Re: MD Rorty

Date: Tue Aug 19 2003 - 01:40:06 BST

  • Next message: Scott R: "Re: MD Chance and natural selection"


    Steve said:
    Rorty (p xxii) said that pragmatists "..start with a Darwinian account of human beings as animals doing their best to cope with the environment... Words are among the tools that these clever animals have developed."

    He also used the phrase "to become fully Darwinian in our thinking" as if it was a good thing to do. What does he mean?

    Does he see Darwinism as an intellectual postulate that helps us cope with our environment? If so, I'll take the MOQ over Darwinism any day. How about you?

    Well, I'll first say that I agree with Ian that I don't see any tension between Darwinism and the MoQ. So, on that count there's no choice, except for the pragmatist choice of not doing the optional game of metaphysics. But, between Quality and Darwinism, no conflict. That may seem a little counter-intuitive (and contradictory to what I can be construed as saying in my third, now outdated forum essay "Mechanistic Philosophy and...."). I'll come back to that in a minute.

    Rorty does think "Darwinian thinking" is a good thing. Many other people before Darwin (principlly atheists) suggested that there isn't much (or any) difference between humans and the other animals. But before Darwin, we couldn't give a good, plausible account of how animals and humans had originated. Until a plausible account could be given, the incumbent paradigm would hold sway: divine creation. Christians believed that there was a fundamental difference between animals and humans: humans had a divine spark, animals didn't. The movement towards mechanistic philosophy that began during the 17th century (with people like Bacon, Descartes, and Gassendi) marked a movement away from teleological explanations, which made it harder to locate that divine spark. Darwin, however, came along and offered as a plausible account of how we can view animals and humans in an undifferentiated vision. His account of evolution by means of natural selection meant that animals and human

    s were the same in that both evolved out of the same soup. The differences between animals were simply the differences in tools that various animals developed to cope with their environments. Fish didn't develop lungs for air because the need never arose or, rather, when the need arose, they did develop them, and for those where the need didn't arise, they didn't.

    So, as Andy says, Darwinism in philosophy means that we should see human beings as "animals doing the best to cope with the continuously changing (dynamically) environment and words (language) are among the tools (perhaps the most innovative and important one) we have developed." I see the MoQ as saying basically the same thing when it makes Quality ubiquitous. It offers us a way in which to see animals and humans in continuity with each other.

    The problem I think people have with Darwinism is that they think that everybody must be a reductionist, that a person must have a unified picture of the world or else they are incoherent. That Darwinist must be a reductionistic materialist and he must think, then, that morals don't exist because morals exist in the mind and the mind is just really a brain-neuron state and that means we are all just deterministic machines without any free will or choice. Pragmatists don't think such things. They think that Darwininian evolution provides a way of looking at animals and, for instance, Christianity provides a way of looking at morality. The two do not have to be in conflict because they deal with different things. If they try and deal with the same thing (i.e. Genesis' attempt to explain the origins of the universe) than we go with whatever works best. But if they don't conflict, then no problems.

    Steve said:
    I don't understand how a pragmatist gets to say things like "if Darwin is right..." or "given a Darwinian picture of the world..." How could Darwin be right if there is no truth? Rorty doesn't seem to realize that he has a metaphysics, that he presupposes something about the nature of reality when he embraces Darwin.

    Now, now, don't start that again. No truth? I've been around this mulberry bush too many times and I keep hoping the last time pops the weasel out. Rorty says that Truth is not an object of inquiry. Truth, however, _is_ a property of sentences. We can never know the Truth. However, we can know things that are true. The whole "Rorty has a metaphysics" thing I talked about just earlier in the "A metaphysics" thread. Rorty does have a "system of belief," what he calls, following Quine, a web of beliefs and desires, but he does not answer the Greek posed question, "What is real?" He simply suggests useful beliefs to have.


    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archives:
    Aug '98 - Oct '02 -
    Nov '02 Onward -
    MD Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_discuss follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue Aug 19 2003 - 01:40:33 BST