Date: May 16, 2013 07:40PM
I’m glad you think both sides are important. The motivation behind this post had been building up for some time, your book has been causing a stir among ex-mormons and more than a few friends have told me about your book. So before going any further I do want to say that overall, it is almost always a good thing for people to get excited about a book that captures their attention and that you should be congratulated on achieving that on any scale.
I’m a never-Mormon, an atheist, and a student of philosophy, so my interest in your book only centers around the philosophy you marshal for your deconstruction of Mormonism. I was actually surprised by how much you seem to rely on Kai Nielson, you seem to import everything he says in toto and it gave me the impression that a better title would be “How Kai Nielson might deconstruct Mormonism”. Nothing inherently wrong with that I guess, but you seem to be out of touch with the philosophical issues that surround the controversial stances that Nielson takes. It is almost as if you’ve read Nielson very carefully, but never read much farther than that.
For a good example, take this comment:
“Perhaps it's fair and reasonable to say, without anticipated objection from Kai, that his critics, whoever they might be, would be those thinkers -- theists or not -- who remain firmly rooted in, and committed to, the pre-Enlightenment Tradition of Platonic, Cartesian and Kantian thinking, as well as post-modernism. This would include those who would consider themselves Metaphysical Realists, Relativists, and even those Scientific Realists in search of knowledge of the world as it "really is" on the basis of "word-world" correspondences or fittingness.”
You do realize that these unknown “critics” bear a description eerily similar to the majority of the academic philosophers in the English speaking world today? Just scanning the philpapers poll with some of the positions you mentioned…http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl
…we see that 75.1% believe in scientific realism, 81.6% adhere to a non-skeptical realism about the external world (mind independent reality we have access too), 50.8% to a correspondence theory of truth.
Your criticism of metaphysics (rather, a presentation of Kai’s criticism) presented in your book just seems out of touch with how analytical metaphysics is done today, if not all philosophy done in the 20th century it seems. Like on page 45 where you include yourself ( ! ) in a list of influential philosophers who take on a “deflationary concept of truth” to prevent being “clouded by metaphysics” sort of left me like a YouTube commenter saying “WTF?” Quine was a hard realist about mathematical objects so I guess he is a pre-enlightenment Platonist? Donald Davidson’s explicit externalism in his semantic theory of meaning is a pretty strong commitment to a mind independent external world.
I mean, who is your audience here? It can’t be people with a background in philosophy because you just assert stuff without much argument and name drop people without meaningfully incorporating or engaging the ideas associated with those names. It can’t be people who don’t know anything about philosophy, because all these names and three dollar words mean nothing to them.
I’ve engaged a few readers of your book (even Kerry Shirts on Facebook) and they really didn’t seem to grasp all the philosophical foundations of your deconstruction and to be honest, I don’t blame them a bit. The only reason I can make sense of it is because I’ve gone through the mechanical process of actually reading J.L. Austin, Wittgenstein, Quine, and Davidson in school, but all it did was make me wonder if you’ve bothered to do so.
So if I take your standard of what it is to be a “Free Thinker” and being “mature” ( page 125, citation #82), should I come to the conclusion that you’ve stepped away from Kai’s philosophy and objectively examined all these philosophical issues you’ve seemed to come to a steadfast position on?