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Marilynne Robinson Takes on Darwinism

Absence of MindMarilynne Robinson, one of College Crunch’s 20 most brilliant Christian professors, has a new book in which she takes on Darwinism: Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of Inwardness from the Modern Myth of the Self. This book is based on Robinson’s Terry Lectures at Yale (see here).

David Bentley Hart’ review of her book (see here) begins as follows:

The chief purpose of Absence of Mind — the published version of Marilynne Robinson’s splendid Terry Lectures, delivered at Yale in 2009 — is to raise a protest against all those modern, reductively materialist accounts of human consciousness that systematically exclude the testimony of subjectivity, of inner experience, from their understanding of the sources and impulses of the mind. Its targets are all the major schools of reductionism (Freudianism, Marxism, Darwinism), but also all the currently popular champions of the reductionist cause (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, E.O. Wilson, and so on). It is, in simple terms, a robust defense of the dignity and irreducible mystery of human conscience, personal identity, and self-awareness; and, as such, it is a stirring success.

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2 Responses to Marilynne Robinson Takes on Darwinism

  1. In this cause the language plays an important role. Reductionists needs to explain langugae, because mind without language is unexplainable. Mind and language are twins, one cannot exists without the other. On some opinions our thoughts are shaped by language.

    I can see mentioned the name of Steven Pinker. This darwinian psychologist tried to explain how human mind process verbs. In his curious speculations he focused on English verb system and concluded that irregular verbs are kept apart in human brains and regular are just modified by suffix “ed”. Unfortunatelly English verbs are too simple to represent verbs as such. They have no declination (except genitiv) and I would say at most 5 forms – leave, left, left, leaving, leaves.

    Now we have Slavonic languages with its complicated verb systems. But let us take Latin which is even more complex. I would say that every verb has at least 100 forms – 6 for future, 6 for futurum exactum, 6 for perfectum, 6 for imperfectum, 6 for present. Combine each of them with passives. There are participium which have declensions.

    Some of Latin verbs are also irregular, so one has to “keep apart” all 100 forms of it. Generally speaking I doubt that mind ever process regular verbs using gramatical rules. It must be some automatic process.

    Pinker concluded that some regular English forms can be derived by adding “-ed”. Maybe he explained how works darwinian mind using English, but I would say he missed to adress how processed educated western civilisation verbs in Latin for millenia.

    And so Pinker is nice example of reductionism – he focused to reduced forms of English words to explain “how our minds work”.
    Declension and inflection/conjugation is something that obviously disturb Pinker’s reductionist/simplistic view on how mind can process verbs.

    http://cadra.wordpress.com/

  2. Thanks Bill!

    I never was able to complete her Gilead novel. Hopefully this one will be different ;)

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