Monthly Archives: September 2005

Are Qualia Epiphenomenalia?

A lively discussion has been going on over at Bill Vallicella’s website. I seem to be spending so much time over there, in such engaging company, that I am getting very little done in here!

One of the topics we’ve been grappling with is the physicalist view of the mind. As you might have guessed from previous posts, I hold the view that our minds are entirely grounded in the physical world: that all of our thoughts, memories, fears,imaginings, etc. – in short, our inner lives – are the result of the activity of our physical bodies, in particular our nervous systems. We are a long way from completing the scientific program that will exhaustively map subjective experience onto objectively measurable physical states and transactions, but I do believe, along with most scientists studying the problem, that the idea is sound, and the goal attainable, in principle at least. But this view, all but hegemonic among research scientists, has met considerable resistance in the philosophical community. A recent posting at Dr. Vallicella’s site sums it up:

Marvelously complex as it is, the brain is just another chunk of the physical world. Study it till doomsday with the most sophisticated instruments, map every cubic millimeter of it, establish detailed correlations between brain regions and types of conscious phenomena — and what do you accomplish? You learn more and more about a highly complex piece of meat.

Giving Dr. Vallicella a Breather: No Human Nature?

I have been preoccupied by discussions with Bill Vallicella in this space, and should give him a moment’s peace.

In a letter to the New York Times (fifth letter down), one Linnda Caporael shows us once again how deeply entrenched the perverse cultural doctrine that Steven Pinker calls “The Blank Slate”still is. MS Caporael writes (italics mine):

David Brooks is right to see that the “bursting point” has come (column, Sept. 4), but it does not include “the elemental violence of human nature.”

There is no such thing as human nature without culture and its institutions. The message of Katrina was not from Hobbes; it was from a neoconservative leadership: “Starve the beast,” feed the rich, abandon the poor, disgrace the nation. That’s not a natural disaster; it’s an American tragedy.

Vallicella, Dawkins, and Design

Yesterday I left a comment on a post by Bill Vallicella (who maintains one of the most interesting sites anywhere in the blogosphere) about Richard Dawkins’ antipathy toward the “theory” of Intelligent Design. Dr. Vallicella has responded here, and I’ll take this opportunity to respond to his response.

Logic and Faith II

Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, has commented here on my previous “Logic and Faith” post, with his usual thoughtfulness and insight. He has also expatiated further on the general question of faith and intuition.

I feel the need to add a few more thoughts of my own.