[Topics: Consciousness, Evolutionary Biology, Panpsychism, Philosophy of Mind]
A Scientific Defense of Panpsychism:

Understanding Panpsychism through Evolutionary Biology and an Analogy to Electricity

 

Stones (Steve Parker) - scientific defense of panpsychism - evolution, biology, electricity

Photo by Steve Parker

Introduction:

Today’s topic is panpsychism, which is a theory in the philosophy of mind that deals with the nature of consciousness. In short, a person who holds to the truth of panpsychism is proposing, as a potential path toward solving the hard problem of consciousness, the notion that every piece of matter in existence possesses some modicum of consciousness. A conscious experience is something that happens at different scales and to different extents for certain collections of matter. The panpsychist would hold that an atom possesses a quantity of consciousness, as does a rock, a person, and a building.

If you’ve not read much into the philosophy of mind (and even if you have, depending on your intuitions), this might seem at first like a lot of nonsense. And furthermore, if you’ve been following along with this series—and so have a fair grasp of my naturalistic, phenomenological, pragmatic, and compromise-suffused personal philosophy—then you are probably going to be surprised by what I say next: I think panpsychism is a good theory. And, much like 19th-century philosopher William Kingdon Clifford, I think that anyone holding to the truth of evolutionary biology (as I clearly am) ought to think panpsychism is a good theory.

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[Topics: Consciousness, Evolutionary Biology, Panpsychism, Philosophy of Mind]
A Scientific Defense of Panpsychism:

Understanding Panpsychism through Evolutionary Biology and an Analogy to Electricity

was last modified: March 8th, 2019 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Evolutionary Biology, Logic, Logical Fallacy]
The Microevolution Fallacy:

How a Mistake in Formal Logic Provides Otherwise Scientific Minds a Basis for Denying Evolution

 

Introduction:

Alfred Russel Wallace - microevolution macroevolution - philosophy of evolution denial - I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist - Frank Turek and Norman GeislerToday’s article is fairly straightforward, as it deals with an exercise in philosophy’s bedrock: logic and argumentation. The actual content of what follows concerns the fields of biology and religious apologetics, but you don’t need any background in either in order to understand it. All that is required is an attention to the arguments themselves.

In particular, this article refutes a rebuttal that is present in religious apologetics in response to modern experimental evidence for evolution by natural selection[1]. But I’ll be focusing on the philosophical and logical angle, and leaving most of the relevant scientific responses in the footnotes.

In light of such evidence, one prominent response from those who seek to deny evolution as an account for speciation of all extant life (including humans) is to grant that such evolution occurs without granting that it occurs on a large scale; such an individual would contend that what has been proven is not evolution per se, but merely microevolution. But taking this path means committing a simple logical error by failing to follow a line of thinking to its conclusion.

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[Topics: Evolutionary Biology, Logic, Logical Fallacy]
The Microevolution Fallacy:

How a Mistake in Formal Logic Provides Otherwise Scientific Minds a Basis for Denying Evolution

was last modified: March 6th, 2019 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Genetics, Literary Theory, Philosophy of Language]
The Discourse of the Scientific Humans:

Exploring an Analogy Between Genetics and Language via Jacques Derrida’s Deconstruction

 

Jacques Derrida - genetics - deconstruction - critical theory - literary theory

Introduction:

Perhaps only with the recent theoretical developments in such fields as ecocriticism, the digital humanities, posthumanism, and elsewhere has literary theory attained the content or the form of scientific autonomy as desired by the Russian Formalists. This is not a particularly surprising development, however, as the European theoretical schools which followed the period of Russian Formalism, as well as Russian Formalism itself, drew heavily from the highly technical social sciences of linguistics and, later, anthropology.

Yet even the New Criticism, with its avowed (partially cultural) distaste for the distinctly denotative and ‘un-poetic’ nature of scientific discourse, clearly borrowed in its scrutiny—and in its testing of theoretical modes—from post-Enlightenment scientific methodologies. In fact, one may contend that scientific endeavors and theoretical philosophies share far more than either discipline readily admits, not only in methodologies but in the implications and applications of theoretical knowledge (where ‘theoretical’ here refers to the sense of the term in both the sciences and the humanities).

Taking up just one salient, demonstrative analogy, there is a curious parallel between the implications of much of the scientific understanding of genetics and those of the theoretical underpinnings of deconstruction as formulated by Jacques Derrida. Indeed, one may find that, using either Derridean deconstructive theory or genetics[1] as a starting point, one is led down the familiar roads toward poststructural theory and cultural criticism (broadly construed).

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[Topics: Genetics, Literary Theory, Philosophy of Language]
The Discourse of the Scientific Humans:

Exploring an Analogy Between Genetics and Language via Jacques Derrida’s Deconstruction

was last modified: February 28th, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells, 1896]
Coping with Scientific Understanding:

Discoveries that can Forever Alter Worldviews in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau

 

H.G. Wells Sketch by M.R.P. - The Island of Dr. Moreau - evolution, humanity, animals, discovery

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

Introduction:

Unlike the other most prominent early writer of science fiction, Jules Verne, who focused his fiction primarily on courageous adventure, scientific discovery, and multifaceted characters like Captain Nemo, H.G. Wells’ fiction often focused on dark themes, political allegory, and social commentary. For this reason, the most widely read of Wells’ fiction among modern audiences are those which allegorize situations or possibilities that seem most relevant today, such as The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Invisible Man.

But my favorite work by the man, and one of my favorite books overall, is one which is more often regarded for its potential in the horror genre than for its literary content: The Island of Dr. Moreau. A number of films have presented The Island of Dr. Moreau as horror or action, and it even had a segment in the The Simpsons‘ thirteenth “Treehouse of Horrors” episode. The film adaptations (all quite loose) are almost universally regarded as terrible, or else are enjoyable primarily for their B-movie charm and missteps. But the book is a truly remarkable one, and tugs at anxieties that many of us will understand far too well.

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[Work: The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells, 1896]
Coping with Scientific Understanding:

Discoveries that can Forever Alter Worldviews in H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau

was last modified: December 23rd, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Evolutionary Biology, Moral Obligation, Morality]
The Macroevolution of Morals:

On Fundamental Morals from Societal Evolution, and Morality as Both Objective and Not Objective

 

Introduction:

Charles Darwin Sketch by M.R.P. - MRI Scans of Brain - morality - evolution - James Rachels - C.S. Lewis

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.
[High-res prints available here]

There is a lot of fascinating scholarship going on in science and philosophy concerning how human morality relates to evolution. Scientists report altruistic behavior in animal communities, and high correlations between specific parts of the brain and moral action; philosophers explore the moral implications of human evolutionmorality - evolution - James Rachels - C.S. Lewis; and both groups do much, much more. Still, the debate is ongoing about whether morality is an objective, universal, literally existing thing or a set of parameters which do not exist in any relevant sense of the word. Much like the compatibilists who illustrate how free will and determinism are not necessarily mutually exclusive, I would like to explore how morality could be both objective and not objective.

The purpose of really good philosophy, and really good philosophical education, is to encourage logical, careful, clear thinking. So, in the interest of at least attempting to do philosophy well, I will try to trace an intuitive explanation of these ideas. Such an explanation, while less scholarly, seems more likely to fuel thought and discussion (much like this instructor teaching Plato with sandwiches) than exhaustive argumentation for the position.

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[Topics: Evolutionary Biology, Moral Obligation, Morality]
The Macroevolution of Morals:

On Fundamental Morals from Societal Evolution, and Morality as Both Objective and Not Objective

was last modified: May 12th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski