This will open by being not a review of the book as a whole but an analysis of the motivation behind physicalism as presented in an article," Mind-Body Dualism and the Two Cultures" by one of the editors, Ed Slingerland. This expands my analysis in my review of his book "What Science Offers the Humanities."
In summary, Slingerland does not give adequate reasons for abandoning what he concedes is the default position, dualism, so I explore what other reasons he may have for opting for physicalism.
Slingerland provides context for considering the issue:
The reasons he gives for denying consciousness such a role confuse consciousness with mere cognition and intelligence, as:
Must we assume Slingerland is not aware of consciousness as a capability in itself, but only of it having such content as acts of cognition and operations of intelligence that it shares with machines? Does he not experience any difference between experience and matter that he could appreciate others wanting to account for?
Yes, evolution has embedded in us illusions associated with conscious phenomena. But Slingerland assumes the existence of these illusions means there are no such phenomena.
Not only are physical and human explanation not different in principle, they are to be regarded as different only for heuristic purposes:
His proof for why physical and human explanation are not significantly different is, we're equally ignorant about both so they must be the same!
He gives empty logic priority over conscious experience. Here's another example. He must know that negative scientific findings cannot prove whether or not we are free, yet he gives the findings of science more weight than our healthy conviction that we are free.
Engaging with arguments as weak as these is beside the point. The more important issue is what lies behind his passion to banish from mind awareness of itself.
When I look for those passions I am disturbed by how dark they appear. However, he is pressing a program for changes in how the humanities should train and instruct:
So I think the implications of such a program must be explored.
In the following quote, for "daughter" I read "self":
Here for "people" I again read "self":
And, again, for "individuals" I read "self":
Slingerland is urging the humanities to embrace and propagate a self concept that he cannot provide good reasons for adopting, that he admits is bizarre and repugnant, that would inspire revulsion in any thoughtful and psychologically healthy human being, that would justify us in labeling people "psychopaths," and putting them away somewhere to protect the rest of us. What could possibly induce someone to recommend that the humanities adopt such a gospel of self-hate?
Is Slingerland tapping into a society-wide self loathing, against which the best defense is denial of one's own consciousness?
What evidence are we challenged to produce to refute his position?
For the dualist this could be the daily writing of a journal detailing one's awareness of intentions hinging on thoughts and feelings in consciousness having been executed in the outside world. It could even be as immediate as being aware of directing one's attention to serve content associated with qualia, to which matter is not privy. To me, merely experiencing being conscious is proof of dualism, no matter how much of its contents owes its origin to physical stimuli. Are physicalists open to evidence in the form of the contents of their own consciousness? If not, dualists could just ignore them.
They could, but they can't. There is an alien and repugnant monster stalking the physicalism/dualism battleground, lending its support to the physicalist cause:
Is it the looming presence of this monster that's been breeding self loathing in us, as we see ourselves reflected in its shiny scales as mere fodder for mutation and selection, our highest aspiration being to reproduce and see our genes passed on?
Whatever its role in feeding a passion to deny consciousness, I think its main role now is to give physicalists the courage of their convictions. I see Slingerland's endorsement of Darwinism as lending support to this web site's mission.