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Ben Carson on Education


Denyse O’Leary has a piece that may interest UD readers at TheBestSchools.org:

Readers may remember Ben Carson, the gifted neurosurgeon who failed Political Correctness 101 at Emory University and then gently but pointedly attacked PC in his commencement address.

Carson’s sin was to point out that Darwin’s theory of evolution offers no firm basis for making moral judgments apart from the claim that morality helps us spread our selfish genes.

Top Darwinian philosopher Michael Ruse agrees with him about that. But Ruse supports Darwinism, so he experiences no backlash. And Carson, who has saved countless lives, literally found himself in the “never again” category as a commencement speaker because he opposes it. . . .

Recently, columnist Star Parker, president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, reported on Carson’s views on education, in the light of huge expenses resulting in poor performance.”

* * *

Parker’s interview with Carson on the subject of public education in America makes for a very interesting and enlightening discussion.

Carson’s main point? Improving our public education system is not a matter of throwing more money at it. Education in this country will never improve until a change occurs in the hearts and minds of all concerned—teachers, children, and, perhaps most importantly, parents.

In order to learn successfully, children must perceive school as something worthwhile. They have to want to learn.

The rest of O’Leary’s story is here. A high point is Carson’s interview with Star Parker:


KN: Been busy, so just passing back. I hear you, though I would suggest that in phil contexts, there are some comparative difficulties issues across fundamentals t5hat would be helpful. You (or at least onlookers) may find my remarks here and here helpful on the points that are at stake and will be increasingly pivotal -- for good or ill -- for the future of our civilisation. KF kairosfocus
Kairosfocus, I've been looking at your various blog-posts, and I very much doubt that you and I can arrive at any middle ground. Our fundamental assumptions -- metaphysical, ethical, and political -- are simply too far apart. That said, I also feel that I have benefited from engaging with you, and I hope you don't feel that I've been wasting your time. Kantian Naturalist
F/N: Link on delegitimisation in courts. kairosfocus
PPPS: Let me put it this way, I am trying hard to find a way that our civilisation can find a way to realise how far wrong it has gone, and turn back from the path to ruin we are plainly on. And that, in a context where I see definite signs that the oh so clever ideologues and ruthless nihilists out there wish to CRIMINALISE my standing on conscience and convictions; if they can get away with it. kairosfocus
PPS: Please, remember, that the blood of those enslaved through the Atlantic slave trade flows in my veins, and I bear the name of a man hanged for standing up for the oppressed. Do you seriously imagine that I would seek alleged common ground that induces me to keep silence on a HOLOCAUST? kairosfocus
PS: On abortion, this is not a political issue, so please don't try the we disagree on a political matter with me on it. It is an issue of the utterly corrupting influence of mass blood-guilt in our civilisation, similar to how blood-guilt has utterly corrupted my native land, blood-guilt deeply tied to ideological power games and ruthless power tactics that trace to nihilistic factions. So, I note with shock, horror and outrage, that the number of the abortion holocaust for the USA is 53 million or so, and growing, in a context where one of the big counterpoints used against a candidate is that -- horror -- he might try to stop the slaughter (there being an imagined 'right' to destroy the umborn child in the womb . . . might makes 'right,' on steroids . . . ). The number for the world as a whole that I have seen is so staggering that I will not state it. We have evidently destroyed half a generation in the womb, and their blood cries up from the ground against us as did the blood of Abel. We must wake up to what we have done, and seek a place of repentance and forgiveness, then we must turn away from such and must take what steps are needed to make sure this never happens again. Do you seriously believe that in the face of such a holocaust, I should remain SILENT? For shame! kairosfocus
KN: Pardon reiteration, but the evidence is, Dewey was by far and away the most prominent signatory of the Humanist Manifesto I, i.e. it is his signature that gave it any weight. Next, it expresses his socialism. Multiply this by the very direct alignment of the document with his theme and agenda of a sort of naturalistic "religion" that would allegedly anchor values and virtues in the school and community without reference to a ground of ought that rises above blind chance and necessity acting on matter and energy in an allegedly causally self-explanatory physical cosmos. Whether he directly penned a good part of it -- and there are many who suggest that -- or simply quietly set the context and/or hinted at what he wanted as the basis for his high-value signature to the document, this document is "the glove that fits." And so I am entirely in my rights to take by far the most eminent signatory at the weight of affixing his hand to the document and at the weight of that alignment, so to characterise him as an architect. Architects are generally not builders, they are designers. Then, in assessing what he willingly signed in his own hand, I find some very troubling themes and a frame of thought that is patently self-referentially absurd, however dressed up in nice-sounding phrases and appeals to the wonders of science and the human potential to be oh so wonderfully good. That is what I have already laid out as linked. I note in particular WRT the exchange we have had, that resort to raft or spaceship metaphors does not evade in the end the basic challenge of objective grounding, including on the IS-OUGHT issue. If you dispute my point, don't name drop, simply make your case in a nutshell. It is not an appeal to modesty in the face of august authority that counts, it is the substance on facts, reasoning and assumptions, joined to evident intent etc. If you think that today's naturalism can ground the credibility of the knowing, reasoning mind, say why in a nutshell. If you think it can bridge the is-ought gap, do likewise. My point is essentially simple. Due to a basic foundational
-- and yes, grounding is in my view the decisive move here (hence my emphasis above and pointing out that the usual attempted workarounds and dismissals fail, typically by starting a step or two before the ACTUAL foundational start-point . . . the raft that sits on and is supported by the underlying ocean and the laws/dynamics of floatation being a classic example) --
. . . breakdown, no matter how sophisticated the systems of naturalistic thought, they founder on that underlying evolutionary materialism that is alleged to be the cause of what we see from hydrogen to humans, and this is multiplied by the censorship that imposes such by the back door on the very definitions of science and its methods that are now being put forth on a pretence that such an approach is centuries old and highly successful. And, when I turn to the on the ground situation (which is what my chief concerns are), I do not find any genuine grounding of OUGHT, or of the credibility of the human mind, on such premises, what I find is a tilting of the tables that makes such seem to be the case, but only begs the question. Let me give a clipping that outlines some of my concerns on morals, which are central to the theme of this thread, per the price Dr Ben Carson paid for daring to speak his concerns -- only to meet with well poisoning attempts (never frankly admitted and apologised for) and with a ban on any future engagements -- CENSORSHIP. So, Will Hawthorne, from Atheism is Dead:
Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can't infer an 'ought' from an 'is' [[the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces]. (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.) Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an 'ought'. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there's no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action. Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it's not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it's permissible to perform that action. If you'd like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan 'if atheism is true, all things are permitted'. For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don't like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time. Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit. Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can't infer 'ought' from [[a material] 'is'. [[Emphases and paragraphing added.]
Finally, it is not that Darwinism is a scapegoat for ills of capitalism, as that Darwinism at its outset embedded social darwinism with Darwin the first social darwinist as his remarks in Chs 5 - 7 of Descent of Man and other things testify, also. In that context, I find from Darwin's own 1880 letter that his theorising on origins was in significant part motivated by an intention to carry forward a "freethought" -- a contradiction in terms if ever there was one, for men so conformist to their own creedal orthodoxy -- and to undermine decisively the Judaeo-Christian, theistic frame of thought that is foundational to our civilisation as we know it. He who would saw off the branch on which we all must sit, has responsibility for consequences, even if he would disagree with what would follow. And, 100 million ghosts agree with me on this one. KF kairosfocus
Yes, Dewey signed it, so it's not out of bounds for consideration. And there's much in the Humanist Manifesto that I myself agree with, in spirit at any rate if not in letter. But if we were to discuss what Dewey himself thought, I'd prefer to do so in light of more substantial evidence than a manifesto that Dewey signed, along with a lot of other people. I know nothing of what role Dewey had in the writing of the Humanist Manifesto. If I believed he had a prominent role in writing it, I'd be more inclined to take it as a significant expression of his views. Some remarks about Plato's attitude towards materialism in Laws and Timaeus. It's hard to know who exactly his targets are, since he rarely makes them explicit. Of the Presocratic materialists whose work is known to us, of course Leucippus and Democritus stand out, but they are not mentioned anywhere by Plato. He does, in other dialogues, mention Anaxagoras and Empedocles. Perhaps there were others that Plato had in mind whose work has been lost. In light of that: (1) contemporary metaphysical naturalism, as represented by philosophers like Dewey and Sellars, perhaps also Nietzsche, is much more sophisticated than Anaxagoras or Empedocles -- precisely because they understand the stakes of the game as Plato has raised them! -- so it simply cannot work to appeal to Plato's critique of pre-Platonic naturalism in order to paint post-Platonic naturalism with the same broad brush. One would have to conduct the inquiry. (2) A central point of my contention above is that Darwinism is treated as a scapegoat for social ills produced by capitalism, such as the breakdown of shared social norms. I worry that Plato is giving a similar treatment to the materialists of his day and time -- treating them as scapegoats for social ills that have a very different etiology, such as the breakdown of shared social norms due to the rapid rise (then fall) of the Athenian empire, the violence of the Peloponessian War, the constant warring between aristocratic and democratic factions in Athenian society after the war as Athens struggles to accept its defeat, and so on. Also, with regards to your reference to abortion above, I think we'll have better success in identifying common ground, and thereby at least figuring out where we agree to disagree, if we avoid overtly politicized issues. Maybe I provoked you with my socialism, and if so, I do sincerely apologize. I did choose to start up the conversation, but I didn't mean to antagonize you, and I apologize if I did so. Kantian Naturalist
KN: It is clear that Dewey signed it, and so acknowledged it as an agenda and framework for the future. It is therefore quite in order to raise it as a context in which we understand and address what he thought and where he was heading. KF kairosfocus
Whereas I would have signed the Humanist Manifesto that Dewey signed, and the successor-versions -- though I would rather avoid signing any "manifestos". Kantian Naturalist
KN: If you look at the humanist manifesto, of which Dewey was a main architect and signer, you will see plenty of reason to hold him to account on the same issues as hold for others adhering to a naturalistic, evolutionary materialist metaphysics; which is sufficient to see that this comes out of his own mouth as not only a set of worldview level beliefs but an ideological programme of action. That is why I take that as a point of departure, for in that manifesto, he committed himself to a global programme. The self-referential incoherence of that programme -- long since highlighted by Plato [who also in the same context emphasised the failings of educators who indoctrinated youth in evolutionary materialism and associated subjectivism, relativism and nihilism] -- is there to be answered for. Dewey seems to have been a main architect and was a signer. Let's just say: you could never have got me to sign to such a declaration, as I could not assent to it, for very good reasons. BUT DEWEY DID. So, I have every right to take it as a summary of core views and agendas. And as to the bland declaration:
He showed that Darwinism is no threat at all to human values, purposes, dignity, and meaning.
This is patently false, for reasons brought out across today, e.g. cf here at 12 above. Sorry, I am not buying this claim, given the main relevant meaning of darwinism, evolutionary materialism working by blind chance and mechanical necessity from pond scum to us. The materialist a prioris are also quite plain. Finally, the notion and suggestion -- too often blatant in the demonisations of those who object to what is going on now -- that progressivist socialists and the like have a monopoly on compassion and have a programme that is actually capable of delivering on their promises, is ill-founded smugness. Yes, it is nice that Mr Dewey and others felt they needed to help the poor or marginalised. That is not by any means a motivating sense that such hpold a monopoly on. And, on the track record of agendas on the ground for decades now, such have some pretty serious things to answer for. And I don't need to go down the line of Stalin starving the Ukrainian peasants to death by confiscating their produce to make the point. Lets just say that the notions of relativisation of morality and consequences such as 53 million dead unborn children in the US due to abortion since 1973 is an unspeakably immense indictment. That innocent blood cries out from the ground. There is more, but let this first point speak. KF kairosfocus
The Ultimate Turtle Mung
Well, now I'm just tickled by the idea of God as the ultimate turtle! Kantian Naturalist
PS: And once you are looking at an arbitrary point of injection, you are dealing in the end with reducing ought to manipulation and/or raw power in a social context. That is why I despise the usual who do you throw off the raft exercise, for its evil manipulation. What has been going on is distraction from the need for grounding of a worldview, through dismissive arguments, the raft metaphor being a capital example. And if you wish to shift metaphor to say a spaceship, I will point to the underlying laws/forces, materials and parameters of physics and so forth that make it possible to build a spaceship or maintain it one bit at a time. Something comes first for something else to come second or be subject to warrant. A needs B needs C . . . so, is it turtles all the way down, or in a circle, or an ultimate turtle. kairosfocus
I'm not sure it's really fair to condemn Dewey with quotes from Haldane or Dawkins or whomever. If he is to be condemned, let it be out of his own mouth, eh? A Common Faith is short enough to be read in a day, or less. What do I admire about Dewey? Here a few things that come to mind: (1) He rejected the idea that philosophy is about "timeless truths". He thought that the job of philosophers is to apply intelligence to real problems, and those problems with change over time. The social problems of 4th-century Athens or 18th-century France aren't those of 20th-century America. (2) He thought that philosophy needs to take science seriously, and can't be a purely a priori enterprise. His essay, "The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy" is one of the best things he wrote. (3) He showed that Darwinism is no threat at all to human values, purposes, dignity, and meaning. (4) He was a progressive and a liberal (i.e. non-Marxist) socialist who cared about human welfare and making the world a better place. That's not a bad list. Kantian Naturalist
KN: Pardon me but you are playing with metaphors. To reconstruct and to WARRANT, one faces the need for logical tools and support for that metaphorical raft. The first principles of right reason as undeniable on pain of absurdity, are a big part of that. In short, reasons must stand on reasonING,thence the first principles of right reason, which start from stability of identity and distinction of the distinct. Beyond that, I suggest as noted above, that Dewey has much to answer for in light of the points in the humanist manifesto that he was a main architect of. Beyond Dewey, the practivce of education and general thinking has indeed embedded exactly that sort of radical relativisation as was highlighted and warned against by Plato. Then, you can assert that you have a naturalistic, presumably evolutionary materialist metaphysics that grounds OUGHT, but the problem is to show it, as opposed to taking it as a brute given without explanation or grounds [and where do such brute givens come from, apart from the subjectivist "my truth" or "our truth" . . ..), or reducing it to the circle of relativism. Remember, the Hume guillotine issue is there: unless the OUGHT is in the root and suffuses up from there, it cannot sustainably be injected later. KF kairosfocus
I think it's a misinterpretation of Dewey to say that his moral theory reduces to "might makes right," but I won't press the point. In any event, I don't share Dewey's views entirely; for one thing, I tend towards the insights of C.I. Lewis and Sellars in "the pragmatic a priori", whereas Dewey tends to dismiss the a priori. As for the famous "raft" metaphor, here's how Otto Neurath, who coined the metaphor, put it:
We are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh from the bottom. Where a beam is taken away a new one must at once be put there, and for this the rest of the ship is used as support. In this way, by using the old beams and driftwood the ship can be shaped entirely anew, but only by gradual reconstruction.
A few remarks: (1) I'm willing to sign off on a coherence theory of justification but not on a coherence theory of truth. I accept a correspondence theory of truth (as did Sellars, for that matter, and other pragmatists). (2) The phrase "coherence theory of justification" is OK by me but I prefer Sellars' other phrase, "the space of reasons," to begin getting clear about justification. There are several major ways in which I'm a pragmatist, and here's one of them: justification is a social practice. (Notice: not truth.) (3) If justification takes place within the space of reasons, then the space of reasons has no "foundation", in the sense that there is nothing exterior to the space of reasons which justifies the space as a whole. The point was raised above that the water is a foundation for the boat. In response, I think it better to think of the water as corresponding to all the various naturalistic facts which make it possible for us to engage in rational discourse -- facts about human natural history, about human brains and bodies, etc. So what is the role of those facts, in the Neurathian metaphor? On my view, a naturalist can appeal to those facts to explain how it came about that there are rational animals, and how rational animals evolved from non-rational animals ("the brutes," as one used to say). But -- and here's the key -- explanation is not justification. To survey the same terrain from a different perspective: I think that "Hume's guillotine" is not an insurmountable problem to naturalizing normativity. What Hume meant is that there is no way of inferring prescriptive claims from descriptive claims. Now that -- or something very much like it -- strikes me as simply correct. To accept that is to embrace what I call "the irreducibility of the normative", which is to say, I don't think there's any hope of translating a normative vocabulary (say, the vocabulary of logic or ethics) into a descriptive vocabulary (say, that of science or metaphysics). And to go a bit further -- here's where my Kantianism kicks in with a vengeance! -- I think that the prescriptive vocabularies have a transcendental priority over descriptive vocabularies, by which I mean that it is impossible for anyone to master any vocabulary of is-claims without having mastered the vocabulary of ought-claims. For mastery of the vocabulary of ought-claims is the very essence of human thought. On this essential point, Kant was completely right and Hume was just wrong. (I have a whole separate set of complaints against Kant, but essentially, I think that Kant's critique of Cartesian and Humean skepticism is separable from his commitment to transcendental idealism.) Now, one might disagree with the irreducibility of the normative, and anyway, we can talk about it. My point is that a naturalist can happily accommodate normativity, and even the sui generis character of normativity. John McDowell calls this view "naturalized platonism," which might strike one as a complete oxymoron, but he does a nice job of cashing this out. In any event, this has been somewhat helpful so far: I'm not a relativist, or a subjectivist, or an "amoralist", but I am a naturalist. I do think that I can have my cake and eat it, too, by making the right distinctions at the right places. So we'll see. Kantian Naturalist
F/N: Let me cite and comment from the postulates of the first humanist manifesto, of which Dewey was clearly a chief architect: __________ >> (1) Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created. a --> This is naturalism, disguised under terms that evoke sentiments of a different order, and so a priori reduces the cosmos to matter and energy in some form, interacting through forces that reduce to chance and necessity. b --> Thus Plato's warning still applies, as has become evident over the past eighty years as these notions have come to dominate in shaping leadership, opinions and policy in our civilisation. c --> More than that, the reductionism is inescapably self-referentially incoherent, by one or more of several paths, fatally undermining the credibility of mind. A summary of why I say that is here on. A simple way to see part of this, is this clip from Haldane:
"It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms." [["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]
d --> After this, all else actually falls apart in self-refutation, but let us follow up, noting the great atheistical a priori that denies the good Creator God, and the incoherence of mind that stems from it. We have already highlighted how much the same views open the door to moral chaos, nihilism and imposition by the powerful. Might and manipulation make 'right.' (2) Humanism believes that man is a part of nature and that he has emerged as the result of a continuous process. e --> This simply underscores the evolutionary materialism, and (per the already linked) leads to the following in-summary chain of reductio ad absurdum:
on its own premises [[and following Dawkins in A Devil's Chaplain, 2004, p. 46], the cause of the belief system of evolutionary materialism, "must" also be reducible to forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are sufficiently adaptive to spread this "meme" in populations of jumped- up apes from the savannahs of East Africa scrambling for survival in a Malthusian world of struggle for existence. Reppert brings the underlying point sharply home, in commenting on the "internalised mouth-noise signals riding on the physical cause-effect chain in a cybernetic loop" view . . . . Therefore, though materialists will often try to pointedly ignore or angrily brush aside the issue, we may freely argue: if such evolutionary materialism is true, then (i) our consciousness, (ii) the "thoughts" we have, (iii) the conceptualised beliefs we hold, (iv) the reasonings we attempt based on such and (v) the "conclusions" and "choices" (a.k.a. "decisions") we reach -- without residue -- must be produced and controlled by blind forces of chance happenstance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to "mere" ill-defined abstractions such as: purpose or truth, or even logical validity . . . . The conclusions of such "arguments" may still happen to be true, by astonishingly lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” or "warranted" them. It seems that rationality itself has thus been undermined fatally on evolutionary materialistic premises. Including that of Crick et al. Through, self-reference leading to incoherence and utter inability to provide a cogent explanation of our commonplace, first-person experience of reasoning and rational warrant for beliefs, conclusions and chosen paths of action. Reduction to absurdity and explanatory failure in short . . . . And, if materialists then object: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must immediately note that -- as the fate of Newtonian Dynamics between 1880 and 1930 shows -- empirical support is not equivalent to establishing the truth of a scientific theory. For, at any time, one newly discovered countering fact can in principle overturn the hitherto most reliable of theories. (And as well, we must not lose sight of this: in science, one is relying on the legitimacy of the reasoning process to make the case that scientific evidence provides reasonable albeit provisional warrant for one's beliefs etc. Scientific reasoning is not independent of reasoning.) . . . . Worse, in the case of origins science theories, we simply were not there to directly observe the facts of the remote past, so origins sciences are even more strongly controlled by assumptions and inferences than are operational scientific theories. So, we contrast the way that direct observations of falling apples and orbiting planets allow us to test our theories of gravity . . . . Moreover, as Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin reminds us all in his infamous January 29, 1997 New York Review of Books article, "Billions and billions of demons," it is now notorious that:
". . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel [[materialistic scientists] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door." [Do, hold off the usual, ill-founded cries of quote mining until you read here.]
(3) Holding an organic view of life, humanists find that the traditional dualism of mind and body must be rejected. f --> This simply underscores the reductio consequent on reducing mind to the blind product of a blind material process. (4) Humanism asserts that the nature of the universe depicted by modern science makes unacceptable any supernatural or cosmic guarantees of human values. g --> Indeed, as this was built-in from the beginning. The a priori materialism enforced via dubious censorship on methods runs in circles until it hits the reductio. (5) Religious humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man's life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now. h --> Empty but nice sounding phrases, given what has already been seen. (6) In the place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer, the humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in the heightened sense of personal life and in a co-operative effort to promote social well-being. h --> more empty words, repackaging a priori evolutionary materialism as "religious humanism." Sales talk, not substance. (7) The humanists are firmly convinced that existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate.... A socialized and co-operative economic order must be established. i --> Up to the current rise of Alinskyist neo-marxism to power in the USA, I would have said this idealisation of socialism was killed off after the Soviet Union collapsed. Now, we are going to have to learn the same lesson again, at bitter cost. And given what is going on with the Islamist winter across the middle east, there will be rivers of blood involved. Why do we refuse to learn from history? (For me, Mr Michael Manley was more than enough of a lesson, to the bitter cost of my homeland.) j --> But notice, too, the founder of progressive education embedded his socialist ideology into the foundations of his thought and manifesto. So, what is happening, in the end is no great surprise. (8) Though we consider the religious forms and ideas of our fathers on longer adequate, the quest for the good life is still the central task for mankind. Man is at last becoming aware that he alone is responsible for the realization of the world of his dreams, that he has within himself the power of its achievement. k --> More empty sales talk. As we will learn the hard way, as we have refused to learn from history, whether the C20 or ancient Athens. >> __________ So, KN, could you enlighten us as to why this is the man who you have in effect listed as founding father for your views? KF kairosfocus
KN: I remember, years ago, first learning of Dewey's substitute for morality, essentially the same might and manipulation makes right. I was not impressed then, and I am not impressed now. My remark then was that this reduces morality to politics, and that is exactly Plato's point: might makes right. As for dismissals of "foundationalism," that is actually off the mark. To begin explaining why I say that, let me highlight a bit of your clip from Sellars:
There is clearly some point to the picture of human knowledge as resting on a level of propositions — observation reports — which do not rest on other propositions in the same way as other propositions rest on them. On the other hand, I do wish to insist that the metaphor of “foundation” is misleading in that it keeps us from seeing that if there is a logical dimension in which other empirical propositions rest on observation reports, there is another logical dimension in which the latter rest on the former . . . . the picture is misleading because of its static character. One seems forced to choose between the picture of an elephant which rests on a tortoise (What supports the tortoise?) and the picture of a great Hegelian serpent of knowledge with its tail in its mouth (Where does it begin?). Neither will do. For empirical knowledge, like its sophisticated extension, science, is rational, not because it has a foundation but because it is a self-correcting enterprise which can put any claim in jeopardy, though not all at once.
As for what is tantamount to the metaphor of the floating raft that we can stand on one part as we fix another, it stands all the time on the foundation of the water and the law of floatation. Your man admits that we cannot escape the grounding problem by appealing to coherence [which is too often circularity by another name]. As for infinite regresses, your citation with approval indicates that you are aware that this is a reductio ad absurdum, whether as a chain of warrant or of causes. So, there are start points. Your error is that you have started one level ABOVE the real foundation, as the raft metaphor brings out. As I just highlighted, the raft as a whole rests on the sea which bears its weight. So, while we may indeed be repairing at one level, we are depending on the sea to keep it up all along. The foundation of first principles of right reason and self evident truths that ground other things, has not been eliminated. Nor is it the case that all truths are in the end reducible to provisional inferences to best explanations. There are some things that are genuinely self-evident. On self-evident truths vs hyperskepticism, radical global skepticism refutes itself by virtue of claiming to be a known that denies the possibility of knowing. Invariably, selective hyperskepticism exposes its fatal inconsistency directed against what it does not wish to accept. And the dismissal of that which is not only true but patently undeniably so on pain of absurdity, is premature. Self evidence, similarly, does not equate to tautology. That is one of the pivotal little errors at the beginning that has made much trouble in our time. Indeed, Royce and Trueblood start there: error exists. True, undeniably and self evidently so, and not dependent on the equivalent of a bachelor is an unmarried man. (Try to deny it and you necessarily instantiate an error.) From such humble beginnings, we may see that truth exists as that which accurately conforms to reality, that such can be warranted, even to undeniable certainty. The sort of relativism that so haunts our day is groundless. A much more direct concern, of course, is Hume's guillotine and his rhetorical "surpriz'd" on seeing ises transmuted into ought all of a sudden. That is why I point out that unless the roots of a worldview are infused with a ground for OUGHT right from the beginning, it cannot thereafter be injected in any sustainable way. When it comes specifically to morals, then, I think it useful to start from a specific case such as that it is wrong to torture, rape or murder a young, innocent child; something specific and far removed from fuzzy issues. Experience shows that in the face of this or a similar particular case, objectors to morality will normally play every rhetorical trick to evade the direct choice to agree or disagree, often trying to say how awful it would be to treat a child that way. But this is not "I detest prunes." (This shows that they know deep down that they too are under moral government with all that that implies.) So, there must be a foundational IS that grounds OUGHT, a sea that floats the raft, or a root that sustains the tree. That brings us to the issue that is so dreaded and despised by many, that the chief candidate for such an is is the inherently good, architect and creator of our world, who has made us as morally governed creatures who have the power and duty of responsible, sound conscience informed choice. KF kairosfocus
Kairosfocus, Like you, I'm interested in the adequacy of world-views. Unlike you, I think that naturalism -- of the right sort -- can be adequate. Adequacy here means such things as reconciling our ordinary tacit grasp of normativity (both epistemic norms, norms of belief, and also ethical norms, norms of action) with a comprehensive metaphysics and refuting skepticism in a non-question-begging way. I think that a metaphysical naturalism that builds on the work of the classical American pragmatist John Dewey, along with similar work by Wilfrid Sellars and Robert Brandom, suggests a way of thinking about normativity that is fully consistent with naturalism. I can go into that further, if there's interest here. While Plato has an excellent criticism about naturalistic philosophies which can't accommodate normativity, contemporary naturalism has risen to the challenge. It might seem, then, that I regard naturalism as "the worldview foundational IS that grounds OUGHT", as Kairosfocus puts it. That's actually not the case, because I have independent philosophical reasons for rejecting foundationalism. I think foundationalism is untenable, because for any putative foundation or ground, one can put the following objection: but what makes that the ground? What justifies taking that as the foundation? One can, of course, hold the door closed to the infinite regress by sheer force of will -- that is, by mere dogmatic assertion -- but then it looks suspiciously unjustified. Alternatively, one could look for self-justifying claims, but that's a fool's errand. Or one could look for a ground in some claim that is obviously true. The worry there is that the only class of truths which are blindingly obvious, enough to withstand skeptical worries, are tautologies, and tautologies are inferentially idle -- hence they cannot be used to justify anything. In short, I think that a philosophically adequate response to skepticism requires anti-foundationalism. As Sellars nicely put it in "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind":
If I reject the framework of traditional empiricism, it is not because I want to say that empirical knowledge has no foundation. For to put it this way is to suggest that it is really "empirical knowledge so-called," and to put it in a box with rumors and hoaxes. There is clearly some point to the picture of human knowledge as resting on a level of propositions -- observation reports -- which do not rest on other propositions in the same way as other propositions rest on them. On the other hand, I do wish to insist that the metaphor of "foundation" is misleading in that it keeps us from seeing that if there is a logical dimension in which other empirical propositions rest on observation reports, there is another logical dimension in which the latter rest on the former. Above all, the picture is misleading because of its static character. One seems forced to choose between the picture of an elephant which rests on a tortoise (What supports the tortoise?) and the picture of a great Hegelian serpent of knowledge with its tail in its mouth (Where does it begin?). Neither will do. For empirical knowledge, like its sophisticated extension, science, is rational, not because it has a foundation but because it is a self-correcting enterprise which can put any claim in jeopardy, though not all at once.
Kantian Naturalist
In re: Mung (9) and (10): My response to Marx and Marxism is complicated. I tend to think of Marx as making two distinct (though related) claims: (1) that capitalism is fundamentally immoral (and therefore should be replaced by something else); and (2) that capitalism is fundamentally unstable (and therefore will be replaced by something else. I accept (1) on Kantian grounds, but I don't accept (2). I understand Marx's argument for (2), but there's just not enough evidence for it. If anything, I think Marx underestimated the capacity of capitalism to evolve in response to the crises it generates -- what Schumpeter called "creative destruction". I saw the reference to Suarez. I've heard a bit about him here and there -- my knowledge of Suarez is based on one of my favorite books in the history of ideas, The Domestication of Transcendence: How Modern Thinking About God Went Wrong, by William Placher. Through Placher I know of Suarez's influence on Leibniz, but I know nothing of his influence on Kant. I shall attempt to make the time to look into it! Kantian Naturalist
KN: You would be closer to the mark, if you had said that it is the close association between Darwinism (including modern forms as well as the C19 versions) and the ideology of a priori, implicit or explicit materialism, and where that has a deserved reputation for leading. Darwin's 1880 letter to Aveling is revealing:
. . . though I am a strong advocate for free thought [--> NB: free-thought is an old synonym for skepticism, agnosticism or atheism] on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biassed by the pain which it would give some members of my family [--> NB: especially his wife, Emma], if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.
The pivotal issue here is the worldview foundational IS that grounds OUGHT, or the absence of such. Provine brings out the problem in his 1998 U of Tenn Darwin Day speech (though he then tries -- unsuccessfully -- to minimise the implications):
Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . . The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .
That is, as Plato pointed out in The Laws, Bk X 2350 years ago, evolutionary materialism empties ought of force. The consequences were already evident in Athens c 400 BC:
Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view! Notice also, the trichotomy of causal factors: (a) chance/accident, (b) mechanical necessity of nature, (c) art or intelligent design and direction.] . . . . [[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny. )] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny], and not in legal subjection to them.
So, the matter is not merely one of the roots of social darwinism. Nope, the issue is one of worldviews presented in the name of science that inherently undermine moral governance of life and community, which actually are in large part an a priori imposition on science, as Johnson pointed out in replying to Lewontin's infamous 1997 NYRB article:
For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them "materialists employing science." And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism [aka Fundamentalism, nb too often a term of caricature, smearing and contempt] is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]
KF kairosfocus
as to:
Carson’s main point? Improving our public education system is not a matter of throwing more money at it. Education in this country will never improve until a change occurs in the hearts and minds of all concerned—teachers, children, and, perhaps most importantly, parents. In order to learn successfully, children must perceive school as something worthwhile. They have to want to learn.
I would hold that the change in the 'hearts and minds of all concerned—teachers, children, and, perhaps most importantly, parents' needs to occur at a far deeper level than just kindling a desire to learn more. This fact is best illustrated by noting the exact year that the failure of the education system in America started: The following video shows that the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores for students showed a steady decline, for seventeen years from the top spot or near the top spot in the world, after the removal of prayer from the public classroom by the Supreme Court, not by public decree, in 1963. Whereas the SAT scores for private Christian schools have consistently remained at the top, or near the top, spot in the world:
The Real Reason American Education Has Slipped – David Barton – video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4318930 AMERICA: To Pray Or Not To Pray - David Barton - graphs corrected for population growth http://www.whatyouknowmightnotbeso.com/graphs.html United States Crime Rates 1960 - 2010 (Please note the skyrocketing crime rate from 1963, the year prayer was removed from school, thru 1980, the year the steep climb in crime rate finally leveled off.) of note: The slight decline in crime rate from the mid 90s until now is attributed in large part to tougher enforcement on minor crimes. (a nip it in the bud policy) http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm
One can see the dramatic difference, of the SAT scores for private Christian schools compared to public schools, at this following site;
Aliso Viejo Christian School – SAT 10 Comparison Report http://www.alisoviejochristianschool.org/sat_10.html
The following article points out the the overt flaw in a 2007 study that tried to 'explain away' the inequality in the quality of education between public schools and private schools by falsely 'correcting' the test scores upwardly for public schools:
Do private schools educate children better than public schools? Excerpt: The results of education testing seems to show mixed results on the question of whether private schools educate children better. The results of the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress tests showed that private school students achieved higher scores at all three grade levels tested. However, a 2007 Center on Education Policy study found that once socioeconomic factors are corrected when assessing test results, private school students didn't perform any better than public school students. Basically, this study says that students who did well on the standardized tests would have done well regardless of whether they attended a private or public school. However, moving past the dueling tests and studies, what's clear is that private school students have better SAT scores, and better college admission and graduation rates, regardless of socioeconomic level. http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/private-schools-educate-public-schools
The following video is very suggestive to the 'spiritual' link in man's ability to learn new information in that the video shows that almost every, if not every, founder of each discipline of modern science was a devout Christian:
Christianity Gave Birth To Science - Dr. Henry Fritz Schaefer - video http://vimeo.com/16523153
Quotes of note:
I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily…. All my discoveries have been made in an answer to prayer. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), considered by many to be the greatest scientist of all time Inventors - George Washington Carver Excerpt: "God gave them to me" he (Carver) would say about his ideas, "How can I sell them to someone else?" http://inventors.about.com/od/cstartinventors/a/GWC.htm
related note:
Kurt Godel - Incompleteness Theorem and Human Intuition - video (notes in description of video) http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8516356/
btw, i'm not sure if you caught my comment about Suarez on the thread started by vjt, but are you aware of his influences on Kant? Mung
hah! Are you a marxist in kantian clothing? lol Mung
On the question whether "religion" (esp. Christianity and Islam) is a scapegoat for social ills -- yes, I agree that it often is. In that regard, for example, I can think of how the "New Atheists" lump together "religion" (in a one-size-fits-all approach) together with historically specific societal pathologies -- here I'm thinking specifically of how "the New Atheists" think about religious fundamentalism, which in my mind is basically a symptom -- part reaction against, part expression of, and part resistance to -- of modern capitalism. It both reacts to and participates in the pathological narcissism of our time. I don't identify capitalism with just any economic system that uses money to facilitate transactions. The transition to capitalism was not accomplished when we left behind a barter economy thousands of years ago, but rather hundreds of years ago, when we changed how money and goods flow through a society. (Here my narrative is basically a "Marxism 101" narrative, which I take to be fairly well-known but could elaborate if asked.) So the Biblical code of honest business practice isn't relevant to my concerns here. Kantian Naturalist
I think you misunderstood my question about religion. :) Is religion a scapegoat, like Darwinism is a scapegoat? Isn't religion also blamed for societal ills. As for capitalism. Going to go Biblical on you. There was an injunction against dishonest weights and measure, going way way back. Can you make sense of that absent a capitalist system? How about money? How far back does coinage extend? Laws against usury? Ability to go into debt and be released from debts? Mung
I do think that capitalism is a fairly recent phenomenon, dating back to the 17th century (for the most part). And I don't think it's the only system that generates social ills. All social systems have their own set of social ills that they generate; I'm not exactly an optimist about human nature! And yes, by and large I do think religion plays, in pre-modern societies, a legitimizing function analogous to the role that science plays in modern societies. I find it deeply ironic that, at the origins of modernity, science was the voice of resistance to domination in the name of religion, and now religion is the voice of resistance to domination in the name of science. I would prefer a society without any oppression at all. Kantian Naturalist
KN, I am probably misunderstanding you, but are you saying that capitalism is only a recent phenomenon? Is capitalism the only system that generates social ills? What do these other systems use as a scapegoat, religion? ;) Mung
Additionally, (7) Stoicism emerges as a prominent metaphysics in the modern period, e.g. in the Scottish Enlightenment (except for Hume, who is an Academic Skeptic) and in deism, precisely because it is a half-way measure between the Platonized Aristotelianism of medieval Christianity and the resurgence of Epicurean metaphysics through the rise of mathematized mechanism. (Epicurean physics, though mechanistic, is not mathematical.) (8) The displacement of Stoic with Epicurean metaphysics as the legitimizing instrument of science in general and Darwinism in particular correlates with the demise of earlier phases of entrepreneurial capitalism and the rise of new forms of capitalism that depend upon consumer-based economies and the consequent "ethics of consumption," "hedonism", etc. Kantian Naturalist
I here present a number of theses, each of which deserves an independent argument in support of it, but which I think are true and defensible: (1) The resistance to Darwinism largely arises from treating "Darwinism" as a scapegoat for the social ills produced by capitalism. (2) This scapegoating is due to both (a) a tendency towards imaginative free associations rather than careful attention to the material forces operating in society, esp. recently, and (b) how contemporary popularizers of Darwinism resort to capitalist metaphors in presenting their ideas, e.g. Dawkins' "selfish gene". (3) More fundamentally, contemporary Darwinists, especially in light of Monod's Chance and Necessity, conflate the theory of evolution with a materialistic metaphysics that is basically Epicurean in origin. (As Monod's title, Chance and Necesssity, attests.) Previous philosophers who accepted Darwin's theory of evolution, such as John Dewey and Hans Jonas, did not make this mistake. (And it is a mistake -- for even if Darwin himself was an Epicurean -- and there is ample evidence that he was not, insofar as Darwin himself believed in final causes -- it still would not matter, for the theory of the interdependence of variation and selection would be rationally acceptable, just as Newton's laws of physics are rationally acceptable independently of his theological metaphysics.) (4) This conflation between Darwin's theory and Epicurean metaphysics is directly tied to how Darwinism is turned into the scapegoat for capitalism, because (5) Capitalism derives its legitimacy from turning Epicurean metaphysics into its dominant ideology, just as the medieval European societal order derived its legitimacy from turning Aristotelian metaphysics into its dominant ideology. (6) The period during which Epicurean metaphysics was co-opted into the ideology of capitalism is called "the Scientific Revolution". Kantian Naturalist
Wow, what a great video interview! I can't believe this world is still producing good people like him---and his mother! Granville Sewell
Nothing with public education. Better then ever in history. Its all about identities that under achieve. Blacks and Mexicans and others. All about motivation. those below and above and normal comes down to motivation. This is great achiever in medicine and unique in the black world because he comes from a unique Christian origin which means strong creationist beliefs and he's confident enough to talk about it. That's why they seek him out. Robert Byers

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