Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rosenberg on Naturalism

In my previous post I discussed my involvement as a commentator on a recent provocative article by Alex Rosenberg (see Rosenberg on History). At the time I had been asked to cut my word count by moving my discussion of Rosenberg's strange take on history as a science to my blog (which you can find in that previous entry, linked above). It was subsequently decided that my remaining word count is still unfairly high for the forum, so I was asked to summarize my remaining eight points at the forum (see summary), and move the full commentary here as well. So what follows is just a verbatim copy of what had been in comment posts there before, but is now archived here. I have replaced them there with a single summary post briefing all nine objections. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rosenberg on History

I was invited by Gary Comstock to comment on philosopher Alex Rosenberg's interesting and provocative article on the implications of naturalism, "The Disenchanted Naturalist’s Guide to Reality," at OnTheHuman.org.

I stated eight objections as an invited commentator at that site, but due to word limits I was unable to post my ninth and final objection, which pertained to Alex's take on history as a field. As that happens to be my Ph.D. field, and I'm particularly known for this (as well as my expertise in historical methods), I didn't want anyone to get the impression that my silence on that last point implies agreement with Rosenberg. Quite the contrary. Gary will mention this at the original site, and asked me to publish my ninth objection elsewhere. So that will follow.

For those who want to catch up, you can read Alex's article through the link above, with comments from many naturalist philosophers afterward. For those who want to skip straight to my remarks, they are all summarized here and the first eight are elaborated in greater detail on my own blog here. Here's a table of all eight of my objections:
Objection 1 (meanings and purposes do exist)
Objection 2 (moral facts are scientific facts)
Objection 3 (morality is more than selfish genes)
Objection 4 (cognitive science has not refuted free will)
Objection 5 (blindsight is compatible with qualia)
Objection 6 (beliefs and desires do exist)
Objection 7 (there is an enduring self)
Objection 8 (brains can encode meaning in sentences)
By and large, except where I say otherwise, I agree with everything else Alex says (often agreeing with his facts more than his conclusions). But here is my last objection: