Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Waterloo Ignorance Day

Today is Waterloo Ignorance Day!

No, it's not a day devoted to Michael Egnor: that would be Egnorance Year (or perhaps Egnorance Lifetime).

Instead, you'll hear 10 15-minute talks centered around the theme of "What I Wish I Knew about the Mind, Brain, and Intelligence".

One thing I can guarantee you won't hear is nonsense like this, from Ed Feser:

"Thoughts and the like possess inherent meaning or intentionality; brain processes, like ink marks, sound waves, and the like, are utterly devoid of any inherent meaning or intentionality; so thoughts and the like cannot possibly be identified with brain processes."

Only a creationist (like V. J. Torley)* could be so utterly moronic. While Feser and his friends are declaring it impossible, real neuroscientists and neurophilosophers are busy figuring it out.

* Feser seems to think I was calling him a creationist, and on re-reading I understand how he could think that. By "creationist" I intended to refer to the person who quoted Feser and thought Feser's claim deserved quoting. Clearly, though, I was wrong: there are people who are even more moronic than creationists. I apologize for the lack for clarity, and I apologize to creationists for this undeserved association with Feser.


Havok said...

I have serious problems with people like Feser, who declare something "impossible" like that - no hint of humility there :-)

I also find it funny that computers process and store things which seem to have the same or similar "inherent meaning or intentionality" solely in silicon. Surely modern computer and the sophisticated programs they run warrant a little less certainty in the likes of Feser?

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos said...

I await the day when someone explains to me what "meaning" is, over and above a complex network of interrelationships. Apparently there is some deep, perhaps Platonic, meaning database somewhere to which we have access. Computers, apparently, don't have the same privilege.

No matter how often I ask, I never get a coherent description of this deep meaning.

~~ Paul

John said...


That's because there isn't one. It's just one of those deepities that you're supposed to unquestioningly accept with reverence and awe. But like the pope recently discovered on twitter, respect for that sort of nonsense is on the decline.

Anonymous said...

Love your dismissal of the all American Loon Edward Fester, who obviously considers himself to a living legend (in his own mind), as do all the adoring disciples that infest his blog. Although, unlike a lot of other right wing bloggers he does freely allow dissenting opinions.

That having been said are you familar with the description of Fester at the American Encylcopedia of Loons.

Athanasius said...

Feser isn't a living legend; he just reads what an opponent writes before he makes a piety of dismissing it. Kind of old fashioned, but I find it quite charming.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Not quite sure what you're driving at, Corrigan. But by all means, go ahead and defend the silliness of Feser that I quoted.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

You can start by giving a rigorous definition of "inherent meaning" and showing that "thoughts" possess it, while "ink marks" do not.

Athanasius said...

According to Feser, what you quoted was an ID site quoting him, from which you inferred he was himself an ID advocate, and therefore a creationist.

From Feser's blog:

Never mind that I am in fact not only not a Creationist, but have been (rather famously, for anyone who’s read this blog for ten minutes) extremely critical of ID. And never mind that Shallit has provided a textbook example of the fallacy of guilt by association.

Any comment?

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Any comment?

Can you read? I already commented above. See the addendum to the original post. Feser misunderstood what I was saying, which is understandable, since I expressed it so poorly.

Now, how about defending Feser's quote?

Miranda said...

"real neuroscientists and neurophilosophers are busy figuring it out."

You can start by giving a rigorous definition of "real" and "figuring out."

And I actually disagree with Feser.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

"real neuroscientist" = people who publish in neuroscience journals & base their conclusions on hard data about the brain, not what their religion tells them

"real neurophilosopher" = people who publish about neurophilosophy and base their conclusions on hard data about the brain, not what their religion tells them

As for figuring out, I'd suggest starting by reading The Astonishing Hypothesis.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

What annoys me about people like Feser is not that their "answers" to questions are so ludicrous. What annoys me is that they aren't even asking the interesting questions. They are so far from what is really going on that wasting time on them is pointless.

Ian Wardell said...

Umm . .in order for X and Y to be one and the very same thing, X cannot have any properties that Y does not have, nor can Y have any properties that X does not have. It's simply what is meant by identity.

I really have no idea why this is so difficult to understand. Science could not possibly have any relevance here. It just simply follows by what is meant by *identity*. You claim to be a mathematician and professor of computer science, yet you fails to understand. Words fail me...

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Ian: why don't you start by defining "meaning" and "intentionality" in a rigorous, scientifically-testable manner. Then we can have a basis for arguing whether one thing has them and another thing doesn't. Until then, it is just so much philosophical babble. Feser might just as well have said "Thoughts and the like are inherent fnordled but brain processes are not, QED".

I have no idea why you find this so difficult to understand.