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Showing posts from September, 2017

A most unnatural alliance

Is naturalism on the wane in philosophy? Even more so than with other -isms in our field, the precise meaning of “naturalism” is widely disputed. By and large, it stands for two substantially different positions, each of which, naturally, lends itself to further conceptual hair-splitting [1, 2]. Perhaps the best way to understand the broad difference is to compare their respective counterparts. What does it mean to oppose naturalism?
To be an anti-naturalist in the first sense is to posit the existence of supernatural beings or entities beyond the natural realm: gods, demons, ghosts, spiritual realms, the afterlife. Naturalism, then, is simply the thesis that none of these things exist. The natural universe, consisting of matter and energy or whatever the latest entities postulated by modern physics (snares, waves, fields…), is all there is. Let’s call this worldview naturalism.
The second brand of anti-naturalism, by contrast, is a normative thesis about the proper role of philosophy,…

Enjoying your cultural cheesecake: why believers are sincere and shamans are not charlatans

(BBS Commentary on Manvir Singh's target paper "The cultural evolution of shamanism")
Abstract:Cultural evolution explains not just when people tend to develop superstitions, but also what forms these beliefs take. Beliefs that are more resilient in the face of apparent refutations and more susceptible to occasional confirmation stand a greater chance of cultural success. This argument helps to dispel the impression that shamans are mere charlatans and believers are “faking it.”
Among many other insights into shamanism and supernatural belief, Singh has offered a useful decision tree for sorting different types of events and deciding when people are likely to develop superstitions. Superstition-prone events are those that are “uncontrollable, fitness relevant, and random.” I want to extend Singh’s cultural evolutionary analysis to the nature of the superstitious beliefs themselves. It is one thing to explain when people tend to develop superstitions, and another to explain…

Disruptieve filosofen: antwoord aan Ivana Ivkovic

De beschouwing van Ivana Ivkovic in Filosofie Magazine over de media-hetze rond mijn essay is al bij al een vrij evenwichtige analyse, die probeert om objectief en onpartijdig te blijven. Niettemin vraag ik me af wat Ivana Ivkovic concreet had verwacht van mijn kant. Ze vindt dat ik niet zomaar kan "vasthouden aan het conceptuele schema" dat ik in mijn essay hebt ontwikkeld, want "dat werkt niet" in het publieke forum. Maar wat had ik dan moeten doen? Moet ik mijn conceptueel schema wijzigen van zodra ik het publieke debat betreed? Andere begrippen en termen hanteren? Dat zou weinig consequent zijn en nog meer tot spraakverwarring leiden. Ze vindt het ook "disruptief" dat ik een essay schrijf en vervolgens op sociale media consequent bij mijn woordkeuze blijf. Maar als er publieke ophef ontstaat rond een tekst, wil dat per definitie zeggen dat die ophef aan de slechte woordkeuze van de schrijver te wijten is? Of zijn er andere mogelijke verklaringen, bij…