The Brain and the Meaning of Life

The Brain and the Meaning of Life, by Paul Thagard (one of my favorite philosophers of science), is worth a look.

It’s intended for a more popular audience, so it doesn’t have citations in the text or detailed arguments for his positions that could convince critics. It’s a book that is, however, nicely expressive of a naturalist position without being a fully-fleshed out defense. I especially like how he uses ideas concerning inference to the best explanation to reject both religious claims to revelation and traditional philosophical claims about insight-from-the-armchair into deep conceptual necessities.

Like science, evidence-based philosophy is never a finished project, and I hope to see metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics evolve further in step with scientific developments. Unlike the quick fixes offered by faith and a priori reasoning, naturalism requires patience and tolerance as scientific theories and evidence fallibly develop. Faith-based thinking should  increasingly be understood as a cultural tradition stemming from motivated inferences that can be defused by recognition of how love, work, and play can suffice to meet human needs. (p. 229)

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