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Good and Real: Demystifying Paradoxes from Physics to Ethics (Bradford Books) Hardcover – May 5, 2006
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"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*
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)
In an extraordinary tour de force, Drescher has written a powerful defense of rationalism and of a deterministic universe. He systematically examines and dismantles the arguments against a mechanical view of the universe and the mind. Drescher shows how a computational perspective enables us to solve the longstanding mysteries of the real and the good; how the physical world, consciousness, and free choice arise from deterministic mechanisms; and how the universe and everything (and everyone) in it is essentially a computation. In contrast to a prevailing relativism, Drescher demonstrates that both truth and ethics can be placed on a rational foundation.(Uri Wilensky, Northwester Institute on Complex Systems, Northwestern University, and author of the NetLogo multiagent modeling environment)
Gary Drescher thinks that attempts to solve the deep problems that have stumped philosophers since time immemorial -- or have caused them to resort to silly answers -- have been thwarted largely by a set of relatively simple yet significant misunderstandings in logic and physics. He is right about that, and his careful debunking and explanations are clear and compelling. He also believes that by avoiding these errors, he has found solutions to the weightiest of those problems -- in particular, the true nature of right and wrong and the true nature of subjective sensation and consciousness. Of that, I am not convinced. But in making the attempt, he has provided a valuable and entertaining introduction to rational thinking in a variety of fields.(David Deutsch, University of Oxford, author of The Fabric of Reality)
"*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*
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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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.