Thursday, November 20, 2008

Swinburne on "siphoning off"

This is an extremely important argument, and explains to a large extent how I reply to people who say that the progress of science is evidently going to push in favor of materialism with respect to the philosophy of mind. It's my claim that modern science is grounded, in a important sense, in dualism. That is, science at the time of Galileo was able to treat the physical world as a machine because it could dump all the qualitative stuff into the mind. But if the mind is supposed to be physical, how did that work back then?

No one replied when I put this up before, so I am putting it up again, though we did get some debate on in on Dangerous Idea 2.

From Richard Swinburne’s The Evolution of the Soul (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986) p. 191.

There is a crucial difference between these two cases. All other integrations into a super-science, or sciences dealing with entities and properties apparently qualitatively distinct, was achieved by saying that really some of the entities and properties were not as they appeared to be; by making a distinction between the underlying (not immediately observable) entities and properties and the phenomenal properties to which they give rise. Thermodynamics was conceived with the laws of temperature exchange; and temperature was supposed to be a property inherent in an object. The felt hotness of a hot body is indeed qualitatively distinct from particle velocities and collisions. The reduction was achieved by distinguishing between the underlying cause of the hotness (the motion of the molecules) and the sensations which the motion of molecules cause in observers. The former falls naturally within the scope of statistical mechanic—for molecules are particles’ the entities and properties are not of distinct kinds. But this reduction has been achieved at the price of separating off the phenomenal from its causes, and only explaining the latter. All reduction from one science to another dealing with apparently very disparate properties has been achieved by this device of denying that the apparent properties (i. e. the ‘secondary qualities” of colour, heat, sound, taste, etc.) with which one science dealt belonged to the physical world at all. It siphoned them off to the world of the mental. But then, but when you come to face the problem of the sensations themselves, you cannot do this. If you are to explain the sensations themselves, you cannot distinguish between them and their underlying causes and only explain the latter. In fact the enormous success of science in producing an integrated physico-chemistry has been achieved at the expense of separating off from the physical world colours, smells, and tastes, and regarding them as purely private sensory phenomena. The very success of science in achieving its vast integrations in physics and chemistry is the very thing which has made apparently impossible any final success in integrating the world of the mind with the world of physics.

31 comments:

Ilíon said...

"Promissory materialism" is mere vaporware.

Even if there ever could be a coherent materialistic theory of mind, it would still be *just* a theory, and it would still be a visciously circular theory. Can viscious circularity be honestly said to be coherent?

But, there can never be a coherent materialistic theory of mind, for all materialistic theories (whether of mind or of anything else) shall always be able to generate the conclusion that minds do not exist.

Ilíon said...

Change that last sentence to: "... for all comprehensive materialistic theories ..."

Anonymous said...

Is that Michael McDonald from the Doobie Brothers? I hear the yacht rock look is making a comeback.

Roger said...

I've thought along the same lines as Swinburne, but naturally with not as much depth and clarity.

An interesting situation we find ourselves in.

Steven Carr said...

'In fact the enormous success of science in producing an integrated physico-chemistry has been achieved at the expense of separating off from the physical world colours, smells, and tastes, and regarding them as purely private sensory phenomena.'

Thank God Victor is putting qualia such as colours smells and tastes firmly back into the physical world.

Ilíon said...

What a fool.

Is there a requirement that you pretend-atheists be fools (and/or asses)? Do you take special training? Or does it just come naturally?

Anonymous said...

First was just red herrings. Now we get ad hominems. Your repertoire of fallacious argumentation is expanding, Illion. Bravo.

Ilíon said...

Anonymouse,
It appears that you don't know -- or perhaps it's that you don't care to honstly state -- what either a "red herring" or a "ad hominem" is.

Bravo yourself, you intellectually dishonest fool.

Anonymous said...

Wow -- you outdid yourself: a red herring AND an ad hominem in the space of two sentences in a single comment.

That was awesome.

Ilíon said...

And you are a fool and a liar ... so, why don't you go make your silly accusations to someone who is willing to give the time of day to fools and liars?

Hans said...

What an idiot that Carr really is.

Ilíon said...

Hans: "What an idiot that Carr really is."

I'm sure that's not accurate. For to claim that someone is an idiot is to claim that he is stupid, it is to claim that he cannot help himself in saying illogcial or irrational things.

While I cannot totally rule out the possibility that Mr Carr is an idiot, I currently find it impossible to believe that he is an idiot -- it's much easier to simply believe that he's intellectually dishonest.

Hans said...

I think you were right the first time when you said he was a fool and an ass.

'The fool has said in his heart there is no God'

Ilíon said...

Thank you for understanding that to say someone is a fool is to make a moral claim about that person's choices. It is not a claim that the person is stupid; it is not a claim that the person is incapable of correct thought on some matter, but rather is the claim that he *chooses* to think illogically or irrationally, or that he *chooses* to not correct his flawed assumptions, or that he *chooses* to reject the truth which has been shown him by sound and valid reason, and so forth.

The fool chooses his state, the idiot is born to it. And it is cruel -- it is sin -- to taunt an actual idiot or even a person that one merely thinks (correctly or not) is an idiot. On the other hand, it is not sin to mock the foolishness of a fool. Mocking the fool's behavior seems to be about the only way to reach a fool.

Hans said...

I couldn't agree more.

Mock atheists as they are fools.

They choose to be fools.

Ilíon said...

Mock the behavior -- though they'll still frequently accuse you of mocking and abusing the person.

Anonymous said...

That's awesome: fallacies for Jesus!

:-)

You're a liar, a fool, and an ass. And the fool says in their heart, 'There is a god'. Yay, everybody can play this game! How do we decide who wins? The last person who says it?

Anonymous said...

..also, a new fallacy: begging the question ("the fool says in his heart, "there is no god'".).

Steve said...

Shame this thread has so deteriorated. I think Swinburne's "siphoning off" argument is a really interesting one. Readers of this blog may also be interested to know that C.S.Lewis offered a very similar argument in his essay "The Empty Universe".

I think the argument is really difficult to evaluate. It's short and very difficult to further elucidate, so that if the argument doesn't immediately persuade it's difficult to know what else can be said. I'd be very interested in a formalisation of the argument if anyone can manage it.

Steve

Steven Carr said...

The argument is that Christians have declared war on science, denying the right of psychology to be called a science, because it deals with the mind.

The Christian mind is not subject to any laws of cause and effect.

At least nobody has been able to discover such laws up to now.

If somebody knew what caused people to think the way they do, that would be a science, and Swinburne denies any such science is possible.

Ilíon said...

Steve: "Shame this thread has so deteriorated."

It's bound to happen when irrational persons -- and 'atheists' tend to be the epitome of irrational persons -- post in a thread that the thread will deteriorate.

Ilíon said...

The Highly Irrational Mr Carr: "The Christian mind is not subject to any laws of cause and effect."

Minds which are subject to laws of material cause-and-effect are no minds at all.

"Minds" which are subject to laws of material cause-and-effect are "minds" which do not -- and cannot -- reason, nor have thoughts, nor comprehend and know truths.

Mind and reason are not grounded in material cause-and-effect, but rather in rational ground-and-consequent: reason is itself, reason is "explained" only in terms of itself; mind is itself, mind is "explained" only in terms of itself.

These 'atheists'/materialists, who must of necessity seek always to reduce mind and reason to material cause-and-effect, do not and cannot explain mind or reason; rather, they explain away mind and reason. They *deny* that mind and reason are real; that is all they can do -- for to admit that mind and reason are real and are not the result merely of matter-in-motion is to deny atheism/materialism.


The Highly Irrational Mr Carr: "If somebody knew what caused people to think the way they do, that would be a science, and Swinburne denies any such science is possible."

Since the Highly Irrational Mr Carr *claims* (falsely, of course, but that's beside the matter at the moment) that *his* "mind" and his "thoughts" are governed by laws of material cause-and-effect, those of us who are rational beings have no *reason* to pay any attention to anything he says -- by his own assertion, the noises which come out of his mouth (or, as the case may be, the keys he hits on his keyboard) are *caused by* the mere movements of molecules in his brain. That is, by his own assertion, the claims he makes have no necessary relationship to reason, much less to truth; if something he says happens to be true, it is quite accidental and incidental.

And, by the way, has anyone at all ever *seen* the Highly Irrational Mr Carr's brain? Why should we we imagine, in the first place, that he (or anyone else) even has a brain?

Ilíon said...

The Highly Anti-Rational Mr Carr (and 'atheists' in general) do not assert the irrational, indeed anti-rational, positions they assert (they do not actually *believe* what they assert) because they are stupid.

Nor do they assert what they assert because they are ignorant of the truths which demolish the possibility of rationally believing what they (dishonestly) claim to believe is the truth about the nature of reality. For, after all, what I have said in my previous post is not unknown to Mr Carr -- he knows it but pretends that he does not.

No, the only explanation left for why Mr Carr (and 'atheists' in general) assert the anti-rational claims they assert is because they willfully disregard what they know to be true. They choose to be fools; they choose to be intellectually dishonest (which is worse than mere lying, much as hypocrisy is worse than mere lying). The "mere liar" lies about a specific thing; the intellectually dishonest man lies about the very nature of truth and reality, in effect he lies about everything.

And you who imagine you have standing to condemn me for stating that bald truth about these pretend-atheists are also engaging in intellectual dishonesty. And hypocrisy.

====
I certainly do not insist that the rest of you non-atheists must bluntly point out, as I frequently do, that atheism is based upon an untruth and is maintained only by conscious lying. But you must *understand* that this is the truth of the matter. Until you understand it and acknowledge it, you will always find yourself surrendering to the anti-rational atheistic "arguments."

Steve said...

Okay, so how about that formalisation. I'd like to see it set out with numbered propositions and such like. Any takers?

Steve

Anonymous said...

Ilion is right.

Why should we believe Carr has a brain?

Ilíon said...

Anonymous: "Ilion is right.

Why should we believe Carr has a brain?
"

Even were we to see Mr Carr's brain -- and which, by the twisted logic Mr Carr employs when it suits him, is the only criterion by which any of us are justified in the first place in believing that he has a brain -- it remains the fact that Mr Carr can never see his own brain. Assuming he has one. Therefore, Mr Carr can never be justified in believing that he has a brain.

Steven Carr said...

Ilion claims that minds are not subject to cause and effect.

Scientist say that smoking cannabis can make you psychotic.

I guess Ilion shows up these scientists who choose to believe the folly that chemicals can have an effect on the mind.

ILION
Mind and reason are not grounded in material cause-and-effect, but rather in rational ground-and-consequent: reason is itself, reason is "explained" only in terms of itself; mind is itself, mind is "explained" only in terms of itself.

CARR
So much for ignorant scientists who try to explain psychotic minds in terms of cannabis smoking, rather than in terms of itself....

Ilíon said...

Mr Carr misrepresents Ilíon ... and science/scientific findings ... and reason itself.

But, what else can anyone expect of Mr Carr?

I mean, seriously: it's not as though he *chooses* to misrepresent, or even knows that he's doing it (or, honestly, even knows anything at all)! As we now know, Mr Carr's observed behavior is fully explained by the the material cause-and-effect of electro-chemical movements in Mr Carr's brain (assuming he has one, of course).

By his own admission, Mr Carr has no reason to do what he does; it's all material cause-and-effect.

Steven Carr said...

Ilion has no answer other than abuse, calling people fools and hypocrites.

I would accuse him of taking mind-altering drugs, but of course, he has stated that no drugs can affect the mind, which is not subject to the material laws of cause and effect.

So if Illion is not taking mind-altering drugs, because no such things exist, what is making him behave the way he does, demonstrating the love of Jesus in every post he writes?

Steven Carr said...

Ilion continues to attack science,claiming that there can never be a science of the mind.

Has he told psychologists?

Why do Christians behave like Canute , trying to hold back the ocean of science with their pathetic arguments?

Scientists just ignore people like Ilion and continue to produce scientific explanations of why people do certain things, using scientific concepts like 'agency' and 'reason' while Ilion spits into the sea, declaring that he is the master of science.

Christianity will be drowned by the ocean of science pouring over the superstitions of Ilion.

Ilíon said...

The Highly Anti-Rational Mr Carr: "Ilion has no answer other than abuse, calling people fools and hypocrites."

The highly anti-rational Mr Carr appears to be asserting that one one has a moral obligation to not calls fools and hypocrites what they are.

The Highly Anti-Rational Mr Carr: "Ilion continues to attack science,claiming that there can never be a science of the mind."

The highly anti-rational Mr Carr appears to be imagining that the materialist stock phrase "attacking science" has any actual content.