Mary Midgley update

She had been due to speak today at “a discussion of Intelligent Design”: in London; she is ill and won’t make it. That’s a shame. I would in any case have missed it, since I have to go to a funeral this afternoon. But among the other speakers will be “Steve Fuller,”: who would be interesting to meet. MM was wholly unaware that he had testified for the defence at the Dover Trial; I read all twenty pages of his testimony at the time but could form no clear impression of his argument.

In any case, I have written to Ullica Segerstråle about her conversations with Dawkins and Midgley, and will post the results here when they appear.

In the meantime, various people have asked why she had been so vehement about TSG in her original review. Her explanation is this:

bq. It all made me think about WHY I reacted quite so negatively to TSG on my first encounter. One reason was, of course, that I was primarily upset by its being taken up by a respected philosopher – Mackie – who proposed to exploit it as a basis for ethics. I could see that this was likely to catch on with other philosophers, so I deliberately spoke out strongly against it. But I think, too, that I didn’t take in the book’s positive point – its general Darwinian vision – because this simply wasn’t sufficiently new to me and I took it for granted. I’d already been working on Sociobiology for _Beast and Man,_ becoming aware both of its virtues and its dangers. And, long before that, I’d accepted much of this general evolutionary viewpoint. So I never had the `aha’ experience that most people seem to have undergone at this point. Of course I see now that, in many ways. the book did do a splendid job. But, since nearly everybody else has been saying so all the time in spades, there has never seemed to be any particular reason for me to join the chorus.

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2 Responses to Mary Midgley update

  1. dave heasman says:

    of Steve Fuller – “I read all twenty pages of his testimony at the time but could form no clear impression of his argument. ”

    Fuller made load of comments on Crooked Timber, it may have been on the symposium on Chris Mooney’s book but I can’t access it from work, and I couldn’t work out what he was on about, except that it was slippery and not the same thing from comment to comment. I’m extremely glad that someone else finds him difficult to grasp.

    I’m being euphemistic here, you’ve probably noticed.

  2. potentilla says:

    If you can be bothered to skim through 115 comments, you may find that this adds to your understanding of Steve Fuller’s position (vacuity, intellectually lazy and uncharitable nature of). His book was supposed to have been out this August and has been put off until (last time I looked) next May. I would like to think I had some small hand in this, but probably not.

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