Saturday, February 18, 2006

Take that, Daniel Dennett

Leon Wieseltier delivers one long, philosophico-literary dope slap to Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon in a New York Times review.

Wieseltier, The New Republic's literary editor, calls the book a "shallow and self-congratulatory book" and "a sorry instance of present-day scientism." And those are some of his nicer comments.

Wieseltier's penetrating criticisms of Dennet's reasoning and analytical presuppositions reminds me (paradoxically) of Noam Chomsky's famous destruction of B. F. Skinner's attempt to explain human language in behaviorist terms.

The Times's link was titled "Science vs. Religion," but the review is really about scientism vs. philosophy.

Update (from the comments below, and elsewhere): a negative review of Wieseltier's review here, and yet another from a scientist at M.I.T. here, and some interesting discussion by National Review's John Derbyshire here.

2 comments:

Ed Cone said...

a much less enthusiastic review of the review here:

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2006/02/why_review_a_bo.html

David Wharton said...

And also here, where I've been having some conversation with an MIT biophysicist about it.

He's a lot smarter than I, but he's nice about it.