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Larry Moran asks: “Do philosophers take William Lane Craig’s arguments seriously?”

Over at his blog, Professor Larry Moran is shocked, shocked, that the arguments of Professor William Lane Craig for the existence of God are treated with respect by Craig’s philosophical colleagues. “Is it true that philosophy departments have sunk to this level?” he asks.

A few days earlier, Craig had written an article for The Washington Post entitled, Humanism for Children, in which he pointed to “a resurgence of interest in arguments for God’s existence based on reason and evidence alone” among philosophers, and added:

All of the traditional arguments for God’s existence, such as the cosmological, teleological, moral, and ontological arguments, not to mention creative, new arguments, find intelligent and articulate defenders on the contemporary philosophical scene.

Professor Moran found Craig’s claims rather difficult to swallow, so he posed the following question to his readers:

So, here’s a question for you philosophers out there. Is Craig correct? Is it true that most philosophers defend arguments for god’s existence based on “reason and evidence alone”? Is it true that philosophy departments have sunk to this level?

… Remember, the question I’m asking isn’t whether his conclusion is correct (it isn’t). It isn’t whether his arguments are bad (they are remarkably bad). It’s whether most philosophers respect his arguments and grant that they are legitimate and sound philosophical arguments.

Now, Professor Moran is a biochemist, not a philosopher, so I’m not going to make fun of him in this post. However, I will point out that if Moran had wanted to find out whether Craig’s arguments were respected or not, there were several easy avenues of investigation open to him. He could have consulted Google Scholar and typed in “William Lane Craig” which yields 2,480 hits, including citations. That’s a very respectable figure, although not quite as impressive as the 4,200 hits for “Richard Swinburne” and 6,810 hits for “Alvin Plantinga”. By comparison, the renowned Canadian atheist philosopher Michael Tooley gets about 2,200 hits, while Quentin Smith (Craig’s atheist opponent in “Theism, atheism, and big bang cosmology” (OUP, 1993) gets fewer than 2,000 hits.

Larry Moran could have also checked the online list of Professor Craig’s publications, which includes 30 books, as well as over 100 articles. Craig has published articles in prestigious journals such as Astrophysics and Space Science, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, The Journal of Philosophy, The International Philosophical Quarterly, The American Philosophical Quarterly, The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophia, Synthese, Erkenntnis and International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, among many others.

If Moran had wanted to know whether Professor William Lane Craig’s arguments for God’s existence were still taken seriously by scholars, he could have consulted the article on the Cosmological Argument in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He would have found an entire section devoted to the Kalam cosmological argument, which Craig defends. He would also have found that Craig is cited no less than 51 times in the entire article – more than any other philosopher. (By comparison, Aquinas is cited 24 times, Leibniz six times, Kant 10 times, Hume 12 times, Plantinga five times and Swinburne 27 times.) In the bibliography, Craig is the most-cited author, on a par with Graham Oppy, a leading critic of the cosmological argument.

Here’s what the American atheist philosopher Quentin Smith, author (or co-author) of twelve books and over 140 articles, had to say about Professor Craig on page 183 of his essay, “Kalam Cosmological Arguments for Atheism” (in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, Cambridge University Press, 2006, ISBN 9780521842709):

… [A] count of the articles in the philosophy journals shows that more articles have been published about Craig’s defense of the Kalam [cosmological] argument than have been published about any other philosopher’s contemporary formulation of an argument for God’s existence…. The fact that theists and atheists alike “cannot leave Craig’s Kalam argument alone” suggests that it may be an article of unusual philosophical interest or else has an attractive core of plausibility that keeps philosophers turning back to it and examining it once again.

If people write a lot about your arguments, that’s a pretty reliable sign that you’re highly respected in your field. I think we can safely assume, then, that Professor Craig’s arguments for the existence of God are taken seriously by philosophers, whether or not they agree with Craig.

And in the interests of fairness, I should point out that most contemporary English-speaking philosophers don’t agree with Professor Craig’s views on the arguments for the existence of God. The PhilPapers study, commissioned by David Chalmers of the Australian National University and David Bourget of London University, surveyed 931 academics at 99 leading philosophy departments around the globe, over 90% of them in the English-speaking world and nearly two-thirds in America. Here is the breakdown of the responses to the question: “God: Theism or Atheism?”

Accept: atheism ____________________________ 576 / 931 (61.9%)
Lean toward: atheism _______________________ 102 / 931 (11.0%)
Accept: theism ______________________________ 99 / 931 (10.6%)
Agnostic/undecided __________________________ 51 / 931 (5.5%)
Lean toward: theism _________________________ 37 / 931 (4.0%)
The question is too unclear to answer ___________ 16 / 931 (1.7%)
Reject both ________________________________ 16 / 931 (1.7%)
Skip _______________________________________ 9 / 931 (1.0%)
Accept another alternative _____________________ 8 / 931 (0.9%)
Accept an intermediate view ____________________ 7 / 931 (0.8%)
There is no fact of the matter ___________________ 5 / 931 (0.5%)
Other ______________________________________ 5 / 931 (0.5%)

So about 15% of the philosophers surveyed accept or lean towards theism, while 73% accept or lean towards atheism. On the other hand, the question: “Metaphilosophy: Naturalism or Non-naturalism?” yielded a different result: only 49.8% (less than half) accept or lean towards naturalism. Regarding the question, “Mind: physicalism or non-physicalism?”, only 56.5% accept or lean towards physicalism. Make of that what you will.

In answer to Professor Moran’s question, while most contemporary philosophers don’t regard Craig’s arguments for the existence of God as sound philosophical arguments, they do treat Craig’s arguments with genuine respect.

By the way, here is a list of notable atheists who have debated Professor William Lane Craig on the topic of “Does God exist?” or “Atheism vs. Christianity” in the past: Frank Zindler, Keith Parsons, Eddie Tabash, Paul Draper, Peter Atkins, Garrett Hardin, Antony Flew, Theodore Drange, Quentin Smith, Michael Tooley, Douglas Jesseph, Corey Washington, Massimo Pigliucci, Edwin Curley, Ron Barrier, Victor Stenger, Brian Edwards, Peter Slezak, Austin Dacey, Bill Cook and John Shook. Craig has also had a debate of sorts with Daniel Dennett, which makes for interesting viewing. Professor Moran will be interested to note that Dennett, while disagreeing with Craig’s argument for the existence of God, was nevertheless clearly impressed with his presentation of it.

Surprisingly, Professor Moran appears astonished that there should still exist philosophers who “defend arguments for god’s existence based on ‘reason and evidence alone.’” A quick question for Professor Moran: if you were making a philosophical case for God’s existence, what else would you appeal to, if not reason and evidence?

Finally, is Professor Moran aware of recent research in the field of cosmology, showing that not only the universe, but even the multiverse, had a beginning. I blogged about this earlier this year, in my article, Vilenkin’s verdict: “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.” If the multiverse had a beginning (or a temporal boundary, if you prefer to call it that), then at least some of its properties are contingent: namely, the parameters describing its initial conditions. And if the multiverse has contingent properties, then it’s reasonable to ask for an explanation of the fact that it has those properties, and not some other properties instead. If someone showed me a red circle, obviously it wouldn’t make sense to ask, “Why is the circle round instead of square?” but it would make perfect sense to ask: “Why is the circle red instead of blue?”

The multiverse can therefore no longer be treated as self-explanatory. Something is required to explain its being the way it is. That doesn’t prove God made it, of course. But it does suggest that something did, and that whatever that “something” is, it’s not bound by any laws of physics – for if it were, it would be part of the multiverse, too. What’s more, this “something” must either be everlasting or outside time altogether. I present more evidence for a personal Creator in my online article, Vilenkin’s verdict: “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”

Finally, I would urge Professor Moran to read Dr. Robin Collins’ mathematically rigorous online paper, The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe. It is about the best defense of the fine-tuning argument I have ever seen. And I would remind Professor Moran that Craig’s version of the cosmological argument isn’t the only one: Professor Paul Herrick presents an excellent defense of the modal cosmological argument in his 2009 article, Job Opening: Creator of the Universe—A Reply to Keith Parsons.

To sum up: contemporary theistic philosophers are focusing with renewed vigor and determination on presenting the arguments for the existence of a personal Creator of the cosmos in a manner which is intellectually rigorous and at the same time accessible to a broad public audience. For its part, the Intelligent Design movement makes no claim to be able to establish the existence of any Deity; nevertheless, it continues to find compelling evidence that animal body plans, molecular machines, the first living cell and the cosmos itself were the products of some Intelligence far greater than our own. (I discussed some new evidence in my last post, where I wrote about Dr. Paul Nelson’s recent video presentation, Darwin or Design?”) The ID movement also continues to maintain that the search for empirical evidence of such an Intelligence forms a legitimate part of the scientific endeavor. Meanwhile, we will keep working until the day when the search for design in Nature is finally recognized as science.

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81 Responses to Larry Moran asks: “Do philosophers take William Lane Craig’s arguments seriously?”

  1. Is it true that philosophy departments have sunk to this level?

    Sunk to the level of reason and respect? Let’s hope so!

    On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision

    Summa Philosophica

  2. A better question would be whether academic biology departments have any intention of describing/explaining life using reason and evidence alone without the limiting lens of unsupported materialist dogmas?

  3. Hmm Dr. Torley, Do you know how prominent Anthony Flew was a philosopher? I’ve heard he was the leading one.

    “I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite intelligence. I believe that the universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source. Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science.”
    Anthony Flew (There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind) – world’s leading intellectual atheist for most of his adult life until his conversion a few years shortly before his death

  4. ahem,, ‘was “as” a philosopher?

  5. Who cares of what he says? Larry Moron is just a polite version of PZ,he should stick to the Sandwalk.

  6. A better question would be whether academic biology departments have any intention of describing/explaining life using reason and evidence alone without the limiting lens of unsupported materialist dogmas?

    One might also ask what impact philosophers have had on modern life! Why should we worry about what philosophers think?

  7. Do real scientists take evolutionism’s arguments seriously?

  8. Ya see in decades of observing unguided evolutionary proponents, I have never yet caught sight of an unguided evolutionary hypothesis, argument or supposition that could form the basis of a rational discussion. Never.

  9. Seems strange to me that Coyne, Carroll and Moran are all Irish names. How many other leading Unintelligent Designers are of Irish lineage, I wonder? Are they disaffected, lapsed Catholics, as I was as a teenager? It certainly made me very bitter, the further I moved away from the faith.

    I love the Irish, and while I have come to appreciate our British royal family, I find Australian comedian Barry Humphries’ remark to the effect that most republicans in Australia are of Irish lineage, not surprising, given our our mutual history. But I think both countries are good for each other now, and most of the Irish people do, including the Northern Irish Catholic politicians.

    I think it was quite a genuinely mutual love-in, too, when the Queen and Prince Philip visited the graves of the fallen
    Irish soldiers, when they visited the South earlier this year.

    Sorry to have digressed, but an appearance of mysterious connections can be interesting, I believe.

  10. @Alan Fox

    Consider the socio-political structures which comprise and make modern life possible. That was largely philosophers. Now, are there any other questions you’d like to ask in order to display your profound ignorance?

  11. Consider the socio-political structures which comprise and make modern life possible. That was largely philosophers.

    Name a few!

  12. Now, are there any other questions you’d like to ask in order to display your profound ignorance?

    With respect, Uncommon Descent is not a place I would associate with finding answers to probing questions!

  13. @Alan Fox

    Name a few? Democracy. Freedom of speech. The notions of rights (lol, rights, now there’s a scientific category!): rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. None of these things existed – and then they did, thought into existence by philosophers. Things you take for granted every day of your life. Not to mention the scientific method itself. That was philosophers too. And Christian philosophers at that.

  14. Alan Fox:

    One might also ask what impact philosophers have had on modern life! Why should we worry about what philosophers think?

    David Hume. Bertrand Russell. Karl Popper.

    I think Alan’s let one of his children start posting.

    Tell us something Alan, when is the last time you think philosophy ever had an effect on a culture. Ever? Or do you just deny that there is any such thing as culture?

  15. I think philosophy is very important for filling out a complete worldview. i.e. Which philosophy makes the most sense of the evidence we now have?

    Multiple Competing Worldviews – Stephen Meyer on John Ankerberg – video – November 4, 2011 (registration required)
    http://www.lightsource.com/min.....22384.html

    Of the two main competing worldviews, Naturalism did not even predict a beginning for the universe. Whereas, uniquely, Theism did predict it! As Dr. Torley noted:

    “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.” -
    Cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston – paper delivered at Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday party
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....beginning/

    The Universe Had a Beginning – Alexander Vilenkin – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QSZNpLzcCw

    Moreover, again as Dr. Torley noted, the fine tuning of the universe for biological life is of such a extraordinary degree as to literally defy human comprehension. Here are two examples:

    Fine Tuning Of Dark Energy and Mass of the Universe – Hugh Ross – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4007682

    Getting the prediction correct for the instantaneous coming into being of the entire universe should be more than enough for anyone who considers themselves somewhat scientifically impartial to realize that Theism has some serious weight behind it as far as a overaching worldview in concerned. But to go a bit further than Dr. Torley has gone, I would like to point out these two recent papers which I consider on par with the Vilenkin paper:

    This following paper showed that quantum actions cannot be ‘explained away’ by any conceivable many-worlds (parallel universes) scenario (As David Deutsch has tried to do)

    Looking Beyond Space and Time to Cope With Quantum Theory – (Oct. 28, 2012)
    Excerpt: To derive their inequality, which sets up a measurement of entanglement between four particles, the researchers considered what behaviours are possible for four particles that are connected by influences that stay hidden and that travel at some arbitrary finite speed.
    Mathematically (and mind-bogglingly), these constraints define an 80-dimensional object. The testable hidden influence inequality is the boundary of the shadow this 80-dimensional shape casts in 44 dimensions. The researchers showed that quantum predictions can lie outside this boundary, which means they are going against one of the assumptions. Outside the boundary, either the influences can’t stay hidden, or they must have infinite speed.,,,
    The remaining option is to accept that (quantum) influences must be infinitely fast,,,
    “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,” says Nicolas Gisin, Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142217.htm

    Though the preceding paper is, in my personal opinion, on par with the Vilenkin paper, this following paper should, by all rights, be considered to be more important than the Vilenkin paper. This following paper has shown, experimentally, that our mathematical description of quantum mechanics within science to be so solid that a future theory will not exceed it in predictive power;

    An experimental test of all theories with predictive power beyond quantum theory – May 2011
    Excerpt: Hence, we can immediately refute any already considered or yet-to-be-proposed alternative model with more predictive power than this. (Quantum Theory)
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1105.0133.pdf

    Can quantum theory be improved? – July 23, 2012
    Excerpt: However, in the new paper, the physicists have experimentally demonstrated that there cannot exist any alternative theory that increases the predictive probability of quantum theory by more than 0.165, with the only assumption being that measurement (conscious observation) parameters can be chosen independently (free choice, free will, assumption) of the other parameters of the theory.,,,
    ,, the experimental results provide the tightest constraints yet on alternatives to quantum theory. The findings imply that quantum theory is close to optimal in terms of its predictive power, even when the predictions are completely random.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-07-quantum-theory.html

    of note:

    What does the term “measurement” mean in quantum mechanics?
    “Measurement” or “observation” in a quantum mechanics context are really just other ways of saying that the observer is interacting with the quantum system and measuring the result in toto.
    http://boards.straightdope.com.....p?t=597846

    Now this is completely unheard of in science as far as I know (especially as far as the forever plastic ‘Darwinian science’ is concerned). i.e. That a mathematical description of reality would advance to the point that one can actually perform a experiment showing that your current theory will not be exceeded in predictive power by another future mathematical theory is simply unprecedented in science! I am very surprised that this particular paper, and experiment, has not received far more attention than they have for the unprecedented milestone in science that they represent! Moreover, finding ‘free will conscious observation’ to be ‘built into’ our best, most rigid, description of foundational reality, quantum mechanics, as a starting assumption(s), ‘free will observation’ which is indeed the driving aspect of the randomness in quantum mechanics, is VERY antithetical to the entire materialistic philosophy which undergirds Darwinism which demands that a ‘primordial randomness’ be the main driving force of creativity within Darwinian evolution!

    Also of interest:

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4198007

    I once asked a evolutionist, after showing him the preceding experiments, “Since you ultimately believe that the ‘god of random chance’ produced everything we see around us, what in the world is my mind doing pushing your god around?”

  16. Also of interest:

    Because of advances in quantum mechanics, the argument for God from consciousness can be framed like this:

    1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.

    Three intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1G_Fi50ljF5w_XyJHfmSIZsOcPFhgoAZ3PRc_ktY8cFo/edit

    Logical Proofs of Infinite External Consciousness – January 18, 2012
    Excerpt: (Proof # 2) If you believe in the theory of Quantum Mechanics, then you believe that conscious observation must be present to collapse a wave function. If consciousness did not exist prior to matter coming into existence, then it is impossible that matter could ever come into existence. Additionally, this rules out the possibility that consciousness is the result of quantum mechanical processes. Either consciousness existed before matter or QM is wrong, one or the other is indisputably true.
    http://www.libertariannews.org.....ciousness/

  17. Democracy. Freedom of speech. The notions of rights (lol, rights, now there’s a scientific category!): rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. None of these things existed – and then they did, thought into existence by philosophers. Things you take for granted every day of your life. Not to mention the scientific method itself. That was philosophers too. And Christian philosophers at that.

    Sorry, my question was too vague.

    Name a few meant name a few philosophers that contributed to modern life. It was in response to your assertion “That was largely philosophers.”

  18. Tell us something Alan, when is the last time you think philosophy ever had an effect on a culture. Ever? Or do you just deny that there is any such thing as culture?

    I just question the idea there is an effective discipline called philosophy that has any impact on modern life.

  19. Go look them up yourself. Here’s a list to help you.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.....ilosophers

  20. Go look them up yourself. Here’s a list to help you.

    It’s a list of names. Who have contributed to modern life by their efforts in philosophy?

  21. Xenophon? I mean his expedition was a marvelous adventure by his own account but how did he contribute to modern life through his philosophy?

  22. OK I’ll grant you Slavoj Žižek! ;)

  23. I just question the idea there is an effective discipline called philosophy that has any impact on modern life.

    Nietzsche’s philosophy shaped Hitler. Hegel’s philosophy shaped Marx and Feurbach, which in turn, shaped Stalin. Wherever you witness wanton destruction and murder, you will find the influence of a bad philosopher. Wherever you find reform or positive innovation, you will find the influence of a good philosopher. Tell me which movement you have in mind, constructive or destructive, and I will tell you which philosopher led the way. Tell me what you think, and I will point you to the thinker or thinkers that prompted you to think it

  24. I didn’t say everyone on that list contributed to modern life. But many do. Anyway, you’re just being silly now. You made a point, it was blown out of the water in about 10 seconds, and now you’re trying to salvage it by pretending not to understand how the socio-political systems we have in place were shaped by the work of thinkers through the ages.

  25. I didn’t say everyone on that list contributed to modern life.

    No, indeed. You just posted a link to Wikipedia. Who on that list has contributed to modern life via philosophy?

  26. Nietzsche’s philosophy shaped Hitler. Hegel’s philosophy shaped Marx and Feurbach, which in turn, shaped Stalin. Wherever you witness wanton destruction and murder, you will find the influence of a bad philosopher.

    Hi Stephen

    Not sure whether Hitler was influenced by any particular philosophical treatise. I think he was driven by his burning sense of injustice and took his justification wherever he found it. The most unfortunate thing is that there was so little effective political opposition in the mid thirties.

  27. 27
    Kantian Naturalist

    Please, not Slavoj Zizek! :)

    Among living philosophers who have contributed something positive to modern culture and politics, here are three names, right off the top of my head: Jurgen Habermas, Martha Nussbaum, Cornel West, and Michael Sandel.

    Habermas, for his role as a public intellectual in modern German politics and culture, including his voice in debates about the EU, his contributions to re-unification, and his opposition to German neoconservatives who wanted to white-wash the Nazi legacy.

    Nussbaum, for her role in working with Amartya Sen in developing a more nuanced model of global poverty and development, the “Capabilities Approach”

    Sandel, for his widely-acclaimed lectures on justice, and for his insistence on “the moral limits of markets”

    West, for his leadership within the American Black community.

    I don’t think that immediate public utility is the best indication of a philosopher’s contributions, and no doubt most philosophy is superfluous sophistry (then again, most of anything is superfluous), but there are some names — make of them what you will.

  28. @Alan Fox

    Before I engage further with your foolishness, I want to get something clear. Are you denying that philosophers have had a major impact on the modern socio-political landscape? I ask because if I’m going to have to go to the trouble of educating you, I want to be clear that you are in fact disputing what I say, so that when you are shown to be talking complete garbage you can’t squirm away by claiming you never disagreed in the first place. So, do you understand that, eg, Marx played a significant role in shaping the politics of the Soviet Union and therefore world politics in the 20th century, or have you never heard of Marx and so don’t know if it’s true, or do you disagree?

  29. King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, when he was twenty-five years old, in 1954. King then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Doctor of Philosophy on June 5, 1955.

  30. 30
    Kantian Naturalist

    Although I do think that the survey data about the attitudes and positions amongst professional philosophers doesn’t really tell us anything of interest, and that might be closer to what Alan Fox had in mind.

  31. 31
    Kantian Naturalist

    Mung, that just means King had a Ph.D., not that his Ph.D. was in philosophy. In fact, though, King was well-read in philosophy and theology. Personally, I’d be willing to call him a philosopher; heck, I’d be willing to teach his work in philosophy classes.

  32. Hi bornagain77,

    In answer to your question about Antony Flew, Richard Carrier acknowledged back in 2004 that “Flew is one of the most renowned atheists of the 20th century, even making the shortlist of “Contemporary Atheists” at About.com.” BBC correspondent William Crawley wrote in 2010 that in his hey-day, “he [Flew] was widely seen as the philosophical heir to Bertrand Russell as the country’s leading public atheist.”

    On a personal note, when I studied philosophy at the Australian National University back in the 1980s, Antony Flew was given more prominence than any other atheist philosopher, and his arguments were treated with the utmost seriousness. A whole generation of philosophy students grew up reading Flew’s parable about the invisible gardener. Associate Professor Randal Rauser recently declared that “Flew’s essay (now sixty years old) is probably the most reprinted essay in the philosophy of religion in the last half century and helped make Flew perhaps the world’s leading skeptic for a time.”

    So yes, Antony Flew was very influential, and could fairly be described as the world’s most famous atheist in his later years – which makes his conversion to Deism shortly before his death all the more remarkable.

  33. Alan Fox,

    Wouldn’t you agree that the 20th century philosophers Isaiah Berlin, Karl Popper, Hannah Arendt and Robert Nozick have contributed in a positive way to modern life through their philosophy?

  34. Hi Alan,

    You write:

    “Not sure whether Hitler was influenced by any particular philosophical treatise. I think he was driven by his burning sense of injustice and took his justification wherever he found it. The most unfortunate thing is that there was so little effective political opposition in the mid thirties.”

    The fire that burns in a the heart of a partisan activist or a reformer is almost always ignited by a philosopher. Without the intellectual superstructure, nothing happens.

    Neitzsche >>>> “blood poisoning” >>>> Hitler >>>> [The Jew] “poisons the blood of others, but preserves his own.

    Neitzsche >>>> “Superman” >>>>Hitler >>>> “Master Race”

    Other brief examples include,

    [Philosopher] Rouseau >>> French Revolution

    [Philosopher] Ockham >>>> Protestant Reformation

    [Philosopher] Hume >>>> Charles Darwin

  35. 35

    Not that I want to get into a protracted discussion about Nietzsche, but it is worth pointing out that the extent of his influence on Hitler is pretty complicated. Of the various books on the subject, the one I liked most was Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism?: On the Uses and Abuses of a Philosophy.

    The problem here isn’t that Nietzsche was some influence on Nazism, but that there are very few 20th-century philosophers, artists, musicians, scientists, political thinkers who weren’t influenced by Nietzsche to some degree or other. Some of them were on the far right, some were on the far left, and some were solidly in the middle. Some of them disagreed with him profoundly but took him seriously, others agreed with him in some respects and not in others.

  36. KN

    “The problem here isn’t that Nietzsche was some influence on Nazism, but that there are very few 20th-century philosophers, artists, musicians, scientists, political thinkers who weren’t influenced by Nietzsche to some degree or other.”

    That is like saying, “the problem here isn’t that Rousseau was some influence on the French Revolution, but that there are very few 20th Century artists, musicians, philosophers, scientists, and political thinkers who weren’t influenced by Rousseau to some degree of another.”

    In fact, Nietzsche (and Darwin) did exert a heavy influence on the Nazis. One could reasonably argue that Nietzsche and/or Darwin did not mean to inform Nazism, but it cannot be reasonably argued that the Nazis did not interpret both men in terms of prefiguring their own philosophy. Clearly they did and the

    The broader point, though, persists. When it comes to social transformation, it is the philosophers who provide the rational justification and set the moral tone.

  37. Moran says:

    So, here’s a question for you philosophers out there. Is Craig correct? Is it true that most philosophers defend arguments for god’s existence based on “reason and evidence alone”? Is it true that philosophy departments have sunk to this level?

    … Remember, the question I’m asking isn’t whether his conclusion is correct (it isn’t). It isn’t whether his arguments are bad (they are remarkably bad). It’s whether most philosophers respect his arguments and grant that they are legitimate and sound philosophical arguments.

    And just the other day, we had a wonderful post by johnnyb talking about this very tactic used by darwinists called “poisoning the well”

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-the-well/

    And as vtorley pointed out, Moran is NOT a philosopher, but he felt the need to chastise philosophers who accept Craig’s valid arguments because all that matters is the promotion of the darwinian myth and atheism, not science, reason, rationality or logic. Moran’s desperation is showing.

  38. Folks:

    I first observe that there is a reason why our most respected degree roughly translates as “teacher of the love of wisdom,” philo + sophia. (As in Dr Moran needs to think about what the very title of his Ph.D is trying to tell him.)

    Going beyond, I think we have a problem of scientism that, overly impressed with the achievements of science and ill-equipped to appreciate either its inherent epistemological limitations nor the need for ethical balance, nor yet the significance of other disciplines, views such with undue contempt. Many actually imagine that “Science” delimits what is knowable — the Lewontin comment about seeing Science as “the only begetter of truth” comes to mind.

    Ironically, such is an assertion in epistemology, which is obviously a branch of physics closely tied to metaphysics and logic, which are perhaps as core as you get in philosophy. And, so also, it is immediately self-referential and incoherent. But those who think like that, are blissfully unaware.

    Philosophy is of course the mother discipline of the academy, and therefore as we come close to the heart of any discipline, philosophical issues and contributions for good or ill will come up. But also, so will worldview commitments, and in the case of the debates surrounding the design inference, that means we are up against the sort of a priori evolutionary materialism that is the dominant feature of current naturalism.

    Blend scientism with evolutionary materialist ideology, toss in the notion that these have cornered the market on intelligence and progressiveness in thought [notice the agenda-serving twists all of these words and many more like that have received], and you have a potent brew that warps ability to recognise the limitations of science, or to recognise and respect the significance of the contributions of other disciplines. Hence the sort of open contempt we so often see, and also the sort of ill-disguised dismissive rage that comes from some of those who find themselves obsessed with trying to knock down design theory discussions and to try to discredit anyone who says something positive about ID, not only Mr Craig but even blog contributors and commenters.

    When it comes to the issue of arguments to God, I noted in my own current thread that when I was an undergrad, arguments to God were a dead issue, not even worth more than a line or two. It is men like Craig who have worked hard, addressed major issues in fresh ways and have put these things back on the table, as serious current issues. But, that will raise the hackles of ever so many who patently find the shadow of Him Whom They Do Not Wish To Exist on the doorstep, much less a Divine Foot in the door, or worse, the Divine Self sitting at the table of serious discussion.

    That sort of teenager rebellion writ large seems to cover much of the tone and substance of the sorts of objections, denigrations and dismissals we see.

    With all due respect, it is time for such to grow up. There have always been serious people who have taken God seriously, and not a few of these, favourably.

    In terms of the actual arguments, my own view is that we need to get back to the issue of building worldviews from the ground up as a part of the intellectual furniture of any reasonably educated person. And yes, that means I accept the importance of seeing that in reasoning, we need to move from A to B and onward, then see the implication of infinite regress, vs circularity vs a finitely remote set of first plausibles. In that context, we need to realise that there are self-evident truths, such as Josiah Royce’s “error exists.” Similarly, that there are such things as self-evident first principles of right reason having to do with the distinct identity of things and our ability to distinguish A and NOT-A. Similarly, that it is reasonable to ask of a thing, why does it exist [i.e. sufficient reason], leading to the issues of contingent being, cause and necessary being.

    From this cluster of themes, we can see much more, and they put on the table the question of how do we come to be in a credibly contingent cosmos. THAT MEANS WE HAVE A QUESTION OF SUFFICIENT REASON AND CAUSE.

    Hence the relevance of the view that there is a necessary being sufficient to be the cause of the cosmos we experience, one that must be adequate to account for a fine tuned cosmos, for life in it as a consequence, for the credibility and capacity of mind, and for the significance of morals. That is, we see the relevance of several of the arguments to God, at least on an inference to best explanation in light of comparative difficulties basis.

    It is not a sign of intellectual incompetence to think about such, nor of irrelevance or being subject to dismissal as unserious. Just the opposite.

    Indeed, it is quite clear that much of the ire we see is because asking such questions in such a context puts the sort of ideological, a priori evolutionary materialism and scientism that are so common under the microscope of scrutiny. A scrutiny that it has serious problems bearing, once the notion that chance and necessity acing blindly fully accounts for the world per the assured results of Science, is no longer utterly dominant.

    So, it is time to seriously think again about the roots of our worldviews. (And yes, the idea that worldviews need not have roots, does not seem to me to be particularly viable. The famous raft metaphor misses that the raft is floating because it is supported by the water and the principle of floatation. Shifting to a spaceship only leads to a subtler foundation the materials and forces of nature and the design principles that allow a space craft to exist and work.)

    $ 0.02

    KF

  39. Oh well, Epistemology is obviously a branch of philosophy! Better go get some ugly sleep.

  40. KF, Love your crisp denotation of your ‘two cents’.

  41. Borrowed years ago from somebody — I have forgotten who — out on the Net somewhere.

  42. ‘Larry Moran asks: “Do philosophers take William Lane Craig’s arguments seriously?”’

    An unusually demoralised way to express an ‘ad hominem’. The broadest, most unspecific question concerning the opinions of others about a person. Rather like someone coming in and sitting down in the middle of a film or show on TV, and asking, ‘What’s happened?’ Or a sporting event, ‘What’s the score’? Not exactly ‘bringing anything’ to the party.

    William Lane Craig’s devastating rebuttals of atheism in all its guises(sic) seems to absolutely infuriate ‘our friends’.

  43. Moran’s question sounds a bit like me asking Cornelius Hunter, ‘What’s the latest on the gizmeter, epigenetic, allele, spondulix front, then, Cornelius?

  44. ‘Oh, and try and tell me in monosyllables, will you, there’s a good chap? No need for the details.’

  45. ‘Now this is completely unheard of in science as far as I know (especially as far as the forever plastic ‘Darwinian science’ is concerned).’

    Maybe, ‘Darwinian science’ should be reclassified as one of the plastic arts, BA, since it is, evidently, one of the Fine Arts, not bearing any scientific sense of the term, such as, ‘prior art’, in the patents field.

  46. 46

    StephebB: I don’t disagree overly much, but I would be reluctant to embrace a “Great Man” (or Woman) theory of history — though yes, I do think that intellectuals, artists, and visionaries function as junctures or transitions between one cultural epoch and another by how they synthesize what has come before, transform it, and communicate it.

    On a minor note, the influence of Nietzsche and Darwin on Nazism tells us that the Nazis were not overly concerned with intellectual integrity or consistency — Nietzsche was severely critical of Darwinism (which he knew of second-hand through German translations of Herbert Spencer and through German materialist philosophers).

  47. 47

    In re: Kairosfocus @ 38:

    (And yes, the idea that worldviews need not have roots, does not seem to me to be particularly viable. The famous raft metaphor misses that the raft is floating because it is supported by the water and the principle of floatation. Shifting to a spaceship only leads to a subtler foundation the materials and forces of nature and the design principles that allow a space craft to exist and work.)

    There might be quite good criticisms of anti-foundationalism in epistemology, but I’m having trouble seeing how this is one of them, for the following reason.

    The “raft metaphor,” made famous by Otto Neurath, captures the idea that justification is a social practice. Here I like to invoke Robert Brandom’s phrase, “the social space of reasons”: what it is for any particular claim to be justified is its inferential relation to other claims.

    (It is important to notice here that this is a claim about justification, not about truth. One can, I think, hold both a certain ‘coherentism’ about justification while still embracing something like a ‘correspondence’ theory of truth.)

    Now, one might object, “but grounds the social space of reasons?” (I take it that this is the point that Kairosfocus wants to raise.) In response, I’d like to call attention to a deep ambiguity in the very concept of “grounds”: sometimes ‘grounds’ is used to mean ‘justifies’ and sometimes it is used to mean ’causes’ or ‘actualizes’. Call these the “epistemic sense of ‘grounds’” and the “metaphysical sense of ‘grounds’”. And I want to keep those two notions quite distinct, because I accept a sharp distinction between reasons and causes. (If one fails to make that distinction, and assimilates reasons to causes, one has materialism; if one assimilates causes to reasons, one has rationalism and maybe even idealism.)

    So, I want to make a distinction between these two questions:

    what justifies the space of reasons as a whole?

    and

    what causes or actualizes the space of reasons as a whole?

    The first question, I submit, has no answer: justification only takes place within the space of reasons, and so the space of reasons it itself ‘ungrounded’ (taking ‘grounds’ in its epistemic sense). For any particular claim, there are grounds (conditions of justification, of warrant, of assertability, etc.), but there are no grounds for the grounds as a whole. The grounds are ungrounded, if you like.

    But the space of reasons is ‘grounded’ in the metaphysical sense, which is how I interpret Kairosfocus’ point here:

    the raft is floating because it is supported by the water and the principle of floatation . . . the materials and forces of nature and the design principles that allow a space craft to exist and work.

    The water supports the raft, or ‘grounds’ it, if you will, but in the metaphysical sense, not the epistemological sense.

    To shift out of the metaphor, there are material conditions of actualization of the social space of reasons, including such things as the history of life on this planet, the particular evolutionary trajectories that led to Homo sapiens, the neurophysiological processes that implement rational thought, and the process of infant and child psychological development.

    That is what ‘grounds’ the ‘raft’ — not in the epistemic sense if ‘grounds’, but in the metaphysical sense.

    One seems forced to choose between the picture of an elephant which rests on a tortoise (What supports the tortoise?) and the picture of a great Hegelian serpent of knowledge with its tail in its mouth (Where does it begin?). Neither will do. For empirical knowledge, like its sophisticated extension, science, is rational, not because it has a foundation but because it is a self-correcting enterprise which can put any claim in jeopardy, though not all at once. (Sellars,”Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind“)

  48. …but because it is a self-correcting enterprise…

    Error exists.

  49. KN: “On a minor note, the influence of Nietzsche and Darwin on Nazism tells us that the Nazis were not overly concerned with intellectual integrity or consistency — Nietzsche was severely critical of Darwinism (which he knew of second-hand through German translations of Herbert Spencer and through German materialist philosophers).”

    I agree. Indeed, Nietzsche himself had his own problems with consistency and intellectual integrity. I suspect that this was part of his appeal, especially for those who want to assert their will to power while indulging in the most egregious logical contradictions. It is among the greatest of temptations: tyrannical control without intellectual responsibility.

  50. 50
    Kantian Naturalist

    I don’t get your point, Mung; fallibilism is central to my entire epistemological outlook.

  51. 51
    Kantian Naturalist

    StephenB, I actually think of Nietzsche as remarkably consistent and intellectually honest. And he asked some really interesting questions. He was just deeply and profoundly wrong. :)

  52. KN:

    I am afraid, I mean BOTH senses.

    My focal issue is finitude of worldviews AND of warrant that has to meet logical, explanatory and truth tests.

    Warrant has to terminate finitely (just like an algorithm . . . ), and our mental models of the world have to be finite, and are inevitably grounded. How well, is another story.

    We may happily play around on the raft, remodelling as we drift — so long as we avoid making it fall apart into incoherence, given the lurking sharks [and that hints at where I will go in a moment] — but all of this socio-techno- physical activity and associated bounded rationality models have to rest on the supporting ocean.

    Ground level reality.

    Or else, the sharks have lunch.

    That is, once we realise things can REALLY fall apart, we will be a lot less prone to get into glorified groupthink games. Justification is social but not just social. The raft can really fall apart, to the joy of the sharks.

    So, pardon a very old fashioned notion.

    As long as there is a difference between an intact raft (never mind repairs and debates over remodelling) and one that has fallen apart, we have two distinct alternative states that cannot both be true in the same sense and time and stable identity of state — which can all be expressed in more or less accurate words but all of it is a matter of reality first and foremost.

    That is, I here point to the first principles of right reason as self evident foundational truths that have a reality that transcends debate talking points or social conventions on who has “won” a debate or power contest.

    The sharks care a lot about the difference.

    Those first principles of right reason are genuinely foundational and finitely remote. We ignore or subvert them at our peril.

    Just ask the sharks.

    Next, we can take up something like Royce’s error exists.

    This is a statement in a language and inescapably has social aspects, but it also has objective, accurate and undeniable reference to the real world. It is not just a game called justification that we can make up rules for as we please.

    Yes, cause-effect is distinct from ground-consequent (no-one here doubted that . . . it is key to some problems of evolutionary materialism . . . ), but the issue of truth is the bridge between them.

    Hence, the classic differentiation between valid and sound reasoning.

    Coming back, the point I have been underscoring is that worldviews and their claims are subject to the challenge of warrant. Why accept A? B. Why B? C. So, we face infinite regress, circularity or a finitely remote cluster of first plausibles. Some of these may be self evident [and I think there is a little matter of little errors in the beginning on this hence my focus on error exists as case no 1 of this . . . ], but others will have to be taken as plausible, without further warrant. Other than fitting into the system and providing adequate grounds.

    The ocean is real and provides floatation. It also has the hopeful sharks.

    Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to make and sail a viable raft to safe harbour.

    That involves factual adequacy [it stands on the ocean and must be safe], coherence [it does not fall apart], and explanatory adequacy with elegant simplicity [neither an ad hoc patchwork that must fall apart sooner or later nor a simplistic and inadequate structure].

    The sharks are waiting.

    KF

  53. F/N: Useful discussion, here.

  54. Kantian Naturalist, you might enjoy the youtube dramatization, “God is Dead – Chesterton vs. Nietzsche,” presented by Dale Ahlquist.

  55. Alan Fox,

    Wouldn’t you agree that the 20th century philosophers Isaiah Berlin, Karl Popper, Hannah Arendt and Robert Nozick have contributed in a positive way to modern life through their philosophy?

    Hi Vincent,

    At the risk of being accused of goalpost moving, I would suggest that Popper’s contribution to science was via the child of philosophy, logic.

    Isaiah Berlin, I like his politics, maybe I would have to concede, though it’s hard to spot any specific contribution.

    Arendt and Nosik? Not heard of them.

    O/T Have you heard anything of the likely activities of Nishinn Maru this winter?

  56. Stephen B

    The fire that burns in a the heart of a partisan activist or a reformer is almost always ignited by a philosopher. Without the intellectual superstructure, nothing happens.

    Not sure how we can know this. I would assert that charismatic individuals like Stalin, Hitler, Mao (Attila, Genghis Khan too, perhaps) get where they are by force of personality, ruthlessness, certainty. They use whatever tools are available.

  57. Scotus
    Ockham
    Newton
    Boyle

    etc etc etc

    The list is endless.

  58. 58
    Kantian Naturalist

    StephenB, I really did try to watch the clip, but it was just too over-the-top — that mustache! — I just couldn’t take it. Which is too bad, because from the bits of Chesterton I’ve come across over the years, I like what I’ve read.

  59. Alan Fox (55):

    Arendt and Nozick are two very-well-known philosophers of the mid- and late-20th centuries. The fact that you have not heard of them suggests to me that you don’t do all that much reading in the field of philosophy. (Just as, if you had never heard of Gould, Mayr, Monod, Margulis, or Dobzhansky, I would suspect you did not have much acquaintance with evolutionary theory.) Now, given that you aren’t very much “up” on modern philosophy, isn’t it a bit presumptuous of you to state a thesis that modern philosophy has not been of any use? What I’m hearing seems to be not an informed judgment, but a knee-jerk reaction against philosophy from the side of scientific positivism. Perhaps you should withdraw your thesis until you are more acquainted with the subject-matter.

  60. Regarding the title of the OP, I think a better question is: “Do rational, fair-minded people really take Larry Moran seriously?”

  61. No. no. no. You forgot to poison the well first.

  62. Lol, Mung – duly noted!

  63. Timaeus 59.
    I hope for your sake Alan Fox is not this Alan Fox:

    Alan Fox is an Professor of Asian and Comparative Philosophy and Religion in the Philosophy Department at the University of Delaware.
    http://udel.edu/~afox/

  64. No. That is not our alan fox.

  65. Alan Fox,

    In answer to your question on the Nisshin Maru: No, but you might find the following page helpful: http://www.marinetraffic.com/a.....=431683000

    This may also be of interest:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N.....egulations

    Re philosophy:
    I think Timaeus’ comments are apt. A fundamental question you need to ask yourself is: what do you consider to be “philosophy”? When Bertrand Russell wrote his Principia Mathematica, for example, was he doing philosophy, or logic, or both? And where did the impetus come from for him to write his work? Was it not written because he felt driven to resolve certain philosophical problems that were bothering him regarding the foundations of our mathematical knowledge?

  66. Robert Nosick! I did a bit of reading and I see he was a strong advocate of libertarianism and a ‘minimalist’ state. If he had influence, would it not be fair to suggest he contributed to the deregulation that led to the economic meltdown whose consequences we are still suffering from. On a lighter side I see he took his libertarianism so seriously he supported the individual in doing whatever they wanted with their body, be it suicide, drug-taking or prostitution. He also advocated returning US territory to those dispossessed native Americans.

    Not sure that is such a great legacy.

  67. Arendt and Nozick are two very-well-known philosophers of the mid- and late-20th centuries. The fact that you have not heard of them suggests to me that you don’t do all that much reading in the field of philosophy.

    I wonder if the fact they were American has something to do with it. I freely confess to not having read any serious philosophical treatise. My loss, I guess! But is the feeling I have of not having missed anything solely due to my ignorance or has it something to do with the apparent (to me, at least) lack of relevance of philosophy today.

  68. No, but you might find the following page helpful

    Yes, indeed. thanks, Vincent.

  69. When Bertrand Russell wrote his Principia Mathematica, for example, was he doing philosophy, or logic, or both?

    See how ignorant of philosophy I am! I rather thought he was doing mathematics!

  70. Jstanley01 asks, “Does Larry Moran suffer from illusory superiority?”

    Illusory superiority is a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate their positive qualities and abilities and to underestimate their negative qualities, relative to others. This is evident in a variety of areas including intelligence, performance on tasks or tests, and the possession of desirable characteristics or personality traits. It is one of many positive illusions relating to the self, and is a phenomenon studied in social psychology.

    Illusory superiority is often referred to as the above average effect. Other terms include superiority bias, leniency error, sense of relative superiority, the primus inter pares effect,[1] and the Lake Wobegon effect (named after Garrison Keillor’s fictional town where “all the children are above average”). The phrase “illusory superiority” was first used by Van Yperen and Buunk in 1991…

  71. 71
    Kantian Naturalist

    Arendt, I think, was quite influential — more so in Europe than in the States. She’s probably best-known for her phrase, “the banality of evil,” which she coined in her articles covering the Eichmann trial. Eichmann in Jerusalem is superb in every sense.

    I don’t know influential Nozick really is outside of academia. The libertarianism that’s gripped the Tea Party movement here in the States owes more to Ayn Rand than to Nozick, and in fact Nozick was severely critical of Rand, primarily because he thought that the libertarian state did not depend on ethical egoism.

    The fact is, America’s public culture is not kind to philosophers because it is not kind to intellectuals in general, and most intellectuals today do not seek a public audience. That in itself is a fairly recent development; in their day, William James and John Dewey were well-known, if not quite household, names. Richard Rorty was better-known in Europe and Asia than he was here, and so is Noam Chomsky today (not a philosopher, but a public intellectual of considerable stature).

  72. Alan Fox:

    I don’t know why you misspell “Nozick” twice (in two different wrong ways!) when you have the word right in front of you, but anyhow, the fact that you hadn’t heard of the guy, or Arendt, tells the story about how familiar you are with 20th-century philosophy.

    Arendt, by the way, was born in Germany and lived there for the first 35 years of her life. She had a famous love affair with Heidegger, another philosopher you might not have heard of.

    The problem with you, Alan, is that you judge the relevance of philosophy by the fact that you personally have no interest in philosophical questions. But that is like someone with no feeling for music saying that he can’t see the importance of Beethoven or Mozart for human life. If you aren’t interested in reading philosophers, that is one thing; but to admit that you aren’t interested in reading philosophers, and then to make public statements about their irrelevance is another. If you aren’t interested what philosophers have to say, then you’d do best simply not to talk about philosophy at all.

    One thing that one learns from the disciplined reading of philosophers is to reason well. That is an ability that I find all too often lacking in those trained in the natural sciences, especially the life sciences. I’ve spent much of my life in and around academics, and my experience is that if you take a philosophy grad, and say (randomly) a biochemistry grad, and ask them to debate about a subject which is in neither of their areas of specialty (say, Medieval history, or current Latin American politics, or economics, or cultural anthropology), 9 times out of 10 the philosopher’s discussion will be more lucid, more organized, more nuanced, and more relevant than the natural scientist’s. So if philosophy is useful for nothing else, it’s useful for the improvement of thinking, speaking, and writing to a level that is useful for citizenship.

  73. KN: I further picked up the thoughts in 52, here. KF

  74. 74

    Interesting points there, Kairosfocus.

    It’s funny that you mention Quine’s center-periphery model — “the web of belief”. I actually have very serious criticisms of Quine’s anti-foundationalism, because Quine’s entire account depends on not making any distinctions between scientific theories and ordinary language, and I worry that that’s a particularly insidious form of scientism.

    Will respond to your (52) soon.

  75. KN: My own thought is that the idea of an integrated web is a powerful analogical parable [though you will see I have roles for anchor lines and points . . . you should see what I do to those in curriculum and web designs]. But then, I am an extremely right brained person. I would suggest that specific debatable issues may be of less importance, as I also see in the case of the Cave, the grandaddy parable on epistemology. (BTW, when I gave this to Caribbean audiences, the idea of deliberate manipulation of conventional wisdom struck a very strong resonance.) KF

  76. But that is like someone with no feeling for music saying that he can’t see the importance of Beethoven or Mozart for human life.

    That seems a fair point. However, I am asking what positive results flowed from the thoughts of a particular philosopher being published in, say, living memory. Your analogy with a blind man and painting or a deaf one with music is not apt enough for me to stop looking for results from philosophy.

    I could accept philosophy for its own sake, like poetry for instance, but doesn’t philosophy make grander claims for itself?

  77. So if philosophy is useful for nothing else, it’s useful for the improvement of thinking, speaking, and writing to a level that is useful for citizenship.

    Well, I guess we can agree on that!

  78. Alan Fox:

    From your questions on the whereabouts of the Nisshin Maru, I’m guessing that you care deeply about whales and other animals. You should know, then, that it is philosophers who have led the way in changing public attitudes regarding animal welfare, in the last 40 years. (I’m sure you know which ones I’m talking about.) Would you consider that an example of a positive change brought about by philosophers, through their philosophy, in your lifetime?

  79. From your questions on the whereabouts of the Nisshin Maru, I’m guessing that you care deeply about whales and other animals.

    It’s a little more personal than that. I’m hoping that Nisshin Maru stays away from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary as my daughter is a crew member on he Sam Simon.

  80. Alan

    But is the feeling I have of not having missed anything solely due to my ignorance or has it something to do with the apparent (to me, at least) lack of relevance of philosophy today.

    You feelings are, in some respects, legitimate. When philosophy plays its proper role, it illuminates both the hard sciences and the social sciences. Still, philosophy, like any other enterprise can become corrupt. A culture can begin to produce more bad philosophers than good philosophers. That is exactly what has happened in higher education. I think that this is what you are sensing and experiencing.

    Good philosophers are still around, but you must know what to look for and where to look. What else can we expect from a society that once taught Greek and Latin to elementary school children and now provides remedial English for college students. There is a price to be paid for that kind of intellectual deterioration.

  81. Without philosophy, you will get guys who say and believe that the moon can exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense. Or is it without psychiatric medication?

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