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August 27, 2009


The first (and perhaps most important) step is to get ride of the "myth of the mental": http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~hdreyfus/pdf/Dreyfus%20APA%20Address%20%2010.22.05%20.pdf

Let me also say that explaining consciousness is not just a difficulty for the materialist, especially since no one can seem to determine exactly what "consciousness" is. If defining it is problematic, then surely explaining it will be even more so.

"especially since no one can seem to determine exactly what "consciousness" is."

Is roughly determining conscious, good enough?


Would there not be a progession of effects of something that is not defineable to something that is measurable (like tracks in a cloud chamber that are evidence of some sort of particle that cannot be directly seen)? Do we need go beyond explaining what can be measured?

Say, your wife goes to out for the evening.

Is it fair to say, "im not exactly sure where my wife is...... Ive tried calling her, no answer and she should have been back an hour ago. Well, maybe im fooling myself. Maybe I dont have a wife!"

Its my impression lately that the jump from not knowing exactly to not knowing at all is being made in an effort to understand the exact nature of a given subject.

I'm not saying that one must "know exactly" to "know" (though I do think that is a natural consequence of the typical notion of truth as JTB, which is one reason I think it is problematic), but I am saying that explaining consciousness is not just a 'problem' for the materialist. There are plenty of issues with the dualist, not the least of which is the interaction problem. Not really wanting to discuss it right now, but just bringing it up.

Oops...notion of knowledge as JTB. :o)

Fair enough

It was probably 5-6 years ago now, but for one of my psych courses in university, I *think* it was Cognitive Neuroscience but I'm not sure, we read John Horgan's book "The Undiscovered Mind: How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation" which addresses this issue from a secular perspective.

From a Christian perspective, philosopher J P Moreland has his book "Consciousness and the Existence of God: A Theistic Argument" though I have not read it. I remember reading something from Moreland elsewhere on the topic, but I can't remember where.

they certainly don't have an explanation for morality

What is supposed to be the problem explaining morality under naturalism? What?

We humans are social animals. That is a very important aspect of the niche we occupy in nature. Perhaps the most important.

Given that we are social, it is no surprise at all that we have developed morality.

Try to imagine a city or a town or a village or even a household full of psychopaths i.e. persons who behave anti-socially. It just couldn't be. It's a contradiction! What more explanation can you need?

As far as consciousness goes: The brain does parts of it. We agree on that, I think. If there is something besides the brain then I have 3 questions:

What is it?
What does it do?
How do you know?


It is wrong to assume that if scientists have not yet discovered underpinnings of some phenomenon then religious explanations are true. That is the implication given when gleefully reporting that scientists are stumped (so far). It is an anti-science mind-set which is anyone's right to hold, but still false.

If you have trouble reaching the paper Kevin Winters was linking to, try this:


It is the APA Pacific Division Presidential Address of 2005.

Overcoming the Myth of the Mental: How Philosophers Can Profit from the Phenomenology of Everyday Expertise

Hubert L. Dreyfus

Nando, you are so right.

Hi Ron

The problem with explaining Morality via naturalism (assuming naturalism is the same as materialism) is that morality turns out to not have any real objective grounding. Hence, ultimately, there is nothing wrong (or right) with any behavior.


Hi Todd,

First: Are you committing the fallacy called appeal to consequences? That is, are you saying:

Naturalism must be false since it implies something unacceptable.

Second: In a different sense from the one you mean, maybe there is 'real objective grounding' for morality under naturalism: we couldn't be the social animals we are without morality. That's objective. Furthermore, yes, under naturalism, there's no judgement day for individuals. But extinction is a real possiblity for homo sapians. Extinction is ultimate and morality can help us avoid it.


Hi Ron

I'm not appealing to consequences, I'm just stating the facts. If naturalism is true, then there really isn't anything right or wrong.

Your example of objective grounding doesn't work. It's not ultimately objective.

We may care if we go extinct, but its not good or bad without an objective standard.



Since you have an objective standard, define "good".

Hi Joe

I'm not claiming that I "have" the objective moral standard. I'm saying that without the existence of a standard, there is no "real" good.



No, the thrust of pointing out Dawkins and Pinkers' admitted inability to explain consciousness within their materialist framework is not to say, Ergo deus, therefore God. It simply addresses a problem with their worldview that they cannot at present resolve. That's all. It's not a defect with theism when atheism fails at some point...and it's not a fatal flaw, even if they cannot solve it. But a flaw it is nonetheless.


I always appreciate your pithy comments.

You might appreciate Greg's short article about the notion of morality as a product of social interdependence tending to promote survival:


In it he makes two key points. First, self-preservation is typically contrary to what we think of as moral behavior. And second, morality describes not just a way of behaving, but an incumbency that precedes the behavior. So morality is an internal compulsion to do things which are not in our immediate survival interest and which we might not even desire, but which obligate us to follow particular courses of action for the benefit of others. This is clearly incompatible with the evolutionary proposal of social morality deriving from a survival instinct.

"So morality is an internal compulsion to do things which are not in our immediate survival interest and which we might not even desire, but which obligate us to follow particular courses of action for the benefit of others."

Google "kin selection" and "reciprocal altruism".

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