Updates and the Road Ahead

Its been a year since I’ve last posted on my blog. Perhaps some of my readers have wondered what I’ve been up to, or if I’ve abandoned my blog. The answer is I have not – rather, over the past year I have devoted most of my writing energies into my book, which as of the time of writing this post is being considered by a publisher. I hope it might be published sometime next year, though this will depend upon how things go with the publisher of course. My book is a detailed critique of the apologetic arguments of William Lane Craig, with a focus on the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Fine-Tuning Argument, the Moral Argument, and the Resurrection Argument. Some of these are issues I have written about on this blog, while others are relatively new. Over the course of the next few months I plan to prepare summaries of each chapter of the book and upload them to this blog.

Considering the road ahead on my intellectual journey, I have become increasingly interested in the idea of developing a coherent, unified worldview for my various positions, situated within the framework of a naturalistic ontology. I will be presenting a short talk on this subject at the Humanist Convention in early April 2017 (next week as of the time of writing), after which I will write up a version of this material for this blog. In the meantime, I thought I’d include a brief ‘roadmap’ for the future to provide an overview of my (some of) my various interests and endeavours, along with some various thoughts concerning some issues I’ve been thinking about lately. This list is as much for me as for anyone else – I won’t explain anything in great detail or expect everything to make complete sense to all readers. Nevertheless, perhaps some will find the foregoing interesting and stimulate some thought or discussion.

  • Philosophy of existence – what does it mean to exist? Are there different categories of existence? How can we classify what exists? I am particularly interested in developing some ideas I have on this matter drawing upon statistical mechanics. Actions: develop a reductive naturalistic account of ontology, drawing ideas from statistical mechanics and the concept of supervenience.
  • Philosophy of physics – what does physics say about the fundamental constituents of reality? Particularly related to Quantum Field Theory and General Relativity. Actions: complete current graduate physics courses, read up on philosophy of physics and related metaphysics arguments to inform my views. Incorporate some of these ideas with other philosophical material in writing up responses to the Cosmological argument.
  • Metaethics – what are moral values, and where do they come from? I have already written about this question, but am particularly interested in integrating Railton’s reductive naturalistic theory of ethics with the reductive theory of ontology mentioned above. Actions: prepare new pieces summarising my naturalistic approach to meta-ethics and linking it in with a naturalistic ontology. Also update old responses to the moral argument accordingly. Continue to oppose arguments attempting to ground ethics in divine commands.
  • Philosophy of mind and neuroscience – what is the mind, and how does it work? This project has both scientific and philosophical elements. On the philosophical side I am interested in learning more about naturalistic theories of the mind, and incorporating such accounts into a reductive naturalistic ontology (see above). On the scientific side, I hope to pursue a PhD in computational neuroscience, and in doing so wish to investigate the computational principles underpinning the operation of higher order cognitive processes in the brain. Actions: continue more detailed reading into computational neuroscience and philosophy of mind, with a focus on computational approaches to cognition. Work on incorporating computational theories of mind into my integrated naturalistic ontology (see above). Hopefully next year commence PhD (or other further studies) in computational neuroscience.
  • Applied ethics – what is the best ways we can make the world better? I see effective altruism as one of the functional end goals of the above philosophical work. If we can better understand what morality is, and better understand how people think and make decisions, and what motivates people, then we will be in a much stronger position to both help those in need, and to encourage others to do likewise. No specific actions here other than continuing to promote the ideas of effective altruism, as well as thinking about how to better apply these ideas in my own life. I do also want to think about how the EA movement can better present itself to the public at large (image), and how to balance abstract theory and ‘hands on’ actual doing in EA.
  • Epistemology and cognition – what is knowledge? How do we come to know things? One of my ultimate goals is to develop an integrated epistemological theory based both on philosophical arguments as well as findings about how higher human cognition actually works at a psychological and neuroscientific level. In particular I am interested in developing a theory of abductive inference (inference to the best explanation) that is based upon (but not limited to) what actually goes on in the brain when such inferences are performed. The goal would then to apply this account to help gain clarity in issues where very different explanations compete for superiority. Philosophy and history are two fields this would be particularly relevant to, notably (for me) the question of competing explanations for the historical facts pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus. Actions: work on clarifying my thoughts and preparing some articles concerning an epistemological framework which both connects with a naturalistic ontology and also with more cognitive approaches. Include more material about this on my podcast. I would also like to give some talks on how epistemology is connected to neuroscience.
  • Politics – I am interested in writing about how my political and economic views are underpinned by more fundamental philosophical (and even scientific) beliefs, and also how disagreements on such matters often can often be the basis for all sorts of practical political differences. I am also interested in trying to understand how ‘ordinary people’ (non-academics or politicians, etc) form their political views, in particular the cognitive processes underlying such decision-making. Ideally an account of these processes could be used to develop more effective methods of promoting better social and political outcomes (e.g. pertaining to the Brexit and Trump incidents). I’m unsure about specific actions here – I still am shaping my thoughts about these matters.

That’s enough for now – more details to come in the ensuring months (and years!)


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