Is there an ‘Intelligent Design’ Community of Philosophers? A Response to Neil Rickert’s Hypothesis

Here is what started this conversation:

“At risk of being a bit off-topic, let me add that there is a far larger “intelligent design” community. I am talking about philosophy, particularly academic philosophy. Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a[n] intelligent design perspective. That perhaps comes from Plato. Perhaps it is a natural way of thinking. To be clear, that particular intelligent design community is honest and largely non-political, unlike the religious version. And yes, there are “fine tuning” ideas coming from that community.” – Neil Rickert (http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=2926&cpage=2#comment-27860)

I asked him:

“could you elaborate on this: “Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a[n] intelligent design perspective”? … which philosophers, specifically who … which you suggest display a “natural way of thinking” about ‘intelligent design’?

Neil answered indirectly, saying “it is already clear that you did not understand what I was hinting at. You ask for specifics, but my remark was not about specifics.”

At this point Kantian Naturalist-Emergentist jumped in to speak about ‘the design argument.’ But neither Neil nor I was referring to ‘the design argument.’ Neil spoke using the particular concept duo ‘intelligent design,’ which is *supposed* to be different from ‘the design argument’ because it claims scientificity (in Luskin’s words IDT is ‘strictly scientific’), which ‘the design argument’ does not. This is why I and others distinguish uppercase ‘Intelligent Design’ from lowercase ‘intelligent design’ (more below) because the former insists on scientificity while the latter does not.

Neil’s attribution of ‘intelligent design’ to philosophers, however, does not address this issue. Perhaps he’ll elaborate more about what he meant in this thread, now that his curious comments have been raised in a separate thread. As most people here reading and participating know already, neither Neil nor I are IDists; yet neither are we ‘Darwinists’ as that term is often used. And I have said clearly that I am not an ‘evolutionist,’ even while accepting limited evolutionary theories in biology and other natural-physical sciences.

Neil then replied to my repeated questions, saying: “I can’t name names [of philosophers], because there are too many of them. It [lowercase id philosophy] probably goes back to Plato.”

This sounds like he hasn’t read *any* philosophers, certainly not contemporary ones, who actually use/endorse the concept duo ‘intelligent design’ (Nagel doesn’t endorse, but just uses; he is not an ‘Intelligent Design’ philosopher and Stephen C. Meyer, though trained in HPS, imo doesn’t count as a ‘philosopher’), but that Neil wants to label them with that particular ‘idea’ anyway. Indeed, it sounds a lot like scientists who ‘dis philosophy without taking the time to read almost any of it or to do much if any of it in their own lives. Iow, it seems like pure speculation without a speck of evidence to back it up; which makes the anti-philosophy (or anti-humanities) argumentation rather weak and meaningless.

A large component of this so-called ‘controversy’ in America then is due to the impoverishment of philosophy among the general population, such that discussing ‘Intelligent Design’ often becomes highly emotional and irrational. Both YEC fundamentalism and new atheist ‘pride’ regularly demonstrate emotivism and irrationalism on this topic. That’s why the talk of ‘culture war’ in America seems so fitting to the situation there (you want war as a combative society, you’ve got it!), whereas elsewhere people don’t face such active militant polarisation based on the inevitable disunity of views about origins (of life, information, meaning, consciousness, etc.) and processes of change-over-time.

Neil wrote: “I look at it from the science side [although he also said: “I have never been attracted to scientism”]. Philosophers are very bright people, but they look at things in what seems to me to be an odd way.”

KN-E jumped in to defend ‘professors of philosophy’ (since he is one), saying that philosophers “are important because we help guide people to philosophize for themselves.”

The only problem with this is that some people simply don’t want to elevate their thoughts philosophically; they want instead to ‘reduce’ everything to analytic natural sciences leading to disenchantment. Something in their worldview drives them not to want to ‘love wisdom.’ In some case, they don’t even care if American philosophy has grown impoverished because they don’t think philosophical riches are important. How can there be a healthy philosophy of ‘Intelligent Design’ in America if philosophically speaking there is almost nothing there to eat (other than Randian ‘objectivism’ and pragmatism)?

Neil admitted: “my knowledge of the humanities is somewhat thin.”

On what basis then did he contend “there is a far larger ‘intelligent design’ community. I am talking about philosophy, particularly academic philosophy”? Was it pure speculation or hopeful fancy? Or a moment of reflexive confidence that natural science is a limited endeavour and requires the help of philosophy and theology/worldview to make sense of human life?

I later asked him: “What do YOU consider “a[n] intelligent design perspective” in philosophy, Neil?”

And he responded: “A lot of philosophy seems to be done as if the world has a design, and the job of science is seen as finding that design.”

Now we get to a significant question: Does it make a difference if a philosopher is an Abrahamic theist, Buddhist, atheist or agnostic for the view “as if the world has a design”?

Iow, Buddhists, atheists and agnostics *cannot,* as a feature (or constraint) of their worldview, live their lives “as if the world has a Design.” The term ‘Design’ is capitalised because it implies a transcendent Designer, called by various names in the Abrahamic faiths. Thus, philosophers who are not Abrahamic theists simply *will* not accept ‘Intelligent Design’ theory (IDT), either as a science or as a philosophy simply because it goes against their worldview (which is why this thread is extremely helpful in understanding peoples’ positions here at TSZ: http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=2846). Conversely, all philosophers who are theists already accept lowercase ‘intelligent design’ in the sense that they/we believe that the world was/is Created by the/a Creator, though the vast majority of theistic/religious philosophers reject uppercase IDT and its scientism. This means that a person’s theology/worldview fundamentally impacts whether or not one is willing to take both uppercase ID (qua natural scientific theory) and lowercase intelligent design (qua natural theology or revelation) seriously or even to entertain them at all.

Why is this noteworthy? Because it belies the naïve neutrality-seeking IDist notion that theology/worldview has *nothing* to do with the construction of ‘Intelligent Design Theory.’ Obviously, the theory of ID qua ‘theory’ (IDT) would not and could not have been invented by Buddhists, atheists or agnostics. Why? Because IDT actively discriminates against Buddhists, atheists and agnostics since it implies a transcendent Designer of the world’s Design. IDists pay lip service to these folks, inviting them to convert based on natural science into their ‘big-little-tent,’ but the fact is that an atheist would no longer be an atheist if they accepted the existence of a transcendent Designer, which IDT (covertly, but still quite obviously) implies. In short, IDT was invented (not ‘discovered’) by theists (with P. Johnson’s aim, to oppose ‘naturalism’) and without theism as its base IDT would be an empty claim.

The importance of Neil’s statement/suggestion, therefore, is that he seems to think that philosophers, iow, ‘too many of them to name,’ usually/actually link wisdom, order, meaning and purpose in human life with a transcendent realm, or they act as if theology/worldview is an important and legitimate dialogue partner, even historically a sister discipline, with philosophy. Neil seems even to open up the ‘philosophy as handmaiden to theology/worldview’ approach (http://thomism.wordpress.com/2007/03/25/philosophy-as-a-handmaid-to-theology/), though he doesn’t seem to realise it or necessarily want it.

Robin jumped in and, without using the specific concept duo ‘Intelligent Design,’ stated:

“there seems to be an underlying assumption that there is an explanation for why life, the universe, and everything exists and why humans are here…[,which] presupposes on some level the concept of design [Design].”

I agree that there is such an underlying assumption. But I also observe that many people (a growing number in the USA by statistics) try their hardest by using humour, natural science, rationalistic or hedonistic diversions, etc. to avoid thinking about higher meaning (either philosophically or theologically/through their worldview) in/to/for human life. You have no philosophy in American schools; is it any wonder the impoverishment of higher meaning and philosophy continues? At least Neil’s suggestion seems to be that we *should* take philosophy seriously as a way of exploring higher meaning (“as if the world has a Design”), even if we don’t use that particular concept duo ‘intelligent design’ (fraught as it is by association with the DI’s political movement, YECs, freakish fundies, et al.) to do the thinking.

Then I simply asked: “Does the IDM know it has a rival ‘community’ among philosophers?”

Neil finally answered: “I did not intend to suggest that there was something comparable to the ID movement. Apologies if what I said gave that impression.”

Apology accepted.

And thanks for opening up the topic to science, philosophy & theology/worldview discourse, which imho is sorely lacking both by ‘Darwinists,’ ‘evolutionists’ and IDists alike. Plato would certainly support this triadic conversation, theist, scientist and philosopher as he was. Do others here at TSZ support it and wish to contribute to it, rather than just being ‘skeptical’ of it?

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22 thoughts on “Is there an ‘Intelligent Design’ Community of Philosophers? A Response to Neil Rickert’s Hypothesis

  1. Robin jumped in and, without using the specific concept duo ‘Intelligent Design,’ stated:

    “there seems to be an underlying assumption that there is an explanation for why life, the universe, and everything exists and why humans are here…[,which] presupposes on some level the concept of design [Design].”

    I agree that there is such an underlying assumption. But I also observe that many people (a growing number in the USA by statistics) try their hardest by using humour, natural science, rationalistic or hedonistic diversions, etc. to avoid thinking about higher meaning (either philosophically or theologically/through their worldview) in/to/for human life.

    Well, aside from demonstrating my point in the entirety of your post on this topic, I don’t see any defense, argument, or even explanation for why such a presupposition is warranted or valid. In other words, from my perspective, the fact that schools are not teaching philosophy is in general a good thing, because frankly there is no valid reason to hold most of the philosophical questions as having any actual answers or requiring any time spent looking for such explanations. And so far, I’ve not seen a refutation of my perspective on this.

    Don’t get me wrong – philosophy can be a fascinating subject to study, but the problem I see is that there seems to be this a priori assumption that mental gymnastics are inherently valid for the underpinnings of policy and laws of our societies. They aren’t, or at least are no more so the assumptions and claims provided by the mentally insane or everyday people. And I mean that sincerely. There is nothing more significant about the concepts that come out of navel gazing and the inherent questions that follow. To suggest they are automatically elevated to some higher plain of value simply because they are “deep” is to me the very essence of arrogance and hubris.

    So I’ll positive the question back to you Gregory – aside from the wishful need to feel there’s a significance to existence, what valid reason is there for the question of why life is? Why is the question, “why is there something rather than nothing” even considered worth pursuing except as a question of pure physics?

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  2. In other words, from my perspective, the fact that schools are not teaching philosophy is in general a good thing, because frankly there is no valid reason to hold most of the philosophical questions as having any actual answers or requiring any time spent looking for such explanations.

    I agree with Robin on that.

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  3. I third the notion. Aside from formal logic and mathematics, I see little use for philosophy, other than as entertainment.

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  4. For whatever it may be worth, I don’t really see much of an intelligent design perspective in philosophy, not even in Plato. There, intelligence finds the Good, the Form, the mind knows the real. It’s Pythagoreanism, by and large, mystic, and it sees magic in numbers and in shapes. Creationist in a way, but not really in a design sense. Then Aristotle distinguishes between techne and physis (more or less, between design and nature), and while organisms partake in form, it’s certainly nothing as crude as ID analogies to human productions.

    Kant smuggles in a sort of ID, but that’s after he’s more or less demonstrated that IDists from Plantinga to Dembski have no basis for their reasoning. So it’s a very tenuous sort of “ID” for him, more or less a kind of heuristic, which might make some sense to people before Darwin (biologists didn’t find it very useful, however). At least in continental philosophy, there hasn’t been much use for design since Kant–and Darwin.

    There may very well be analytic philosophers who are fairly sympathetic to ID, though, aside from Plantinga.

    Glen Davidson

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  5. There is an intelligent design ‘theory’ in Plato’s Timeaus, where the Demiurge creates the cosmos (nature, the physical world) by copying it from the Forms. Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover is, I think it is fair to say, not a Designer, because the Unmoved Mover is the source of cosmic order by virtue of how each kind of thing is drawn to the Unmoved Mover — the UM itself doesn’t actively intervene in the cosmos, but is only “thought thinking itself.”

    It’s quite right to say that Kant ultimately turns out to be a critic of intelligent design as a theological argument, insofar as he argues that “the physico-theological argument” (his term for it) illicitly presupposes the ontological argument, which in turn is undermined by Kant’s proto-Fregen/proto-Heideggerian point that existence is not a predicate.

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  6. I completely disagree with the claim that philosophy is useless. Metaphysical speculation, maybe — but there’s a lot more to philosophy than that, and much of it is extraordinarily important and we need a lot more of it.

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  7. With my name up there in the thread title, I guess I am already public enemy #1. So I might as well say what I really think.

    I see philosophy as religion – the religion of the academy. It’s a strange sort of non-theistic religion, except that some practitioners seem to engage in an unhealthy worship of logic.

    Gregory used the word “hypothesis”. That’s about right. I am trying to understand how rather bright people come up with so much nonsense.

    I see philosophy as religion, because it seems to be driven by tradition rather than evidence. As much as philosophers tell us the importance of using evidence, they don’t practice that in their philosophy. And, as with other religions, there are many schisms.

    As previously said, I see philosophers as bright people. But they are caught up in a culture of group-think. Some seem to see this. Putnam, Quine and Searle all seem to chip away at the group-think. But they only chip away at the edges, and they still show signs of being caught up in the group-think themselves. (Yes, I know that should be in the past tense, with respect to Quine).

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  8. Kantian Naturalist,

    There is an intelligent design ‘theory’ in Plato’s Timeaus, where the Demiurge creates the cosmos (nature, the physical world) by copying it from the Forms.

    True, but I see that as more of a secondary “cause,” much as human souls can make things by copying Forms. Especially as opposed to Abrahamic religions, where God is the Ultimate Cause, for IDists, the Designer.

    Anyway, I appreciate the additional information on all of the points I mentioned.

    Glen Davidson

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  9. Epistemology comes to mind.

    Petrushka uses it sometimes in argumentation, such as where “methodological naturalism” is concerned. I don’t know where he thinks it comes from.

    I’ll grant that science doesn’t regularly need additional philosophy in the majority of cases, having incorporated most of the necessary epistemological ideas already. But philosophy as a discipline in itself is still more directly important at the margins, such as in matters of cognitive neuroscience.

    Glen Davidson

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  10. Philosophy and theology appear to be precursors to science, but they now appear to subordinate in the sense that they must conform to the findings of science.

    Science, of course, can be wrong, but I see that as a strength rather than a weakness. I don’t see how philosophy or theology can be wrong except by conflicting with science.

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  11. A variation on an old joke about philosophers:

    Dean, to the physics department. “Why do I always have to give you guys so much money for laboratories and expensive equipment and stuff. Why couldn’t you be like the math department – all they need is money for pencils, paper and waste-paper baskets. Or even better, like the philosophy department. All they need are pencils and paper.”

    Richard Feynman didn’t care much for philosophers; yet he was pretty good at getting at epistemological issues.

    Probably much of the problem with current attitudes toward philosophy, especially by scientists, is that philosophers in recent decades appear to be out of touch with most of the major issues in scientific research. The differences in the meanings of words used by philosophers and by researchers in science have become so great that the two communities have difficulty communicating.

    When it comes to issues in epistemology or ontology, for example, my impression is that scientists working at the frontiers have become better at handling these questions than the philosophers. Too much of the discussion by philosophers in these areas appears to be still rooted back in the 19th century understanding of science.

    On the other hand, philosophers do in fact contribute a great deal to sorting out the ethical issues that are encountered in the applications of science to medicine, the environment, and human affairs. This involves familiarity with already established science and the current laws governing a society.

    The politicians who are supposedly responsible for dealing with many of these issues get elected by political special interests; and most of the time those special interests don’t give a damn about the bigger picture of the human condition. Politicians tend to be crafty at manipulating the opinions of their constituents; but they are notoriously stupid when grappling with issues involving scientific knowledge and problems such as climate change.

    Philosophers can help others sort out meanings of words and give definition to the problems humans have to grapple with. There is a rather long history of this beginning with Plato; but as civilizations change with increasing knowledge and technology, many of the philosophical perspectives of the past are no longer relevant.

    I’m not sure if my impressions are correct; but it seems to me that those who choose philosophy as a career these days tend to gravitate more toward moral and ethical issues that apply to everyone and less toward the epistemological and ontological issues that confront scientists.

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  12. I think philosophy is a useful study. Perhaps of limited application, but like Latin or Greek, a useful part of a broad ‘classical’ education, and an aid to critical analysis. But like Shaw’s joke about economists, laid end to end they will still fail to reach a conclusion. 🙂

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  13. And what do you get when you cross a philosopher with a Godfather?

    An offer you can’t understand.

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  14. I seem to have more admiration for at least some philosophers than others above. Some of the knottiest problems we are faced with (c.f. earlier discussions of intentionality, the question of whether consciousness is an epiphenomenon, etc.) are difficult not because they await further empirical findings (e.g. more science), but rather because we don’t yet know how to think about them. I believe there is a role for philosophy in finding our way to the needed conceptual tools, and in unmasking unstated assumptions that hinder that search.

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  15. Neil Rickert’s first post in this thread was to agree that “not teaching philosophy is in general a good thing.” This seems to be in line with his admission that “my knowledge of the humanities is somewhat thin.” Yes, it does seem that way, since he offers no evidence, no argument and no names to back up his claims about (the specific concept duo) ‘intelligent design’ in philosophy.

    “I can’t name names [of philosophers], because there are too many of them.” – Neil Rickert

    Appeal to the nameless masses of philosophers, based on a lack of familiarity. That’s the situation Neil is facing here with his thus far empty talk about ‘intelligent design philosophy.’

    What is in contention is that Neil claimed this: “there is a far larger ‘intelligent design’ community.”

    What does ‘far larger’ mean? Which ‘community’ was he referring to? Apparently, not anything like a ‘community’ as most people understand it. Indeed, probably not even a ‘community’ that exists at all, unless one simply means religious philosophers who accept ‘the design argument’ (i.e. traditional theism), rather than the IDM’s ‘scientistic’ IDT.

    But if Neil wants to label such a theological community with the specific concept duo ‘intelligent design’ he would be mistaken. Edward Feser and Francis Beckwith are two philosophers that immediately come to mind who reject ‘Intelligent Design’ but broadly accept ‘design arguments’ such as Aquinas’ and Augustine’s.

    Glen Davidson wrote: “I don’t really see much of an intelligent design perspective in philosophy, not even in Plato.”

    In this case, I agree with him. Though Plato did believe the world was created/designed by a Creator-God. So do I. But that’s not ‘intelligent design’ philosophy.

    Likewise, he claims: “At least in continental philosophy, there hasn’t been much use for design since Kant–and Darwin.”

    Philosophy of technology (either ‘western analytic’ or ‘continental’) is impossible without concepts such as design, creativity, innovation, originality, invention, production/consumption, diffusion, etc. Please note that one cannot simply speak of ‘design’ alone because the instantiating of design is what is arguably more important. How do people create, innovate, invent, etc.? What impact do technologies have on individuals and societies?

    KN/E states: “There is an intelligent design ‘theory’ in Plato’s Timeaus…”

    What makes it *specifically* appropriate to use the concept duo ‘intelligent design’? Plato did not use this concept duo. KN/E seems to be retrofitting with his claim. Why?

    He also suggests “Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover is, I think it is fair to say, not a Designer, because…the UM itself doesn’t actively intervene in the cosmos.”

    That seems to depend on whether one is personally a theist or an atheist interpreter of Aristotle. Was Aristotle a theist? It does appear so; at least he was a ‘spiritualist,’ which would fit the ‘transcendent’ category of Uppercase IDT. Could the ‘Designer’ metaphor be applied to the UM as a ‘transcendent’ Cause, whether front-loading or interventionist? Why not? Is the inclusion of ‘final causes’ that are to be found ‘in nature’ consistent with an intervening ‘Designer’? I guess so, if one swallows the ideology of IDism, which I and other theists have found it unnecessary to do.

    “All men suppose what is called Wisdom to deal with the first causes and the principles of things.” – Aristotle (Metaphysics Book I, 981b 28)

    (cont’d)

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  16. The thread then turned into an inquisition of ‘philosophy.’

    KN/E wrote: “I completely disagree with the claim that philosophy is useless.”

    Glen Davidson concurred, saying “Epistemology comes to mind.”

    This is in response to petrushka’s August Comte-like three-stage theory, saying:

    “Philosophy and theology appear to be precursors to science, but they now appear to [be] subordinate in the sense that they must conform to the findings of science.”

    Such a view is not worth giving mindful attention nowadays. Spending some time in the library would help to re-educate a person from this 19th century view. You might want to start with Steve Fuller’s “Science: The Art of Living” (2010), given that Fuller is the “August Comte Chair in Social Epistemology” at Warwick University.

    Neil then jumped back in, saying “With my name up there in the thread title, I guess I am already public enemy #1. So I might as well say what I really think.”

    No, you’re not “public enemy #1.” Why would you think that? You just said some things that were highly questionable and have now been called to account for what you said. Will you answer directly or continue to dodge and dance away from your own words? So far, all you’ve done is to blame anyone else but your-self for what you said, claiming ‘misunderstanding.’ But the record of what you wrote is clear. Shall we revisit it with more recent comments?

    “I see philosophy as religion – the religion of the academy.” – Neil Rickert

    First, there are many philosophers who are not in or ‘of the academy.’ What about them?

    Second, why conflate philosophy with religion? What is ‘the academy’? Aren’t there many people in ‘the academy’ who (especially in the ‘western’ world) give precedence to religion over philo-sophia? It would be just as absurd if you’d said “I see religion as philosophy.”

    “It’s [Philosophy is] a strange sort of non-theistic religion.” – Neil Rickert

    Philosophy can only turn into a ‘religion substitute’ for non-theists, which is why the term ‘worldview’ is offered alongside theology. If one is not a theist, nevertheless, they still inevitably have a ‘worldview’ (weltanschauung), even if they may not be able to clearly articulate or identify it.

    And what then about religious philosophers, i.e. theists? Their philosophy/philosophies is/are obviously not a ‘non-theistic religion,’ but rather supportive of their theology. Alvin Plantinga comes most easily to mind or William Lane Craig or Nancey Murphy or Nicholas Wolterstorff or Robin Collins or Peter Kreeft or Francis Beckwith or Edward Feser. And there are many more (those are just a few of the American religious philosophers). Your view thus seems incoherent and indefensible, Neil.

    “I see philosophy as religion, because it seems to be driven by tradition rather than evidence.” – Neil Rickert

    This needs unpacking. Otoh, it appears Neil wants philosophy to become a positive science (not sure if/how his training and employment in mathematics and computer science impacts his views on this, but perhaps they do). Just ‘evidence’ trumping tradition like empiricist iconoclasm? Iow, he wants to call ‘oranges’ by the name ‘apples’ and vice versa. Has it not occurred to Neil that tradition and evidence can go hand in hand, that both can (and often do!) function together in the religions *and* philosophies of the world?

    Otoh, it doesn’t seem that Neil can fathom ‘forward-looking’ philosophy. For some unknown reason he personally wants ‘tradition’ to be a dirty word, as if it is backward-looking and retrograde. Philosophers on the cutting edge of developments in neuroscience, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science and technology, bio-ethics, post-postmodern aesthetics, philosophy of information, etc. however, would object to his rather strange characterisation of ‘philosophy as religion,’ which doesn’t appear to be based on familiarity with the literature. Neil is hand-waving away knowledge that he thinks doesn’t fit his worldview, but doing so doesn’t discount or default that knowledge from being available for those interested to look.

    Philosophy that combines both rich cultural traditions and new educational developments in collaboration with cutting-edge research (increasingly interdisciplinary – natural sciences, applied sciences, cognitive sciences, social sciences, media studies, information sciences, etc. across ‘traditional’ disciplinary domains) seems outside the range of Neil’s paper doll version of ‘philosophy: who needs it?’

    “I see philosophers as bright people. But they are caught up in a culture of group-think.” – Neil

    Oh goodness, isn’t the accusation of ‘group-think’ as easily made about ‘scientists’ as ‘philosophers’? Indeed, once one actually studies philosophy, they see as much ‘individual’ (read: non-group-think) difference between Martha Nussbaum, Bas van Fraasen, Cornel West and Charles Taylor as they do between Michael Ruse and Steve Fuller.

    Retrocipating Bill2 stated more sympathy to philosophy than several others at TSZ.

    “Some of the knottiest problems we are faced with (c.f. earlier discussions of intentionality, the question of whether consciousness is an epiphenomenon, etc.) are difficult not because they await further empirical findings (e.g. more science), but rather because we don’t yet know how to think about them.”

    Surely he is right about that. And richardthughes’ comment highlights the significance of linguistic philosophy and even hints at the importance of the so-called ‘linguistic turn,’ even though most natural-physical scientists are not aware and perhaps most don’t care to consider what that phrase means. They’re stuck in their philosophy = ‘no progress’ ideology, so to look down on non-scientists. Scientism, in such cases, handicaps natural-physical scientists from elevating to a fuller view of life and existence than their little specialised empirical, quantitative boxes allow in their ‘laboratory lives’. But yes, they’re often ‘bright people’ too! 😉

    (cont’d)

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  17. Neil Rickert’s first post in this thread was to agree that “not teaching philosophy is in general a good thing.”

    To be clear here, I was assenting to a remark that I took to be about teaching philosophy is elementary and high schools. I was not referring to the teaching of philosophy in universities and colleges.

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  18. Neil then jumped back in, saying “With my name up there in the thread title, I guess I am already public enemy #1. So I might as well say what I really think.”

    No, you’re not “public enemy #1.” Why would you think that?

    Why the extreme literalism? Or is that a strategy to cause conflict and start unnecessary arguments?

    I’m pretty sure most of the participants here did not read my statement that way.

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  19. Otoh, it appears Neil wants philosophy to become a positive science …

    No, I have not suggested that and I do not suggest that.

    First, there are many philosophers who are not in or ‘of the academy.’ What about them?

    I take that to be all humans. I was not referring to that broader group.

    Second, why conflate philosophy with religion?

    I didn’t. However, given your tendency toward extreme literalism, I’m not surprised at that misunderstanding.

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  20. (cont’d)
    Mike Elzinga gave perhaps the most thought provoking post in the thread so far, critical but also supportive of philosophy, saying:

    “philosophers in recent decades appear to be out of touch with most of the major issues in scientific research.”

    Yes, that’s why I’ve been harping on weak (or non-existent) PoS in the USA. There are of course a few exceptions (e.g. Babette Babich). The goal is to promote more PoS rather than less (if less is even possible). The educational diet in the USA seems to be highly imbalanced (no PoS with your natural and applied sciences; no fruits, vegetables or liquids with your steaks and ribs) and the health risk of thinking has suffered there under a hyper-capitalistic model. ‘Thinking’ has been unwisely opposed to ‘doing’ (as if one can’t both think and do! – one is reminded of the common slag against ‘teachers’ who can ‘only teach’ but ‘cannot do’), which becomes a deadly sin in capitalism leading to apathy, poverty and disrepute.

    “scientists working at the frontiers have become better at handling these questions than the philosophers.” – Mike

    That’s a valid point and a challenge to philosophers of science, especially those who were initially trained in natural sciences and then moved to philosophy at an older age. It is the same challenge that was made recently by the physicist-theologian Michal Heller. Additionally, Heller faults theologians and pastors/priests for not becoming acquainted enough with contemporary scientific findings. Should theologians (incl. pastors/priests) give more attention to HPSS, the discussion space would be improved immensely, and the YECism in the USA would likely finally begin to subside. Yet at the same time, natural scientists require more training and awareness of HPSS, such that ideological frameworks such as scientism and reductionism are tempered with honest grappling about the limits of science and the collaboration with other major (non-science) realms in human life.

    Mike offered an opinion:

    “those who choose philosophy as a career these days tend to gravitate more toward moral and ethical issues that apply to everyone and less toward the epistemological and ontological issues that confront scientists.”

    Well, I can’t say one way or another in the USA (in case that is where you live). My current research interest involves “the epistemological and ontological issues that confront scientists” within their social environments and thus also “moral and ethical issues.” Where I live philosophy plays an active role in university life, still one of the most prominent fields. But that is perhaps because in Eastern Europe, due attention was given during the Soviet period to ideology as it influences both science and philosophy, with religion or theology gradually but forcibly (and not entirely successfully) pushed out by Communist atheism. And in the Orthodox-majority countries, theology/worldview was likewise concentrated on what import philosophy (or dialectical materialism) would play in people’s lives on a daily basis under oppressive regimes.

    It is another thing to think about a society such as the USA which has never really had a predominant philosophy (unless one counts ‘the American dream,’ ‘pragmatism’ or perhaps ‘utilitarianism’ as such) that most citizens have adopted. So-called ‘common sense’ is obviously not so common anymore. Iow, my claim that the USA is PoS-impoverished (aside from a few figures, mostly holed away academically from broader relevance) connects with the apparent fact that philosophy has *never* really been taken seriously in the USA. In my home country of Canada, I’d guess 997+ out of 1000 don’t even know who George Grant was, perhaps the nation’s greatest philosopher.

    Allan Miller wrote: “I think philosophy is a useful study. Perhaps of limited application…”

    Well, ‘science’ also has ‘limited application’ and there is no ‘perhaps’ about it. As for me, philosophy is not simply useful (as a utilitarian instrument or tool), but also nourishing and challenging. It helps elevate (rather than reduce or debase) the soul, or just substitute ‘consciousness,’ if one allows that this is possible.

    But, like I said above, the main theme of the OP has not been faced. Neil Rickert is dancing us a jig and has yet to answer for what he wrote in using the specific concept duo ‘intelligent design’ wrt philosophy. If he’ll address it and/or take back what he said perhaps rather quickly and without much thought, we can move forward from there.

    “I am talking about philosophy, particularly academic philosophy.” – Neil Rickert

    No, you’re not. You’re just waving your hands.

    “Philosophers, as a group, tend to look at things from what I consider a[n] intelligent design perspective.” – Neil Rickert

    Does that include atheist philosophers or just religious philosophers? Is this yet another philosophy-of-one so-called ‘intelligent design’ that no one else subscribes to? Humpty Dumpty can make words mean whatever he wants them to mean, even if that ultimately destroys communicative clarity?

    “Perhaps it [intelligent design] is a natural way of thinking.” – Neil Rickert

    Welcome to their IDM, Neil! I’m sure they’d love to have you.

    “that particular [philosophical] intelligent design community is honest and largely non-political, unlike the religious version.” – Neil Rickert

    Granted, this statement must be taken in light of Neil’s later change of heart:

    “I did not intend to suggest that there was something [in academic philosophy] comparable to the ID movement. Apologies if what I said gave that impression.”

    So we are left in the dark as to what Neil actually believes and why he linked philosophy with lowercase ‘intelligent design’. And sadly, he seems opposed to philosophising with us to explain him-self. Heaven forbid a mathematician/computer scientist should actually have to think! :p

    p.s. now after a slight delay and having read Neil’s three chippy comments, it seems obvious that people at TSZ will never know why he wrote that “there is a far larger ‘intelligent design’ community.” What madness drove him to say a thing like this? 🙂 Neil doesn’t seem to know why he wrote it and has no evidence, explanation or argumentation to back his words up. Unfortunately, such a dialogue partner is not worth the time spent seriously engaging with the issues and taking the time to write about it here, so this is likely already enough. Especially when one responds directly to and even quotes his words and then gets accused of ‘extreme literalism’ and ‘misunderstanding’ with no explanation. Just use a smiley like Lizzie does if you’re joking, Neil. I am left to only guess that Neil’s entire ‘intelligent design philosophy’ paragraph was a ruse and that we shouldn’t take him/it seriously.

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