Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Materialism and Beauty

Can materialism explain our perception of beauty?

According to this, no.

79 comments:

Heuristics said...

But do neuroscientists make use of materialism? There is no definition of what 'matter' is any longer and all scientific fields use different incompatible language from one another (due to reductionism not working) with neuroscientists often making use of teleological language. How could there then even be a potential for materialism to offer any explanatory value when it doesn't exist?

I mean seriously, every day there is a debate over what materialism/naturalism can or cannot do but it doesn't exist, what is it with this constant word diarrhea? Wait until someone comes up with some kind of definition for what matter is and then we can extend this with an ism (that everything is made of it)and then lets see what this leads to.

im-skeptical said...

What a surprise. A bunch of theists think materialism just can't explain human emotion. I mean seriously.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

materialism is that view that all things are made of matter. Can you explain what matter is and also explain how you connect that explanation with the existence of emotion?

cl said...

Materialism can't explain anything. It's a total misnomer, one giant suckhole that usurps every new discovery under it's continually-growing umbrella. Neither materialism nor it's disciples should be taken seriously.

Hueristics: you hit the nail on the head. Grab some popcorn as im-skeptical proves you correct.

im-skeptical said...

Matter is physical substance. It's what stars and humans are made of. The fact that nobody is sure what the tiniest particle is makes no difference. Our brains are made of matter, and they respond to the world as we experience it. Part of that response might be release of chemicals to prepare us for fight or flight, for example. And along with that comes a sense of fear. That's emotion. There are different types of emotion produced by the brain in response to different circumstances. God has nothing to do with it.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

I wrote: "materialism is that view that all things are made of matter. Can you explain what matter is"

And you wrote as the explanation:

"Matter is physical substance. It's what stars and humans are made of."

Is there any further information in there then can be found in my question. Are you writing anything other then synonyms?

im-skeptical said...

Heurisrics,

Perhaps I don't understand what you are asking. It sounds as though you are saying that if science doesn't know the exact structure of subatomic particles, then it is pointless to claim that materialism has any validity. If not, then what are you saying?

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

I have not written anything about subatomic particles. Are you proposing to replace your previous definition of matter as 'physical substance' with a definition of matter as following: 'matter is subatomic particles'? Or are you saying that this is yet another synonym?

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

> If not, then what are you saying?

What he is saying is that we don't know what matter really IS. It could be corpuscles like Locke said, or it could be numbers like Pythagoras said. Or it could be something that is neither mind nor matter, like Bertrand Russell said.

Physics only tells us the mathematical properties of matter, but it doesn't tell us what matter actually IS.

It's like describing a box by telling me it's length width and height, but not telling me whether it's a plush box, a wood box, a metal box, or what. What IS it that is being measured, exactly?

im-skeptical said...

Heuristics,

You asked, "materialism is that view that all things are made of matter. Can you explain what matter is"

"Physics only tells us the mathematical properties of matter, but it doesn't tell us what matter actually IS."

What kind of definition do you think you need? If we don't know the exact nature of something, then we can't have theories or metaphysical concepts about it? "How could there then even be a potential for materialism to offer any explanatory value when it doesn't exist?" Shouldn't we make the same assessment of theism? Does your metaphysical view explain things better than science?

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

Martin wrote that, not me. My question is still very simple and without placing any restrictions on you, it is simply: What is matter? After such a definition has been given I think it would be interesting to see if the existence of emotions flows out of that definition.

Martin said...

> If we don't know the exact nature of something, then we can't have theories or metaphysical concepts about it?

Metaphysics just is trying to discover the exact nature of something. All physics gives us is the mathematical description, but the "middle" is filled in by..what?

>Shouldn't we make the same assessment of theism?

Of course.

>Does your metaphysical view explain things better than science?

Science is not a worldview. It is a tool for examining the natural world. A worldview in opposition to theism would be physicalism or naturalism, neither of which are entailed or even suggested by science. Does theism explain things better than physicalism? I don't know, but the case can be made and I would say it is not immediately obvious that it can't.

im-skeptical said...

"Science is not a worldview."

Great. Physicalism or materialism is a worldview that generally entails science as the primary tool for understanding how things work. Theism tends to reject science in favor of various metaphysical constructs that involve immaterial entities such as gods and spirits or essences. If we want to have any real understanding of how our brains work, we should look to science rather than postulating that there is some kind of spirit turning the wheels.

Martin said...

>Theism tends to reject science

That's just nonsense. Classical theists, for example, accept everything science has to say but reject the physicalist worldview and accept, for example, an Aristotelian one instead. Not only perfectly compatible with science, but they would argue that science presupposes it.

im-skeptical said...

"Not only perfectly compatible with science ..."

Let's just say that's a matter of opinion. I'm sure that many scientists would say that belief in immaterial entities that can't be detected in any way, but based on faith, is not perfectly compatible with science.

"... but they would argue that science presupposes it."

As for science presupposing an Aristotelian view, that's not a matter of opinion at all. It's just wrong.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>As for science presupposing an Aristotelian view, that's not a matter of opinion at all. It's just wrong.

For example, an Aristotelian could argue that we observe that a certain virus does X (reproduces a certain way or whatever), and vaccine Y can interfere with their doing X and thus disrupt its activity. This presupposes that viruses perform a certain function given their structure and nature.

Thus medical science presupposes that viruses have a final cause ("to infect cells and transform them into virus factories") that we can discover and then come up with drugs to interfere with that final cause.

So I don't think it's just wrong at all, and I don't think it is at all obvious that it is.

cl said...

My advice to Heuristics and Martin: don't let im-skeptical spin your wheels. You already both know perfectly well that im-skeptical can't answer the fundamental challenge posed. In my opinion you should leave it at that. To go any further risks losing sight of the original challenge.

im-skeptical said...

cl,

I have asked what kind of definition of matter is required to satisfy Heuristics. No answer. Maybe you can answer that question.

Heuristics said...

im-sceptical:

I did answer. I place no restrictions on what you can write and not write as response to what matter is. I would recommend writing the definition you personally find the most convincing yourself and then we can take it from there as far as clarifications and questions go.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"Thus medical science presupposes that viruses have a final cause"

Really? Show me the scientific literature that discusses these final causes. Show me the literature that discusses actuality. Show me the scientific literature that discusses a first mover. Good luck.

im-skeptical said...

Heuristics,

"I place no restrictions on what you can write and not write as response to what matter is."

OK, fine. "Matter is physical substance."

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>Really? Show me the scientific literature that discusses these final causes. Show me the literature that discusses actuality.

I said it could be argued that science presupposes it. If so, then they would not explicitly say it. It's just a feature of the world we live in.

Does a bacteriophage infect and reproduce within bacteria?

Can we be confident that all viruses of the bacteriophage family do this, assuming they are not interefered with?

Then we are presupposing that bacteriophages have a specific effect unique to them, that other viruses do not do.

Thus, medical science presupposes final causes. It could be argued. Not without plausibility.

Dan Gillson said...

It can also be argued that science presupposes atheism or theism or materialism or dualism or eliminativism or panpsychism or ... &c, &c, &c ... until we are blue in the face. The truth is that none of these are logically necessary for science, which is to say that one can come to the proper scientific conclusions about viruses, bacteria, or the age of the earth and, for instance, presuppose that the world was begotten by a giant space monkey fart.

im-skeptical said...

"Then we are presupposing that bacteriophages have a specific effect unique to them, that other viruses do not do."

Scientific research does not presuppose any such thing. It arrives at conclusions after careful observation and measurement. In this case, it would involve observing the method of reproduction of a class of virus (as well as other types), and determining that it is unique to that class. A scientist wouldn't just presuppose this. Nor would he describe it as a 'final cause'.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

"Matter is physical substance."

Are you here using the words physical substance as something other then a synonym to "thingness"? Is there more content in those words then in the word "thingness"?

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>In this case, it would involve observing the method of reproduction of a class of virus (as well as other types), and determining that it is unique to that class. A scientist wouldn't just presuppose this.

Yes, that's exactly right. A class of virus that does something unique to that class. Formal and final causes.

The scientist would not presuppose what the virus does, but he would presuppose that after he discovers whatever it is that species X does, that ALL such members of species X do that. He does not need to examine every single bacteriophage on the planet. He can examine just a handful, or a few hundred or whatever, and then extrapolate from that to say "bacteriophages as a class reproduce by infecting bacteria."

"Class of bacteriophage" would correspond to formal causes, and "reproduction by infecting bacteria" would correspond to final causes.

Not by those names, of course, but the concept is the same and confirms Aristotle and refutes physicalism, which would say that there ARE no classes, and also no specific effects that follow from those classes.




Martin said...

Dan Gillson,

>The truth is that none of these are logically necessary for science

If you put on your Aristotelian hat, you could argue that in fact Aristotelianism IS logically necessary for what science does.

It is necessary for science that an object has a specific effect (or range of effects) unique to its class of objects. If every photon did something different when you shot them through the double slit, then you could never have a science of photons. But we do have a science of photons, and we do see the same behavior from every photon we examine (assuming conditions are the same), and we can confidently say "this is what ALL photons do".

Which means that we presuppose that all objects of the class "photon" do X.

Which means we presuppose that there is a class (photon) that does something specific (exhibit wave/particle duality).

Which means that we presuppose what Aristotle would call formal and final causes.

im-skeptical said...

Heuristics,

"Is there more content in those words then in the word "thingness"?"

Yes, I'd say there is. For one thing 'physical' is part of what I said, and so is 'substance'. So you might say that a soul has 'thingness', but it isn't physical. Nor is it substantial (by that I mean it has no corporeal content - no mass). Therefore, a soul is not made of matter. But a baseball is.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"the concept is the same and confirms Aristotle and refutes physicalism, which would say that there ARE no classes, and also no specific effects that follow from those classes."

That's just absurd. Who ever gave you such an idea? Of course there are classes of things, and they have nothing to do with an Aristotelian world-view. Ask any biologist. Try asking Richard Dawkins if he denies the existence of classes.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>Of course there are classes of things, and they have nothing to do with an Aristotelian world-view. Ask any biologist. Try asking Richard Dawkins if he denies the existence of classes.

Then you, and Dawkins, are Aristotelians and not physicalists. Physicalism denies formal and final causes. See for example Jaworski 2011. Physicalism denies that there is structure other than what the physical sciences describe with their concepts, such as quarks, atoms, Higgs field, and so on.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

Is the following a fair representation of the definition that has been given so far?

Every thing that exists is only made out of matter. Matter has two aspects, a physical aspect and a substantial aspect. Anything that fails to have one or both of these aspects is not matter and thus does not exist. A required property of substantiality is that the thing must have mass, any thing that does not have mass is not substantial and therefore does not exist.

I wanted to also include the part about the soul but I did not understand specifically what it is about souls that set them apart from physicality in this definition.

Dan Gillson said...

Martin,

"If you put on your Aristotelian hat" … Yes, I suppose if you view as what science does through an Aristotelian lens, then you will no doubt think that your Aristotelianism is logically necessary for science. You can't blame me, though, if I think that this is a perfect example of circular reasoning: you're setting out to prove what you're assuming to be true.

However, if you wanted to say that Aristotle's account of causes is a helpful heuristic for understanding certain things, I think that that's fine. I don't have any trouble with the idea that 'the behavior of photons' can be sussed out in terms of Aristotle's account of causes. I do, however, think it's curious that you're picturing 'what science does' as fitting sideways-on into an Aristotelian conception of nature, as though science couldn't carry on if Aristotle weren't right. The point of my example was to highlight that the fact that science carries on without regard to Aristotelianism disconfirms the logical necessity of it for science. It's interesting to me that in order for Aristotelianism to be necessary for science, you need to assume first that it's true.

Martin said...

>You can't blame me, though, if I think that this is a perfect example of circular reasoning: you're setting out to prove what you're assuming to be true.

I'm not. I'm making an argument like this:

1. If there are no final causes, then science can't have a science of classes/species and what they do (since, if things do something different every time, one could never have a science of more than a single individual)
2. Science can have a science of classes/species and what they do
3. Therefore, there are final causes

And the corollary:

1. Therefore, Aristotelianism is true and physicalism is false

And the very ability of science to do its work presupposes that there are final causes because it presupposes that we can extrapolate from a few objects of a class to all such objects of that class.

im-skeptical said...

Heuristics.

No, it's not a fair representation. "A required property of substantiality is that the thing must have mass, any thing that does not have mass is not substantial and therefore does not exist." This does not follow from what I said. You jumped from talking about things made from matter to all things, whether they are made from matter or not. Light exists, and is physical, but is not made from 'matter' in the sense that I have described.

"I did not understand specifically what it is about souls that set them apart from physicality in this definition."

I said earlier (but not in this thread) that physical things exist in space-time. A soul is supposedly transcendental, so it exists outside of space-time. It is not a physical entity.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"Physicalism denies formal and final causes."

True.

"Physicalism denies that there is structure other than what the physical sciences describe with their concepts, such as quarks, atoms, Higgs field, and so on."

Bullshit. (Pardon my French.) Where do you get this? I've never heard any such thing, and I categorically reject the notion that physicalism implies a denial of structure. Perhaps you need to do a little reading (other than theistic philosophy).

"If there are no final causes, then science can't have a science of classes/species and what they do (since, if things do something different every time, one could never have a science of more than a single individual)"

You are confused. Classes of things has nothing to do with final causes, which are teleological in nature. Teleology is metaphysical. Classification of things is an important part of science. But leave the teleology out of it.

cl said...

"Matter is physical substance."

LOLOLOL!!!!!!!!!!

It's as if you're completely unaware of the tautology you perpetuate. Pack your bags, give up, go home.

im-skeptical said...

"Pack your bags, give up, go home."

I did provide an expansion of that definition, which you choose to ignore. Let's hear your definition.

Martin said...

um-skeptical,

From Jaworski 2011:

"Importantly, then, on the physicalist worldview there is no such thing as structure or organization that would operate as a basic ontological and explanatory principle to mark out different kinds of individuals and different subject matters for the sciences. That is not to say that physicalists cannot speak of something's distinctive structure or organization; it is simply that they cannot admit that such talk amounts to an endorsement of ontological or explanatory principles distinct from those postulated by physics. "

im-skeptical said...

Ah, I think I see now. Jaworski is saying that physicalists deny his brand of metaphysical structure, these so-called "ontological or explanatory principles" that are "distinct from those postulated by physics". He may be right about that. But you shouldn't conclude from that that they don't believe there is structure or things can't be organized into classes.

Perhaps we're simply talking past each other.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

I started off with the definition of materialism as the view that all (existing) things are made of matter, and then I started a conversation aimed at defining what matter is. Now if it the case that the definition you are proposing asserts that there exists things made out of something else other then matter then this does not fit within the given definition of materialism and we would first need a definition for the ism. So lets start there then, what is materialism?

Now space-time, is that a thing? Also, is the word entity a synonym for the word thing?

im-skeptical said...

Heuristics,

I distinguish between physical things that are substantial (like a baseball), and physical things that are not (like light). Both exist in the physical world, but both are not made of 'matter' as I have defined it. So it is possible for real physical things to exist that are not made of matter.

I also distinguish between physical things and non-physical things. I define physical things as existing in space-time. A baseball is a physical thing, and so is an electric field. But a spirit or a god exists outside of space-time. Those things are not physical.

Often, we use the word 'material' interchangeably with 'physical', so we refer to insubstantial physical things like gravitational force as being material, and we refer to non-physical things like a soul as being immaterial.

When we speak of mind, the issue becomes confused, because it may be unclear whether a thought is a physical thing, or whether a physical brain is capable of understanding or emotion without the aid of some sort of immaterial intelligence (or soul). I believe that the brain does have that capability.

You say that "There is no definition of what 'matter' is any longer", from which I concluded you were talking about sub-atomic particles. If not, what on earth did you mean by such a statement? I think there is still general agreement in the scientific community about what matter is, at least at the scale of protons and electrons or larger.

You say "due to reductionism not working ... How could there then even be a potential for materialism to offer any explanatory value when it doesn't exist?" That's a strong assertion for which your only support is the vague notion that matter isn't defined. It seems confused to me. I've done my best to explain to you what I'm talking about. Why don't you explain what you're talking about?

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

You can safely ignore everything I have written about materialism since I am not arguing against anything you have written.

We need some kind of definitional statement to kick it off since the statement that everything is made of matter did not work.

So, what is materialism? At least I would imagine it is a concept that describes the manner in which everything that exists has existence, right?

im-skeptical said...

I would describe materialism as the notion that everything that exists is physical. In other words, there are no immaterial things that exist (using immaterial as I have described above).

im-skeptical said...

Need to go for a while. I'll return later.

im-skeptical said...

Heuristics,

You say reductionism doesn't work. I'm not sure what you think it's supposed to do. Reductionism is not a science, it's a belief - the belief that all things are composed of elemental parts, and their behavior is governed by the behavior of those parts. Neuroscientists don't describe brain processes in terms of the atoms that make up brain cells or quanta of electric charge that contribute to current flows. That's not what neuroscience is about. They generally work with brain processes at higher levels. Does that imply that reductionism is wrong? Not at all.

Consider a software engineer. He writes a program in a high-level language such as c#. He has no need to think in terms of the lower-level structures of his program, but he trusts that all the underlying elements function to achieve the ultimate goal of his program. So his program compiles to CIL, which in turn compiles to machine language, which is held in memory as switched states of CMOS transistor pairs, whose states are determined by charge on their gates that enhance or deplete charge carriers in the underlying channels, making the channels conductive or resistive, and ...

It's easy to have a reductionist view of the operation of computers, because we understand every part of it, right down to the subatomic level. But the software engineer doesn't work with the movement of electrons within a semiconductor. He doesn't need to. He is concerned with things at a different level.

The same can be said of most any science, such as neuroscience, even though there may be some gaps in our understanding (exactly how is a thought formed in the brain, in terms of chemistry and electricity, for example). And it's not surprising that neuroscientists speak a different language from geologists or software engineers. They are concerned with different things, after all. But they all understand that the higher-level structures they work with are made up of building blocks formed from lower-level structures. And if you go down far enough, there is commonality among them. Brains and rocks and transistors are all made of atoms. And at the atomic level, the atoms all obey the same physical laws.

So you think materialism doesn't work for scientists? It's not supposed to. What does work for them is science.

Dan Gillson said...

Martin,

I started typing a long, turgid reply, but I scratched it. The important part is for you to know that I think you are misconceiving Aristotle's notion of final cause because you misconceive the way that the telos of an object is explained by reasons. You are firmly locating the object's telos within the object itself (something that Aristotle doesn't do) at the expense of recognizing that reason-giving explanations of an object's telos are reflexively epistemological or psychological.

Dan Gillson said...

I had come to that conclusion after I read through your conversation with im-skeptical; I'm not directly responding to your last comment.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

I got a few of the books you suggested, but I haven't started reading them yet. I'm still trying to get through "Real Essentialism". I find that it presupposes AT metaphysics rather than justifying it, which is what I was hoping for. As I read through it, I can't help thinking Oderberg sounds like Theodoric of York.

Dan Gillson said...

im-skeptical,

I don't know Oderberg, but I did check out his book. It looks ... boring. I'm so sorry you're reading it! What books did you get? I hope not McDowell, because he's impossible to read (though if you got McDowell that would be awesome. If you needed help with McDowell, I'd be happy to help--I have pages and pages and pages and pages of notes--pages of them).

im-skeptical said...

You're right. Oderberg is boring, but I felt I needed to hear what he had to say before I move on. I did get the McDowell book. If it's too much for me, I'll save it for when I have a better background. I also got "Philosophical Investigations".

Dan Gillson said...

im-skeptical,

Ha! I'm excited for you! Just based off of what you've said here on Dangerous Idea, I don't think that you'll like Philosophical Investigations too much, but at least you can say that you've read it. (I use the PI as a devotional of sorts. I find that to be an effective use of it. Stanley Cavell's approach to it is somewhat similar.) If you have any questions about McDowell, you can get a hold of me through G+, or you can email me. I'll do the best I can to answer.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

I have here tried to write down the definition of materialism we have so far, is this a fair representation?

Materialism: The notion that every-thing that exists is physical.

Physicality: A thing is a physical thing if and only if it exist in space-time. If a thing does not exist in space-time it does not exist.

im-skeptical said...

Heuristics,

I haven't tried to reconcile my definitions with more formal or widely accepted definitions, so what I'm talking about here is just the way I see things from a philosophical layman's perspective. That said, the definition of materialism as you stated it seems appropriate to me. As for physicality, I arrived at that criterion (existing in space-time) by thinking of examples of things I consider to be physical and things that aren't. I don't know if I may have missed things that would be an exception to that rule. So I'm a little hesitant to say "if and only if".

Given my materialist view, I can't think of anything that exists in space-time that is not physical, but I'm sure others would have a different idea. There is considerable disagreement, for example in the arena of nominalism vs, realism. I am a nominalist, so I don't think abstracts or universals exist as objects. Others think they do (whether in space-time or some other kind of object space, I don't know). I also think that mind is an activity of the brain, purely physical.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

Ok, great! Now we have a starting point. As for your reservations: As I wrote I do not use any restrictions here, if you later want to redefine some stuff that's fine, if what you write is not what other people have written, that's fine.

It might be good to clearly define the basic building blocks in the definition so that we can determine what they can do and what they cannot do and also clear up some possible sources of incoherence.

1. (possible incoherence/infinite recursion) is space-time a thing? If it is a thing that exists then according to the definition it must be within space-time. If it is not a thing then it escapes this.

2. (clarification needed) does "existing in space-time" mean that given a spaceship with enough fuel and a long enough lifetime it would potentially be the case that a person could go and have a look at that thing? Or rephrased: Are all existing things in space time potentially pokable by your finger? (lets not talk about time travel unless we have to)

im-skeptical said...

In answer to your questions, I don't regard space-time as a thing (or object). I think of it as something like a container in which all physical things exist. Also, there are physical things that are not substantive objects, and so you can't 'poke' them. Potential fields would be included in this category. These things are generally associated with objects, as a gravitational field is associated with a massive body.

Now, may I ask what you are trying to get at? Maybe we can get there more directly.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

If I understand what you are saying then there exists (at least) things and non-thingy containers (which can contain things)? (if so this will be added to the definition).

Let me rephrase the question to something like: for any existing thing that would be pokable if it was in front of you, is that thing potentially pokable given the ability to travel via normal spaceship means (and unlimited fuel+time). Basically the question is regarding the exclusion of spatiotemporally unreachable multiverses or 'other dimensions' as one might see in movies.

What I am doing by asking these questions is building up a definition of materialism, after the basics have been established then things like reductionism and emotions can be attempted to be explained from that definition, but the definition is interesting in itself.

im-skeptical said...

"then there exists (at least) things and non-thingy containers (which can contain things)? (if so this will be added to the definition)."

I was making a serious attempt to explain my view of things to you. Space-time is not an object that you can 'poke'. Call it what you want. Let's get to it. Mind is nothing more than an activity of the brain. I'm not intimately familiar with the sciences involved to give you a good explanation of the processes, and I know that there are gaps in our scientific understanding of mind. No doubt you will use those gaps as an excuse to say goddidit, because that's what theists have always said until the gaps eventually are filled with real scientific theories. Don't worry - they will be.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical said...

It follows from the definition of materialism that space-time as not thing that can be poked since it is not a thing. But there surely(?) are other pokable things, my question concerned those, if they are all potentially grabbable/pokable by changing our location via typical means (+infinite fuel and lifetime).

The definition does not yet (clearly) handle such things as mind, activity and brain, they do not follow from the definition so we cannot yet say anything about them, we will need to cross that bridge when we get to it. I have tried hard to not put words in your mouth in this conversation, I ask of you to not do that to me.

im-skeptical said...

Heuristics,

"I have tried hard to not put words in your mouth in this conversation"

Look at the quote from my previous post. Not only are you putting words in my mouth, but they are ridiculous words at that. So evidently, it is your intention to ridicule. If you'd care to continue, you should show a better effort to understand my meaning. I'm not using obscure language or hidden meanings or any kind of 'trick' wording.

In answer to your question, existing in space-time means it exists at some time and place (that you could perhaps visit in a spaceship), and also it doesn't exist outside space-time - that is, it is not transcendent in the manner that we describe god.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

I wrote:
"If I understand what you are saying then..."

I did not write:
"You are saying..."

They are my words as I would say them, not yours. You call them ridiculous but you do not say in what way they are false. I have no knowledge of what words affront you and I also do not have anything against speaking plainly, especially so since my native tongue is swedish, not english, I do not know what words will culturally be an affront to you nor am I trying to offend you, in fact I am trying very hard not to do so even trough repeated offensive sayings from your direction.

Now, lets continue: This means that this definition of materialism excludes such things as multiverses and movie-like extra dimensions, right? (this will be important in excluding the definition from being compatible with some forms of substance dualism).

im-skeptical said...

"This means that this definition of materialism excludes such things as multiverses and movie-like extra dimensions, right?"

I make no claim about whether such things exist, but for purposes of discussing materialism in our world, we probably don't need to include them. Modeling certain aspects of physical reality may involve the use of higher-dimensional space, but I think we can ignore that for this discussion, and we definitely can ignore other universes, if they exist.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

Substance dualism where the mind is a physical substance (or another type of non-thing) located in a parallel universe but causally connected with our brain is a valid view so far with the current definition. Are you sure you do not want to exclude this? If not, that's fine but I suspect that it will cause problems further on.

I suggest that we pin down the 'thing' concept next. Is there a necessary relationship between things and math? Perhaps the question could be restated as: 'must the way a thing is be describable by mathematics for that thing to actually be that way'?

im-skeptical said...

"Are you sure you do not want to exclude this?"

I'm sure I do want to exclude anything that exists in any parallel universe (and that I never indicated otherwise). The substance of mind, as you describe it, is not something that exists in space-time as I have described it. It's not part of the world I inhabit.

The 'thing' concept you speak of is way too vague to pin down. That's not a term I would choose to use. Try using the terms I have already used (such as substantive physical objects) so we know what kind of 'things' we're talking about.

Heuristics said...

ok. So we ban multiple universes by making sure that all of spacetime must be connected/traversable or so.

Lets talk of objects then instead of things. Lets pin that down.

Does there exist non-objects? Do all objects that exist have some necessary relationship to mathematics. Or perhaps instead of mathematics I should say do they have a necessary relationship with discreet quantity(1,2,3,4,5...)+logic?

im-skeptical said...

This doesn't seem to be leading anywhere. You keep asking apparently pointless questions, and you pay little attention to my replies. Here's a suggestion: if you want to understand generally what a materialist believes, why don't you do a little reading on it? If there's something specific you'd like me to answer, why don't you just ask about it?

Heuristics said...

Well, have you yet written an explanation for what materialism is from which the existence of emotion flows out of? I have read what you have written so far and whenever you mention emotion it is by using concepts that are not (explicitly) part of the definition.

im-skeptical said...

March 28, 2013 6:47 PM

Heuristics said...

"And along with that comes a sense"

This does not follow. You just introduce new concepts without showing that they flow from the old ones. This is the reason why we need to establish an ontology, so that we can point to where these things come from and identify the restrictions to show that they fall within them.

So again, the question is to define materialism and show that emotion flows FROM that definition, not to just state that emotion exist and has something todo with the definition.

im-skeptical said...

"So again, the question is to define materialism and show that emotion flows FROM that definition, not to just state that emotion exist and has something todo with the definition."

Perhaps a good example would be helpful to me. Why don't you define your metaphysical worldview (whatever it may be) and show how emotion flows from that definition. Then I'll have a better idea what you're looking for from me.

Heuristics said...

I did not say that I have a metaphysical world view.

What I am asking you to do is to define materialism and from the concepts of that definition and only from the concepts of that definition explain what emotion is. To show that emotions fit within the framework of the definition.

Your definition of materialism did not contain the concept of sense or fear nor did you show how those concepts are unpackable from the definition, you only stated that they are there but stating that materialism includes emotion is in no way to show that it indeed does include emotion.

im-skeptical said...

"I did not say that I have a metaphysical world view."

Wow. So you can't explain how anything at all works in your worldview, let alone human emotion. And yet you are critical of materialism.

Or do I misunderstand what you are telling me? Perhaps there is some kind if "ism" that you adhere to that serves as a grounding for what you believe?

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical:

What is materialism and how do you get the existence of emotions out of that definition?

What part of the question is unclear and whats with the constant insults?

im-skeptical said...

"What part of the question is unclear and whats with the constant insults?"

No insults. I'm trying to understand what you are looking for. I asked you to give me an example based on your own views, and you tell me you are not claiming to have any. Well, that's not very helpful. So let me try again. How do you explain human emotion? If you explain that, then I'll understand what you are expecting from me.

Heuristics said...

im-skeptical: read the latest post on this blog for how examples of how a definition is created.

So, what is materialism and how do you get emotions out of that definition?

im-skeptical said...

"when we call something material, or even natural, we are presuming that, at the basic level of analysis, mental characteristics are not present. If, on the other hand, the basic building blocks of the universe are not restricted to the non-mental, then the mental is already present at the basic level of analysis."

All right. Let me see if I can use the same kind of logic. Here goes.

In a material word, mental activity is a brute fact. It happens. And it can be analyzed just like any other kind of phenomenon in the physical world.

So there you have it. Same logic. Same justification. Is that good enough for you?

im-skeptical said...

Heiristics,

Since you have no answer, let me elaborate a little. There is a great disparity in the kind of explanation that theists will accept for mental activity when it is postulated to be immaterial versus when it is postulated to be purely physical. The theist claims he can explain it quite easily: it's just there - it belongs to the immaterial soul, or whatever. But will you let a materialist get away with such a facile explanation? Not on your life. You demand that I start with a definition of matter itself, and explain how atoms make up the cells which make up the brain, and then describe all the chemical and electrical processes in sufficient detail to satisfy some some criterion that can never be satisfied by any explanation in your view. You completely fail to see that your facile immaterial explanation of mind not only doesn't explain anything, but it is not supported by any objective, factual information.

Heuristics said...

You are in your post (which you wrote while I was sleeping here in Sweden) making up a bunch of things about what I believe that I have never stated that I believe nor have argued for.

What I am asking you to do is to create a definition of materialism and show that the existence of emotion flows out of that definition. if you put the existence of emotion as a brute force basic building block along side of the physical as another building block then you no longer have materialism, then you have property dualism. Now, if you reject materialism because it doesn't work and instead accept property dualism, that's fine, that would also be an answer to the question.

I have never demanded that you give an account of what atoms make up brain cells.

So I ask you again: Can you give a definition of materialism from which the existence of emotion flows out of?

im-skeptical said...

Heuristics,

The definition you cites as an example was my model for the definition I provided to you. Under the theistic/dualist view, the human mind simply is, and no further explanation is required to explain how it works. So if I make the same assertion from a materialist perspective, why isn't that good enough for you?

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor -- I'm very late to this thread, but I hope you'll respond to this comment.

I read the linked article. Maybe I misunderstood it, but it seems to me that even if everything that article said were correct, it wouldn't follow that materialism cannot explain beauty. What that article talked about is one recent attempt by neuroscientists to offer a (neuro-)scientific explanation for beauty, an attempt which apparently didn't work out very well. Have I missed something?

I don't identify as a materialist because I understand materialism to be logically incompatible with abstract objects. Since I deny the existence of supernatural beings but allow for the existence of abstract objects, I identify as a metaphysical naturalist.

I'm aware that some philosophers (including Swinburne) have argued that beauty is evidence favoring theism over atheism (or naturalism). While I can usually understand why theists find various theistic arguments convincing, that's not the case with the argument from beauty. I am baffled why anyone finds *that* theistic argument convincing.

In my experience, defenders of arguments from beauty usually (1) conflate the existence of beauty with the existence of observers who can appreciate beauty; and (2) assume without argument that the concept of “objective beauty” is coherent. I, for one, find the concept of “objective beauty” to be unintelligible. And if beauty is not objective, then beauty does not favor theism, since evolutionary naturalism can explain beauty, including non-utilitarian beauty, as well as theism. (As TaiChi has pointed out, not every inherited trait need be adaptive.) If, on the other hand, beauty is objective, then it’s far from clear why theism is a better explanation for non-utilitarian beauty than, say, neo-Platonism about beauty.