Re: Subject: Re: A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies
Sun, 14 Nov 1999 13:12:52 EST

In a message dated 99-11-14 12:57:42 EST, (J. R. Molloy) wrote:

> Greg wrote,
> >While Sokal's well-publicized nuking of postmodernist BS is a laudable
> >exercise, it by no means establishes the irrelevancy of the traditional
> >questions addressed by the humanities.
> Perhaps so. Can you relate a few of the traditional questions addressed by
> the
> humanities which science does not (or can not) also address (besides the
> singular issue of moralism, which I think avoids the hard questions)?

Ultimately, the questions I'm talking about are value questions: As the Greeks formulated the ultimate question, "What is the good?" I don't know what you mean when you say that "the singular issue of moralism . . . avoids the hard questions". What we judge to be good and bad IS the question.

> As for what we "OUGHT" to do:
> Authority belongs to the one who best answers those who question authority.
> Anyone who wants to know what we ought to do can ask me. <innocent grin>
> You "ought" to see my list.

I understand the humor here, but it is funny because of the merit of the question. Look at the very formulation of your response: "the one who BEST answers" - well, how are we to judge a good answer, much less a "best" one?

> But seriously, I think Richard Dawkins has contributed to the
> of
> how scientists can identify "what we ought to do" in his essay "The
> Biological
> Basis of Morality." I suspect that deep down, everyone really agrees on "
> what we
> ought to do." We just disagree (sometimes) about how to do it.
> As I see it, science can achieve success in social policy making
> science"? Not!) equivalent to what it has achieved in chemistry or
> As
> neuroscience reveals more about how human brains function, we can learn
> about what we ought to do to extend and amplify our sentience. One thing I
> advocate that we do involves further debunking of "Cultural Studies" and
> other
> pseudo-science nonsense.

I agree with you that much that has formerly been seen as fundamental will become instrumental - i.e. we will be able to DO the things we choose to do better and with fewer compromises. But the insight upon which the basic concepts of transhumanism are based ultimately makes appeals to "how human brains function" a challenging basis for a value system. Satisfying the needs of "human nature" becomes a shaky foundation when that nature becomes mutable. Your formulation above reveals that you seem to value "extending and amplifying our sentience" as a fundamental value. I do, too. But explicating WHY that is a fundamental value is important and may well not be within the realm addressable by the scientific method.

     Greg Burch     <>----<>
      Attorney  :::  Vice President, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide   -or-
                         "Civilization is protest against nature; 
                  progress requires us to take control of evolution."
                                           Thomas Huxley