There is an interesting conversation going on over at Eric Reitan’s blog under the post “Mind-Body Issues,” in the comment section. Instead of taking up Eric’s space in the limited comment section, I thought I would address Cheek and Burk in a post here.
Cheek, you wrote:
“My contention with your original invocation of postmodernism was that I could not see how it was on point in unraveling this issue. I recall the discussion of philosophical frameworks that you reference, and I was opposite Burk in that one. I just still don’t see how it directly informs the mind-body question.”
It informs every question. That was my point. As to this conversation, Burk specifically said that the mind-body question was now a “scientific” question and not a “philosophical” one. That is such a blatant biased and presumptive statement. When such statements are allowed to inform and color the entire conversation, we are already off track.
“Here’s what I mean: if Burk is wrong regarding philosophical frameworks, as I believe he is, (though I’ll qualify that by saying that he seems to be arguing that the correct philosophical framework, empiricism, is so obviously the correct one as to brook no argument, sorry if that is a misinterpretation of your position, Burk) then he does rely on a philosophical framework despite any disavowal. In that light, it seems to me, the pertinent question is whether that framework offers the best answer to the mind/body problem.”
That is indeed the question, but we can’t answer it unless we point out exactly what I was trying to point out regarding his statements. If we allow Burk to simply assume such and then argue his points, the conversation can go nowhere because to agree with his premise is to give the game away. So, we both agree he is wrong to frame the question as a “scientific” as opposed to a “philosophic” question and it now becomes a matter of why we should accept his framing of these issues given the postmodern critique of that very framework.
3. “This statement shows you make the same mistake Burk does. The truth is that both the secular fundamentalist and the religious fundamentalist both believe they have the “evidence” and “facts” to prove their positions and your statement that the religious person has no evidence “whatever” should rather be that the religious fundamentalist interprets the evidence differently.” (Darrell from the comments section on Eric’s blog)
“Perhaps my statement was a (very tiny) speck to strong, but it is still clear to me that while the secular fundamentalists are not justified epistemically in granting effective certainty to empiricism as a framework, they do have strong reasons to accept their particular framework. I agree that religious fundamentalists “believe they have the ‘evidence’. . . to prove their position.” However, that belief is interesting epistemically only because it is utterly baffling. There are simply no grounds in experience for accepting the detailed religious content of any one religion.”
Well, to say there are “no grounds” in experience for accepting the content of any religion is pretty bold given the overwhelming majority of people throughout history in all times and cultures who have asserted they do have grounds experientially and otherwise to believe in some sort of transcendence. Plus, since such a statement could itself be called a philosophical position, metaphysical, even religious, it could very well fall under the same critique (which would be the postmodern assertion). In other words, from what philosophical position are you able to assert that there are “no grounds”? Further, what those “grounds” might be would all have to be evaluated and reflected upon, but they do exist. What I am saying is that those “grounds” would all be interpretations of experience and the material world. The point is that the modern fundamentalist, whether secular or religious, all accept the modern understanding of how one is suppose to “ground” (ironically something called foundationalism) truth claims. And yet, they come to diametrically opposite conclusions. How? Because they interpret the same “evidence” and “facts” from different metaphysical presuppositions or “faiths.”
“Given the overwhelming success of the empirical approach, it is easy to understand why someone would overstate its capabilities…”
I’m not sure how this statement even applies. What do you mean “overwhelming” success and how does it exclude theistic approaches? Given the overwhelming number of scientists and theorists going back to Bacon and Newton who were Christians and also did empirical work, do you think that it has only been since the modern philosophical naturalists/empiricists appeared on the scene that science has become “successful”? No one is saying there should not be testing, research, and fundamental scientific “empirical” work in the area of mind-body, but all that work is being conducted from and through a philosophical world-view.
“Again, here I’m just trying to get at the fact that the acceptance of the value of empirical evidence in solving this problem leaves Burk’s claim in bounds. I don’t think it’s likely that existing philosophical frameworks will be sufficient to solving this problem even as we discover more on the empirical side, but I also don’t think it’s inconceivable that some future empirical discoveries in neuroscience will clear up the fundamental questions given only current philosophical understandings. It’s an open question is all I’m saying.”
I’m not saying his view is out of bounds. I’m saying he needs to admit it is a philosophical viewpoint and not simply just a “scientific” view as opposed to a “philosophical” view. You sort of mirror Burk’s presumption when you assert that existing philosophical frameworks might fall short as we discover more on the “empirical” side. You miss the point. There is no “empirical” side that is not always already being interpreted through a philosophical framework. It is not one or the other; it is both all the time.
Burk, you wrote:
“The deep role of philosophy here seems to be to support integrity of thought, which means principally, the ability to uncover and analyze one’s own presuppositions and those of others. This is the essence of the scholastic disputation, the scientific method, and of reasoned discussion in general. This would seem to be the point of parsing, interpretation, hermeneutics, etc- not preserving the presuppositions one has (by faith; as eloquently put by Cheek, an epistemic catastrophe), but plumbing them and evaluating whether they hold up to a definition of truth. A definition of truth which I take to be correspondence with reality, thus the empirical method I prize. If one takes the definition of truth to be the Bible, then one is an inerrantist, and if one takes the definition of truth to be god and revelation as selectively reconciled with reason and non-biblical evidence, then one is somewhere in between (which seems a somewhat unstable position, I’d suggest, though certainly more coherent than the inerrantist position).”
Here is great example of what I was talking about as far as secular fundamentalists and religious fundamentalists taking the same approach in how they try to “ground” truth. Although the writers would not label themselves “fundamentalists,” but rather, “evangelicals,” here is an example, and one here, of people who also argue for a “correspondence” theory of truth who would come down on quite opposite sides as you Burk. I think this demonstrates my point rather well. Further, my point is that to oppose faith to reason is simply a modern fallacy. To say one is an “epistemic” catastrophe is simply to assert such from another faith-based philosophical position (philosophical naturalism), but one that is hidden under the cover of just “objectively” noting the “facts” and “evidence.” That game is over.
Beyond that, the explanation given of the role of “deep” philosophy shows, Burk, that you still do not quite understand the postmodern critique. The very process you describe is always already being undertaken from some philosophical viewpoint. You are trying to get behind the process where we find, incredibly, gee-wiz, the bedrock strata of your own (correspondence) philosophical position! How convenient!
“My immediate question was more concrete, though- whether formal philosophy of today has anything to add to resolving the mind-body problem. Formal philosophy has the same tools it has had from time immemorial, which is to say, introspection and armchair cogitation.”
Here is just another perfect example of my initial critique. It is extremely difficult to have an intelligent conversation with anyone that has such a prejudicial and shallow view, especially when that person is making such statements from a philosophical viewpoint! Wow. Cheek, are you getting this?