Thursday, February 28, 2013

O Hear This!

This is an old post that I just realized I never actually posted. In a post from a few years ago, Humphrey quoted Simon Conway Morris, the evolutionary palaeobiologist (btw, "Conway Morris" is his last name, not "Morris"), where he references Anthony O'Hear, a philosopher who specializes in the philosophy of Karl Popper, among other things. The quote is basically that reducing thought to "memes" would essentially "deny the reality of reflective thought." I asked in the comments where Conway Morris writes this, and what the reference to O'Hear is. Humphrey pointed me to Life's Solution, Conway Morris's book, so I looked up O'Hear in the index. It's on p. 324. The reference to O'Hear is his book Beyond Evolution: Human Nature and the Limits of Evolutionary Explanation, pp. 156-158.

I find this interesting because Karl Popper wrote a lot on evolutionary epistemology of theories (EET) or evolutionary philosophy of science. This is the idea that the growth of knowledge can be seen in evolutionary terms, with better ideas "surviving." So Popper applied evolution about as far as it could go. Yet, even with this, Popper had an argument very similar to Alvin Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism, J. R. Lucas's Gödelian argument against physical determinism, and C. S. Lewis's argument from reason. Popper uses it to argue against determinism. He argued that one who affirms determinism can only do so by implicitly presupposing that determinism is false. In one of his books on Popper as well as the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, O'Hear critiqued Popper's version of this argument, and was in turn critiqued by Peter Glassen. So I find it interesting that, despite his skepticism towards this argument, O'Hear presents a somewhat similar argument that memes obviates reflective thought. I also find it interesting that he finds "limits" to evolution, and does so in a context of evolutionary philosophy of science which applies evolution to just about everything.

By the way, I quote a passage from Beyond Evolution here, and I quote Glassen's critique of O'Hear here.

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