Plato’s reading suggestions, episode 98

Here it is, our regular Friday diet of suggested readings for the weekend:

Chomsky defends academic freedom of “pro-colonialism” professor under fire. (And he is right, Chomsky that is.)

What it means to be true to one’s self. (Except there is no such thing as a “true” self.)

Six (good) things that challenge truth.

A very good take down of panpsychism. (Hard to believe it’s needed, but still…)

Reliance on “gut feelings” linked to belief in fake news. Not surprisingly.

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Please notice that the duration of the comments window is three days (including publication day), and that comments are moderated for relevance (to the post one is allegedly commenting on), redundancy (not good), and tone (constructive is what we aim for). This applies to both the suggested readings and the regular posts. Thanks!

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Categories: Plato's Suggestions

80 replies

  1. On the Guts Feelings Article

    Well we live in a country where people deny Evolution & Global Warming and Alex Jones is taken seriously. Not to mention our President takes Alex Jones seriously doesn’t sufficiently bother people.

    I think a bigger problem is when people tell others (and themselves) that they’re relying on evidence but they’re relying on gut feelings. We all do it, some much more than others. That’s harder to confront, because it’s admitting that we’re not all the type of rational sophisticated people that people like the New Atheist Movement claims they champion.

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  2. Contra Tallis, Galen Strawson [2006] says:

    “Realistic physicalists, then, grant that experiential phenomena are real concrete phenomena – for nothing in [our] life is more certain – and that experiential phenomena are therefore physical phenomena…when you put [physical stuff] together in the way in which it is put together in brains like ours, it regularly constitutes – is, literally is – experience like ours…Eddington puts it as follows ‘what knowledge have we of the nature of atoms that renders it at all incongruous that they should constitute a thinking object? [None, ]… science has nothing to say as to the intrinsic nature of the atom…It seems rather silly to prefer to attach it to something of a so-called ‘concrete’ nature inconsistent with thought, and then to wonder where the thought comes from…
    If we must embed our [instrumentalist] schedule of indicator readings in some kind of background, at least let us accept the only hint we have received as to the significance of the background – namely, that it has a nature capable of manifesting itself as mental activity.'”

    Strawson goes on to comment he regards hypotheses of “brute emergence” of mind as “a position that seemingly has to exist if one accepts both that “physical stuff is, in itself, in its fundamental nature, something wholly and utterly non-experiential” but “experience is a real concrete phenomenon and every real concrete phenomenon is physical”. But, he thinks emergence of something so different in quality is just not intrinsically plausible.

    Where would mind (or experience) lurk within the atom? McDonnell [2016] The Pythagorean World: Why Mathematics Is Unreasonably Effective In Physics in Chapter 6 grafts monads onto Consistent Histories QM as one entertaining possibility. Monads traditionally have different degrees of perceptive and appetitive power (answering the objection why rocks are dumber than animals), and in Quantum Monadology this is fitted in with Griffith’s idea that “to exist is to be describable by a consistent history which is actualised”. Each monad represents the noumena [my gloss] as a single consistent history, recalling that consistent histories of the same quantum phenomena can be inconsistent with one another. So they replace the special role of the observer in other QM interpretations. “Monads are in competition with one another to achieve actuality through maximising their degree of perfection. They are more perfect if they have greater conceptual resources, richer introspection and a superior ability to perceive and interpret reality. Concepts, language, meaning and laws emerge together, with mind as the fundamental agent…The local view is the experience of a monad running along a consistent history of the universe. The global view is the structure of all consistent histories drawn from the History Hilbert space (otherwise referred to as ‘quantum reality’ or ‘the sea of potentiality’).” Yes, all gloriously speculative and untestable, but not that different in spirit from Quantum Darwinism.

    My own views are currently being influenced by reading the enactivists, whose theories (neurophenomenology, biosemiotics) would be quite compatible with a neutral monism or panpsychism.

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  3. The Current Affair article saphsin posted offers a clear case for why the colonialism article was so misguided, but it doesn’t really go into why there is a serious movement to rehabilitate colonialism. Essentially that Capitalism is the heir to colonialism. Now that all those third world countries are deeply integrated into the world financial system, it doesn’t take police actions to drain them of resources, but is done through control of their economic circulation and siphoning off as much value as possible.

    Here is a somewhat more emotional response, but which goes more deeply into the issues at play;
    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/moral-paralysis-american-academia-170928091638481.html

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  4. In biology like the old cosmology debates in science, there is no introduction of gravity or action at a distance to explain it, so consciousness, an aspect of biology, is still being inadequately explained with computations and correlations.

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  5. As a continuing thought on the subject of economic progress, here is an interesting article(admittedly I posted a comment, but nothing I haven’t said here.):

    http://evonomics.com/will-replace-outdated-left-right-economic-thinking-commons-paradigm/

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  6. I should say that Tallis is consistently excellent,especially in doing devastating takedowns of reductive physicalist approaches to mind and consciousness. Alongside Peter Hacker, he is one of the few people trying to resist the cog sci juggernaut, which strikes me as one of the deepest rabbit holes philosophers have ever dived down.

    Pansychism, of course, is an easy target, given its stark-raving-mad quality. I’ve argued elsewhere that the fact that a view like pansychism is even taken seriously is evidence of just how catastrophically bad a condition the philosophy of mind currently is in.

    The last thing with respect to the question of retraction: it seems that a lot of people here are allowing their emotions to run off with the subject at hand. We are talking about essays that have made it through peer review; passed editorial muster, for which there are subsequent calls for retraction, because …. outrage! Presumably, many of the more overwrought analogues being offered here would not make it through peer review.

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  7. I have read and appreciated Hamid Dabashi, “Moral paralysis in American academia” (thanks to brodix for the hypertext link.) (And I inadvertently deleted my long note, so you are here spared as I serve only an appetizer.)

    Dabashi also links Nathan J. Robinson, “A Quick Reminder of Why Colonialism was Bad.” Having not read Gilley (it is behind a paywall), Robinson is aghast that Gilley has the gall to even refer to the horrific Belgian colonialism in the Congo in his study, despite the fact that contemporaries, as well as subsequent scholarship (see my earlier post referencing Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost . . .), has described the horrors visited on the Congolese people in excruciating detail.

    A case in point is this poignant 1904 photo, where a Congolese father stars at the severed hand and foot of his five-year-old daughter, suffered as punishment b/c he failed to make the daily rubber quota: https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/father-hand-belgian-congo-1904/

    Dabashi asks what other “monuments of moral shame” will be “reconsidered” next: the genocide of native Americans, the savage history of African slavery, the Jewish holocaust, the deaths of innocent Japanese civilians after the dropping of atomic bonds (and firebombing Tokyo as well), the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and I would add, the Armenian genocide itself.

    And Gilley jumps from the frying pan right into the fire, b/c of his advocacy, arguing that we need a new program of colonization, lead by Western powers assuming governing functions of less developed countries.

    While Gilley’s study offends all who has the least acquaintance with the historical record, it should have never been published not because of this offense, but because his scholarship is non-existent in this instance. He ignores mountains of contrary data to construct his chimerical reinterpretation. Any properly reviewed peer review would have rejected this article, just as surely as Andrew Wakefield’s 1998 research study should have never seen the light of day.

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  8. Having checked back on that site, I see my comment was deleted. Apparently the problems are going to be solved through sharing software.
    Thank you, Massimo, for tolerating my particular brand of out of the box thinking.

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  9. Depends on who the peers are, what the publication is, and who defines “overwrought.” If someone else is playing checkers and I’m playing Go, we’re not playing the same Wittgensteinian game.

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  10. Saph: Yes, I’d already seen that Current Affairs piece. That’s why I said Gilley was guilty of fallacious reasoning, not just being selective in use of empirical evidence. It also gets back to it being labeled an opinion piece, and any journal that runs such, per my comment on awaiting them in physics journals, knows that’s an opening to run clickbait.

    And, per another comment, given that it was run as an opinion piece, it may not have had the same type of peer review as a regular article in the first place. I hope that simple observation isn’ overwrought.

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  11. Dan,

    “The last thing with respect to the question of retraction: it seems that a lot of people here are allowing their emotions to run off with the subject at hand. We are talking about essays that have made it through peer review; passed editorial muster, for which there are subsequent calls for retraction, because …. outrage! Presumably, many of the more overwrought analogues being offered here would not make it through peer review.”

    It does seem problematic to totally eliminate all emotion from academics. Yes, some is snowflakery, but presumably an emotional response to the Holocaust, for example, wouldn’t qualify as “overwrought.” The response shouldn’t be to dismiss emotion, but to understand why it is important in context, in order to learn from those circumstances, rather than either dismiss them, or prostrate ourselves to them. A lot can be drawn from that grey area between black and white.

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  12. To riff on Valerian — Joseph Conrad wrote an entire novel about the Belgian Congo, of course. To me, it seems logical both that Gilley started out to write clickbait from the get-go, and that the journal wanted something like this. May even have been some back-and-forth communication early in the process.

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  13. Oh, for those who are interested in intellectual-type book clubs, like Massimo’s? The Society for US Intellectual History is starting one: https://s-usih.org/2017/10/announcing-the-s-usih-salon/

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  14. So if someone was preaching Christianity in an atheistic publication he would be challenging the orthodoxy?

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  15. Flipping through Current Affairs, this article on the political uses of sci fi caught my eye;

    https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/10/sci-fi-fantasy-and-the-status-quo

    The last paragraph;

    “Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality… We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings.”

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  16. Robin, I’ve already stated very clearly why Tuvel was treated as a heretic.

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  17. Brodix: A holocaust denial essay would not make it through peer review.

    I think this topic has been done to death. Readers can very clearly see the various sides on this and make up their own minds.

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  18. Brodix: “There is the distinction of self, as the conscious state and identity, as the form we assume it to be, at a given point. It’s bit of the river analogy, as we flow through life.”

    At around 7 or 8, I started experiencing time as a dimension, in the sense of remembering events or situations that occurred at half my present age (as far back as I could remember without a reminder), and continuing that operation for many years, using it to sustain my sense of self, as the same person through whatever environmental changes may have occurred (and there were many). I don’t think everyone does that, but for me it was a necessity.

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  19. Robinson’s rebuttal to Gilley is spot on, especially when he chides him for omitting the European colonization of America. He might have also mentioned Gilley’s criticism of post-colonial regimes, which were made without apparent regard for the fact that “national” boundaries were created by the colonizing powers, both in Africa and the Middle East.

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