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David Malet Armstrong

My chum Andrew Irvine has a terrific piece “David Armstrong and Australian Materialism” along with a Reader’s Guide in the latest issue of Quadrant. Andrew mentions that Armstrong attended Oakeshott’s History of Political Thought lectures earlier on his career when he had a stint at Birkbeck. I’d forgotten this unlikely connection: Armstrong had mentioned this to me in the early days of setting up the MOA.

Also in this issue there is a heretofore unpublished tribute to DMA by David Stove.

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Paul Bloom on The War on Reason

Paul Bloom in The Atlantic

For the most part, I’m on the side of the neuroscientists and social psychologists—no surprise, given that I’m a psychologist myself. Work in fields such as computational cognitive science, behavioral genetics, and social neuroscience has yielded great insights about human nature. I do worry, though, that many of my colleagues have radically overstated the implications of their findings. The genetic you and the neural you aren’t alternatives to the conscious you. They are its foundations.

Knowing that we are physical beings doesn’t tell us much. The interesting question is what sort of physical beings we are.

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Picking Holes in the Concept of Natural Selection

Evan Thompson reviews two of the most controversial books of recent years:

What Darwin Got Wrong by Jerry Fodor, Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini and Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False by Thomas Nagel.

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There’s Something About Mary

Frank Jackson on the Mary thought experiment and “Epiphenomenal Qualia”

Elsewhere I’ve written:

Jackson’s thought experiment bears a striking resemblance to Hayek’s discussion in The Sensory Order, 1.95. Hayek took inspiration from C. D. Broad, the idea that an omnipotent being would still not be able to predict the qualia associated with a substance, for example, ammonia (Broad, 1925, p. 71). Here Hayek poses the question: how could one communicate the idea of vision generally and color in particular to the congenitally blind? In The Sensory Order, 1.97 and 1.98, Hayek cites physicist Kenneth Mees’ thought experiment as illustrating the distinction between the physical and the phenomenal orders. Mees asks us to consider the case of a congenially and totally deaf person confronted by someone playing a violin. Moreover, he asks us to suppose that this person knows nothing of sound even in a theoretical way. Confronted by the actions of the violin player, to the deaf person the actions will appear irrational. But, says Mees, if our deaf person was a scientist, he or she would eventually figure out that the movements of the violin bow generated vibrations that could be detected by equipment (the science of acoustics). Now whatever the issues Hayek has with Mees’ example, his conclusion is this: ‘‘the congenitally blind or deaf can never learn all that which the seeing or hearing person owes to the direct experience of the sensory qualities in question, because no description can exhaust all the distinctions which are experienced’’ (Hayek, 1952/1976, 1.102). The similarity of the conclusion shared by Hayek and Jackson is uncanny.

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David Chalmers and Andy Clark Interview

This from the New Philosopher.

Andy’s colleagues at Edinburgh in the epistemology department proposed the extended knowledge project, where you start thinking of knowledge as this extended process that involves interaction with the environment.

I’ve been calling it stigmergic epistemology.

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