Feser's drum

In the course of a post reviewing a review by Mohan Matthen of Thomas Nagel's Mind and Cosmos, Ed Feser reprises one of his regular themes:
This is a theme in Nagel’s work that goes back to his famous 1974 article “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?”, and as I have emphasized in earlier posts in this series, it is crucial to understanding what he says in the new book. Human beings are like the hallway in my example, and the human mind is like the rug. The “mathematically precise quantitative description” of the natural world provided by modern science has been as successful as it has been only because those aspects of the natural world that don’t fit that method -- irreducibly qualitative features like color, sound, etc. as they appear to us (as contrasted with scientific redefinitions of color, sound, etc. in terms of such quantifiable features as surface reflectance properties, compression waves, and the like); and final causes, teleology, or purposes -- were swept under the rug of the mind, re-characterized as purely “subjective,” as mere projections that only seem to be features of the external world but are really only aspects of our perceptual representation of it. 
Ed's fingers can type this stuff out while he's asleep, which perhaps explains why he fails to notice that it doesn't make sense.  Look at what the underlined sentence says:
Quantitative science has been successful only because it hasn't tried to explain qualitative phenomena.
This is like telling a retailer of shoes that his success is due to his not selling hats.  Perhaps if he had tried selling hats he would have failed.  Maybe he had the sense to see that the money was in shoes.  But his failure to sell hats doesn't detract from his success with shoes.

Ed speaks as if the seventeenth century's separation of primary and secondary qualities was purely one of convenience.  Secondary qualities are 'in the objects' but quantitative methods cannot reach them.  The problem with this is that there is now even more evidence that secondary qualities are not in the objects, but are in our heads.  They are inaccessible to scientific method not so much because it is quantitative but because it is experimental, and relies on careful control of the variables that may affect experimental outcomes.   Ed really should face up to this.  To take one example.  If sounds really are in the objects how are we to explain how such sounds can seemingly be stored as texture on a plastic disc and subsequently recovered long after the original object has ceased to exist?  An analysis of perspective drawing and life-like painting, or for that matter, mere consideration of the effects of mirrors, had they been of any interest to renaissance philosophy, would have provoked analogous questions in visual perception.

Scientific instruments have revealed more about the world than was common knowledge in classical Greece or medieval Europe, and this new knowledge has thrown up puzzles.  How, for example, do we reconcile our everyday experience of solid objects with the results of  the  Geiger–Marsden experiment?  These questions pose just as great problems for Ed's preferred manifest-image Aristotelianism as secondary qualities pose for scientific materialism.  Ed should own up to this, but he is an apologist not a seeker.

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