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)

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05770427187548083625 Havok

    Thanks for the recommendation – just picked it up :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15345900255255283518 Cman

    What is naturalism but a faith-based system opposed to fundamental religions such as Christianity? In order to be a naturalist, you must "have faith" that there is no God. You must "have faith" that the processes that happen today are the same processes that formed the world however long ago. Naturalists "have faith" that what they "believe" about life is true, and even overwhelming evidence to the contrary will not sway them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Cman said…
    What is naturalism but a faith-based system opposed to fundamental religions such as Christianity? In order to be a naturalist, you must "have faith" that there is no God.
    =========
    Not so.

    Naturalism is a point of view, just like theism is a point of view.

    Some theists believe in God simply because this belief gives them comfort. Some theists believe in God because they were raised with this belief and have never given it any serious thought. Some theists have given the question 'Does God exist?' serious consideration and have arrived at the conclusion that the available evidence supports belief in God.

    The same is true of naturalism and atheism.

    Some atheists reject belief in God because the idea of God makes them feel uncomfortable. Some atheists were raised to be atheists and have never given any serious thought to the matter. Some athests have given serious consideration to the question 'Does God exists?' and have concluded that the available evidence shows there is no God.

    The fact that a person holds a particular point of view about the existence of God tells us NOTHING about how that person came to have that point of view.


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