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On The Warrior Prophet posted 29 June 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionOn The Warrior Prophet by TakLoufer, Candidate

I'm enjoying this as well!

Just a few more questions: You say its the recalcitrance of intentionality thats the chicken bone in the throat of materialism - you'll get no argument from me there (though I more interested in talking naturalism than materialism)! But I have to admit, I no longer have any clue just what you mean by intentionality. You acknowledge that aboutness is a decisive characteristic of experience, and yet you seem to alternately suggest that our experiences are 1) about nothing at all,

Nothing physical. A mental monist denies the ontologically separate existence of physical material, energy, space, and time. The physical concepts exist only as coherent qualia (or "ideas", as Berkeley would put it). The notion of a separate world of blind, dead, deterministic "billiard balls" is a useful fiction - they exist in the sense that we think of them as existing in an everyday sense, but they don't exist outside the presence of the metamind any more than dreamworlds exist outside a dream.

and 2) about 'mental constructs.'

If (1) is the case, then you're arguing that intentionality (understood as aboutness) is in fact illusory. In other words, you seem to kill intentionality in the name of saving it.

(2) just strikes me as incoherent. 'Mental constructs' are presumeably things constructed by my mind, and as such exist only within my mind. So precisely WHERE is my mind?

A mental monist would say the mind is nonphysical. Your mind is not "in" your head, though there are physical correlates to it in the form of brain states. But these brain states do not, in and of themselves, contain the qualia necessary for consciousness.

Minds are simply not objects in the three dimensional space of our universe, though the brain is the object in which mental states are correlated.

Some examples of other nonphysical objects are numbers and algorithms. Numbers and algorithms can be manifested in physical objects, in the way I can say "I have three pencils in my hand" or an algorithm can be written in a computer programs code, but it would be inaccurate to say that the number "three" is actually contained within my hand or that the physical location of an algorithm is located in a computer's circuitry.

Minds, like mathematical constructs, are outside the physical world. Likewise, the metamind is also "outside" the physical world (which is its "dream").

I know this is hard to fathom, but this is because we are used to thinking in terms of spatial coordinance (such as: "the ball is under the table" or "my sister is at school"), and the idea of something being "outside" this 3-d grid is hard to imagine.

Your mind is located in the same place the quadratic equation and the color pink are: nowhere (or the "Platonic Realm" - which sounds more romantic).

It can't be in my head, because 'head' is just a mental construct existing in my mind. It can't be in your head for the same reason -

No, your head isn't "generated" by your own mind, I doubt our minds are "powerful" (whatever that means) enough to maintain a coherent world for any length of time. A mental monist will say that your head, your body, etc, are "within" (a meaningless term, as minds are outside space) the metamind. Your mind can perceive it when you look in a mirror or touch yourself. If you are knocked unconscious and no one else is around you, you don't cease to exist. Your body is maintained by the metamind just like all other objects. The only time when objects are created by our own mind is when we are either dreaming, imagining, or hallucinating.

When I say that our waking life is composed entirely "within" (again, the limits the language <!-- s:( --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_sad.gif" alt=":(" title="Sad" /><!-- s:( --> ) our minds, I mean that they are "about" the contents of the metamind. We are "within" the metamind, as if we were in someone else’s dream. Our mental construct of the world is determined by a number of factors, including sensory organs, cognitive ability, etc.

I can see what you are getting at though when we ask what intention is "about". We are forever trapped "within" our own minds, and we only have access to our own mental constructs (save for telepathy, if it exists). We can never see the "thing in itself" (the metamental object), only how our minds can precieve it. The only time we do see the thing in itself is within our own dreams, because we created the dream-objects.

The only mind that sees the "things in themselves" that exist in waking life is the metamind, and that is because all the objects are its mental constructs. I also assume, I suppose, that the metamind can see "within" our own minds, since, I assume, we ourselves must be the metamind's mental constructs (maybe in the same way we create characters in fiction, though that's a stretch).

in fact, if I take what you're saying right, you're nothing more than a mental construct in my nowhere-dwelling mind.

Well, a mental monist would say I exist outside of your mind. We are both "within" the metamind. And saying our minds are "nowhere" means that they are not within the 3-d space of the physical universe. The space itself is a product of mind (metamind in regards to the universe, our minds when it comes to our dreams)

If we were to meet, you would see my body and I your body. When you look at me, your mind would be sending a "volitional signal" (to use a phrase coined by Peter B. Lloyd) to the metamind and the metamind would send back a "signal" (this is probably a poor word to use, as there is not a "signal" in the sense of something traveling through space) to your mind with an image of my body, taking into account factors such as distance, objects between us, vision clarity, etc. Of course, that's a crude example; the "signals" would be a lot more complex than that; they would control all sensory input.

I suppose a good analogy would be to say it would be like us meeting in a virtual reality game. The space and objects in the VR world would not "literally" exist, but would be constructs built from a combination of the computer and our imagination. When we look at our respective VR bodies, what we see are not ontologically distinct, independently existing objects, but rather a creation of the VR machine. In the game, our intentionality are about objects that don't exist outside of the machine, even though we may perceive vast extensions in space and any sort of object while playing. The metamind is sort of like this VR machine, except the mind is not supervened on a physical machine. If the metamind is composed of anything, it would be eternal objects and archetypes.

You make an appeal to common sense in rejecting materialism - once again I'm sympathetic - but I'm not sure where the rubber of your appeal hits the road.

I'm aware of the apparent absurdity of the mental monistic stance, but I maintain that it's more coherent than materialism. Perhaps I should justify not only mental monism, but why I'm bothering with it in the first place.

In materialism, we have:

{Objective World} ---&gt;---creates---&gt;--- {Subjectivity} (epiphenomenal?)

The problem (that is so obvious that many philosophers miss it) is that the objective world, by being denied experience, lacks the tools necessary to "create" subjectivity. No matter how many insentient bits of matter bang into each other and no matter what structures they form, no sentience can come from insentience. Thomas Nagel said as much (I read this quote in Griffin's Unsnarling the World Knot) in "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" when he wrote:

. . . This gap is logically unbridgeable. If a bodiless god wanted to create a conscious being, he could not expect to do it by combining together in organic form a bunch of particles with none but physical properties.

For materialism to be coherent, it would require that either that 1) the material world intrinsically contains experience (panexperientalism) or some outside agency "bridges the gap" between brain states and subjectivity (dualism).

In this way of thinking, we start with the assumption of an objective, ontologically independent world, and then we are stuck trying to explain how (or even if!) we are conscious.

Mental monism is the exact opposite:

{Subjective world}(Volition?)---&gt;---creates---&gt;---{Physical World}

This allows for consciousness to exist without having to force an independent material world into the picture. The problem is that it seems so counter-intuitive (though I don't think it violates our "hard core" common sense notions), just like it would be counter-intuitive for someone in the Matrix to be told that their world is not "literally" there.

I have to admit my cynicism here, and I should explain so that you can see the much different tack I take to this debate. Any position can be rationalized given enough time and ingenuity: there really are no regress enders for philosophical discourse (and I take the fact that we can argue this point infinitely without arriving at a compelling conclusion to be a demonstration of this).

True, but one can rule out different metaphysics and philosophically probe a model to see if it has weaknesses.

Add the intrinsic need humans seem to have for things like meaning, morality, and purpose, and all these arguments start sounding more like apologia than anything else.

Well, I'm under no illusion that I'm going to find out the truth, or at least "know" it whether it is the truth or not. Many philosophical and scientific explorations are fueled by an outside agenda such as a search for meaning, or to defend a metaphysic, etc. Griffin calls this paradigmatic or wishful and fearful thinking. I hope I'm not falling into that trap, though I expect everyone suffers from this to one degree or another.

The only theoretical truth-claims that really impress me anymore are 1) scientific,

Well, science has its limitations. Science has been wondrously successful in regard to predicting and measuring the laws of nature and utilizing these laws for our benefit, but science is utterly impotent when it comes to explaining why or how these laws exist. Some scientists will state that "why are there natural laws?" and "why is there something instead of nothing?" are meaningless questions, but this shows the extent of their blindness in the matter. Science has done a wonderful job of describing and predicting the movements of shadows on Plato's cave wall, but they are as ignorant now of their origins as they were four hundred years ago.

2) those that cut against the grain of our conceits, 3) those that are intuitively forceful prior to philosophical training (like determinism, for instance).

Determinism is intuitively forceful only in regard to insentient objects. In the matter of people, it's not intuitive at all, and rightly so. Even if someone believes in determinism, they cannot live their lives as if they did.

None of this means that philosophy doesn't have interesting and worthwhile things to say - what it means is that philosophy lacks the institutional, conceptual, and methodological resources to offer anything resembling a compelling, regress-ending, answer.

Well, that's science's job. The success of science is, oddly enough, due to its own limitations. Science does not even try to answer "why" and this allows for it to move on and utilize the unexplained natural laws. In science, the regress ends with description, prediction, and utilization. Lloyd made this clear when he wrote:

People had for a long time been puzzled by what makes the world tick. For instance, why does an apple fall out of a tree? To say that it is due to "gravity", is to only label it, without explaining it. On its own, that is no better than Aristotle's supposition that it was the spirit of the apple that wanted to move towards the earth. Newton's master stroke was to realise that we do not really need to answer that question (Consciousness and Berkeley's Metaphysics)

This just seem obvious to me. And this, by the way, is why I see modernity as a time of profound crisis: in our society only scientific institutions have the ability to make truth-claims stick - so successfully that they've utterly transformed the world - and yet they seem fundamentally antagonistic to meaning and value, to the way we humans understand ourselves in the first instance. When the most powerful instrument of discovery in the history of the human race insinuates the meaningless of existence - well, that strikes me as cause for concern.

Though I am certainly no enemy to science, I feel that this crisis is a case of science "getting too big for its britches". Science doesn't have the tools to allow it to make value judgments or determine meaning. It's like the folks in Plato's cave dogmatically asserting that the shadows are all there is because they can't observe anything else.

The fact that consciousness has eluded science for the past four centuries illustrates the inherent limitations of science.

I'm concerned as well, though. Hopefully, parapsychology will come forward to bridge the gap, or at least make the gap smaller. Yes, I'm aware parapsychology is not respected in science, but it's been receiving more and more attention in the last decade (or at least scientific attention), and with the better controls in the experiments (and the fact that the effect remains) makes me think that its credibility will only increase.

Parapsychology has come a long way since poorly controlled séances and card tests.

So when I approach arguments at the metaphysical level of monisms, dualisms, and whatnot, there's a sense in which I'm muckraking more than anything else. I can see the interest of such debates, but I can't understand the commitment. Such commitment, it seems to me, stems from an unwarranted optimism in the capacity of philosophical argument.

Well, if one believes that there is truth, then one knows that there must be a right answer. The right answer may forever elude us, but we can still narrow down the suspects. I feel I've eliminated materialism as a coherent metaphysic; dualism is logically possible, though the interaction in the brain between objective and subjective worlds remains problematic. (Though Penrose's quantum solution may help solve this)

I feel I've narrowed it down to two likely candidates: panexperientalism and mental monism. In any case, I feel certain that experience is a "rock bottom" characteristic of reality.

If you can find it, you should read David Ray Griffin's Unsnarling the World Knot, it's pretty expensive ($50.00 on amazon) but it should available at the a university library (or an interlibrary exchange). IMO it's one of the most useful books on the subject, whether or not you agree with his metaphysic. Yesterday I checked out Nagel's View from Nowhere, and hopefully I'll start reading that soon.

-Tak view post


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