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Another thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion

Derakhshani, Maaneli (2023) Another thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion. Sam Harris: Critical Responses (Critical Responses, 2), edited by Sandra Woien. Publisher: Carus Books, January 10, 2023. ISBN: 9781637700242. pp. 223-234.

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Abstract

I critique Sam Harris's oft-repeated claim that "Consciousness is the one thing in this universe that cannot be an illusion", and use this critique as a basis for critiquing the Neo-Darwinian account of reason as an evolved faculty of human cognition. I first show that reason is another thing (distinct from consciousness) that cannot be an illusion, for reasons similar to why consciousness cannot be an illusion. I then give evidence that Harris seems to believe that reason is identical to brain activity, a view that I claim is incoherent because it is the same as saying that reason is an illusion. To justify this claim, I first note that brain activity is (supposedly) the product of Neo-Darwinian biological evolution, and describe the Neo-Darwinian account of reason; I then show that the Neo-Darwinian account amounts to the claim that reason is an illusion while at the same time presupposing the independent validity of reason. Alternatives to the Neo-Darwinian account are subsequently sketched. Finally, I observe that Harris has (apparently) never discussed these arguments from reason despite being very familiar with some of the philosophical literature where these arguments are discussed at length (e.g., The Last Word by Thomas Nagel).


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Derakhshani, Maanelimaanelid@yahoo.com
Keywords: Sam Harris, reason, consciousness, Thomas Nagel, Neo-Darwinism, evolution, illusionism, mind-body problem.
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Psychology > Evolutionary Psychology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Biology > Function/Teleology
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Cognitive Neuroscience
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Consciousness
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Depositing User: Dr. Maaneli Derakhshani
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2023 14:48
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2023 14:48
Item ID: 22319
Journal or Publication Title: Sam Harris: Critical Responses (Critical Responses, 2), edited by Sandra Woien. Publisher: Carus Books, January 10, 2023. ISBN: 9781637700242
Publisher: Carus Books
Official URL: https://carusbooks.com/product/sam-harris/
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Psychology > Evolutionary Psychology
Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Specific Sciences > Biology > Function/Teleology
Specific Sciences > Neuroscience > Cognitive Neuroscience
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Consciousness
General Issues > Explanation
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Date: 24 June 2023
Page Range: pp. 223-234
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/22319

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