Readers will be aware that the world of philosophers has been scandalized by Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos, that the legions of materialists have been affronted by one of their school calmly asserting he sees no reason to think that Darwinian explanations for consciousness are in the least persuasive.
It gets better. Edward Feser, who is a young, handsome professor of philosophy at the Pasadena City College in California, has thrown down the gauntlet to the Dawkins, Dennett,Hitchens, Harris crowd of reductive materialists, who maintain, roughly speaking, that there is no God, there is no soul, you are only matter and its motions, and if you have awareness, that is merely your neural network jiggling.
As I have long maintained, the problem with the materialist position is that they cannot explain awareness, attention, or whatever it is the characterizes mental life. This was the gist of Nagel’s dissent from reductve materialism in Mind and Cosmos, and for which crime the apes in the university zoo hurl shit at him.
Feser is a Roman Catholic, which means he supports the older interpretation of reality we received from Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas to the effect that the mind can truly thoughpartly grasp reality, that it is not a brain in a vat like the people in the Matrix, that we can truly have objective knowledge, even if incomplete, and that knowledge is not all just sense impression filtered through our emotional inclinations.
The essence of Feser’s rejection of the modern school (modern since the time of René Descartes) is that these are matters of reason, not faith.
I cite from his book, The Last Superstition:
(at page 5)
“The suggestion that human reason can be accounted for in purely materialistic terms has, historically speaking, been regarded by most philosophers as a logical absurdity, a demonstrable falsehood. Within the western classical philosophiocal tradition, belief in the existence of God and the falsity of materialism has generally been thought to rest firmly and squarely on reason, not “faith”.”
His ambitions in his book The Last Superstition are large. He maintains that the ‘war between science and religion’ is really a war between two philosophical worldviews, and not at bottom a scientific or theological dispute at all. (p.12)
The conflict, then, is not over any actual results or discoveries of science, but rather over more fundamental philosophical questions of what sorts of results or discoveries will be allowed to count as “scientific” in the first place.
I look forward to reading more,and will keep you advised on developments. In the meantime, Feser’s blog discusses the Thomas Nagel controversy in entertaining detail.
I have not seen so entertaining a book of philosophical importance since Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae: large, loud, deeply learned, and an absolutely fearless assault on various contemporary idols.