Monday, February 8, 2010

Mystery as philosophy

We Aussies never forget that the world is a stage, and that we are actors. No matter what our field, we have a knack of looking the part.

It goes without saying that, with my years, my rural existence in France and my thinning hair (nearly seven years ago, already, when Natacha took this photo), I'm no exception.

David Chalmers is the 43-year-old professor of philosophy at the Australian National University in Canberra. His major claim to fame was the invention of the concept of the so-called "hard problem of consciousness", which simply means that we naked apes inhabiting the planet Earth find it difficult, if not impossible, to fathom the phenomenon of consciousness. Apart from that, what else is new? Well, it appears that David, armed with a powerful Canon camera, has become the official photographer of attendees at international philosophy conferences [display], but his photos are rather dull, not particularly philosophical.

A British philosopher, Colin McGinn, has gone one step further by declaring that the Chalmers enigma has no solution. That's to say, he thinks that we'll never know why we think as we do. Big deal. McGinn has become the leader of the school of New Mysterianism.

Now, it wouldn't be so bad if these guys who claim that we'll never know everything about everything were to hibernate calmly in the background, while awaiting further revelations. But no! They attract adepts, some of whom are quite bright fellows (atheists, of course), intent upon gaining recognition.

One such latter-day mysterian is the US professor of psychology Jerry Fodor. I have the impression that this distinguished academic is upset about not being on the Dawkins/Pinker bandwagon. He feels left out of things. So, he and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini have decided to create a storm in a teacup by bringing out a book with a provocative title: What Darwin Got Wrong. It's hot off the press, so I haven't had a chance of reading it yet. But, needless to say, through its mere title, this book is going to be divine manna for all the nitwit young-earth creationists and advocates of so-called intelligent design. It's just too good to have a reputed US professor of philosophy shouting out that Darwin got things wrong.

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