Saturday, April 19, 2014

Science and Aesthetic Morality

Earlier, I posted some fruitful email exchanges I had with readers of this blog, on pessimism and angst and on social justice. Here's another email exchange. You can contact me by email through the Contact the Ranter form on the right side of this blog, just below my blog profile.

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Dear Ben,

I apologize if this is stupid. But there's something I can't quite reconcile and I would appreciate your help. Scientism is this sort of dogmatic view that says “any question science can't answer is meaningless.” However, it seems like you use science to dismiss various metaphysical schemes that entail morality or the supernatural, which makes plenty of sense. Yet you turn around sometimes and say “well we shouldn't dismiss everything, because we don't know the limits of science, and it may well be more limited than we think.”

It seems to me like you have one foot in the door. You use science when it's convenient for dismissing theism and various metaphysics. Yet you reject science when it might suggest that holding onto the manifest image [the prescientific account of the self] at all is pointless. In other words, you seem to want to be able to build morality in line with scientific conclusions, and reject morality and metaphysics that are not in line with scientific conclusions. This is where my problem comes in. If you say science is practiced as scientism, then why are we limiting what we consider to be possible? For example, the multiverse formulation of QM [or chaos theory and the ecological perspective in biology] might make the mechanistic view moot. We should then also consider that the reductionistic view of consciousness could be flawed. [Thus, contrary to scientism, science itself seems limited.] But again, you turn around and use science to show the flaws in other systems of thought, seemingly on the basis that science is a better explanatory tool.

I know that's not exactly straightforward, and quite jumbled. But I'm curious where you draw the line. I want to know how you feel you use science to destroy certain metaphysics or morality competently, while maintaining that science also does not have this all-encompassing reach. How does it go just far enough to get your work done, without going quite all the way? What justifies aesthetic morality over Christian/slave morality? Would it not be possible that because human beings have, say, a biological intuition that other people are ends-in-themselves, we could consider that intuition an aesthetically pleasing object, even if clichéd? If we could make the world more egalitarian and less dominated, wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?

I guess part of my problem is about where to draw the line with your aesthetic morality. Once science destroys metaphysics and morality, what is there left to cling to? And if we're going to allow that science can't give us normative or subjective answers, why then must we destroy, for example, a Kantian conception of morality? Simply because it ultimately derives from Christianity?

Do you see where I'm coming from? I'm not attacking your conception. These are questions I struggle with generally. And they're questions that I've found few satisfying answers to. You touch on them in your blog, but I still don't quite see a cohesive synthesis on this front. Any illumination would be greatly appreciated.

[name redacted]

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Dear Reader,

Some of your questions touch on the debate I've been having with Scott Bakker. I'll try to clarify my account for you. First, we've got to be clearer on some of the terms. I reject scientism, not science. Scientism is the self-refuting philosophy that says science is cognitively unlimited. On the contrary, science is limited because it has no normative implications. Thus, the whole domain of normative questions is left to philosophy and religion to sort out. The naive self-image is committed to there being meaning, purpose, and morality, and the naturalist who thinks this self-image isn't just a delusion must find a way to naturalize those phenomena. I try to do that by speaking of evolution, complexification, and emergent properties.

By contrast, Bakker discounts the phenomena as mere delusions. I think the self-image is partly illusory and can become delusory in the form of exoteric theism, but I also think the subjective, inner realm of consciousness, self-control, imagination, and creativity is important (it's where the existential struggle happens) and isn't yet reducible to neural mechanisms. To be sure, scientists have a lot to say about our nature, but folk psychology as a model of the mind is still indispensible for practical purposes. Whether that utility counts as cognitive depends on whether you’re a realist or a pragmatist about science, and I don’t see how Scott Bakker can afford to be a realist, given his minimalist ontology which excludes intentionality and truth. Pragmatically speaking, there are just more or less useful (fruitful, testable, etc.) models. Talking about our limited self-control, for example, is useful because it helps explain how we're manifestly different from the other animals. When we reduce ourselves entirely to mechanisms, we just change the topic and lose sight of much of the evidence of our uniqueness.

Also, I reject neither religion nor theism, but mainly their exoteric (flagrantly irrational, reactionary, superstitious, inane, clichéd, archaic) versions. I'd reject some esoteric religions as well, namely those that aren't compatible with philosophical naturalism or that entail some creepy New Age con. And I don't use science to discredit religion so much as I use reason generally. Through philosophical naturalism, science refutes exoteric theism (especially religious fundamentalism), but I'm a philosopher, not a scientist, so I refer more to the philosophical arguments.

You're asking, then, whether I'm being inconsistent or arbitrary in my appeal to reason. How do I preserve some moralities and religions while discounting others? Again, this isn't a question for science. Scientismists run into the naturalistic and genetic fallacies when they try to use science to shut out all such nonscientific issues. So that's a principled reason not to dismiss all morality and religion on scientific grounds. In any case, my esoteric standards are largely aesthetic. I reject moralities and religions that are ugly, according to my artistic taste. That might seem arbitrary, but it's not, contrary to some postmodern aesthetes. Nor is the aesthetic approach incompatible with naturalism; on the contrary, an emphasis on human creativity flows nicely with the cosmological account of the universe's undead creativity.

Slave morality is just a rationalization for resentment towards masters (sociopathic power elites) for their mistreatment of slaves (automated betas and social outsiders). Disgust with the elites is justified, but the Christian myths that are based on that disgust are both artistically and existentially inferior, since they depend on delusion and thus don't foster personal authenticity. An exoteric Christian doesn't take up this aesthetic perspective on her religion or recognize that the Christian gospel is just a fiction to cover up for the ancient Jews’ omega resentment towards their Roman masters. Instead, these Christians literalize their metaphors and myths, degrading themselves in the process. Their religion is appalling because it holds back great art. The Renaissance happened in Europe despite Christianity, because of a resurgence of ancient Greek ideals, preserved by Muslims. Christianity is for betas, not omegas, and omegas make for better artists.

So it’s not so much a matter of science or reason “destroying” some metaphysical system or myth. Metaphysics and religious myths are aesthetic matters because they're fictions! We don't turn to science when we interpret our favourite stories. We wrestle with them as they challenge our deepest convictions; art changes our perspective, our character, and our framework for interpreting our experience. Art has the existential role of facilitating our interpretations of the meaning of human life. All such meaning is subjective, just as the heroes in our fictional narratives are objectively unreal. But this doesn't mean we should or even can dispense with aesthetic evaluations, nor does it mean that all fictions are equally valid. Ultimately, I admire those fictions that blow me away. Any myth which seems stale, half-hearted, or uninspired I dismiss on aesthetic grounds.

Also, if the myth is interpreted as having supernatural implications, as in the case of exoteric theism, I employ reason (not just science) in defense of naturalism. Naturalistic metaphysics is likewise a fiction in that it's partly the work of artistic philosophy, but I defend it for the Nietzschean reason of wanting to grapple with the worst-case scenario. So my defense of naturalism is partly ethical and pragmatic, not just rationalistic. (I reject hyper-rationalism along with scientism.)

You ask why we don't create optimistic, people-friendly myths instead of just dark, cynical ones. This might partly be a matter of taste, but I also happen to think that naturalism has unpleasant implications, such as atheism and humiliating Darwinism. So again, while we can create whatever fictions we like, the best stories will be the most useful ones to us in our existential predicament. In the postmodern age, this means that myths should help reconcile us to naturalism. Happy-talking myths are bound to skip over the unsettling truths of what we really are (e.g. by positing an immaterial spirit or an afterlife) and thus they'll fail as artworks in the existential context.

Ben

11 comments:

  1. Well... since I've been painted the Devil's Advocate!

    Ben wants to have it both ways. He wants to accord scientific cognition it's due while leaving room for a decisively traditional and intuitive realm of theoretical cognition. He admits the impossibility of 'cognition' in the standard sense in this realm - few things, after all, are more obvious than the fact philosophy is largely bunk - so he defines an attenuated version, a 'subjective cognition' that has its own important role to play. But if you look closely, he actually has very little to say about how it works, or why it should be counted as cognition at all. He claims it isn't arbitrary, but he has no decisive means of ever arbitrating any of his claims. After all, it's subjective! Meanwhile, he has no real account of that subjectivity, which is to say, intentionality, just an assurance that it emerges somehow, and that we somehow possess *enough* metacognitive capacity to intuit *enough* of it for his purposes, even though contemporary neuroscience suggests such a capacity is extremely unlikely. In fact, given the way he *defines* his realm as something autonomous, as something essentially beyond the reach of scientific cognition, it becomes hard to understand how anything remotely resembling theoretical cognition could be salvaged from it all, as opposed to an endless regress of philosophical interpretation. It therefore becomes tempting, from a ruthlessly naturalist perspective, to suspect he's not really talking about an alternative form of cognition at all, but rather something we very much want to be such.

    His account ultimately runs afoul all three of the big problems plaguing intentionalism more generally: 1) apparent supernaturalism, 2) theoretical underdetermination, and 3) practical inapplicability.

    My position is pretty much the worse case scenario. We are, as a growing amount of cognitive psychological evidence suggests, theoretically incompetent outside institutionalized science. We are, as a mountainous amount of cognitive scientific evidence demonstrates, almost entirely blind to our brain's actual functions. In other words, we have neither the tools nor the information to make the kinds of *second-order* theoretical claims Ben is making on behalf of 'meaning' with any sort of credibility whatsoever.

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    1. I didn’t mean to paint you as the villain or anything. ;) But yes, we’ve got this stubborn disagreement. Here I think we’re talking past each other. We’ve got our toolkits, especially our jargons, and it’s hard to get the kits to engage with each other. But I think you lean a little more on your jargon than I do on mine, so I kind of wish you’d make your case against my view without any of your technical terms. In this case, it’s “cognition” and “theoretical” that are the sticking points.

      I’m interested in philosophy more as a tool for self-creation than as a method of self-knowledge. I talk about that here:

      http://rantswithintheundeadgod.blogspot.ca/2013/07/authenticity-and-cost-of-self-creation.html

      The point of philosophy is that it makes people skeptical outsiders, so that they become vocationally objective and alienated from society. That in turn generates the existential crisis which is the mother of great art. It’s a process from omega social status to vindication by way of artistic creativity. Does any of that count as cognitive? That depends on whether we’re realists or pragmatists about knowledge. I’m pretty pragmatic about philosophical knowledge, but realistic about science.

      So philosophers speak of meaning, purpose, consciousness, and personal autonomy. Do we know that those properties are real? Not as yet through science. Do we have theories of them? Not the scientific kind. But we do have useful models with which we explain and predict behaviour based on the assumption that people, as defined by those properties, exist, and that’s enough from a pragmatic view of cognition.

      You say we’re blind to how our brains work and therefore we can’t rely on our intuitions to know ourselves. But we needn’t learn about ourselves through introspection. We can observe other people and infer that if they seem to be personal rather than animalistic, so are we. We can learn about ourselves indirectly by testing our models of that part of the environment, which is roughly how institutional science works too. What BBT shows, then, is that introspection and intuition by themselves are bound to mislead us when it comes to knowing our real identity. But the folk needn’t be so Cartesian.

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    2. You say I want to leave room for “a decisively traditional and intuitive realm of theoretical cognition.” Strictly speaking, I don’t see how the existential struggle is traditional. If anything, it’s anti-tradition, since it’s what happens to outsiders who observe society from the margins. Is it intuitive to speak of the meaning of symbols? Well, the notion of intentionality began as an affirmation of magic. Words were thought to have magical power. Do we have an innate tendency to believe in magic? Maybe, but doubting the theoretical utility of the concept of intentionality on that basis would be to commit the genetic fallacy.

      Folk psychology originated from theistic craziness. In a vacuum, I agree that that would be enough to warrant skepticism about the naïve self-image. But that leaves out the usefulness of the theory/model according to which we’re people rather than just animals. You’ve said that that theory is useful only because it piggybacks on the cognitive scientific account of neural mechanisms. But which account is really doing the piggybacking? I keep saying this, but once again I want to ask you about the nature of the scientific “account,” given that there’s no such thing as the content of symbols.

      You speak of “cognition” and of “theoretical” levels, but given eliminativism you might as well be speaking gobbledygook there, as far as I can see. You speak of the greater “efficacy” of science than of, say, pseudoscience or philosophy, but efficacy is everywhere we find a causal relation. So that’s what I mean by reducing us so far that we merely change topics and fail to explain the evidence of our uniqueness. Besides, as I recently said on my blog (link below), pseudoscience and religion are hardly inefficacious. They have social functions. Are those functions cognitive? To capitalize on that question, I’m afraid you must declare whether you’re asking it as a realist or as a pragmatist. Once you make that declaration, I’ve got that dilemma for waiting for you.

      Realism is defined in terms of a special meaning of symbols (truth as correspondence). Without that, any talk of “facts” is vacuous. So eliminativism seems to conflict with realism. And pragmatists can afford to be pluralists as they evaluate models and theories, in which case there’s no need for the naïve self-image to be so continuous with cognitive science. The special sciences can be autonomous and even incommensurable, as long as they prove their worth as instruments with positive utility. I think you said you mean to transcend these two categories of realism and pragmatism, like Rorty, but I don’t yet see how that works.

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    3. As for subjective meaning, that too is efficacious, as is evident from how art and myths have shaped human cultures for thousands of years. Unlike the animals, we have feedback mechanisms that give us greater self-control, so our development isn’t entirely bottom-up, through our genes and brain structures. We recreate our environments and are then forced to adapt to them. That personalizes us. We train ourselves to be civilized, just as we domesticated numerous other species.

      Do I have any “decisive means of ever arbitrating” these claims about subjective meaning? Can I prove that the subjective meaning of myths exists as a matter of fact? The answer is: sort of. As I’ve said before, subjective meaning is the power of an illusion (myth, artwork, naïve self-image) or even of a delusion to bootstrap itself into objective, factual being. As I say in “Mythopoesis and the Consolation of Technology,” the craziest theistic prejudices had subjective meaning in that they inspired proto-people to create Neolithic civilization, by rationalizing the autocrat’s assembly of what Lewis Mumford called the megamachine (the automation of the masses so that they became highly-efficient workforces). Ironically, that dehumanization was needed to humanize the masses, since it transformed the environment, which civilized them.

      So what begins as a mere myth or dream or whisper of a personal self inspires proto-humans to modify their environment in such a way that they train themselves to be civilized (less animalistic). They do that with language, art, religious myths, and then with massive projects of social engineering. What starts out as an illusion becomes real by way of a process of enculturation. This is cultural evolution, not just the genetic kind. There’s personal vitality and then, as Spengler says, there’s the life of a culture. There’s the distinctiveness of its language, art, worldview, and mores. We’re all the same at the levels of our genes and our brain structure, so it falls to the humanities to make sense of these higher-level patterns.

      Can I show “decisively” that a symbol means X rather than Y? Well, that kind of interpretation is indeed an art rather than a science. Just ask translators of texts. Choices must be made to get at the “spirit” of the author’s intentions. There are metaphors at the root of many meanings and thus a great many associations to track. Symbols stand in for mini-models that encompass all sorts of experience. Those linguistic models are part of our artificial worlds that humanize us, which is to say that the more we use language, the more elevated and civilized our behaviour and thus the greater utility of theories of the self that leave room for a distinction between, for example, efficacious mechanisms and personal agency.

      I don’t know that I “define” models of personhood as autonomous or nonscientific. You say that from a “ruthlessly naturalistic” perspective, it’s hard to see how any kind of cognition comes out of such endless philosophizing. Here you’re assuming that science is very different from philosophy. That leads me to think you’re presupposing scientific realism. If you just want to compare utilities, I think you lose much of the strength of your case against folk psychology. A pragmatist says that second-order discourse is real enough if it’s useful in some first-order endeavour. The model of the personal self passes that test. If that’s not good enough, I think you need to show how your eliminativism coheres well with your implicit realism about the contents of scientific theories.

      http://rantswithintheundeadgod.blogspot.ca/2014/04/pragmatism-as-dead-end-for-new-atheism.html

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  2. I think our impasse speaks more to where we stand on skepticism. You trust your metacog intuitions a lot more than I do! The fact is, the more we learn about ourselves, the more counter-to-intuition we become. This is the great dilemma of our age: scientific knowledge is pretty clearly destroying our prescientific understanding of experience. I don't doubt that you have elegant philosophical rationales for what remnants you would preserve (like 'existential crises'), just that they could be anything *more* than elegant philosophical rationales - in an age that is becoming less and less forgiving to them.

    I've told you before that I think philosophical reflection has provided much that became useful, but only inadvertently, which is why the ratio of wasted speculation to efficacious speculation is so astronomically high. My position is that until we move past intentionalism and figure out what activities like 'philosophical reflection' actually consist in, we really have no way of knowing what distinguishes those rare moments of efficacious speculation - aside from dumb luck.

    Otherwise you give a lot of examples where I agree that intentional cognition is efficacious, but I have no idea how that warrants theoretically ontologizing intentionality. If we want to understand what's really going on we have to understand what our brains are actually doing. Once again, we certainly have no reason whatsoever to trust our metacognitive intuitions!

    As for the 'metaphysical realism' collar - it just doesn't fit. BBT completely unwinds the system of dichotomies that gives 'metaphysical realism' its traditional meaning. 'Whatever science says' has to be enough, given that we almost certainly don't possess the heuristic resources capable of answering second-order metaphysical questions. It argues closure and neglect, once again with the skeptic.

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    1. Some interesting points here and they tie in with what I just said in response to your criticism of Pigliucci's article (link below, for anyone interested). You say you doubt that my account is anything more than an (at best) elegant philosophical rationale, and you worry that that's not good enough in this unforgiving age. But surely you don't mean to get at merely the unpopularity of philosophy. That would be fallacious. Whether a worldview succeeds in materialistic terms is neither here nor there, unless we're assuming a vulgar sort of pragmatism.

      What is the purpose of philosophy, though? That's the question we've been dancing around. I think of philosophy as largely an art, but just about everything you say here assumes that philosophy should be judged according to scientific criteria. Thus, you say that philosophical speculation is only inadvertently useful, since most philosophical claims have been factually incorrect or superseded by science.

      But you're missing the point of the aphorism that sometimes the journey is more important than reaching the destination. As philosophers often put it, philosophical questions are more important than the answers; more exactly, it's the act of doing philosophy that matters--according to the Socratic tradition, anyway. So the point is to acquire philosophical virtues, to be more cynical, as Bill Maher says. Again, philosophy are religion are best thought of not as protosciences, but as ways of living, as having to do with the conduct of life.

      Suppose science shows there's no such thing as intentionality. Does that mean we should stop pretending otherwise? Not necessarily! It depends on which way of life we prefer. Technoscience may offer us a transhuman way of living that doesn't require reference to personhood. If that lifestyle proves best, we may come to prefer it to folk psychology and contemporary commonsense. That will be a pragmatic choice or at any rate the "choice" will be due to some natural process.

      You say that BBT (i.e. eliminativism) unwinds the dichotomy that gives realism its meaning. To the extent that BBT is scientific, and science involves representing reality by means of models (including various symbols), I don't see such unwinding on the horizon without an eliminativist account of science itself.

      And why would any informed person say "Whatever science says," if such a person came to believe that there's no such thing as saying anything in the first place, since there's no symbolic meaning? "Saying X or Y" is part of folk psychology. Cognitive scientists won't muddle the issue by merely redefining that commonsense way of speaking. Instead, they'll replace it with some much more precise expression in an artificial language. So let's be clear: your account implies that informed people will no longer speak of anyone "saying" anything. That word "say" will fall into disuse, right?

      http://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/whos-afraid-of-reduction-massimo-pigliucci-and-the-rhetoric-of-redemption/

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    2. I was going to say something else about philosophy as a practice. The practice is to make trouble in society, to get people to confront the existential predicament. So Hume’s problem of induction isn’t so much about the facts. It’s about skepticism as a way of life. It’s about distrust of authorities, including scientific ones. It’s about enlightening ourselves so that we realize the horrors involved in natural life. It’s about doing away with delusions and finding the philosophically respectable way to live in spite of our tendency to fall back on ignoble, animalistic habits. Hume left behind his writings, but what matters was his way of life. The writings are just footprints.

      You keep bringing up “theoretical cognition” and I keep seeing this as scientistic, as a veiled way of letting the purpose of science dictate whether anything else succeeds or fails.

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    3. "You say that BBT (i.e. eliminativism) unwinds the dichotomy that gives realism its meaning. To the extent that BBT is scientific, and science involves representing reality by means of models (including various symbols), I don't see such unwinding on the horizon without an eliminativist account of science itself."

      I've written quite abit about all of this, but ultimately I see it as a rhetorical problem. If there was anything remotely approaching an adequate intentionalist account of science then I would have my work cut out for me. But as it stands, it seems pretty clear that intentionalism has been a dead end, that no one knows 'What Science Is,' and that appeals to this or that story, far from bolstering a case, simply add to the weight of guesswork. The fact that I'm working through something radically different, though rhetorically damning (because we do cherish our personal dead ends), I think is dialectically advantageous.

      I've always been sympathetic to the notion of philosophy as a practice in general, but I just don't see how you manage to draw principled distinctions between any given practice, between you and Eckhart Tolle, say, short some kind of relation to actual theoretical cognition. Just throwing more arguments in that direction doesn't help the cause. Tolle can market - rationalize - too.

      By my lights, you see the danger of atavism, and you are a naturalist insofar as you think that danger needs to be countered. But you, like the vast majority of philosophers out there, have this one atavistic corner you can't relinquish, and this is where you abandon your naturalism and begin making traditional sounding philosophical claims. I keep asking you why anyone should believe any of these claims, to which you generally respond by accusing me of scientism, on the one hand, and by simply adding to the pile of problematic claims on the other.

      As I've told you many times: 'scientism' is as much your problem as it is mine! Simply naming it does nothing to warrant the possibility of extrascientific theoretical cognition (or whatever you want to call it). Meanwhile the scientific monopoly continues to grow in proportion to the technical miracles it provides. Cognitive science IS radically rewriting the 'human.' The humanities DO face a deepening cognitive credibility crisis. All BBT provides is an elegant way of understanding why this is the case.

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    4. I'm not sure how closely you've been following my blog's writings over the last several months. I'm pretty sure there are principled differences between my philosophy and Eckhart Tolle's. As I understand it—just from reading some secondary sources, mind you—Tolle is trying to popularize Eastern mysticism for a Western audience, using the feel-good, self-help style of teaching.

      So one of my main disagreements with him would be metaphysical: I assume physicalism and materialism (i.e. metaphysical naturalism), and my philosophical gloss on that is that reality is undead. By contrast, Tolle says that ultimate reality is conscious awareness. So I say the world is fundamentally impersonal, whereas he anthropomorphizes reality. From my aesthetic perspective on myths and philosophical speculations, I criticize his "atavistic" religion as clichéd rather than original and thus as unable to stir the emotions of those with good taste in art. I start with naturalism for the Nietzschean reason that it's the worst-case scenario, so it presents the biggest challenge for an existential artist (for someone who wants to creatively overcome the existential predicament). Tolle starts with the delusion of quasi-theism, to sell books to gullible, spiritually-hungry Westerners.

      Regarding the question of whether I end up abandoning naturalism, I think we have different conceptions of what counts as natural. You think in terms of mechanisms. I think in terms of creative processes and systems. Nature evolves and complexifies. So nature for me is Darwinian, whereas for you nature seems to be Newtonian. I just don't think it's at all supernatural to assume that if undead processes can build organic entities such as animals, it can build people too. The difference between animals and people is a matter of degree: more self-control, more rationality, more consciousness, more rapaciousness. And the difference between organisms and the chemical mechanisms that build them is likely also one of degree, although it’s poorly understood how non-life becomes alive. Still, carbon atoms are special in that they’re more flexible than others in terms of the greater range of other atoms with which they can bond. (I learned that from the new Cosmos show!)

      This is the Darwinian lesson that changes in degree can add up to changes in kind. Thus, undead processes take on the property of being alive. And animalistic processes become personal, given sufficient evolution. Thus, for me nature is undead AND divine, whereas for you it’s just undead (mechanistic).

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  3. Ben says "so I say the world is fundamentally impersonal, whereas he anthropomorphizes reality." Ben and Scott agree about that. I think where they disagree is whether people are "fundamentally impersonal." I think that for Scott a human being is fundamentally the same kind of thing as a rock, merely a bit of matter with a particular set of properties. Ben wants human beings to be a different kind of thing than rocks. That desire is religious, and it is what he shares with Eckhart Tolle. I think Scott is right that no scientifically compelling argument can be made for the claim that human beings are different than rocks, but I also find myself trying to resist that brutal reductionism.

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    1. I think your analysis is on the right track. I've put this to Scott by saying that we agree that nature is undead, but he denies that nature is also the undead *god*. He denies nature's power to create any number of emergent levels, calling for higher-level explanations such as personal, normative, or teleological ones. His reductionism is at odds with this pantheistic vision of nature. This vision can be turned into a religion, which is what I'd like to see happen, but I derive it from science and from philosophical naturalism.

      Naturalism implies that everything arises from natural processes and forces, so obviously nature alone is responsible for creating and shaping itself--however paradoxical that sometimes sounds. Scott agrees, of course, that the stars and planets are naturally created, but he denies that that creative power is divine, that it's far too awesome to be encompassed by the same old mechanistic terms of explanation. He's not a pluralist or a pragmatist when it comes to explaining natural patterns. But the more humbled we are by nature as the undead god, the more we'll think of scientific theories as patchworks of incomplete models.

      In our case, nature has evidently made animals that evolved into people. If natural forces and elements can create everything else in the universe, why not animals that learned to civilize and personalize themselves?

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