Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Author Meets Critic

A redated post. 

Do Near Death Experiences support the idea of an afterlife? Or are they the hallucinations of a dying brain? Greg Stone challenges Susan Blackmore's research in support of the latter hypothesis.

101 comments:

Gordon Knight said...

Some good points, but I hate the new agey "mass of energy" talk w/respect to the soul.

Also it is true that we can imagine/hallucinate ourselves from another point of view. this haut ppens in dreams, as well as drug induced phenomena. I don't see why we cannot suppose that just as the brain constructs my in body experiences, it cannot also construct an "out of body" one.

The point about clarity of thought vs. decline of brain function is interesting, but not conclusive. Nobody really knows how brain state are correlated to conscious states, so it could very well be that dying neuronds correlate to intense vivid experience. Why not?

The chief difficulty with the debunker's position relates to those cases in which there are apparently veridical experiences during the OBE. Either there is a spirit that can be detached from the body or the brain/mind has some funky paranormal abilities on certain occasions.

Of course it does not guaranttee one of these is true. it could be coincidence, fraud, conspiracy.. but we have much greater reason to believe the reports of otherwise sane people who just recently claim an OBE hearing what Doc says in the other room (collaborated later on), than we have of believing miracle reports of a thousand years ago. So Christians, at least, should not dismiss accounts of these experiences.

Hume's argument against rational belief in miracles, even if sound, would not count against the veracity of these near death experiences.

Victor Reppert said...

Now I think Hume's argument doesn't work, but if it did, it does seem to me that reports of postmortem interaction would be excluded by that argument. It looks as if one law of nature, for which Hume would certainly claim a "firm and unalterable experience" would be that dead people stay dead.

Mark said...

I hate to use the "s"-word, but I'm afraid this definitely qualifies as a screed.

Victor Reppert said...

Could you explain why you think it is a screed? Blackmore herself seemed to think it worth answering.

Mark said...

Granted, I couldn't really bring myself to read the whole thing. But what I saw was the just author ceaselessly screaming about Susan Blackmore's materialistic bias (because she has the temerity to consider prior plausibilities) and launching into fanciful, free-form meditations on energy fields and spirits and mediums and quantum mechanics. I believe Blackmore basically said as much in her response.

Joshua Allen said...

It's a good response; and Gordon's points are good.

I remember when it was first explained that Ketamine could induce NDE, and that NDE involved some physiological brain changes similar to Ketamine. John Lilly, or anyone else who has used Ketamine heavily, could tell you that this means nothing except that both prove that "the brain/mind has some funky paranormal abilities on certain occasions."

Anonymous said...

I don't think Hume's argument would work, because there is no law of nature that says people remain dead. There is one which says bodies do not rise from the dead, but that is different from these OBEs. There is no regularity that has been experienced after death one way or the other--unless you call these NDEs after death, in which case the regularity is interesting wild experiences happen

Doctor Logic said...

In the list of four arguments for the Afterlife Hypothesis, the most important argument is omitted (later in the book it is addressed in passing). This primary and most basic tenet of the Afterlife Hypothesis—that spirit (and consciousness) separate from the body—deserves primary attention, but Blackmore instead addresses tangential arguments.

How many of the dualists here want to sign on to this model of dualism?

Also, when NDE's are reliably tested, then I'll believe they refer to something apart from a dying brain. I'll be overjoyed, in fact. Being a ghost would be a pretty cool alternative to death.

Anonymous said...

Where do I sign?

David B Marshall said...

When I lived in Japan, Greg was one of the most active members of a small internet discussion group I was involved in -- for about five years. He's quite a character; I argued against him almost as much as for him, but he was always fun to have around, and I think of him as a friend.

BenYachov said...

>But what I saw was the just author ceaselessly screaming about Susan Blackmore's materialistic bias...

Materialism is a philosophical viewpoint that must be defended philosophically. You just can't assume it without argument and conflate it with science.

im-skeptical said...

"Materialism is a philosophical viewpoint that must be defended philosophically. You just can't assume it without argument and conflate it with science."

You mean dualism.

BenYachov said...

How does the fact materialism is a philosophical viewpoint that must be defended philosophically exclude dualism from that same standard?

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

It doesn't exclude dualism from the same standard. I realize that I'm treading on dangerous ground because I'm not as philosopher, but it seems to me that materialism is justified by empirical evidence. Our world is made up of physical things (matter and energy), unless you wish to dispute that. Other philosophies like dualism don't have the same empirical evidence to support them, and therefore must be justified in some other way.

BenYachov said...


@im-skeptical

>I realize that I'm treading on dangerous ground because I'm not as philosopher, but it seems to me that materialism is justified by empirical evidence.

No it isn't justified by empirical evidence and it cannot be so without committing the fallacy of begging the question.

It's Scientism/Positivism pure and simple. An irrational world view even the great Atheist Philosopher AG Flew abandoned during the 1950's at the height of his Atheism because it was hopelessly incoherent.

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174

>Our world is made up of physical things (matter and energy), unless you wish to dispute that.

This is about as rational as claiming the Andromeda Galaxy does not exist because we can not view it under a microscope.....

>Other philosophies like dualism don't have the same empirical evidence to support them, and therefore must be justified in some other way.

...and then claim if it did exist it must be by nature a microscopic object that can be observed by a microscope.

How would you even model much less come up with an experiment that showed that only materialism was true?

Neither materialism nor dualism can be proven via empirical science. You can only argue for them or against them with philosophy and then you can use the chosen philosophy you find more sucessful to interpret your empirical scientific data.

>I realize that I'm treading on dangerous ground because I'm not as philosopher

Learn philosophy or your Atheism will always be the moral & intellectual equivalent of Young Earth Creationism.

Besides there are other problems with your view.

Not all forms of dualism are the same. Many Atheists can & are Property Dualists which is a form of dualism one could hold in conjunction with a soft materialist view of the world.

I'm a hylemorphic dualist. Most Atheists who object to dualism mean Cartesian dualism.

Of course every Thomist knows Descrates sucks!

BenYachov said...

additional:

Descartes is just a proto-materialist who believed in "Ghost matter".

grodrigues said...

@BenYachov:

"Descartes is just a proto-materialist who believed in "Ghost matter"."

It is always important to stress the intimate link between Descarte's views on matter and the soul. Descartes' rejection of the classical Aristotelian / Scholastic conception of matter leads him almost inevitably to his cartesianism dualism -- a point made by Cudworth, Malebranche, etc.

ozero91 said...

Are space and time considered physical things?

BenYachov said...

>Are space and time considered physical things?

That reminds me you still need philosophy to tell you what constitutes a material & or physical thing.

If Science could detect the existence of a Cartesian soul in the brain as some weird form of mental energy why would that prove the existence of the "spiritual"?

It wouldn't it would merely be one more material or physical thing in the universe.

Like the last episode of Classic Star Trek where some freaky chick trades bodies with Captain Kirk.

This idea materialism equals monism is false but not as false as the idea dualism equals Descartes.

Syllabus said...

it seems to me that materialism is justified by empirical evidence.

Well, if by materialism you mean roughly this, then I'm not sure that it does. Basically, what that would mean is that empirical measurement, which pretty much by its nature is restricted to matter, energy, etc, proves that nothing else but that which is empirically measurable exists. But that doesn't follow as a matter of logic. If I have a tool or set of tools that measures only one or two things, can I use those tools to determine that there exists nothing else to measure? It seems that I can't. If you think that you can, I'd be interested to see your argument.

If what you mean is methodological naturalism - in other words, the assumption that scientists make when performing experiments that the events they are measuring are caused by purely natural (read, material or physical) phenomena - then I'm pretty sure empirical means are not available to one in order to check that. For, in order to make empirical measurements, one must assume methodological naturalism. This being the fallacy of begging the question, the entire enterprise falls apart.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

The problem is the inference from "science works and gives us great knowledge of the physical world" to "all that exists is the physical world."

That is the inference usually being implicitly made by many materialists, and it is irrational. There is no logical path from the premise to the conclusion.

You could compare it to reasoning like this:

Microscopes have given us incredible knowledge of the world of microbes. No other instrument has been nearly as successful.

Therefore, probably, all that exists are microbes.

Materialism is a viewpoint that needs to be defended, and unfortunately I rarely see materialists doing that. They just assume it's true, almost like an axiom, and move on from there.

im-skeptical said...

I thank everybody for their replies. I didn't try to imply in my statement that nothing exists other than the material. I was merely saying that:
The observable world consists of material things.
If the world contains things that are not material, those things are not observable.
All available empirical evidence supports a materialistic view of the world.
There may be some argument for the existence of non-material things, but it is not supported by empirical evidence.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

Well of course non-physical stuff will not be detectable by the five senses.

That's where philosophy comes in.

If premises that we know to be true end up with a conclusion that something non-physical exists, then something non-physical exists.

Just look at Victor's argument from reason, the core argument from this blog:

1. No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of nonrational
causes.
2. If naturalism is true, then all beliefs can be fully explained in terms of nonrational
causes.
3. Therefore, if naturalism is true, then no belief is rationally inferred.

Premise 1 is obviously true, because if a belief can be fully explained as the result of non-rational causes, then the belief was not formed by rational causes.

And premise 2 is true as well. Naturalism wants to say that everything consists of matter/energy. And the motion of matter and energy is not rational (nor is it irrational). It's neither. It's just matter in motion, sticking, moving, breaking apart. It makes no sense to say that an electron moved a certain way because it was more reasonable to.

So with both premises true, the conclusion follows. Either naturalism is true and no belief (including science, or the belief in naturalism itself) is rationally inferred, or our beliefs are rationally inferred and naturalism is not true.

The only way you can dispute the conclusion is to dispute one of the premises.

Good luck.

cl said...

Martin,

"Materialism is a viewpoint that needs to be defended, and unfortunately I rarely see materialists doing that. They just assume it's true, almost like an axiom, and move on from there."

That's true in my observations as well. For example, look at im-skeptical's reply to you:

"The observable world consists of material things."

Since no definition or distinction is given to "material" why not just write, "The observable world consists of things?" I suspect the reason im-skeptical didn't write that is because it's obvious tautology, but yet, "material" as applied to "things" is a meaningless term, no less tautological.

The whole "materialist" discussion is a fruitless bore because "materialism" usually get used as a euphemism for "all that exists."

Syllabus said...

All available empirical evidence supports a materialistic view of the world.

I'm not sure that it does, though, for reasons already mentioned, since the claim that the materialist makes - namely, that the material, that which is made of matter, is all that exists - is something that cannot be tested by empirical means. For how can you test for something using tools that would not be able to detect the thing if it were to exist? And how can one conclude, from the fact that one's tools cannot in principle measure a certain thing, conclude that this thing does not exist unless one first assumes that all of reality is measurable by these tools (which sounds very much like begging the question)? This seems quixotic at best.

There may be some argument for the existence of non-material things, but it is not supported by empirical evidence.

I think that's a little ambiguous. I agree that arguments for non-material reality are not and cannot be empirical arguments. I do think, though, that these arguments are consistent with empirically verifiable facts or use empirical facts in their premisses - such as Plantinga's EEAN, for instance.

im-skeptical said...

So let's see if I've got this correct.

I am irrational if I believe that the world consists of the things for which I have evidence, and I am rational if I believe that the world contains things that are undetectable by any means known to humanity. Right? That seems to be what you say.

Let me make clearer what I mean when I refer to material things: things that can be detected by the senses, possibly with the aid of instruments.

Descartes believed in some sort of mental matter. I'm not aware that anyone has ever detected such a thing, so I have no reason to believe it exists. The same can be said about Aristotle's soul. These types of "matter" are purely conjectural - not material. If you believe these things exist, it seems to me that you must have some kind of evidence, and I haven't seen it.

Victor's premise: "1. No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes" is not well defined. What is a nonrational cause? Rationality refers to mental processes, not to what causes things. I think it is rational to believe that something exists if I have evidence of its existence, and irrational to believe that something exists if I have no evidence for it. All your semantic twists and turns don't change that.

Martin said...

>What is a nonrational cause?

A boulder rolling down a hill and hitting a tree. A river running down a mountain. Lightning striking a tree.

None of these are rational causes because no reason is involved in the events. The rock did not roll one way because it was more logical to do so, but rather because of the contours of the hill, the wind, etc. No reason was involved in the event. No. Reason. Non. Rational. Non-rational.

>All your semantic twists and turns don't change that.

There are no "semantic twists and turns", whatever that means. Two very simple premises. To rationally deny the conclusion, you must hold to one of the following:

* Beliefs can be rationally inferred even if they are entirely explained in terms of non-rational causes.

OR

* If naturalism is true, then not all beliefs can be fully explained in terms of non-rational causes.

OR

* Deny the conclusion anyway, on pain of irrationality.

So there's your evidence that naturalism is false.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

If I understand you properly, you say that if a rock rolls down a hill and hits a tree, it would be irrational for me to believe that that occurred because there was no rational intent or reason involved in the event? That's simply bizarre. It sounds like your argument is that I can't rationally believe something unless I also believe that there was some conscious reason for it to happen. I don't accept that. I apologize if I am mistaken about your statements. If so, additional clarification might be helpful.

This sounds a lot like the ridiculous argument that rational thought is not possible if there is no God. Here are two simple facts (as I see it): Rational thought exists. God doesn't. You can use "philosophy" to create a smokescreen of logical justification for anything you want to believe, but none of that changes the truth. The problem is not in the use of logic, but in the oftentimes absurd premises to the argument. Either you accept them or you don't. This seems to be just such a case.

Martin said...

>If I understand you properly, you say that if a rock rolls down a hill and hits a tree, it would be irrational for me to believe that that occurred because there was no rational intent or reason involved in the event?

No.

What the premise says is that there is no reasoning involved in matter in motion. The rock rolling down the hill does not do so because it was more rational to roll down the hill than to not, but rather because of the contours of the hill, the softness of the ground.

I.e., the causes involved in physics (beta decay, electrons changing orbit, etc) are not rational nor irrational causes. The electron did not change orbit because it was more rational to do so, but because of other electrons in the vicinity or whatever.

Therefore, all causes found in physics are non-rational.

Crude said...

I am irrational if I believe that the world consists of the things for which I have evidence, and I am rational if I believe that the world contains things that are undetectable by any means known to humanity.

Nope.

First, Descartes' soul isn't some fideistic concept. It's something Descartes believed was discovered through reason, logic, argument, etc.

Second, 'empirical evidence' itself doesn't get you to materialism. It's not for nothing that Bishop Berkeley was an empiricist through and through.

Third, even getting to a mere 'external world' doesn't get you to materialism, precisely because just what the material world is is under dispute. Is it panpsychist? Is it dual-property? Is it mechanist? Is it replete with formal-final causes?

Fourth, no, Descartes did not believe in "mental matter". That would just make him a variety of materialist. He was a substance dualist, but not all substances are materialist - that's the point. And I say this as someone who's not onboard with substance dualism anyway.

The only "semantic twists" on display here are on your end. You're mangling, and probably neither understanding nor trying to understand, arguments that are critical of materialism or conclude to something other than materialism. Just as you're mangling the word 'evidence' to bizarrely cash out to 'something that necessarily involves the material'.

But again, empirical evidence doesn't even get you that far. It gets you to the external world, but concluding that world is mechanistic materialist is going to take an argument - and just what that world is, won't be settled by simple empirical observation. You need an argument - even for materialism. (Whatever that is anymore.)

Crude said...

If I understand you properly, you say that if a rock rolls down a hill and hits a tree, it would be irrational for me to believe that that occurred because there was no rational intent or reason involved in the event?

Yeah, as Martin said, you don't understand him properly whatsoever.

im-skeptical said...

"Yeah, as Martin said, you don't understand him properly whatsoever."

Please forgive my stupidity. I'm trying to make sense of what is being said.

"What the premise says is that there is no reasoning involved in matter in motion." I don't dispute that at all. But the premise says more than that. It says: "No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes." In other words, it is irrational to believe something that occurs when there is no reasoning involved in that thing. Is that not right?

What does it really mean? In a material world there is no rational belief? If so, why don't you just say that? If that's not what is being said, then what is it?

Perhaps you have no patience for someone like me who is not familiar with your terminology and doctrine and you don't care to explain in terms that are more comprehensible. If so, then I'll just shut up.

On the other hand, maybe I do understand the statement itself, but the fact that I don't accept it as truth is why you insist that I don't get it. Then we're talking past each other. How could I possibly not accept the truth of something that you believe in?

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

What the first premise says is that if a belief is the result of non-rational causes, then the belief is not the result of rational causes.

If you rolled some dice, with one side saying "Christian" and other sides saying "atheist", and it rolled Christian and you therefore believed in Christianity, we would have to say that your belief was the result of non-rational causes: the way gravity affected the dice, the way your hand threw them, the weight of each side of the dice, etc.

Your belief is the end result of matter in motion, and not a process of rational deduction.

So we would have to say that your belief is not rationally inferred.

That is the first premise: no belief is rationally inferred IF it can be fully explained in terms of non-rational (matter in motion) causes.

BenYachov said...

>Descartes believed in some sort of mental matter.

That is my caricature of his view since he believed in non-material substances.

>I'm not aware that anyone has ever detected such a thing, so I have no reason to believe it exists. The same can be said about Aristotle's soul.

Wrong! Aristotle did not believe the soul was mental matter. That is just ignorance. Indeed Aristotle doubted the soul survived death.

Aquinas who build on Aristotle correctly concluded the soul was immaterial which as Feser explains is not the same as saying non-material substance.

What is the Soul?
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-is-soul.html


http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/platos-affinity-argument.html

The soul is a substansive form but not an immaterial substance.

You must learn philosophy. There can be no other way to compete with Theists on rational grounds.

Warmed over anachronistic Positivism is not going to cut it.

im-skeptical said...

Martin, I appreciate your reply. A simple re-wording of the statement can be very helpful in clarifying its meaning. My problem in understanding it was due to the way it was stated. So you are saying in essence, this is the thesis that one can't make a rational inference if the thought process itself is mechanistic or purely material.

This begs the question of what constitutes rationality. I guess the word can be used in different ways, but I take it to mean something like this (from Wikipedia): "It is a normative concept of reasoning in the sense that rational people should derive conclusions in a consistent way given the information at disposal."

There's nothing in that description that implies it can't be a mechanistic process. In fact, there are some who think that a basically mechanistic process, free from emotions, feelings, and other affectations is necessary for rational thought. So my position is still the same. I don't buy the idea that it requires some non-material substance or force to drive rational thought.

We all agree (I think) that rational thought occurs. What we don't agree on is whether there is a non-material entity that is responsible for it. That gets me back to what I said before: If I don't see any evidence for it, I have no reason to believe it exists.

Martin said...

> this is the thesis that one can't make a rational inference if the thought process itself is mechanistic or purely material.

That's the conclusion, not the premise.

The premise ONLY says:

If a belief is caused by non-rational causes, then that belief is not caused by rational causes.

This shouldn't be very controversial. If your belief in Christianity was caused by the geographic location you were born in, then your belief was caused by non-rational causes (it wasn't more logical that you should be born there rather than here). It was a dice roll. Non-rational.

So if your belief in Christianity was caused by non-rational causes, then it was not caused by rational causes.

ozero91 said...

im-skeptical,

"There's nothing in that description that implies it can't be a mechanistic process."

Assuming that this mechanistic process is non-rational, where does the "jump" occur from non-rational to rational/irrational?

ozero91 said...

Or rather, HOW does the jump occur from non-rational to rational/irrational.

This discussion reminds me of one of Pruss' blog posts: "Good reasons, naturalism and evolution."

You guys should check it out.

im-skeptical said...

"Assuming that this mechanistic process is non-rational, where does the "jump" occur from non-rational to rational/irrational?"

I don't assume that there's a jump at all. But I do still believe there's a disconnect in terminology. That's probably my fault, since I haven't familiarized myself with the existing literature on this topic. It seems to stem from the way the word 'rational' is used. We talk about a rational or non-rational cause for something, and we also talk about rational thoughts or beliefs. I see those as two completely different things.

In fact I wouldn't use that word in the context of causation at all. I think it would be better to use 'mechanical', or some word that conveys the meaning that it is physical in nature. Then we can separate the thought process itself from whatever caused it to happen. It doesn't seem unreasonable to me to say that a rational thinking process can ensue from a mechanical, or purely material cause. There is no 'jump' from non-rational to rational/irrational. Rather, there are thoughts that are either rational or irrational, and they could be caused by some event that is either material or immaterial.

Martin said...

> It doesn't seem unreasonable to me to say that a rational thinking process can ensue from a mechanical, or purely material cause

But that's just what this argument argues against. That it isn't.

You need to deny one of the premises in order to deny the conclusion, but which one?

ozero91 said...

"Rather, there are thoughts that are either rational or irrational, and they could be caused by some event that is either material or immaterial."

What would be an example of an immaterial event? Regardless of what you mean by material or immaterial cause, they are still non-rational.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"If a belief is caused by non-rational causes, then that belief is not caused by rational causes."

Based on what I said previously, let me make a simple word substitution in order to de-obfuscate the premises. When speaking of causes, put material in place of nonrational, and immaterial in place of rational, and we have:

"If a belief is caused by material causes, then that belief is not caused by immaterial causes."

I would agree with this.

Using the same substitution, "If naturalism is true, then all beliefs can be fully explained in terms of nonrational
causes." becomes "If naturalism is true, then all beliefs can be fully explained in terms of material causes."

I would agree with this as well. However, this doesn't lead to the same conclusion as the original premises, because we are no longer conflating rational/nonrational (causes) with rational/irrational (thinking). That seems to be the major problem I have with the argument as it has been formulated.

im-skeptical said...

ozero91,

"What would be an example of an immaterial event?"

If you take a dualistic view, the mind is immaterial, and it would cause a thinking process to occur. This is what is referred to as the "rational" cause, but as I said, I object to that use of terminology. The cause of the thought is not the same thing as the thought itself, and using the same word for both things leads to equivocation.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

You are seriously missing the point. Really.

What Martin is saying is that if naturalism is true then why you come to believe in the stock syllogism

All men are mortal
Socrates is a man
Ergo, Socrates is mortal

has nothing to do with the *content* of the syllogism, e.g. the deductive validity of modus ponens, the truthness of the premises, etc.

Under naturalism, you come to believe in the above because the various material causal processes going on in the brain, electro-chemical and neurological processes governed by the laws of physics and chemistry that govern the behavior of electrons and molecules and whatnot, *cause* your brain to be in a state that we qualify as "believing such and such is true".

But cause in the sense of efficient causation operative in material physical processes, has nothing to do with cause as used when we say we are warranted in believing that Socrates is mortal *be*cause there is a deductive valid reasoning that shows it.

But here is the problem: you have already conceded that all your thoughts are invariably governed by the laws of physics that do not care a whit about deductive validity, truth, etc. When you come to believe something is true you do so not because of the *content* of your thoughts and their deductive validity, but because of the inexhorable playing out of the physical laws. So why should we, under naturalism, believe in the efficacy of our reasoning abilities?

You could try to mount an argument to show that the causal efficient processes going on the brain somehow "magically align" with deductive validity, etc. so that our reasoning faculties are in general reliable. Maybe you could tell an amusing just-so story about the survival advantage conferred by reliable cognitive faculties. But such an argument necessarily appeals to logical laws, deductive rules, etc. which is *precisely* what you are trying to show is possible under naturalism in the first place.

So you are in a bind; there is no reason to suppose that under naturalism our reasoning abilities are reliable because causes and reasons are two very different things and causes are the only thing that exist in a naturalistic universe and yet, any argument to show that our reasoning abilities are reliable is circular because it must presuppose what it tries to prove.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

In addition to what grodrigues said, here is another way to see it:

If naturalism is true, then beliefs are complex configurations of electrons, nerve states, etc.

What moves electrons around?

Other electrons.

What moves those electrons around?

Other electrons.

So the only thing that can "push" your beliefs into place are electrons in motion, tracing back to the Big Bang.

Rather than from a process of rational deduction.

Here is another little tidbit: dualism is a symptom of the mechanistic philosophy underlying materialism. Materialism entails dualism, paradoxically. This is because if something doesn't fit the mechanistic mold, materialists write it off as a projection of the mind. I witness this all the time when I bring up numbers as examples of immaterial objects. Almost without exception, the answer from a materialist will be "But numbers are just in our minds."

Which means that the mind is the cesspool in which materialists stuff everything that doesn't fit the mechanistic worldview. And so the end result is that the mind itself will not be able to be explained in a mechanistic manner. Dualism follows.

So far from being "something without evidence", dualism is a monster uniwttingly created by materialists because of their mechanistic philosophy.

ozero91 said...

Im skeptical,

Why can't we call a material event, such as an action potential, or a photon hitting our retina, a non-rational event?

Similarly, why can we call thinking, also a material event, rational/irrational?

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

"So you are in a bind; there is no reason to suppose that under naturalism our reasoning abilities are reliable"

I don't think anyone can suppose that their reasoning is reliable unless they have some kind of evidence to support the notion, whether or not they are materialist. If you are a dualist, should you claim that your reasoning is reliable on that basis?

"any argument to show that our reasoning abilities are reliable is circular because it must presuppose what it tries to prove."

I don't dispute that. Can you say that having a spirit or a soul implies that your thinking is rational? What would be the basis for such a claim? Wouldn't you have to invoke the same kind of circular argument?

Nowhere did I attempt to make the case that reasoning must be reliable in a purely material world. But you seem to be making the case that deductive valid reasoning *can't* occur in a purely material world, simply because it isn't driven by some immaterial force. My observation is that deductive valid reasoning *does* occur, at least sometimes, and that there doesn't appear to be any immaterial force behind it. The fact that this reasoning is the result of a physical process isn't a problem for me.

ozero91 said...

"But you seem to be making the case that deductive valid reasoning *can't* occur in a purely material world, simply because it isn't driven by some immaterial force. My observation is that deductive valid reasoning *does* occur, at least sometimes, and that there doesn't appear to be any immaterial force behind it. The fact that this reasoning is the result of a physical process isn't a problem for me."

You haven't even addressed the arguments. You just continually deny the conclusion. Martin's point is that if reasoning is a purely physical process, then its not rationality or reason at all, its just determinism, and any true beliefs that result are mere coincidences. Here's the summary from his blog:

1. No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of cause/effect

2. If naturalism is true, then all beliefs can be fully explained in terms of cause/effect

3. Therefore, if naturalism is true, then no belief is rationally inferred.

im-skeptical said...

ozero91,

"1. No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of cause/effect"

Your statement of premise 1 is different from the original. The way you state it, I don't accept it as true. There is no reason a belief can't be rational if it is the result of a physical cause (or any cause).

The original statement of the premise is "1. No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes."

My objection to this is that it uses the term 'rational' in two different senses. Rationally inferred implies a rational thinking process, while nonrational causes refers to a physical cause (as opposed to an immaterial cause). This is the basis for equivocation.

The earlier discussion on this premise focused on the cause of a belief. Martin said "If a belief is caused by non-rational causes, then that belief is not caused by rational causes." That's fine, but it doesn't include anything about rational inference.

You see the problem? If you take Martin's statement of the premise, the conclusion doesn't follow. If you take your statement of it, the premise isn't true (at least, I don't accept it as true). If you take the original statement, the argument is based on equivocation.

ozero91 said...

"There is no reason a belief can't be rational if it is the result of a physical cause (or any cause)."

Actually, Martin did give you reasons, you just didn’t address them.

“If naturalism is true, then beliefs are complex configurations of electrons, nerve states, etc. What moves electrons around? Other electrons. What moves those electrons around? Other electrons. So the only thing that can "push" your beliefs into place are electrons in motion, tracing back to the Big Bang. Rather than from a process of rational deduction.” -Martin

"If you rolled some dice, with one side saying "Christian" and other sides saying "atheist", and it rolled Christian and you therefore believed in Christianity, we would have to say that your belief was the result of non-rational causes: the way gravity affected the dice, the way your hand threw them, the weight of each side of the dice, etc." -Martin

Tell me, why can we say that a row of dominoes knocking each other over is a material process that leads to a non-thinking conclusion, and yet another purely physical chain of events, (photons hitting your retina, action potentials propagating through your optic nerve, the electrical configuration of your brain, etc)is a material process that leads to a thinking conclusion? The photon is non-thinking, the action potential is non-thinking, your brain's electrical configuration is non-thinking, then the "magic" happens, and then some how we arrive at thinking, apparently. Obviously, the "magic" part is a joke, but it shows the leap/gap in your logic.

"My objection to this is that it uses the term 'rational' in two different senses. Rationally inferred implies a rational thinking process, while nonrational causes refers to a physical cause (as opposed to an immaterial cause). This is the basis for equivocation."

There is no equivocation. Equivocation occurs when the SAME term is given two different meanings:

From Wikipedia:

A feather is light.
What is light cannot be dark.
Therefore, a feather cannot be dark.

The problem here is obvious. In premise one, light refers to weight/mass, and in the second premise, light refers to brightness/photons. The conclusion does not follow.

We are using rational and non-rational, two DIFFERENT terms. Obviously, they are going to have different meanings.

im-skeptical said...

ozero91,

The problem I have with what you are saying is that you assume (without any justification) that some non-physical thing must be responsible for valid reasoning in the thinking process. I don't make that assumption. I am saying that thinking can be rational regardless of the driving force that causes it to happen. I know there are arguments that attempt to make the case for your view, but they simply aren't convincing unless you happen to believe in immaterial forces or beings.

And yes, I am well aware of what equivocation is. I have repeatedly explained how variants of the word 'rational' are used in different ways. In victor's first premise, 'rationally inferred' can be taken to mean either using valid reasoning or driven by an immaterial force of some kind. Both of these are found in the above discussion.

You can usually spot equivocation if you rephrase the argument without using the suspect word.
In this case, try re-wording the argument without changing the meaning but also without using any form of the word 'rational'. You can use terms like 'material cause' in place of 'nonrational' and 'valid reasoning' in place of 'rational inference'. When you do this the argument itself changes, because the equivocation is gone.

cautiouslycurious said...

Interesting discussion going on here, although I find one or two areas where you are talking past each other, I hope you don’t mind if I comment. I think the brunt of the problem lies in what the first premise means. The first premise states that “No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of cause/effect.” On the face of it, I would also reject this premise. However, it is being translated as “If a belief is caused by non-rational causes, then that belief is not caused by rational causes.” This I would easily accept since it’s a tautology. This is where the charge of equivocation comes in. You are taking a controversial premise and then substituting an uncontroversial premise that has a different meaning to it.

The second issue deals with the support for the first premise:

“If naturalism is true, then beliefs are complex configurations of electrons, nerve states, etc. What moves electrons around? Other electrons. What moves those electrons around? Other electrons. So the only thing that can "push" your beliefs into place are electrons in motion, tracing back to the Big Bang. Rather than from a process of rational deduction.”

I agree with all of this except for the last sentence. I think that mechanistic processes can reason deductively. I see no reason why I couldn’t design a computer program that could reason deductively and actively find out which logical rules are valid or not. I think the only way to get out of this is to say that the computers conclusions wouldn’t be rationally inferred even if they followed the rules of logic. I’m not sure what the reason would be for saying this, so I’ll give you a chance to respond. I think that in order for you to have any chance of convincing us, you’ll have to unpack what “rationally inferred” means.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>The problem I have with what you are saying is that you assume (without any justification) that some non-physical thing must be responsible for valid reasoning in the thinking process.

There is no such assumption. The conclusion is not "there must be some non-physical thing that things", but rather "IF naturalism is true, THEN no belief is rationally inferred."

The argument is saying in effect something like this:

1. If your religious belief is a result of where you were born and how you were raised, then it wasn't rationally aquired
2. If X is true, then ALL religious beliefs are a result of where you were born and how you were raised
3. Therefore, if X is true, then no religious belief is rationally inferred

Call X "Dan Dennet's theory of religious knowledge" if you like, or substitute your favorite atheist theory about religious belief, or just call it X if you like.

Now, just swap out "religious belief" with "all beliefs", and X with "naturalism."

grodrigues said...

@cautiouslycurious:

There is no equivocation going on.

"I agree with all of this except for the last sentence. I think that mechanistic processes can reason deductively. I see no reason why I couldn’t design a computer program that could reason deductively and actively find out which logical rules are valid or not."

Mechanistic processes do not "reason deductively"; the sentence does not even make sense.

Suppose you codify the axioms of some first order theory T (certain wffs in the languale of the theory) as binary sequences storable in the memory of a computer and the deductive rules of whatever deductive calculus you prefer (standard Hilbert-style, Gentzen-style, etc.) as transformation rules for such binary sequences. You turn on the computer and it will crank out true theorems of the theory T on demand.

But the *only* thing the computer is doing is applying transformation rules to binary sequences -- this sequence of bits in memory is changed into that sequence of bits in memory. Nothing more, nothing less. It counts as reasoning, because *we* human beings, with actual reasoning powers, have codified the specific binary sequences to stand in for the axioms of T and certain transformation rules to stand in for the valid deductive rules. But the computer is not "thinking" or "deductively reasoning" or "following the rules of logic" or doing anything of the sort. Saying it is, is just conceptual equivocation.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

I don't agree with your formulation of the argument. "If X is true, then ALL beliefs are a result of where you were born and how you were raised" makes no connection between 'X' and 'where you were born and how you were raised'. You can't substitute any arbitrary assertion for 'X' and expect the result to be true.

Again, I think there is no reason purely physical process of thinking can't perform valid logical reasoning. I disagree with grodrigues that human thinking is anything other than a program running on a computer. The brain is a computer of sorts. It behaves according to physical laws. The mind is nothing more than a manifestation of that process. The difference between a human brain and a computer made from silicon transistors is that the brain is far more complex than any computer we have created - so far.

ozero91 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ozero91 said...

“I don't agree with your formulation of the argument. "If X is true, then ALL beliefs are a result of where you were born and how you were raised" makes no connection between 'X' and 'where you were born and how you were raised'.”

The connection is the chain of causes/effects which result follow from coming into existence in a certain time and place.

“The brain is a computer of sorts. It behaves according to physical laws. The mind is nothing more than a manifestation of that process. The difference between a human brain and a computer made from silicon transistors is that the brain is far more complex than any computer we have created - so far.”

This analogy is going to require a bit of work. Don’t computers require programming? I could make a super-complex CPU, and it is going to be nothing more than a paper weight until I input a program or an algorithm. And even after the computer is programmed, what does it do? It takes an input, processes it based on a set of pre-programmed directions, and yields an output. If the brain works like this, then what determines/controls the processing step? Physical laws and the behavior of matter? If so, note that we have no control over physical laws and the behavior of matter.

im-skeptical said...

ozero91,

Brains need programming, just like computers. A computer is programmed by setting bits in its memory. A brain is programmed by establishing connections between neurons. Some of this is built in. The program has evolved over millions of years. Some of it is done during adaptively as we learn and experience things.

Like a computer the brain receives input from the senses and feedback from body processes. It processes these inputs and produces outputs, which may be stimulation of muscles, etc. The "program" that the brain follows is not a sequence of steps. Rather, the neurons operate in a network, each firing when the input conditions are right, stimulating other neurons to which they are connected. Actually, modern computer programs behave more like this than you might realize.

"If so, note that we have no control over physical laws and the behavior of matter."

Yes, that's true. There are many who believe that our behavior is deterministic. Our brain is a computer that processes inputs and produces outputs, and as much as we'd like to think that we are in control of it, that is nothing but an illusion.

Crude said...

Yes, that's true. There are many who believe that our behavior is deterministic. Our brain is a computer that processes inputs and produces outputs, and as much as we'd like to think that we are in control of it, that is nothing but an illusion.

Ozero is not merely making a free will comment here. If 'physical laws and the behavior of matter' are what determine the programming, and you don't imbue those things with an innate or programmed disposition towards truth, why should you trust the results?

The best move you could make here is to insist that, say... natural processes are fundamentally biased towards truth whenever minds are concerned. Even if you can make that work, you'll killing the naturalist and supporting some form of theistic evolution, or something vastly closer to it.

im-skeptical said...

Crude,

I addressed that question earlier. I don't insist that we are programmed with a disposition toward truth. Our brains have evolved in a way that has been favorable to survival. That may include belief in the supernatural. But it also includes a capacity to think rationally.

Obviously, we don't all believe the same things, so it seems to me that truth may be elusive to us. That is not to say that we can't strive to discover it.

Crude said...

I addressed that question earlier. I don't insist that we are programmed with a disposition toward truth. Our brains have evolved in a way that has been favorable to survival. That may include belief in the supernatural. But it also includes a capacity to think rationally.

You know it includes this capacity how? Because, on naturalism, whenever minds occur, they automatically are highly likely to be produced with the capacity to think rationally? If so, you're just arguing that natural processes have a bias towards truth, but saying so in a different way.

That is not to say that we can't strive to discover it.

What role does 'striving' play in a deterministic system not only sans free will, but determined by mindless processes with no concern for the truth?

cautiouslycurious said...

Grodrigues,
“Mechanistic processes do not "reason deductively"; the sentence does not even make sense.”

I don’t even know how to respond. It makes sense to me. You haven’t really given me a lot to go on, so I don’t know what you’re having trouble with.

“Suppose you codify the axioms…”

You misunderstood me when I said “actively find out which logical rules are valid or not.” I didn’t intend to convey that the rules of logic would be hard coded into the program. Some methods would need to be instantiated to simulate thought, but I don’t think you would need to hard code the truth values of logical rules in order for the program to determine them. You would simply set their value to null and then have the program decide whether they are true or false.

Crude,
“If 'physical laws and the behavior of matter' are what determine the programming, and you don't imbue those things with an innate or programmed disposition towards truth, why should you trust the results?”

You should only trust the results only if the end product is programmed with a disposition towards truth. There is no need to trust it a priori. No one is saying that evolution produces rational specimens, even when it comes to humans. This should be obvious. There are some people that are programmed with a disposition to deny disconfirming evidence and there are other people that take that input and update their views.

Crude said...

You should only trust the results only if the end product is programmed with a disposition towards truth. There is no need to trust it a priori.

Wonderful. And you determine that your thoughts are programmed with a disposition towards truth how?

cautiouslycurious said...

Crude,
"Wonderful. And you determine that your thoughts are programmed with a disposition towards truth how?"

By comparing them to sense data over many trials.

ozero91 said...

"There are some people that are programmed with a disposition to deny disconfirming evidence and there are other people that take that input and update their views."

If they are programmed, then the former people are not engaging in irrational behavior, and the latter people are not engaging in rational behavior. They are simply a part of a non-rational chain of events.

Crude said...

By comparing them to sense data over many trials.

And your ability to make valid comparisons with a disposition towards truth is determined how?

cautiouslycurious said...

ozero,
"If they are programmed, then the former people are not engaging in irrational behavior, and the latter people are not engaging in rational behavior. They are simply a part of a non-rational chain of events."

I'm using the term rational to describe the process of their thinking/behavior. If they are following rational principles, then they are acting rationally, otherwise, not. If I ask someone 2+2, I can get a correct answer or an incorrect one. One shows a rational response and the other doesn't. I don't know what you mean when you say that both the correct response and the incorrect response have no relevance to the indication of rationality. What do you require in order to say that something is rational?

Crude,
"And your ability to make valid comparisons with a disposition towards truth is determined how?"

This is grammatically clumsy to me, but I'll take a shot. I think the answer would be similar to asking someone along the lines of how they determine they have the ability to walk; they simply do it.

Crude said...

This is grammatically clumsy to me, but I'll take a shot. I think the answer would be similar to asking someone along the lines of how they determine they have the ability to walk; they simply do it.

The problem is that the very thing under question is your ability to rationally determine things. You said no a priori is required. Now, if you're arguing that those who are capable of reasoning properly just have that ability intrinsically, well, you're off into some interesting territory.

Let's also take a look at that walking example. People can be deluded - they can even be deluded into thinking they're walking, when they're not. You agree?

grodrigues said...

@cautiouslycurious:

"I don’t even know how to respond. It makes sense to me."

I know what it means to say that a person is thinking or is not thinking. But it is meaningless to say that a computer (or a brain, for that matter) is thinking. Note that I am not saying that a computer does not think; I am saying that it is meaningless to ascribe such psychological attributes to computers.

The only thing a computer does (and this verb itself is already a misnomer with its implied connotations of volitional action) is apply transformations to sequences of bits stored in memory that we, human beings with actual reasoning powers, interpret as this or that -- doing arithmetic, accessing a web site, displaying a jpeg file, running a virtual machine, etc. But the bits stored in memory, and by extension the transformations the computer applies to them, are not *intrinsically* this or that. Of themselves and apart from a human interpreting mind they are meaningless and devoid of content. Computers no more "think" or "reason deductively" or "follow the rules of logic" than a rock or a planet does.

So what can you possibly mean when you say that computers can think? Maybe you mean something like it passes the Turing test: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck we might as well call it a duck. But the Turing test will not do; Searle's Chinese room experiment shows that.

You say to ozero that:

"If I ask someone 2+2, I can get a correct answer or an incorrect one. One shows a rational response and the other doesn't."

Wrong. The person that gives the correct answer may have given it for entirely irrational reasons; maybe he threw the dice. Maybe he consulted an astrological chart. Maybe when you asked to 2 + 2 he was really computing the function +_q defined by:

n +_q m = n + m if n is bigger than googolplex
0 otherwise

Similar remarks apply to deductive rules, etc. On the other hand, the person that gives the wrong answer may simply have made a mistake -- say in applying the high school algorithm to perform addition he misremembered something.

So what can you possibly mean when you say that computers can, or could, "think" or "reason deductively" or "follow the rules of logic"?

cautiouslycurious said...

Crude,
“The problem is that the very thing under question is your ability to rationally determine things. You said no a priori is required. Now, if you're arguing that those who are capable of reasoning properly just have that ability intrinsically, well, you're off into some interesting territory.”

No, you asked me something else. You asked how someone knows they have the ability to compare sense data to a prediction. I said that this is something someone knows simply by doing it, akin to walking. This is far removed from knowing deductive laws.

“Let's also take a look at that walking example. People can be deluded - they can even be deluded into thinking they're walking, when they're not. You agree?”

I have never heard of a case like this, could you link me to an example? However, I think the more interesting question is how do you know that you can walk? I would think the simple way of finding this out is to simply do it, but correct me if I’m wrong.

cautiouslycurious said...

Grodrigues,
“I know what it means to say that a person is thinking or is not thinking.”

I don’t know what you mean, so please share.

“The only thing a computer does (and this verb itself is already a misnomer with its implied connotations of volitional action) is apply transformations to sequences of bits stored in memory that we, human beings with actual reasoning powers, interpret as this or that -- doing arithmetic, accessing a web site, displaying a jpeg file, running a virtual machine, etc. But the bits stored in memory, and by extension the transformations the computer applies to them, are not *intrinsically* this or that. Of themselves and apart from a human interpreting mind they are meaningless and devoid of content. Computers no more "think" or "reason deductively" or "follow the rules of logic" than a rock or a planet does.”

I would add another example to the rock and planet: humans. I see no reason why this can’t be said for humans.

“So what can you possibly mean when you say that computers can think? Maybe you mean something like it passes the Turing test: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck we might as well call it a duck. But the Turing test will not do; Searle's Chinese room experiment shows that.”

I mean it in the same capacity as when I use the term to humans. By the same logic, the Chinese room experiment could be used to show that humans can’t think either. They simply take inputs in through sense data, manipulate that data depending on how their neurons are configured and then give an output. No ‘thought’ required.

“Wrong. The person that gives the correct answer may have given it for entirely irrational reasons; maybe he threw the dice. Maybe he consulted an astrological chart.”

So how do you decide whether someone is rational or not? If we are going to wash away every correct response as they could have been lucky, then you can’t ever call anyone rational. Perhaps Einstein or Shakespeare randomly picked characters out of the alphabet and number line to compose their writings! Their words would have not been *intrinsically* this or that. Their works would have been devoid of any content apart from us other humans with some sort of ‘thinking immaterial soul’ were able to interpret it. Maybe they did so, but it would be extremely unlikely that they did. This means that it is evidence that they are rational rather than just lucky. Perhaps this is the Turing test of rationality for humans. If it walks like a rational human, responds like a rational human, then it is a rational human. If you deny this, then I don’t know what it would mean to say that someone is rational.

“So what can you possibly mean when you say that computers can, or could, "think" or "reason deductively" or "follow the rules of logic"?”

I mean it in the same capacity as when I use the term to humans. Thinking could be as simple as taking a set of inputs and then finding the optimal response to them. I would say that Deep Blue is ‘thinking’ when it tries to find the best move to play. When I played chess, I would follow a similar method (although at a much slower rate) and I would call that thinking about my move. Reasoning deductively simply means knowing which rules are valid and invalid. Following the rules of logic is simply a description of whether a process is following a valid logical rule.

ozero91 said...

"I would add another example to the rock and planet: humans. I see no reason why this can’t be said for humans."

“They simply take inputs in through sense data, manipulate that data depending on how their neurons are configured and then give an output. No ‘thought’ required.”

But this is precisely the conclusion of the argument: "Therefore, if naturalism is true, then no belief is rationally inferred."

On naturalism, humans do not "think" or "reason deductively" or "follow the rules of logic," any more so than a rock or a planet.

“If we are going to wash away every correct response as they could have been lucky, then you can’t ever call anyone rational.”

Exactly, on naturalism all true beliefs are not the result of reason, logic or rationality, but just mere coincidence.

“I mean it in the same capacity as when I use the term to humans. Thinking could be as simple as taking a set of inputs and then finding the optimal response to them. I would say that Deep Blue is ‘thinking’ when it tries to find the best move to play.”

That is kind of what we mean by the first premise: “No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of cause/effect.” The belief that you have found the best possible move is not rationally inferred, it is just a results of an inevitable series of causes and effects.

“Following the rules of logic is simply a description of whether a process is following a valid logical rule.”

What? Can you be a little clearer on this? Might as well say “A is following B if A is following B.”

cautiouslycurious said...

ozero,

Define what 'rationally infer' means.

“Exactly, on naturalism all true beliefs are not the result of reason, logic or rationality, but just mere coincidence.”

I wasn’t even talking about mechanistic systems there. Even if you are thinking rationally, how is an external party supposed to determine that other than the Turing test?

"What? Can you be a little clearer on this? Might as well say “A is following B if A is following B.”"

It means using the rules that are valid and not using the rules that are invalid.

cautiouslycurious said...

Just had a thought, let me just run this by you guys and just let me know if it is on/off base. Is the main objection that you think on naturalism that there is no way for something to mean something?

im-skeptical said...

cautiouslycurious,

I think you are correct. The goal of this whole exercise is to show that the only source of rationality is the supernatural thing that supposedly drives us and provides meaning to everything.

If I may summarize what has been said, you say that the only way we have of knowing whether something is rational is to use a test such as the Turing test, and a computer might pass that test. But since humans are computers too, there really is no fundamental difference, and other than passing the test, no way to say that one is rational and the other is not.

grodrigues takes it as axiomatic that a computer can't be rational, even if it appears to be rational. Only a human can be rational. So what is the difference? It is the supposed non-material mind that makes it rational and gives meaning to the things it does.

However, I think the logical argument for this leaves something to be desired. It satisfies those who believe in the supernatural, but fails for those who don't.

ozero91 said...

"The goal of this whole exercise is to show that the only source of rationality is the supernatural thing that supposedly drives us and provides meaning to everything."

I'm pretty sure the goal is to discuss that a non-rational series of events =/= a rational process. And a mind does not HAVE to be supernatural, maybe it emerges from matter, or maybe it’s a part of matter. We are not saying the mind MUST be "bestowed" by some transcendent being. And the debate is about rationality, not meaning, which is a different debate.

Crude said...

No, you asked me something else. You asked how someone knows they have the ability to compare sense data to a prediction. I said that this is something someone knows simply by doing it, akin to walking. This is far removed from knowing deductive laws.

Not really all that far removed for the purposes of this discussion - keep in mind I asked about 'valid comparisons with a disposition towards truth'.

I have never heard of a case like this, could you link me to an example?

CC, c'mon. You've never heard of someone hallucinating? Or dreaming? Specifically, hallucinating/dreaming themselves doing something that they cannot actually do?

However, I think the more interesting question is how do you know that you can walk?

I can imagine a variety of ways I can infer my ability to walk - which goes beyond 'I walk' to 'I remember walking recently', 'I have the memory that I am able to walk', etc.

And the question at hand is about knowledge and confidence in said knowledge given naturalism - actually, given mechanistic materialism. "Naturalism" is too vague, especially nowadays.

im-skeptical said...

ozero91,

"a mind does not HAVE to be supernatural"

Of course not, but according to this argument if it isn't supernatural, it isn't rational. What else could be the implication of "if naturalism is true, then no belief is rationally inferred"? If rational inference can be accomplished at all, it can only be accomplished by a supernatural entity.

And I think it is impossible to separate rationality from meaning. Speaking of a computer manipulating symbols, grodrigues says, "Of themselves and apart from a human interpreting mind they are meaningless and devoid of content." I take that to mean that the assignment of meaning to things is a key element rationality.

Crude said...

Thinking could be as simple as taking a set of inputs and then finding the optimal response to them. I would say that Deep Blue is ‘thinking’ when it tries to find the best move to play. When I played chess, I would follow a similar method (although at a much slower rate) and I would call that thinking about my move.

Except, on a mechanistic naturalism, at no point is there 'finding an optimal response' - there's just whatever succession of causes there happens to be. 'Optimal' doesn't get wedged into fundamental physics anymore than 'truth' does.

When you toss a rock down a hill, is the rock 'thinking'? Does it 'find an optimal path' to the bottom?

Crude said...

Just to back up what ozero is saying to a degree.

First, I maintain that 'supernatural/natural' is a red herring here. But there are multiple possibilities - maybe rationality is intrinsic in the universe somehow. Maybe it's bestowed. Maybe a variety of options.

The argument mostly works as a negative argument - showing what cannot be the case given mechanistic materialism. The positive case is in principle broader. (I vaguely recall Victor saying that this sort of argument moved Lewis out of the materialist/naturalist column, but not into full blown theism.)

cautiouslycurious said...

Crude,
“Not really all that far removed for the purposes of this discussion - keep in mind I asked about 'valid comparisons with a disposition towards truth'.”

Not relevant? That’s exactly the sort of comparison I was talking about in the section you quoted. What kind of comparison are you talking about?

“CC, c'mon. You've never heard of someone hallucinating? Or dreaming? Specifically, hallucinating/dreaming themselves doing something that they cannot actually do?”

Both don’t demonstrate the phenomena we talked about. Walking is more than simply a visual phenomena and dreaming doesn’t require any sort of belief (I’ve had dreams that I’ve known were not dreams, almost like watching a movie in first person). I suppose you could ask what if we are all in a permanent dream and actually can’t do the things we think we can a la the Matrix, which basically plays the nuclear option. You might as well ask if I can refute solipsism as if it’s a serious objection. I’m not really sure what point your getting at…

“I can imagine a variety of ways I can infer my ability to walk - which goes beyond 'I walk' to 'I remember walking recently', 'I have the memory that I am able to walk', etc.”

So, to generate the belief that you could walk, you at some point walked. Congratulations, that’s exactly what I said. You didn’t need some sort of hyper-rationality to analyze all of your joints and biochemistry to conclude that you could walk, you simply did it. And what if your memory becomes suspect? You simply do it; you take a walk to demonstrate your ability. No thought or rationality required.

“Except, on a mechanistic naturalism, at no point is there 'finding an optimal response' - there's just whatever succession of causes there happens to be. 'Optimal' doesn't get wedged into fundamental physics anymore than 'truth' does.”

So when a machine runs simulations and picks the move that has the highest chance of winning, that’s not it finding the optimal response? To me, that’s exactly what the phrase means so I just don’t understand where you are coming from.

Crude said...

Not relevant? That’s exactly the sort of comparison I was talking about in the section you quoted. What kind of comparison are you talking about?

There's a difference between 'a valid comparison with a disposition towards truth' and just 'a comparison'.

I suppose you could ask what if we are all in a permanent dream and actually can’t do the things we think we can a la the Matrix, which basically plays the nuclear option.

Nope, no need for permanent dream talk at this point, or solipsism at any point. You said your answer to 'how do you know you can walk' was 'you walk', and you suggested you can get by without any a priori knowledge/claims. I'm pointing out that 'I just do it, then I know I can do it!' doesn't get you where you want to go without issue.

So, to generate the belief that you could walk, you at some point walked. Congratulations, that’s exactly what I said.

No, that's not what I said, and not what you said either. I've dreamed and imagined doing a lot of things I've never done. And you simply said 'How do I know I can walk? Well, I walk.' I pointed out, you can imagine or hallucinate or dream yourself doing things you can't actually do.

So when a machine runs simulations and picks the move that has the highest chance of winning, that’s not it finding the optimal response? To me, that’s exactly what the phrase means so I just don’t understand where you are coming from.

For one thing, just what a machine is doing is observer dependent. There is no 'how to play chess' or 'how to win at chess' at the level of physics and chemistry - those things are meanings we assign. Is Deep Blue good at what it does, or bad at what it does? The answer to that is dependent on who's asking the question and what they have in mind.

Let me ask this. Do you think a given series of inputs/responses has an intrinsic meaning? Like, say, would a given series of neural patterns in the brain intrinsically mean 'I am thinking about Poland'?

cautiouslycurious said...

Crude,
“There's a difference between 'a valid comparison with a disposition towards truth' and just 'a comparison'.”

What’s the difference then?

“No, that's not what I said, and not what you said either. I've dreamed and imagined doing a lot of things I've never done. And you simply said 'How do I know I can walk? Well, I walk.' I pointed out, you can imagine or hallucinate or dream yourself doing things you can't actually do.”

I’ve dreamed myself ‘walking’, but I didn’t have the feeling of walking so I don’t see how it would serve as a counterexample. Experiencing walking is more than just a visual phenomenon. It requires impulses to your legs, which also elicits feedback from other senses such as the feeling of your clothing moving, or the impact of your feet hitting the ground, and changes in the ‘balance center’ of your brain.

“For one thing, just what a machine is doing is observer dependent. There is no 'how to play chess' or 'how to win at chess' at the level of physics and chemistry - those things are meanings we assign. Is Deep Blue good at what it does, or bad at what it does? The answer to that is dependent on who's asking the question and what they have in mind.”

I thought this was an issue, despite what ozero said. Anyway, I still don’t get what you are trying to say. Are you proposing that Deep Blue might be trying to lose every game and failing or that it impossible to say that it is trying to win a game? Whatever the point, why couldn’t I also ascribe the same thing to Kasparov?

“Let me ask this. Do you think a given series of inputs/responses has an intrinsic meaning? Like, say, would a given series of neural patterns in the brain intrinsically mean 'I am thinking about Poland'?”

The meaning that we give to words would not be intrinsic but certain neural patterns would elicit specific responses. So theoretically, if we could manipulate your brain, we could manipulate how you behave, think, feel, etc. to our hearts content. In small part we already know this is true from experiments on the brain.

ozero91 said...

"Anyway, I still don’t get what you are trying to say. Are you proposing that Deep Blue might be trying to lose every game and failing or that it impossible to say that it is trying to win a game? Whatever the point, why couldn’t I also ascribe the same thing to Kasparov?"

I think what he's trying to say is Deep Blue is not objectively doing anything "meaningful," after all, it is just matter in motion. The "meaning" comes from an outside observer, who gives it the description as a computer which plays a game. No observer, no meaning. The same might apply to Kasparov, but he is capable of assigning meaning to his own actions.

This will be my last post on this issue as I have been doing some research on the AfR, and it turns out my understanding on the issue is not complete. I’ll probably buy Reppert’s book. The whole computer thing, I think, is irrelevant to the debate. The argument deals with human rationality. “Computer rationality,” including any super-complex AI system we develop, is a result of rational causes (human brains/minds), which the AfR does not address.

cautiouslycurious said...

Since that was you're last reply, I'm just going to ask a question to grodrigues, since I think it also goes to what he was saying.

"The same might apply to Kasparov, but he is capable of assigning meaning to his own actions."

How do you determine that Kasparov is able to assign meaning to his own actions without some sort of Turing test?

Crude said...

What’s the difference then?

It's like how chickens and slot machines are both tongue depressors.

I’ve dreamed myself ‘walking’, but I didn’t have the feeling of walking so I don’t see how it would serve as a counterexample. Experiencing walking is more than just a visual phenomenon. It requires impulses to your legs, which also elicits feedback from other senses such as the feeling of your clothing moving, or the impact of your feet hitting the ground, and changes in the ‘balance center’ of your brain.

You are trying to tell me that you cannot hallucinate or have the illusion of the experience of walking, and frankly, the wealth of evidence is against you on this front. You may as well be saying, 'senses cannot be fooled'.

Are you proposing that Deep Blue might be trying to lose every game and failing or that it impossible to say that it is trying to win a game?

I am saying that, as far as fundamental physical law is concerned, there's no 'winning' or 'losing' or even 'chess game' going on with Deep Blue. The idea that Deep Blue is 'trying' to do something - if we're limiting ourselves to physics - doesn't come up at all.

The meaning that we give to words would not be intrinsic but certain neural patterns would elicit specific responses. So theoretically, if we could manipulate your brain, we could manipulate how you behave, think, feel, etc. to our hearts content.

I didn't ask about the meaning of the words. I asked about the meaning of the pattern itself.

Does a given neural pattern intrinsically mean 'I am thinking about Russia'?

ozero,

Remember that this particular argument has a variety of instantiations. Plantinga's EAAN and Lewis' Argument from Reason are in the same ballpark, but are different arguments.

cautiouslycurious said...

Crude,
“It's like how chickens and slot machines are both tongue depressors.”

I think this is you trying to tell me that they have nothing in common, but that doesn’t answer the question. Asking “how they are different?” is specifically asking for the differences. In other words, tell me what you mean by the phrase.

“You are trying to tell me that you cannot hallucinate or have the illusion of the experience of walking, and frankly, the wealth of evidence is against you on this front. You may as well be saying, 'senses cannot be fooled'.”

I’m telling you that a hallucination of me walking would be distinguishable from actually walking. I would be able to tell it is not be real since the visual phenomenon is not accompanied by the other stimuli that are accompanied by actually walking. This would be akin to saying that someone in the desert thought that they saw a body of water. This is very plausible, but not similar enough to the example I gave. To make the analogy more accurate, the person would have to start ‘drinking’ the water, and still be fooled. They would have to continue eating the sand despite its gritty texture still thinking its water. Now, is this realistic? I was hesitant since I’ve never heard an example like this so I asked for one; I’m still waiting.

“I am saying that, as far as fundamental physical law is concerned, there's no 'winning' or 'losing' or even 'chess game' going on with Deep Blue. The idea that Deep Blue is 'trying' to do something - if we're limiting ourselves to physics - doesn't come up at all.”

Well, if you are simply going to base everything on physics, then most of the sciences are in trouble. Even the ‘next level’ science, chemistry, would be in trouble. You could say that there is no reason why given physics that different arrangements of protons, neutrons, and protons would produce different substances with very different properties and there is no physical law that predicts those properties. Lucky for us, physics isn’t the only scope of looking at physical phenomena.

“Does a given neural pattern intrinsically mean 'I am thinking about Russia'?”

I’m not sure, but I would presume so.

Crude said...

I think this is you trying to tell me that they have nothing in common, but that doesn’t answer the question. Asking “how they are different?” is specifically asking for the differences. In other words, tell me what you mean by the phrase.

Again: It's like how chickens and slot machines are both tongue depressors.

Question 1: Is that a comparison?

Question 2: Is it a valid comparison with a disposition towards truth?

I’m telling you that a hallucination of me walking would be distinguishable from actually walking. I would be able to tell it is not be real since the visual phenomenon is not accompanied by the other stimuli that are accompanied by actually walking.

So you're telling me that, in your opinion, when people talk about having had hallucinations or dreams, what they means is 'I had this experience that I knew at the time was false.'? Seriously?

I’m not sure, but I would presume so.

Congratulations - you're not a materialist. We non-materialists welcome you to our camp. Don't worry, you don't have to believe in God.

grodrigues said...

@cautiouslycurious:

"I don’t know what you mean, so please share."

You do not know what rational thought is? You cannot recognize the numerous manifestations of rational thought in yourself and in other human beings? (note: see next post)

"I see no reason why this can’t be said for humans."

That is precisely what Martin claimed is entailed by metaphysical naturalism. Glad you agree.

"I mean it in the same capacity as when I use the term to humans. By the same logic, the Chinese room experiment could be used to show that humans can’t think either."

It is obvious that humans can think; I hope you are not questioning that. What Searle's thought experiment shows is that the Turing test cannot conclusively decide if whatever it is that is inside the chinese room (a chinese man or a chinese computer) really does think. If whatever is inside the room did passed the test, it certainly was a good indication that it does think.

"So how do you decide whether someone is rational or not? If we are going to wash away every correct response as they could have been lucky, then you can’t ever call anyone rational."

You misunderstand the point. Rationality is not defined by giving correct answers -- precisely because you can arrive at correct answers in various non-rational ways -- but the *process* by which you arrive at them: rational thought. You do not know what rational thought is? You cannot recognize it and its manifestations?

"Their works would have been devoid of any content apart from us other humans with some sort of ‘thinking immaterial soul’ were able to interpret it."

Did I mentioned anywhere a thinking immaterial soul? The argument is a reductio, can you stick to it?

"I would say that Deep Blue is ‘thinking’ when it tries to find the best move to play."

Deep Blue is not "finding" anything, much less "thinking". It counts as finding an optimal chess move because human minds interpret the bits in memory and the transformations that these undergo as finding an optimal chess move, but apart from the human minds and their intentions, the only thing Deep Blue, a human artifact not a natural substance, is doing is shuffling bits around in memory. What a computer does is no more about this than about that; apart from the intentions of the programmers, a computer neither is for this nor for that, it has no intrinsic or immanent telos.

grodrigues said...

@cautiouslycurious (continued):

"How do you determine that Kasparov is able to assign meaning to his own actions without some sort of Turing test?"

I do not know what you mean by "assign meaning to his own actions". If you want to ask me how do I know that Kasparov is capable of rational thought, here is one way how I know it:

1. Rational animals are capable of rational thought.

2. Human beings are rational animals.

3. Kasparov is a human being.

4. Kasparov is capable of rational thought.

A slightly different argument:

1. I am capable of rational thought (note: this is an indexical statement).

2. Being capable of rational thought is part of the essence of what I am, a human being.

3. Kasparov is a human being.

4. Kasparov is capable of rational thought.

Both arguments are deductively valid. So which premise do you want to deny? Guess: you do not want to deny anyone actually, but you will ask how can I...

cautiouslycurious said...

Crude,
“Again: It's like how chickens and slot machines are both tongue depressors.

Question 1: Is that a comparison?

Question 2: Is it a valid comparison with a disposition towards truth?”

Not sure how this has any relevance, but I’ll play along. To question one, you are making two comparisons, one comparison between chickens and tongue depressors and another between slot machines and tongue depressors. By the way, the truth value for each is false. I think the second question is whether this evaluation of false we come up with is reliable, and the answer to that is yes, simply due to the meaning of the terms involved.

“So you're telling me that, in your opinion, when people talk about having had hallucinations or dreams, what they means is 'I had this experience that I knew at the time was false.'? Seriously?”

I can only speak from my own experience, but when I dream, I can tell that it’s fake. It’s like watching a movie from a first person perspective of one of the characters or like playing a first person shooter with your face two inches from the screen. You get the visuals of being there (and they are just as good as real life), but you don’t get all of the sights and sounds and other things such as say the force of gravity from jumping down from something. I can tell from the absence of these other things that I am experiencing a dream.

“Congratulations - you're not a materialist. We non-materialists welcome you to our camp. Don't worry, you don't have to believe in God.”

Not sure how you came to this conclusion, especially when the answer specifically implies that our thoughts reduce to their material counterparts.

cautiouslycurious said...

Grodrigues,
“You do not know what rational thought is? You cannot recognize the numerous manifestations of rational thought in yourself and in other human beings? (note: see next post)”
I’ve already been told what I consider rational is not the ‘correct’ definition being used here, so I want you to explain how you define the term.

It is obvious that humans can think; I hope you are not questioning that. What Searle's thought experiment shows is that the Turing test cannot conclusively decide if whatever it is that is inside the chinese room (a chinese man or a chinese computer) really does think. If whatever is inside the room did passed the test, it certainly was a good indication that it does think.

The question is whether humans can think in such as way that they are distinct from computers. I think you are saying that the Turing test is not conclusive, but it constitutes evidence of rationality. If so, then I would support that notion. The question then becomes how did you determine that humans easily gain the title of rationality when computers don’t.

“You misunderstand the point. Rationality is not defined by giving correct answers -- precisely because you can arrive at correct answers in various non-rational ways -- but the *process* by which you arrive at them: rational thought. You do not know what rational thought is? You cannot recognize it and its manifestations?”

The problem here is that you are presuming that rational thought is unhinged by our neural activity. You keep on pointing out that the computers calculations in its virtual machine are simply the manipulation of bits, but humans have the same analog. I can recognize rational thought in humans, but by the same criteria, I also recognize it in computers. In order to realize why you deny this, I need to know how you recognize rational thought and the most I’ve gotten is “it’s obvious”.


“Did I mentioned anywhere a thinking immaterial soul? The argument is a reductio, can you stick to it?”

Perhaps you should reread what I wrote. The people in the example (Einstein and Shakespeare) didn’t have thinking immaterial souls. The people in the example simply pulled random characters out of the alphabet and number line to create their works. Also, you are proposing that humans are capable of rational thought (that would be the thinking part); in conjunction with the argument, this means that you are proposing that naturalism is false (that would be the immaterial part) and I simply used soul to denote something special that we have that computers don’t have to enable this rational thought (since we are capable of thought when computers apparently aren't), so I don’t think my comment was out of line or in any way inaccurate. Anyway, the question remains, how do you know if someone is actually rational versus say acting like a computer?

“1. Rational animals are capable of rational thought.
2. Human beings are rational animals.
3. Kasparov is a human being.
4. Kasparov is capable of rational thought.

Both arguments are deductively valid. So which premise do you want to deny? Guess: you do not want to deny anyone actually, but you will ask how can I...”

I would want you to explain premise two in such a way that it doesn’t include computers. As far as it holds true to computers, I think that premise two is true. As far as it doesn’t, I don’t think that premise two is true.

Crude said...

I think the second question is whether this evaluation of false we come up with is reliable, and the answer to that is yes, simply due to the meaning of the terms involved.

It wasn't about the evaluation of the comparison, but about the comparison and its conclusion.

So, there's a difference between 'making a comparison' and 'making a valid comparison with a disposition towards truth'.

I can only speak from my own experience, but when I dream, I can tell that it’s fake.

Yeah, like I already said: in your opinion, when people talk about having had hallucinations or dreams, what they means is 'I had this experience that I knew at the time was false.'

Run with that, I guess.

Not sure how you came to this conclusion, especially when the answer specifically implies that our thoughts reduce to their material counterparts.

You didn't 'reduce thoughts to their material counterparts'. What you did was say that such-and-such a neuronal arrangement has intrinsic meaning. That's exactly what mechanistic materialists deny. But if intrinsic meaning exists in the material, then the mechanists are wrong and some other group - the Aristotileans, for example - are correct.

Like I said, welcome to the world of Aristotle (among others). It's a great metaphysic. It's just not naturalism. And hey, don't sweat ditching naturalism too much - it doesn't mean you're suddenly a theist, or anti-science.

cautiouslycurious said...

Crude,
“It wasn't about the evaluation of the comparison, but about the comparison and its conclusion.

So, there's a difference between 'making a comparison' and 'making a valid comparison with a disposition towards truth'.”

I still don’t know what you mean. Also, the evaluation is the only conclusion that I was getting at. I don’t even know what conclusion you are referring to. My best guess of what you mean when saying 'making a valid comparison with a disposition towards truth' is comparing two equal values and returning a true positive, but I doubt you mean that. It would be much easier if you explained what you mean.

“Yeah, like I already said: in your opinion, when people talk about having had hallucinations or dreams, what they means is 'I had this experience that I knew at the time was false.'”

I said that hallucinations are significantly different to the example given for the reasons already given. If you can’t deal with this and update your examples, then you’ll simply remain irrelevant. I don’t think people talk about whether they believed their dream to be true or false at the time, I think they simply tell it like a story, just like any other (non)fictional story.

“You didn't 'reduce thoughts to their material counterparts'. What you did was say that such-and-such a neuronal arrangement has intrinsic meaning. That's exactly what mechanistic materialists deny. But if intrinsic meaning exists in the material, then the mechanists are wrong and some other group - the Aristotileans, for example - are correct.”

Let’s go back to the example again. Let’s say I can manipulate your neurons such that this picture pops into your head (just a picture taken somewhere in Poland): http://www.iasaglobal.org/images/iasa/poland.jpg This means that whenever your neurons are arranged in that way, you will be thinking about that picture (of Poland) because thought reduces to neural activity. This would simply be a physical consequence of your material state, which I would think would qualify as a materialistic view. What else could you mean when you ask whether a neural pattern ‘intrinsically means’ something?

Crude said...

It would be much easier if you explained what you mean.

I already did, multiple times. If you can't understand it at this point, all I can say is take a few days and think about it. Specifically, think about what it means to make 'a comparison' and 'a valid comparison oriented towards truth'.

On the flipside, think of what it would mean to say 'all comparisons are valid and oriented towards truth'.

I said that hallucinations are significantly different to the example given for the reasons already given. If you can’t deal with this and update your examples, then you’ll simply remain irrelevant.

Buddy, the only one irrelevant here is you. I gave the broadest possible example here - the idea of having an experience, via dream or hallucination, of one doing something they cannot. Your response is, 'Well *I* always know when I'm hallucinating!'

Like I said: okay, take that tack. I'm going to suggest that the problem here is on your end, not mine - I am truly content to leave it at that.

This would simply be a physical consequence of your material state, which I would think would qualify as a materialistic view.

Nope. If you believe that physical patterns have intrinsic meaning, rather than derived meaning, then you are off into the land of Aristotle and you've left the land of materialism behind.

You can find Dennett, for example, insisting that all meaning is derived meaning and must be given materialism. You can find Alex Rosenberg insisting that brain states are never 'about' anything in an intrinsic sense - again, because if they were, goodbye materialism. By locating meaning and intentionality as an intrinsic property of the physical, you're ditching mechanistic materialism. The fact that 'matter' is involved, even fundamentally involved, doesn't suffice to secure materialism - Thomists and Aristotileans do the same. They are not materialists.

Hey, this isn't a criticism. I applaud it. Good for you - I do the same.

cautiouslycurious said...

Crude,
“I already did, multiple times. If you can't understand it at this point, all I can say is take a few days and think about it. Specifically, think about what it means to make 'a comparison' and 'a valid comparison oriented towards truth'.”

No, you didn’t. An example is not an explanation. Anyway, it seems to mean exactly what I said before; that a valid comparison is an equivalence function returning a value of true.

“On the flipside, think of what it would mean to say 'all comparisons are valid and oriented towards truth'.”

Again, this is grammatically clumsy. I think you should rethink what you are trying to convey and pick a different sequence of words, rather than simply repeating it and hoping that it will magically become clearer.

“Buddy, the only one irrelevant here is you. I gave the broadest possible example here - the idea of having an experience, via dream or hallucination, of one doing something they cannot. Your response is, 'Well *I* always know when I'm hallucinating!'”

That was emphatically not my response. I specifically said that people can be fooled by hallucinations, but that hallucinations are a different sort of phenomena than the one I described so it’s irrelevant.

“You can find Dennett, for example, insisting that all meaning is derived meaning and must be given materialism. You can find Alex Rosenberg insisting that brain states are never 'about' anything in an intrinsic sense - again, because if they were, goodbye materialism.”

And they are correct. The ‘aboutness’ is something added onto later when applying the meaning of words, which is all derived. I thought I made this clear when I said “The meaning that we give to words would not be intrinsic but certain neural patterns would elicit specific responses.” You can have a dream that mirrors the physical location and we then say that you had a dream about said physical location due to the meaning of the words involved, not because the picture intrinsically means anything. That sort of meaning I ascribe to words, which I was incorrectly advised that it was not the scope of the question.

Crude said...

I think you should rethink what you are trying to convey and pick a different sequence of words, rather than simply repeating it and hoping that it will magically become clearer.

And I think you should spend time thinking about it, because really - it's very clear as is. At this point you're becoming confused left and right about what are really very clear distinctions. I've tried to accommodate you, but now the effort's got to come from your end. It may simply be the case that you can't grasp some of this.

That was emphatically not my response.

I'll let you and others go read your responses to this question. As I said, at this point, I'm content to let your past responses stand. I think they say more about yourself than you care to admit.

And they are correct. The ‘aboutness’ is something added onto later when applying the meaning of words, which is all derived. I thought I made this clear when I said “The meaning that we give to words would not be intrinsic but certain neural patterns would elicit specific responses.”

Sorry, but no. Because, as I pointed out in the followup question - I wasn't talking about 'the meaning of words'. Again, my question:

"Does a given neural pattern intrinsically mean 'I am thinking about Russia'?"

Your response:

"I’m not sure, but I would presume so."

Remember: this came after your talk about 'words not having intrinsic meanings', and I pointed out I was talking about brain states, not words. So you said, sure, you presume that brain states have intrinsic meanings. It was only after you realized you had uttered heresy against materialists that you backed off, and now want to go back to 'meanings of words' - which, again, I pointed out I wasn't referring to. This is another case of my asking a very clear, non-confusing question.

If your main interest here is in maintaining fidelity to materialism because you have some attachment to it, well, go for it. But when I start to get the impression that you haven't even read up on this, and are just kind of blindly feeling around for what you think a materialist would say and trying to say that, I gotta say - interest drained over here.

cautiouslycurious said...

Crude,
“And I think you should spend time thinking about it, because really - it's very clear as is. At this point you're becoming confused left and right about what are really very clear distinctions. I've tried to accommodate you, but now the effort's got to come from your end. It may simply be the case that you can't grasp some of this.”

This is quite ironic since I feel the same with regards to the second issue.

“I'll let you and others go read your responses to this question. As I said, at this point, I'm content to let your past responses stand. I think they say more about yourself than you care to admit.”

By all means, then they’ll know that you were unable to differentiate between the sense of sight and the sense of touch.

“Remember: this came after your talk about 'words not having intrinsic meanings', and I pointed out I was talking about brain states, not words. So you said, sure, you presume that brain states have intrinsic meanings. It was only after you realized you had uttered heresy against materialists that you backed off, and now want to go back to 'meanings of words' - which, again, I pointed out I wasn't referring to. This is another case of my asking a very clear, non-confusing question.”

Correct, brain states mean a particular outcome in the world, a particular thought. A particular neural arrangement will produce http://www.iasaglobal.org/images/iasa/poland.jpg and that’s what that arrangement entails, that’s what that arrangement translates to, that’s what it means. To actually get to the meaning of it being “Poland,” you have to add on a layer of semantics, which is why I initially answered in the negative, but you stipulated that we weren’t talking about that part so I was free to avoid the semantic part. I only backed off when you made it clear that you were adding back in the semantic part.

Crude said...

This is quite ironic since I feel the same with regards to the second issue.

Sure, CC. ;)

By all means, then they’ll know that you were unable to differentiate between the sense of sight and the sense of touch.

If you think hallucinations and dreams only cover 'sense of sight' - and you'd have to, because I nowhere said they were the same - like I said, run with that.

You'd be better off saying, "Okay, I'm sorry Crude. I misspoke." But it's a bit too late for that anyway.

Correct, brain states mean a particular outcome in the world, a particular thought. A particular neural arrangement will produce http://www.iasaglobal.org/images/iasa/poland.jpg and that’s what that arrangement entails, that’s what that arrangement translates to, that’s what it means. To actually get to the meaning of it being “Poland,”

CC - seriously. Stop, go, read. Start with Searle's "The Rediscovery of the Mind". Maybe The Last Superstition if you need something more direct. But when you say the things you do, consistently, it becomes clear that you haven't even apprehended the basics of this discussion - not even from a materialist point of view. And I'm just not interested in teaching the basics lately.

grodrigues said...

@cautiouslycurious:

As with everybody else, my patience is worn thin. This is going nowhere, so for the last time:

1. The argument as Martin laid out is a reductio: reasons, as when we say "I believe X because of reason Y" are a very different sort of beast than efficient causes are. Efficient (and material) causes are the only thing that exist under metaphysical naturalism. But if you say that "I believe X because the belief is efficiently caused by Y" than the belief X is *NOT* rationally inferred. But we do have rationally inferred beliefs, so metaphysical naturalism is false. No mention of an immaterial soul anywhere.

2. You somehow think that I am using some ad hoc definition that "axiomatically" (as that other clueless skeptic put it) excludes computers from the community of rational beings. Rational thought involves the capacities of abstraction and concept formation and the various modes of reasoning. At a minimum, and taking the stock example of Socrates syllogism, it involves grasping what the concepts mortality and human being *mean*, recognizing an application of a valid, that is truth preserving, deductive rule, etc. Nothing ad hoc here, just what everyone, everywhere, everywhen held rational thought to be.

3. Now you ask me to substantiate the claim "Human beings are rational animals". This is Aristotle's real (not nominal) definition of human being: we, human beings, have the genus animal with the specific difference rational. The evidence is all around us; you know, those things called art, philosophy, culture, science and technology. The evidence is in *yourself*. If you want to deny this you are committed to saying that human beings are rational only accidentally and not essentially -- but then it is *inexplicable* why *every* human being, barring some *accident*, is capable of rational thought and it is also inexplicable why you have been blessed with this unique capacity that your other fellow members of the species seem to lack. In practice, it amounts to agreeing with the conclusion of the argument as Martin laid out as if humans do not have rational thought essentially but only accidentally (if that even), then there is really no reason to think that we think. This last sentence sounds like an oxymoron: it is, discussion's over.

4. Back to computers. A pattern of 0's and 1's stored in the computer's memory is no more about this than about that. It is only about Socrates, or about mortality or human beings, because we human beings with real, actual reasoning powers, interpret as such. So a fortiori, computers cannot think; it is a meaningless to apply such a predicate to them. They do not "grasp" what mortality or human being is, neither do they "know" what a deductive rule is much less "apply" it, nor can they "form" abstract concepts. All this not because of any ad hoc, perverse definition of rationality on my part, but because of what computers *are*: human artifacts, not natural substances, with only derived intentionality, not intrinsic one.

5. Of course, metaphysical naturalists deny any and all intrinsic teleology anyway, so invoking it is tantamount to denying metaphysical naturalism. On the other hand, because Thomists *do* accept intrinsic or immanent teleology in natural substances, the above arguments *cannot* be used to prove the immateriality of the intellect, contrary to what you and that other ignorant skeptic keep harping about, precisely because our thoughts -- or even neural patterns in the brain -- can be "about", or "point" to something else. The problems of intentionality, qualia, etc. are typically modern philosophical problems. Classical theists use other type of arguments to get to the immateriality of the intellect, specifically the determinateness and universality of thought -- but I do not need to invoke these big guns to kill a puny fly.

cautiouslycurious said...

Grodrigues,
As with everybody else, my patience is worn thin. This is going nowhere, so for the last time:

I tend to agree, you keep making the same mistakes that I have pointed out and have failed to address them. The only progress made was that you listed some features of how to determine rationality, but it still fell short of my request of creating criteria that didn’t also apply to computers. I wish you would save us the time by using Google for a second to actually see what computers are capable of before making declarative and incorrect statements about their abilities. It would have saved us a lot of time.
1. …But we do have rationally inferred beliefs…

I’ve repeatedly asked how you determine this. Anything close to a response has also applied to computers (More content under point three.), which is where you’re misconception of point two comes from. Please support this premise.

2. “You somehow think that I am using some ad hoc definition that "axiomatically" (as that other clueless skeptic put it) excludes computers from the community of rational beings.”

I don’t presume to know what definition you are using. I’m just pointing out that you are not applying the definition consistently, not that you have definitionally excluded computers.

3. “The evidence is all around us; you know, those things called art, philosophy, culture, science and technology.”

So when we design robots that can paint, assign meanings to symbols, interact with other robots, test hypotheses, and build things, they would be considered rational? I hate to break it to you but we already have robots that can make art, music, interact with humans, assign meaning to objects, create hypotheses and experiments in which to test them, and create tools. Computers already fit your criteria for rationality, so it’s simply inconsistent to insist that they aren’t.

Just for fun, here’s a sample of Emily’s music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEjdiE0AoCU

“If you want to deny this you are committed to saying that human beings are rational only accidentally and not essentially -- but then it is *inexplicable* why *every* human being, barring some *accident*, is capable of rational thought and it is also inexplicable why you have been blessed with this unique capacity that your other fellow members of the species seem to lack.”

It’s not inexplicable at all. Our genomes have a lot in common. If we took the programming of say Emily Howell and inserted a few mutations in the code, it’s likely that it would still work just fine (granted that most of the code is commented to simulate junk DNA). For the times that it disrupts some essential function, it was just an accident. Also, I’m not saying that I’m immune from non-rational factors. If I had grown up in the slums of Africa, or in downtown Egypt, I would not have received the education that I have received. I would not have learned the value in different methodologies and would have had a small sample size with respect to the evidence available to me. I would have likely been extremely superstitious, gullible, and uneducated; in other words, not rational.

4. “Back to computers. A pattern of 0's and 1's stored in the computer's memory is no more about this than about that.”

And neurons being off or on are no more about this than about that. So a fortiori, humans cannot think; it is a meaningless to apply such a predicate to them.

“because we human beings with real, actual reasoning powers, interpret as such.”

Which begs the question of how we determine that we have those reasoning powers.

Crude,

Misunderstanding aside, your objection is still irrelevant. You asked me how I know that I am not just dreaming when I demonstrate to myself my ability to walk. The answer to that is that walking is more than a visual phenomenon and that I don’t experience the sense of touch when I dream. It’s easy to differentiate different experiences when they are so starkly different. The only fallback you have is an argument for solipsism, good luck with that.