Much of our philosophical discussion on social and political issues such as abortion is really not of much help to those directly dealing with those problems in the world outside of the philosophical halls and coffee shops. Much of our philosophical discussions are mostly abstract and theoretical, so much so that only the academic specialists can truly appreciate them. And, with a few exceptions, such discussions and debates are not too relevant to the real problems that individuals like those working for family planning clinics and their clients face everyday.
Consider the phrase: “…to be aware of objects in the world, I must form a representation of them “inside,”in my brain or in my mind.” The purported locations of the ‘representations’ are not at all equivalent or even in similar categories. “In the brain” is clear enough a locations and would be a clear reply to the question “Where is X located?” But “in the mind” is completely metaphorical and does not at all state an unambiguous location. “In my mind” simply means in my thoughts or alternatively, something about which I think. A lover who writes of his beloved, “I have you in my mind,” does not claim that the beloved inhabits his brain, rather than where ever she happens to be. He merely states that he has her in his thoughts or is thinking of her. “She is in my mind” does not at all answer the question “Where is she?” To think it does is tantamount to a category error.
John Dewey was what we would call today a humanist activist. He was one of the original thirty-four signers of the Humanist Manifesto in 1933 and an honorary member of the Humanist Press Association, which was the predecessor to the American Humanist Association. With a wide range of works that were not only highly respected in academia but also influential in shaping American public policy and dialogue, Dewey is arguably the single most important public intellectual in the history of modern American humanism.
There is no problem of free will. Humans can realize degrees of freedom and make informed choices; in many situations they can do what they desire to do or what they find to be in their best interest. There isn’t any conflict between this concept of free action and a concept of determinism which does not imply predictability or inevitability. This free action and free choice are all that are required for what Dennett refers to as freedom worth having.
Someone who denies dualism can consistently affirm the obvious truth that each of us has subjective experiences. These are different issues altogether. In fact, I don’t know of any non-dualist who denies that people have subjective experiences. Not even the more radical behaviorists went to that extreme.
It seems that any philosophy and any theology that humans advance will be limited by our concepts and categories of thought; and further it seems that our language and concepts developed in a context of a natural, physical world. So, even when someone dreams up gods, ghosts, and purely spiritual realms, there’s a sense in which that persons is limited to those categories of thought (many based on our physical existence and physical acts)
I don’t doubt that challenges are important and maybe even necessary in our lives, and true also that challenges involve frustration and suffering, in some cases. And I suppose you can say that meeting challenges helps to build character. (They surely are conditions for some of our greatest art!) But tell me, what character is built for the millions whose lives were cut short by the holocaust, by total war, by early deaths due to preventable disease? Is this the only way your God can “build character”?
Regardless of whether we ask about origin or justification of belief, there aren’t any justifiable grounds for the view that only the theological problem of evil stands behind the atheist’s denial of the reality of a deity.
Of course, the proposition that time is unreal can be understood as just part of another mental exercise, often found in philosophy. It surely cannot be considered a serious attempt to describe reality. But don’t underestimate the tendency of some philosopher to promote one or another form of nonsense, among them, the unreality of time.
Some people prefer to leave the past alone for different reasons. Some prefer to concentrate on problems and issues of the present and those that we shall face in the future; and such people don’t see how the past is relevant to current issues. But some prefer to ignore the past because they prefer to cover up the past insofar as events of the past do not present humans and human society in a good light. But generally those who prefer to ignore past history are those for who do not apply the lessons of history; and history surely has lessons to teach us.