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Wilson, Consilience, and Philosophy

http://www.greatbooks.org/tcr/goodheart14.shtml
In 1998 Wilson provoked controversy with the publication of Consilience: The 
Unity of Knowledge. In this book, he argued that although the various 
disciplines of learning at first appear fragmented, they can ultimately be 
integrated–if one knows how to look at them properly. In short, Wilson made a 
claim for a unified field theory of knowledge. He pointed out, for example, 
that ethics require no prior grounding in metaphysics, but rather can be 
described as an extension of the cooperative behavior that so often occurs 
between organisms. By this and other illustrations, Wilson's theory presumed 
biology to be the science that explains all other sciences and disciplines. 
It made biology emperor.    
    
According to Wilson, philosophy has become obsolete in its understanding of 
mental activity and should yield its claim to wisdom about mind to the 
cognitive and neuroscientists. From Descartes to Kant, philosophers’ 
reflections proceed from introspection and draw us away from the actual 
operations of the brain, which is essentially "a machine assembled not to 
understand itself, but to survive."     
    
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Wilson's claims on consilience are puzzling in many ways, as an indicator, in 
the sociobiology debate, of the impoverishment of discussion. 
How is it that a hi tech society with all the resources of science is stuck 
in such a dishwater positivism? 

At least do science. There evidence is required, and the evidence Huxley 
found difficult to deal with in his Evolution and Ethics cannot be swept 
under the rug. That ethics is an extension of cooperative behavior is a 
speculative hypothesis improperly observed in the evolutionary field. That's 
that. This is in part the mesmerizing result of staring at pop gen math 
models, which are cute, of obvious use in simple cases, but not very high 
powered, incapable of explaining ethical evolution, but cast in the mystique 
of hard science, when in fact they are both limited, and unverified.  
 
Because 'science needs to look complete' even as it all too obviously 
incomplete, some ingenious 'explain it away'  method is needed on ethics, and 
this claim of the sociobiologists is the object of some mockery by the 
philosopher David Stove in his Darwinian Fairytales. 
The idea that Darwin's theory of natural selection has explained the issues 
of ethics(in the various tricky group/kin selecitionist models) is a 
distortion of the evidence and improper science methodology in action, a 
characteristic of Darwinian theory from the beginning. 

As for philosophers, and  Wilson's Consilience, any reasonable study of world 
history will show that the 'evolution of philosophy' is a major evolutionary 
mystery itself, and so far from Descartes to Kant becoming obsolete, the 
riddle of modern philosophy has defeated modern socio-biological science, 
what lowball from this peak in the nineteenth century. Scientists are inside 
the stream of philosophy, and the results are indeed sometimes 'philosophy 
junk'. But the idea that the early moderns are obsolete is a nice joke. Is 
Kant obsolete? Answer carefully, and get it right the first time. 

>>>Check out my 'eonic model': <A HREF="http://eonix.8m.com">http://eonix.8m.com</A>    
The eonic emergence of modern philosophy in the phase transition model, shows 
that the timing of the appearance of Descartes to Kant/Hegel/Hume  is 
non-random and therefore in part the result of macro-evolution (in the eonic 
sense). In general the history of philosophy and science are braided together 
and show exact correlation with the eonic sequence. The exact relation of 
philosophy to evolution and history is something no theory of the Darwinian 
type can explain, and one reason so many people instinctively sense something 
wrong with Darwinian selectionism, often leading them to wrongly reject 
evolution. 

This amounts to saying the the philosopher cannot do 'meta-science' on 
science or philosophy because he is inside its emergence, making a mockery of 
Wilson' tortoise scientism. Sorry, but that's reality. It requires very close 
study of the eonic evolution of civilization to get a feeling for this. 
This reality doesn't interfere with good physics to any noticeable degree. 
And that' s problem. We think simple transfer of concepts to biology and 
culture is 'consilience', but in reality it is muddle. In the current 
confusion of Darwinian evolutionary psychology misapplied to history this 
effect becomes overwhelming, as indeed Huxley knew. 
    

    


John Landon
Website for
World History and the Eonic Effect
http://eonix.8m.com


John Landon
Website for
World History and the Eonic Effect
http://eonix.8m.com

Blogzone
http://www.xanga.com/nemonemini