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Science disenchanting the world. posted 25 September 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Grantaire, Moderator

Thoughts? view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 26 September 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by AjDeath, Didact

<!-- s:?: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_question.gif" alt=":?:" title="Question" /><!-- s:?: --> view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 01 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Anonymous, Subdidact

Inclined to say no. Scott has posted several times with the example of his students tending to discount science, which seems to be a general attitude with the world today. Personal example: with the probably exception of my father, most of my family seems to espouse some form of mysticism. People who have no interest in science seem unlikely to become disenchanted by it.

Then again there are many people who have little to no education wert science yet seem very impressed by whatever is going on or has been learned so far.

And others, with education in the field, often find the explanations themselves wondrous or awe-inspiring (actually, this and the previous paragraph could be folded together. I won't do it, though). Is a planetary nebula more impressive as a smear of colour in a telescope (photograph more likely), or with the knowledge that that was once a star, that what you see is hundreds of billions of kilometres across, that it is lit by an object no larger than the earth, and that you can see it from so far away?

In my experience, knowing how a rainbow is formed does not make it less aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes it causes me to engage more fully with the phenomena. <!-- s:P --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_razz.gif" alt=":P" title="Razz" /><!-- s:P -->

On the other hand, from the Oxfrd English Dictionary: disenchanted, ppl. a. Freed from enchantment or illusion.

I would still say no, citing my first paragraph. And suggest that that might be a shame. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 01 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by tellner, Peralogue

Enchant ment? I don't know. I do know that science has allowed us to understand a lot more about the world and ourselves and how they work. If that means that there is less enchantment, then enchantment is just another word for ignorance. I personally don't believe that ignorance is a good thing.

Can we preserve a sense of wonder in the face of more knowledge? Of course. The good scientists I know personally or through their work have it in fuller measure of it than most people. The emotional states you yearn for are part of being human. It's only the stimuli that evoke them that changes.

You might want to read Helen Fisher's excellent "Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love". It explains a lot about how romantic love happens at a biochemical level, excatly what is going on inside you when you get dumped, why people have less sex after a couple years in a relationship and more. It doesn't make love any less real than believing it's the effect of excesses of sanguine humor on the heart or caused by getting shot by flower-arrows from Kama's sugarcane bow. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 02 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

It explains a lot about how romantic love happens at a biochemical level, excatly what is going on inside you when you get dumped, why people have less sex after a couple years in a relationship and more. It doesn't make love any less real than believing it's the effect of excesses of sanguine humor on the heart or caused by getting shot by flower-arrows from Kama's sugarcane bow.


Actually, there's a huge difference, one which has everything to do with 'disenchantment.' Love in these latter cases is something that possesses meaning in an objective order - it has a point. If love is simply neurophysiology, then it's simply functional, and taking pills that induce these states is no more or less 'genuine' than doing it the old fashioned way.

And it has no objective point whatsoever. It just happens to be the experiential apsect of behaviour-generating neural processes that happened to facilitate reproduction and the rearing of offspring to the age of reproduction, and so was selected for.

In neurophysiological accounts of different aspects of experience, you find this 'But it's still the same!' tactic all the time, but it really amounts to nothing more than hand-waving. Think of Copernicus. Sure, from our standpoint, the sun still sails across the sky while we stand still - the experience itself remains unchanged. But now we understand that experience is an illusion generated by the limitations of our perspective. We're the ones who are moving, not the sun.

The same seems to go for love, free-will, and so on.

Which is why we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that science - which just happens to be the only instititution in history capable of generating anything remotely resembling theoretical knowledge - has got something really, really wrong somewhere along the line.

The most terrifying thing about the disenchantment of the world, which has primarily consisted in the wholesale replacement of our folk intentional explanations of the world with functional explanations, is that we humans are simply one more thing in that world. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 03 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by tellner, Peralogue

Time to come clean again. Roger Zelazny expressed a view very close to mine in Lord of Light.

The four points of the compass be logic, knowledge, wisdom, and the unknown. . . . I may submit to the unknown, but never to the unknowable. The man who bows in that final direction is either a saint or a fool. I have no use for either.


I don't agree with him about saints, but it's not a bad position to start from. Knowledge is generally better than ignorance. Truth is generally better than falsehood. If logic and reason are the best tools for a particular job maybe it's not a bad thing to use them. If intuition, emotion and the physical body are the best ways of apprehending something that's fine, too. And there are such things. No doubt about it.

To toss in another, I believe it was Richard Feynman who said that science was just a way of keeping us honest with ourselves.

Next, the definition game can be very counterprductive. A case could be made that getting bogged down in it has been the death of philosophy in the West. But it would be worse to waste time talking past each other. What do you mean when you say "enchantment"? Is it a sense of wonder and mystery? The belief in the unknowable? Things that are not susceptible to logical analysis? Fairies and demons?

My suspicion is that you are getting towards something like Tolkein's "uses of enchantment", those experiences which cause us to see the world differently and anew and refresh our relation to it. If that's the case, it bears repeating that scientists are more richly blessed with those than most of us. Knowledge of how the physical world works does not seem to detract from the sense of wonder and mystery. If anything it enhances it. Outside of the plastic and performing arts and mathematics, science is the only discipline I can think of where elegance and beauty are important considerations that guide the fundamental direction of the field.

The state is the same. How we induce it changes from time to time and place to place.

Quote: &quot;Cu'jara Cinmoi&quot;:1x1zzgm4

Actually, there's a huge difference, one which has everything to do with 'disenchantment.' Love in these latter cases is something that possesses meaning in an objective order - it has a point. If love is simply neurophysiology, then it's simply functional, and taking pills that induce these states is no more or less 'genuine' than doing it the old fashioned way.

And it has no objective point whatsoever. It just happens to be the experiential apsect of behaviour-generating neural processes that happened to facilitate reproduction and the rearing of offspring to the age of reproduction, and so was selected for.[/quote:1x1zzgm4]

Attraction, bonding and reproduction are hardly little things. They have an objective point, the "what for" of the despised adaptationists and the "how come" of people like Steven Gould(ztl). The fact that a thing has a historical basis and a physical explanation doesn't detract from its reality or power.

Objective purpose? If you mean something that has a concrete effect in the real world, a baby is about as objectively real as you can get. "The force that through the green stem drives the flower" is a thing of terrible power no matter what model we use to explain its working. Can you simulate, stimulate or induce it with pills? Maybe. But people have been manipulating each other for millions of years. The means have just been less direct. Whether such things should be done is a question of vital importance.

I'm willing to guess that that's where a lot of your disquiet comes from, ultimately. Do mechanistic explanations and evolutionary history negate morality? Can (or must) we abandon ethics in favor of pure self interest or descend into nihilism? It is a supremely important issue, especially when people like E.O. Wilson have grabbed a goodly part of the debate.

A lot of very good scientists have already made the case that this is not so. Running downstairs to the biology shelf in my wife's study I found our copy of Farber's "The Temptation of Evolutionary Ethics". It's a thought-provoking book that came out as an answer to sociobiology and Bell Curve crowds.

One generally finds that in scientific circles the strict reductionists and mechanistic types tend to be the people who deal with relatively simple things - individual genes in isolation, scorpion flies, that sort of stuff. The ones who study complex systems or the history of science take a more complex and varied view of the world. They deeply appreciate that complex systems have marvelous emergent properties that can never be completely determined.

Nihilism and despair have been with us forever. So have selfishness and amorality. People who want purpose will find a purpose to enchant and inspire them. And there has always been someone eager to invoke Nature with a capital "N" or the gods to explain why it's right that he has all the money and tells the rest of us what to do. These days he hires someone to present us with statistics instead of sheep entrails.

In neurophysiological accounts of different aspects of experience, you find this 'But it's still the same!' tactic all the time, but it really amounts to nothing more than hand-waving.


I don't understand what you mean here.


Think of Copernicus. Sure, from our standpoint, the sun still sails across the sky while we stand still - the experience itself remains unchanged. But now we understand that experience is an illusion generated by the limitations of our perspective. We're the ones who are moving, not the sun.

The same seems to go for love, free-will, and so on.


Love still exists. We are still influenced by our past andy our biology but can react in many different ways depending on our personal qualities and the ways we choose, and there is always a certain amount of choice, to react in light of these things.

Going back to a text from a pre-scientific age ("Ethics of the Fathers", I think) "If a man bathes his son, gives him new clothes, annoints him with oil, gives him unwatered wine and sets him in front of a brothel with a full purse should he be surprised if the boy sins?" The fact that we now know about testosterone, norepinephrine, vasopressin, dopamine and reproductive strategies doesn't change the wisdom of the ages all that much.

Which is why we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that science - which just happens to be the only instititution in history capable of generating anything remotely resembling theoretical knowledge - has got something really, really wrong somewhere along the line.


What do you hope that it has gotten wrong? That we can come up with more accurate explanations of how the world works? That we won't find a way to magically make men good? Or that we will? Or that we will change in some fundamental way that makes us less free or less capable of joy and wonder? I don't think we will short of massively re-engineering ourselves until the point that we are no longer what we would consider human.

Is part of it a fear that we will discover that we're not that different from many other animals? The Great Chain of Being is hand waving of the worst sort. It's implicitly and explicitly designed to rationalize the privileges of the powerful. We are mammals. We are inquisitive, smart, tool-using, social mammals. Our kinship with other animals can debase us or enrich us depending on what lessons we choose (for largely irrational emotional reasons) to take from that realization.

The most terrifying thing about the disenchantment of the world, which has primarily consisted in the wholesale replacement of our folk intentional explanations of the world with functional explanations, is that we humans are simply one more thing in that world.


A lot of our folk intentional explanations of the world were based on fear, hatred, ignorance, oppression and caused us great harm. Others gave us a sense of place, purpose, identity and connection. Exactly the same can be said of the new ones. And the functional part wasn't totally absent. The gods and spirits did what they did to serve their ends or because it was their mechanical function to do so. If anything the pre-eminence of scientific thought has led to the deificiation of human intention. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 03 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Awesome reply, Tellner! I think many would sympathize with the interpretation you give of science and the significance of scientific claims.

There's no way I can do your full reply justice (I have a book to write!), so let me take a short cut of sorts to show what the dilemma is.

You make, in effect, philosophical claims relegating science to one claim making institution among others, each with it's own appropriate explananda. The first question is: What is the signature (world-transforming, really) difference between scientific claims and claims made in other institutions. The second question is: Where do your own claims fit in with respect to this difference? view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 09 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by MagnanimousOne, Candidate

What kind of proof Mr Cretien? view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 09 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by TakLoufer, Candidate

[quote:2kqjv13s]Quote:
It explains a lot about how romantic love happens at a biochemical level, excatly what is going on inside you when you get dumped, why people have less sex after a couple years in a relationship and more. It doesn't make love any less real than believing it's the effect of excesses of sanguine humor on the heart or caused by getting shot by flower-arrows from Kama's sugarcane bow.


Actually, there's a huge difference, one which has everything to do with 'disenchantment.' Love in these latter cases is something that possesses meaning in an objective order - it has a point. If love is simply neurophysiology, then it's simply functional, and taking pills that induce these states is no more or less 'genuine' than doing it the old fashioned way.

And it has no objective point whatsoever. It just happens to be the experiential apsect of behaviour-generating neural processes that happened to facilitate reproduction and the rearing of offspring to the age of reproduction, and so was selected for.

In neurophysiological accounts of different aspects of experience, you find this 'But it's still the same!' tactic all the time, but it really amounts to nothing more than hand-waving. Think of Copernicus. Sure, from our standpoint, the sun still sails across the sky while we stand still - the experience itself remains unchanged. But now we understand that experience is an illusion generated by the limitations of our perspective. We're the ones who are moving, not the sun.

The same seems to go for love, free-will, and so on. [/quote:2kqjv13s]

I agree, if all behavior were to be shown to be completely and indisputably determined by previous factors, much the same way rocks roll down hill or billiard balls ricochet off each other, this would prove that subjective experience is nothing but a casually impotent epiphenomena. In fact, this would, in my view, suggest a sort of one way dualism - blind atoms in the void on one side [the "movers"], colors, smells, sensations, etc, on the other [the "moved"]. It could not be any other way, as the atoms in void would not intrinsically have the qualia, the syntax, or semantics of subjective experience (syntax is observer relative, unless one allows a homunculus into the picture - [1]). This would just push the question back a level:

Where does this experience come from?

The matter of materialism does not logically entail experience, no matter (excuse the pun) what configuration the material is in. For example, imagine that a group of scientists are examining a brain in a vat. These scientists have super-advanced scanners that allow them to map out every ion that moves between every synapse, every internal movement of every neuron - they can follow the ballet of the brain to the minutest detail.

Now, let’s suppose that the person in the vat is having a very detailed lucid dream in which they are sailing in a boat on a purple ocean with three moons in the sky.

Can the scientists determine what the brain (or person) is experiencing? No, to them, the brain is perfectly explainable as a spatio-temporal system of interacting bits of matter. In fact, the more extreme eliminativists among the scientists may scoff at the very idea that their is a person experiencing something. Any experience would be "tacked on" and thus irrelevent.

This variation of the old brain-in-a-vat thought experiment is nothing new, but it does illustrate a valuable point, if the supposedly deterministic mass of atoms that is the brain has a "something-it-is-like" about it, it must originate outside the brain itself; either there is a little homunculus interpreting or determining which neural events produce which experience (and, in practice, it couldn't possibly matter, as the qualia is casually impotent anyway), or there is something wrong about our conception of reality.

Which is why we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that science - which just happens to be the only instititution in history capable of generating anything remotely resembling theoretical knowledge - has got something really, really wrong somewhere along the line.


Your argument that science is "the only institution in history capable of generating . . . theoretical knowledge" is misleading, as the finding of science are metaphysically neutral. Science measures and predicts observed phenomena. Science can tell us what the movements of shadows are on the cave wall, but it is blind in telling us who or what is casting the shadows are. True, they can formulate theoretical knowledge, such as formulating the theory of gravity by measuring its effects, but it can not tell us what gravity is. The data, after all, has to be interpreted.

I remember your "Blind Brain" hypothesis, which is very similar to McGinn's mysterianism. Your argument seemed to be that our brains do not allow us to know how consciousness can arise from dead matter, that this knowledge was conceptually closed to us.

Basically, this view can be summed up as: "Materialism is correct, but I can't explain how."

This is a position that, like eliminativism and sophism, is hard to argue against because there is no way to disprove it, and the supporter of this view doesn't have to explain anything. What is most telling is McGinn's statement that we should accept the validity of materialism, even though we cannot explain how it can possibly work, based off an "article of metaphysical faith" [2] <!-- s:? --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_confused.gif" alt=":?" title="Confused" /><!-- s:? -->

I agree that we may be cognitively closed on the matter of consciousness, but this works against materialism, because this "blind spot" in our mental view implies that there is something missing from the picture, and any ontological additives to materialism that would account for consciousness would inevitably mean that the metaphysic could no longer be called materialism.

I maintain that one of these three models must (?) be true.

1) Idealism {{{Mind}}}

2) Panexperientalism {Experience [intrinsic to] Matter}

3) Dualism {Mind [interaction] Matter}

After doing some more thinking on the matter, I now lean a bit towards Whitehead's process ontology (which is a sort of compromise between "Mind Dust" Panpsychism and Idealism), though there is definitely something to be said for absolute idealism (I'm currently reading Sprigge's The Vindication of Absolute Idealism)

The most terrifying thing about the disenchantment of the world, which has primarily consisted in the wholesale replacement of our folk intentional explanations of the world with functional explanations, is that we humans are simply one more thing in that world.


Of course we are part of the world. But your unspoken implication is that we are just one more dead thing in the world. As in, we are composed of a bunch of little dead balls of stuff that bounce off each other and inexplicably (and, ultimately irrelevently) cause subjectivity.

I'm beginning to think that just as we are "alive" with experience, so too is the rest of the universe "alive" with experience. As for freewill, I see epiphenomenalism as an absurdity equal to parallelism or over-determinism. Any knowledge we contain about the outside world is, in effect, impotent. We "know" about the world, but this knowing couldn't make any difference, and even the self-realization of epiphenomenalism is contingent upon certain neural events that intrinsically have nothing to due with the knowledge of epiphenomenalism. Basically, epiphenomenalism is just too absurd to accept, as it makes the very act of arguing for it irrelevant. Because whether or not you would make the effort to do so, which would, in reality, be nothing more than pre-determined noises coming from the mouth (which in turn are caused by jiggling atoms in the skull), would have nothing to do with a desire for truth or curiosity or whatever.

One could argue that the "jiggling atoms" are these mental states, but Searle's (who, ironically, is a reluctant epiphenomenalist and a materialist) arguments show that any computational model of mind is incoherent and, since his "biological naturalism" has no explanatory value (it suffers all of the problems of identity theory/dualism), - Searle inadvertably supports the notion that dead jiggling atoms can't intrinsically produce syntax, semantics, or experience.

And I haven't even brought parapsychology into the picture (it's just too controversial, though I feel the evidence is much stronger than most would think.)

Good to be back. I've spent the last few months reading and pondering the mind-body problem, mainly focusing on Whitehead. Later, I'll post my thoughts on your books (which I think are on par with Martin)

-Tak

[1] - [url:2kqjv13s]http&#58;//www&#46;ecs&#46;soton&#46;ac&#46;uk/~harnad/Papers/Py104/searle&#46;comp&#46;html[/url:2kqjv13s]

[2] The Problem of Consciousness pg 87 view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 09 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Another holy moly response, Tak! Once again, there's no way I can do justice to your reply since I have bigger fish to fry (namely, TTT). So just a couple of comments:

I entirely agree that the 'what-is-it-likeness' of experience is the crack of light in what otherwise seems to be a closing door. The question, and this is something I think you and I discussed extensively some time ago, is one of what kind of inferences you can draw from that. I'm not so sure your optimism is warranted.

As far as science and theoretical knowledge goes, I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. It seems to pretty plain that no matter what set of 'theoretical virtues' you pick, there's nary an institution that can hold a candle to science. If you think, as I do, that whatever knowledge is it (somehow) involves an important public dimension, this is even more the case. I guess I need examples of something that is nonscientific and , yet? I hear it's quite terrifying. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 17 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by TakLoufer, Candidate

Forgive the lateness of this reply, but the post “grew in the telling” and, between papers for my classes and work, I have less free time than I had during the summer.

I entirely agree that the 'what-is-it-likeness' of experience is the crack of light in what otherwise seems to be a closing door.


I'd say it's more like the door is wide open. Chalmer's "Hard" problem isn't just hard, it's impossible! At least within a materialist framework. Materialist scientists and philosophers may claim that they've solved the mind-body problem (or that they will if they study the brain long enough), but the "What-is-it-like" problem isn't going to disappear.

The question, and this is something I think you and I discussed extensively some time ago, is one of what kind of inferences you can draw from that. I'm not so sure your optimism is warranted.


I suppose my perceived optimism (I actually consider myself a pessimist) is because the way I see it, in the absence of materialism (which has numerous problems), one is forced into accepting an ontology that has experience has a foundation. In fact, materialism itself is a form of "crypto-dualism" in that it inevitably lets a homunculus in through the back door.

Any theory of consciousness inevitably has "mind" as a fundamental, whether the advocates of the theory are aware of it or not.

I don't see how optimism has anything to do with it.

As far as science and theoretical knowledge goes, I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. It seems to pretty plain that no matter what set of 'theoretical virtues' you pick, there's nary an institution that can hold a candle to science. If you think, as I do, that whatever knowledge is it (somehow) involves an important public dimension, this is even more the case. I guess I need examples of something that is nonscientific and theoretical that can plausibly count as 'knowledge' (defined as something that can be reasonably distinguished from opinion).


Science is mute on matters of ontology. We can observe "objects," we can observe objects interacting with other objects. We can observe an object's behavior. We can observe that an object can be broken into smaller objects. We can measure an object's size in relation to other objects. Etc, Etc.

But, can science tell us what the object is?

Is the object intrinsically mental? Or is the objective world composed of "stuff" - What is this "stuff?"

We can measure the effects of gravity, but what is gravity?

Physics makes no attempt to explain the intrinsic nature of basic entities, but only characterizes them in terms of other entities. "What they are" is not explored. Though, science does not tell us what the units of nature are in themselves, this is usually forgotten as most scientists have accepted their own abstractions as metaphysical fact (Whitehead's "misplaced concreteness" fallacy).

Here’s a brief essay exploring the matter. [url:1nxdipg8]http&#58;//home&#46;comcast&#46;net/~johnrgregg/physical&#46;htm[/url:1nxdipg8]

As far as materialism goes, I'm actually disinclined to even take that wee metaphysical step (though I get sloppy in my expression sometimes). What I'm saying is that science implies that experiences like free will, morality, and so on, are - like the experience of the moving sun - artifacts of our limited perspective. A lot of things start making a helluva lot of sense if you adopt this position.


There is a difference between "soft core" common sense and "hard core" common sense. Though it may appear that the sun goes around the earth, most primitives would have no problem accepting, or at least conceiving, that this is an optical illusion and that it is actually the other way around.

But, try to convince them that their experience is an epiphenomena and that they would have done all of their past actions the same even if they had no qualia. This would strike them as absurd (and calls into question the existence of the objective world, as the mental world would indisputably exist, but the objective world is forever unknowable).

Notice that I said conceiving. The primitive people could conceive the earth going around the sun, but they can not intelligibly conceive of their minds being irrelevant to their actions. Perhaps we, as humans, are simply not capable of understanding that we are an epiphenomena?

Which leads me to my own theory.

I feel that there is justification in the view that every unit of "matter" that can be called an individual has a parcel of experience (these units are what Hartshorne called "compound individuals"). For example, an atom is a compound individual and has its own primitive sort of experience. The sub-atomic particles that make up the atom are experienced CIs themselves, and are made up even less particles that have their even more primitive experience.

Objects such as chairs and fire hydrants do not have the unified experience that CIs enjoy, but rather are composed of separate CIs, each with has its own experience. For something like a rock to move on its own volition, each atom would have to simultaneously "decide" to move in a single direction. Because this is very unlikely to occur, we usually think of rocks as "dead."

What makes CIs different from a rock is that they are more than the sum of their parts. A rock is just an aggregated society of CIs, but a molecule is something more than that, as it has a more unified experience that is greater than the atoms that comprise it, and it exhibits properties that cannot be explained purely by the parts themselves (much the way a church can be “explained” purely by the bricks that comprise it). The CI of the brain "prehends" its neurons, which in turn prehend their molecules, then they their atoms, etc.

The hierarchy goes something like:

Sub-atomic particles -&gt; atoms -&gt; molecules -&gt; macromolecules -&gt; cells -&gt; multi-celled animals (Humans) -&gt; The Universe?

Each CI has increasingly more experience and (more on this later) "freedom" than the previous CI. The nature of each CI's experience is composed of a series of "occasions," which are constantly dying and becoming anew each moment of time. When you remember the past, you are "prehending" past occasions that have "perished." Experience is always a process of "becoming."

What I have just described is Whitehead 101, but my theory adds on to this a bit.

As I have mentioned earlier, I hold the position that parapsychology has gotten a raw deal. This is probably largely deserved, as, regardless of the legitimacy of psi phenomena, its very nature would inevitably attract all sorts of crack-pots, frauds, and snake oil salesmen. This factor has done much to hurt the field's credibility and so very few intellectuals are familiar with the evidence (or, worse yet, they are familiar only with the straw men versions perpetuated by organizations such as CSICOP) [1]. In any event, experiments such as the ganzfeld suggest that psi phenomena may "unconsciously"[2] occur all the time, though our conscious mind filters all of this out in everyday waking life. This is further supported by (the admitingly controversial) research with trance-mediumship that was so popular in the late 19th and early 20th century [3]. Before being able to allegedly create psi phenomena (or, as some thought, communicate with deceased personalities), the mediums usually went into a deep trance. Presumably, this was to put their minds in a less "filtered" state.

It can be argued that these ESP and mediumship experiments involve the subject "tuning in" to something within their mind.

This "tuning in" also seems to not be hindered (or at least not hindered as much) by obstacles such as space or time.

My theory is that at a certain level of consciousness there is a "white noise" zone where the mind is being affected by, at least some degree, all other occasions of experience in the universe, past and present.

Different occasions have varying degrees of "immediacy." For example, the computer monitor in front of me and the thoughts concerning this paper are of a greater immediacy than my memory of what I had for dinner. My memory of dinner is of a greater immediacy than some long forgotten childhood event.

To put psi into the picture, past occasions from my childhood are of a greater immediacy than, say, the past occasions of some Chinese peasant from the 15th century. None-the-less, these past occasions (from outside my life) do have a direct influence on my psyche; however, this effect is so muted as to be, under most circumstances, undetectable and "mixed in" with the mental static from all other occasions in the universe.

The "past life" memories from Ian Stevenson's research and regression therapy may be the prehension of past occasions belonging to people long dead.

If my theory is correct, each of our own compound individuals is the universe "writ small," with certain occasions having more immediacy than others. In theory (but almost certainly not in practice) we should be able to, in some fashion, "call-up" past occasions and "remember" them with greater immediacy.

In an odd sort of way this theory allows for a sort of survival of death. While I feel that the personality ends at death, as this appears to be reliant on the brain (which is, in the absence of a CI, an aggregated society of experienced neurons), the "I" is eternal, and we are "reincarnated" into everything. A CI living hundreds of years from now will “carry with him/her/it” all past occasions of me, you, and everyone else who ever lived, though this will not consciously remembered, except on rare occasions.

This notion of "survival" is not a new idea, and is not even contingent on my theory or the existence psi phenomena. Here's an article by a materialist that elaborates:

[url:1nxdipg8]http&#58;//www&#46;naturalism&#46;org/death&#46;htm[/url:1nxdipg8]

Now, as for free will, I think there two directions my theory can go:

1) At every occasion, a CI's act will be completely determined by past memories, current sensations, cognitive ability, and the "mental static" of the universe. Basically, the passing thought of a Chinese peasant in the 15th century will have some bearing on what I decide to do in the next moment. In a way, this is sort of like epiphenomenalism, except rather than attaching semantics and intention to intrinsically meaningless matter interactions (which is one-sided dualism), the causation originates from the actual concepts and sensations themselves.

For example: I walk into the kitchen and make a sandwich.

Why did I do this?

In an epiphenomenal materialist theory, this can be completely explained by references to spatial-temporal interactions between certain objects moving along a casually closed path, like so many billiard balls. The concept of "hunger" doesn't logically entail from the system. There may be some impotent ghost piggy-backing on the system that might have some sort of sensation that involves a desire for food, but this is functionally irrelevant because (according to the materialists) the brain (and, by extension, the rest of the universe) is fully pre-determined, lacking intrinsic meaning or purpose. And, as Searle has shown, these vacuous entities can't have syntax of semantics unless some outside observer attributes them to the objects[4]; and this is something materialist can't allow. Any experience simply is not part of the system, and is thus left unexplained.

In my theory, the cause of the sandwich making is hunger. Or, more precisely: A lack of nutrients in my body causes a signal to be sent to certain neuronal fibers in my brain. This causes my neurons, being compound individuals, to prehend a primitive occasion of experience that, I suppose, can be roughly translated as "Bad Feeling". These "Bad Feelings" among the number of neurons are collectively prehended by the unifying agent that is the compound individual of the brain (or, myself). The CI that is I feels the many "Bads" as the more advanced experience of hunger. I, using my cognitive ability and my memory of prior experiences, correctly conclude that in order to alleviate this unpleasant sensation, I should use my ability of locomotion to travel to the kitchen and put my skills at food preparation to use by constructing an edible substance to consume. Of course, the occasions of lesser immediacy have their influence, but forgotten childhood traumas and 15th century peasants are mostly irrelevant to my hunger, so the hunger "wins".

This is not really freedom as commonly understood, as all actions and thoughts have "reasons" behind them. If I were to decide to not eat, there would certainly be a reason for this, whether I was aware of it or not.

Basically, the “Darkness that comes Before” is all occasions of experience, past, present, and (?) future.

2) The other direction my theory can go is to postulate that, because the universe is not fully determined and is, in fact, indeterminate (as quantum theory seems to suggest) than perhaps free will as commonly understood is, at some level, possible. Griffin, Whitehead, and Hartshorne seem to have the idea that, at the sub-atomic level, "volition" exists among the particles. A very primitive volition, to be sure, but the randomness can be viewed as the exercise of basic freedom. As one moves up the hierarchy of compound individuals, the freedom of the lesser CI are harnessed by the superiors and are thus allow greater freedom for the higher CIs. For example: A molecule has more "free will" than an atom, a multi-celled organism has more freedom than one of its cells, etc.

This may be the case, but I personally lean more towards the first choice which, while it makes our actions "determined," the decisions and experience are not epiphenomenal. On the contrary, it is the experience of the individuals themselves (whether at the level of electrons or humans) that are the causes. Most people would have no problem with realizing that they eat because they are hungry (and if they choose not to eat, there is a reason for this), but they would certainly have a problem with the notion that that they would go and make a sandwich is irrelevant to whether they are hungry or not.

Which is probably why I can't see my way out of it - despite my training as a 'continental philosopher'! Not even accounts as pragmatically ingenious as Dennett's seem to even touch it.

BTW. Have you had a chance to check out The Illusion of the Conscious Will, yet? I hear it's quite terrifying.


Nope, but I am aware of some of the arguments in favor of this (namely, Libet's experiments [5] and determinism in general). I have no doubt that there are "unconscious" factors that occur before we make a decision. But the unconscious mental factors (or, factors that have less immediacy) are just a part of the "I" as our more immediate experiences (that may "drown out" the "unconscious" experiences).

I find epiphenomenalism (and reductionism and materialism in general) terrifying, not because I believe it's true and that my subjectivity is nothing but an impotent "magic spray" on blind processes, but rather because I fear the toll this dogmatic scientism is going to have on our society. As of now, most people are largely unaware of the more frightening theories that are being passed around. But if Russell’s "accidental collocation of atoms" and Crick's "nothing but a pack of neurons," concepts become commonly believed by most people . . . this would prove disastrous. The effects are already occurring: people with mental disorders or traumas are simply fed medication as "cures" for malfunctioning brains (which in some cases, strikes me as “chemical lobotomies”). More and more "teenage atheists" [6] are popping up (hell, I was one of them) who take for granted that they're "nothing but" blind processes. I'm not saying materialists are intrinsically amoral, and I'm not saying people (should) follow morals out of fear of some anthropomorphic god, but rather that people are moral because they feel concepts such as good and evil are somehow "real," in a Platonic sense, where as in materialism, such concepts are merely conditioning from sensory stimuli, and we are deluded into thinking they are something more.

I predict two outcomes from this:

1) "The masses" will get wind of how far down the rabbit hole goes, and widespread nihilism will result due to the masses feeling that science has "stolen their souls".

2) "The masses" will be terrified by the implications and will "revolt" from science, and religious fundamentalism will become more widespread.

Neither result is something I look forward to.

-Tak

Notes:

[1] I suggest that anyone curious about parapsychology read:

The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin

Varieties of Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scientific Evidence by Etzel Cardena, Steven Jay Lynn, Stanley C. Krippner and Steven J. Lynn

ESP and Psychokinesis: A Philosophical Examination and The Limits of Influence by Stephen E. Braude

Parapsychology, Philosophy, and Spirituality: A Postmodern Examination by David Ray Griffin

[url:1nxdipg8]http&#58;//blavatskyarchives&#46;com/zeteticism&#46;htm[/url:1nxdipg8], [url:1nxdipg8]http&#58;//www&#46;parapsych&#46;org/full_papers&#46;html[/url:1nxdipg8] - Here are some good sites that cover pro and con articles on various topics.

[2] I dislike the term "unconscious" because it implies that the workings of the mind that we are not actively aware of are somehow "blind" or "dead," much the way we think of rocks or automations. Despite the fact that we generally are unaware of these factors of our mind, our "unconscious" behavior implies intent. For example: someone who is unconsciously self-loathing will "unconsciously" undermine their own efforts, sometimes in subtle ways. This implies intention and goal oriented behavior that would be difficult to attribute to "blind" or intrinsically null forces, despite that the self-loather is, at best, dimly aware of any negative feeling towards themselves. On the other hand, some behavior does seem blind, such as "blindly" or automatically driving to a wrong location out of habit (such as driving to work when you meant to drive to a friends house), or a martial artist who reacts to an attack without thinking. However, these seem more like "programmed" behavior that has no real intent behind it and may be attributed to a series of advanced reflexes or conditioning. Also, evidence from parapsychology seems to indicate intention from the unconscious mind.

[3] Contrary to popular stereotypes, early "psychical research" was not comprised totally of incompetents and frauds (though these certainly did exist). Eminent thinkers such as William James, Frederic W. H. Myers, Oliver Lodge, and Richard Hodgson were some of the more prominent pioneers in the field.

[4] Basically, in the absence of an observer, the matter interactions “are what they are,” which is, bits of “stuff” hitting each other.

[5] Oddly enough, Radin and Bierman both conducted similar experiments that suggest precognition. [url:1nxdipg8]http&#58;//www&#46;quantumconsciousness&#46;org/pdfs/presentiment&#46;pdf[/url:1nxdipg8] and [url:1nxdipg8]http&#58;//www&#46;boundaryinstitute&#46;org/articles/presentiment99&#46;pdf[/url:1nxdipg8].

[6] Not that I'm a friend to the religious perspective, either. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 18 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Stephen, Commoner

"I know this: if the world is an illusion, then I no less am part of that illusion; and being so, the illusion is real to me. I live, I love, I laugh, and am content."

Who's gonna argue with Conan the Cimmerian?

Science doesn't disenchant the world. Pain and loss do that. And the day science excises pain is the day we lose the perspective that tells us what joy and love are worth.

Or to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, it's interesting how many people say of a religious experience "All that really happened was you heard some well-sung music in an acoustic room," but will say with no perception of contradiction about some significant feat of courage or emotional testing, "It's all very well to talk about it, but wait 'til you get into it and see what it's really like." The emotional 'enchantment' of a particular experience is discounted as illusion at one moment, then held up as deterministically 'real' the next, depending on whatever point the speaker is most interested in making. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 19 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Grantaire, Moderator

Excellent post Tak, I don't think anyone will have enough time to be able to properly argue against you <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->

But on a couple of points.

Science is mute on matters of ontology. We can observe "objects," we can observe objects interacting with other objects. We can observe an object's behavior. We can observe that an object can be broken into smaller objects. We can measure an object's size in relation to other objects. Etc, Etc.

But, can science tell us what the object is?

Is the object intrinsically mental? Or is the objective world composed of "stuff" - What is this "stuff?"

We can measure the effects of gravity, but what is gravity?

Physics makes no attempt to explain the intrinsic nature of basic entities, but only characterizes them in terms of other entities. "What they are" is not explored. Though, science does not tell us what the units of nature are in themselves, this is usually forgotten as most scientists have accepted their own abstractions as metaphysical fact (Whitehead's "misplaced concreteness" fallacy).


First, in relation to your own theory, I would like to mention Ockham's Razor. What is simpler, materialism or your theory of compound individuals with their own histories creating "life".

About what you say about science against ontology though, it is perhaps irrelevant- the atom is the smallest object with the properties that we recognize as belonging to any certain type of object. Even that is slightly past the simple infinitesimally small sphere it was originally concieved as. Over time, our perception of "atoms" grew to recognizing it being composed of neutrons, protons, and electrons. In time, we discovered properties of these, and we discovered that they are composed of quarks, and that there are many other subatomic particles out there. But what they are is inherently irrelevant. With even today's best technology, the best image we have been able to get of atoms is a fuzzy sphere. By our current understanding of physics, there is no way to obtain a better image. Sure, we can create our models, hypothesize about what composes an atom, and all of that. But never can we see past a rough image of an atom.

So what does this mean? It means that what the most fundamental particles actually are is, and will always be impossible to know. We think of everything in terms of what we understand and experience. Such an abstract concept is already difficult enough for humans to accept, because it is counterintuitive enough. But given that quarks and other particles are at an even more fundamental level than atoms (the smallest object with still recognizable properties to us), how can we define what they "are"?

Although, to be more precise, it's not that particles are even strictly what we would term "matter". Modern physics has given us many things to consider on the subatomic level, but wave/particle duality, string theory, and some parts of quantum physics are particularly telling. These totally counterintuitive theories (and hypotheses, at least in the case of string theory) give us new insight into our understanding of the subatomic world, and we cannot take these fundamental particles to be simply infinitely small spheres that are composed of something. Sometimes they behave like waves, sometimes they affect the behavior of a particle far away, and perhaps they are even impossibly small strings or branes. The simple fact is, we can't look at the simplest units of matter and say "what are these made of?" because while at the purest level they are simply energy, they are simply too abstract to think of in our macromolecular terms.

Do you get what I'm saying? I don't know how much of a physics person you are, and I don't totally understand all of this, but I think that it's not only irrelevant, but impossible to discuss metaphysics at such a fundamental level of reality.

I find epiphenomenalism (and reductionism and materialism in general) terrifying, not because I believe it's true and that my subjectivity is nothing but an impotent "magic spray" on blind processes, but rather because I fear the toll this dogmatic scientism is going to have on our society. As of now, most people are largely unaware of the more frightening theories that are being passed around. But if Russell’s "accidental collocation of atoms" and Crick's "nothing but a pack of neurons," concepts become commonly believed by most people . . . this would prove disastrous. The effects are already occurring: people with mental disorders or traumas are simply fed medication as "cures" for malfunctioning brains (which in some cases, strikes me as “chemical lobotomies”). More and more "teenage atheists" [6] are popping up (hell, I was one of them) who take for granted that they're "nothing but" blind processes. I'm not saying materialists are intrinsically amoral, and I'm not saying people (should) follow morals out of fear of some anthropomorphic god, but rather that people are moral because they feel concepts such as good and evil are somehow "real," in a Platonic sense, where as in materialism, such concepts are merely conditioning from sensory stimuli, and we are deluded into thinking they are something more.

I predict two outcomes from this:

1) "The masses" will get wind of how far down the rabbit hole goes, and widespread nihilism will result due to the masses feeling that science has "stolen their souls".

2) "The masses" will be terrified by the implications and will "revolt" from science, and religious fundamentalism will become more widespread.

Neither result is something I look forward to.


Yes, this is the interesting thing. Indeed, I am somewhat one of those "teenage athiests" you speak of, though I would say that I'm more of an agnostic. However, I think there are several limiting factors that you are overlooking.

First: most people simply don't care. Many people don't give a damn about philosophy, science, literature and many of the other things we talk about here. Since philosophy, by its nature relying on language to convey what it means, can never sound totally definitive, I don't think the masses will ever really appreciate or care what conclusions philosophers ever come up with.

Second: not only beyond the simple fact of apathy, many people simply aren't intelligent enough to understand. Not an intended insult towards them, but many people really would not be capable of understanding the philosophy behind the dogmatism you describe. Those who are, are either capable of taking the implications, or else are intelligent enough to fall into a sort of nihilism that isn't really true despair.

Really, the masses just aren't intelligent enough, and are too apathetic to realize "how far down the rabbit hole goes," and although I wish people did care more about things like philosophy and science, I think too that perhaps it is better that people who cannot take the implications not be exposed to the ideas that are not only extremely abstract, but very disturbing. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 19 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I'm going to start calling you the 'mad panpsychist,' Tak! <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->

Just a few points: given the successes of functional explanation elsewhere, I find it hard to view the intransigence of 'what-it-is-likeness' with your optimism.

As far as metaphysical questions like 'What is X fundamentally?' goes, you do realize your answer, 'mental experience,' not only explains very little (since we don't have a blasted clue as to what experience is), it also seems to overlook the myriad of ways in which experience is deceptive. We don't experience holes near the centre of our field of vision, though we have them. We're susceptible to a countless number of perceptual distortions and illusions. Experience has a veridical component. Not only that, there's the question of intentionality: experiences are about things that, experience tells us, transcend those experiences. I have experiences of trees, not experiences of 'tree-experiences.' Whatever 'experience' is, it seems clear that it's inherently relational.

I could go on and on, and I'm sure you could cook up a thousand answers, to which I could cook up a thousand more, and so on, and so on, and so on.

But then, this is just my point. Metaphysics is interesting, worthy of exploration, but given that no metaphysician has ever produced a claim capable of commanding consensus, I'm not sure what warrants specific commitments to this or that metaphysical thesis.

And this just brings us back to the only institution that has had any kind of luck with theoretical truth-claims: science. You still haven't given me an example of an alternate institution that has anything remotely approaching the track record of science when it comes to producing theoretical truth-claims.

Stephen, I think, mentioned that these matters simply boiled down to whatever perspectives our interests lead us to take. This is the kind of levelling statement that many philosophers and laypeople are wont to make - hell, I used to make similar claims myself. But again, this is a philosophical claim, and as such, no matter how much it serves our self-interest to relativize scientific claims, it suffers the same credibility crisis all philosophical statements suffer.

This mistake is rife in academic philosophy. People commit to philosophical claims such as 'science is one language-game among many,' or 'science is an ontic enterprise incapable of examining its ontological foundations,' and then use this commitment to condition their commitment to every scientific claim they then encounter. They use a philosophical commitment to determine their scientific commitments! This is a nifty trick, until you consider the cognitive track record of the two institutions in question. If commitment is supposed to be a function of warrant, then this akin to making a deaf person presiding judge over American Idol.

Personally, I have no idea 'what science is really.' All I know, is that it seems to be the only game in town when it comes to generating reliable theoretical truth claims. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 19 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Aldarion, Sorcerer-of-Rank

Very interesting debate going on here. Too bad I really don't have much to add to it now other than this seemingly innocuous question:

What bothers me about trying to grasp the full significance of truth-claims is that in one very real sense, we have to approach this from a certain understanding, an understanding that isn't necessarily going to be what people want from this. This leads me to address the question of truth-claims thusly:

Just how applicable are scientific truth-claims to the events of a person's life? Just how applicable are scientific understandings to creating coping/destructive models of approaching personal problems? Just how applicable can something of a rational standpoint be toward something that just might possibly be inherently irrational?

Something just tells me that in the end, it just comes down to limits and the relationships we develop with limits, both imposed and superimposed, both "natural" and "artificial," but that might be getting off-track a bit, yes? view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 19 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Just how applicable are scientific truth-claims to the events of a person's life? Just how applicable are scientific understandings to creating coping/destructive models of approaching personal problems?


I see this as a good way to formulate the problem, and to perhaps reorient the debate.

The best way to understand the 'disenchantment of the world,' I've suggested, is as a gradual process whereby intentional explanations provided by tradition and philosophy are gradually replaced by the functional explanations provided by science - something which results in the 'scientific worldview.' Until recently, this substitution had resulted in what might be called the 'disenchantment of the world minus us.' Because the complexity of the brain defeated the scientific tools and techniques that make functional explanations possible, we were like a 'wildlife preserve.' We are only now witnessing the breakdown of that intentional preserve - the practical possibility of a thoroughgoing functional self-understanding - and as of yet, we don't know how things will ultimately play out.

Your question, Larry, brings us to this point. What we know to be the case is that what we call 'experience,' depends on the function of the brain. What we don't as of yet know is how all the particularities of that experience - especially things like intentionality and normativity (which are found nowhere outside of experience) - arise from the particularities of our neural machinery. But the picture is slowly coming into functional focus.

Consider your 'experience of willing' (EoW), for instance. It turns out that we are very easily fooled into thinking that we will actions that we don't. It turns out that our EoW is inferential - something that we learn - rather than intrinsic to the things we in fact do. It turns out, in other words, that our EoW follows from our actions, rather than, as we like to assume, initiating them. It turns out, in other words, that our EoW is a cognitive illusion.

So how are these claims applicable to your life? In innumerable ways, and few of them pretty: everything you've done, every act you've been blamed or have taken credit for, you have experienced after the fact as something 'you control.'

This simply underscores the nihilistic dilemma I've been harping about all along. If you, like me, suspend commitment to all but the most robust truth-claims - namely those belonging to the same family that makes miracles like this computer possible - then the most basic, straighforward inferences lead you to unintelligible madness.

The most powerful instrument of discovery in the history of humanity - bar none! - suggests that everything you do and everything that matters to you is an illusion - and here's the kicker, including the very norms that make this argument stick.

WTF view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 19 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Grantaire, Moderator

Just how applicable are scientific truth-claims to the events of a person's life? Just how applicable are scientific understandings to creating coping/destructive models of approaching personal problems? Just how applicable can something of a rational standpoint be toward something that just might possibly be inherently irrational?


Larry, that is a good question, and one that I think is certainly an issue. Certainly, you do make the presumption that things such as human thought and action are irrational, which although possible, it is too entirely possible that we will find as Scott said, a functional self-understanding. At this time, we find it insane to even think that you could fit an equation or theorem to the human mind, but does that mean it is impossible?

I believe that what I said in my previous post is quite applicable to what you are asking here. I think that the vast majority of people will never really accept science or philosophy as being a ruling factor or functional self-understanding in their lives. People have no interest, and many are not intelligent to even understand fully the implications of the sort of things we discuss here.

In my opinion, you underestimate the possibilities that scientific/philosophic understandings present for application in life. Although, first, I will admit that this heavily depends on the person. To the person with the right personality or detachment for it, the implications that this sort of philosophy bring can be perfect. When you realize that everything is illusion, that everything you care about doesn't matter, that your life truly means nothing, and that what you do doesn't have any importance, you feel less pressure on yourself (although, don't take that to mean I'm not ambitious <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: --> ). It is an interesting situation, but from the right perspective, it makes sense, so I'm not exactly expecting you to become a nihilist just because I said it works <!-- s:twisted: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_twisted.gif" alt=":twisted:" title="Twisted Evil" /><!-- s:twisted: -->

This simply underscores the nihilistic dilemma I've been harping about all along. If you, like me, suspend commitment to all but the most robust truth-claims - namely those belonging to the same family that makes miracles like this computer possible - then the most basic, straighforward inferences lead you to unintelligible madness.

The most powerful instrument of discovery in the history of humanity - bar none! - suggests that everything you do and everything that matters to you is an illusion - and here's the kicker, including the very norms that make this argument stick.


And what is wrong with unintelligible madness? Hah, I realize the implications of this philosophy, but does it turn my life upside down? No, not really, although it does have a certain effect. You seem to think that the masses will ever find and listen to this philosophy, which I sincerely doubt, and I admit is probably for the best. It is something very difficult to accept, given how ecocentric we are by nature.. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 20 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Aldarion, Sorcerer-of-Rank

One very quick bit (I can't respond at length now because I have a monitor strapped to my left index finger and it's hell to type - it'll be removed in the afternoon):

Be careful about making blanket statements about intelligence, Grantaire - people are intelligent in more ways than one. Some can cope with these questions in a fashion that causes them less worry - because they literally see the world differently. I've learned that lesson from just working and being around people of all sorts over the years. But "horse sense" is for another topic, yes? <!-- s;) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- s;) --> view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 20 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Stephen, Commoner

Quote: &quot;Cu'jara Cinmoi&quot;:3vvw2fmt
Consider your 'experience of willing' (EoW), for instance. It turns out that we are very easily fooled into thinking that we will actions that we don't. It turns out that our EoW is inferential - something that we learn - rather than intrinsic to the things we in fact do. It turns out, in other words, that our EoW follows from our actions, rather than, as we like to assume, initiating them. It turns out, in other words, that our EoW is a cognitive illusion.[/quote:3vvw2fmt]

Let me suggest this: What if the EoW and the actions to which it is related cannot be separated? What if we decide to treat them philosophically as one self-initiating entity? To say that the EoW 'initiates an action' is thus to make a distinction as meaningless as which blade of a pair of scissors is 'really' doing the cutting: the EoW and the action are one experience, one entity, as entangled as two quantum-identical atoms.

If quantum entanglement asserts as possible (and has proven in recent experiments) that information can be instantaneously teleported without degradation, and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle remains in effect, then the entirey of existence is a form of cognitive illusion -- in which case the EoW is no less 'real' than anything else we experience.

Even an illusion is real if it exists as an experience, and if an experience influences an outcome, our will is as real as anything else we experience. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 20 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Let me suggest this: What if the EoW and the actions to which it is related cannot be separated?


But this is simply the point. The two are in fact separate. This is not a philosophical claim, but one belonging to the same family of claims that make thermonuclear explosions and moonshots possible. A scientific one.

Certainly we experience our actions as expressions of our will, as together, but again, this is simply the point, the thing that makes the contrary scientific fact so unnerving. Simply asserting their 'togetherness' puts you in the uncomfortable position of contradicting scientific claims with philosophical claims. Is that what you're doing?

If quantum entanglement asserts as possible (and has proven in recent experiments) that information can be instantaneously teleported without degradation, and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle remains in effect, then the entirey of existence is a form of cognitive illusion -- in which case the EoW is no less 'real' than anything else we experience.


I'm not sure what entanglement at the quantum level has to do with our experience of willing, other than to show, yet again, the power of scientific claims to overthrow our most cherished assumptions. Saying there's funky stuff going on at the quantum level that we can't ordinarily perceive is far different than saying our self-sense of freedom is a subreptive neural artifact. It's the difference between a limited perspective on the observed and a delusional perspective on the observer.

Even an illusion is real if it exists as an experience, and if an experience influences an outcome, our will is as real as anything else we experience.


Then why do we medicate and institutionalize schizophrenics?

Otherwise, once again, the whole point of the problem regarding our experience of willing is that it does not influence 'outcomes': it seems to be something our brain simply attaches to 'our' acts already in progress. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 21 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by TakLoufer, Candidate

Ok, this message is long, but then again, I am replying to four different posts.

---Grantaire's message---

First, in relation to your own theory, I would like to mention Ockham's Razor. What is simpler, materialism or your theory of compound individuals with their own histories creating "life".


Which is simpler: Newtonian physics or quantum physics?

The point of Occam's Razor is that, given two theories with equal explanatory power, one should choose the theory with the least amount of entities. Basically, one should get rid of all unnecessary entities.

Quantum physics is more complex than Newtonian physics, but quantum physics also has greater explanatory power.

Materialism, given its ontological limitations (it's basically a decapitated dualism), is incapable of explaining consciousness without appealing to an invisible homunculus, which is simply not allowed under materialism.

Whiteheadian Panexperientalism (true or not) has more explanatory power than any materialist theory of consciousness; primarily because Whiteheadianism actually allows a place for the subjective. In materialism, the theories may bring to light correlations of consciousness and brain states, but these brain states, as defined by the tenets of materialism (blind, objective processes) - the consciousness is just something that "happens." The qualia, the "binding" problem, and "aboutness" of intention are reduced to a functionally unnecessary and unexplained epiphenomena. In all materialistic theories of consciousness, the explanations do not logically entail a "what is it likeness" to the system. Any attribution of intention to the system remains observer-relative, something "tacked on" from the outside.

Because of this, I consider materialism to be dualism in denial.

My theory may be complex, and at prima facie appear improbable; but, surely one can't mean "This theory is improbable, as opposed to materialism."

About what you say about science against ontology though, it is perhaps irrelevant-


Well, irrelevant within the field of science.

the atom is the smallest object with the properties that we recognize as belonging to any certain type of object. Even that is slightly past the simple infinitesimally small sphere it was originally conceived as. Over time, our perception of "atoms" grew to recognizing it being composed of neutrons, protons, and electrons. In time, we discovered properties of these, and we discovered that they are composed of quarks, and that there are many other subatomic particles out there. But what they are is inherently irrelevant. With even today's best technology, the best image we have been able to get of atoms is a fuzzy sphere. By our current understanding of physics, there is no way to obtain a better image. Sure, we can create our models, hypothesize about what composes an atom, and all of that. But never can we see past a rough image of an atom.

So what does this mean? It means that what the most fundamental particles actually are is, and will always be impossible to know. We think of everything in terms of what we understand and experience. Such an abstract concept is already difficult enough for humans to accept, because it is counterintuitive enough. But given that quarks and other particles are at an even more fundamental level than atoms (the smallest object with still recognizable properties to us), how can we define what they "are"?

Although, to be more precise, it's not that particles are even strictly what we would term "matter". Modern physics has given us many things to consider on the subatomic level, but wave/particle duality, string theory, and some parts of quantum physics are particularly telling. These totally counterintuitive theories (and hypotheses, at least in the case of string theory) give us new insight into our understanding of the subatomic world, and we cannot take these fundamental particles to be simply infinitely small spheres that are composed of something. Sometimes they behave like waves, sometimes they affect the behavior of a particle far away, and perhaps they are even impossibly small strings or branes. The simple fact is, we can't look at the simplest units of matter and say "what are these made of?" because while at the purest level they are simply energy, they are simply too abstract to think of in our macromolecular terms.


This brings up an interesting point. At the smallest levels, what we know of as "matter" becomes less traditionally "matter-like" and more abstract. I mean, if it's a wave, what is it a wave of?

If matter is energy . . . well, what the hell does that even mean? Energy is defined as movement, but how can matter be reduced to movement? Movement of what? Something is missing from the current picture, and I have doubts that we are capable of fully understanding it.

Do you get what I'm saying? I don't know how much of a physics person you are, and I don't totally understand all of this, but I think that it's not only irrelevant, but impossible to discuss metaphysics at such a fundamental level of reality.


I've studied quantum physics, and it has given me almost as big a headache as consciousness has. I mean, the Aspect experiments suggest a holistic interpretation of the universe, which is difficult to imagine (though it makes sense, in a way). And Wheeler's delayed choice experiment has left me just plain confused.

I realize I commonly use the term "billiard balls" when referring to materialism, and I hope I haven't led anyone to believe that my current vision of matter is stuck in the 19th century; I use this term to refer to all the vacuous entities of materialism , which includes the "non-billiard ball-like" substances found in the sub-atomic world. In any event, by "billiard ball," I mean that the substance has no "what-is-it-like" about it; it only has an "outside." In materialism, the sub-atomic entities supposedly lack experience as much as their more traditionally "solid" counter-parts.

In any case, even though they are outside the domain of science, the metaphysics are important. We may have the collected observations and accurate theories of observed and repeatable phenomena, but the "what-is-it?" of the observed phenomena is certainly not irrelevant when discussing the ontology of the world. Is the observed phenomena intrinsically mental? Or does the phenomena originate from vacuous entities out in a spatial-temporal void? Science can't answer these questions, no matter how many experiments and observations are made. However, the questions, though ultimately speculation, are vital when confronting the world-knot of consciousness. Despite Scott's assertion that "the picture is slowly coming into functional focus," science is no closer to explaining consciousness than it was in Descartes' time. We have mental-physical correlations, but this is hardly an explanation.

Scott is right when he says science is the "only game in town" when it comes to accurate predictions of the world (recording and predicting observed phenomena), but the metaphysical concerns (the "who's casting the shadows?" questions) are simply beyond science. [More on this later]


[quote:2rq1fn4u]I find epiphenomenalism (and reductionism and materialism in general) terrifying, not because I believe it's true and that my subjectivity is nothing but an impotent "magic spray" on blind processes, but rather because I fear the toll this dogmatic scientism is going to have on our society. As of now, most people are largely unaware of the more frightening theories that are being passed around. But if Russell’s "accidental collocation of atoms" and Crick's "nothing but a pack of neurons," concepts become commonly believed by most people . . . this would prove disastrous. The effects are already occurring: people with mental disorders or traumas are simply fed medication as "cures" for malfunctioning brains (which in some cases, strikes me as “chemical lobotomies”). More and more "teenage atheists" [6] are popping up (hell, I was one of them) who take for granted that they're "nothing but" blind processes. I'm not saying materialists are intrinsically amoral, and I'm not saying people (should) follow morals out of fear of some anthropomorphic god, but rather that people are moral because they feel concepts such as good and evil are somehow "real," in a Platonic sense, where as in materialism, such concepts are merely conditioning from sensory stimuli, and we are deluded into thinking they are something more.

I predict two outcomes from this:

1) "The masses" will get wind of how far down the rabbit hole goes, and widespread nihilism will result due to the masses feeling that science has "stolen their souls".

2) "The masses" will be terrified by the implications and will "revolt" from science, and religious fundamentalism will become more widespread.

Neither result is something I look forward to.


Yes, this is the interesting thing. Indeed, I am somewhat one of those "teenage athiests" you speak of, though I would say that I'm more of an agnostic. However, I think there are several limiting factors that you are overlooking.

First: most people simply don't care. Many people don't give a damn about philosophy, science, literature and many of the other things we talk about here. Since philosophy, by its nature relying on language to convey what it means, can never sound totally definitive, I don't think the masses will ever really appreciate or care what conclusions philosophers ever come up with.

Second: not only beyond the simple fact of apathy, many people simply aren't intelligent enough to understand. Not an intended insult towards them, but many people really would not be capable of understanding the philosophy behind the dogmatism you describe. Those who are, are either capable of taking the implications, or else are intelligent enough to fall into a sort of nihilism that isn't really true despair.

Really, the masses just aren't intelligent enough, and are too apathetic to realize "how far down the rabbit hole goes," and although I wish people did care more about things like philosophy and science, I think too that perhaps it is better that people who cannot take the implications not be exposed to the ideas that are not only extremely abstract, but very disturbing.Back to top[/quote:2rq1fn4u]

Now that I have thought about it, I agree with you on this; I have met few people who are even aware that there is a mind-body problem. However, I still think that this will definitely have a negative effect on the field of psychiatry and the treatment of mental disorders. As doctors treat mental patients less like autonomous individuals and more like machines, this may have a trickle down effect on the masses. We're already at the point where the diagnosis are usually: "Your fixation on your mother is due to a malfunctioning brain, you need more drugs." or "You son's disobedient behavior is due to a defective brain, he will require two of these pills each day for behavioral correction."


---Scott's message---


I'm going to start calling you the 'mad panpsychist,' Tak!


When I have enough posts under my belt, I'll be sure to make that my title. <!-- s;) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- s;) -->

Just a few points: given the successes of functional explanation elsewhere, I find it hard to view the intransigence of 'what-it-is-likeness' with your optimism.


I'm "optimistic" because there is no way for a functional (or any materialistic theory) model of consciousness to bridge the "unbridgeable gap" of experience. As I said in an earlier post, even if scientists could completely map out the processes of the brain to the minutest detail, they would still be clueless as to how experience enters the picture. It'd still be something that "just happens." This is because experience is fundamentally distinct from normal "objective" problems in that, at best, we can find correlates of consciousness, but these correlates would have no explanatory value. Something is missing from the current world picture.

As far as metaphysical questions like 'What is X fundamentally?' goes, you do realize your answer, 'mental experience,' not only explains very little (since we don't have a blasted clue as to what experience is),


Well, we know that we can't get from "there" (ontologically "objective" processes) to "here" (subjective experience) without something to bridge the gap. And I argue that this bridge will, even if it is ultimately incomprehensible to us, have "experience" as a fundamental. [More on this later]

Also, while we may not be able to define what "experience" or determine how it can be doesn't discredit it as a possible foundation; as all metaphysics start with some reality or set of realities that are assumed to be fundamental - materialism included.

it also seems to overlook the myriad of ways in which experience is deceptive. We don't experience holes near the centre of our field of vision, though we have them. We're susceptible to a countless number of perceptual distortions and illusions.


So what? Patients of a "split-brain" operation experience (to a degree) split consciousness, most animals can't recognize themselves in a mirror, and victims of Alzheimer’s experience disinigrating cognitive ability. All this shows is that consciousness is indisputably tied to the brain, but I'm not disputing that. Just because consciousness is correlated with brain processes does not explain how the interactions of vacuous entities can bring about the "sensation of seeing red" without either allowing a homunculus or placing experience at a fundamental level. Deceptive or no, experience still indisputably exists.

Experience has a veridical component.


This doesn't support materialism anymore than it refutes idealism. If life is a dream, it is obviously a very consistent one.

Not only that, there's the question of intentionality: experiences are about things that, experience tells us, transcend those experiences. I have experiences of trees, not experiences of 'tree-experiences.' Whatever 'experience' is, it seems clear that it's inherently relational.


I'm not disputing this either. There is a "world" beyond my mind, but the ontological status of the world is unknown. I argue that it must, at some level, have experience as a fundamental because, if the world does not have experience as a fundamental, than a homunculus is assumed (even if a theory of consciousness denies this, it still unintentionally implies one).

I could go on and on, and I'm sure you could cook up a thousand answers, to which I could cook up a thousand more, and so on, and so on, and so on.


I was thinking about this. It seems, ultimately, that philosophical debates, while they are useful as a "trial by fire" for new ideas and for bouncing concepts around, the participates rarely seem to change their views to agree with their opponent. Also, the debates seem to gradually degenerate into the opposing sides simply repeating their arguments ad nauseam. Others (on Usenet, especially) become outright flame wars. I don't know why this is (and this phenomena is certainly not limited to discussions of the mind-body problem); but this leads me to attempt to clarify on what exact points we disagree on. I will try to do this by going through your position, or at least going through what I think is your position.

In earlier posts, you indicate that you recognize that there are serious problems with modern theories of consciousness. Your solution is that there must be "something more," you also mentioned a "blind brain" hypothesis in which we are cognitively incapable of understanding how consciousness or intention can arise in the brain. But you also seem to think that, if we did understand everything, consciousness and intention would be "explained away." Also, you seem to argue that, whatever this unknowable factor is, it doesn't necessarily have to have experience (or "proto-experience") as a fundamental. Unless I have misunderstood you, your argument is that "materialism" (see footnote [2]), in a form extended beyond our capacity for understanding, can account for experience.

While this process may be something we cannot comprehend, we can still determine what would be required for it to explain experience. First, we must decide that the "Unknowable Factor" must account for the "what-is-it-like" that we currently can't explain. If the UF cannot do this, it is simply not an explanation. Second, if the UF that lies "behind the scenes" of our observed world still follows the tenets of materialism as defined by [2], then, regardless of how esoteric or mind-bogglingly complex the UF is, it still suffers from the same deficiency of everyday materialism - consciousness is still a "just so" event that can't be explained and explains nothing.

One can argue that the UF is different from materialism, yet still does not have experience as a fundamental. Presumably, this difference from everyday materialism is supposed to account for our experience, but even with this difference, the UF would still be materialism (or physicalism), except with added dimensions or strange, unobservable substances, or whatever. If the units of existence lack experience, it doesn't matter if we can conceive of them or not. To state that the interactions of the vacuous units creates consciousness is to merely state a brute metaphysical fact that does not logically entail from the system. It is "just so." To add a materialistic UF to the mix just pushes the question back a level. As ontologies go, the units of existence can have a "something-it-is-like" intrinsic to them, or the units do not (vacuous). This is an either/or factor, there is no in between. One can argue that the units may be vacuous, except on special occasions (like, for example, when the units form brains), but this still becomes a metaphysical "just so" and requires an invisible homunculus to wait on the sidelines.

I suppose one can just assert that we're simply too dumb to see how consciousness can arise from materialistic properties (UF or not), but the more one examines the mind body problem, the more transparently obvious is becomes that experience is merely correlative to physical processes (thus lacking explanatory power), and the more we realize that we are missing a piece of the puzzle. Merely adding UFs (that are still limited by [2]) onto the ontology doesn't help.

To assert that [2] can explain experience (without ontological add-ons), but we just can't know how, carries as much justification as the assertment that 6 x 9 really equals 42, but our limited minds are incapable of understanding why.

Materialism, as defined by [2], lacks the metaphysical tools needed to produce experience. Blind brains aren't going to change this, unless the UF somehow strays from materialism's definition.

So, it appears the only point we seem to disagree with is whether experience needs to be (in whatever fashion) a fundamental characteristic of nature. Other than that, I generally agree with most of what you say.

But then, this is just my point. Metaphysics is interesting, worthy of exploration, but given that no metaphysician has ever produced a claim capable of commanding consensus, I'm not sure what warrants specific commitments to this or that metaphysical thesis.

And this just brings us back to the only institution that has had any kind of luck with theoretical truth-claims: science. You still haven't given me an example of an alternate institution that has anything remotely approaching the track record of science when it comes to producing theoretical truth-claims.


Metaphysics is not in the business of producing claims that command consensus. That's science's job. Metaphysics goes beyond scientific observations such as "the sky is blue" or "Gravity has effect X on object Y." Metaphysics is in the business of what the claims of science actually mean. Is the observed phenomena have intrinsically mental properties? What is space? What is matter? Etc.

Science only deals with the recording and prediction of observed phenomena. Metaphysics is outside this (though some metaphysics, such as Cartesian dualism, seem less likely in light of observed phenomena.)

I do see what you’re getting at, and observed phenomena can discredit some metaphysics.

For example: irrealism –

1) I propose that nothing exists (not even ideas).

2) I make the “scientific observation” of opening my eyes and observing phenomena.

3) The phenomena are, at least, ideas in my (?) mind.

Conclusion: things exist, irrealism is false.

But when it comes to idealism versus realism, science is not very useful because the “stuff,” while it indisputably exists, can be composed of “mental” properties (like the “stuff” in dreams), vacuous actualities, or a combination. Science can’t make this distinction. And, in any case, I don’t feel the current view of matter is justified anyway. [more on this later]

Stephen, I think, mentioned that these matters simply boiled down to whatever perspectives our interests lead us to take. This is the kind of levelling statement that many philosophers and laypeople are wont to make - hell, I used to make similar claims myself. But again, this is a philosophical claim, and as such, no matter how much it serves our self-interest to relativize scientific claims, it suffers the same credibility crisis all philosophical statements suffer.

This mistake is rife in academic philosophy. People commit to philosophical claims such as 'science is one language-game among many,' or 'science is an ontic enterprise incapable of examining its ontological foundations,' and then use this commitment to condition their commitment to every scientific claim they then encounter. They use a philosophical commitment to determine their scientific commitments! This is a nifty trick, until you consider the cognitive track record of the two institutions in question. If commitment is supposed to be a function of warrant, then this akin to making a deaf person presiding judge over American Idol.


I don't use philosophy to determine scientific commitments. Or, more clearly, I don't ignore scientific observations in order to protect a favored metaphysic (my dad does this, however, as he is a Creationist). Also, I try not to mix up science with metaphysics. Science is not intrinsically materialistic, nor is it intrinsically dedicated to any metaphysic. True, the vast majority of scientists may be materialists, but this is more due to social and academic politics (after all, idealists and dualists aren't terribly respected) than for empirical reasons. The materialistic concept of matter seems to be the result of scientists confusing the abstractions (vacuous balls of "stuff") of their theories and formulas with the "real thing" (mistaking the "map for the territory," so to speak). The "real thing" is something that can only be perceived indirectly, but scientists have largely assumed that their abstractions account for the complete nature of matter. Additionally, Griffin has argued that:

A third reason [we should be suspicious of vacuous actualities] is the recognition, recently emphasized by historians of science, that the 'mechanical philosophy of nature', according to which the units of nature are wholly devoid of experience, spontaneity, and the capacity for influence at a distance, was adopted in the seventeenth century less for empirical than for theological-sociological reasons, such as defending the existence of a supernatural deity, the reality of supernatural miracles, and the immortality of the soul (Easlea, 1980, pp. 100-15, 125-38, 233-35; Klaaren, pp. 93-9, 173-7). For example, this idea of nature's elementary units, according to which they were wholly inert and (in Newton's words) 'massy, hard, and impenetrable', proved (to the satisfaction of Boyle, Newton, and their followers) that motion and the mathematical laws of motion had to have been impressed upon these particles at the beginning of the world by an external creator. The fact that this strategy eventually backfired, as this idea of matter eventually led to an atheistic, materialistic worldview, has long obscured the original theological motives. (Griffin [3])


Personally, I have no idea 'what science is really.' All I know, is that it seems to be the only game in town when it comes to generating reliable theoretical truth claims.


Well, science is the process of recording and predicting observed phenomena. Scientists may attach metaphysical theories to the observations, but the observed phenomena doesn't interpret itself.


---Scott's 2nd message---


The best way to understand the 'disenchantment of the world,' I've suggested, is as a gradual process whereby intentional explanations provided by tradition and philosophy are gradually replaced by the functional explanations provided by science - something which results in the 'scientific worldview.' Until recently, this substitution had resulted in what might be called the 'disenchantment of the world minus us.' Because the complexity of the brain defeated the scientific tools and techniques that make functional explanations possible, we were like a 'wildlife preserve.' We are only now witnessing the breakdown of that intentional preserve - the practical possibility of a thoroughgoing functional self-understanding - and as of yet, we don't know how things will ultimately play out.


Well, I can tell you right now that even after we are able to map out the brain's process in their entirety, and even if the brains processes can be completely explained in terms of “mechanical” causation, we still aren't going to have a clue why experience should occur. Within materialism, it will always just be "just so" - a matter of brute metaphysical fact.

Your question, Larry, brings us to this point. What we know to be the case is that what we call 'experience,' depends on the function of the brain. What we don't as of yet know is how all the particularities of that experience - especially things like intentionality and normativity (which are found nowhere outside of experience) - arise from the particularities of our neural machinery. But the picture is slowly coming into functional focus.


No it's not. We're not going to be able to explain consciousness, nor intention, nor the illusion (if it is such) of free will, through neurology or by any other observation of objective processes.

Consider your 'experience of willing' (EoW), for instance. It turns out that we are very easily fooled into thinking that we will actions that we don't. It turns out that our EoW is inferential - something that we learn - rather than intrinsic to the things we in fact do. It turns out, in other words, that our EoW follows from our actions, rather than, as we like to assume, initiating them. It turns out, in other words, that our EoW is a cognitive illusion.

So how are these claims applicable to your life? In innumerable ways, and few of them pretty: everything you've done, every act you've been blamed or have taken credit for, you have experienced after the fact as something 'you control.'


I agree that the everyday "conscious" mind is not in control like most people think. However, I don't think the logic of:

"Each molecule blindly runs. The human body is a collection of molecules. Therefore, the human body blindly runs, and therefore there can be no individual responsibility for the action of the body"(Whitehead [4])


is quite accurate either.

As I said in my last post, I think the causes of our actions are mental in nature, and, for the most part, "hidden" from us, or at least drowned out by our waking mind. We are autonomous, in that we do make decisions, but these decisions have reasons/causes behind them.

Also, I will like to add, I feel that we, as human beings, have a better realization of our "causes" than, say, a cat or dog does. I'm not sure how this has any effect on our "freedom," but it does show that our waking mind is more "awake" than lower animals.

This simply underscores the nihilistic dilemma I've been harping about all along. If you, like me, suspend commitment to all but the most robust truth-claims - namely those belonging to the same family that makes miracles like this computer possible - then the most basic, straighforward inferences lead you to unintelligible madness.


Even if epiphenomenalism (as understood by materialism) turns out to be true (and I think there are good reasons to think that this is not so), experience will still be a big bugbear on science. The "then a miracle occurs" will still plague the theory.

The most powerful instrument of discovery in the history of humanity - bar none! - suggests that everything you do and everything that matters to you is an illusion - and here's the kicker, including the very norms that make this argument stick.


All the more reason to think that something must seriously be wrong with the theory. I mean, if what you think is true, you typing this message is not contingent on you having thoughts about consciousness! Isn't that odd? Sure, one could argue that the brain states just "are" the thoughts and intention, but that doesn't mesh well with materialism and is another "just so-ism."

Allowing experience to be intrinsic to reality will solve some of these absurdities.


---Stephen's message---


Let me suggest this: What if the EoW and the actions to which it is related cannot be separated? What if we decide to treat them philosophically as one self-initiating entity? To say that the EoW 'initiates an action' is thus to make a distinction as meaningless as which blade of a pair of scissors is 'really' doing the cutting: the EoW and the action are one experience, one entity, as entangled as two quantum-identical atoms.


Depending on the specifics, this could be anything from identity theory to property dualism to functionalism to panpsychism. To say that a brain state just "is" an EoW suffers from many obvious problems (does the EoW logically entail from the brain state? Why?), at least within materialism.

If quantum entanglement asserts as possible (and has proven in recent experiments) that information can be instantaneously teleported without degradation, and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle remains in effect, then the entirey of existence is a form of cognitive illusion -- in which case the EoW is no less 'real' than anything else we experience.


Well, quantum entanglement seems to suggest a holistic universe, or at least a universe where the parts are somehow interconnected, which makes sense if you think about it.

Even an illusion is real if it exists as an experience,


Bingo. If consciousness is an illusion, who is the victim of this deception, and how? This is like eliminativists saying "You don't really see the color red, you just seem to." The seeming is what it is.

and if an experience influences an outcome, our will is as real as anything else we experience.


Well, the problem is that epiphenomenalist say that experience influences nothing. Not even our discussions on epiphenomenalism are contingent on "us" (whoever "we" are) actually having thoughts or experiences. We are like impotent, immaterial parasites piggy-backing on an automata.

I think this is absurd too.

-Tak

[1] Which, honestly, I should "physicalism," I use the term "Materialism" mostly out of habit, and because it is more commonly used.

[2] Materialism, defined as "the two-fold doctrine that the ultimate units of the world are entities or events that are devoid of both experience and spontaneity, and that nothing exists but such units, interactions among them, and aggregates of them." (Griffin)

[3] [url:2rq1fn4u]http&#58;//members&#46;aol&#46;com/%20Mszlazak/PanExpMind&#46;html[/url:2rq1fn4u]

[4] A. N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, p78 view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 21 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Da-krul, Auditor

My Brain Hurts after reading that whole thing <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) --> view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 21 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

&#65279;Another whopper, Tak! Since I think in the course of arguing against me you actually started arguing against materialists, let me try to clarify where I stand regarding the points you raise.

1) I agree that conscious experience is now scientifically indigestible, and though I suspect it will remain so in principle, this is just a conjecture.

2) I have no clue as to what inferences this fact secures, other than suggesting that 'there's more.' This is why I think this is a 'crack in the door': while it's certainly grist for the imagination, it does not warrant much in the way of theoretical content.

3) I do think many formal characteristics of conscious experience, such as intentionality, will, normativity, and so on, are scientifically digestible to a point - so much the worse for us! I think you're mistaken to lump these in with the 'character' or 'what-is-it-likeness' problem.

4) I am not a materialist, though I do think the relational character of experience is what makes it the 'default metaphysick' for so many. This, I think, is THE problem for opponents of materialism. More below.

5) Given that all metaphysics is bunk, that innumerable varieties of innumerable positions can be argued (and argued, and argued), specific, exclusive metaphysical commitments are ultimately unwarranted. If one insists on entertaining such commitments, then metaphysical commitments which cut across the grain of 'common sense' (whatever the hell that might be), are in even more trouble than otherwise.

6) The bottomline is that one need not 'go metaphysical.' The fact that science is unable to examine it's own assumptions in no way discredits it's findings, nor does it prevent us from drawing inferences from those findings.

7) To be honest, I find all this talk about ‘illusions being real’ to be more than a little confusing. Is there no such distinction? And if so, how do you distinguish ‘real illusions’ from ‘illusion illusions’? Psychologists having been wracking up lists of perceptual and cognitive illusions for years. The fact of the matter is that experience fools us in innumerable ways - just look at all the things we’re discovering about ‘eye-witness testimony.’ To pick and choose which we’ll call ‘illusions’ and which we’ll call ‘real’ depending on how much we need or cherish them is tendentious. You need to give me decisive arguments, Tak.

Since I think our differences regarding the first issues are little more than a matter of emphasis, and since I’m not at all interested in pursuing fruitless metaphysical debates, it’s (7) that I’m really interested in understanding, especially given the frequent way it seems to be used as a panacea for the problems I’ve raised. Answers such as ‘Ah, sure, but it’s real for us,’ strike me as wishful thinking, so much so that I can’t help but feel as though I’m missing something.

So, to reset the point of contention:

a) We attribute actual causal efficacy to our experience of will, when it seems to be a scientific fact that such experiences possess no such causal efficacy.

b) Willing is a cognitive illusion.

c) Responsibility depends upon the reality of willing.

d) Morality depends upon the reality of responsibility.

/e) Morality is a cognitive illusion.

Which is to say, the nihilist wins. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 23 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by TakLoufer, Candidate

1) I agree that conscious experience is now scientifically indigestible, and though I suspect it will remain so in principle, this is just a conjecture.


I agree, but think this is beyond conjecture. Science can't make sense of experience unless experience is taken as a fundamental. Otherwise, it will simply be "just so."

2) I have no clue as to what inferences this fact secures, other than suggesting that 'there's more.' This is why I think this is a 'crack in the door': while it's certainly grist for the imagination, it does not warrant much in the way of theoretical content.


Well, (1) can be "solved" if experience is a fundamental (whether this takes the form of dualism, idealism, or panpsychism is beside the point). If all of our modern theories are going to keep sneaking homunculi through the back door, we might as well be open about it (or declare elimitivism).

3) I do think many formal characteristics of conscious experience, such as intentionality, will, normativity, and so on, are scientifically digestible to a point - so much the worse for us! I think you're mistaken to lump these in with the 'character' or 'what-is-it-likeness' problem.


But the "point" that marks the limit of science doesn't really answer any questions. Intentionality, for example: Science will be forced to just declare a certain neural state to just "be" the "aboutness of a tree" without anything resembling an explanation.

4) I am not a materialist, though I do think the relational character of experience is what makes it the 'default metaphysick' for so many. This, I think, is THE problem for opponents of materialism. More below.


More's the pity for us. Many of the problems (or, outright impossibility) in explaining experience stems from the materialistic view of matter.

5) Given that all metaphysics is bunk, that innumerable varieties of innumerable positions can be argued (and argued, and argued), specific, exclusive metaphysical commitments are ultimately unwarranted. If one insists on entertaining such commitments, then metaphysical commitments which cut across the grain of 'common sense' (whatever the hell that might be), are in even more trouble than otherwise.


Well, if the observed data contradicts one's metaphysic, than the metaphysic is wrong. Also, I don't think common sense (of the "soft core" variety) should be held against a metaphysics. Just because something is unorthodox has no bearing on its truthfulness.

"Almost all really new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are first produced." - Alfred North Whitehead


6) The bottomline is that one need not 'go metaphysical.' The fact that science is unable to examine it's own assumptions in no way discredits it's findings, nor does it prevent us from drawing inferences from those findings.


Of course not. But its limitations must be accepted. I suppose it's materialism that's causing all of the problems explaining experience. McGinn's phrasing of this question is especially telling:

How could the aggregation of millions of individually insentient neurons generate subjective awareness? (Italics added) McGinn, Problem of Consciousness, pg1


McGinn simply takes it as self-evident that neurons are insentient (are protozoa insentient?). If one were to allow that neurons may possess experience (and their component parts possess experience themselves) maybe the problem wouldn't be so puzzling.

7) To be honest, I find all this talk about ‘illusions being real’ to be more than a little confusing. Is there no such distinction? And if so, how do you distinguish ‘real illusions’ from ‘illusion illusions’? Psychologists having been wracking up lists of perceptual and cognitive illusions for years. The fact of the matter is that experience fools us in innumerable ways - just look at all the things we’re discovering about ‘eye-witness testimony.’ To pick and choose which we’ll call ‘illusions’ and which we’ll call ‘real’ depending on how much we need or cherish them is tendentious. You need to give me decisive arguments, Tak.


Well, illusions can be "real" in that we "really" experience them. The main difference between an illusion and something that's real (in the everyday sense) is that things that are real are public, where as illusions are not.

But to posit that our sense of experience is an illusion is to not make any sense:

I see red.

I don't "seem" to see red.

As for intention, if I'm thinking of a tree, I'm "really" thinking of a tree. Even if a scientist were to show that my intention is really a mechanically determined brain state that entails no "treeness," this doesn't mean I only "seem" to be thinking of a tree (though elimitivism may attest that this is so).

Now, as for the efficacy of experience, I don't know. If brains are eventually shown to be mechanically determined like so many billiard balls (I doubt this is the case), then volition will be an illusion - and a rather inexplicable one at that; epiphenomenalism opens up a whole can of absurdity.

But if brains are eventually shown to not be mechanically determined (through either quantum tunneling or whatever), then volition can be allowed (if experience is a fundamental given), or at least causation can be mental (The "feeling of hunger" causes one to seek food)

Since I think our differences regarding the first issues are little more than a matter of emphasis, and since I’m not at all interested in pursuing fruitless metaphysical debates, it’s (7) that I’m really interested in understanding, especially given the frequent way it seems to be used as a panacea for the problems I’ve raised. Answers such as ‘Ah, sure, but it’s real for us,’ strike me as wishful thinking, so much so that I can’t help but feel as though I’m missing something.


Well, it is real for us, but I see what your saying. While I see qualia and intention [1] as ultimately irreducible to vacuous entities, volition is the only issue that I feel needs attention. But, for many reasons [2], I find epiphenomenalism too absurd to accept. If we're faced with it, we might as well go with some form of panpsychism.

So, to reset the point of contention:

a) We attribute actual causal efficacy to our experience of will, when it seems to be a scientific fact that such experiences possess no such causal efficacy.


Even taking into account Libet's experiments, this is by no means conclusive. I will concede, however, that our "unconscious" mind undoubtably does most (it not all) of the thinking for us; but then, our "unconscious" is just as much a part of our mind as our everyday superficial conscious, which is simply less aware.

b) Willing is a cognitive illusion.


I agree that the everyday mind is, at least for the most part, governed by the "darkness that comes before" - but, I don't think this "darkness" is merely blind and vacuous forces.

c) Responsibility depends upon the reality of willing.

d) Morality depends upon the reality of responsibility.

/e) Morality is a cognitive illusion.


I agree, or at least admit that this may be the case. At some level, I doubt people can really be said to be responsible for their actions. After all, we are products of all occasions, past and present. Everything has a cause behind it.

Griffin would disagree with this, though.

Which is to say, the nihilist wins.


I suppose. But I don't see how this is particularly gloomy.

The more I think about it, the more it seems people generally are confused by what they mean by freedom. They surely don't mean our behavior is random, because that's not free will. And surely our thoughts and actions don't spawn from a vacuum. It seems obvious that they are determined by the rest of the universe, by everything else. Even if someone does something that appears uncharacteristic, there is undoubtably some reason for this, even if the individual is not consciously aware of it.

-Tak

[1] Though this is usually not considered, but I consider intention to be a type of qualia. There is a "something it is like" to be thinking of a tree (and not just the image that appears in the mind's eye), just as there is "something it is like" to see red, to be in love, to think of your grandmother . . . these can't be reduced to vacuous actualities (though they can reduce to correlations). Intention is not a sensory based qualia (its more primal) but it still has a "something it is like" to it.

[2] This essay mostly mirrors my thoughts on epiphenomenalism [url:dl3merx0]http&#58;//home&#46;comcast&#46;net/~johnrgregg/epiph&#46;htm[/url:dl3merx0]

Postscript&#058; Here's a website I recently stumbled across. It has a bunch of short essays over the mind-body problem. - [url:dl3merx0]http&#58;//home&#46;comcast&#46;net/~johnrgregg/index&#46;htm[/url:dl3merx0] view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 23 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Grantaire, Moderator

Which is simpler: Newtonian physics or quantum physics?

The point of Occam's Razor is that, given two theories with equal explanatory power, one should choose the theory with the least amount of entities. Basically, one should get rid of all unnecessary entities.

Quantum physics is more complex than Newtonian physics, but quantum physics also has greater explanatory power.

Materialism, given its ontological limitations (it's basically a decapitated dualism), is incapable of explaining consciousness without appealing to an invisible homunculus, which is simply not allowed under materialism.

Whiteheadian Panexperientalism (true or not) has more explanatory power than any materialist theory of consciousness; primarily because Whiteheadianism actually allows a place for the subjective. In materialism, the theories may bring to light correlations of consciousness and brain states, but these brain states, as defined by the tenets of materialism (blind, objective processes) - the consciousness is just something that "happens." The qualia, the "binding" problem, and "aboutness" of intention are reduced to a functionally unnecessary and unexplained epiphenomena. In all materialistic theories of consciousness, the explanations do not logically entail a "what is it likeness" to the system. Any attribution of intention to the system remains observer-relative, something "tacked on" from the outside.

Because of this, I consider materialism to be dualism in denial.

My theory may be complex, and at prima facie appear improbable; but, surely one can't mean "This theory is improbable, as opposed to materialism."


Just a quick comment about your comparison between Newtonian physics and quantum physics. Really, they have equal explanatory power, because they are only two parts of the complete physical description of the universe. Quantum gravity will be the unifying factor, once it is discovered (though some think string theory can reconcile them as well).

This brings up an interesting point. At the smallest levels, what we know of as "matter" becomes less traditionally "matter-like" and more abstract. I mean, if it's a wave, what is it a wave of?

If matter is energy . . . well, what the hell does that even mean? Energy is defined as movement, but how can matter be reduced to movement? Movement of what? Something is missing from the current picture, and I have doubts that we are capable of fully understanding it.


See, I've thought quite a bit about this problem over the last few days. I think that part of the reason we can't conceptualize a real solution to this is simply the limitations of human understanding. Many even simpler concepts are extremely challenging to get a grasp on- after all, we can visualize three-dimensions by putting it on a two-dimensional medium, but does that mean we can create a model of four-dimensions? It's simply something we can't really create a concrete solution to.

Granted, we can't reduce our view of the universe past energy as the most basic level of what things "are", but does that mean that we absolutely must resort to a metaphysical answer? I think that perhaps there can be a physical answer, but perhaps it simply is incomprehensible to the human mind, and so we turn to metaphysics, because although complex, it is easier to understand than the most fundamental level of physics. Physics can be anywhere from totally concrete to somewhat abstract, but at this level, it is utterly abstract, and in a way I think we'll never truly understand. But I don't think that necessitates a metaphysical explanation.

I've studied quantum physics, and it has given me almost as big a headache as consciousness has. I mean, the Aspect experiments suggest a holistic interpretation of the universe, which is difficult to imagine (though it makes sense, in a way). And Wheeler's delayed choice experiment has left me just plain confused.

I realize I commonly use the term "billiard balls" when referring to materialism, and I hope I haven't led anyone to believe that my current vision of matter is stuck in the 19th century; I use this term to refer to all the vacuous entities of materialism , which includes the "non-billiard ball-like" substances found in the sub-atomic world. In any event, by "billiard ball," I mean that the substance has no "what-is-it-like" about it; it only has an "outside." In materialism, the sub-atomic entities supposedly lack experience as much as their more traditionally "solid" counter-parts.

In any case, even though they are outside the domain of science, the metaphysics are important. We may have the collected observations and accurate theories of observed and repeatable phenomena, but the "what-is-it?" of the observed phenomena is certainly not irrelevant when discussing the ontology of the world. Is the observed phenomena intrinsically mental? Or does the phenomena originate from vacuous entities out in a spatial-temporal void? Science can't answer these questions, no matter how many experiments and observations are made. However, the questions, though ultimately speculation, are vital when confronting the world-knot of consciousness. Despite Scott's assertion that "the picture is slowly coming into functional focus," science is no closer to explaining consciousness than it was in Descartes' time. We have mental-physical correlations, but this is hardly an explanation.

Scott is right when he says science is the "only game in town" when it comes to accurate predictions of the world (recording and predicting observed phenomena), but the metaphysical concerns (the "who's casting the shadows?" questions) are simply beyond science. [More on this later]


Don't worry, I knew what you were saying with the billiard balls <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->

I think you've hit on exactly why I'm saying it's irrelevent. Simply by the fact that you wish to discuss consciousness in terms of metaphysics (philosophy), makes all conclusions automatically void. The nature of philosophical discourse, as well as language, make it so that not only will readers not get the exact intent of your communication, but also, human perception "taints" what we perceive, simply through the nature of our minds.

You spoke earlier of mistaking the map for the territory in the case of subatomic particles, but I think the exact same error could be made here- a linguistic description of fundamental metaphysics should not be mistaken for what it actually represents. Also, what each of us "experiences" in the universe is a totally subjective experience- and how can that translate into a true fundamental solution of metaphysics, applicable to all "conscious experiencers"? (for lack of a better term)

Sorry if these thoughts are coming out jumbled, I'm hardly a philosophy major <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->

Another thing I'd like to hit on is the old "what if we're just the dream of a butterfly?" idea. I think this too is an interesting idea, because what if our entire universe, our existances, our experiences and memories, our emotions and thoughts, the births and deaths of galaxies- what if all of it is simply a passing aspect of some...larger entity/thing (there is no word I can think of that is fitting)? We could live in this universe, with its physical laws, and perhaps some fundamental metaphysical law, or basis of matter/consciousness, but what would it matter then, if really they aren't what the "true" reality is?

Now that I have thought about it, I agree with you on this; I have met few people who are even aware that there is a mind-body problem. However, I still think that this will definitely have a negative effect on the field of psychiatry and the treatment of mental disorders. As doctors treat mental patients less like autonomous individuals and more like machines, this may have a trickle down effect on the masses. We're already at the point where the diagnosis are usually: "Your fixation on your mother is due to a malfunctioning brain, you need more drugs." or "You son's disobedient behavior is due to a defective brain, he will require two of these pills each day for behavioral correction."


And I have met very few people who are even aware of the many problems that philosophy can bring up, and even fewer who would care. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 25 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Anonymous, Subdidact

Quote: &quot;Grantaire&quot;:3o6rqelt
Which is simpler: Newtonian physics or quantum physics?

The point of Occam's Razor is that, given two theories with equal explanatory power, one should choose the theory with the least amount of entities. Basically, one should get rid of all unnecessary entities.

Quantum physics is more complex than Newtonian physics, but quantum physics also has greater explanatory power.

Materialism, given its ontological limitations (it's basically a decapitated dualism), is incapable of explaining consciousness without appealing to an invisible homunculus, which is simply not allowed under materialism.

Whiteheadian Panexperientalism (true or not) has more explanatory power than any materialist theory of consciousness; primarily because Whiteheadianism actually allows a place for the subjective. In materialism, the theories may bring to light correlations of consciousness and brain states, but these brain states, as defined by the tenets of materialism (blind, objective processes) - the consciousness is just something that "happens." The qualia, the "binding" problem, and "aboutness" of intention are reduced to a functionally unnecessary and unexplained epiphenomena. In all materialistic theories of consciousness, the explanations do not logically entail a "what is it likeness" to the system. Any attribution of intention to the system remains observer-relative, something "tacked on" from the outside.

Because of this, I consider materialism to be dualism in denial.

My theory may be complex, and at prima facie appear improbable; but, surely one can't mean "This theory is improbable, as opposed to materialism."


Just a quick comment about your comparison between Newtonian physics and quantum physics. Really, they have equal explanatory power, because they are only two parts of the complete physical description of the universe. Quantum gravity will be the unifying factor, once it is discovered (though some think string theory can reconcile them as well).[/quote:3o6rqelt]

Did you perhaps mean General Relativity, rather than Newtonian physics? Relativity has much greater explanatory power than Newtonian physics and that is the other theory physicists are hoping to coax quantum gravity out of.

As an aside, General Relativity may be an even bleaker prospect for the proponents of free will/choice/etc. - time being a dimension, the solutions to its equations produce a completed picture, uh, what am I trying to say? The solution is complete, a whole both spatially and temporally and strongly suggests that the passage of time is another of those wossnames, an illusion. That not only is there no choice about what happens, but that 'happenings' in sequence do not, in fact, happen.
Take that aside with a grain of salt. I have never studied general relativity formally, never seen the equations myself and doubt I (yet, hopefully) have the mathematical training to solve them. I doubt they have their fiendish reputation for nothing.

Quote: &quot;Grantaire&quot;:3o6rqelt
I've studied quantum physics, and it has given me almost as big a headache as consciousness has. I mean, the Aspect experiments suggest a holistic interpretation of the universe, which is difficult to imagine (though it makes sense, in a way). And Wheeler's delayed choice experiment has left me just plain confused.

I realize I commonly use the term "billiard balls" when referring to materialism, and I hope I haven't led anyone to believe that my current vision of matter is stuck in the 19th century; I use this term to refer to all the vacuous entities of materialism , which includes the "non-billiard ball-like" substances found in the sub-atomic world. In any event, by "billiard ball," I mean that the substance has no "what-is-it-like" about it; it only has an "outside." In materialism, the sub-atomic entities supposedly lack experience as much as their more traditionally "solid" counter-parts.

In any case, even though they are outside the domain of science, the metaphysics are important. We may have the collected observations and accurate theories of observed and repeatable phenomena, but the "what-is-it?" of the observed phenomena is certainly not irrelevant when discussing the ontology of the world. Is the observed phenomena intrinsically mental? Or does the phenomena originate from vacuous entities out in a spatial-temporal void? Science can't answer these questions, no matter how many experiments and observations are made. However, the questions, though ultimately speculation, are vital when confronting the world-knot of consciousness. Despite Scott's assertion that "the picture is slowly coming into functional focus," science is no closer to explaining consciousness than it was in Descartes' time. We have mental-physical correlations, but this is hardly an explanation.

Scott is right when he says science is the "only game in town" when it comes to accurate predictions of the world (recording and predicting observed phenomena), but the metaphysical concerns (the "who's casting the shadows?" questions) are simply beyond science. [More on this later]


Don't worry, I knew what you were saying with the billiard balls <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->

I think you've hit on exactly why I'm saying it's irrelevent. Simply by the fact that you wish to discuss consciousness in terms of metaphysics (philosophy), makes all conclusions automatically void. The nature of philosophical discourse, as well as language, make it so that not only will readers not get the exact intent of your communication, but also, human perception "taints" what we perceive, simply through the nature of our minds.

You spoke earlier of mistaking the map for the territory in the case of subatomic particles, but I think the exact same error could be made here- a linguistic description of fundamental metaphysics should not be mistaken for what it actually represents. Also, what each of us "experiences" in the universe is a totally subjective experience- and how can that translate into a true fundamental solution of metaphysics, applicable to all "conscious experiencers"? (for lack of a better term)

Sorry if these thoughts are coming out jumbled, I'm hardly a philosophy major <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->

Another thing I'd like to hit on is the old "what if we're just the dream of a butterfly?" idea. I think this too is an interesting idea, because what if our entire universe, our existances, our experiences and memories, our emotions and thoughts, the births and deaths of galaxies- what if all of it is simply a passing aspect of some...larger entity/thing (there is no word I can think of that is fitting)? We could live in this universe, with its physical laws, and perhaps some fundamental metaphysical law, or basis of matter/consciousness, but what would it matter then, if really they aren't what the "true" reality is?[/quote:3o6rqelt]

Given that you (if I recall correctly) seem to espouse or at least lean towards a nihilistic view, do you think this would be any more or less 'something that matters' than said nihilistic universe?

Quote: &quot;Grantaire&quot;:3o6rqelt
Now that I have thought about it, I agree with you on this; I have met few people who are even aware that there is a mind-body problem. However, I still think that this will definitely have a negative effect on the field of psychiatry and the treatment of mental disorders. As doctors treat mental patients less like autonomous individuals and more like machines, this may have a trickle down effect on the masses. We're already at the point where the diagnosis are usually: "Your fixation on your mother is due to a malfunctioning brain, you need more drugs." or "You son's disobedient behavior is due to a defective brain, he will require two of these pills each day for behavioral correction."


And I have met very few people who are even aware of the many problems that philosophy can bring up, and even fewer who would care.[/quote:3o6rqelt]

Another question: What is your opinion on that? view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 25 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I agree, but think this is beyond conjecture. Science can't make sense of experience unless experience is taken as a fundamental. Otherwise, it will simply be "just so."


But what about Dennett's 'heterophenomenological argument'? I think its flawed, but there's a lot who don't. It's conjecture because it's extremely controversial.

But the "point" that marks the limit of science doesn't really answer any questions. Intentionality, for example: Science will be forced to just declare a certain neural state to just "be" the "aboutness of a tree" without anything resembling an explanation.


This latter statement is false, actually. There's any number of alternatives. My bet is that it will eventually provides two accounts: one dealing with what 'is really going on,' and another dealing with 'how we experience what is really going on.' This is in keeping with the pattern. I'm not sure what you mean with your former point.


Well, if the observed data contradicts one's metaphysic, than the metaphysic is wrong. Also, I don't think common sense (of the "soft core" variety) should be held against a metaphysics. Just because something is unorthodox has no bearing on its truthfulness.


Don't forget the lesson Kant taught us. The problem is that metaphysics, any metaphysics, never relies on 'observed data' plain and simple. Look at all the ridiculous claims people think are 'demonstrated' by the findings of quantum physicists. The 'metaphysical import of the data' is every bit as vexed as the metaphysics themselves, which means, once again, there's nothing to warrant exclusive metaphysical commitments at this level either.

McGinn simply takes it as self-evident that neurons are insentient (are protozoa insentient?). If one were to allow that neurons may possess experience (and their component parts possess experience themselves) maybe the problem wouldn't be so puzzling.


Seems to simply multiply the puzzle by about four billion to me.

But on to the issue I'm most curious about&#058; illusion. You haven't really answered my question. As I mentioned, we're ALL susceptible to many kinds of cognitive and perceptual illusions - publicity doesn't seem to have much to do with it. They're just part of being human. The question is how the case of willing is any different.

The tree experience you mention is actually a disanalogy. The experience of a tree does not include the experience of self-determination, which is the crux of the illusion at issue here. We think we are consciously causing our acts, when we are not.

Note also, Tak, that it's not epiphenomenalism that's at issue, just the factual status of something we regularly experience. I'm committing to very little, here, aside from a growing scientific consensus regarding the 'will' (and there's far more than Libet's famed (and not so significant)experiments on the line here. Again, I urge you to check out Wegner's book).

But here I suspect that, again, that aside from your (unwarranted! <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: --> ), metaphysical commitments we are pretty close.

On a last note, I think you're right when you say most people don't know what their freedom consists in, but I do think they have a rough sense of what their freedom is not. I actually find the pragmatic approach (which is to say, Dennett's) to this issue interesting, but tendentious, akin to saying that, although the traditional setting (of souls and gods) has to be utterly overturned we can keep the same conceptual players (of freedom and morality) by just changing a few of their lines. The fact is, we're reading from an entirely different script. The 'redefinitional approach,' where we say something like 'freedom = the ratio of possible behavioural outputs versus environmental inputs, understood from an evolutionary perspective,' glosses over what is in fact very bizarre and profoundly troubling. The fact that one can cook up such redefinitional strategies ad nauseum simply attests to the seriousness of the problem - to the fact that all we can so is spin our wheels. Shrugging your shoulders doesn't make a problem go away, even if you're a pragmatist.

The inferences at stake are so basic that you can terrify a class full of freshmen in a single hour using shared assumptions. The inferences that purport to 'resolve' or 'dissolve' these problems generally take years of specialized training to really comprehend and appreciate. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 26 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Grantaire, Moderator

Did you perhaps mean General Relativity, rather than Newtonian physics? Relativity has much greater explanatory power than Newtonian physics and that is the other theory physicists are hoping to coax quantum gravity out of.

As an aside, General Relativity may be an even bleaker prospect for the proponents of free will/choice/etc. - time being a dimension, the solutions to its equations produce a completed picture, uh, what am I trying to say? The solution is complete, a whole both spatially and temporally and strongly suggests that the passage of time is another of those wossnames, an illusion. That not only is there no choice about what happens, but that 'happenings' in sequence do not, in fact, happen.
Take that aside with a grain of salt. I have never studied general relativity formally, never seen the equations myself and doubt I (yet, hopefully) have the mathematical training to solve them. I doubt they have their fiendish reputation for nothing.


Yes, I meant general relativity. I'm in agreement with you, I think physics as it is presents many challenges to our conceptions of reality, before we even attempt to delve into any metaphysics behind it.

Given that you (if I recall correctly) seem to espouse or at least lean towards a nihilistic view, do you think this would be any more or less 'something that matters' than said nihilistic universe?


Now that's a difficult question to answer. I suppose it is something in each persons perception of the relative importance of differing levels of illusion and "reality"...what is more important- the reality of what you actually experience here and now, with your thoughts and emotions and senses? Or some transcendental level of reality, to which our "reality" could be only some sort of illusion? Perhaps that is in some way one of the things that differentiates the thinkers of mankind from the rest. Those who want to comprehend the fundamental reality of "reality", and those who care only for the passing moments of their brief existence.

Yes, I do lean towards a nihilistic view, but it is...in the larger worldview, if that makes sense. Like, on the smaller scale, things are important to me- I want my friends to be happy, I want to do well on exams, I care about politics and what's going on in the world. I have to care, because regardless of my philosophical beliefs, I must live my life, and it's better to be happy. Whereas, I understand that in the much larger picture, my existance means nothing, the existance of the earth and of mankind means nothing, that our solar system isn't even a "blip on the radar" to the universe, and the entire existance of mankind isn't so much as a blink of the eye to the universe. Do you get what I mean? I make decisions in the here-and-now, about very trivial things, while understanding that they have absolutely no real significance on a larger scale.

That being said, in relation to your question, I think it matters both ways. If we were something like just a passing dream of a butterfly, I think it would be important (at least to me) to know that, because even if it has little practical consequence, curiousity drives us to want to know the real reality of things. But on the other hand, even if all of our lives, and our conscious existances are merely an illusion, and we knew this, it wouldn't reduce the importance of "living" them. If I knew that I didn't *really* exist, would that stop me from trying to be a nice person, from trying to succeed, from trying to be happy? Probably not, because regardless of the fundamental reality of metaphysics and existance, we have to live with the illusion or reality that we have, regardless of its true nature.

Another question: What is your opinion on that?


On people not knowing about philosophy and the problems it presents, and not caring?

It somewhat frustrates me. On the other hand, people have their own interests and problems, and I have to respect that. But still, I wish people would try to make some effort to acquire knowledge about philosophy. Granted, it is a very challenging field (not only to understand, but considering it can shake your very view of reality), but I don't think that should give people an excuse to not even make an effort towards expanding their knowledge and education.

Let me put this in some sort of perspective, maybe the people I associate with are not the sort you all would associate with. I'm surrounded by 15 year-olds who are totally myopic about anything involving thought (yes, I know, a generalization, but it holds true for the mass majority). They care only about dating and popularity.

So, granted, that isn't the sort of group that exactly breeds philosophers, but I still think people should put some energy towards the philosophical questions.. view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 28 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by TakLoufer, Candidate

---Grantaire's message


Quote: &quot;Grantaire&quot;:zes1pxzv
Just a quick comment about your comparison between Newtonian physics and quantum physics. Really, they have equal explanatory power, because they are only two parts of the complete physical description of the universe. Quantum gravity will be the unifying factor, once it is discovered (though some think string theory can reconcile them as well).[/quote:zes1pxzv]

Well, I should have been more clear. Newtonian physics, by being incomplete, has less explanatory value than Newtonian + Einsteinian + Quantum physics.

Newtonian physics isn't so much wrong as it is incomplete. Modern physics, though it is more complex, has more explanatory value.

See, I've thought quite a bit about this problem over the last few days. I think that part of the reason we can't conceptualize a real solution to this is simply the limitations of human understanding. Many even simpler concepts are extremely challenging to get a grasp on- after all, we can visualize three-dimensions by putting it on a two-dimensional medium, but does that mean we can create a model of four-dimensions? It's simply something we can't really create a concrete solution to.

Granted, we can't reduce our view of the universe past energy as the most basic level of what things "are", but does that mean that we absolutely must resort to a metaphysical answer? I think that perhaps there can be a physical answer, but perhaps it simply is incomprehensible to the human mind, and so we turn to metaphysics, because although complex, it is easier to understand than the most fundamental level of physics. Physics can be anywhere from totally concrete to somewhat abstract, but at this level, it is utterly abstract, and in a way I think we'll never truly understand. But I don't think that necessitates a metaphysical explanation.


I'm sure there is a "physical" answer, but to us it would be metaphysics.

Physics, as understood in the common sense, can only go so far - at least for us. The intrinsic nature of things can't be deduced through mere observations and, as weird as the quantum world is, this still applies to it as well. The only thing we can seem to deduce from quantum physics is that reality is probably not ultimately comprehensible to us. As for the fundamental nature of things . . . ? I'd argue that it has some form of experience as an absolute, but other than that, who knows?

I think you've hit on exactly why I'm saying it's irrelevent. Simply by the fact that you wish to discuss consciousness in terms of metaphysics (philosophy), makes all conclusions automatically void.


You can't avoid metaphysics. Metaphysics is the foundation that science rest upon. All science has a metaphysic under it, whether scientists are aware of it or not. Even scientists who merely assume that the units they refer to are abstractions (abstractions of what? more abstractions?), if taken literally, espouse a form of irrealism (or possibly idealism).

Most scientists today, or at least those that give name to their metaphysic, rest science upon materialism. The problem with this is that, given the characteristics of materialism, consciousness cannot be explained. The scientists have to "cheat" and let a homunculus in to bridge the gap between objective and subjective.

Now, in virtually all scientific endeavors, metaphysics are irrelevant. Making a steam engine, measuring and predicting the movement of heavenly bodies, constructing space craft, even the complexities of quantum mechanics: these employ only objective matters and predictions there of, and any assumption about the noumenal nature of the units of existence are left out of the science (or, usually assumed to be vacuous or abstract). Materialism works just fine in everyday science, as does assuming the units to be abstractions, or dreams, or whatever. Metaphysics is not all that important to observed, objective phenomena, and it hardly ever crops up.

But consciousness is a fundamentally different kind of "thing" than any other phenomena. You can't observe consciousness like you observe other kinds of physical phenomena, because consciousness is the observing.

It is consciousness that pushes metaphysics into the spotlight, because it is in this regard that assumptions about the units of existence actually make a difference. This, unfortunally, is lost on most scientists who think they can "explain" consciousness by referring to objective observations.

If references to metaphysics make theories of consciousness void, then scientific theories of consciousness are void as well. This is because science always has a metaphysic behind it (whether it be materialism, "abstractions," idealism, etc).

The nature of philosophical discourse, as well as language, make it so that not only will readers not get the exact intent of your communication, but also, human perception "taints" what we perceive, simply through the nature of our minds.


This is unavoidable, to an extent, but this is problematic even within fields outside metaphysics (though, I admit, metaphysics does have a greater capacity for confusion). But, by virtue of the fact that I have the ability to conceive of concepts, I know that such concepts can be conceived. And, assuming most minds are at least somewhat similar to mine, and even considering the crudities of language, I should, in principle, be able to convey concepts through the use of language. Even if the initial attempt results in confusion, I can always use more words to scaffold the subject closer to my intention. Language is not perfect, but I am still able to use it to put ideas into the mind's of others.

You spoke earlier of mistaking the map for the territory in the case of subatomic particles, but I think the exact same error could be made here- a linguistic description of fundamental metaphysics should not be mistaken for what it actually represents.


This is true, but language is not just a collection of noises, they are used to convey concepts. Whether these concepts be a grocery list or the secrets of the universe is aside the point. True, some of the metaphysical concepts can be hard to visualize, and we no doubt have limits to our cognitive ability in this regard, but language can still be used to forward these ideas to other minds, or, at the very least, ideas that are similar to the intended.

Also, what each of us "experiences" in the universe is a totally subjective experience- and how can that translate into a true fundamental solution of metaphysics, applicable to all "conscious experiencers"? (for lack of a better term)


I'm not quite sure by what you mean by "applicable to all 'conscious experiencers'," do you mean that if the theory makes sense to all entities who experience, or that it "applies" as in "explains" how they can possess (or, "be") experience?

If you mean the former, well, I'm not sure how this is an issue. My cat is incapable of understanding metaphysics, and even if she did understand, I doubt she'd care. Also, Martians may or may not have the capability of understanding these theories, but, if they're intelligent enough, they should be able to, even if we may have difficulty in conveying these ideas to them.

If you mean the latter, then I can only say that, despite differences between subjective POVs, all of them have a "something it is like" to "be" them. No matter how alien these other entities may be to us, they still have that quality of "being." This is what needs to be accounted for.

I see your point, though. Any solution we do come up with will be limited by our ability to understand it. I take this to mean that our theory will be "crude," as in, only a rough sketch of what's "really" out there.

Sorry if these thoughts are coming out jumbled, I'm hardly a philosophy major <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->


Heh, I've never taken a philosophy course in my life. <!-- s;) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- s;) -->

Another thing I'd like to hit on is the old "what if we're just the dream of a butterfly?" idea. I think this too is an interesting idea, because what if our entire universe, our existances, our experiences and memories, our emotions and thoughts, the births and deaths of galaxies- what if all of it is simply a passing aspect of some...larger entity/thing (there is no word I can think of that is fitting)? We could live in this universe, with its physical laws, and perhaps some fundamental metaphysical law, or basis of matter/consciousness, but what would it matter then, if really they aren't what the "true" reality is?


If reality is the dream of a butterfly, then "we" are, in fact, the butterfly. But what world is the butterfly in? An infinite regress threatens. But, even granting that our universe may be something thought up by some super-being, such possible worlds are not important when talking about experience. If the butterfly is dreaming us up, where does the butterfly's experience come from? If the metaphysic of our world is materialistic (as defined by [1]), then a meta-metaphysic is assumed to account for the "just-so-ness" of experience. The "world within a world" concept only pushes the question back a "world."

And I have met very few people who are even aware of the many problems that philosophy can bring up, and even fewer who would care.


And this phenomena isn't limited to "Joe Six-Packs" either. I was talking to a friend, who is fairly well versed in science, and I happened to mention the mind-body problem. He was puzzled by this and questioned me on what I meant. I tried to explain, but he simply said "But what's the problem? Consciousness is just chemical reactions. What's so complicated with that?" Silly me, I thought there was a problem <!-- s:? --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_confused.gif" alt=":?" title="Confused" /><!-- s:? --> After discussing it further, my friend was of the opinion that anyone who disagreed with him was a "religious nut." He failed to explain how third person objective (and supposedly vacuous) entities, under the descriptive guise of "chemical reactions," can generate first person "something it is liked-ness".


---Scott's message


But what about Dennett's 'heterophenomenological argument'? I think its flawed, but there's a lot who don't. It's conjecture because it's extremely controversial.


Well, conjecture means coming to a conclusion while having insufficient data. Given my (in my opinion, modest) claim that experience can't be explained through the exclusive use of the materialistic metaphysic as defined by [1], I don't see how my conclusion is ill established. My theory on panpsychism, though, is conjecture, I will admit.

On the other hand, as many problems as Dennett's position (and, by extension, functionalism in general) has, many people still support it. In this regard, my idea is conjecture (from a social perspective). But, for reasons explained in previous posts, I feel that all materialistic and functionalistic theories are incapable of explaining experience without (unconsciously) resorting to a homunculus. Without this homunculus, the experience is just brute metaphysical fact.

This latter statement is false, actually. There's any number of alternatives. My bet is that it will eventually provides two accounts: one dealing with what 'is really going on,' and another dealing with 'how we experience what is really going on.' This is in keeping with the pattern. I'm not sure what you mean with your former point.


We already know that there is a "what's really going on" and a "how we experience what is really going on." This is a given, unless one advocates solipsism. The problem is how do we get from "what's really going on" to "our experience" in a way in which one entails the other. As of now, the objective and subjective worlds are separated by a chasm, and materialism doesn't seem to have the resources to construct a bridge to cross it. In a earlier post, I pointed out that one can never divine someone's subjective experience just by examining their brain. Even if scientists had the ability to map out the brain to the level of the sub-atomic world, the experience would not logically entail from the interactions within the brain. This is what I mean by "nothing resembling an explanation."

The functionalists have tried to bridge the chasm by proposing that experience emerges from the casual relations between objects, or is computational. The problem is, given definition [1], all of the casual relations are observer relative. The "parts" don't "know" (whatever this could mean when referring to vacuous entities) what they're doing. The parts don't "know" anything. How do they know what they're casually related to? If the objects only have an "outside," then they casually relate in an experiential vacuum. Experience does not logically entail from this, at least not within materialism.

This is why I say materialistic science is never going to explain experience (qualia and intentionality) in a way in which it logically entails from a vacuous system.

Don't forget the lesson Kant taught us. The problem is that metaphysics, any metaphysics, never relies on 'observed data' plain and simple. Look at all the ridiculous claims people think are 'demonstrated' by the findings of quantum physicists. The 'metaphysical import of the data' is every bit as vexed as the metaphysics themselves, which means, once again, there's nothing to warrant exclusive metaphysical commitments at this level either.


It is true that the specifics can probably never be known, but we can still know what must be explained. As I argued in previous posts, materialism is a dead end, or, to put it another way, if materialism is the metaphysic of our world, there must be a "meta-metaphysic" to account for the "something it is like-ness." Otherwise, experience is a "just so" unexplained phenomena.

I'm not so much committed to a specific metaphysic (though I think panexperientalism is a "good bet") as I am against materialism (or, exclusive materialism), and that any metaphysic that can hope to account for experience must have experience as some form of fundamental (basically, any metaphysic that isn't defined by [1])

[quote:zes1pxzv]McGinn simply takes it as self-evident that neurons are insentient (are protozoa insentient?). If one were to allow that neurons may possess experience (and their component parts possess experience themselves) maybe the problem wouldn't be so puzzling.


Seems to simply multiply the puzzle by about four billion to me.[/quote:zes1pxzv]

Well, the primary obstacle in panpsychic theories is the aggregation problem. For example: Suppose quarks have a primal iota of experience intrinsic to their nature. So what? Even if the quarks are bunched together into subatomic particles, and they into atoms, and so on . . . the only experiencers will still be the quarks. Just as putting a bunch of people into a room doesn't create a new, unified individual. Whitehead's philosophy of organism and Hartshorne's concept of compound individual takes account of this potential problem.

Charles Birch explains this in this article: [url:zes1pxzv]http&#58;//www&#46;alfred&#46;north&#46;whitehead&#46;com/AAPT/discussion_papers/birch_01&#46;htm[/url:zes1pxzv]

But on to the issue I'm most curious about&#058; illusion. You haven't really answered my question. As I mentioned, we're ALL susceptible to many kinds of cognitive and perceptual illusions - publicity doesn't seem to have much to do with it. They're just part of being human. The question is how the case of willing is any different.


I suppose in the case that our feeling of "choosing" can be an cognitive illusion, I agree with you. The choices we make are made for reasons, and if we make a choice that seems to be odd or uncharacteristic, this still has a reason behind it. I don't know if this is the case, but it makes sense to me.

The tree experience you mention is actually a disanalogy. The experience of a tree does not include the experience of self-determination, which is the crux of the illusion at issue here. We think we are consciously causing our acts, when we are not.


I think this deception (if it is deception) can be attributed to an ignorance of "what has come before." In principle, if we were completely aware of all occasions, past and present, then the illusion will be dispelled. However, in practice, I don't think this sort of self-knowledge is possible, so the illusion is not going away.

On the other hand, there may be a fundamental indeterminacy in the world, and compound individuals "magnify" this indeterminacy just as they magnify upon lesser experiences. This may allows for a sort of freedom (Griffin thinks so) but I still think our everyday conscious mind has far less input on our actions then we tend to think. But, I maintain, this does not mean our actions are "mindless," which by this I mean the causes of our actions (and our experiences of them) do not originate from casual interactions between vacuous entities.

Note also, Tak, that it's not epiphenomenalism that's at issue, just the factual status of something we regularly experience. I'm committing to very little, here, aside from a growing scientific consensus regarding the 'will' (and there's far more than Libet's famed (and not so significant)experiments on the line here. Again, I urge you to check out Wegner's book).


I'll see if my university's library carries it. Failing that, I'll use the inter-library exchange. Also, I urge you to read Unsnarling the World Knot by David Ray Griffin.

But here I suspect that, again, that aside from your (unwarranted! <!-- s;) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- s;) --> ), metaphysical commitments we are pretty close.


Yeah, it seems we do more or less agree that free will may be an illusion, though I would argue that I'm not really commited to any one metaphysic, just that some form of experience must be a fundamental, but other than that, this can take the form of dualism, idealism, panpsychism, or whatever. But the vacuous entities of materialism should be scrapped. if we're to make sense of the mind-body problem.

On a last note, I think you're right when you say most people don't know what their freedom consists in, but I do think they have a rough sense of what their freedom is not. I actually find the pragmatic approach (which is to say, Dennett's) to this issue interesting, but tendentious, akin to saying that, although the traditional setting (of souls and gods) has to be utterly overturned we can keep the same conceptual players (of freedom and morality) by just changing a few of their lines. The fact is, we're reading from an entirely different script. The 'redefinitional approach,' where we say something like 'freedom = the ratio of possible behavioural outputs versus environmental inputs, understood from an evolutionary perspective,' glosses over what is in fact very bizarre and profoundly troubling. The fact that one can cook up such redefinitional strategies ad nauseum simply attests to the seriousness of the problem - to the fact that all we can so is spin our wheels. Shrugging your shoulders doesn't make a problem go away, even if you're a pragmatist.


Freedom is presupposed by all humans, even if they logically denounce it. This is worrisome because it seems to put us in the position of denying something essential that we can't help but employ in our daily lives. Nevertheless, after giving the matter some thought, I believe free will is not a "hard core" common sense asset as qualia and intention are. Or, at least free will is not "as hard" as the other two.

Free will may be an illusion. At least, it is not absurd to say so. For example:

It is nonsense to say "I think I see red, but I do not. I only seem to see red."

It is nonsense to say "I think I am thinking of a tree, but I am not. I only seem to be thinking of a tree."

But it is not nessesarly nonsense to say "I think I have free will, but I do not. I only seem to have free will, but my actions are determined by previous factors."

The experience of freedom is real in that we "really" have this experience (illusion or not), just as we "really" see red or "really" think of trees (regardless whether the red object or tree are really "out there"). But, just as we can hallucinate or suffer delusions, it is conceivable that our experience of freedom is just such an illusion - even though the "experience of freedom" is still real, in that we really experience it.

Griffin would disagree with this, and he may be right, but, to me at least, even the concept of free will seems muddled and possibly incoherent.

The inferences at stake are so basic that you can terrify a class full of freshmen in a single hour using shared assumptions. The inferences that purport to 'resolve' or 'dissolve' these problems generally take years of specialized training to really comprehend and appreciate.


But I don't really see this as troublesome, as even if people know what freedom isn't, they still are pretty vague at what it is. The best I can come up with is the possibility of having done things differently. Such as "I could have punched my boss in the face, but I chose not to." But this raises the question: why didn't I punch my boss in the face? The decision wasn't random, there were factors that served as determiners (namely, being fired or going to jail). If I had punched him in the face, there would surely be factors that compelled me to do this, irregardless of whether I am aware of them or not.

While this is conjecture, it seems like free will is more like an ignorance of the collective forces that "move the soul."

And, at least for me, the terror that can be felt at "unraveling the rainbow" of free will would have more to do with the notion that my experience and intention have no casual powers. Or, me going and making a sandwich can be explained purely through casual interactions between bits of matter (as defined by [1]) without the concepts of "hunger" or intentions of "sandwichness" entering the picture. There have been many theories to try to get around this, but they all seem to suffer from a homunculus or "crypto-dualism." I would find this frightening not so much due of the perceived lack of freedom, but that my experiences are irrelevant to my actions. That I'm a "magic spray" on what basically amounts to a mound of blindly shifting billiard balls.

Most people, if they thought about it, wouldn't have a problem with the statement: "You ate because you were hungry;" even if we took this casual chain to the realm of the "unconscious." But the statement "Your hunger had nothing to do with you eating." Would leave them either incredulous or terrorfied.

It would seem our positions largely coincide, and that our only differences are a matter of detail and degree.

-Tak

[1] Materialism, defined as "the two-fold doctrine that the ultimate units of the world are entities or events that are devoid of both experience and spontaneity, and that nothing exists but such units, interactions among them, and aggregates of them." (Griffin) view post


Science disenchanting the world. posted 28 October 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionScience disenchanting the world. by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

The latter issues you raise, Tak, are the only one's that hold my attention anymore. For me, the primary 'abstract' issue confronting humanity is one of reconciling what we experience with what we know.

This is an exciting and terrifying time in history. The dominant institutions in contemporary society are corporations, social units designed to pursue short-term self-interest. Meanwhile, we are in the course of witnessing the greatest extinction event since the comet that hit the Yucatan some 65 million years ago. Meanwhile, revolutions abound in every one of the natural sciences. Meanwhile, we're learning that our native self-understanding is as quaint and implausible as the fantastic world-views demolished by science. We've moved beyond, 'The world makes no sense!' Sense doesn't even make sense anymore.

We are all Achamian. We all walk in the shadow of the apocalypse. view post


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