7 thoughts on “New Tallis Article

  1. Ross Gordon

    This essay upsets me enough that I feel like I have to make an angry comment about it. It seems to me that Tallis makes very few actual arguments here.

    Things which do constitute an argument:

    Empirical research and/or analytical observations and/or well-designed thought experiments.

    Things which do not constitute an argument:

    1. Repeating an opponent's claim in a skeptical tone and then never refuting it.

    2. Making up words that make your opponent's claim seem silly (i.e. "neophrenology," "Darwinitis").

    3. Using the phrase "of course" when your claim isn't even remotely obvious ("Most of the things they do are unconscious or have unconscious motives. This is, of course, nonsense.")

    4. Knocking down straw men: "Try to imagine any ordinary activity – collecting the children from school, writing a report, preparing for a party – being carried out unconsciously. Nevertheless, neuro-evolutionary thinking has excited many journalists…"

    I won't contest that this article may be useful in a strict debate sense. But in a broader academic sense, anyone who dismisses the entirety of the free will/determinism debate with "lol, obviously we have free will" probably shouldn't be taken seriously. John Searle makes a lot of these arguments a lot more credibly, and Daniel Dennett (who's a straight-up baller) defends the neuroscience good side of the debate pretty effectively.

  2. Scott Phillips


    To be fair, that is definitely not what "interesting" means, and you definitely in no way proved it was a "total lie". The article is certainly a polemic against journalists and their stories about neuroscience, and is not published in a peer reviewed academic journal. It is aimed at the general public, not specialists. If you want to hold something to academic standards, you should read more of his actual academic work.

    Also, just look at him in this hat- http://www.raymondtallis.com/RCT-images/RaymondTa

  3. Ross Gordon

    I agree with you entirely, Scott. My point is that we SHOULD be looking to actual academic work rather than polemics aimed at the general public. It seems to me that the argument made in this article is so poor as to render it useless to anyone who doesn't already agree with Tallis. It's a bit like that clip of Phil Kerpen discussing internet neutrality on Glenn Beck's show; Phil's a smart guy, clearly, and I'd imagine that in reality he has a fairly subtle take on the issue. But that clip is the last place you'd direct anyone who wants to learn more about the internet neutrality debate.

    If this essay is used as a stepping stone to understanding the Searle/Dennett debate, I think that's good. If it's used to indict neuroeconomics cards in debate rounds, I guess that's fine too. But I also happen to think it's a poorly constructed argument that doesn't accurately represent the academic debate over neuroscience. And I think that's probably worth recognizing.

  4. gulakov

    Give him a break! Tallis generally has no qualifications in the fields he writes about, so it's harder for him to make good arguments.

    He's qualified to talk about geriatric (elderly people) care, which he has expertise in. While reading his Enemies of Hope I also wondered why he feels it important to offer his criticism on subjects as diverse as philosophy, literary theory, and evolutionary psychology. Many of his books make attacks on postmodernism, but I feel like they're the type of attacks that if he spent his time extensively reading the authors in the field, he'd see they were already addressed long ago. In a 2006 Guardian article about him, he said he writes these books "fuelled by rage" — I find that funny.

    This was an interesting article, and I always like reading skeptics. But being an expert in your field counts. Also, monkeys can throw darts amazingly well!

  5. Scott Phillips

    Damn, haters everywhere… Apparently being an award winning polymath means nothing to kids today.

    Gulakov- do you have a cite for when postmodernism addressed the "its stupid" critique?

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