Sensual Head-Scratching Continues.

Bryant finally raises some interesting questions concerning Harman’s theory of causation. Harman responds and I think this is where we are going to see if there’s any genuine engagement or it’s all just for show, because Harman does not really address Bryant’s question – I mean he goes on and on about the usual stuff, but in the end, it seems this is what happens:

Summary: Harman’s thesis, as I understand it, is that two objects can only be brought into a causal relation through the mediation of a third object. Where traditional occasionalist thought has God or mind (Hume’s empiricism, Kant’s transcendental idealism) as the third object that links other objects in causal relations (for example the role God plays in linking body and mind), Harman argues that there is no logical reason to restrict this to God, but instead argues that any object can serve this role of the “third”.

Objection: “Now here’s where I have a lot of difficulty following Harman’s idea. In traditional occasionalism where God serves the role of this third, I presume God has the power to link the completely unrelated because God is a whizbang, superpowerful, grand poobah powerhouse that can surmount any distance or separation. In other words, the appeal to God in this tradition is a sort of appeal to magic. In the secularized versions of occasionalism in Hume and Kant, mind is capable of acting as the third relating to the separate because mind is not relating objects but something strictly immanent to mind, namely sensations.” Continue reading

Metaphysical Novel.

I dug out an old but good book by Gottfried Martin, Kant’s Metaphysics and Theory of Science, and decided to read it again in the light of all the present discussions of Kant and his ontology. I think it’s a shame that this book is so hard to find, it came out in 1955 and I think it certainly deserves a good paperback reissue. Martin opens with a discussion of Leibniz and especially the idea of God: Continue reading

On A Newly Raised Speculative Tone In Philosophy.

Since putting the word “speculative” everywhere is the recent fashion, and if you’re not yet on the wagon, hop on because it’s getting crowded here. Nick of Accursed Share wrote a dense summary-reflection on the state of affairs in the newly minted “speculative realism” and, as always, I have enjoyed reading it very much. Partly because it strikes me as peculiar that we are discussing philosophy as if there was never any Kantian issues (or almost), not really overcoming Kant, but simply going back to the pre-critical phrase, which is, of course, totally fine with me as I don’t see why folks should follow any specific rules in their philosophizing but the basic rules of reasonable discourse, partly because I have been recently rereading some discussions form the 17th and early 18th century and I have to say that the tone is very similar. Take, for example, already mentioned Leibniz-Clarke correspondence: both proponents are able to discuss their positions on a number of important issues without having to propose any new philosophical principles (Leibniz, of course, pushes for his “principle of sufficient reason,” but Clarke is willing to accept it without much fighting). They simply make propositions and proceed to evaluate each other’s opinions and positions based on a sort of common philosophical courtesy of being rational.

Nick writes in the above-mentioned post: Continue reading

Philosophers on God.

A great and entertaining overview of the past and present discussions of the existence of God in Boston Review – a holidays special post: 

God has had a lot of bad press recently. The four horsemen of atheism, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, have all published books sharply critical of belief in God: respectively, The God DelusionBreaking the SpellThe End of Faith, and God Is Not Great. Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens pile on the greatest amount of scorn, while Dennett takes the role of good cop. But despite differences of tone and detail, they all agree that belief in God is a kind of superstition. As Harris puts it, religion “is the denial—at once full of hope and full of fear—of the vastitude of human ignorance.”