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Good and Real: Demystifying Paradoxes from Physics to Ethics (Bradford Books) Hardcover – May 5, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: Bradford Books
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book; 1 edition (May 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262042339
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262042338
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,341,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A breathtakingly original assault on all the Big Issues! When philosophers get stuck in ruts, it often takes a brilliant outsider tojolt them onto new ground, and Gary Drescher, coming to philosophy from AI, offers a startling feast of new ideas. I'm sure some of them are right, but I can't tell which! Can you?"--Daniel Dennett, author of *Brainchildren*, *Sweet Dreams*, and *Breaking the Spell*



"*Somehow* the brain must be the mind --- *your* brain must be *your* mind. How can we get to a vantage point from which we can understand this? The steady march of neuroscience, or the mincing crabwalk of academic philosophy, will take you only a few steps. Dan Lloyd has found a delicious way of seducing our imaginations into brand new places, the places we have all been trying to reach: try mind dancing in this new genre, the neuroscience novel of consciousness."--Daniel Dennett, author of *Brainchildren*, *Sweet Dreams*, and *Breaking the Spell*

About the Author

Gary L. Drescher is an independent scholar and was recently Visiting Fellow at the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from MIT in 1989 and is the author of Made-Up Minds: A Constructivist Approach to Artificial Intelligence (MIT Press, 1991).

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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Thomas W. Clark on July 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Explain to people that they are fully natural, caused creatures, that they don't have contra-causal free will, and they often suppose you're dallying with fatalism. Explain that there is no provable basis for morality outside the natural world, and they often assume you're a moral relativist or nihilist. How can we construe human choices as anything but illusory if all we do is completely determined? How can we judge behavior right or wrong if there are no supernatural ethical foundations?

In Good and Real, computer scientist and independent scholar Gary Drescher mounts a mind-bending attack on these and other problems that arise when commonsense conflicts with the science-based view that we inhabit a purely physical, mechanistic, deterministic universe. (Please fasten your seatbelts.) Establishing that we are in such a universe is just one of his projects, set forth in a chapter called "Quantum Certainty." Drescher explains and defends Hugh Everett's relative-state interpretation of quantum mechanics in which there is no collapse of the waveform and in which the evolution of the (locally branching) universe in configuration space is fully deterministic. This unflinching fidelity to the mathematical quantum formalism is quite the opposite of pop-quantum physics, for instance as popularized by the film What the Bleep Do We Know, which gives the putatively undetermined conscious observer a special role in "creating" reality by collapsing the waveform. Here as elsewhere in the book Drescher draws a tough-minded, unpopular conclusion: sorry, we don't create our own reality.

Nor is consciousness something that transcends mechanism.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Joel Kelso on August 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The thesis of this book is that a basic misunderstanding of the nature of human consciousness lies at the root of at least three apparent paradoxes: the arrow of time (if the laws of physics are reversible, why are we clearly moving forward in time), the interpretation of quantum mechanics (how can the universe seemingly depend on whether or not someone is watching it), and free will (if the universe is in principal completely predictable, what does it mean to say we choose anything ?). The author's resolutions involve carefully re-examining the premises of each paradox under the assumption that consciousness is a process that is part of the physical universe and not something somehow separate.

If you are sure that consciousness is a supernatural phenomona, this book will be gibberish to you.

The author goes on to talk about counterfactual reasoning, which was a key to resolving the paradoxes. He posits that understanding descision theory that correctly incorporates counterfactual reasoning (there is a good explanation of evidential and causal decision theory and where they each fail) can explain several features of human ethics.

I started out in agreement with the book's premises, and found the arguments generally convincing and helpful, although I feel that the parts about counterfactual reasoning and ethics as a bit speculative.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Danny Hillis on June 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I am proud to write a review for this book, because I am convinced that philosophers of the future will look back on it as being ahead of its time.

Drescher establishes a comprehensive framework for studying some of the most difficult problems in philosophy, starting with a mechanistic view of the mind. With these tools, he dissects some of the most perplexing philosophical problems, questions about mind and body, consciousness, cause and effect, and moral choice. Drescher demonstrates convincingly that many our intuitions about free will and moral choice are not only not contradicted by a mechanistic view, but can be supported by it

I expect this book will not achieve the recognition it deserves for many years, because Drescher's way of thinking will be not be easy for readers with twentieth-century assumptions. Yet I am convinced that philosophers of the future will look back at this book in wonder, not because his ideas will be strange to them, but because they will find it surprising that we had so much trouble accepting them.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By haig shahinian on March 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
'Ambitious' does not do justice to the scope of this book's project of explaining no less than all of reality and dispelling the most beguiling of modern philosophical paradoxes. Drescher's title 'Good and Real' alludes to the is/ought dichotomy of what there 'is' and how moral agents 'ought' to act. He presents solutions to both using reasonable assumptions based on modern scientific evidence and then extrapolating those into cleverly simplified toy models.

Underlying all of Drescher's thinking is a foundational construction of the 'real' or what 'is' and can be summarized as a deterministic quantum-mechanical configuration space based on Everett's many-worlds interpretation that sits statically and timelessly representing the possibility space of spacetime. Using this foundation, he offers a theory of the 'good' or what 'ought' to be done and can be summarized as following the rule of subjunctive reciprocity, which is the use of acausal counterfactual reasoning to justify following Kant's categorical imperative. In reaching this conclusion, Drescher spends time reconciling notions of free-will with a deterministic universe and puts forth arguments for using acausal counterfactual reasoning as the preferred way of thinking about means-end relations that is more general than causal relationships but also more strict than mere evidential relationships.

I found Drescher's arguments sound and consistent, and his assumptions more than reasonable, and thus can agree with his general conclusions for the most part without much reservation. It goes much further than other recent attempts at grounding ethics within a naturalistic framework, such as Sam Harris' failed attempts in his recent book 'The Moral Landscape', but I fear the necessarily more technical style of Drescher's book will impede it from receiving the popular attention it deserves.
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