Monday, May 11, 2015

Sam Harris vs Noam Chomsky, An Abortive Conversation

Harris published the emails of his recent attempt to converse with Chomsky. This is a very interesting read, and contrary to the title of this article, it appears to me that Chomsky comes out quite poorly. Harris acquitted himself better than I expected. But the final analysis is that the egos of the Public Atheists seem to prevent any accommodation of contrary thought, even the thoughts of other Public Atheists. At least that is true of Chomsky, whose responses border on unintelligible at points, but in general thinks that the USA constantly does evil to the rest of the world.


Robert Coble said...

And yet, where does the self-esteemed Mr. Chomsky live? No place other than the worst place in the world to live, don't you know: in the USA!


Surprising facts about the political commentator Noam Chomsky, from the book Do As I Say (Not As I Do)


Chomsky also contradicts himself when speaking about issues of class struggle. He describes himself as a ”socialist” whose goal is a ”post-capitalist society,” calling capitalism ”a grotesque catastrophe” .. ”crafted to induce hopelessness resignation, and despair.” He speaks in terms of ”us” vs ”them” with ”them” being the top 10 percent of taxpayers, despite Chomsky being among the top 2 percent in the United States in net wealth, and the location of his primary residence being in an extremely affluent and exclusive wooded suburb of Lexington, Massachusetts.(15) He has also set up trust funds and assigned copyrights to others in his family to keep his wealth from being taxed despite being a strong proponent of estate taxes and income redistribution.

Why does these useful idiots (no matter how smart they are) not realize that the Internet tracks everything they do and say?

Phoenix said...

Harris seems much more cool and poised when he engages in public debates.I think this strategy is a huge advantage for him,unlike most of his peers who are angry,emotional,arrogant and childish,not that Harris is not any of those things,he just hides it well - in public that is.But not well enough,especially when one actually reads his articles.I personally believe Harris suffers from at least ADHD or some mental disorder which he has managed to control to a certain degree,probably due to his fondness for Buddhist meditation.
This is an excerpt from Harris' Free Will and the Reality of Love article.He finally exposes his disorder,accidentally though.

"Consider the present moment from the point of view of my conscious mind:I have decided to write this blog post, and I am now writing it. I almost didn’t write it, however. In fact, I went back and forth about it: I feel that I’ve said more or less everything I have to say on the topic of free will and now worry about repeating myself. I started the post, and then set it aside. But after several more emails came in, I realized that I might be able to clarify a few points. Did I choose to be affected in this way? No. Some readers were urging me to comment on depressing developments in “the Arab Spring.” Others wanted me to write about the practice of meditation.At first I ignored all these voices and went back to working on my next book. Eventually, however, I returned to this blog post. Was that a choice? Well, in a conventional sense, yes. But my experience of making the choice did not include an awareness of its actual causes. Subjectively speaking,it is an absolute mystery to me why I am writing this."

"My workflow may sound a little unconventional, but my experience of writing this article fully illustrates my view of free will.Thoughts and intentions arise; other thoughts and intentions arise in opposition. I want to sit down to write, but then I want something else—to exercise, perhaps. Which impulse will win? For the moment, I’m still writing, and there is no way for me to know why—because at other times I’ll think, “This is useless. I’m going to the gym,” and that thought will prove decisive. What finally causes the balance to swing? I cannot know subjectively—but I can be sure that electrochemical events in my brain decide the matter. I know that given the requisite stimulus (whether internal or external), I will leap up from my desk and suddenly find myself doing something else...

Is this really normal behavior,to be so restless and to just give in to the urge which feels the strongest?

Stan said...

Really interesting comments.

As for Chomsky, my take is that he is a maximally arrogant, fully entitled, narcissist, and that as such, he cannot allow parity between any other human and himself.

Harris seemed to be after some sort of parity with the great Chomsky, and Chomsky refused to even acknowledge that Harris had any points to offer which were worth considering.

Harris typically does seem quite confused about reality when it comes to free will. This statement summarizes his rational failure, in my estimation:

" I can be sure that electrochemical events in my brain decide the matter."

It is foreign to the Materialist brain to even consider that the brain events are driven by mind events, rather than the other way around. But rationally, if electrochemistry is in charge, then determinism is in full play, and nothing Harris says has any creative substance or meaning outside of the next step in the exchange of electrons in a serial, entropic collapse of his microcosm of the universe.

Yet he publishes his entropic collapse as if he believes it to contain semantic information. That is internally non-coherent, and fatal to his claim of the non-existence of free will.

Harris' little book on free will is chock a block with such non-coherences. Even Bertrand Russell admitted to the difference between willed actions and those controlled by the laws of physics.