject materialism, I thought it unlikely that I would have said “most people.” So I checked.

What I actually wrote was:
> I find Goldman pretty convincing. I think most people educated in modern science would, too.

Yes, I do think "most people educated in modern science" would find Goldman’s book “Empirical Knowledge” pretty convincing. As I said, Goldman does not seem to me to be a materialist, but he does not say much one or another on materialism in the book, so I doubt that this would alienate many scientific materialists. Goldman may even be a materialist; I don’t know.

You lied.

Typical of posters on Vic’s Website. Most seem to be pathological liars.

As the saying goes, “Scratch a Christian; find a liar.” Not always true, but a good bet.

Liar.

Human scum.

BenYachov said...

Calling people who disagree with him human scum?

Calling his fellow Atheist (BDK) a scamster?

Here is a suggestion. Don't debate Dave until he learns to act like a rational human being. Treat him like you would any other 14 year old net-troll.

Again Wow! I'm stunned!

Dave, grow up. You are making a first class fool of yourself.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Dave I did misread you as saying that Descartes was an empiricist. My bad.

Whether we really find the roots of empiricism in Descartes is an interesting question I'll leave it to the professional philosophers for that one.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

PhysicistDave, I read that your a homeschooler. I my self am a teacher. One of the things I try to model to and impress upon my studetns is civility.
I wonder do you think the way you respond to people is approapriate? If so why? Would you liek to be treated like that yourself?
It would have been approapriate if you responsed to BDK without resorting to ridicule. It makes for a more pleasant community.
A better way of responding to BDk would have been.
I may not have been clear. Let me have a go again. I said the “roots” of modern empiricist philosophy. Empiricism starts with going back to one’s internal consciousness – introspection and sense qualia. Descartes did that and seems to be the first to do it systematically. Did he follow through on the project in a way later empiricists found satisfactory?

No. He had all that nonsense about a good God, validating the existence of the real world, for example.

But, his starting point was the same as all empiricists, hence the “root.” Maybe my a la could have been expressed better sorry.

There is some attractiveness about people who have social mores.

Is this how you want your children conversing with others? Do you think this is acceptable behaviour in a tolerant society? Do you feel that you may be modelling poor behaviour to your children? If not why do you feel that it isn't poor behaviour?

Jake Elwood XVI said...

I think from ym comments that people may be relieved to hear that I do not teach English.

Blue Devil Knight said...

He's obviously not Loftus.

PhysicistDave said...

Jake wrote to me:
> I wonder do you think the way you respond to people is approapriate?

No, to be completely honest, I do not: I think I am *way* too tolerant and forgiving. It has been a fault of mine since childhood. If you look back at the various threads, you will see people lashing out and actually lying about me when I had not addressed them at all. This has been my experience dealing with Christians for half a century.

I have already had a round with BDK and watched his behavior towards others: I have had far more than enough of him.

I am trying hard to correct my behavior and not be quite so overly tolerant and forgiving, but it is hard to break old habits.

I am a “New Atheist.” For decades, I and most other atheists quietly put up with the lies, the snide remarks, the threats, and the nastiness.

We’ve had enough: the definition of a “New Atheist” is a guy or gal who has decided to go “Old Testament”: my slogan is “two eyes for an eye; two teeth for a tooth.”

It is time to eradicate Christianity. Two millennia of lies, murder, and abuse is more than enough.

There are double standards here, Jake. When I pointed out Anonymous’ bearing false witness against me, no one jumped on his deceitful behavior. The same has been true on other threads. Again, this has been true for two millennia. For a long time, we atheists tolerated such double standards.

Never, ever again. I promise.

PhysicistDave said...

Ben Yachov wrote of me:
> Calling people who disagree with him human scum?

The human scum intentionally and blatantly lied about me, intentionally misquoting what I had said.

It is called bearing false witness: something you are good at.

I have absolutely zero tolerance for that. I have ruined several people’s professional careers for less, and am extremely proud of having done so

PhysicistDave said...

BDK wrote of me:
>He's obviously not Loftus.

He did not really think so, BDK: he was just bearing false witness.

BDK also wrote:
>I did misread you as saying that Descartes was an empiricist. My bad.
>Whether we really find the roots of empiricism in Descartes is an interesting question I'll leave it to the professional philosophers for that one.

Thanks.

BDK, as far as I know, this is not even open to debate: when Feser, I, and everything I have ever read for more than forty years about the history of modern philosophy *all* agree on this, it is probably the consensus view. Philosophers may not agree on any substantive issues about the real world, but there is some actual consensus at least on the history of philosophy.

With all due respect, you tend to write as if you are very sure about things that you know very, very little about, when you are communicating to atheists (not when dealing with Christians). That is part of what annoys me. I also find it very odd that you lash out at Loftus but fail to criticize Christians here who lie through their teeth about other people, as Anonymous did about me.

Just to give one of many examples, on the other thread, you eventually announced that I was probably misrepresenting Crazy Ed, even though you had not read the book, surely unfair towards me (get the book from the library, Crazy Ed really said very, very clearly what I claimed he said). Yet, when people like Tim lied through their teeth about what I had said, you did not complain.

Your outrage, is very, very selective and very odd. You seem to be playing a very dishonest game: this seems to be what has John angry with you also.

I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt, but something funny is going on.

And, no, I do not think you are a sock puppet for the same reason it is obvious I’m not: to create a Website with many credible entries just to set up a sock puppet is not credible.

Enjoy the baby: they grow up oh-so-fast, and you will look back even at the middle-of-the-night feedings fondly in just a few years.

Dave

BenYachov said...

This man has nothing of value to contribute here. Just verbal, abuse, hatred & mindless venom.

Any discussion with him is futile.

(BTW even BDK thinks he misread Feser.)

Any rational being regardless of their beliefs should know better than to act this way.

BenYachov said...

>I have ruined several people’s professional careers for less, and am extremely proud of having done so.

I reply: That is just dysfunctional. You are supposed to be a man with a PhD. A learned, an accomplished man with a duty to contribute to the greater body of human knowledge. Yet you act like a two bit petty street thug.

That is just shameful and waste of gifts.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

Dr Miller in regards to anonymous, while it was an uncharitable and incorrect reading of what you were saying I can’t see it as deceitful. However, the manner in which you go about protesting does nothing to further your cause or demosntrate an ability to appropriately socialise with others.

Thanks for answering some of my questions I really do appreaciate it.Do your kids read your posts? Is this how you want people responding to you? Do you beleive you are being an appropriate model for your kids?

You also write
We’ve had enough: the definition of a “New Atheist” is a guy or gal who has decided to go “Old Testament”: my slogan is “two eyes for an eye; two teeth for a tooth.”

Well it’s a disturbing if that’s the definition of a New Atheist. I thought there were some inalienable human rights? Why is "two for one" justified? What about love and charity.

Apart from thinking you Dr Miller are now just a song away from being a pantomime. There is just so much hyperbole from you that it makes me flinch a little when taking you seriously, from an Australian cultural perspective at least. I think your attitude and demeanour will be counterproductive. There will be agnostics or atheists you are taken aback by this approach. It certainly won't win hearts or minds/brains.

JEXVI

What was your thesis on? Are your kids secondary school or primary.

Anonymous said...

When you guys figure out who PhysicistDave is the sockpuppet of, man, you will have a laugh.

PhysicistDave said...

You know, Jake, although Anonymous bore false witness towards me, you chose not to admonish it but me.

That is what I am talking about in the double standard that Christians have exhibited for two millennia.

I admit that I treated you wrongly: you were rude and inconsiderate to me when the evil person here was “Anonymous,” not me. And, yet, in my typical excess of kindness, I treated you politely.

Obviously, a mistake, for Jake, you are more contemptible human scum even than Anonymous. I apologize for treating you like a human being – that was a mistake.

I truly love the fact that people like you are Christians: it is thanks to people like you that the fraction of Christians in this society is finally declining at a good clip.

The world would be better off without you.

Subhuman scum.

funnyatheists said...

An Aristotelian monist? Dave, I think he is an Aristotelian-Thomistic hylemorphic dualist.

Dave, could you perhaps make an argument why Thomism is incompatible with empiricism?

Maybe you are thinking of "mechanism" or a mechanistic view of reality that is incompatible with Aristotelian-Thomism?

funnyatheists said...

Or perhaps you are thinking a bit more philosophically and think empiricism is incompatible with realism or rationalism? Perhaps something along these lines:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rationalism-empiricism/

I don't know Dave, I would love to read your thoughts on why you think Thomism incompatible with empiricism.

Do you think Aristotelianism (you know, hylemorphic dualism being one of the characteristics of it) is incompatible with empiricism Dave? I hope not. If so, why Dave?

I would love to read about your arguments and thoughts on these subjects.

awatkins69 said...

Peripatetic axiom - "Nothing is in the intellect that was not first in the senses." (Latin: "Nihil est in intellectu quod non prius in sensu".)

Thomism vs Empiricism? False dichotomy, much?

Eric said...

"With all due respect, you tend to write as if you are very sure about things that you know very, very little about"

Projection alert...

Blue Devil Knight said...

Dave: You are a noob here. That you would say I selectively respond negatively to skeptics/atheists is evidence of this. You are completely unfamiliar with my posts here over the past five years. E.g., you might look here.

That said, if someone is being evasive, hypocritical, implementing multiple fallacies, etc, pushing silly arguments, then they deserve to be called out no matter where they fall in godspace. My standards don't change just because I agree with your conclusion, that would be pathetic.

I follow the arguments. If there are no arguments, or the arguments are crap, that is something I'll point out no matter who you are. There are plenty of ignorant know-it-all skeptics and Christians.

Not many at this site, though, people here tend to be pretty reasonable. Every now and then a person who doesn't know how to argue shows up, both of the Christian and skeptical variety (you obviously weren't here for Ilion).

I read the specific passage in Feser's book, and read what Feser himself wrote in response to the accusations. He unfortunately used the term 'simultaneous' and that led you astray, but he clearly didn't mean to say that when a motoneuron starts firing, the muscle response happens at the same time. He extensively refuted this claim here.

You should let that one claim go, you have misread him. I can admit when I misread someone (ahem).

Warren said...

SockpuppetDave wrote:
>>The world would be better off without you.
>>Subhuman scum.

Untermenschen!

We should all thank "Dave" for illustrating so clearly why atheistic regimes throughout the last century often practiced genocide. A teachable moment.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

Sorry Dr Miller I guess we are all differently disposed to be sensitive about certain things. I did not mean to imply you were evil.

>>The world would be better off without you.
>>Subhuman scum
Yes Warren it does remind me of term Untermenschen.
Being of some significant but externally unnoticeable African extraction this might be true in the eyes of some. As one of our African students said at school after seeing a photograph of my grandad, "your grandad was molato". It has never been an issue for me, but my mother and her siblings copped a bit of abuse at school. I remember Mum talking how Pop left the lodge after some abuse. The impression was It was todo with comments about him being less then human.
This is not an issue for me and I don't want to claim it as such. I never experienced ridicule. Becuase of my father and mum's mum, my genes are a majority British have dominated my complexion. But it does hurt because I think that Poppy was a decent man, irrespective of the colour of his skin. The same with my uncles and aunts on mum's side are ordinary and decent people.

BenYachov said...

That's a cheap shot against Atheists Warren unless you mean it as satire against Dave's unreasonable behavior.

If you mean it as a hasty generalization against all Atheists or mere secular societies that is kind of unfair. We Christians should strive to be fair least we give scandal.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Note I do think Feser's writing invites a misreading to some degree.

It would be useful Dave if you provided the full quote you believe is sufficient to support your view, and we could all analyze it.

Warren said...

BY,

Just a reference to the historically undeniable connection between atheist regimes and genocide. The comment was not meant to tar any individual atheist. Sorry if it gave the wrong impression.

Although I would ask you how long you think you or I would last if someone like "Dave" actually had any power?

BenYachov said...

@BDK
>Note I do think Feser's writing invites a misreading to some degree.

I reply: That I wouldn't disagree with at all(I might even agree with it). It's quite reasonable. More reasonable than an irrational and slanderous blanket accusation that Feser misrepresents science.

@Warren

Ok, but I should note to be fair to Atheists. A modern Atheist might see a secular democracy as an "Atheist" State in that said SD has no official religion & thus "no god-belief". They are morally different from Stalin or Mao with their state enforced non-belief & suppression of religion.

We need to keep these distinctions in mind.

(Mind you that doesn't mean I am oblivious to the soft tyranny of Political Correctness in Canada or Euro SD's but that still cannot be compared to Stalin).

Cheers two you both.

Blue Devil Knight said...

OK Let's look at the offending quote....(p 92 of his book, talking about accidentally versus essentially ordered causal chains):
Considered as a “causer” of sons, each member of the series is in this sense independent of the previous members. Hence this series is “accidentally ordered” in the sense that it is not essential to the continuation of the series that any earlier member of it remain in existence.

That makes sense: if the father dies, the son doesn't die. He doesn't sustain the son's existence. He then goes on with another example:

And in the same way, the potter’s curving his hand in making the pot occurs even though the girlfriend’s request [for a pot] happened a week ago. The causal link between the request and the hand’s curving is also “accidental” insofar as the latter exists in the absence of the former.

Makes sense, no?

He then carries us to essential ordering:
But it [the hand movement] would not exist in the absence of the firing of the motor neurons. Here we have an “essentially ordered” causal series, and we have one precisely because the cause in this case is (unlike the girlfriend’s request) simultaneous with the effect. The hand is held in the position it is in only because the motor neurons are firing in such-and-such a way; take away the neural activity, and the hand goes limp.

So this is also fairly clear (ignoring details for now). Unlike the case of father-son, in the case of motoneuron-hand movement if you take out the first element, the second ceases to exist. Cut the nerves to the hand, and the hand stops moving.

This is also reasonable. The problem Dave has is with the word 'simultaneous'. Dave's criticism was:
For example, on page 92, in justifying the concept of an “essentially ordered” causal series, he claims that “the firing of the motor neurons” is “simultaneous” with the effect, “the hand’s curving.” He goes at great length to explain that he really means literally simultaneous, not just a fairly short delay: this is essential to the distinction he is making.

I have to get back to work so may not post until later tonight, but I thought I would lay out all the details so people could see what's going on in more detail.

Warren said...

>> A modern Atheist might see a secular democracy as an "Atheist" State

BY,

Well, I wasn't thinking along those lines, so thanks for pointing that out. I might call a secular democracy an "agnostic" state, but whatever you call it, it's certainly not what I had in mind.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Incidentally, Dretske is an amazing philosopher. He is sensitive to empirical details from neuroscience and psychology, is incredibly creative. He, by my estimate, has done more than any philosopher (including the Churchlands) to create a bridge from the neuroscience of basic sensory processing (as you'd find in a worm) and thinking proper.

Dave's suggestion that Dretske could avoid "weird contortions" by being more like Descartes is just out of left field in many ways (for one, Dretske is a very clear writer). Dretske's book 'Knowledge and the Flow of Information' is amazing (though ignore the first part on information theory).

I found Feser's criticisms not very compelling. For instance, in response to his first criticism we'd say the internal state has a stable meaning over time because it indicates the same object over time, and these 'internal maps by means of which we steer' are, for Dretske, the basis of beliefs. That's a substantive theoretical hypothesis about how behavior is governed by information-bearing states.

While someone could pull the disjunctive move Feser suggests, there is no reason to favor that because, as Feser eventually notes, there is a stable referent (the tree) over time and that is precisely what explains the role of the state in the organism's behavior. Feser then talks some weirdness about Dretske's view of matter, and Scholasticism, which makes no sense to me.

His second criticism is sort of a red herring, a definitional thing. While Feser is free to say a thermometer doesn't 'indicate' or function as a 'natural sign' of temperature, how is that a substantive criticism? Whatever you call it, it is the basis for an organism's successful interaction with its environment: i.e., the fact that our sensory states carry a great deal of information about the environment, and it is by means of such information that we are able to successfully navigate the world.

I frankly have no clue what he means when he says that an Aristotelian view would help Dretske out of this problem as well. Dretske has some problems, but it seems Feser's aren't all that deadly.

In Feser's language: the fact that state R indicates the presence of a tree sustains the causal relation between state R and the behavior of the organism (this is how Dretske escapes epiphenomenalism, in fact!).

BenYachov said...

@BDK

BDK you should stop by his blog and offer your thoughts & debate sometime. Feser has a soft spot for thoughtful Atheists (he debated David Ramsay Steele (author of Atheism Explained) and lauded him a gentlemen.

Cheers.

BTW are you referring to what Feser writes in TLS or his PHILOSOPHY OF MIND?

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

>I frankly have no clue what he means when he says that an Aristotelian view would help Dretske out of this problem as well. Dretske has some problems, but it seems Feser's aren't all that deadly.

I reply: I'm going to take a shot in the dark here with my obvious ignorance compared to your superior knowledge BDK. Feser is a moderate realist & not a conceptionalist or nominalist.

Maybe that is relevant?

BenYachov said...

Wait don't mind me!

I'm still channeling TLS. Your referring to the actual post of this thread!!!!!

My bad! Forget I said anything (accept the part about dropping by).

Blue Devil Knight said...

BY: Yes, maybe I will drop by his blog. I'd have to formulate my thoughts more clearly what I wrote above was off the cuff first impression.

BenYachov said...

Well it would be interesting to see your critical feedback interacting with Feser's ideas & responses.

Cheers again.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Oh well, I guess the entertainment is over.