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Why philosophers think we have reached the highest level of human intelligence



Despite great advances in science over the last century, our understanding of nature is still far from complete. Scientists have not only succeeded in finding the holy grail of physics – uniting the very large (general relativity) with the very small (quantum mechanics) – they still do not know what the vast majority of the universe consists of. The coveted theory of everything continues to avoid us. And there are other outstanding puzzles too, such as how consciousness arises from pure matter.

Will science ever be able to give all the answers? Human brains are the product of blind and unguided evolution. They were designed to solve practical problems that affect our survival and reproduction, not to pick up the fabric of the universe. This insight has led some philosophers to embrace a curious form of pessimism, claiming that there are certain things we will never understand. Human science will therefore one day be hit by a hard boundary ̵

1; and may have already done so.

Some questions can be judged to remain what the American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky called "mysteries". If you believe that humans alone have unlimited cognitive powers – which sets us apart from all other animals – you have not fully digested Darwin's understanding that Homo Sapiens is very much a part of the natural world.

But does this argument really hold up? Keep in mind that human brains were not developed to discover their own origin either. And yet we somehow managed to do it. Maybe the pessimists are missing something.

Mysterious Arguments

"Mysterious" thinkers provide a prominent role for biological arguments and analogies. In his 1983 landmark book The Modularity of Mind, the late philosopher Jerry Fodor claimed that there really are "thoughts that we are not equipped to think".

Similarly, philosopher Colin McGinn has argued in a series of books and articles that all minds suffer from "cognitive closure" with regard to certain problems. Just as dogs or cats will never understand prime numbers, human brains must be shut down by some of the world's wonders. McGinn suspects that the reason that philosophical problems like the mind / body problem – how physical processes in our brain give rise to consciousness – turn out to be unmatched is that their real solutions are simply inaccessible to the human mind.

If McGinn is right that our brains are simply not equipped to solve certain problems, there is no point in even trying, because they will continue to confuse and confuse us. McGinn himself is convinced that there is actually a completely natural solution to the mind-body problem, but that human brains will never find it.

Even psychologist Steven Pinker, someone who is often accused of scientific hubris, is sympathetic to the arguments of the mysteries. If our ancestors had no need to understand the wider cosmos to spread their genes, he argues, why would natural selection have given us the brainpower to do so?

Quiet theories

Mystics usually present the question of cognitive boundaries in sharp, black and white terms: either we can solve a problem, or it will forever defy us. Either we have cognitive access or we suffer from closure. At some point in time, human investigation will suddenly fall into a metaphorical brick wall, after which we will forever be condemned to stare into empty understanding.

Another possibility, which mysteries often overlook, is one of slowly declining returns. Reaching the boundaries of investigation can feel less like hitting a wall than getting stuck in an evening. We continue to slow down, even as we make more and more effort, and yet there is no discrete point beyond which further progress will be impossible at all.

There is another obscurity in the mystery dissertation, as my colleague Michael Vlerick and I have pointed out in an academic article. Do the mysteries state that we will never find the true scientific theory on any aspect of reality, or alternatively that we may well find this theory but never really understand it?

In the science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy, an alien civilization builds a massive supercomputer to calculate the answer to life's ultimate question, universe and everything. When the computer finally announces that the answer is "42", no one has any idea what this means (in fact, they continue to construct an even bigger supercomputer to figure out just that).

Is a question still a "mystery" if you've come to the right answer, but you have no idea what it means or can't wrap your head around it? Mysterians often confuse the two possibilities.

Some places suggest McGinn that the mind-body problem is inaccessible to human science, which probably means that we will never find the real scientific theory that describes the nexus of the mind-body, but at other moments he writes that the problem will always remain "stunningly difficult to understand" for humans, and that "the head spins in theoretical disorder" when we try to think about it.

This suggests that we may arrive at the true scientific theory, but it will have a 42-like quality. But again, some people would argue that this already applies to a theory like quantum mechanics. Even quantum physicist Richard Feynman admitted: "I think I'm sure Can't say no one understands quantum mechanics. "

Would the mysteries say that we humans are" cognitively closed "to the quantum world? According to quantum mechanics, particles can be in two places at the same time or randomly run out of empty space. While this is extremely difficult to understand, quantum theory leads to incredibly accurate predictions. The phenomenon of "quantum weirdness" has been confirmed by several experimental tests, and researchers are now also creating applications based on the theory.

Mystics also tend to forget how mindboggling some earlier scientific theories and concepts were when they were originally proposed. Nothing in our cognitive composition prepared us for the theory of relativity, evolutionary biology, or heliocentrism.