Friday, May 17, 2013

Why naturalism excludes the supernatural

The problem with naturalism excluding the supernatural is that, at least in one sense, it's trivially true. Of course if everything is natural, then the supernatural is excluded. But that doesn't tell me, by itself, what is natural and what is supernatural. If God could be a theoretical entity in a scientific explanation, then we could say that whatever appears in a scientific explanation is natural, and therefore God is a natural entity. If you say God can't be a theoretical entity in a scientific explanation, then you have to come up with characteristics of God that require God's exclusion.

177 comments:

BeingItself said...

I find all attempts to strongly define Naturalism fail.

I am a naturalist in the following weak sense: I find myself on a planet where many folks believe in things that the believers label as supernatural: gods, ghosts, souls, angels and the like.

I don't believe in any of that infantile nonsense.

BeingItself said...

I recently watched Sean Carroll's conference "Moving Naturalism Forward". I came away thinking by "Naturalism" the philosophers meant a type of philosophy that emphasizes science, as opposed to a philosophy that emphasizes arm chair speculation.

Crude said...

According to Mormon theology, God the Father is a physical being of "flesh and bones."[13] Mormons identify him as the Biblical god Elohim. Latter-day Saint leaders have also taught that God the Father was once a mortal man who has completed the process of becoming an exalted being.[14] According to Joseph Smith, God "once was a man like one of us and…once dwelled on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did in the flesh and like us."[15]

Via Here.

Victor Reppert said...

It seems to me that there in order to give naturalism a principled meaning, you have to define the mental, and then say that at the most basic level of analysis, the mental is missing from the "natural."

Again, to say that naturalism emphasizes science leads to the question about what science can include. If we define science in terms of what we think of as "the natural" and we define the natural in terms of what science can talk about, it seems as it we have a circular definition that really tells us nothing.

BeingItself said...

"to say that naturalism emphasizes science leads to the question about what science can include"

Science includes all that is.

Again, going by what I observed at that conference, it seems to me Naturalism is more about a method of doing philosophy. The Naturalist philosophers take science very seriously, as opposed to philosophers (like Feser) who explicitly deny that their philosophy has any connection to science.

Most Naturalist philosophers are committed to changing their philosophical opinion should a finding of science refute it, as opposed to the anti-naturalist who clings to her armchair deliverances come what may. (An example here would be WLC who gives the most weight to the ghost he hears in his head.)

ingx24 said...

I was going to respond to BeingItself's post, but what I had typed out was too mean even coming from me, and I'd probably get in a lot of trouble for it. So I won't do it.

Crude said...

The Naturalist philosophers take science very seriously, as opposed to philosophers (like Feser) who explicitly deny that their philosophy has any connection to science.

If a someone told you that he believed 2 + 2 = 4, but he was willing to change his answer to 'blue' if relevant scientific findings ever came in, would you admire his commitment to science?

Or would you start to question whether he understood mathematics, or maybe whether he was full of crap in some way?

Victor Reppert said...

If naturalism includes everything, then conceivably science could conclude that God created the universe, if the evidence were to suggest that this is true.

But people who say these sorts of things are told they are wrong on procedural grounds. They are accused of pseudoscience. Some people have views of science that imply if God were the creator of the universe, science could never say that. It's like Hume's essay on miracles. That argument has the implication that even if God were to perform miracles, proper inductive procedure would lead to the conclusion that no miracle occurred.

BeingItself said...

Such a person is just confused about the accepted meanings of certain symbols.

BeingItself said...

You seem confused about Hume.

"If naturalism includes everything, then conceivably science could conclude that God created the universe, if the evidence were to suggest that this is true."

I agree. But the evidence does not show that.

Are you watching Game of Thrones? That is a universe where the existence of gods is hardly in doubt.

But our universe is just not like the Game of Thrones universe. It's just not like that at all.

Crude said...

Such a person is just confused about the accepted meanings of certain symbols.

And if someone says that they would change their views if a scientific refutation came against their idea that was not subject to scientific falsification, they'd be confused in another sense too.

Crude said...

Are you watching Game of Thrones? That is a universe where the existence of gods is hardly in doubt.

But our universe is just not like the Game of Thrones universe. It's just not like that at all.


Please.

So long as we're bringing up fiction, I have seen countless - and I mean countless - arguments by comic-loving atheists, justifying atheism and rejection of the supernatural in DC and Marvel Comic universes.

Of course, I've also seen no shortage of die-hard anti-creationist "evolutionists!" who think the goddamn X-men are prime examples of Darwinism.

im-skeptical said...

"If a someone told you that he believed 2 + 2 = 4, but he was willing to change his answer to 'blue' if relevant scientific findings ever came in, would you admire his commitment to science?"

To suggest that such scientific findings could ever "come in", is sheer idiocy.

ingx24 said...

To suggest that such scientific findings could ever "come in", is sheer idiocy.

But this applies to things like theism and dualism as well. They are not scientific hypotheses that are subject to falsification through empirical evidence - they are metaphysical theses that stand or fall more or less independently of the state of empirical science. This is something that atheists and materialists often fail to understand: they tend to see everything in empirical scientific terms and see philosophical inquiry as a form of scientific inquiry, which is as wrongheaded as seeing mathematics as a form of empirical science.

im-skeptical said...

"But this applies to things like theism and dualism as well. They are not scientific hypotheses that are subject to falsification through empirical evidence"

To the extent that metaphysics addresses things beyond the reach of science, I agree. But consciousness is not beyond the reach of science. There's no reason to postulate an immaterial being or spirit that contains the essence of a person. Scientific investigation is tearing down such notions piece by piece. Soon, dualism will have gone the way of the flat earth or bodily humors.

Crude said...

Scientific investigation is tearing down such notions piece by piece.

Wonderful. Cite the scientific investigations that have torn down pieces of the metaphysical claims.

BeingItself said...

Good interview and discussion on latest SGU podcast about neuroscience and the hard problem.

BeingItself said...

"Cite the scientific investigations that have torn down pieces of the metaphysical claims."

Metaphysical claim: everything that is moved is moved by another.

That's empirically false.

Crude said...

Metaphysical claim: everything that is moved is moved by another.

Totally different subject. Skep is talking about consciousness. He picked the topic - I want the data, the research, and the tearing down.

ingx24 said...

There's no reason to postulate an immaterial being or spirit that contains the essence of a person. Scientific investigation is tearing down such notions piece by piece. Soon, dualism will have gone the way of the flat earth or bodily humors.

This demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what dualists are actually saying and what the arguments for dualism are actually up to. Dualism is not "postulating" immaterial substances to "explain" the mind. I would try to explain it to you, but I feel like that would be a waste of time given the way things have gone in the past. So I'll just direct you to this blog post and leave it at that. (Hooray for shameless self-promotion!)

im-skeptical said...

Zach,

"the more we learn about consciousness, and neuroscience, the more we realize the two don't fit together."

I'm sure this will come as a surprise to the scientific community. Just saying "it doesn't fit" may satisfy your psychological need to have some kind of spiritual existence, but it doesn't make it true.

ingx24,

You have the same problem: inability to see reality for what it is. "there seems to be no problem in principle with a mind existing all by itself without a brain ..." No problem except reality, that is.

Crude said...

Apparently, Skep missed my most humble request:

Cite the scientific investigations that have torn down pieces of the metaphysical claims.

You talked about all the scientific investigation that was 'tearing down these notions piece by piece'.

I'm game. Let's see the scientific progress on the hard problem of consciousness. Or hell, even the problem of intentionality. We'd all love to see it, and you say you have it.

Deliver.

BeingItself said...

"the more we learn about consciousness, and neuroscience, the more we realize the two don't fit together."

That is an absolute lie. You woo-miesters have this habit of repeating the same non-sense over and over with the magical belief that by saying it enough that makes it true.

In the podcast I mentioned, this lie is directly addressed. You know, by actual neuroscientists.

It's just like the IDiots who keep claiming that the collapse of evolution as a viable theory is imminent.

Crude said...

In the podcast I mentioned, this lie is directly addressed. You know, by actual neuroscientists.

Wonderful. Then you can provide us with the research that shows 'tearing down' of the problem of consciousness, and intentionality.

Here's a tip: if you cite research showing where such and such memory or the like is encoded in the brain? You're not only failing to say anything that is showing 'progress' on the metaphysical aspects of these questions, but you're giving details that are entirely consistent with various non-materialist views. And if that research talks about encoding information in the brain, such that this part of the brain is 'about' these other things, you're not only still consistent, but you're actually presenting something which is problematic for some materialists, like the EMs.

Deliver.

BeingItself said...

Crude,

You are being disingenuous. You have immunized you "metaphysical" beliefs from any possible empirical refutation. Congratulations on being irrational.

There are many reasons to think our brains produce consciousness. Here is one: anesthesia works.

I realize such a fact about reality will have no effect on the dogmatist.

Samwell Barnes said...

BeingItself:"Metaphysical claim: everything that is moved is moved by another.

That's empirically false."



No, it's not. At least not under the Aristotelian understanding of "motion" as simply being a movement from potency to act, which needless to say is the correct understanding, since the claim you brought up is Aristotelian.


Here's the divide I'm seeing: Many individuals who are serious about getting a grip on reality don't start with this or that scientific finding, but rather with the question, "Putting aside the issue of the empirical structures of the particular physical instantiations of Being that we see around us.....just what is Being? What is the structure of Being as such?" This leads inescapably into questions like, "What are substances? What are essences? What are universals? Particulars? The relationship between universals and particulars? What does it mean to exist?" And so on. These are perfectly legitimate questions that any thinking person will respect, and - despite what "science" abusers like Dawkins assert - no amount of science in the world will get you one scintilla closer to answering them. In short, the starting point is metaphysics proper.


From there, they turn a good deal more towards the empirical world, but not towards the empirical world as it happens to exist around us with a given set of entities and laws, but rather towards what must be true of the structure of any possible empirical world if we are to have scientific knowledge of it at all. This includes inquiries into things like the theory of act and potency, efficient causality, final causality, prime matter, forms, and so on. In short, they engage in what many philosophers such as Edward Feser have termed the "philosophy of nature."



Lastly, they face and examine empirical science, with its various models (quantitative, ideally) and the degree to which such models have been shown to hook up with the physical world we inhabit. (Such people, to my mind, are the ones most trustworthy to situate the truths of empirical science, as they have taken the time to meticulously carve out a proper conceptual space for them and thereby have shown science the greatest respect.)


Trouble is, a great deal of others espouse the exact opposite methodology, usually unthinkingly (e.g. Dawkins and Co.), and there seems to be no way for either side to adequately convey to the other the intellectual superiority of its methodology.

Papalinton said...

In a couple more years, consciousness will be pretty much understood as a function of brain activity with no attached/unattached linking to any supernaturalistic netherworld. Just as a picture is worth a thousand words so too will consciousness, which is ostensibly a mental picture, an image that we project inside our brain that neurally represents both our sensate internal and external relationship in and with the natural world, the mental image we call consciousness is the physical analogue of the picture worth a thousand words. Not really that same, mysterious or bewildering really. We just haven't got close enough yet to describe and explain how that imaging occurs the way it does.

One thing I do know with some reasonable surety, is that the religio-philosophical concept of consciousness is an ancient placemarker in the absence of good reliable and testable data that will in due course become conventional wisdom in society, in the same way that maladies and illness were not a function of a wrathful god but rather the result of poor hygiene and germ theory.

BeingItself said...

"It isn't even a matter of whether science can explain consciousness, but that it cannot even describe it"

This same argument was used against a physicalist account of life, and was used as an excuse to introduce a mystical vital force. Now, no educated person disputes that life is complicated chemistry.

Why are the overwhelming majority of neuro-scientists physicalists, if the evidence is so slanted against physicalism?

Heuristics said...

"Now, no educated person disputes that life is complicated chemistry."

I would think that every person that holds that there is an essential difference between splitting a rock in two and splitting a human in two rejects that life is nothing more then complicated chemistry.

Heuristics said...

"Why are the overwhelming majority of neuro-scientists physicalists, if the evidence is so slanted against physicalism?"

Actually, this is a very good example of what I find frustrating about this topic. Here Beingitself mentions physicalism (as I understand it this is just a greek version of the word naturalism) without giving any clue to what semantical content he puts in the word. As these words (naturalism, physicalism, materialism etc) appears to have a different definition depending on who you talk to how can a reader of a comment such as this make any sense of what is actually being communicated?

Am I supposed to understand the word physicalism just as a rejection of teleology (but acceptance of cause/effect)? Am I supposed to see it as a synonym for eliminativistic materialism, that there are no mental properties at all? Or perhaps as a synonym for emergentistic materialism? Or perhaps it is that the only properties that exist are spatiotemporal? Perhaps it is only meant that reductionism hold between biology and chemistry? Or perhaps it is the view that mathematics is a real and bottom level feature of the universe and everything IS at core mathematical?

ingx24 said...


ingx24,

You have the same problem: inability to see reality for what it is. "there seems to be no problem in principle with a mind existing all by itself without a brain ..." No problem except reality, that is.


How about you try reading what I actually wrote? I said that, even if it turns out that the mind cannot exist apart from the brain in reality, there's no logical problem with it, which suggests that mind and brain are separate substances. The fact that the mind might be dependent on the brain for its existence in reality does not change this.



"the more we learn about consciousness, and neuroscience, the more we realize the two don't fit together."

That is an absolute lie. You woo-miesters have this habit of repeating the same non-sense over and over with the magical belief that by saying it enough that makes it true.

In the podcast I mentioned, this lie is directly addressed. You know, by actual neuroscientists.

It's just like the IDiots who keep claiming that the collapse of evolution as a viable theory is imminent.


You seem completely unable to grasp conceptual points. Look at a scan of someone's brain. Do you see thoughts, emotions, or mental images in there? No? Then the point is proven. The fact that neuroscientists can correlate mental events with brain events and explain a large amount of human behavior by appealing to electrical impulses in the brain does absolutely nothing to show that mental events are identical to brain events. The fact that you think it does show this is proof that you're unable to think outside of the scientistic box you've shut yourself in.



Crude,

You are being disingenuous. You have immunized you "metaphysical" beliefs from any possible empirical refutation. Congratulations on being irrational.

There are many reasons to think our brains produce consciousness. Here is one: anesthesia works.

I realize such a fact about reality will have no effect on the dogmatist.


Excuse me? Metaphysical beliefs are, BY DEFINITION, outside the scope of science. The fact that they are immune from empirical refutation is about as significant as the fact that 2 + 2 = 4 is immune to empirical refutation.

And the fact that anesthesia works does *NOT* prove that the mind is identical to brain activity. All it shows is that, at least while embodied, the mind is dependent on a functioning brain for its functioning. It does nothing to show that the mind is identical to brain activity or that it can't exist apart from the brain. And there are many reasons - some of them empirical! - for believing that the mind does indeed separate from the brain when the brain stops functioning. (Of course, scientistic materialist types won't accept these reasons and will probably chalk them up to deluded wishful thinking, but the fact is that these reasons do exist and that one could rationally accept them.)

Crude said...

BI,

You are being disingenuous. You have immunized you "metaphysical" beliefs from any possible empirical refutation. Congratulations on being irrational.

I have pointed out that the dispute in question cannot be settled by science. By the way - that also means no settling it in my favor. Do you think I'm motivated to 'immunize' materialism too?

I asked for examples of science progressively breaking down the barrier regarding the metaphysical questions of mind. You apparently won't deliver. Let's see if Skep does. Either way, that's instructive.

There are many reasons to think our brains produce consciousness.

Great. It's too bad this wasn't problematic to just about any non-materialist.

Why are the overwhelming majority of neuro-scientists physicalists, if the evidence is so slanted against physicalism?

First of all, why should I be concerned - considering the physicalism question is metaphysical/philosophical, and their specialty is scientific? You mentioned anethesia - would the majority of doctors being not only theist, but believing in an afterlife, cause you to abandon your atheism?

But second, once again - I am game. Provide the data showing the majority of neuro-scientists are physicalists. Maybe I missed a poll. They certainly did one with doctors.

Crude said...

Great. It's too bad this wasn't problematic to just about any non-materialist.

And to clarify, I meant that the anesthetic example wasn't problematic. Forgot to include that in the quote.

Dan Gillson said...

Re: the OP

If God were a natural entity, God would also be a contingent entity. I wouldn't have any trouble in believing in a God whose existence was an accident of nature. I have trouble believing in god of philosophers, the Unmoved Mover, and I have trouble believing that such an otiose and dull god could possibly be the violent, capricious God of the Bible.

im-skeptical said...

ingx24,

"And there are many reasons - some of them empirical! - for believing that the mind does indeed separate from the brain when the brain stops functioning."

I think we discussed some of this "empirical evidence" before. It's all based on so-called near-death experiences, where people have visions of floating outside their body when their brain is close to a state of full shut-down. All it really provides evidence for is that their brain isn't functioning normally. There is absolutely no evidence that there is any kind of consciousness without a brain. In fact, if you go outside your little box and look at what consciousness really is, you might come to the conclusion that it doesn't make sense to even talk about. It's like saying walking continues after the legs are gone.

You have difficulty seeing consciousness for what it is: an activity of the brain. You insist on treating it as an entity that has its own existence and substance. This is all based on your feelings about consciousness: it SEEMS to be different from other physical phenomena. Mental states have a kind of FEELING to them that is not like the states of other objects. Of course our consciousness seems or feels different from other things. It is the only means by which we perceive and experience the world. You can't hold it in your hand and look at it, nor can you put it under a microscope. You say that you can't look at electrical impulses and see thoughts. That's right - in the same sense that you can't experience vision by examining the function of an eye.

ingx24 said...

im-skeptical,

I think this is an impasse based on the fact that I start from what I know about the mind from experience, while you start from the third-person perspective of neuroscience. We are starting in two completely different and incompatible perspectives that makes debating absolutely impossible.

Crude said...

There is absolutely no evidence that there is any kind of consciousness without a brain.

One problem is that the 'evidence that there is any kind of consciousness' is itself either literally subjective, or it relies on the subjective reports. Hence why science studies correlations of consciousness. Consciousness itself? That's dicier.

You say that you can't look at electrical impulses and see thoughts. That's right - in the same sense that you can't experience vision by examining the function of an eye.

You realize that the experience of vision and 'thought' are extremely close problems here, right? That's like saying that "sure, you can't see subjective experience under a microscope - but you can't see intentionality either!" Well, yeah. Thanks for conceding that much.

You claimed that science was "tearing down" these metaphysical claims about the mind. I've asked you to provide this research. So far, you've failed to deliver.

Shall I take that to mean you can't do it?

Martin said...

What the materialists in this thread, such as im-skeptical and Papalinton, fail to realize, and what they never realize because they are unaware of history and for some strange reason stubbornly refuse to learn about it, is that "dualism" is a byproduct of the materialist conception of matter. It is a monster created by the materialists themselves, and their own conception of nature entails, ironically, dualism.

The idea that dualism is a pre-scientific theory from religious people which has since been proven false is a fairy tail. A fantasy. No bearing whatsoever on reality.

The early scientists and philosophers wanted better scientific explanations, and to do this, they wanted everything to be explainable in terms of matter and motion. In other words, qualitative properties in the world such as colors, sounds, tastes, and so forth, as well as purpose and meaning, had to be removed from scientific explanations in order to capture only matter and motion mathematically. The only way to do this is to say that such properties are just a projection of the mind. You can read all this in Locke, Descartes, Hobbs, etc to get the specifics.

Witness any materialist today doing this. They want evidence of immaterial entities. Go ahead and suggest abstract objects, like numbers and mathematical objects, and you will see that the materialist will almost always answer, "Those are just in our minds! They aren't really out there!"

This is their attempt to keep the world how they want it to be: matter/energy and motion.

And so this creates this permanent division between qualitative properties "stuffed" into the mind, and matter and motion which are allowed to be real. So dualism is not a pre-scientific holdover, but a direct result of the methods of the materialists themselves that continues to this day.

BeingItself said...

"I think this is an impasse based on the fact that I start from what I know about the mind from experience, while you start from the third-person perspective of neuroscience."

The blind squirrel finds a worm.

"We are starting in two completely different and incompatible perspectives"

Wrong. Making them compatible is the challenge. Saying it's impossible is just to give up. But, that's always how the superstitious mind works.

Crude said...

Wrong. Making them compatible is the challenge. Saying it's impossible is just to give up. But, that's always how the superstitious mind works.

What a bunch of bull.

Ever hear of the these guys? Or how about eliminative materialists?

Nor do dualists 'give up'. They have their own arguments, and they are open to their own arguments, counterarguments, criticisms and more. Logical positivism fell, and it wasn't science that brought it down.

You guys - meaning the Keystone Kops of materialism in this thread - meanwhile had a lot of noise made about science smashing down the metaphysical issues in philosophy of mind, and when asked to produce it, blinked.

I'm also going to repeat my request for evidence that "the over-whelming majority of neuroscientists are physicalists". Maybe you have data on this. Maybe this was yet another case of wishful thinking.

Papalinton said...

What is interesting is the following statement, a crystallization of all the current understanding and knowledge on consciousness:

"The most influential modern physical theories of consciousness are based on psychology and neuroscience. Theories proposed by neuroscientists such as Gerald Edelman[22] and Antonio Damasio,[23] and by philosophers such as Daniel Dennett,[24] seek to explain consciousness in terms of neural events occurring within the brain. Many other neuroscientists, such as Christof Koch,[25] have explored the neural basis of consciousness without attempting to frame all-encompassing global theories. At the same time, computer scientists working in the field of Artificial Intelligence have pursued the goal of creating digital computer programs that can simulate or embody consciousness.[26]" See HERE for the rest of the article.

Perhaps a reading of some of the names mentioned in the piece might be a good place to begin if one wants to pick up on current research. It seems there is a congruence between the various fields of consciousness research [both scientific and philosophical] together with applied scientific research into consciousness, that is beginning to tell us a consistent story. To imagine consciousness as some form of self-actualization force separate of brain or a supernatural element that exists of its own accord, is to remain not only shackled to Cartesian dualism but to mischievously interpret current investigation through the misshapen lens of 17th C thinking.


ingx24 said...

I really, really don't buy the whole "If we just went back to an Aristotelian, pre-modern conception of matter, we wouldn't be stuck with dualism" idea. While removing colors, sounds, purposes, etc. from nature certainly made the materialist's problem worse, putting them back isn't going to change the fact that what we observe in the brain does not resemble in the slightest what we experience of our own minds, nor will it make the transition from unconscious vegetative and inorganic life to sentient animal and human life any less inexplicable or mysterious.

ingx24 said...

Papalinton,

People like you will never get the distinction between explaining how behavior is produced and explaining the magical production of subjective experience from insensate matter. It's just impossible; you're too stuck in your scientistic third-person thinking. I'm starting to wonder if people like you, BeingItself, Daniel Dennett, Paul Churchland, etc. might actually be real philosophical zombies.

Martin said...

ingx24,

Regardless, the fact remains that it is materialist philosophy that birthed substance dualism, rather than prescientific ignorance like the (HA!) Keystone Kops of materialism here believe. Just read any philosophy, primary or secondary readings, from this period and watch as the big thinkers of the time divided the world into two. Try it yourself as an experiment. Suggest to any materialist the existence of anything other than matter/energy (such as purpose or meaning), and they will trot out dualism with blissful ignorance that that is what they doing: "That's just in our minds!"

I.e., that stuff goes on the "mind" side of the ledger, not the "matter" side.

Dualism.

Ironic, no?

joesmarts said...

@BeingItself/im-skeptical,

Your claims are suspect. It seems as though both of you are squirming under the request for evidence. Yet, you have both emphatically stressed the correctness of your claims about consciousness. This suggests to me that both of you are unfamiliar with the literature of the field and unable to appropriately respond to the request for evidence. Further, if you are unfamiliar with the field, then it would seem to follow that your opinions on the matter are not well supported by evidence, but rather they are supported by an appeal to authority. Which, if the others here are correct, seems this appeal would be an inappropriate because disagreement exists within the field itself.

With that in mind, I suppose it should be no surprise that I find the emphatic claims from you two to be highly suspect. Now, let it be noted that I am not saying your claims are wrong. I am simply asking why I should believe your claims.

Papalinton said...

"You guys - meaning the Keystone Kops of materialism in this thread - meanwhile had a lot of noise made about science smashing down the metaphysical issues in philosophy of mind, and when asked to produce it, blinked."

Oh, the infantile and unschooled irony 'embodied' in this statement. [I thought a play on the existence of the supernaturalism was in order here. ;o) .
A fully subscribed materialist body and mind to its very core, a physical mortal entity at its most fundamental, and yet simultaneously vainly attempting to deny his own materialism, his own materiality.

Now that is what I call endemic cognitive dissonance writ large, a largely woo-meister induced condition.

Ephram said...

Kind of off topic, but what the hell is "woo"?

joesmarts said...

@Ephram,

"Woo" is a popular phrase among the blogosphere of New Atheists. They use it as a catchall derogatory term for beliefs they disagree with (e.g., God, ghosts, unicorns, tooth fairy, etc.).

Martin said...

"Woo" is a term for stuff like ghosts, psychics, astrology, etc. It is an example of the black and white thinking of these types of materialists. "Either materialism is true, or you believe in ghosts and other woo woo!"

It is a very simple-minded view of the world. Something like Bertrand Russell's neutral monism could be true, for example. So in that case materialism would be false but there still would not be "woo".

Ephram said...

Hm, thanks. I guess when you can't keep your movement alive with valid arguments you can always try for childish insults as a substitute.

ingx24 said...

Regardless, the fact remains that it is materialist philosophy that birthed substance dualism

Wasn't Plato a substance dualist?

Papalinton said...

Martin
"Regardless, the fact remains that it is materialist philosophy that birthed substance dualism, rather than prescientific ignorance like the (HA!) Keystone Kops of materialism here believe."

That is true. And while materialist philosophy may have precipitated substance dualism as a concept, it was largely a desperate attempt to secure ineffable, unknowable and unseen supernatural god-belief onto the coattails of science, in the hope of maintaining our historical link to prescientific ignorance in further public discourse. The religious were simply incapable, both intellectually and philosophically, of letting go old mythical ideas about spiritworldism, as science forged its own philosophical underpinnings that had no basis in theology.

Materialism in all its forms is the ground zero of reality. Theological supernaturalism is but an aberrant outrunner that humanity temporarily deviated into during the 4th to 17th Centuries. This dabbling foray into woo-land is analogous to humanity's consuming fascination with alchemy there for quite some period.

It has taken us 300 years to slowly climb out of the theological swamp. The period is not called The Enlightenment for no reason. By the end of the 20th C and into the 21st C humanity we are now experiencing the quickening of metaphysical naturalism as the best explanation for what we understand about ourselves, the world and the universe.

It's not a really strange concept to come to grips with.

Martin said...

>Wasn't Plato a substance dualist?

Yes, he was an early substance dualist due to trying to figure out how the human mind can understand the immaterial Forms.

But Cartesian dualism specifically comes about from the methodology of materialists in reducing the world to matter in motion, and thus having to get rid of everything else.

Martin said...

Note how Papalinton did not dispute anything I said, nor did he make any substantial points.

>we are now experiencing the quickening of metaphysical naturalism as the best explanation for what we understand about ourselves, the world and the universe.

It's interesting. I was just chit chatting with someone about how to solve the intentionality problem. He showed me how AI scientists had developed robots that could now generate their own meaning, thus showing that robots do not have to have derived intentionality like computers do.

But what is interesting is that in order to do this, they have to appeal to robots that have a mechanism for recognizing events and objects, etc. A specific behavior. A mechanism. A process. All of this describes final causality. And so these materialists can only make their solutions to mental problems seem plausible by pulling from the Aristotelian side of the fence.

Papalinton, how confident are you of your comment there?

Papalinton said...

""Woo" is a term for stuff like ghosts, psychics, astrology, etc. It is an example of the black and white thinking of these types of materialists."

And gods, angels, nephilim, seraphim, Satan, devils, evil spirits [parable of the suicidal swine] etc etc. Here is the site Revelife: Christian Community for the Heart, Mind and Soul. It provides a detailed list of all the strange real and imagined creatures in the Christian panoply of weird creatures. The distinction between 'real' and 'imagined' is an open question.

It is a parodic, lampooning term that has earned its stripes, a term worthy of its meaning. Imagine yourself expressing how you feel about West African supernatural Juju beliefs. That feeling expresses the same sentiment when one objectively reviews Christian woo-ism.

ingx24 said...

But Cartesian dualism specifically comes about from the methodology of materialists in reducing the world to matter in motion, and thus having to get rid of everything else.

I have a hard time accepting this. I would think Cartesian dualism would've been an obvious stance from the beginning - even without knowing anything about the brain, mental events just seem so obviously immaterial that I find it hard to believe that the only reason people decided the mind was immaterial was because of 1) considerations about universals and 2) removal of colors/sounds/etc. from the material world. And I would think once people started looking at the brain and seeing no thoughts or emotions, Cartesian dualism would've inevitably popped up no matter what.

Papalinton said...

One thing I am pretty sure Martin, were Aristotle a philosopher of today he would be a Dennett rather than a Feser or a Plantinga.

Of that there is no doubt. Reason? Aristotle looked forward in his philosophical deliberation. He was a ground breaker. Dennett looks outward taking account of contemporary research and discoveries into the wider body of knowledge. He too is a ground breaker. Feser and Plantinga are not. They look backward and view today's research through the medieval prism of theo=philosophy, Oh, and the 'Good Book', filled with miracles, rising dead corpses, talking snakes and 'original sin', and, of course, ever pining for return of the ancient practice of Aristotelian scholasticism [well Feser at least].

Can you not see the irony in clinging to old and tired thought?

Martin said...

ingx24,

>I would think Cartesian dualism would've been an obvious stance from the beginning

Perhaps. Either way, the separation of mind and matter is the process by which materialists get rid of whatever doesn't fit their pre-determined worldview. Fitting the world to their method rather than the other way around.

Martin said...

Papalinton,

>Can you not see the irony in clinging to old and tired thought?

The irony I see is that you did not address what I said.

The materialists, in order to explain intentionality, often show how robots and AI can be programmed to create their own meaning. All of which involves behavior, programming, mechanisms, etc. All "end directed", and thus all Aristotelian, not naturalistic.

Again, how confident are you that the mechanistic philosophy is succeeding?

ingx24 said...

One thing I am pretty sure Martin, were Aristotle a philosopher of today he would be a Dennett rather than a Feser or a Plantinga.

So Aristotle would be an insane nutjob materialist who denies that the mind even exists? I find that pretty hard to believe...

Crude said...

ingx24,

I have a hard time accepting this. I would think Cartesian dualism would've been an obvious stance from the beginning - even without knowing anything about the brain, mental events just seem so obviously immaterial

Think of it this way. You say that it's 'obviously immaterial'. But notice that that depends in part on what you consider 'material' to be. If your conception of "what the world is made of fundamentally" is broader - see neutral monism, panpsychism, or hell, even idealism - then cartesian dualism doesn't naturally follow. If you think that intentionality is fundamental to the natural, physical world in some way, for another example.

im-skeptical said...

joesmarts,

"It seems as though both of you are squirming under the request for evidence. ... your opinions on the matter are not well supported by evidence"

First, I have previously presented evidence here, but news of scientific advances makes no difference to the purveyors of anti-scientific dogma.

Second, Crude stated that nothing I might bring forth would be sufficient to sway him from his dogmatic beliefs, and so did ingx24. I have long since concluded that presenting information other than philosophical opinion here is more or less pointless. No amount of evidence will ever convince a committed dogmatist.

Third, why should I comply with Crude's demands to produce anything? If he's unfamiliar with science, he can always do some reading of his own. And if he thinks I'm wrong (or if you do) he's welcome to produce evidence of his own to prove it. But I don't see any evidence coming from the one who demands it of me. The fact is cognitive science doesn't deal with notions of dualism any more than biology deals with creationism. And it continues to close in on genuine understanding of how the mind works. If I were you, I wouldn't hold my breath while waiting for them to decide that a naturalist view of mind was wrong all along.

As I said before, theists are particularly resistant to science in this field because it represents one of the last bastions of theistic thinking that hasn't yet been completely laid to rest by science. So like the creationists, they cling dogmatically to their pre-scientific notions in the belief that it provides cover for their god to exist in a world that has otherwise all but banished him.

Papalinton said...

'So Aristotle would be an insane nutjob materialist who denies that the mind even exists? I find that pretty hard to believe..."

From your perspective, anyone including Aristotle, that viewed things from the material POV is a nutjob. Sometimes ingX24 you just have to give over. I don't, and materialists don't deny the place of mind in the natural world. We just don't subscribe to the nonsense that it is a separate and inviolable entity that exists on its own. The mind is what the brain does. You are reading into Aristotle's form and matter a jaundiced view that has its origins in Aquinas's appropriation of a re-interpreted Aristotle. For example:

"Aquinas' views of God as first cause, cf. quinque viae, "depend upon the supposed impossibility of a series having no first term. Every mathematician knows that there is no such impossibility; the series of negative integers ending with minus one is an instance to the contrary."[121] Moreover, according to Russell, statements regarding God's essence and existence that are reached within the Aristotelian logic are based on "some kind of syntactical confusion, without which much of the argumentation about God would lose its plausibility."[121]
Wiki

Martin said...

I note that papalinton has not responded to my charge that dualism follows necessarily from the materialists own methodology. Of course, he can't respond to it. How could he? It's a simple matter of historical fact.

Heuristics said...

"If I were you, I wouldn't hold my breath while waiting for them to decide that a naturalist view of mind was wrong all along."

Again here we have the use of the word naturalism without any sort of hint as to what is actually meant by the word.

ingx24 said...

Think of it this way. You say that it's 'obviously immaterial'. But notice that that depends in part on what you consider 'material' to be. If your conception of "what the world is made of fundamentally" is broader - see neutral monism, panpsychism, or hell, even idealism - then cartesian dualism doesn't naturally follow. If you think that intentionality is fundamental to the natural, physical world in some way, for another example.

Well like, just the imagined mental images we have seem clearly to be immaterial, i.e. they don't seem tangible in any way at all. Though from what I understand, the ancient/medieval understanding of "material" had less to do with tangibility than with the distinction between particulars and universals - in which case they aren't even using the word "material" the way we do today (which I guess is your point?)

Papalinton said...

What charge? Typically, Martin demonstrates why it is that supernaturalists are loathe to concede to a materialist perspective which largely prevails in what is euphemistically described as modern philosophy. Still the supernaturalist doggedly [dogma-edly] persists in inveigling the inexplicable world of [putative] live, actively interventionist agents that inhabit a suffused netherworld and capable of interfering at will in the natural world, into the public conversation. His statement:
"... dualism follows necessarily from the materialists own methodology ..." is the form of grievous and deplorable misrepresentation of methodological naturalism. He does not seem to understand that dualism was the woo-meisters attempt at putting supernaturalism on some imagined kosher materialist footing. He does not seem to understand that Descartes' duality theory of separate mind and body, or various derivations of it, such as mind and soul being distinct from the body, but which work together in harmony, was of purely theological origins. Descartes' thinking was formed by the Biblical view of Adam's soul spirit being God-breathed into life. Cartesian dualism, as is expounded today, is the last gasp of the supernaturalist in hopes of keeping alive an increasingly callow, unsustainable and unsupportable argument about a realm of ghosts, gods, and other spirits that go bump in the night, out from which our soul or essence or identity [call it what you will] has been apparently conscripted for the duration of our lives on this planet, and to which it returns at mortality.

And we know its nonsense of course, but some simply refuse to acknowledge the reality.

That is why naturalism excludes the supernatural. No amount of philosophical conjuring trick is going to bring it back. What you are fighting is a brush burn-back, but the brushfire has well and truly already jumped the religious containment lines.

grodrigues said...
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grodrigues said...

@Papalinton

"Aquinas' views of God as first cause, cf. quinque viae, "depend upon the supposed impossibility of a series having no first term. Every mathematician knows that there is no such impossibility; the series of negative integers ending with minus one is an instance to the contrary."

This is wrong in so many way, but really, do you even read what you quote? It starts with "the supposed impossibility of a series having no first term" and then gives the counter-example: "the series of negative integers *ending* with minus one". What dumb-ass wrote this?

note: do not bother responding, unlike you I actually know a bit about both mathematics and Aristotelian-Thomism.

joesmarts said...

@im-skeptical

You said:
Third, why should I comply with Crude's demands to produce anything?

The audience is larger than Crude and yourself.

im-skeptical said...

"The audience is larger than Crude and yourself."

If you'd like to enter into a discussion, by all means, do so. In my mind, discussion is a two-way activity. There's an exchange involving both parties. But if I make a general statement like "Science has advanced our understanding of orbital mechanics since the days of prime movers pushing around celestial spheres", then you demand that I bring forth proof from the scientific literature, I will feel free to ignore your silly demands.

Martin said...

Papalinton,

>He does not seem to understand that Descartes' duality theory of separate mind and body, or various derivations of it, such as mind and soul being distinct from the body, but which work together in harmony, was of purely theological origins.

I'm sorry but you're flat out wrong, here, and demonstrably so. Just read any history of philosophy, and you'll see that the mechanistic philosophy of Descartes et al involved pulling out of the world anything that can't be captured mathematically. For example, secondary properties: the way color looks, for example.

And how can they get rid of this? By writing it off as a projection of the mind, and not really out there. Materialists do this all...the....time.

Once again, you can try it yourself. Go find a materialist who is asking for examples of immaterial entities. Tell him that mathematical objects are one such entity: they are not based on anything physical, nor are they dependent on the human mind. Watch as he inevitably answers "Those are just in our minds!" because he, of course, isn't really looking for evidence of immaterial entities; he wants to maintain his materialism so he needs to get rid of this example you have just given him.

The jokes on him, of course, because what he is saying is that mathematical objects (and other such items, such as purpose, meaning, etc) go on the "mind" side of the ledger, not the "matter" side.

Which, blissfully ignorant as he is, is just dualism.

Answer that, Papalinton. Also, answer how in attempting to explain things like intentionality, mechanists inevetiably fall back on examples from A.I. and computer science, all of which involves final causality.

So instead of using your vague terms "naturalism" vs "supernaturalism", how about using terms like Aristotelianism vs mechanism? Again, how confident are you that mechanistic philosophy is successful?

Martin said...

Papalinton,

>"Aquinas' views of God as first cause, cf. quinque viae, "depend upon the supposed impossibility of a series having no first term. Every mathematician knows that there is no such impossibility; the series of negative integers ending with minus one is an instance to the contrary."

Good lord. We have all answered this so many times, and yet it keeps popping up, just like the zombie creationist arguments.

The infinite regress Aquinas is talking about is NOT one that stretches back in time. Rather, he is talking about how a receiver necessitates a giver:

Receiver <-------- Giver

If there is no giver, then the receiver isn't receiving anything:

Receiver

But if you extend the receiving line out to infinity...

Receiver <------------------------

...then you have in effect done the same thing and removed the giver, in which case once again the receiver won't be receiving anything.

This is what Aquinas means when he says: "But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover [i.e., giver], and, consequently, no other mover [i.e., receiver]..."

Strictly speaking, the regress can go to infinity but then there would have to be a giver embedded somewhere in the infinite regress. The point has nothing whatsoever to do with whether an infinite regress is impossible, strictly speaking. That is what the Kalam argument tries to argue, which Aquinas rejected because he found it wanting.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>"Science has advanced our understanding of orbital mechanics since the days of prime movers pushing around celestial spheres"

This confuses philosophy of nature (which is concerned with any world of changing things), with natural science (which is concerned with discovering what specific changing things exist in our universe). It is a category error, in other words.

The Prime Mover argument has nothing whatsoever to do with celestial spheres. The arguers of the time used those as examples to illustrate their abstract concepts, but they are not essential to the argument at all and anyone you find telling you so simply does not have a clue what he is talking about.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

It you who are hopelessly confused. I'm not trying to make a philosophical argument. All I'm saying is that science has advanced. Back in Aristotle's day, they actually did believe in celestial spheres with movers. Science has moved on, and so has modern metaphysics, but your metaphysics has not. As long as you want to base your arguments on this ancient, outdated metaphysics, scientists like Dawkins will be fully justified in saying they have no need for your philosophy.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

> Back in Aristotle's day, they actually did believe in celestial spheres with movers.

Yes, that's true.

>Science has moved on, and so has modern metaphysics

This is far from obvious, however. I was just speaking with someone via email about the problem of intentionality. That is, how a thought can be about something. He showed me how advanced A.I. has become, and how they have solved what they call "the symbol grounding" problem, which is just another angle of the problem of intentionality, or aboutness.

The paper was interesting, but what was more interesting to me was how in order to solve it, they needed to appeal to robots that have "a process to autonomously generate meaning." But what is a process? A process is, per the dictionary, "a series of actions or steps taken to achieve an end."

That is, a process is a final cause. So in order to solve this problem, they had to appeal to final causes. Thus vindicating Aristotle and striking a mark against the opposing mechanistic philosophy that is behind modern materialism.

So it is far from clear that Aristotle's metaphysics have, in fact, been refuted.

If we avoid foggy terms like "supernatural" and "natural", and frame the debate in terms of "Aristotelianism" vs "mechanistic philosophy", it's far from clear that mechanistic philosophy has won out over Aristotelianism.

joesmarts said...

@im-skeptical,

You said:
If you'd like to enter into a discussion, by all means, do so. In my mind, discussion is a two-way activity. There's an exchange involving both parties.
I do not seek to make a contribution to the discussion. I seek to make a contribution to the meta-discussion. Let's move along the discussion.

If you want a fair hearing for your position, you need to stop being defiant and do what has been requested of you. You have made a claim. You have also claimed to have presented support for this claim. Where is this presentation?

You said:
But if I make a general statement like "Science has advanced our understanding of orbital mechanics since the days of prime movers pushing around celestial spheres", then you demand that I bring forth proof from the scientific literature, I will feel free to ignore your silly demands.
To the folly of your position, of course.

Zach said...
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Zach said...
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im-skeptical said...

martin,

"That is, a process is a final cause. So in order to solve this problem, they had to appeal to final causes. Thus vindicating Aristotle and striking a mark against the opposing mechanistic philosophy that is behind modern materialism."

If you want to understand intentionality from a materialist perspective, think about a primitive organism surviving. What makes it more likely to survive? Certain behaviors, such as seeking nourishment (note - no purpose is implied). Then think about evolution. Behaviors that enhance the probability of survival are replicated and evolved over time. This forms the basis of behavior that we see as intentional. As organisms become more complex, so does their behavior. Then, along comes a bunch of theists who want to turn it into God's divine purpose. But they're wrong. It's just natural behavior.

grodrigues said...

@Zach:

"This counts for even beliefs taken to be necessarily true, such as claims about the necessarily Euclidean structure of space. Those that think science cannot cause people to change a mathematical "truth" into a provisional truth, sometimes false, have not studied history."

Well, then it seems you have not studied your history, because science never "change[d] a mathematical "truth" into a provisional truth". Not once; it cannot. The "necessarily Euclidean structure of space" is probably borrowed from Kant and is not a mathematical claim. The work of Bolyai and Lobachevsky is from 1830's (Gauss is even earlier) predating Minkowski's paper on the nature of space-time in special relativity by several years. The work of Riemann (Über die Hypothesen welche der Geometrie zu Grunde liegen, published in 1858) predates General Relativity by about 60 years. Beltrami showed the equiconsistency of Hyperbolic and Euclidean geometry in the 1860's. Einstein was not a mathematician; he had to learn differential geometry from, among others, his friend M. Grossmann. Neither are the truths of Euclidean geometry "provisional"; and that "sometimes false", I do not even know what to make of it.

Crude said...

Second, Crude stated that nothing I might bring forth would be sufficient to sway him from his dogmatic beliefs, and so did ingx24.

Wonderful: quote where I said this. In fact, quote where I said anything that could be reasonably construed along those lines. I expressed skepticism that science was making advances on the metaphysical aspects of philosophy of mind - the hard problem of consciousness and intentionality were two examples I gave.

I made a very reasonable request in the face of quite a lot of bravado on your part. You refused to provide what you said you had. When it's noticed that you're providing no evidence, you make a pretty blunt accusation against me.

Once again, I'm game: you say that's what I said? Deliver the quote. Show the evidence.

Third, why should I comply with Crude's demands to produce anything? If he's unfamiliar with science, he can always do some reading of his own. And if he thinks I'm wrong (or if you do) he's welcome to produce evidence of his own to prove it.

Let's get this straight. You say that science has been blasting away at these metaphysical questions. I ask for references to this science. You refuse to provide it. When called on this, you say it's my job to provide evidence that science is not making any progress on this front.

First off - what, you want me to provide a LACK of scientific progress on this front as evidence?

Second, okay - my first evidence submitted is the fact that you are apparently allergic to providing the very evidence you claimed was out there in abundance. I say the reason is the evidence doesn't exist. Note that I didn't deny you could provide arguments for materialism, or for naturalism, or for such and such. You made a claim about philosophy of mind, metaphysical issues, and science's progress on them - the claim was that this evidence existed.

Provide it.

Crude said...

To twist this particular knife further, Skep - the reason I ask the question I do is because I, like others here, actually am familiar with science on this subject. If you were, you wouldn't have made the claim you did.

Again: let's see your evidence. Because the alternative is a tacit confession that you don't have that evidence after all. In which case, you're either mighty deceptive about scientific knowledge, or you realize you're out of your depth in even referring to it.

Crude said...

ingx24,

Well like, just the imagined mental images we have seem clearly to be immaterial, i.e. they don't seem tangible in any way at all. Though from what I understand, the ancient/medieval understanding of "material" had less to do with tangibility than with the distinction between particulars and universals - in which case they aren't even using the word "material" the way we do today (which I guess is your point?)

Well, that's part of it. And it's one that took me a long time to realize, because when 'dualism' is brought up all the focus tends to be on the mental side of things. But what 'matter' is is damn essential to Cartesian dualism too.

When Aristotileans and Cartesian Dualists are contrasted, they don't only disagree about mind. They also disagree about matter. The same holds for Aristotileans and materialists - put the human mind off to the side and they still have points of disagreement about their philosophy of nature.

That's why Martin was talking about the Cartesian's view of matter forcing their view of mind.

Zach said...
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Zach said...
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Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>Certain behaviors, such as seeking nourishment

Exactly what I just said: behaviors, processes, etc. You have to appeal to processes and behaviors and mechanisms in order to explain the rise of intentionality. And behaviors, processes, and mechanisms are all paradigm examples of final causality.

Thus, Aristotle wins, and mechanistic philosophy loses.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"And behaviors, processes, and mechanisms are all paradigm examples of final causality."

No they're not.

Martin said...

>No they're not.

Sure they are. They all involve specific end results. The dictionary defines a process as: "A series of actions or steps taken to achieve an end."

To achieve an end.

That's just final causality. You don't have to call it that if you don't want, but regardless you are pulling from the Aristotelian side of the fence.

Aristotle wins. Mechanistic philosophy loses.

ingx24 said...

Well, that's part of it. And it's one that took me a long time to realize, because when 'dualism' is brought up all the focus tends to be on the mental side of things. But what 'matter' is is damn essential to Cartesian dualism too.

When Aristotileans and Cartesian Dualists are contrasted, they don't only disagree about mind. They also disagree about matter. The same holds for Aristotileans and materialists - put the human mind off to the side and they still have points of disagreement about their philosophy of nature.

That's why Martin was talking about the Cartesian's view of matter forcing their view of mind.


So something doesn't have to be tangible or observable to count as "material" under the ancient/medieval conception of matter?

im-skeptical said...

"Aristotle wins. Mechanistic philosophy loses."

Only if you drink the kool-aid. In the account I gave, there was no purpose, no intelligence, no final causality. But organisms evolve behavior that is goal-directed. There is no need for this final causality that you insist on seeing. I was explaining a materialist view, after all.

Martin said...

>In the account I gave, there was no purpose, no intelligence, no final causality

No intelligence, but yes. There is final causality because evolution involves "mechanisms", "processes", and so on.

And as I showed above, processes are oriented around a specific end result.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"And as I showed above, processes are oriented around a specific end result."

Here's a definition that better fits what I was describing:

"be·hav·ior (b-hvyr)
n.
1. The manner in which one behaves.
2.
a. The actions or reactions of a person or animal in response to external or internal stimuli.
b. One of these actions or reactions: "a hormone . . . known to directly control sex-specific reproductive and parenting behaviors in a wide variety of vertebrates" (Thomas Maugh II).
3. The manner in which something functions or operates: the faulty behavior of a computer program; the behavior of dying stars."

Martin said...

>The actions or reactions

And what is an action? "The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim"

To achieve an aim. That is, to flee predators, to eat food, etc.

>The manner in which something functions or operates

Functions are aimed at specific effects. Operations, same thing.

You can relabel it all you want, but as long as you are talking about engaging in specific activities towards a specific effect, then you are talking about final causes.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

Try as you might, you can't ascribe purpose to behavior that just results from materials doing whatever physics necessitates. Two bodies in space gravitate toward each other, but there is no intention. Chemicals react, but there is no intention. It just happens.

Martin said...

> Two bodies in space gravitate toward each other, but there is no intention.

Yes. They do move towards each other, but do not repel each other. All without intelligent intention. That's exactly right. That's what final causes are.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"Yes. They do move towards each other, but do not repel each other. All without intelligent intention. That's exactly right. That's what final causes are."

You are not describing Aristotelian final cause, which includes the notion of conscious intention or purpose, also known as telos.

From SEP (on Aristotelian causes): "The final cause: “the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done”, e.g., health is the end of walking, losing weight, purging, drugs, and surgical tools."

Aristotle's final cause is not a description of simple physics as you have said.

Martin said...

>Aristotle's final cause is not a description of simple physics as you have said.

It sure is. The health thing is one example, but it applies to any causal regularity.

joesmarts said...

@Crude,

It seems im-skeptical is playing the dodge game. Thus, I am turning to you. Where has he (supposedly) presented evidence that science is "tearing down" the dualistic view of consciousness? I have review this thread, and it seems there is nothing other than claims. I went through three pages of posts and comments in hopes of finding the presentation with no luck. I am really curious to see his evidence, but I am having that nagging feeling that opinions are all he has.

Zach said...
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Crude said...

joesmarts,

It seems im-skeptical is playing the dodge game. Thus, I am turning to you. Where has he (supposedly) presented evidence that science is "tearing down" the dualistic view of consciousness?

He hasn't, as far as I remember. Certainly not recently, and since I had a ~4-5 month hiatus until a bit ago, it's anyone's guess what the hell he means. Since he won't deliver - and believe me, it'd be even funnier if he tried to deliver - I think it's safe to chalk it up to 'pointless, embarrassed Skep bluff'.

There's plenty of good work being done in neuroscience generally of course. Also some bad journalism to go with it, but hey, that happens. Science work that's tearing down dualism, or even the hard problem of consciousness or intentionality, etc? Not so much.

Papalinton said...
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William said...

Zach,

What is fascinating, historically, about the global workspace theory is how we are seeing the return of the Cartesian theater, but in the neurosciences, despite its unpopularity in 20th century philosophy. The consciousness of the global workspace is an emergent phenomenon of a network of preconscious brain functions.

Of course, we still have the brute fact that the global workspace correlates with conscious experience, but does not imply conscious experience -- unless there are natural laws causative of our consciousness implicit in the underlying nature of the universe (hello, Nagel).

Which means that either one has to be a neutral monist who sees the body as a combination of the physical and mental, or, despite materialistic hand-waving to the contrary, retain dualism in our descriptions even as we deny their needed ontology.

Papalinton said...
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Papalinton said...

Zach
Yes. A good place indeed to start on what is happening in consciousness research, both scientific and philosophical.

Contrast this with the unsubstantiated claptrap promulgated as philosophical discourse on consciousness by the Catholic Encyclopedia.

I notice Dennett is at the forefront in the study of consciousness. I could not find mention of the other 'Philosophers of Mind', Feser and Plantinga. But then we are not talking minor league here. They aren't into research; just re-interpretation.

One cannot but be struck by the freshness of the research into consciousness in the site you cite compared to the old, tired and time-frazzled tropes trotted out as religious 'trooths'TM in the catholic version. Catholic consciousness lurches from disparate idea to disparate idea an onto the next disparate idea, connected as it were by the conjunctive use of 'soul'. Fifteen times the word is repeated. Fifteen times! There is really no getting away from it. There is no place for theological discourse on consciousness going forward. Religious conceptions of consciousness are trite and unimaginably boilerplate.

William said...

Linton, why are you quoting an article written for a 18th century educational project and published in 1908, which you found I suppose via a Google search, as if it was current thinking?

Want to see what was published about consciousness 3 years later than the article you quoted, in Encyclopedia Brittanica in 1911? It is here, and it's just as empty of substance, just mostly quoting the secular classicists.

Zach said...
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im-skeptical said...

"He hasn't, as far as I remember."

I stand by everything I have said. There's plenty of information out there, and some of it must be a little disturbing to those who won't let go of their dogmatic views. I'm not going to conduct a survey of the field for your benefit, but I have brought bits of it here. As I said, it was ignored because people like you only hear what you want to hear.

If you want an example of someone who doesn't deliver, look in the mirror, Crude. A lot of bluster and no substance. Piss off.

joesmarts said...

@Zach,

Thanks for sharing the resource. When I have some time, I'd really like to dig into that. It's not always at the forefront of my concerns, but it's been something I've had a passing interest in.

Also, I agree it would be silly for anyone look for "The Study."


@Crude,

Thanks for the response.


@im-skeptical,

You said:
I'm not going to conduct a survey of the field for your benefit, but I have brought bits of it here.

Where are these bits? They haven't been posted within this thread, so I'm having a difficult time locating them.

im-skeptical said...

joesmarts,

It was in previous threads, and I don't really keep track, so I don't recall specifically which ones. Zach rightly pointed out that there is no one piece of research that makes the case one way or the other. There is a growing body of scientific knowledge. All I was saying is that the case for a materialistic view of mind continues to get stronger as that knowledge increases, while the case for the non-material mind grows weaker and weaker. That's my opinion, and it is clearly not a settled matter. Yet.

ingx24 said...

When are people going to realize that explaining how electrical impulses in the brain produce appropriate behavior based on environmental inputs does not amount to explaining the mind in terms of brain activity? Are you guys really so stuck in a scientistic, third-person mode of thinking that you completely ignore your own everyday experience?

Sometimes I wonder if materialists really are philosophical zombies. It certainly would explain a lot.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

> All I was saying is that the case for a materialistic view of mind

In fact it's the exact opposite.

Behaviorism was the first materialist theory of mind, and that collapsed along with positivism. Next came identity theory, which is largely abandoned now thanks to Kripke/Putnam. You won't find many identity theorists anymore. Functionalism is the king now, but it is no longer strictly materialist.

William Lycan is a materialist, and here is what he says: "Functionalism, the reigning materialism of the past 35 years or so, does not strictly entail materialism, but has been held largely because it is the least bad way of remaining a materialist."

Emphasis on "remaining".

The mind/body problem only becomes more accute. And one possible reason for this is exactly what I've been saying: it comes from the materialists own conception of matter. If matter is devoid of secondary properties, then DUH!, so called "qualia" will appear to be non material. That's because matter has no such properties.

Crude said...

I stand by everything I have said.

You have said remarkably little other than cheerleading, along with some claims you now clearly regret making.

And me? Here's what I've done that has pissed you off to high heaven: I asked you to supply the data you said existed. That's it. That's the really offensive, unfair move I made here.

You didn't deliver, despite repeated requests. That's either because you do not have it, or because you know what you have is inadequate support for your cheerleading. Or hey, third option: you don't even understand what you have.

So, curse all you like. Just know that if I'm around and give a shit, when you make suspect claims that should be easy to support, I will ask you to support them. Terrifying, I know. The epitome of anti-science.

Martin said...

im-skeptical will not be able to provide the evidence he has, as you say, been cheerleading. Because there is no such evidence. The position in question is materialism, which is a philosophical viewpoint, not a scientific one.

He can't provide evidence of behaviorism or identity theory, because they are dead.

So what's left? Functionalism? It's not doing all that great. Or at least, not as much as he thinks it is. So let him show evidence that functionalism (or anomalous monism) are doing well. Or elimnativism. Those are his choices.

Show us evidence that one of the following theories of mind is "stronger and strong":

* Functionalism
* Anomalous Monism
* Eliminativism

For people who are actually skeptical of materialism, unlike im-skeptical, you can see an Oxford University seminar right here that will show why none of these theories work:

http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/romp-through-philosophy-mind

Zach said...
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Martin said...

>about a dozen neural theories

That's interesting, I'm sure, but materialism as a philosophical theory breaks down into three, not a dozen. We aren't talking about neural theories here, but materialism. Which is a philosophical theory:

* Reduction
* Non-reduction
* Eliminativism

Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martin said...

I thought I did get into the details. Neuroscience will uncover associations: belief P is associated with neurons 4500-6500.

But that still won't tell you whether the mental event A) is identical to the brain event, B) supervenes on the brain event, or C) is just a brain event.

Or, that the mental event causes the brain event.

That is the question, and neuroscience is the wrong tool.

Zach said...
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Martin said...

I don't think I ever said you don't need to know any science. Of course you need to know science. You need to know that mental events are associated with brain events before you can begin to philosophize on the interpretations of that association. The question is dualism vs materialism. These are both philosophical interpretations, not natural sciences.

Support for either one will come from arguments, at least one or more premises of which are scientific (associations, etc), and one or more of which are philosophical.

ingx24 said...

I feel like Zach might be a materialist in disguise trying to make his criticisms of dualist arguments seem plausible by pretending he's a dualist. It seems like Zach spends more time criticizing anti-materialist arguments than he does criticizing materialism.

Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crude said...

What's been asked for are scientific theories (as opposed to philosophical arguments) that have been tearing down the metaphysical questions of mind - the hard problem of consciousness and intentionality were given as two examples. Those weren't provided.

'Any progress in neuroscience at all' wasn't the bar. Correlates of consciousness wasn't the bar. There's plenty going on in neuroscience that is, while good science, either irrelevant to the metaphysical questions, or are relevant only insofar as they can be integrated/squared with the various metaphysical views anyway. (The eliminative materialists excepted.)

Martin said...

>same tired crap from Crude/Grod/Martin

Huh?

You haven't responded to anything I've said. What exactly is "tire" about me?

I said that the question we are concerned with is dualism vs materialism.

I said that this is a philosophical question that, yes, also will have some scientific premises.

So evidence from neuroscience does not get us closer to the dualism vs materialism question. One must look to philosophy.

I said that im-skeptical, in order to support his contention that the evidence for materialism is so great, needs to give us academic papers that prove for example that functionalism/anomalous monism are true.

I don't why pointing this out is "tired".

grodrigues said...

@Zach:

"It is the same tired crap from Crude/Grod/Martin/im-skeptical. ingx once said something intelligent, but now has shown he is just a party-line zombie who wants conformity."

My participation in this thread amounts to two comments: one correcting a minor mistake on a quote of Papalinton (which I admit could be plausibly construed as a case of trigger-happy pouncing), and correcting some major mistakes of yours. Maybe correcting your mistakes is "the same tired crap". Correcting your crap is tiresome, I will grant you that much.

Zach said...
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Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grodrigues said...

@Zach:

"Grod you love to think you correct people you pedantic shit, but you completely misinterpreted me, and corrected your own misinterpretation. You do that in every thread you have ever participated in on the internet."

I did not know that proving that you demonstrably do not know what you are talking (in one case) about could send you into such a rage. I will be more careful next time so as not to bruise your fragile ego.

ingx24 said...

Zach,

My problem with you is that all you seem to do is criticize people. You claim that the traditional arguments for dualism fail miserably, and mockingly criticize them every time they come up, accusing them of being "semantic arguments" (which... they're not, sorry). Yet you claim to be a dualist, and when asked to give arguments you do think work against materialism, you only vaguely hint at them and claim "oh they'll be on my blog soon".

im-skeptical said...

Zach,

I applaud you for trying to maintain a little sanity in the discussion. I admit I get off track. Even when I try to engage in a serious discussion, it seems it always goes this way. I'll try to do better.

Zach said...
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William said...

Martin's referernce to Talbot's lecture is interesting in its conclusion:

"
…the only alternative is that there is something – the
mental – that is real but that is simply not visible, even
in principle, to science.
"

im-skeptical said...

Zach,

"I have arguments already at my site, and frankly the good arguments I have aren't new or mine, but from Russell (based on considerations of intrinsic versus relational properties) and others."

Where are these arguments? I didn't see them at the site you linked to earlier.

Papalinton said...

William
"Linton, why are you quoting an article written for a 18th century educational project and published in 1908, which you found I suppose via a Google search, as if it was current thinking? "

Because its message remains in full currency to this day. See THIS SITE HERE. And on typing 'consciousness' one enters into a smorgasbord of entries related to consciousness starting AT THIS PAGE and runs for three pages. Have a look. You will be amazed. And it is comprehensive.

You see Martin, time is not a virtue in the Christian reality. Today's aficionados continue to peddle a two millennia fable. If you can provide a more up-to-date resource please do so. It comes back to what Dr David Eller so eloquently confirmed:

"....religions do not and cannot progress the way that, say, science can progress. When science progresses, it abandons old and false ideas. Once we discovered oxygen and the principles of combustion, we stopped thinking that there was a substance called phlogiston. .......... Science and reason are SUBSTITUTIVE and ELIMINATIVE: new ideas replace old ideas. Religion is ADDITIVE and/or SCHISMATIC: new ideas proliferate alongside old ideas. For instance, the development of Protestantism did not put an end to Catholicism, and the development of Christianity did not put an end to Judaism. With science, we get BETTER. With religion, we get MORE."

There is a pattern here, a pathology of theological thinking that pervades and compromises rationality at every turn. Not because the process itself is irrational but the initial premise is false. Consciousness is not caused by a supernatural event. Consciousness is an artifact of brain chemistry. There is no God-tron pulling the levers inside one's brain.

No woo-meister, not even you, has provided a single substantive refutation to what is becoming ever so clearer as the debate proceeds; religion is a purely, earth-bound, un-supernaturalistic artifice, nothing more than a wholly-derived product and an explicit expression of culture. Nothing more. Nothing less. Your Christian god is no more real and true to billions of other people and me as Shiva and Brahman is any more real and true to you and me.

Eller goes on: "A myth is somebody else's belief. A belief is a myth taken seriously." Woo-spinners are so congenitally bound up in their myth that it renders them incapable of seeing the wood for the trees.


Martin said...

Papalinton,

>No woo-meister, not even you, has provided a single substantive refutation to what is becoming ever so clearer as the debate proceeds

I did above, which you never addressed. Instead of these vague terms "natural" and "supernatural", I provided an example of mechanistic vs Aristotelian philosophy, and how the latter explains the world around us better than mechanism does.

William said...

Linton;
"With science, we get BETTER. With religion, we get MORE."

Hmm. With technology, we get a lot more, and often worse as well as better. Consider fire, coal, oil, fracking, nuclear meltdown; Walk, ride horse, drive car, ride plane, but we still walk, and that is good. :).

Good point that old religions last a lot longer than old theories, though. I have a nephew who claims to worship Odin :-).

Papalinton said...

Still duck shoving. Still refusing to address the fundamental reason why woo-spinners trot out Aquinian theological interpretations of Aristotle to prop up their argument for the weird and wonderful. Still doggedly [dogma-edly] hanging onto anything that predisposes itself to supporting a mythos.

Martin you know full well there is no mystery to or about humanity in any god or supernatural-sense. That is all just juvenile mind games. Like all terrestrial animals, people are born, live, die and decay. Period. Everything else is what you as an individual make of it. The question is not about finding the meaning *of* life. It is all about finding a meaning *in* life. If you wish to use the word 'mechanistic' in a pejorative sense to explain life as it really is, that is your jaundiced prerogative. For me, life-death is just a plain old 'natural' process. No ifs, no buts, no gods, no unnatural supernatural imaginings, no spirits, ghosts, resurrections, no ascensions, no talking burning bushes, no walking on water, no redemption, no salvation.

Using the word 'mechanistic' doesn't make it any the less absolute reality, ultimate truth or brute fact. All Aristotle was doing was to put a linguistic description to the reality of this natural process, But he, as did Aquinas, simply added an aftermention of a god into the equation, an unsubstantiated claim that remains an unresolved philosophical conundrum to this day.

But what we are witnessing now, whether you agree with it or not, is that Aristotle's view of the universe, dominant as it was throughout the Middle Ages in Europe and enjoying a resurgence at the time of Aquinas, is gradually being phased out by a modern, mechanistic view of the universe. And this is not the result of some philosophical talkfest. It is because as knowledge grows and we develop greater understanding, the old trope of an arbitrarily imposed 'prime mover' into the chain of infinite causal events is losing its relevance and explanatory power. Its role is becoming less and less tenable as a definitive proposition going forward.

Martin said...

paplinton,

It was hard to sort through all your spooge, but I found this:

>Aristotle's view of the universe, dominant as it was throughout the Middle Ages in Europe and enjoying a resurgence at the time of Aquinas, is gradually being phased out by a modern, mechanistic view of the universe.

OK, good. So as I pointed out with someone on email and also above, try to explain intentionality of the mind without referencing anything like mechanisms, processes, behavior, stances, or anything like that. Because all of that is goal-directed and hence final causality.

I was amazed out how my friend confidently trotted out a paper on how intentionality has been solved through A.I. and robots, and how these machines were able to gain meaning to their thoughts without having to be programmed. Sounds great, and I have no doubt they solved it.

But what was amazing is that the solution involved mechanisms, processes, and all that kind of stuff, showing that final causality is impossible to avoid if one wants to make any sense of the world at all.

That is your challenge. Instead of this vague "natural" vs "supernatural", when I force you to speak of "final causes" vs "no final causes", it is much harder for you to hide behind vague terms.

Go ahead and see if you can make sense of intentionality without reference to mechanisms, behavior, processes, or stances, or anything remotely like that.

Go ahead!

Papalinton said...

William
'Good point that old religions last a lot longer than old theories, though. I have a nephew who claims to worship Odin :-)."

Two things:

(1) Longevity however has never been a kosher criterion for or indicator of fact or truth. IIRC the Egyptian religion reigned almost unrivaled, even with the various forays of other nations, Alexander the Great and early Roman contact, for some 2,500 years and continued to exist conjointly with Christianity in Egypt for a further 5-600 years until the advent of Islam in the 6thC CE.

Apparently Hindu has been around in its diverse incantations and manifestations variously cited as being the oldest continuing religion in the world, at around some 5,000 years old. And Buddhism and Christianity both share the same run count at the top of the ninth in terms of years.

(2) Odin? :o)

Papalinton said...

Martin
You seem so confused about what intentionality is.

Tell me, what is and where does 'intentionality' reside? You will need to define what you mean by 'intentionality' because in your rejection of the mass of information I have provided your definition of intentionality is clearly theological in content.

Is your intentionality synonymous with or implicated with teleology? Even Dennett talks of the intentional stance but his use is cheese to your chalk.

im-skeptical said...

"Is your intentionality synonymous with or implicated with teleology?"

Martin already said it is Aristotle's final cause, and therefore, it is synonymous with teleology. By his definition, everything shows final causality by definition. Therefore, Aristotle was right by definition. You can't argue with that logic.

Martin said...

You seriously don't know what intentionality means? It means for the mind to represent or be about something. Right now your thought is about my comment.

Try to explain that with any degree whatsoever of anything that smacks of final causality. Look at Dennet's intentional stance. We act as if life were designed even though it isn't. We take the design stance towards it. And he says that we take the intentional stance towards humans.

Fine.

But what is a stance? It is an example of goal-directedness.

See what I mean?

Crude said...

Zach,

Crude it would be more productive to

What's productive, and totally reasonable, is to respond to claims of science tearing down these metaphysical questions with a simple 'fine, show me the science and let's analyze it'. Skep backed off, then lied about what I said. BI didn't fair much better. "Calling out bluffing by materialists" is productive, because fake rhetoric happens to play a major role in these discussions, even at the professional level. There's less intellectual and scientific warrant for materialism than many materialists would like to admit.

yes I admit I almost solely play devil's advocate for every position I see.

What you do is scream nonstop bullshit insults at people. Martin, ingx24, and certainly freaking Grod all demonstrate that they actually read up on these topics and know what they're talking about, even if I disagree with them often. I can name a few atheists on here who do so too. That you piss your pants when they criticize you doesn't speak poorly of THEM.

"Devil's advocate" doesn't mean angrily shit-talking people who actually produce arguments and evidence. What you do is go completely ballistic at people, like a mini-Ilion, with less provocation - except the pattern seems to be 'Dualist/theist? Zach's going to tell them they suck. Skep/Linton? Zach's going to agree with them, and attack anyone who criticizes them.' No wonder ingx24 finds it all odd.

Not that I endorse his accusation. Like with Linton, I'd like more evidence before I lay that one down. Though I will say, anyone who actually turned out to be a desperate atheist pretending to be a theist, for hours upon hours, purely in the hopes of trying to advance an argument *in the comments section of a low-traffic blog*? That would be amazingly pathetic. Like 'Linton at his worst, to the tenth power' sad.

Either way, now Skep's asking you to produce arguments and saying he can't even find them where you claimed they were. I've stopped waiting for that particular train to come in, but hey, maybe he'll hold out hope.

Papalinton said...

Martin
"And he [Dennett] says that we take the intentional stance towards humans."

And that is where the concept of intentionality should remain, a stance that properly reflects human behaviour. That notion of intentionality in this respect is universally acknowledged and accepted. Sociology, psychology, psychiatry etc etc all serve as clear evidence that intentionality is a function of human behaviour and thought. Humans do that as a matter of socializing, an integral and important element that characterises the level of synchrony in relationships between sentient beings, be it sympathy, empathy, antipathy or otherwise. Reading others' minds as if one were rummaging around their own mind in search of reasons or answers to explain the behaviour of the other person is meat and potatoes. And from that perspective your reference to Aristotelianism is correct, just as im-skeptical notes.

What isn't kosher is the projection of 'final cause', that the universe is the product of the final cause of an ineffable, unknowable, unseen god, a product of teleology. To travel that no-through road is to end up in theological disneyland. Indeed Aristotle's 'unmoved mover' was a pie-in-the-sky concept even as he advocated it. There were many Greek schools of philosophy that did not subscribe to the God notion. These included among others Democritus, Epicurus and the atomists. It was indeed a conundrum even in his time. Aquinas's appropriation of it some 1,000 years later didn't make it any the truer and substantial.

What is interesting is this little piece encapsulating the ambivalence in current philosophy of some of the conceptions in Aristotle's various treatises, particularly the philosophically constructed contrivance of the 'unmoved mover':

"Some have regarded it as a sublime truth; others have thought it a piece of exquisite nonsense. Among those who have taken the latter view, some have considered it the supreme absurdity of Aristotle’s system, and others have held that Aristotle himself intended it as a reductio ad absurdum." The Encyclopedia Britannica.

Today's philosophers that remain welded to Aristotle's 'unmoved mover' are almost exclusively centred within theological circles. It has little if any relevance or applicability within the broader philosophical movement.

Martin said...

Papalinton,

I swear, you think about God more than any evangelical I ever met. I never said a word about God. I was speaking solely of Aristotelian metaphysics.

>And that is where the concept of intentionality should remain, a stance that properly reflects human behaviour.

Did you just miss what I said? I said that a "stance" is an example of goal-directedness, and hence final causality.

Just what I said: you can't get rid of intentionality without bringing in final causes. And so mechanistic philosophy is false.

Papalinton said...

"And so mechanistic philosophy is false."

Well. No. In general the mechanistic approach to understanding causal relationships is increasing by virtue of its sophisticated explanatory power. This is evidence none more so than in the neurosciences, which is still very much in its infancy as a knowledge discoverable discipline. From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is the following notation:

"Other recent trends, now in philosophy of neuroscience, include renewed interest in the nature of mechanistic explanations, given the widespread use of the term among neuroscientists. In his book, Explaining the Brain (2005), Carl Craver contends that mechanistic explanations in neuroscience are causal and typically multi-level. For example, the explanation of the neuronal action potential involves the action potential itself, the cell in which it occurs, electro-chemical gradients, and the proteins through which ions flow. Here we have a composite entity (a cell) causally interacting with neurotransmitters at its receptors. Parts of the cell engage in various activities (the opening and closing of ligand-gated and voltage-gated ion channels) to produce a pattern of change (the depolarizing current constituting the action potential). The mechanistic explanation of the action potential countenances entities at the cellular, molecular, and atomic levels, each of which are causally relevant to producing the action potential. This causal relevance can be confirmed by altering any one of these variables (e.g. the density of ion channels in the cell membrane) to generate alterations in the action potential, and by verifying the consistency of the purported invariance between the variables. (For challenges to Craver's account of mechanistic explanation in neuroscience, specifically concerning the action potential, see Weber 2008 and Bogen 2005.)

According to epistemic norms shared by neuroscientists, good explanations in neuroscience are good mechanistic explanations, and good mechanistic explanations are those that pick out invariant relationships between mechanisms and the phenomena they control. (For fuller treatment of invariance in causal explanations throughout science, see James Woodward 2003.) "


So Martin II don't know what book you are reading from but it sure ain't contemporary philosophy.

Martin said...

Papalinton,

You have severely misunderstood me, and your quote only proves my point further. By "mechanistic" I mean "anti-Aristotelian". The old Scholastic worldview was suffused with both formal and final causality, and the worldview that replaced it, inaugurated by Descartes, was lacking in both those causes. The new philosophy only involved efficient and material causes. That is, matter in motion. The universe consists of particles of matter bopping around and occasionally clumping together.

But your quote only further underscores my point: that a proper description of the world will inevitably include formal and final causes.
They are using the term "mechanistic" in a different way, meaning not anti-Aristotelian, but rather that the brain is like a machine. The terminology they use is replete with formal and final causality.

"a composite entity (a cell) causally interacting with neurotransmitters at its receptors"

So a structure that does a specific task. A formal cause engaging in its final cause.

"activities (the opening and closing of ligand-gated and voltage-gated ion channels) to produce a pattern of change"

Activities TO produce a PATTERN. Again, they perform a specific task and that task only. That is what a final cause is.

Aristotle wins. Ant-Aristotelian philosophy loses.

You see what I mean? Any attempt to explain the world without reference to final causes ends up being impossible. Thanks for making my point for me!

im-skeptical said...

Papalinton,

Refer to my comment of May 21, 2013 7:32 PM.

I already had this discussion with Martin. His logic goes something like this: Aristotle says that all movement has a final cause. Therefore, all things that move exhibit final causation. Therefore, final causation is exhibited by all things that move. Therefore Aristotle is correct, and any logic you might use to argue against it is wrong. His logic is irrefutable.

Martin said...

>His logic goes something like this: Aristotle says that all movement has a final cause.

It doesn't go anything like that, actually.

It says that if something produces an effect, it produces that effect in virtue of its structure. So X has structure Y, in virtue of which it produces effect Z. An electron has a certain charge, mass, etc, in virtue of which it orbits an atom or always "tries" to. So "orbiting an atom" is the final cause of an electron.

Any attempt to explain the mind, or anything else for that matter, will inevitably make use of final causality. Such terms as "processes", and "mechanisms". All oriented towards specific effects in virtue of their structure.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"It says that if something produces an effect, it produces that effect in virtue of its structure."

Isn't that what they call formal cause?

Martin said...

Both. Formal cause of an electron: the charge, lack of mass, etc. Final cause of an electron: what it does: i.e., orbit an atom, or try to orbit an atom.

im-skeptical said...

"Final cause of an electron: what it does: i.e., orbit an atom, or try to orbit an atom."

I think what Aristotle meant by final cause was telos - purpose.

Martin said...

You can label it whatever you want, but what it means is that there is causal regularity in the universe, and that that causal regularity is rooted in the nature of the items that do it.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

Is there any logical way, in your view, to state that something has no final cause, even theoretically?

Martin said...

I don't know.

An Aristotelian would of course say that efficient causes make no sense without final causes. That if X causes Y, then it is only because of something inherent in X that it "aims" at Y as its effect

My larger point is this:

When framed in terms of "supernatural vs natural", Papalinton can easily say that naturalism wins out. This is because nobody ever gives a good definition of either of these terms. If mental events turn out to be a fundamental element of the universe, then they just get wrapped up under the term "natural".

But if we frame it in terms of mechanistic (anti-final causality) philosophy vs Aristotelian philosophy...which one wins is far from clear and I would even give a few points to the Aristotelian side.

Which means my more fundamental point is: the world is not black and white; it is gray; and the truth is very likely to lie somewhere between the extremes of Biblical literalism and vulgar materialism.

Thinking black and white is not good for one's health.

im-skeptical said...

" If mental events turn out to be a fundamental element of the universe, then they just get wrapped up under the term "natural". "

What if mental events are just events - they are not any kind of element at all, but something that happens?

Martin said...

I don't know.

That's not really relevant to my point.

ingx24 said...

Martin,

It seems like you dismiss Cartesian dualism out of hand, insisting that the mind, in the end, is going to be explainable in material (but not mechanistic) terms. Why?

Martin said...

I ain't sure of NUTHIN.

That said, from the Aristotelian perspective, substance dualism is a byproduct of the materialist's own conception of matter. The mechanists dividing the world into two: A) whatever can be captured mathematically, and B) everything else. That means properties like color (the way color looks, not the wavelength) goes on the mind side of the ledger. Purpose and meaning? Not mathematically capturable. Goes on the "matter" side of the ledger.

The materialists created dualism with this method, and they continue to do so.

At least, that's what an Aristotelian would say. I have yet to hear any cogent response to this at all.

ingx24 said...

Martin,

My reasons for thinking dualism is obvious have nothing to do with the purging of colors, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and goal-directedness from the physical world. See here.

im-skeptical said...

"The materialists created dualism with this method, and they continue to do so."

Papalinton was pointing out to you that most materialists today are not dualists at all, despite your insistence that they are. Descartes was not a materialist - he was a theist and he saw the mind as immaterial substance. That's not materialism.

Martin said...

ingx24

>My reasons for thinking dualism is obvious have nothing to do with the purging of colors, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and goal-directedness from the physical world.

Your article is exactly how dualists reason, and exactly how Descartes reasoned. Mind has property X, matter does not have property X.

Really, what your article technically is is a demonstration that mental events are not identical to brain activity. But mental events are still correlated with brain activity, and it could be because A) brain events cause mental events, or C) mental events cause brain events, or D) some third thing causes both at once.

So there are a still a few steps. You have gotten rid of reductive physicalism, but you still have non-reductive physicalism to deal with. I think the exclusion argument is the best way to deal with it: if an action (locking the door because you fear burglars) has to be caused by brain activity (which it clearly does), then the mental event (fear of burglars) no longer has any role to play. It's extraneous, and you would have to say that your fear of burglars did not cause you to lock the door.

In fact, that argument is also used by eliminativists to argue for their position against physicalism, and then all one would have to show is how ridiculous eliminativism is, and voila! Now you have dualism.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>Papalinton was pointing out to you that most materialists today are not dualists at all, despite your insistence that they are

I didn't say most materialists were dualists. That doesn't even make any sense. What I said was that the materialists own conception of matter is what led to substance dualism in the first place. A better term would be "mechanistic philosophy".

Descartes wanted to use math to learn about the world, so he (and other philosophers and scientists of the period, like Locke, Galileo, Newton) decided to keep everything that is subject to mathematical description as "really out there", and everything else (like the way colors look) as "just in the mind".

So he was mechanistic in this sense, just like modern materialists are. And mechanistic philosophy = dualism.

ingx24 said...

Martin,

So how does Aristotelianism manage to avoid the arguments for dualism, if said arguments have nothing to do with whether goal-directedness or sensory qualities exist in the physical world?

Martin said...

It's still dualism. Hylemorphic dualism, to be precise. The mind is still impossible to account for on a materialist view, because the mind, specifically the intellect, can possess a multiplicity of forms (as it does when it thinks about things), which matter cannot do. Also, material events are always singular, but the intellect can grasp universals.

It just says that a complete human being is neither an immaterial soul, nor a lump of matter, but rather a composite of form and matter.

So the immaterial part, the intellect, is just a small part of a human and not the whole thing, unlike with substance dualism where the immaterial being is the entire person, who just happens to be "piloting" around in a body.

So it's just different. Worth reading about. At least the hylomorphic conception of the world makes a lot more sense to me.

ingx24 said...

Martin,

That doesn't really answer my question. Aristotelianism seems to concede materialism for all of the mind except for the pure intellect. Why? How can Aristotelianism avoid dualism about every aspect of the mind except the pure intellect? Does Aristotelianism not require something to be physically observable to count as "material"?

Martin said...

T'would be easier for you to read a book on this. I recommend Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide by Feser for a religious version of hylomorphism, and Jaworski's Philosophy of Mind: A Comprehensive Introduction for a non-religious version (although Jaworski himself is a theist).

And you can also read my notes on Feser's book here, but keep in mind that these were written for myself, not for others, and they are to job my memory about what is explained more fully in the book, so use at your own risk.

ingx24 said...

Martin,

Again, Aristotelianism is completely missing the point. Dualism is not just a byproduct of the materialist removal of sensory qualities and final causes from nature. Dualism is the obvious conclusion from the fact that what we observe in the brain does not resemble what we experience of our own minds. Even if the brain was directed toward the goal of producing certain behaviors, and even if sensory qualities existed in the external world, we would still be left with the same problem - in fact, the only thing that would change would be that Russellian monism would be ruled out (since we would then know the intrinsic nature of brain matter by observing it).

Martin said...

The only thing you rule out by showing that mental events and brain events are so different is identity. You still have supervenience, functionalism, emergence, and hylomorphism. They do not claim that the mind is identical to the brain, and so there is no need for them to both have the same properties.

All you are ruling out with your exercise there is identity theory. Emergence, supervenience, hylomorphism, etc are left untouched by your argument.

Crude said...

ingx24,

Dualism is not just a byproduct of the materialist removal of sensory qualities and final causes from nature.

What I think Martin is saying is that, historically, the view of the material world that Descartes, etc, committed themselves to leads inevitably to certain conclusions about the mind as well.

It's a little like a process of elimination - if I know X is in my house, and I know X is not in 5/6 of my house, then X must be in the remaining 1/6 of my house.

It's not that dualism is "just" that - it's that if your view of the material world is that, and if you're still a realist about the mind, then dualism falls out of the picture automatically.

Here's a possible way to think about it: in your arguments about what the mind is, do you ever make any reference to what matter is as a reason for why the mind must be what you take it to be? If you do - if you reason along the lines of 'we see the mind has to be immaterial, because matter is like this' - then there's a good chance you're following the sort of reasoning Martin is talking about.

Also, it's not that Aristotileans are "materialists about every aspect of the mind except" intellect. It's more that Aristotileans not only reject the cartesian view of mind, they also reject the cartesian view of matter.

ingx24 said...

My understanding of Aristotelianism, actually, is that sensations and mental images are seen as activities that require bodily organs, not as identical to brain events. The reason I was confused was that Martin seemed to be implying that allowing for final causes in nature somehow made identification of mental events with brain events plausible. That is what I was objecting to.

Martin said...

>allowing for final causes in nature somehow made identification of mental events with brain events plausible

On materialism, it is impossible to identify mental events with brain events because matter does not have final causality, and thus no "aboutness".

On hylomorphism, it is still impossible to identify mental events with brain events because the form of an object is in the person's mind, and matter cannot take on many forms like the mind can.

In either case, the mind cannot be accounted for materially.

ingx24 said...

Martin,

Do you think that, under Aristotelianism, identification of mental images and emotions with brain events is plausible? If so, why?

Answering this will help immensely in clearing up my confusion about your position.

Martin said...

I don't think there is any identity going on. Hylomorphism's closest competitor is emergentism. So emotions and images could be seen as immaterial properties that arise from matter but are not identical to it.

Papalinton said...

im-skeptical
You commented to me earlier:
"I already had this discussion with Martin. His logic goes something like this: Aristotle says that all movement has a final cause. Therefore, all things that move exhibit final causation. Therefore, final causation is exhibited by all things that move. Therefore Aristotle is correct, and any logic you might use to argue against it is wrong. His logic is irrefutable."

I have no problem with Martin's Aristotelian logic. It is indeed irrefutable. Good philosophers make good observations. If one reads back through my comments it is more a question of containment; the four levels of causation that Aristotle demonstrates are grounded on solid philosophical epistemology. Where the containment issue arises is when Aristotle as does Martin projects that as an inference supporting the existence of supernaturalism and gods, of which this OP is about, supernaturalism. That, is a bridge too far, a claim too stretched.

The ensuing discussion in this thread, as religionists are apt to do, is approaching 'deepity' status, "Why naturalism excludes the supernatural".

""A deepity is a proposition that seems to be profound because it is actually logically ill-formed. It has (at least) two readings and balances precariously between them. On one reading it is true but trivial. And on another reading it is false, but would be earth-shattering if true."

Aristotelian 'final cause' is true but trivial in the sense of it, on reflection, is simply stating a truism, in much the same category as 'every human being is a living entity'. It is certainly not earth-shattering in the context of philosophical deliberation and scarcely raises a ripple in philosophy circles. The whole universe and everything in it can be reduced to a series of causes and effects just as Martin describes. But the concept itself doesn't tell us much and is not an explanation of the relationship between discrete objects [organic or inorganic] be it at the macro, micro or quantum level. There is as philosophers have noted an inherent bias or tendency toward reductio ad absurdum if the concept is taken to its 'logical' extreme. The Aristotelian god [which one must be reminded was certainly not the Judaic Abrahamic nor Christian version nor had it anything to do with a jesus-god character. Those imaginings came centuries later] as 'final cause' is a classic example of that stretch.

im-skeptical said...

"Aristotelian 'final cause' is true but trivial in the sense of it, on reflection, is simply stating a truism, in much the same category as 'every human being is a living entity'."

That's something I disagree with, but the issue rests on how you view final cause. To me it implies a conscious intention. If every movement has some kind of final causation (or conscious intent), that clearly leads to the logical conclusion that there must be at least one supernatural god. On the other hand, if you see final cause as something different, say something more akin to formal cause (as many naturalists seem to do), with no conscious intent involved, then I suppose it could be seen as a truism.

It's not clear to me exactly how Aristotle viewed final causation, but it seems reasonable to think that there is some kind distinction between the two, otherwise why should they separately identified? And it is clear that Aquinas saw final cause as divine intent.

Papalinton said...

im-skeptical
You say, "That's something I disagree with, but the issue rests on how you view final cause. To me it implies a conscious intention. If every movement has some kind of final causation (or conscious intent), that clearly leads to the logical conclusion that there must be at least one supernatural god."

Aristotle's 'final cause' was a response to explaining the creation of the universe, an explanation of how it is that a universe came into existence. He had no empirical information onto which he could base his claim. In his time what was the closest analogy for the creation of something? Either as an artisan that created things from materials, made with a purpose or intent in mind, such as turning a clay urn or building a boat, or from a more organic example, the birth of an infant, or a calf etc. By extrapolation, he posited that the universe could only have been created by intended aforethought, ergo a Goddidit. But he did not have evidence. But there were contemporaneous fellow Greek philosophers that did not make that conclusion. Epicurus is one that comes to mind along with the atomists. Epicurus was a naturalist, perhaps in the truest sense, understanding that life and the universe were a product of natural occurrences without a resort to a final cause. Read ABOUT HIM HERE. In part the Stanford article begins:

"The philosophy of Epicurus (341–270 B.C.E.) was a complete and interdependent system, involving a view of the goal of human life (happiness, resulting from absence of physical pain and mental disturbance), an empiricist theory of knowledge (sensations, including the perception of pleasure and pain, are infallible criteria), a description of nature based on atomistic materialism, and a naturalistic account of evolution, from the formation of the world to the emergence of human societies."

The one significant historical influence that subsumed Epicurus into oblivion was Aquinas's fortuitous appropriation of Aristotelianism into the Christian mytheme that pervaded Western thought for the next 1,000 years to the exclusion of all other philosophical positions. Aquinas took humanity down the supernatural side road, a detour. After a flirtatious interlude with supernaturalism humanity now finds itself winding back onto the highway toward naturalism. Humanity is coming full circle and realizing that the naturalism of Epicurus aligns far closer to empirical and scientific investigation than does supernaturalism.

As I say, Aristotle's 'final cause' apart from its logically-derived conclusion is an unsubstantiated one. Supernaturalism is not supported by the evidence.