Here is a link to my short review of David Deutsch's book The Beginning of Infinity, in Physics Today, the monthly magazine for members of the American Physical Society. I had much more to say about the book, which is particularly ill-suited to a short-format review like those in Physics Today. (The title is suggestive; and a reasonable alternative would have been "Life, the Universe, and Everything.") It was an interesting exercise to boil it down to this length, which was already longer than their ideal. I may say some of it in a blog post later.
It was also interesting to have such extensive input from editors. Mostly this improved things, but in a couple of cases (not helped by my internet failing just as the for-publication version had been produced) the result was not good. In particular, the beginning of the second-to-last paragraph, which reads "For some of Deutsch’s concerns, prematurity is irrelevant. But fallibilism undermines some of his claims ... " is not as I'd wanted. I'd had "this" in place of "prematurity" and "it" in place of "fallibilism". I'd wanted, in both cases, to refer in general to the immediately preceding discussion, more broadly than just to "prematurity" in one case and "fallibilism" in the other. It seems the editors felt uncomfortable with a pronoun whose antecedent was not extremely specific. I'd have to go back to notes to see what I ultimately agreed to, but definitely not plain "prematurity".
One other thing I should perhaps point out is that when I wrote:
Deutsch’s view that objective correctness is possible in areas outside science is appealing. And his suggestion that Popperian explanation underwrites that possibility is intriguing, but may overemphasize the importance of explanations as opposed to other exercises of reason. A broader, more balanced perspective may be found in the writings of Roger Scruton, Thomas Nagel, and others.
I was referring to a broader perspective on the role of reason in arriving at objectively correct views in areas outside science. "More balanced" was another editorial addition, in this case one that I acquiesced in, but perhaps I should not have as some of its possible connotations are more negative than I intended. "Appealing," though not an editorial edition, is somewhat off from what I intended. I wanted also to include suggestion of "probably correct" since something can be appealing but wrong, but couldn't find the right word. I shortened this discussion for reasons of space, but I had initially cited Scruton specifically for aesthetics, and recommended his "On Beauty", "Art and the Imagination", and "The Aesthetics of Architecture". I haven't read much of his work on politics (he is a conservative, although from what I have read a relatively sensible one at the philosophical level) nor his "Sexual Desire", so don't mean to endorse them. Likewise I had initially recommended specifically Nagel's "The View from Nowhere" and "The Last Word", and was not aware of his recent "Mind and Cosmos"; I emphatically did not mean to endorse his skepticism, in that book, about evolutionary explanations of the origins of life and mind, although I do think there is much of interest in that book, and some (but certainly not all!) of the criticism of it that I've seen on the web is misguided. I am much more in sympathy with Deutsch's views on reductionism than with Nagel's: both are skeptical about the prospects for a thoroughoing reduction of mind, reason, and consciousness to physical terms, but Nagel, bafflingly, seems to think that an evolutionary explanation of such phenomena is tantamount to such physical reductionism. Deutsch seems to me more sophisticated about the nature of actual science, and how non-reductionist many scientific explanations are, and about how that can nevertheless be compatible with physical law. I should say, though, that I am less sympathetic than Deutsch is to accounts of mind and consciousness as being essentially a computer running a certain kind of program. I view embodiment, interaction with a sufficiently rich environment, and probably a difficulty in disentangling "hardware" and "software" (perhaps related to Douglas Hofstadter's notion of "strange loops") as likely to be crucial elements of an understanding of mind and consciousness. Of course it may be that with a sufficiently loose notion of "kind of computer program" and "kind of input" some of this could be understood in the computational terms Deutsch seeks.