Interview with Alex Rosenberg Atheists Guide to Reality

Here is a nice interview with Alex Rosenberg author of the Atheists Guide to Reality.

Alex Rosenberg’s central claim is that the hard sciences are the only sources of knowledge and that all other phenomena such as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, purpose must either reduce to the fundamental stuff of physics and chemistry or be eliminated (seen as illusory). This means that on his view there is not really any kind of meaning or purpose, no beliefs, perhaps not even consciousness (although maybe that is reducible somehow) in the universe.  The book is very consistent but it starts from a mad premise.

It is still an entertaining read, written in an engaging and pacey style but you might wonder whether the author really believes (wrong term but there is no other way of saying it) that he has no beliefs and that he didn’t write the book with any purpose i.e., to make money.

For me the most interesting part was the connection with morality where Rosenberg claims that there are evolutionary grounds for thinking that moral norms have been selected for not on the basis of their truth but on the basis of aiding survival (the two are not mutually exclusive, a point which went unobserved in the interview). Hence in the future moral norms that we current think are immoral might be selected for.

Two points are worth noting here – the first is that moral norms are inherently social they concern others well being. IF the environment changed and humans no longer cared about others then the species would eventually die out as we are all during some part of our lifespan dependent on others. That is simply a consequence of being a mammal. The second point Julian Baginni notes is that in order to moral beliefs to be selected for and be false they have to be causally efficacious i.e., they have to be about something and make us behave in some way. But if beliefs are causally efficacious by being about something then they are going to be real because beliefs are the sorts of mental states that have intentionality (they are directed at something).

There is a slightly more in depth discussion about reductionism in the sciences here.


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One Response to Interview with Alex Rosenberg Atheists Guide to Reality

  1. bronbones says:

    He is reductionistic about consciousness, not eliminativistic

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