Just took a peek and saw it was a long post, so I'll look at it closely later.
A much more fruitful question is to ask: What was the state of Western philosophy immediately prior to Descartes?
If by that we mean the official, institutionalized ideology of the church, to my mind come: scholasticism, dogmatism, aristotelian-thomism. To make a judgement about it being regressive or progressive in the context of western philosophy, will depend on our historical point of view. In relation to augustinian-platonism, aristotelian-thomism was a move forward, but compared to the type of epistemology that Descartes and his contemporaries were advocating (which I understand as foundational for the scientific method), aristotelian-thomism might actually be more appropriate for the declaration of bankrupcy of western philosophy. But these declarations are, anyway, only useful for pamphletary purposes, a comfortable way to categorize things and cast them out as old paradigms, for advancing the new one. The problem is that your new paradigm, or as you call it: "new foundational axiom", comes about three hundred years too late. And going after Descartes for what he wrote back then, and pretending that proving him wrong now will bring to bankrupcy the entire western philosophical canon, not only means playing a safe bet, but betting on a game that is already over.
It was valid for me to use the word "purpose" there. The reason was to substitute for earlier , medieval notions of the sense organs existing for a purpose ordained by the creator of the human organism. I could have been more verbose there for the sake of clarity. The organs of the body take on completely functional roles in light of natural selection. I assumed that "function" would be contained in the words I already used there.
As it clarifies what your words intended, I accept that explanation.
Well first of all, nobody in the modern thrust of biology says there is a teleological aspect to natural selection, myself included.
Well...you certainly don't read much of Nature and Science magazines. Leaving those aside, it is too often implied in the routinary discourse of the gurus of evolutionary psychology (the Dawkins/ Dennet type), all of which endorse some sort of biological determinism. But let me emphasize the word "imply" here, because most of the time this notion is not explicitly stated, but somehow assumed unconsciously. To be honest, it comes out more often in the popularized versions of darwinism, as well as in the just-so stories of darwinian fundamentalists, denounced by Stephen Jay Gould. Teleology might not be an essential doctrine of biological sciences, but natural determinism opens up the doors for the teleological explanations of sociobiology, often in the form of a gene or a modularized cognitive ability that served some natural purpose in the savannah of our hunter-gatherers ancestors.
Kuznetzova wrote: "Survival of the fittest" was a phrase coined by a right-wing, racist nutbar named Herbert Spencer. In fact, in the exact book in which he coined that phrase, he was not even writing about biology, instead he was ranting about socialism and the poor. In other words, it was a political book. It was not even a scientific article.
Sure, but Edward Wilson, the so-called "father of sociobiology" (he actually coined the term), has been an advocate of eugenics (genetic improvement) and was publicly scorned as a racist in one of his conferences. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying he is a racist nutbar, or that he isn't, that's not the issue. The issue is that sociobiology tends to use natural determinism to impose a final cause to human action.
Kuznetzova wrote:Our best understanding is that natural selection produces diversity, and after some enormous amounts of deep time, the diversity on earth has happened upon homo sapiens as another variation within the hominid ancestral line. Is this a fact? No. It's our best explanation given the evidence. After all , dinosaurs were around for hundreds of millions of years, and showed no relative change in their intelligence during all that time. (If evolution were teleological, we would expect dinosaurs to be writing opera somewhere in the cretaceous period... anyways... )
I can easily agree in that some natural conditions (in which, by the way, dinosaurs might have played a role by going extinct) gave us hominids with superior intelligence. I might find disagreement if you ever entertained the notion that hominids were not only predisposed, but predestined to write opera at some time in their history.
In this case you are flirting with thread hijacking. It is obvious that you are itching to discuss compatibalism and whatnot. These are topics from 20th century philosophy.
Maybe the discussion has taken this course, but we are eating what you served at the table: metaphysics, natural science, cognition and human action. You brought up the philosophy of naturalism, and that immediately calls for a debate on determinism (you should add it to the philosophical Jiu-Jitsu).
Kuznetzova wrote: I don't see how any of what you have said here supports Berkeley's solipsism, or Cartesian Mental Substances interacting with pineal glands.
Neither do I, nor it's my intention. I don't need to support Berkeley or Descartes to reveal how untimely your manifesto on naturalism is, and how absurd it is to make your call for western philosophy bankrupcy based on cartesianism. It's like calling modern science bankrupt because Newton didn't get it all right. Nevertheless, I will bet on Descartes this time, saying that it looks to me that his skepticism contributed to the rationality of modern science by being a methodological skepticism, while you are attacking him on the grounds of being ontological.