Friday, July 27, 2012

Dawkins on Biological Perfection

In Chapter 4 of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins has this to say about the manner in which organs are adapted to their functions:
The observed fact is that every species, and every organ that has ever been looked at withing every species, is good at what it does. The wings of birds, bees and bats are good at flying. Eyes are good at seeing. Leaves are good at photosynthesizing. We live on a planet where we are surrounded by perhaps ten million species, each one of which independently displays a powerful illusion of design. Each species is well fitted to its particular way of life.
What is immediately striking is Dawkins's unselfconscious appeal to final causes; to say that every organ is "good at what it does" implies that there is in fact something that can be identified as what an organ "does", and its performance can be measured against that ideal. Now of course Dawkins would deny that there really is any such thing as final causes, and that this paragraph can be cashed out in materialistic terms. But it is interesting that in making a point about an illusion (the illusion of design), Dawkins makes it in terms of something that is, for him, just as much an illusion - the illusion of final causes. So it is the illusion of final causes that gives rise to the powerful illusion of design. I wonder what is the cause of the illusion of final causes?

More to the point, our "particular way of life" is the way of life of the rational animal. We are possessed of an organ, the brain, and "what it does" is know the world. According to Dawkins, every organ is good at what it does, so it must be that the brain is good at knowing the world. Yet the theme of The God Delusion is that most people's brains, for most of the time, have been grossly mistaken about elementary facts concerning the world; facts like the non-existence of God, the illusion of final causes and design and, recently, the reality of evolution. It's only because we have lately (in terms of human history) stumbled on the methods of science that we have been rescued from illusion and falsehood at all. The point can be put simply: If man were like other animals and "well fitted" to our way of life, there would be no need for The God Delusion.

Materialists like Dawkins want to claim that man is not different in kind than other animals, but there is simply no denying that we are. Some people say we are made in the image of God, and this makes us different in kind. Dawkins says this is an illusion, but in doing so he only creates a different manner in which man is unique: He is the creature not well-fitted to his way of life.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Dawkins on Intelligent Design

I have no beef with Intelligent Design one way or the other, although Edward Feser has gone a long way to convincing me it is more harmful than helpful. But Richard Dawkins sure doesn't make it easy to write off the ID folks.

In his book The God Delusion, Dawkins discusses creationism in his chapter "Why There Almost Certainly is No God." Arguing against the ID notion of "irreducible complexity", he casts it as a fallacy in the form of The Argument from Personal Incredulity: If I can't imagine how something came about, then it couldn't have come about naturally and must have been the creation of special design. Dawkins says there are many examples where this isn't true, and cites a reference in support of his argument:
In his book Seven Clues to the Origin of Life, the Scottish chemist A.G. Cairns-Smith makes an additional point, using the analogy of an arch. A free-standing arch of rough-hewn stones and no mortar can be a stable structure, but it is irreducibly complex: it collapses if any one stone is removed. How, then, was it built in the first place? One way is to pile a solid heap of stones, then carefully remove stones one by one. More generally, there are many structures that are irreducible in the sense that they cannot survive the subtraction of any part, but which were build with the aid of scaffolding that was subsequently subtracted and is no longer visible.  Once the structure is completed, the scaffolding can be removed safely and the structure remains standing. In evolution, too, the organ or structure you are looking at may have had scaffolding in an ancestor which has since been removed.
Does Dawkins realize he just gave a powerful argument for intelligent design? Yes, arches are typically built by piling stones supported by a structure, then removing the structure. This is how the Romans - intelligent agents - did it. Dawkins carefully abstracts from the agent ("one way is to pile a solid heap of stones...") as though describing an intelligent process without the agent somehow magically removes the agent. This isn't the first time I've seen this kind of thing happen (citing an example of intelligent design in support of an evolutionary process); I wonder if Dawkins knows what he is doing or is simply blind to it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dawkins and God-like Aliens

I've finally gotten around to reading Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion, a book I've had on my shelf for awhile. It's actually an enjoyable read as Dawkins has a nice style and some good humor. All your favorite village atheist arguments are here ("I just go one god further" among other favorites).

In his third chapter, Dawkins discusses the possibility of alien civilizations and the level of their technological development with respect to us. Apparently as a way of undermining the possibility of proof by miracle, Dawkins asserts that such a civilization might have technology so advanced that to us it appears magical:
Whether we ever get to know about them or not, there are very probably alien civilizations that are superhuman, to the point of being god-like in ways that exceed anything a theologian could possibly imagine. Their technical achievements would seem as supernatural to us as ours would seem to a Dark Age peasant transported to the twenty-first century. Imagine his response to a laptop computer, a mobile telephone, a hydrogen bomb or a jumbo jet. As Arthur C. Clarke put it, in his Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." The miracles wrought by our technology would have seemed to the ancients no less remarkable than the tales of Moses parting the waters, or Jesus walking upon them. The aliens of our SETI signal would be to us like gods, just as missionaries were treated as gods (and exploited the undeserved honor to the hilt) when they turned up in Stone Age cultures bearing guns, telescopes, matches, and almanacs predicting eclipses to the second.
The first thing to be said about this is that theologians - even medieval ones - can surely imagine things beyond the power of superhuman aliens, specifically creation ex nihilo, which is in principle beyond the technology of any alien no matter how advanced, as it is beyond the power of technology per se. (I am not quite as demanding; I would be impressed simply with the Lazarus-like raising of someone from the dead. I do not believe this is possible whatever the technology.) More interesting is Dawkins's notion that the technical achievements of aliens would seem "supernatural to us." Surely they would not seem so to Dawkins, would they? Isn't the anticipation of the possibility of advanced alien technology enough to innoculate Dawkins from drawing any unwarranted supernatural conclusions? And us as well, since he's just done us the favor?

It is not insignificant that when selecting someone from the "Dark Ages" to transport into the modern age, Dawkins selects a peasant and not, say, one of his despised theologians or philosophers. Yes, Jacques the Crass might be overawed by modern technology, but would Thomas Aquinas, Avicenna or to go way back, Socrates?*  The reason Stone Age folks took explorers for gods is because primitive peoples know no distinction between nature and supernature. Reality is an unreflected continuum and to be a god really is to just be a superpowerful creature, not different in kind from any other creature. In that respect, it might not be too much to say that the Stone Age people were not actually wrong in thinking missionaries were gods. If the "gods" are just the most powerful creatures immanent in the universe, then the explorers with their guns and telescopes qualify. But Thomas Aquinas did not believe in such "gods" and was in possession of a thoroughly articulated philosophy of nature including the distinction between nature and supernature. If men showed up doing extraordinary things, he would certainly not conclude they were "gods", nor would he necessarily conclude that they were from God. Which brings us to Dawkins's comments about Moses and Jesus.

Dawkins doesn't seem to notice that the remarkable thing about both Moses and Jesus was that they weren't strangers come doing strange things, like missionaries visiting a primitive tribe, but apparently ordinary, familiar men doing extraordinary things. "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?" (Matt. 13:55).  There is a "provenance" associated with both men that puts their extraordinary actions in context.  For the distinguishing mark of God is the union of power and wisdom; God is not just powerful, He is good. Jesus Christ did not begin his earthly ministry until the fullness of time, that is until he had fulfilled things in all righteousness. He was born and raised a faithful Jew so that when it came time for Him to fulfill His mission, He did it as a Jew known among Jews, not as a wonder-working stranger. What is the source of His power, then? It is nothing of this world, because we know the carpenter's son and his history; he is just like us.

And unlike an exploitative missionary or explorer, Christ did not serve himself with His miracles but others. This is an area where Thomas Aquinas might prove superior even to Richard Dawkins. While Dawkins is impressed purely with power (what tricks can you perform?), Aquinas is more interested in the question of what good you can do. Thus it's all the same to Dawkins whether a god proves himself with hydrogen bombs or telephones; Dawkins even seems uninterested in what a godlike person might actually do with bombs or telephones. Is someone just as godlike if he destroys the world with h-bombs or saves the world with an h-bomb by blowing up an asteroid about to collide with the Earth? Is he just as godlike if he tells lies over the telephone or if he tells truths? Not to Thomas Aquinas. The question of what one does with power is at least as important for Thomas as the question of whether one has power in the determination of the relationship of the extraordinary to divinity. The stranger who arrives among us performing astonishing tricks that serve no other purpose than to impress us should be treated with robust suspicion; the man among us whom we have known as a friend, neighbor and good man, who then performs extraordinary feats in the service of God and his neighbors, even to his own demise... well, he may be worth paying some attention.

*And even then, Dawkins may be selling the medieval peasant short. There is a wonderful movie made a few years ago named The Visitors, about a medieval French knight and his servant (Jacques the Crass) who are time-transported into the contemporary world (see the French version; the English remake is bad). The medieval Frenchmen are certainly bewildered by modern technology (on first seeing an automobile, the servant calls it a "Devil's chariot"), but they are not for a moment tempted to see anything supernatural about modern people. The medieval peasant may have interpreted certain modern technologies as involving a recourse to magic, but that doesn't mean modern people are magical - only that they are depraved enough to make use of the occult.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Method and Dialectic

In the comments section of this post on atheistic teleology over at Edward Feser's blog,  I had an extended discussion with an intelligent non-Aristotelian regarding the nature of final causes. As often happens in these cases, my interlocutor demanded in one of his comments that I present and defend a method for investigating final causes as a necessary prerequisite to continuing the discussion. As he put it, how could we know we are tracking the truth and not merely indulging in wishful thinking without an established method up front? I resisted, for I well knew that the insistence on an a priori establishment of method involves a host of philosophical assumptions (and mistakes, in my view) that pretty much give the store away to Enlightenment style thinking vs an Aristotelian approach. As an alternative, I proposed dialectic, which my interlocutor interpreted as a form of method (naturally, as he thinks thought must begin with method), and a poor one at that. Well, he was right to the extent that dialectic is a pretty shabby thing if it is interpreted as a degenerate form of the modern methodical approach. But it isn't such a degenerate form; it is a genuine intellectual alternative to method and is necessarily distorted if it is interpreted under the category of method. In fact, it is more accurate to conceive of the modern insistence on method as itself a degenerate form of dialectic.

We can see this through two people, one at the beginning of modern thought and the other a contemporary modern thinker. The first is Descartes, who it may be argued was the foundational thinker of modern thought by establishing the insistence on method as an intellectual first principle. The other is Daniel Dennett, a champion of method in contemporary thought and the supposed scourge of Cartesianism in the philosophy of mind. But as I argue in this post, Dennett is mistaken in seeing dualism as a foundational principle of Cartesianism; it is method that is the foundational principle and it is the insistence on method that has the consequence of dualism. This is why the contemporary philosophy of mind is so haunted by Cartesianism and why thinkers like Dennett, the more they struggle to free themselves of Descartes through method, only find themselves more tightly bound to him.

The problem with insisting on method as primary in thought is that it isn't. It isn't personally, as we all explore and come to know the world as youth without an a priori method in hand. It isn't historically, as there was an undeniable body of knowledge accrued through cultural accumulation over millenia. Nor was it even true of the seventeenth century philosophers who began to insist on the primacy of method. Descartes begins his Discourse on Method not with a method, but with an extended justification of his insistence on method in terms of his historical views and personal experience. He dismisses the philosophical tradition with this comment:

I will say nothing of philosophy except that it has been studied for many centuries by the most outstanding minds without having produced anything which is not in dispute and consequently doubtful and uncertain. (Discourse on Method, First Part)

He then goes on in the Second Part to describe the rules of his method and later, in the Fourth Part, summarizes the method thusly:

... I thought that I should take a course precisely contrary, and reject as absolutely false anything of which I could have the least doubt, in order to see whether anything would be left after this procedure which could be called wholly certain.

When he began implementing his method, Descartes doubted many things, but not everything.  He certainly didn't doubt his original historical assessment of philosophy as doubtful and uncertain, his main justification for method in the first place. If he had, he might have considered points like this: If the mere fact of disputation is sufficient to condemn something as uncertain, then uncertainty is a self-fulfilling prophecy, for we can render something uncertain merely by disputing it. And this, in a just historical irony, is exactly what later happened to Descartes and his method.

The point is that Descartes did not doubt everything because he couldn't. However skeptical he wished to become, Descartes remained a man nonetheless, an embodied knower forced to found his thinking in common sense and nowhere else. There is an entire worldview of thought and history buried in the first part of Descartes's Discourse; his insistence on method has the effect of protecting that worldview from criticism (dialectical criticism) or even acknowledgement that it exists. This is why the insistence on primary method can be considered a debased form of dialectic. All it does is hide the non-methodical assumptions from view and protect them from dialectical criticism. It doesn't transcend dialectic or protect itself from the pathologies of a degenerate dialectic, but only provides the illusion of transcending dialectic by assuming dialectical conclusions without argument.

We can see why philosophy has gotten such a bad reputation in the modern world. The reason is that modern philosophers, beholden to method, find it nearly impossible to engage on the issues that really separate them. For those issues involve the pre-methodical views of the world they must have and that inform their selection and establishment of method. In that earlier post I mention John Searle, who in his books on the mind states flatly his assumption that the fundamental particles described by physics are also the metaphysical fundamentals of reality, and that anyone who disagrees with this should be summarily dismissed. Searle, like Descartes, makes an a priori insistence on method in thought, only Searle's method is the method of science rather than the method of universal doubt of Descartes. But in any case, science is a product of the mind, and to insist a priori on the non-negotiability of the metaphysical significance of science is to already cast in concrete certain conclusions about the mind, e.g. that the mind is such that its methodical conclusions are more certain than any other conclusions it might make. Naturally, the view of the mind baked into Searle's assumptions about the metaphysical meaning of science is not indisputable, but disputing it is very difficult, because Searle has made his scientistic assumptions a barrier to entry to conversation (if you don't accept them, you are not worth talking to). Searle is not unusual but typical in this regard. And since not every thinker will make the same pre-methodical assumptions, discussions between modern thinkers have the flavor of circling the real issue in dispute without ever quite getting to it; for the disputants assume that "real thought" can only begin with their preferred approach, and when it becomes clear that the disputant does not share the same pre-methodical assumptions, bad faith or naivete is concluded.

In the dialog in response to the post on Feser's blog, my disputant insisted that I propose a method before we could discuss the metaphysical ordering of final causes. Without that, he asserted, we could be the victims of wishful thinking, psychological bias, and have no way to know whether we were tracking the truth. Now if I were to accept his demand, I would be implicitly agreeing to his views on wishful thinking, psychological bias and the rest as pre-methodical established facts, for those facts would stand in judgment of any method I might propose. But my insistence is that final causes and their ordering are primary facts about nature that stand in judgment of method rather than vice versa. For instance, why are we concerned with wishful thinking at all? Wishful thinking is a form of error, that is, failure to fulfill the final cause of the intellect to know the truth. Methods are to be judged in light of the extent to which they fulfill the final cause of the mind to know truth. But if the final cause of the mind is doubtful, what objective reason is there to prefer truth to error? Moreover, to allow facts like wishful thinking to implicitly stand in judgment of facts like the final cause of the mind is to already concede the case against final causes; for if final causes are not basic facts of nature at least as transparent as facts about wishful thinking, then they are nothing at all, or at best the illusions modern thinkers think they are.

The point is not that the brief analysis I just gave is a knockout argument in favor of final causes, but that the real point of disagreement between us is at a level that can only be resolved dialectically rather than by an a priori assertion of method. Were I to give into his demands for method, I would be conceding the case against final causes at the outset. The discussion would then be a playing out of that logic to its inevitable conclusion against final causes, or dawn in the eventual realization that the real argument is to be found in the category of pre-methodical facts of nature rather than post-methodical conclusions, at which point the original concession would have to be rescinded (perhaps generating an accusation of bad faith).

I brought up Daniel Dennett in the conversation, and he is a good example of how pre-methodical facts are unconsciously assumed in the development of method that is then used to bludgeon all rivals. In Consciousness Explained, Dennett develops a method for exploring consciousness called "heterophenomology." Like Descartes, prior to explaining and deploying his method, he gives reasons for its development. For Descartes, the villain was the endless disputes of philosophers; for Dennett it is "introspection:"

Or perhaps we are fooling ourselves about the high reliability of introspection, our personal powers of self-observation of our own conscious minds. Ever since Descartes and his "cogito ergo sum," this capacity of ours has been seen as somehow immune to error; we have privileged access to our own thoughts and feelings, an access guaranteed to be better than the access of any outsider...

But perhaps this doctrine of infallibility is just a mistake, however well entrenched. Perhaps even if we are all basically alike in our phenomenology, some observers just get it all wrong when they try to describe it, but since they are so sure they are right, they are relatively invulnerable to correction. (Consciousness Explained, p. 67)

The qualification "some" Dennett puts in front of "observers" may seem inconsequential, but it is crucial to the further development of his project. But more on this in a moment. The idea is that Dennett plans to put the subjective experience of consciousness under suspicion. Rather than accepting at face value what subjects say about their consciousness, Dennett will take a step back and only commit to saying that, when a subject describes his consciousness, we can only strictly conclude that what they are describing is how their consciousness seems to them, not necessarily how their consciousness really is. It may be that how their consciousness really is may coincide with how it seems to them, but then again it may not. Dennett uses the example of anthropologists encountering a primitive tribe. The natives speak of a being called Feenoman, whom the anthropologists gradually figure out is a kind of forest god. The "heterophenomenological fact" here is the fact that the natives are truly and sincerely speaking of Feenoman. But that Feenoman is fictional rather than real is something known to the anthropologists and not the natives; in other words, the anthropologists are able to discern how the native's world seems to them (Feenoman is just as real as anything else) compared to how it really is (Feenoman is fictional). More deeply, the cause of the natives belief in Feenoman is not the existence of the real Feenoman (as the natives think), but some other complex of causes unrelated to an actual Feenoman (since their isn't one).

Dennett's plan is to extend this procedure beyond native beliefs in forest gods to the contents of consciousness in general. His ultimate target is the experience of the unitary "I" itself, which Dennett calls the "Cartesian theater", and he claims in good heterophenomenological fashion to only seem to be real rather than really be real. The procedure is to interview subjects about their experiences of consciousness, and remain objectively neutral as regards their veridical nature until a complete account has been given. The interviewer is happy to grant the subject the authority to define how his conscious experience seems to him, but certainly not how his subjective experiences ultimately relate to reality. This is done later in an analogous manner to the anthropologist described above. And if he finds, like the anthropologist, that there are no objective reasons to believe in the reality of some element of the subject's conscious experience, and he can provide an alternative causal explanation for the subject's seeming to experience it, then the element in question can be reasonably dismissed as illusion. At the end of process, you end up with what is really true about consciousness, results the interview subject should then accept as a generous gift, but usually rebels against because his cherished beliefs in things like the self and gods are shown to be illusions.

Now I mentioned that it is critical that Dennett used the phrase "some observers" in the paragraph quoted above. This is because of the problem of the Prime Interviewer, a problem latent in the heterophenomenological procedure but not acknowledged by Dennett. With respect to subjects who do not meekly submit to heterophenomenological conclusions but have the temerity to question its authority to debunk consciousness, Dennett has this to say:

If you want us to believe everything you say about your phenomenology, you are asking not just to be taken seriously but to be granted papal infallibility, and this asking too much. You are not authoritative about what is happening in you, but only about what seems to be happening in you, and we are giving you total, dictatorial authority over the account of how it seems to you, about what it is like to be you. (p. 96, emphasis in original.)

Well, who has the authority to pronounce on how things really are, and not just how they seem? The interviewer, naturally. But the interviewer is just a man like the subject, and so presumably subject to the same cognitive suspicion as everyone else. He is only authoritative about what things seem like to him, not how things really are. If he is to legitimately serve as a heterophenomenological authority, it stands to reason that he must have already gone through a prior heterophenomenological vetting so that he could know what is real and what is illusion with respect to his own consciousness. No doubt you can see the infinite regress coming, and at some point there must be a Prime Interviewer, an individual whose consciousness is itself not under suspicion so it can serve as the methodical anchor for all other consciousnesses. In the paragraph quoted above, if Dennett had written that "Perhaps even if we are all basically alike in our phenomenology, all observers just get it all wrong when they try to describe it.." rather than just "some" observers, the problem of the Prime Interviewer would have been made explicit. If all observers get it wrong, how can the method get going? No points for guessing who gets the mantle of implicit Prime Interviewer in Consciousness Explained.

The method Dennett describes in Consciousness Explained is really just a way of privileging certain pre-scientific, pre-methodical scientistic assumptions by baking them into the cake of his method, then demanding that all other accounts of consciousness submit to the strictures of his method, which of course means that his pre-methodical account of things must triumph. Dialectic has not been transcended through method; it has merely been avoided through pre-methodical assumptions, and will inevitably reemerge when those assumptions are disputed. Which is why Dennett must order his reader to accept his results.

There are of course cases in which it is appropriate to establish a method and remain suspicious of conclusions not arrived at methodically. But the establishment of method cannot substitute for a dialectical justification of the method itself. And, finally, method cannot be the first thing in thought, for method is not self-evident, otherwise everyone would have it and there would not be disputes about methods. This is one of the many ironies of the modern age. The Enlightenment insistence on method was supposed to put an end to the endless dialectical wranglings of philosophers; instead it just substituted endless wrangling about method, a wrangling that is worse than dialectical because the dialectics were assumed and then forgotten in assumptions about method.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Catholicism and Soccer

Nicholas Farrell asks why Catholic countries are so good at soccer:

"The Holy Roman Church of Football":

"Maybe it is because Catholics prefer sport to work and that is where they direct their energy and passion. For as Weber wrote and my wife Carla confirms: To Catholics work is an obstacle, not a means, to salvation."

Or, in other words, Catholics work to live rather than live to work.

Common Sense

Here I take "common sense" in its broadest meaning. This includes everything from behavioral rules-of-thumb like "don't run with scissors" and "crime doesn't pay" to basic metaphysical principles like "something cannot both be and not be in the same way at the same time" and "everybody's got to be somewhere." What defines common sense in this broad sense is: Common sense is that which may reasonably be taken for granted until proven otherwise.  In other words, common sense is innocent until proven guilty.

Implicit in this definition is the possibility that common sense may be proven false. And, in this broad sense, it might be (at least in part.) For the broad definition includes basic metaphysical principles that cannot be proven false ("something cannot both be and not be in the same way at the same time") but also empirically contingent principles that can be and sometimes are proven false ("the Sun revolves around the Earth" was common sense for a long time).

If common sense might be wrong, why bother with it? Because it is necessary for embodied knowers like ourselves. Angels are eternal intellects who know immediately and directly and so have no need of common sense. Animals live through instinct and so have no need for it either. As rational animals, that is, animals that live through knowledge, we require knowledge to get on yet we are thrown into a world where we are born in ignorance. Our lives are a compromise born of the necessity to make our way in the world in at least partial ignorance.

Common sense is an expression of this compromise. We must take some view of the world to get on in it, and the world requires us to get on before answering all our questions.

There is a mindset that, seeing the apparent lack of foundation of common sense, finds it intolerable. Descartes was of this mindset, and spent his life attempting to construct a complete philosophy from indubitable first principles, so he would have no need of common sense. But whatever his purposes, Descartes remained an embodied knower, and so found it necessary to rely on common sense. This was true not just in his everyday life, where he took the common sense view that his basic perception of reality was correct; that his bed was really a bed, his house a house, and that he woke up in the same house every day. It was also true in his philosophy, where he was forced to adopt a "provisional morality" (i.e. common sense morality) while he spent time developing the "true morality" from first principles.

Contemporary scientism is also an expression of this mindset. The scientistic mind sees the knowledge produced methodically through the scientific method, sees that common sense has no foundation in method, and so dismisses common sense as without foundation entirely, and therefore not knowledge at all. But, like Descartes, the scientistic mind remains a rational animal nonetheless and so finds it necessary to repair to common sense. Again, not just in ordinary life, but in science as well, since science is nothing other than an activity of rational animals. The scientist takes for granted, through common sense, that the universe is consistent through time and space (F=ma both here and on the other side of the galaxy, and tomorrow as well as today) and that his senses more or less reflect reality as it is. He takes for granted that his telescopes, microscopes and galvonometers are in reality essentially what he thinks they are. But most significantly, the scientific method itself is verified only through common sense; when experimental scientists in New York and Paris independently obtain the same results, the fact that we think this strong evidence for the truth of the result is not itself the result of a scientific experiment. It is the result of our common sense belief concerning the consistency of the universe.

There is no escaping common sense, which simply means that there is no escaping our embodied existence (other than through death). But this doesn't mean we are doomed to ignorance, or that common sense must remain without foundation. Philosophy is the existential elaboration of common sense; rather than attempting a false escape from common sense ala Descartes or scientism, attempts that only obscure the foundation of our rationality in common sense, philosophy explores common sense as a means to distinguish firmly grounded knowledge from the merely conventional. The result is common sense uncommonly understood (to paraphrase Mortimer Adler).