Sunday, February 24, 2013

Critiques of critiques

Regarding Thomas Nagel's recent book Mind and Cosmos, you can read favorable reviews by Alvin Plantinga and Bill Vallicella (Maverick Philosopher). You can also read a negative review by Brian Leiter and Michael Weisberg. But then the Leiter/Weisberg review received several negative reviews itself.  See the Neuro Times, Ed Feser, and Keith Burgess-Jackson. There is also a short comment by Vallicella.

Meanwhile, Vallicella also critiques the book Soul Dust: The Magic of Conscious by Nicholas Humphrey. Humphrey suggests that consciousness is an illusion, which Vallicella rightly points out is incoherent: who is having the illusion? It reminds me of a passage in A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis as he reflects on the death of his wife:
If H. ‘is not,’ then she never was. I mistook a cloud of atoms for a person. There aren’t, and never were, any people. Death only reveals the vacuity that was always there. What we call the living are simply those who have not yet been unmasked. All equally bankrupt, but some not yet declared. 
But this must be nonsense; vacuity revealed to whom? Bankruptcy declared to whom? To other boxes of fireworks or clouds of atoms. I will never believe -- more strictly I can’t believe -- that one set of physical events could be, or make, a mistake about other sets.
Vallicella also points to Peter Strawson's critique of same, but then critiques Strawson's critique.

Update (1 March): KBJ points to another critique of Mind and Cosmos, a negative review that is, unlike the Leiter/Weisberg review, "well-written, thoughtful, respectful".

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