Saturday, December 01, 2018

When the intelligent becomes timid.

Review of Markus Gabriel's "Why the world does not exist".

Five stars out of Five.

I read this audacious book with great interest. The spice was when the author attacked the intellectual giants of the day with harsh words. It was both amusing and revealing, as it was clear where the intuition and emotion of the author was leading us.
It is one of the enigmas of human history that at any given time, a particular system of beliefs seems to occupy a religious status, only to be superseded by another in later days. In recent years, physicalism and evolutionary biology, supported by statistical reasonings, would have seemed to occupy that special status. What would supersede them?
As someone who has been interested in the mind-brain problem, or how the self, qualia, and intentionality (supposedly) arise from the neural activities in the brain, it always seemed self-evident that physicalism was not the whole picture. However, as the author points out, the powers that be in the intellectual world always seemed to be rather timid in enlarging our world view.
It is a strange tango when the popular media make saints out of the intellectual giants, accompanied by a numbness not to seek something completely different. I don't necessarily think it is a generation thing, but it is fair, and somehow overdue, to suggest alternative possibilities, as brilliantly done by Markus Gabriel.
The new realism, perhaps the central issue of this book, is still hazy in some parts but quite interesting. It appears intuitively promising, and for the lack of better words, sound. The greatest merit of this book, at least for this reviewer, was this alarm call to consider the new realism seriously.
I was a little bemused and puzzled towards the end when the author seemed to depict the tv dramas as the saviour. I must confess that I actually love most of the programs that the author cited (especially Seinfeld and Curb your Enthusiasm). Whether the relevance of the metaphor would extend beyond that of favuoritism slip or curious sidelines remains to be seen. 
The most moving part of the book for me was when the author revealed how he came to write this book:

The second question occurred to me when all of a sudden I realized that time passes, and that I could identify completely different situations with the world "now". At that moment I came upon the idea that the world does not exist. I have needed a good twenty years to penetrate this idea philosophically and to differentiate it from the idea that everything is only an illusion, or that life is nothing but a dream.

When I came to this passage, I immediately felt that I could trust this author. It was a new realism for me. 

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