Thursday, November 21, 2013

Steve Lovell's analysis of the AFR

Here. 

117 comments:

im-skeptical said...

Interesting discussion of the compatibility of necessary truth with materialism. Lovell notes that a statement like "It cannot be the case that both P and not P" is a necessary truth, and also that physical reality is contingent. He then goes on to say that something that is necessary can't be generated from something that is contingent, and therefore materialists must have a problem with the existence of necessary logical truths.

Not as clever as he thinks. He's making a self-contradictory statement to refute materialism. Did you catch it? He says the necessary truth has to be generated from contingent reality. But necessary things don't have to be generated at all. They exist necessarily.

So Lovell has subtly slipped this generation requirement into his argument, and in so doing, he only succeeds in refuting his own logic.

Syllabus said...

He's making a self-contradictory statement to refute materialism. Did you catch it? He says the necessary truth has to be generated from contingent reality. But necessary things don't have to be generated at all. They exist necessarily.

Not necessarily (ba-dum tish). That's actually more of a contentious issue than one might think. Look up Saul Kripke's idea of rigid designators, especially the discussion of water as H2O for an example.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"He's making a self-contradictory statement to refute materialism. Did you catch it? He says the necessary truth has to be generated from contingent reality. But necessary things don't have to be generated at all. They exist necessarily."

What you term "generated" is logical entailment; this is what Steve Lovell means by it in the context of the argument. *If* one construes "generated" to mean something else, then this just plays right into the hand of Lovell's point, as he himself also explains when dealing with some of the popular lines physicalists take. The line about existence is also pretty confused (unless you are a Platonist of sorts, heh), but nevermind that.

And no, there is no circularity in the argument, and much less any "self-contradiction" (obviously, you do not know what these words mean): if p is contingently true and p logically entails q then q is contingently true. This is a quite elementary and obvious fact about the modal status of propositions. Now propositions about physical reality (PPs for short) are all contingently true so what the physicalist has to explain is if what exists is exhausted by physical reality, and if PPs are contingently true, how do we get the necessary modal status for say, mathematical truths?

There are a couple of obvious moves the physicalist could make: first, assert that at least some PPs are necessarily true. Second, deny the necessary modal status of say, mathematical truths, or of any truths for that matter. And a couple more. The ones I have listed are *highly* problematic; the second can be shot down easily enough. The first is not only virtually impossible to establish but also comes with a very high and nasty dialectical price for the physicalist. Either way, your response is just so wide-off the mark, it should be put in the "Not even wrong" category.

im-skeptical said...

Something that is necessarily true is not dependent on any physical reality (regardless of Lovell's weasel-wording of the issue). I have no problem stating that there are things that are necessarily true while still calling myself a materialist. And no, I'm not a Platonist, and I don't believe in the existence of universals. This is a fake conflict for materialists, conceived by people who insist on the existence of some kind of immaterial objects that represent concepts. Leave that stuff to the woo-meisters. There is nothing contingent about what is always logically true, and I don't have to believe in the existence of any woo-laden objects to accept that.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Something that is necessarily true is not dependent on any physical reality (regardless of Lovell's weasel-wording of the issue)."

"weasel-wording"? Let's see. From pdf pgs. 10-11:

"To see how this could cause problems for naturalism consider the fact that any physical state of affairs could have failed to obtain, the fact that all physical states of affairs are contingent. Take any true statement you like, if that statement only refers to things that the naturalist allows onto the “ground floor” of reality, then that statement could have been false. For this reason, it would appear that the naturalist cannot accommodate such necessary truths as (LNC). After all, the truth (LNC) will be ultimately dependent upon ground floor realities, and surely if those ground floor realities are contingent, then so is anything that depends upon them – including the truth of (LNC). But this is a conclusion we know to be false.

Even if this reasoning is flawed, we must ask in what way the contingent realities generate necessary truths like (LNC). The particular arrangement of the contingent realities certainly cannot logically imply the necessity of our logical laws, for logical implication is itself a modal notion. However, it is very hard to see how a necessary truth could be a necessary truth if generated in any other fashion. If this is right, the modal cannot be explained in non-modal terms, and since naturalism is committed to thinking otherwise, naturalism cannot accommodate P2, which seems to imply the existence of such modal realities."

There is no weasel-wording in there, as S. Lovell is pretty *explicit* about what he means. So either your reading skills are non-existent or you are being deliberately dishonest.

"There is nothing contingent about what is always logically true, and I don't have to believe in the existence of any woo-laden objects to accept that."

im-skeptical: (makes some incredibly stupid and ignorant claim)

me: (explain why the claim is stupid and ignorant)

im-skeptical: (changes subject, restates what he "believes" while leaving the opposing arguments with *no* response and ends up with the obligatory mention of woo-meisters)

Papalinton said...

The concluding paragraph of the article, "Indeed, if naturalism is true, the very thoughts you’ve had while reading this chapter can be so explained. No doubt he shape of the marks on these pages plays an important role in this causal story, but so too does the physical constitution of your cognitive faculties and various other things besides. While in a moment of abstraction I can nearly bring myself to think the naturalists causal explanation of a person’s thinking consistent with a reasons based explanation, I cannot but agree with C.S. Lewis, that “it is, to me at any rate, impossible” to regard my own thinking that way and at the same time, to regard it “as a real insight into external reality ”66 " pretty much encapsulate the ambivalence of the writer. He can almost see the naturalists perspective, but,... something holds him back. It is generally understood as the colloquial argument from personal incredulity. And it has much to do with how the immaterialists reconcile their belief in "(a) God, gods, spirits, ghosts, the soul (when thought wholly distinct from the body)15, the occurrence of miracles. (b) Prophecy, ESP, answered prayer, telepathy, astrology" while concurrently living out their lives in the ubiquitous reality of naturalism. Such a conclusion seems little more than to imagine, "there has got be more than just naturalism. Otherwise how can we explain the existence of gods and souls and the efficacy of prayer, all the things we believe are true?"

I might add even Anscomb was not convinced Lewis's rewrite of the offending literature about materialism as he had originally argued was any the more cogent and defensible: "Although Anscombe evidently approved of these changes, her comments indicate that she still found the argument unpersuasive.11"

So unless someone can pin down these claims of immateriality as realtime occurrences in the natural order they remain solely an exercise of mythemic conjecture, as do all religious traditions swaddled as they are in socio-cultural accoutrements adorned and embellished since before recorded history, a homage to our primitive past.



Steve Lovell said...

Thanks for linking to this Vic. It's always nice to have some discussion of one's own material.

Now if the only problem in my paper is the bit about necessary truths, then of course the argument of the paper as a whole still stands. But since that is the part people are discussing ...

As Grodrigues has pointed out, I certainly didn't say anything "self-contradictory", but I can understand where Skep is coming from here. The issue I'm pointing out may be framed as an argument as follows:

(1) Some statements are necessarily true.
(2) Physical reality is contingent.
(3) Therefore not all truth supervenes upon physical reality.
(4) Therefore not all reality is physical.

Now I think Skep is saying that while (3) is true it isn't a problem for the materialist. I think in order to say that he owes us at least a minimal account of from where these truths gain their necessity. I'm not saying that such an account cannot be provided. I'm saying that there is a prima facie difficulty for the naturalist here.

Grodrigues, thanks for your support. Careful with your modal logic, though. If P entails Q and P is contingent, it doesn't follow that Q is contingent. It works that way with necessity, but not contingency. But if the entailment relation is replaced by a constitution relation, then I think your point holds.

grodrigues said...

@Steve Lovell:

"Careful with your modal logic, though. If P entails Q and P is contingent, it doesn't follow that Q is contingent. It works that way with necessity, but not contingency. But if the entailment relation is replaced by a constitution relation, then I think your point holds."

You are indeed correct: P could be false in one possible world, Q true in all possible worlds, P => Q is therefore true in all possible worlds.

Thanks for the correction and apologies to im-skeptical for the rookie mistake.

Steve Lovell said...

Papalinton,

You do well to notice that I've phrased my conclusion that way. It is indeed a candid statement of my position.

However, you'd do even better if you engaged with the arguments themselves rather than merely complaining about the conclusion.

Moreover, there is a dialectical point in my phrasing things that way. There is nothing self-refuting about naturalism as applied to "everyone but me" (though there would obviously be other faults with that). It's precisely when we try to be naturalists about our own thinking, about the thoughts we are having when we entertain naturalism, that self-referential incoherence becomes a real possibility.

im-skeptical said...

Steve Lovell,

Thanks for your response. The reframed argument is stated as:

(1) Some statements are necessarily true.
(2) Physical reality is contingent.
(3) Therefore not all truth supervenes upon physical reality.
(4) Therefore not all reality is physical.

So it seems that the problem arises from (4), where the assumption is made that the materialist must assert that all of reality is physical, and so he has a problem. But I think that's over-reaching a bit.

I would describe the materialist's position more as: everything that exists is physical. Then we would need to decide what things exist. If you describe 'truth' or 'reality' as some kind of object that has existence in its own right, I reject that (and I may not have made that clear by what I said earlier). When I refer to a statement that is always true, I mean a statement that is true any time and in any circumstances.

So regardless of the physical reality, if you make such a statement, it is true. But obviously, if you don't make such a statement, there is nothing of which it can be said that it is true. There is contingency implied in that a physical world must exist before there can be any true statement made at all. But it's not a logical problem for me.

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Skep,

The argument may be understood as saying there are two kinds of states of affairs (a.k.a. facts): contingent ones and necessary ones, physical states of affairs fall into the first category but then those same physical states cannot bridge the gap to the other kind to explain them.

Let me try to restate your response in my own words: there are no "necessary states of affairs". If there is anything that is necessary, it's not substantial enough to merit the label "state of affairs".

Now that seems a sensible line for a naturalist to take. But if you don't want to completely deny necessity and say that it doesn't relate to anything so substantial as to merit the label "state of affairs" you owe us at least a minimal account of how such necessity as you allow for comes about. True, it will be a necessity of statements or propositions and not of "things", but it still needs explaining. You may not like the Platonism you describe as Woo, but how do you manage without it?

Several of the common accounts seem to be complete non-starters for the reasons given in the linked paper.

im-skeptical said...

Steve Lovell,

First of all, I'm not a philosopher, so I hope you can forgive me if don't use the terminology and jargon of one.

I wasn't making a denial of necessity. However I do deny that 'necessity' exists as a universal (or that anything exists as a universal). I was was saying that there could be a statement that may be regarded as necessarily true, but with the caveat that a statement must be made before one can say that it is true, and a statement can only be made in a world that allows it - a world that contains inhabitants capable of making a statement.

Truth itself is not something that has existence. It is nothing more than a property of some assertion. In the absence of any assertion there is no truth. There are no universals floating around - those are concepts that exist in the minds of people. Necessity itself is a concept in the minds of people. Like 'truth' it is an attribute that we assign to something. We judge something to be necessary if we believe that it must always be the case under any circumstances we can conceive of. But if there is nothing, there is nothing that we could judge as being necessary. And there is no container of 'necessary' from which we can take some to pin on any object we decide must have this attribute.

How do I manage without Platonism? Consider a world where nothing exists. Are there 'necessary' things like numbers in such a world? I think not. Numbers are something we humans have contrived in our minds in order to count or measure things. If there is nothing to count or measure, and more importantly, if there is nobody trying to count or measure things, there are no numbers, there is no need for numbers, and nobody to care about it. Now you may say that numbers exist of logical necessity. Well, as long as there is someome thinking logically (and I would remind you that the concept of zero hasn't always been around). So these Platonic objects exist in your mind. No mind: no objects.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"I was was saying that there could be a statement that may be regarded as necessarily true, but with the caveat that a statement must be made before one can say that it is true, and a statement can only be made in a world that allows it - a world that contains inhabitants capable of making a statement."

This *is* a denial of necessity. Plantinga trashes it in "Warrant and proper function", chapter 6, section V ("Why propositions cannot be concrete").

"No mind: no objects."

Really?

Argument 1:

(1) There is a time t_0 before which there were no human minds. Proof: uncontroversial.

(2) There is a time t_0 before which no mathematical equations holds. Proof: by im-skeptical's contention. More precisely, denial of (2) is that for every t, at least one mathematical equation holds. But if there were one such time t_0, then there would be a time t_0 where no human minds existed and at least one mathematical equation holds, and holds true, which is a denial of im-skeptical's contention. By modus tollens, we have (2).

(3) There is a time t_0 before which the GR equations G = 8 pi T do not hold. Proof: by (2).

So im-skeptical is committed to denying any and all known science; unless that is, he gives us an account of what it means to say that G = 8 pi T holds, or any other physical law holds, if no human minds are around to give meaning to G and = and 8 and pi and T. Maybe when Einstein first thought of G = 8 pi T, it became true for the entire past of the universe? Human minds create reality? Or maybe there are no physical laws? In which case, what exactly are the scientists saying?

Argument 2:

Since without minds there are no mathematical objects, there are neither numbers, logical laws, deductive rules, etc. Take logical laws as an example.

(1) It is possible that human minds did not existed. Proof: uncontroversial.

(2) It is possible that logical laws do not hold and hold true. Proof: implied by im-skeptical's contention and (1).

(3) Possibly, the laws of logic do not hold and hold true in the actual world. Proof: from (2).

(4) To know that the logical laws do hold in the actual world an argument is needed. Proof: from (3).

(5). Every argument, directly or indirectly, relies on the laws of logic for its validity. Proof: obvious.

(6) But this would make the argument needed in (5) fallaciously circular and thus invalid.

(7) It follows that we cannot in fact rationally justify our belief in the fact that the laws of logic hold in the actual world.

(8) It follows that we cannot rationally justify any belief whatsoever in the actual world.

(Argument 3)

All the arguments against anti-realism in universals; go read a book.

In November 24, 2013 11:34 AM, im-skeptical says "it's not a logical problem for me". I will grant that thoroughly illogical people have no problems with logic.

im-skeptical said...

"So im-skeptical is committed to denying any and all known science"

No, I am only committed to denying that you have a clue about what I was saying.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"No, I am only committed to denying that you have a clue about what I was saying."

Smile. Sure, skeppy, sure.

At least you have chosen silence, instead of doubling down on your usual dumbass ignorance. Maybe you will still learn something.

im-skeptical said...

grodgigues,

It is unfortunate that you choose not to discuss in any serious way the merits (or lack thereof) of what I have to say. Your comments indicate a failure to even make an effort to understand it. Maybe I do have it all wrong. But you'll never convince me of that.

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Skep and Grodrigues,

I'm at work at the mo, and will respond more fully over lunch if I can ... in the meantime, can't Skep avoid argument 1 by distinguishing between that which is "true at a time" and that which is "true of a time"?

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Skep, me again ...

I guess my question isn't so much about the concepts as the relations between them. If only physical reality "exists", then what explains the necessity of logical relations? The statement "If (a) P, and (b) If P then Q, then (c) Q" expresses a necessary relationship between the conjunction (a)&(b) and (c). In what does that necessity consist?

I have some feel for how necessary abstract objects mights sustain necessary relationships, but little feel for that works on a nominalist view. Again, I'm not saying that the problem is insoluble, but I've not been convinced by any of the accounts I've come across. But I'm no expert in this area of metaphysics.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"It is unfortunate that you choose not to discuss in any serious way the merits (or lack thereof) of what I have to say."

Sure. I have not presented arguments; I did not make questions; I did not acknowledged my own elementary mistakes and then personally apologized.

Here is the thing: the problem is not simply that you are way out of your depth, not having a clue of what is at stake; that you constantly pull the most abysmal crap out of your ass; that you do all this with the most obnoxious cock-sureness, labeling your opponents as "woo-meisters" and such; that, quite frankly and to put it very gently, you are not the smartest kid in the block. This is all forgivable, this all understandable. None of us here (I think) can claim to any special intellectual gifts; anyone here is ignorant of at least some things; anyone here makes mistakes, even very dumb ones. The problem is that you are intellectually dishonest and show absolutely no regard for the truth. And when pinned to a wall, with absolutely no idea how to respond, you resort to sleazy tactics such as the above brazen lies.

"Your comments indicate a failure to even make an effort to understand it. Maybe I do have it all wrong. But you'll never convince me of that."

Oh I know that I will never convince you that you are wrong in anything you say. How could you be wrong after all? Illogical people do not have problems with logic. That is why I do not even try and content myself to point out your mistakes, as long as I am in the mood for it, that is.

Since what seems to drive you into panic is the conclusion that you are committed to deny Science, here is another argument for the same conclusion, this one starting from anti-realism about universals (actually a variation on the problem of induction).

Argument 4:

Take any physical law, say Newton's second law F = ma. For the sake of simplicity, assume it obtains exactly in our universe. Now, as written, Newton's second law is obviously a relation about universals, specifically, the universals force, mass and acceleration. But you deny that universals exist, rather that only particulars exist. And since you are a materialist, only *concrete* particulars exist. So you must paraphrase Newton's law as a law about pairs of concrete particulars, concrete material bodies with specific mass and at a specific distance from each other. But if the law is merely a law about concrete particulars it could be a mere "cosmic accident" and there is *no* reason why it applies to any future contingent, existent pair of concrete particulars. In other words, it fails to account for the truth of the corresponding counterfactual conditionals. But what becomes of the *predictive* power of science if it cannot account for counterfactual conditionals? Vanished, poof, gone with the pigs.

grodrigues said...

@Steve Lovell:

"in the meantime, can't Skep avoid argument 1 by distinguishing between that which is "true at a time" and that which is "true of a time"?"

And what does "true of a time" means? Does it mean that instants of time have properties that can be true or false? If instants of time are a category of being (even if in some attenuated weak sense), this is uncontroversial. But if it is true *of* t_0 that P, it is true that for every t (and in particular, t = t_0) that "It is true of t_0 that P", so how have you evaded the problem? I note that there is nothing special in this deduction; it is a simple deductive rule of first order predicate logic, the introduction of universal quantifiers. And what the heck does it mean to say that "2 + 2 = 4" is true *of* t_0? Mathematical predicates are not predicates *of* instants of time. Mathematical statements are tenseless ones. But so are the laws of physics. GR is a theory about the entire universe, containing such statements as "The universe has the structure of a 4-dimensional manifold with a Lorentzian metric". What sense does it have to say that it is true *of* t_0 that "The universe has the structure of a 4-dimensional manifold with a Lorentzian metric"?

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

You want me to answer your 'arguments'? I'll start with #1?

"(2) There is a time t_0 before which no mathematical equations holds. Proof: by im-skeptical's contention." is patently absurd and it is not at all what I contended. Why don't you try reading what I said?



grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Why don't you try reading what I said?"

The "by" in "by im-skeptical's contention" means, "it is implied by what you say" not "im-skeptical says directly as much", and I prove it in what follows. As far as reading or not reading what you say, after the sentence "So im-skeptical is committed to denying any and all known science", a sentence which seems to give you a hissy fit, I wrote "unless that is, he gives us an account of what it means to say that G = 8 pi T holds, or any other physical law holds, if no human minds are around to give meaning to G and = and 8 and pi and T." You keep saying that I misunderstand what you say, but never point out where exactly is the misunderstanding, or what premise you reject, or anything of substance for that matter; your problem is rather, that I understand you only too well to draw out the implications of what you say.

But for the illogical man, there are no logical problems. By all means keep on with your sleazy tactics; I have absolutely no intentions of humoring you.

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

Try reading what I said.

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

"There is a time t_0 before which no mathematical equations holds"

Not what I said or implied. it should read more like "There is a time t_0 before which no mathematical equation exists, because it has not been constructed by some mental process."

However, this does not imply that there is a time where if such an equation has been constructed, it would not hold.

If you wish to debate my statements, please do not misrepresent what I say.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Not what I said or implied. it should read more like "There is a time t_0 before which no mathematical equation exists, because it has not been constructed by some mental process.""

That is *precisely* what I mean by "no mathematical equations holds", as it is abundantly clear by, you know, *reading* what I said. That is why for example, I was explicit and used expressions like "logical laws do not hold and hold true"; because I am not saying that you are committed to their falsity -- this is *NOWHERE* used in the argument -- but simply that they do not exist in no way and no sense at all, which is *ALL* I need to run the argument (*), which it is clear if you actually, you know, *read it*.

And then you have the balls to say I am misunderstanding or the brazen lie that I am misrepresenting you.

Dumber than a bag of hammers.

(*) I presume actualism; that is for something, e.g. a proposition, to be true it must exist in some sense, no matter how we conceive of propositions. This is pretty much uncontroversial, but if you want to dispute this, go for it.

im-skeptical said...

Forget it, Einstein.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Forget it, Einstein."

As you wish.

As you said above, in an otherwise candid admission, "Maybe I do have it all wrong. But you'll never convince me of that", so it is not like I expected this to be anything more than a futile exercise. But at least this once, you spared me the whining about misunderstanding or the falsity about misrepresentation and what not and opted for silence instead. So, thank you. Pax Vobiscum.

im-skeptical said...

In case anybody wonders why the argument of grodrigues is absurd, it contains the fallacy of equivocation.

First, notice that he changed the wording from what I used. Where I spoke of an equation existing or being true, he speaks of an equation that 'holds'. In his way of putting it,
- "There is a time t_0 before which no mathematical equations holds." meaning no mathematical equations exist (from what I said).
- "There is a time t_0 before which the GR equations G = 8 pi T do not hold." meaning meaning the equation isn't true (a supposed absurdity - not from what I said - I contend that a statement can't be true or false if it doesn't exist, but by stating it, he implies that it does exist).

By this equivocation, he tries to make it sound as though I deny all logic, but those are his words, not mine. If he didn't use the word 'hold', this equivocation wouldn't have worked to distort my meaning. So either he doesn't understand me and is making a confused version of my argument, or he is being dishonest and deliberately distorting my argument.

Onward Christian soldiers.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

You just could not let it go, could you?

"Where I spoke of an equation existing or being true, he speaks of an equation that 'holds'."

The intended meaning is quite obvious, the expression "holds" is used in this sense quite often. But if there were any doubts, I dispelled them in November 26, 2013 11:51 AM:

"Not what I said or implied. it should read more like "There is a time t_0 before which no mathematical equation exists, because it has not been constructed by some mental process."

That is *precisely* what I mean by "no mathematical equations holds", as it is abundantly clear by, you know, *reading* what I said."

Do I have to repeat myself? What I mean by "hold" is exactly the same as what you mean, "exists" (in some sense).

""There is a time t_0 before which the GR equations G = 8 pi T do not hold." meaning meaning the equation isn't true (a supposed absurdity - not from what I said - I contend that a statement can't be true or false if it doesn't exist, but by stating it, he implies that it does exist)."

No, I *explicitly* said that this was not what I meant. From November 26, 2013 11:51 AM:

"because I am not saying that you are committed to their falsity -- this is *NOWHERE* used in the argument -- but simply that they do not exist in no way and no sense at all, which is *ALL* I need to run the argument (*)"

Is there any doubt about what I mean when I say "I am not saying that you are committed to their falsity"? Is there any doubt about the "nowhere" all in caps so that even you could not fail to miss it? Then the footnote reads.

"(*) I presume actualism; that is for something, e.g. a proposition, to be true it must exist in some sense, no matter how we conceive of propositions. This is pretty much uncontroversial, but if you want to dispute this, go for it."

So the GR equation "G = 8 pi T" *cannot* be true at t_0, because it does not exist at t_0. Retorting that "But it is not false" is no salvation for you.

Have you no shame? Do you not have the least sense of decorum that you have to lie? Does it really hurt your ego that much to have absolutely *NO* idea how to respond, that you have to resort to such sleazy tactics? Are you happy with what you have become? And then you have the gall to pose as the morally superior and end up with "Onward Christian Soldiers"?

You know what? Go on with this sad spectacle you are mounting. Keep sinking lower and lower; keep digging your grave. Since this is obviously what you want, I will gladly help you.

Steve Lovell said...

It's a shame this has deteriorated into mud-slinging. Hopefully we'll be able to get back on track ...

On the distinction between "true at a time" and "true of a time": Skep is saying that statements/propositions do not exist independently of minds, and therefore since these are the (only) things capable of being true, strictly speaking nothing is true at times when minds don't exist.

This assumes a fundamental distinction between "truth makers" (generally "facts") and "truth barers" (statements or propositions). I think Skep is saying that the former can exist without minds while the latter cannot. So ...

"P is true at t" may be parsed as "The proposition P 'exists' at t, is about the world at time t and is true".

while

"P is true of t" may be parsed as
"The proposition P 'exists' now, is about the world at time t and is true"

At t the truth-makers (facts) may have existed, even though the truth-barers didn't.

Along the same lines one may distinguish between things true of all circumstances and things true in all circumstances or of/in all possible worlds.

Now I'm not sure that I completely buy into this distinction myself, but it doesn't seem like a crazy thing to say.

This would help reconcile the following

(1) There are necessary truths, propositions which are true of all possible circumstances.
(2) Propositions exist only if minds exist.
(3) Minds do not exist necessarily.

However, that isn't the problem I'm pointing out. I want to know not how the naturalist accommodates (1) given (2) and (3) but how he understands the very category of necessary truth at all, what that necessity consists in. The distinction accommodates but doesn't explain.

im-skeptical said...

Steve Lovell,

The category of 'necessary truth' is a concept that exists in minds only. The world is what it is, regardless of the way we think about it, and even if we don't think about it. I don't agree that there are 'truth-makers' and 'truth-bearers' (I think that's what you meant). Truth is always just an attribute of a statement or proposition.

Consider the statement "2 + 2 = 4". It it always true? Yes, any time it is spoken, that statement is true. But if it is not spoken, there is no proposition to which you can assign a truth value. The same is true for anything you call a 'truth-maker'. If you don't make a proposition about it, you can't call it true.

grodrigues said...

@Steven Lovell:

"At t the truth-makers (facts) may have existed, even though the truth-barers didn't."

He can make this move; in fact, he *must* do something like this since he is an anti-realist, and so must identify propositions (truth bearers) with concrete particulars, say neural patterns or whatever.

The obvious retort is that the distinction just kicks the problem to another level. For example, since im-skeptical is bound to identify propositions with concrete particulars, presumably there is a relation in virtue of which (the concrete particular proposition P is true in virtue of the concrete particular truth maker p). But relations are also universals and so only exist in the mind, and hold only contingently, so the relation between truth makers and propositions is not a necessary one, it has come into existence with the existence of minds, etc. and etc.

If the objection is directed at argument 1, my retort is what are the truth makers of mathematical statements? Im-skeptical contends that mathematical concepts exist only in the mind, and if there were no minds, they would simply not exist. So assuming they have truth makers, they themselves must have come into existence with the existence of minds. But in formulating general relativity, a lot of mathematical theorems are used, without which you cannot even so much as say "G = 8 pi T". So if there are no truth makers available at t_0, what is he going to appeal to to block the argument?

If the objection is directed at argument 2, then for analogous reasons I don't think it fares much better. And here let me interject an argument due to Plantinga. Since if there were no human beings, P = "there are no human beings" would not exist to be true, im-skeptical must reject:

(A) If there were no human beings it would have been true that P.

Since

(B) Necessarily, if there are no human beings, then it is true that P.

entails (A) he must also reject it. Therefore he is committed to say that

(C) Possibly, there are no human beings and it is not true that P.

But what sense can we make of (C)? More generally, any proposition could have failed to be true because it could have failed to exist. So what can he make of possibility and necessity? If he construes necessity as "P could not have been false" then this also runs into problems. For the sake of argument assume he identifies propositions with the neural pattern concrete particulars. Then the proposition "There are neural patterns" could not have failed to be false, and thus it is necessary that there are neural patterns; and thus it is necessary that there are neurons, and brains, and persons. So too many propositions turn out to be necessarily true. Dually, too few propositions turn out to be possibly true, since possibility and necessity are dual to each other. So now what?

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

You're still equivocating (or failing to understand my argument).

P is the proposition or assertion that there are no humans.

"(B) Necessarily, if there are no human beings, then it is true that P." - Wrong. If there are no humans, P does not exist.

I must be committed to say "there are no human beings and it is not true that P"? No, I would not say that. If there are no humans, the proposition P does not exist, so you can't say it's not true or false.

You can create all the contradiction you want, but that's your logic, not mine.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

note: first off, my apologies to you (and to the rest of the audience, and Steven Lovell in particular). Even if some of the invectives are deserved, some are not, and either way, deserving does not justify piling them.

You seem to be doing just fine and dandy, but since I promised I would help you in your digging, here it is.

Argument 5:

(A) "The world is what it is, regardless of the way we think about it, and even if we don't think about it."

I take it by "The world is what it is" you are affirming something definite about the world, e.g. at a minimum, that it exists and it has some properties.

(B) "Consider the statement "2 + 2 = 4". It it always true? Yes, any time it is spoken, that statement is true. But if it is not spoken, there is no proposition to which you can assign a truth value."

In (A), you have just uttered a sentence, namely P = "The world is what it is" and assert it is true "regardless of the way we think about it, and even if we don't think about it." We can paraphrase it this way:

(1) It is the case that "The world is what it is" is true regardless of the way we think about it, and even if we don't think about it.

Now consider the sentence:

(2) It is not the case that Q is true, unless a sentence expressing Q is uttered.

This is true by what you say at (B). Replacing Q by P in (1) we obtain:

(3) It is not the case that "The world is what it is" is true, unless a sentence expressing "The world is what it is" is uttered.

Contradiction.

This is fun.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

""(B) Necessarily, if there are no human beings, then it is true that P." - Wrong. If there are no humans, P does not exist."

Ok. Thanks for the clarification. Now, let us see what I wrote. From November 27, 2013 9:00 AM:

"Since

(B) Necessarily, if there are no human beings, then it is true that P.

entails (A) he must also reject it."

See the "he must also reject it" written in there? It means that, well, you reject it, you do not think it true. Which sounds a lot like saying (B) is wrong. But hey, I am the one misunderstanding, misrepresenting and equivocating all the time, so what can I say? Shrug shoulders.

"but that's your logic, not mine."

Smile. On this one thing we can agree; although probably not for the same reasons.

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

I refer you to my last statement. It really does seem that you utterly fail to comprehend what I have said. I've explained it as clearly as I can. I can do no more.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"It really does seem that you utterly fail to comprehend what I have said."

In the last two? three? I don't know, responses, you have asserted that I misunderstand, misrepresent and equivocate. I have shown by extensive quotation, that no, I am not misunderstanding, misrepresenting or equivocating. Now, you double down with a I "utterly fail to comprehend what you [I] have said" without even saying what I am "utterly" failing to comprehend. Now, has it entered the ball of grey tissue you have between the ears that you call a mind that maybe, just maybe, it is you who is "utterly" failing to comprehend?

Anyway, I *have* made arguments against your position. If you assert P, I prove that P entails Q, then you are committed to Q and that is it. It is no use telling me ad nauseam that "No, you misunderstand me, I am asserting not-Q", because all that shows is that you believe in inconsistent things, which, you know, is kinda the point of reductio arguments. In particular, saying that "the proposition P does not exist, so you can't say it's not true or false." (which I presume is the "last sentence" you refer to) does nothing to block the arguments. I am fully aware that that is what you mean. Always have been. So where is the error? If they go wrong, I'd surely like to know where. But you do not say and just wave your hands, probably in the expectation that the problem will go away as if by magic. Or by silence? Since you are committed to say that if P is not uttered then it is not the case that P is true, this may very well be your expectation.

I do not want to be disagreeable, but this really bears repeating: I do not expect to convince you of anything. You said it perfectly: "Maybe I do have it all wrong. But you'll never convince me of that". I do not expect you to yield to logic or reason. I do not expect you to point out where exactly are the flaws in any of the arguments (instead of constantly flubbering on the "misunderstanding" charges or saying that you are committed to the denial of the conclusion). I mean, S. Lovell threw you a life jacket and you rejected it, for heaven's sake! I do not expect you to know that there are versions of anti-realism that are defensible as opposed to the insanity you are uttering (even if they are ultimately false; of course, this is much harder and needless to say, controversial). I do not even expect you to know that there are naturalists that are realists (whether they can be so consistently is another story; I would argue no, but once again, this is harder and controversial). On the contrary, I fully expect this to be the most thoroughly futile exercise. Sad, but true. But such are the ways of the world.

im-skeptical said...

Should I try one more time? Will it do any good? Let's see.

In you arguments where you think you are showing the absurdity of my statements, you always contradict what I have said. Notice I didn't say I have contradicted what I have said.

So, you agree for the sake of argument with the first part (at time t_0 there no humans and no propositions) - "because I am not saying that you are committed to their falsity -- this is *NOWHERE* used in the argument".

Then what do you do next? You go ahead and make the assertion anyway: "There is a time t_0 before which the GR equations G = 8 pi T do not hold. Proof: by (2)", and therefore, I am contradicting myself, because obviously the laws of physics apply even before there are humans.

You don't understand that the attribute of truth applies to the proposition, not the physical state of affairs, so you accuse me of denying the laws of physics, when all I'm doing is denying that a proposition has been stated (about the laws of physics) that could be either true or false. You can't seem to separate those things, and because of your lack of comprehension, you go on to call me stupid and so on.

It isn't me.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Then what do you do next? You go ahead and make the assertion anyway: "There is a time t_0 before which the GR equations G = 8 pi T do not hold. Proof: by (2)", and therefore, I am contradicting myself, because obviously the laws of physics apply even before there are humans."

In November 26, 2013 8:44 AM you chose to deny (2). Now you go after (3). But (3) follows trivially from (2) by substitution, so if there is a problem, you still have not located it. To be even more explicit, for you to see that I am not making use of what you seemingly think I am, the precise paraphrase of (3) is "there is a time t_0 before which, it is not the case that the GR equations G = 8 pi T are true". But scientists do say that GR equations, as all physical laws, are true at all times, so yes you are denying Science. Care to clarify? By all means do. I invited you as much right in the comment where the argument was made. Until now, you have declined it. You want to take S. Lovell's paraphrase, the one you seemingly rejected? You still have problems to solve as I pointed out. But I have also given other arguments. I have even given an argument for why saying something like "But if it is not spoken, there is no proposition to which you can assign a truth value" lands you in contradiction. I could give others; I could reproduce a handful of arguments for why identifying propositions with concrete particulars (as you must, being an anti-realist and a naturalist) lands you in incoherence; but hey, enough beating for one thread.

"You don't understand that the attribute of truth applies to the proposition, not the physical state of affairs, so you accuse me of denying the laws of physics, when all I'm doing is denying that a proposition has been stated (about the laws of physics) that could be either true or false."

Where did I ever deny, or even hinted as much, that truth is a property of propositions? Nowhere; in fact, it is everywhere in the arguments that truth is a property of propositions (I think there is more to truth, but never mind). You are, once again, pulling crap out of your ass. And of course, *you* are indeed committed to say that (certain) physical states of affairs are true or false, because you must identify propositions with them, namely, neural brain patterns or whatever, so the "do not understand" accusation is a tad ironic don't you think? Now, what could it ever mean for a physical state of affairs to be true or false? Seemingly, nothing, given the quoted sentence. And there does not seem to be anything special about the specific physical states of the brain, so what marks them off as being true or false, while other physical states do not have that special dignity? Hey, I am sure you have it all figured out. Or issue a gigantic promissory note. Yeah. And for the umpteenth time, it is no good to say "All I am doing is asserting is such and such".

"It isn't me."

Of course, it's not, how could it ever be? "Maybe I do have it all wrong. But you'll never convince me of that."

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Skep,

Like Grodrigues, I think it really sounds like you accept my truth-makers / truth-barers distinction despite your claim to the contrary.

The idea is that propositions are truth-bearers. They bear (have) the property of "being true" (or false). You don't have a problem with propositions, so long as there are people to assert them.

Truth-makers are the stuff in the world (physical or otherwise) to which propositions, when they exist, refer.

So the proposition "There was a time when no complex life forms existed" is a proposition, a truth-bearer (or a falsehood-bearer !?!).

But it will be true (when asserted) only if the factual content of that proposition obtains (or, in this case, obtained). That factual content is the "truth-maker".

So I reckon you believe in mind-independent truth-makers but not mind independent truth-bearers.

This gives you at least something to say in response to Grodrigues' argument 1, though there would still be much else to discuss.

If you're still going to deny mind independent truth-makers, then you're going to have to explain how you reply to argument 1 without saying that we just don't understand.

im-skeptical said...

Steve,

The objection I have to your terminology is that 'truth-maker' is essentially meaningless. To me, it simply refers to reality or a 'state of affairs'. It has no association with the concept of 'truth', which applies to a proposition, so why use the word truth in your terminology? That can only lead to confusion or equivocation.

Let me illustrate: I'm looking at a wooden chair (a so-called 'truth-maker'). If I say, "That's true", what does it mean? The physical reality of the chair implies no truth. If I first say that the chair is wooden, then I could say that my statement was true, but the mere physical state of affairs has no truth value attached to it.

The same can be said of the laws of physics. We all agree that things behave in accordance with those laws. But the argument of grodrigues says "So im-skeptical is committed to denying any and all known science", when my argument only said that before there were humans, there we no propositions about the laws of physics that could be called true. So what he's doing is thinking of physical reality as something like a truth-maker, and then conflating that with the truth-bearer or proposition that refers to physical law. And that's what makes it so easy for him to draw his contradictory conclusion.

So my proposal is this: let's call truth what it is - an attribute of a proposition - and not use the term when it is not appropriate. To say that truth exists (perhaps as some kind of Platonic object), when not in the context of assessing some proposition, is utterly meaningless. And I would challenge anybody who disagrees to provide a cogent explanation of it.

Steve Lovell said...

No time just now, but thetruth-maker terminology isn't mine. I'm happy to use different words.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"But the argument of grodrigues says "So im-skeptical is committed to denying any and all known science", when my argument only said that before there were humans, there we no propositions about the laws of physics that could be called true."

The argument proves what you quote; and it proves by using precisely what you say: "before there were humans, there we no propositions about the laws of physics that could be called true".

"So what he's doing is thinking of physical reality as something like a truth-maker, and then conflating that with the truth-bearer or proposition that refers to physical law."

Great way to refute an argument: since the conclusion must be wrong, invent some just-so story to explain the mischief. To hell with logic, validity of the premises, etc.

First, (physical) reality *is* a truth maker. It is in virtue of reality being such and such that the proposition "The GR equations G = 8 pi T obtain in our universe" is true; or in other words, it is reality being a certain way, *this* way and not *that* way, that grounds the truth of the proposition. This in a nutshell, is what it means to be a truth maker -- an entity (some real extra-mental being, a state of affairs, whatever) grounding the truth of a proposition. This is the standard account of truth as correspondence; if you have anything else in mind, please do share with us. And of course, I am not conflating truth makers with propositions anywhere in the argument; this is nothing but another invention of yours that you throw out in the hopes that it will stick (IOW, it is your burden to show where exactly such mistake is being made, if it is being made). Sorry, epic failure; argumentation does not work this way.

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

"It is in virtue of reality being such and such that the proposition "The GR equations G = 8 pi T obtain in our universe" is true;"

I disagree for reasons that I have already stated, and you still don't understand. An equation is a proposition. It can be true or not true. But it doesn't exist if it has never been formulated by a person. So your conclusion DOES NOT follow from what I said. It is in virtue of an equation being formulated that is an accurate representation of physical reality that the equation is true, not in virtue of the physical reality itself, which has no truth value.

im-skeptical said...

Steve,

As that article indicates, the terminology is problematic, and even still, it is used only in the context of a proposition. So I would prefer to avoid it.

But getting back to the original discussion, the idea of a 'necessary truth', if taken to mean that it is an object that exists even without the context of a proposition, is meaningless by my understanding of the word truth. On the other hand, if 'necessary truth' is used strictly as an attribute of a proposition, meaning that this proposition would always be true, then it is no problem at all for a materialist, because a proposition can only exist in a world where there is someone to make it, and along with that, the truth of a proposition can only be adjudged if there is a proposition.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

This is completely surreal. I sometimes wonder if you are not an MGonz clone.

"An equation is a proposition. It can be true or not true."

Not quite correct, but good enough for current purposes.

"But it doesn't exist if it has never been formulated by a person."

Yes, that is what you assert.

"So your conclusion DOES NOT follow from what I said. It is in virtue of an equation being formulated that is an accurate representation of physical reality that the equation is true, not in virtue of the physical reality itself, which has no truth value."

Oh brother... Look, I am just giving a pretty tame account of what it means for a proposition to be true. P is true if P obtains in our world, where "obtains in our world" is a paraphrase for the existence of some entity in the world, a being or beings, a state of affairs, whatever (*), that makes P true. So if I claimed that P = "im-skeptical is dumber than a bag of hammers" is true, it would be because there is an entity in the actual world uniquely identified by the label "im-skeptical", that has the property of being dumber than a bag of hammers, and it is because reality is like this, meaning "im-skeptical" exists and is really dumber than a bag of hammers, that proposition P = "im-skeptical is dumber than a bag of hammers" is true. Analogously, for anything else. This is all.

If when you claim that a proposition like P = "im-skeptical is dumber than a bag of hammers" is true and yet you have something completely different in mind from the above, then by all means enlighten us. Saying that "It is in virtue of an equation being formulated that is an accurate representation of physical reality that the equation is true, not in virtue of the physical reality itself" sounds kinda, sorta, maybe like what I said, but it is so confusing that I am really not sure.

So all I am doing, is giving a name to a pretty elementary distinction; I am not saying anything beyond it. So if I claim that P = "im-skeptical is dumber than a bag of hammers" is true, I am quite obviously not saying that you are true or false; after all, you are either a human being or an MGonz clone, but you are certainly not a proposition. I am also *not* asserting anything about whether propositions exist or not apart from human minds, or drawing any implications of that sort. It is all *irrelevant* as far as the distinction goes. You yourself continuously rely on the distinction; you just manage to pile confusion upon confusion. Furthermore, it was S. Lovell who introduced the distinction, not me; I am just using it here for the sake of clearing up your confusions, nothing else, as it is not doing any special work in the arguments (**).

This is all pretty elementary, pretty uncontroversial, and accepted by pretty much everybody that is not smoking some weird shit. It is in fact so elementary, that is embarrassing that I have to explain this as if you really were, you know, dumber than a bag of hammers.

(*) I am being deliberately vague here, because it matters little for the arguments and I want to sidestep some thorny, but otherwise irrelevant issues.

(**) Arguably, it does work in my retort to S. Lovell's paraphrase; more specifically, I make the assumption that true mathematical propositions have truth makers, which I would argue, you are committed to; The retort is made in that context anyway. But since you seem to reject S. Lovell's paraphrase, it matters not.

im-skeptical said...

And you call me cocksure. Amazing!

I do not deny the laws of physics, and nothing I said implies that I do. You can't understand what I said about truth, so rather than try to see my point, you resort to your usual tactics of ad hominem attacks.

It's OK to disagree with somebody, but you should at least make an effort to understand what they are saying. It shouldn't be that hard for someone with a PhD in mathematics. I understand if you don't agree, but your logic doesn't follow from what I said, and if you understood my remarks, you would see why.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"I understand if you don't agree, but your logic doesn't follow from what I said, and if you understood my remarks, you would see why."

I understand if you don't agree, but my logic (??) follows from what I said, and if you understood my remarks, you would see why.

How is that for an answer? Pretty lame as you surely agree. Saying that the problem is with the interlocutor is not an answer; you have to specify *exactly* where is the problem. I gave an argument. Actually I gave 5 or 6, but one seems to be enough of a show stopper. You still have not located the problem. Is there a misunderstanding? Until now, every *single* alleged misunderstanding has been refuted. Equivocation? The same thing. Logical misstep. Nothing. Steven Lovell even gave you one way in which you could at the very least improve your position. Seemingly rejected.

On the other hand, I have done *exactly* what I am asking of you. You charge me with a misunderstanding? I give extensive quotes to show that no, I am not misunderstanding. You charge me with assuming a premise you explicitly deny? I clarify what I mean and show that no, I am not using a premise you explicitly deny. You charge me with "conclusion does not follow from what I said" and I show that you are simply confused about where the argument lies. Among other things. On and so on. For, I don't know, 50 comments? So sorry, if there is one not understanding here, it is you.

But I will repeat myself: I do not expect to convince you of anything. You said it perfectly: "Maybe I do have it all wrong. But you'll never convince me of that".

im-skeptical said...


grodrigues,

This is my final communication to you.

Take your argument #1.
"
(1) There is a time t_0 before which there were no human minds.
(2) There is a time t_0 before which no mathematical equations holds.
(3) There is a time t_0 before which the GR equations G = 8 pi T do not hold.

So im-skeptical is committed to denying any and all known science.
"

I said I don't agree with the way it is worded, and I explained why. It was that whole discussion about how truth is an attribute of a proposition (and an equation is just a proposition), not of physical reality. So if you want to represent what I would actually say, change the word 'hold' to 'exist', and then I would agree with it. But by making this change, your conclusion DOES NOT FOLLOW. It might follow from your misrepresentation of my position, but it doesn't follow from anything I have said, as I keep telling you over and over again.

Now, why did you word it the way you did (which is a misrepresentation of what I've been saying)? There are two possibilities: You don't understand what I meant, or you do understand what I meant and you wish to distort my meaning. Since I prefer not to accuse you of dishonesty, I have insisted that you don't understand what I've been saying. If you did, you would be able to accurately represent my position.

On the other hand, I noticed that you seemed particularly upset when I used the term 'woo-meisters' earlier. So in retrospect (and in light of the fact that it's hard to believe someone could be so incredibly obtuse), it seems more likely that your objective is not to have any kind of honest discussion. So buzz off.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"I said I don't agree with the way it is worded, and I explained why. It was that whole discussion about how truth is an attribute of a proposition (and an equation is just a proposition), not of physical reality. So if you want to represent what I would actually say, change the word 'hold' to 'exist', and then I would agree with it."

And I explained why every single response you gave does not work. The last sentence in particular, was already responded in November 26, 2013 11:51 AM. And then again at November 27, 2013 6:51 PM. And at various other moments as well. So here goes one more time.

(1) There is a time t_0 before which no human minds exist. Proof: Uncontroversial.
(2) There is a time t_0 before which no mathematical equation exists. Proof: from your repeated assertions.
(3) there is a time t_0 before which, it is not the case that the GR equations G = 8 pi T are true. Proof: from (2) by substitution (*).

The first thing to notice is that no significant change to the argument was made by humoring you. As already pointed out. Numerous times. The second thing to notice is that scientists do say that GR equations, as all physical laws, are true at all times, so yes you are a science-denier. Now, I acknowledge full well that you deny being a science-denier. Which means that you have inconsistent beliefs. By the principle of explosion, everything follows from an inconsistency, so it follows that you believe in anything and everything. So it follows that you are committed to say that the proposition "God exists" is true. It follows that you are committed to every single doctrinal statement made by every single Christian that has ever walked the Earth, from the most ancient orthodox statement to the most recent heresy. And to their contraries; but hey, it is your problem.

(*) And if you want to be explicit on all the assumptions used, from actualism.

I will repeat myself: I do not expect to convince you of anything. You said it perfectly: "Maybe I do have it all wrong. But you'll never convince me of that". My objective, if you want to call it that, is that this is an actually interesting and fun exercise.

im-skeptical said...

To the readers of this thread:

I'm not going to continue to debate grodrigues, since he has proven his intellectual dishonesty, and doesn't merit my time. This is for those who may have been fooled by his dishonesty into thinking that he has come away on top of this debate.

Proof of dishonest tactics: He has changed the wording of his argument again to something that I don't accept, after I told him what wording I would accept. His new version of (3) changes my word 'exist' to 'are true', and in doing so, changes the meaning of the statement. This is not by mistake or by misunderstanding. I told him how I would word it.

The effect of this little change may be subtle. You can interpret it in two different ways. First, you could agree that there is no equation and so no truth is expressed (which I would agree with). Alternatively, you take it to mean that the equation is false (which I would not agree with, because it implies first that the equation exists before it has ever been expressed, and second that Einstein's equation is false). Only if you accept the latter interpretation can you arrive at grodrigues' conclusion, and he's well aware of that. That's why he insists on misrepresenting what I say.

It is never my intention in this forum to get bogged down in pointless arguments with dishonest trolls, but it happens again and again. I keep coming back because there are those who do want to talk about issues, and I feel I have learned much from them. To those people I am grateful.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

Wasn't your last post your "final communication" to me? Oh well. Here we go, then.

"Proof of dishonest tactics: He has changed the wording of his argument again to something that I don't accept, after I told him what wording I would accept. His new version of (3) changes my word 'exist' to 'are true', and in doing so, changes the meaning of the statement. This is not by mistake or by misunderstanding. I told him how I would word it."

I am not going to dispute your narrative; I could offer countless quotes to show that what you are saying is simply not true. Instead, let's see my "dishonest tactics" at work. So you are disputing (3), neither (1) nor (2). The implication from (2) => (3) is immediate by substitution and modus tollens, but quite obviously, you need it spelled out in the most excruciating detail, because otherwise you cannot reconstruct it for yourself. So, for starters, G = 8 pi T is an equation; to be precise, it is a non-linear over-determined system of partial differential equations, whose unknown is the metric g of the space-time manifold that features in the LHS (so that putting G as a function of g, we would have more explicitly G(g) = 8 pi T). So suppose for the sake of argument that the GR equations are true at some t_0 specified by previous steps in the argument, that is, a t_0 such that for all t <= t_0 no human minds exist. Then we get:

(3a) There is a time t_0 before which the equation G = 8 pi T is true.

On hindsight, the "before which" is more confusing than enlightening. Cannot recall exactly what I had in mind when adding it; never mind, it makes no difference. By actualism, which you do not dispute either (in fact you are committed to it; argument given upon request), we get:

(3b) There is a time t_0 before which the equation G = 8 pi T exists.

But this contradicts (2), which you accept. So we get from (3a) by modus tollens, and using the universal quantifier to extract a single witnessing time t_0 (harmless abuse of notation):

(3) There is a time t_0 before which, it is not the case that the GR equations G = 8 pi T are true.

Which is exactly what I wrote in November 29, 2013 5:50 AM. Or before, for that matter. But scientists do say that GR equations, as all physical laws, are true at all times, ergo, you are a science-denier.

I notice that I am just repeating myself: this was already explained and said countless times. And as you probably are already waiting for me to say it (you can hardly blame me for pressing the point; the zinger is just too good to waste): I do not expect to convince you of anything. You said it perfectly: "Maybe I do have it all wrong. But you'll never convince me of that".

Steve Lovell said...

I briefly thought we were getting somewhere, but now if it weren't for all the insults and the sheer loss of time I think I'd find the whole thing rather comical.

Skep

You're difficulties with what Grodrigues and I have been saying seem mostly linguistic. Please believe me when I say that neither of us are trying to snare you in a symantic trap. Given everything else you've said, I truly think the right way to respond to Grodrigues latest formulation of argument 1 would be something like this:

Given that I accept the premises, I must of course accept the conclusion. But the sense in which I accept the premises is important, and unless we equivocate the conclusion in harmless. The reason that the GR equations are not true at those times is that those equations don't exist at those times, not that they are false. Although the equations were not then true, since they didn't exist, the worlds was even then as those equations now describe it to have been. So accepting the conclusion doesn't mean I reject science.

Does that sound okay? For reference its just my [true of / true at] response in different words. Can we now move to discussing the more substantive differences between us?





grodrigues said...

@S. Lovell:

"For reference its just my [true of / true at] response in different words."

What is puzzling (in a tragi-comical way) is that it costs nothing im-skeptical to accept your paraphrase; it does not solve all his problems, but at the very least, argument 1 in its original version is blocked.

Shrug shoulders.

im-skeptical said...

Steve,

I'd be happy to move on.

The argument leading up to this point illustrates a problem that I find common in philosophical arguments. It is the use of imprecise language, which results in multiple interpretations or equivocation. The AFR itself is dependent on this language, with the term 'non-rational', which could easily be taken to mean 'irrational' when is it used in the argument to mean 'physical'. Anscombe made this objection, and you re-worded Lewis' argument, but you didn't remove the source of the objection.

Your statement of the argument:
"(1) Naturalism is a system of thought.
(2') If naturalism is true all thoughts are ultimately the result of certain non-rational causes.
(3') No thought (and so no system of thought) can be reasonable if it results from non-rational causes.
(4) Therefore, if naturalism is true, the thought that it is true is unreasonable.
(5) Therefore, naturalism is either untrue or unreasonable.
(6) So, we ought to reject naturalism. "

My question is: why can't you just say precisely what you mean in a manner that is not subject to misinterpretation? In 2' and 3', use the word 'physical' instead of 'non-rational'. If you do that, 3' no longer seems to be a truism. Is sounds more like an assertion that needs to be proven in its own right. That makes the whole AFR subject to well-justified skepticism.

ozero91 said...

I think one way to look at premise 2 is the fact that physical processes only affect/cause other physical processes based on physical behavior and properties alone. Any meaning or rationality that is associated with a physical process is irrelevant to its causal powers/tendencies. For example, the value of a bead on an abacus (1 or 10, etc) has no bearing how the bead will react when a force is exerted on it, and has no bearing on the physical effect the bead has on other beads.

im-skeptical said...

ozero91

"Any meaning or rationality that is associated with a physical process is irrelevant to its causal powers/tendencies."

Don't be so sure. If a mind can develop from biological matter, it can assign meaning to things. I know you take it for granted that that can't happen, but if you make that assumption in any premise of the AFR, it becomes a circular argument - invalid logic. You need to prove it, not assume it.

ozero91 said...

"If a mind can develop from biological matter, it can assign meaning to things."

I don't see how this is relevant. Assigning meaning to some physical matter does not change it's physical properties. Say a mind gives an abacus bead the meaning of 1. Then another mind comes over and gives it the meaning of 10. The bead's physical properties and effects will not change. In fact, the bead's physical behavior will stay the same even if no meaning is assigned to it. It will move if a force is applied, regardless of whether or not any meaning is involved. A calculator will display "4" if it receives the button inputs "2", "+", "2", and "=" even if there are no meanings associated with those symbols.

im-skeptical said...

ozero91,

What is the point of your comment? Whether mind can arise from matter is certainly relevant to the AFR. I thought that's what the discussion was about.

ozero91 said...

I wasn't clear. I meant that the whole mind thing was irrelevant to:

"Any meaning or rationality that is associated with a physical process is irrelevant to its causal powers/tendencies."

The point of my comment was to explain the irrelevancy, hence the "Assigning meaning..."

Steve Lovell said...

Hi Skep,

Actually, Anscombe didn't make that objection. She objected to "irrational" not to "non-rational", and Lewis revised his argument accordingly. I made the same revision as Lewis. Nothing in my argument trades on confusion of irrational and non-rational. Now it may be that my premise (3') is wrong. But much of the remainder of the paper in question is devoted to argument for that very premise, so it's not as though I'm taking it to be uncontroversial or relying on any potential misunderstanding of the word "non-rational" which would make that premise seem like a mere truism.

Moreover, the word "non-rational" isn't in the least bit imprecise, and in a huge amount of reading on the matter (on all sides) I've never heard anyone object to the use of terms like "non-rational" or "a-rational" to describe physical processes. It is precisely because physical process, qua physical processes, are non-rational, and both parties to the discussion agree on that, that the problem for naturalism arises.

Is it really so hard to remember during the assessment of an argument what the terms were defined as meaning at the outset? As long as I'm consistent in my usage, where's the problem?

What you need to do is show why, on any consistent interpretation of terms, those arguments don't work. Show where I'm equivocating, don't just complain about the words I'm using or point to a potential source of confusion (which I should think I have already headed off by pointing out the irrational/non-rational distinction myself).

Also we haven't finished discussing necessary truths, but perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned that.

im-skeptical said...

Steve,

I will accept that 'non-rational' can be simply a synonym for 'physical', and not conflated with 'irrational'. But if that is so, why not simply use that word instead? Then we have:

(3') No thought (and so no system of thought) can be reasonable if it results from physical causes.

This statement does not sound obviously true, and that's why I suspect the original language was chosen. Even with the revised wording, I still see this as a kind of subterfuge. It has long been my contention that this premise of the AFR amounts to an unsupported assertion: that rational thought can't come from physical matter and processes.

I might just as well make the statement: (3'') No thought (and so no system of thought) can be reasonable if it results from immaterial causes. What right do I have to make this assertion? Just as much right as you have to make yours.

I know you address the issue in your paper, but I don't see anything like a proof. Instead, I see gems like this:

"Reductive naturalism clearly allows that one mental state can cause another. This is because physical states can cause one another, and according to reductive naturalism mental states just are physical states. No mystery there. But suppose that state s1 causes state s2, and in fact both of these states are mental events, beliefs say. If our animadversions on the laws of nature were accurate, then the reason that s1 causes s2 has nothing to do with the fact that these states are beliefs with particular content. That s1 causes s2 is fixed by the purely physical properties of those two states."

This completely ignores the reductionist claim that the mental state is identical to the physical state, and therefore the content of the mental state is part of its physical makeup. So the content of the mental state does in fact (physically) cause the subsequent mental state.

In fact, there is ample and growing evidence in favor of the materialists. Computers' reasoning abilities are becoming more sophisticated by the day, and we have seen programs that use reasoning to solve problems without being directed by the programmer. We have seen computers create sophisticated designs and derive laws of physics on their own.

So how do you prove this assertion?

ozero91 said...

"This completely ignores the reductionist claim that the mental state is identical to the physical state, and therefore the content of the mental state is part of its physical makeup."

He doesn't ignore it.

"This is because physical states can cause one another, and according to reductive naturalism mental states just are physical states."

"mental states just are physical states"

From the very previous paragraph:

"That is to say, even if some physical states turn out to be identical with
certain mental states, in so far as the basic laws refer to such states they will refer to
them under their physical (and not their mental) descriptions."

im-skeptical said...

ozero91,

Lovell says: "the reason that s1 causes s2 has nothing to do with the fact that these states are beliefs with particular content".

But it has everything to do with the fact that they are beliefs with particular content. That is precisely what determines the physical state s1 that causes s2.

William said...

"But it has everything to do with the fact that they are beliefs with particular content. That is precisely what determines the physical state s1 that causes s2."

Are you here asserting downward causation of the physical properties by the mental properties?

im-skeptical said...

"Are you here asserting downward causation of the physical properties by the mental properties?"

No. They are one and the same.

William said...

So the mental property "I am thinking of pi" is a physical property?

If so, is it the same physical property as the property "Steve is thinking of pi"?

Steve Lovell said...

Hello again,

I think Skep and William both make good points.

Personally, the argument of that section of my paper is not one I'm very comfortable with (see again the introduction where I say I'm "I am uncertain about the cogency of the argument from reason"), and while I've said there that the same argument (with appropriate changes) applies to both Reductive and Non-reductive forms of Naturalism about the mind, for very much the reasons Skep is giving, it's at the very least far from clear that it does apply to the reductive versions. There may be other reasons for rejecting reductive Naturalism (if anyone would like me to spell this out more, just ask), but the AfR as I presented it was not meant to rely on them.

So, we can either (a) turn to other arguments against reductive Naturalism to plug the gap in my argument, (b) look for ways to repair that gap or (c) look at the other strands in the argument. I'm happy with any of those, but I agree that you're not going to get much help from my paper in regards to (b).

Enough for now ... I should be working.

William said...

I agree, Steve, that if mathematical and logical concepts are defined to be part of the physical, as skep is proposing, then the whole AfR argument converts to one of asserting that one type of physical thing is not causally the same as another type of physical thing.

Sort of like changing an international war into a civil war by defining one of the countries to be merely an incompatible part of the other (which has been done historically, too).

Cute way of dealing with a paradox--dissolution by gerrymadering the definition.

im-skeptical said...

Thanks for your replies.

To me, this is at the heart of the argument, and I have always found it to be unsatisfying. I suspect that many materialists would simply reject premise #3, and I think they have evidence to support that. If the AFR is to stand, it is incumbent on its defenders to come up with a strong case for it. But we don't have to do that here.

I'd like to know if you agree with my claim that truth is meaningless when not in the context of an proposition.

William said...

You have a 'thin" notion of truth.

I think that for those who endorse "thick" defintions of "to exist" a "thin"definition of truth is possible, but one has to have ether a "thick" concept of truth or a "thick" concept of existence to make sense of how a proposition connects to the world of experience.

In other words, one can do a shell game with definitions, but the pea is still the pea :).

im-skeptical said...

William,

What is a 'thick' definition of truth?

William said...

Thin concepts involve an attitude or judgement stance: for example

Proposition p is true.

Thick concepts involve both an attitude and its application to a real state of affairs:

Proposition p is true and applies to this person with whom I am sitting.

Truth as a noun is a way of describing and naming what distinguishes, collectively, thick from thin true propositions, I suppose. This is getting too abstract for me though.

ozero91 said...

Does this mean mental contents/properties are on the same level as, say, fundamental particles? Because if we claim that the actions of neurons are wholly determined by the behaviors of fundamental particles (standard model), then we run in to the same problem. How is intentionality or mental content relevant if all physical behaviors depend solely on the properties of fermions and bosons (etc)? Even if you say that mental properties are physical, you can’t reduce them to the behaviors of fundamental particles. Because to do so would be to concede to the AfR, to claim that our thoughts are not ultimately determined by the semantic/mental properties of physical brain processes, but by the actions of fundamental forces/particles.

im-skeptical said...

ozero91,

There is structure in the physical world. And I think I talked about this, but there is very little that you can point to and say, "I can explain its behavior in terms of the action of fermions and bosons." Yet we know that those things are part of some higher-level structure that exhibits its own behavioral properties. And those structures are, in turn, part of a still higher-level structure whose behavior may seem far removed from the lowest level particles. And there is layer after layer of structure, each of which has its own behavioral properties, and each of which has capabilities that do not exist in the lower levels of structure.

A brain is very complex. To map out all that complexity is an overwhelming undertaking, especially since we still have much to learn about what it does and how. So for the time being, you can say there is no mapping from elementary particles to mental function. But it's just a matter of time.

William said...

im:

What makes you so sure that, once all those layers of specifically needed structure are understood, that we won't find the structure was all that mattered, and the fermions and bosons are ultimately optional. After all, if you can speculate on future science others can too :).

ozero91 said...

"So for the time being, you can say there is no mapping from elementary particles to mental function."

I'm saying that if mental properties are part of the physical, then they have to be as "fundamental" as elementary particles/forces. This is not the same as saying that minds cannot be physical. It just means if someone claims that mental properties/processes are reducible to some non-rational physical processes, they run into the AfR.

im-skeptical said...

"if mental properties are part of the physical, then they have to be as "fundamental" as elementary particles/forces."

I don't think so. To say that mental properties must exist at the most fundamental level is to say that they are different or separate from the physical, and physical things can never be reduced to the mental, and mental things can never be reduced to the physical. That is the generally accepted consequence of having distinct fundamental elements.

ozero91 said...

Well, I was going for a more property dualist approach. Matter has both quantitative and qualitative properties, rather than just qualitative properties that are "made out of" quantitative properties.

im-skeptical said...

William,

What makes me so sure that we won't eventually find that a physical reduction of the mental doesn't hold true?

Evidence.

All the evidence points to the physical nature of mind, and it is growing by the day. Yes, I know that there are arguments to the contrary (like the AFR), but they are not evidence-based arguments. In the end, like every other field of science, empirical evidence will win out over the ancient theistic beliefs.

Call me a scientismismist, if you will, but science has a better track record. History is on my side, and so is empirical evidence.

ozero91 said...

"All the evidence points to the physical nature of mind, and it is growing by the day."

How evidence is evaluated is also influenced by metaphysical assumptions. You might be convinced that the evidence supports physicalism, but others see no conflict between the findings of neuroscience and non-physicalism.

William said...

Yes, we don't see structure without the material basis, but the folks who want to build true AI computing in software hope that it can be done :)

" That is the generally accepted consequence of having distinct fundamental elements."

But what if charge and mass were distinct fundamental elements (I don't think they have to be). Would that mean that charge cannot be reduced to the physical? If not, why are you treating a presumptively physical thing (logic) diferently, if all is physical?

im-skeptical said...

"How evidence is evaluated is also influenced by metaphysical assumptions."

That's a good point. The naturalist metaphysics of science is completely objective - all things that exist are equally observable to everybody, regardless of what they believe. Your metaphysics might include other things that are not observable. If we ever get to the point where something is inexplicable by means of objectively observable elements, then the metaphysical foundations of science will have to change. In fact, this has long been the claim of theists. But so far, they have proven to be wrong time after time. Not once has there been a case where science has had to cede ground to theistic theories. I have no reason to think that the scientific study of the mind will be the first.

im-skeptical said...

"But what if charge and mass were distinct fundamental elements (I don't think they have to be). Would that mean that charge cannot be reduced to the physical? If not, why are you treating a presumptively physical thing (logic) diferently, if all is physical?"

Charge and mass are properties of physical particles. They don't exist apart from those particles. Logic is a methodology by which we understand things. Your question is like asking "why do I treat walking differently from physical objects?" Walking is a physical activity, not an object. Logic is similar. It is part of a process used by the brain to evaluate information (which is also physical). Processing information is a physical activity.

ozero91 said...

"Not once has there been a case where science has had to cede ground to theistic theories."

Dualism isn't a scientific theory attempting a "best explanation" based on data.

And I'll be honest, I can't quite figure out your position, because some of your posts sound like reductionism, some sound like non reductionism, some claim that mental states do matter causally, yet you seem not to get my point about what follows from that.

ozero91 said...

So I'm done for now, if any readers would like to do some further reading on some of the things I discussed, check out these old posts by Feser.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/12/churchland-on-dualism-part-iii.html

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/02/popper-contra-computationalism.html

im-skeptical said...

"some sound like non reductionism"

I'm curious what I said that sounds like non-reductionism, because that was not my intent. Perhaps I misused some terminology and that led to misinterpretation. At any rate, I am not any kind of dualist.

Karl Grant said...

I'm curious what I said that sounds like non-reductionism, because that was not my intent. Perhaps I misused some terminology and that led to misinterpretation. At any rate, I am not any kind of dualist.

Does anybody want to explain to Skeppy there is a such thing as Non-reductive Physicalism?

William said...

skep: I still don't understand this:

1. You say that a mantal property is just physical.

2. You say that a mental thing "reduces" to "the physical."

What does the "reduces" thing actually mean?

Why, if the mental thing is just physical, does anything need to be reduced, to what it already was?

Are you using the word "physical" in two different ways? If so, please tell me what each way is?

If you are not using it in two ways, it seems to me that your explanations lack coherence.


im-skeptical said...

William,

1. I generally don't speak of "mental properties". I prefer to speak of "mental function". Mind is what the brain does.

2. As a reductionist, I would say that mind is constituted from purely physical elements and the forces and interactions of those things. In other words, if you consider my discussion of structures, at the lowest level is fundamental physical particles and energy - nothing more. Those things build up structures that ultimately comprise the brain and explain its function, without recourse to any immaterial elements.

What do I mean by physical? As I said, it is what can be observed in our world - matter, energy, forces. All mental phenomena are physical, because they are simply the function of a physical brain.

William said...

skep:

So why, if mental function is physical, do you speak of reducing it to the physical? How is that done? Can you give an example?

Is what the mind does a physical thing or not?

Is mental function a physical thing or not? If it is not a physical thing, what is it

I still don't understand what it means for a physical, mental function to "reduce." How is "function" "reduced"? Is this "function" already "physical" if it is not first "reduced" or not?

im-skeptical said...

William,

I'm afraid I don't understand your confusion. I thought I made it clear. When I refer to what is physical, I mean both matter, and the functions and activities of material objects. So mind, being the function of a physical brain, is physical in nature. But I don't call mind an object, I call it a function of the brain.

As an example, walking is the function of legs. It is physical in nature - it's what physical legs do. But there is no object called 'walking'. It's not a 'thing' you can hold or examine under a microscope - it's an activity. So it is with mind. It's what the brain does.

Theists think of creation as a continual act of God. I think of mind in a similar manner as the continual function of the brain. Just without any element of magic - simply the result of purely physical processes.

William said...

skep: So, anything that something that is made of matter does is physical by your definition?

Is there anything that a material object could conceivably do that in your schema would not be also physical simply by definition due to its origin?

im-skeptical said...

Well, if you believe in hylemorphic dualism, physical objects have an immaterial component (or form) that gives them something not derived from pure physics. A human soul provides the intellect, but still depends on the physical operation of the brain, or something to that effect. I don't understand how something like that would work, but it's not a problem for be because I don't believe in it. But other than considerations like that, no - there's nothing a physical object could do that would not be physical. In other words, everything a physical object could do would conform and be constrained by physical laws.

William said...

skep:

physical laws? There is that catchall (except god of course) word again. Hmm.

Are physical laws physical? Are they make of the quark-stuff too?


Or is it another tautology of your physical-ism, that they are they just merely the things that physical things do?

im-skeptical said...

William,

As I'm sure you are aware, physical laws are simply our observation of the way things behave. The point about them is that things ALWAYS behave in accordance with these laws. If we should ever observe that something violates these laws, we would call it supernatural, but we NEVER see that.

And that fact is compelling evidence for naturalism.

William said...

Nah, it's a tautology you have going here. Relativity showed where Newton's laws were violated, and the laws changed, the data didn't.

im-skeptical said...

"the laws changed, the data didn't."

Sorry, that's incorrect. Our way of making observations has changed. The data we collect has changed over time as our methods improve, and of course we have to revise the physical laws as we see new aspects of physical behavior that were always there but not observable before. The more we are able to observe, the more we need to refine physical law. Newton's laws didn't take into account things that we can now observe. (And you should be aware that under ordinary humanly observable conditions, the equations of Einstein's relativity precisely match Newton's.) Given the observational capabilities we have at any time, the laws are never violated.

William said...

skep: I think you show a lot of wishful thinking here, or is it a kind of faith? If so, I respect your choice, though I disagree.

Perhaps you need to ponder Hempel's dilemma a bit.

William said...

Consider the history of the smallpox virus. We knew that cowpox protected against smallpox before we know what a virus was or what lymphocytes were. The laws we had to judge the empirical data changed, the data (vaccination worked) did not.

Consider the history of the luminiferous ether to carry light waves. It was dubious as an entity, experimentally speaking, well before we had any working theory to explain why.

im-skeptical said...

William,

You can create all the little 'philosopher's boxes' you like to try to confine me in. I don't care about Hempel's dilemma. What I'm saying is the things do behave in accordance with laws of nature, whatever they may be, and that's true whether or not we have a complete understanding of them.

We know enough about the laws of mechanics (mass, force, motion) at the level of our everyday experience to describe them perfectly adequately with Newton's laws. Yes, there are nuances - when we want to understand things that move close to the speed of light, or things that at the subatomic level, we need to have extensions to the laws or new laws to properly account for what we observe. And no doubt there will be additional modifications in the future. But I'd like to stress that even as we learn more and we sometimes find the need to modify our formulation of laws of nature, it never changes the observations we've made in the past. That's data that we still have to account for, and always will.

If I throw a baseball, I can describe its motion using Newton's laws. And you know what else? It works every time. The baseball NEVER takes off and flies into the sky, or makes a sudden sharp turn in mid-air. To deny that these physical laws always apply is wishful thinking on your part.

What about smallpox virus? There was never any violation of physical law. What we had was a lack of knowledge at that time about viruses.

What about ether? That was nothing more than a postulation (one of many) that proved to be false as soon as we had the ability to make accurate measurements of the speed of light.

These examples only serve to show that we don't have all the answers. But they do nothing show that things ever have or ever will violate laws of nature, once those laws are adequately understood.

William said...

skep:

The laws of nature as you describe them merely reflect the order of the cosmos. If there was a species of moth that could turn invisible when disturbed in a magical way (by our world's current standards) just by somehow turning into dark matter for a half minute, then back, and this was predicable and reproducible, we'd just modify our known laws to reflect the known natural world once more, and you would still be right.

Under your system, all that can exist (you specify that excludes God) is by definition physical and all that happens must by definition be in accordance to natural laws. It's all very tidy, and it makes absolutely no difference that should make a difference.

Your view point is metaphysically tautological and thus ultimately meaningless, in that it makes no difference to any scientific activity I or anyone else might actually do. In that sense, it is very unscientific from the standpoint of trying to learn anything new about the world.

im-skeptical said...

William,

I guess I didn't make the point very well. You say: "If there was a species of moth that could turn invisible when disturbed in a magical way ... we'd just modify our known laws to reflect the known natural world once more". But if there were such a thing, we'd have known it all along, and science would have a theory about how it happens. We wouldn't have to "modify our known laws". They would have taken that into account from the start. What would be unnatural or magical is if suddenly we begin to observe something like that when it never happened before. Then we'd be scratching our heads and saying "that's a violation of the known laws of physics." What I've been trying to get across to you is that those things don't happen. The laws of physics explain the way things are, and the way things have always been. They don't explain supernatural phenomena because we never, ever see those things happen.

Steve Lovell said...

Hi there,

Apologies for my absence. Work is very busy and I'm not getting much time for other stuff. We've rather left the main topic for the moment, but I think the discussion on laws of nature is interesting, and we've touched on it several times.

Skep, I think you've been moving back and forth on what laws of nature are. On the one hand you've sometimes been saying that laws are just propositions recording the regular behaviour of nature. But now you're saying that the laws explain the way things are. One the face of things, these are two very different and incompatible views.

im-skeptical said...

Steve,

You're right. 'Explain' was not the best choice of words. I should have said 'describe' instead. Laws of nature don't tell us why things behave the way they do, but they give us a mathematical description of the behavior, which can be used to predict what will occur given a known set of initial conditions.

Steve Lovell said...

But now if the laws are merely descriptive, what do you mean when you're talking about "violations"? It begins to sound as if the miraculous is defined out of existence in the manner of McKinnon's '"Miracle" and "Paradox"':

This contradiction may stand out more clearly if for 'natural law' we substitute the expression 'the actual course of events'. Miracle would then be defined as "an event involving the suspension of the actual course of events."

McKinnon took this to show that the concept of the miraculous is incoherent. I take it to show that his concept of the miraculous is incoherent and as an indication that his understanding of laws of nature is wrong.

If you're with McKinnon then I think William is making a good point.

im-skeptical said...

"what do you mean when you're talking about "violations"?"

This discussion has mentioned violations in two different senses:

1: We observe for the first time what we were not able to before. This is not a violation at all. It is merely our own incomplete understanding of the behavior of things, and necessitates modifying our formulation of the law. This behavior has always existed, but we didn't have the ability to observe it.

2: We observe something that is DIFFERENT from what we have always observed. It appears to be something supernatural. This would be a violation of natural law if it ever happened, but it NEVER does.


Crude said...

1: We observe for the first time what we were not able to before. This is not a violation at all. It is merely our own incomplete understanding of the behavior of things, and necessitates modifying our formulation of the law. This behavior has always existed, but we didn't have the ability to observe it.

2: We observe something that is DIFFERENT from what we have always observed. It appears to be something supernatural. This would be a violation of natural law if it ever happened, but it NEVER does.


The amazing thing is that you think this clarifies anything.

First, your end claim of 2 is incorrect. We have all manner of claimed observations of things that 'violate natural law'.

But that's not the real problem here. The behavior of matter at the quantum scale was clearly a case of 2: we observed that matter was behaving in ways that was entirely different from how it had always been observed to do so. Sometimes a particle, sometimes a wave, among other things. You've even made the erroneous claim in the past that matter 'pops into existence without a cause', if I recall correctly. Forget that it's erroneous, and take it at face value: is that at all close to what we've 'always observed'? So 2 has been met by your own standards.

Now let's say you turn around and go 'Oh, but that was the first time we ever saw such and such. It's not a case of 2 - it's a case of 1!' Okay. But in that case, you can insist that every given situation you come across is 1. And remember: it doesn't matter if 1 violates the 'known laws of physics', because such 'violations' have happened repeatedly in the past. We responded by updating and changing the laws.

You can do this, in principle, with any given development. If it turns out that the thomists are correct and that there is something more than mere mechanistic matter at work in creatures and things, then you can say "Oh, new discovery, new theory. This is just a case of 1." You wouldn't even say that matter has something 'immaterial' to it - the definition of material could simply be expanded.

Heck, you could even fit gods and God under 1 if you wanted. We merely had an incomplete understanding of things, that's all.

Crude said...

Oh, and also.

If I throw a baseball, I can describe its motion using Newton's laws. And you know what else? It works every time. The baseball NEVER takes off and flies into the sky, or makes a sudden sharp turn in mid-air. To deny that these physical laws always apply is wishful thinking on your part.

Let's take a look at what the wikipedia has to say about the physics of balls:

Quantum tunnelling falls under the domain of quantum mechanics: the study of what happens at the quantum scale. This process cannot be directly perceived, but much of its understanding is shaped by the macroscopic world, which classical mechanics cannot adequately explain. To understand the phenomenon, particles attempting to travel between potential barriers can be compared to a ball trying to roll over a hill; quantum mechanics and classical mechanics differ in their treatment of this scenario. Classical mechanics predicts that particles that do not have enough energy to classically surmount a barrier will not be able to reach the other side. Thus, a ball without sufficient energy to surmount the hill would roll back down. Or, lacking the energy to penetrate a wall, it would bounce back (reflection) or in the extreme case, bury itself inside the wall (absorption). In quantum mechanics, these particles can, with a very small probability, tunnel to the other side, thus crossing the barrier. Here, the ball could, in a sense, borrow energy from its surroundings to tunnel through the wall or roll over the hill, paying it back by making the reflected electrons more energetic than they otherwise would have been.[9]

'These laws' include utterly unthinkable things that weren't possible with just Newton's Laws. Now, they're estimated to be incredibly unlikely - but they are quite possible by modern physics. So much for 'works every time'.

Of course, you can say that at least you can generally describe what's going on with quantum physics calculations - probablistic, perhaps. And maybe refine that in turn. But then, you're just letting another problem rear its head.

im-skeptical said...

Let's dispense with crude's shallow reading of my statements:

"The behavior of matter at the quantum scale was clearly a case of 2". No it is behavior that has always existed that had been unobserved until the 20th century.

"But in that case, you can insist that every given situation you come across is 1." Again, no. Only if the newly observed behavior proves to be consistent - that is, it always behaves that way - can we say that is a case of #1.

"So much for 'works every time'." I didn't say it was absolutely impossible. I was talking about things at the scale that is normally observable by ordinary people. If you can cite a single case of a whole baseball experiencing a quantum tunneling event, I will certainly retract my statement.

Now please return to the other thread and show us that you're not all bark and no bite.

Crude said...

No it is behavior that has always existed that had been unobserved until the 20th century.

First - how do you know that? Is that something science teaches you? Or is it something you just assume? Indeed, something you need to philosophically assume to continue your scientific project?

Second - so regular supernatural behavior that has been taking place for a long time is completely undetectable by your standard. True?

Only if the newly observed behavior proves to be consistent - that is, it always behaves that way - can we say that is a case of #1.

Okay. So what you're asking for are one-time anomalies, correct?

I didn't say it was absolutely impossible.

"The baseball NEVER takes off and flies into the sky, or makes a sudden sharp turn in mid-air. To deny that these physical laws always apply is wishful thinking on your part."

No, Skep - you were quite clear. NEVER. To deny these ALWAYS apply is wishful thinking.

But, oops... it turns out that they don't always apply.

If you can cite a single case of a whole baseball experiencing a quantum tunneling event, I will certainly retract my statement.

Oh, this is rich. So... if the baseball took off and flew into the sky, or made a sudden sharp turn in mid-air... it would be a quantum tunneling event, right? Are quantum tunneling events supernatural?

im-skeptical said...

"Oh, this is rich"

Yes, it is. I repeat: "The baseball NEVER takes off and flies into the sky, or makes a sudden sharp turn in mid-air. To deny that these physical laws always apply is wishful thinking on your part."

"But, oops... it turns out that they don't always apply." Yes, they do.

You seem to have it in your mind that because subatomic particles can exhibit quantum tunneling, anything goes. But it doesn't. It's obvious that you have no idea what quantum tunneling is. Give it up.

Crude said...

Yes, it is. I repeat: "The baseball NEVER takes off and flies into the sky, or makes a sudden sharp turn in mid-air. To deny that these physical laws always apply is wishful thinking on your part."

Ho ho, Skep. Repeat yourself another time too:

I didn't say it was absolutely impossible. I was talking about things at the scale that is normally observable by ordinary people.

So much for 'NEVER'. So much for 'these laws ALWAYS apply'. It turns out you are entirely open to baseballs taking radically different paths - even passing through brick walls - and this being naturally.

But if they didn't apply? You have an out: quantum tunneling event. Or - and this is important - you could simply say, 'Unknown phenomena, purely natural, we just have to wait and see.' After all, it's not as if it's impossible for this to happen, right? And if the event did happen - if it turns out the behavior you described did not ALWAYS take place, if it failed to NEVER deviate - then you have an alternative: quantum tunneling. Or any other fluke or unknown you wish to offer.

This is why people were telling you to consider, among other things, Hempel's Dilemma. Maybe if you did, you'd realize the problem you were bringing upon yourself.

Now that we've shown you know jack-all about how to evaluate nature for signs of "the supernatural" or the like, let's move on to the AFR. Here's a question that I already know your answer to.

Are thoughts and intentions intrinsic, or derived, in brains and other matter?

im-skeptical said...

"You have an out: quantum tunneling event."

Once again I say, you don't have a clue. You have no idea what quantum tunneling is.

And now it's time to face tour own dilemma. Since you insisted, please feel free to provide your defense of the AFR. ... Go right ahead. ... Any time. ... Whenever you're ready.

Oh, that's right. You don't have one. So you're going to try to divert. Good luck with that.

im-skeptical said...

A note on Hempel's dilemma.

"The 'ideal' physics may even come to define what we think of as mental as part of the physical world. In effect, physicalism by this second account becomes the circular claim that all phenomena are explicable in terms of physics because physics properly defined is whatever explains all phenomena." - Wikipedia

The truth of the matter is that all phenomena that exist in the physical world are independent of any any human conceptions or formulation of 'natural law'. physics doesn't define reality. Rather, it attempts to describe reality. The current state of scientific knowledge may be incomplete, or even wrong in some cases. It does not dictate what reality is. In the future, we will presumable have a better understanding of things, but whatever that understanding is, it still doesn't determine in any way what occurs in nature.

We can have a physicalist theory that says all phenomena are physical phenomena, subject to laws of nature. It then becomes the physicalist's challenge to discover what those laws of nature are. Of course, if we observe something that isn't accounted for by our current formulation of those laws, we must find new patterns of regularity in behavior, and adjust our formulation of the laws.

On the other hand, the basic premise of physicalism should be subject to falsification. if it turns out that there is some observable phenomenon that defies any attempt to describe it in terms of the predictability of a natural law, then the physicalist should seriously consider whether his theory is valid. As it happens, there have never been any such observable phenomena that would pose a significant problem for upholding a physicalist view. There are challenges - particularly the view of some that mental phenomena are not physical. But even in the face of that challenge, empirical evidence weight heavily in favor of the physicalist view, while no evidence at all supports a dualist view. At this point, physicalists are not worried.

There is no circular definition, no dilemma for physicalists, just uninformed or intellectually dishonest ways of looking at it.

Crude said...

Once again I say, you don't have a clue. You have no idea what quantum tunneling is.

Buddy, I quoted wiki sources on it. It is exactly what I say it is. Not my fault you fumbled here.

And now it's time to face tour own dilemma. Since you insisted, please feel free to provide your defense of the AFR. ... Go right ahead. ... Any time. ... Whenever you're ready.

I'm not diverting, I'm defending. You won't answer my question because you know it skunks you - and that skunking plays a role in my AFR defense.

Run, little boy. Run away.

But even in the face of that challenge, empirical evidence weight heavily in favor of the physicalist view, while no evidence at all supports a dualist view.

Plenty of evidence supports the non-physicalist views. And the fact that 'physical' has had to undergo a change in definition time and time again indicates that relying on 'The Physical!' means nothing. Hence, Hempel's Dilemma.

You are always a joy to school, Skep. Part of the reason? We've been at this so many times, you've been skunked so often, that at this point there is a voice in your head. 'Maybe Crude is right, and I am wrong.' My Christmas gift to you. And I give it every year. ;)

im-skeptical said...

"I quoted wiki sources on it."

You still don't have a clue what it is.

"I'm not diverting, I'm defending."

Put your money where your big mouth is. Go ahead and present your defense. (HINT: is has nothing to do with what I believe.)

"Plenty of evidence supports the non-physicalist views."

But not any empirical evidence. Just your lame arguments. Go ahead - prove me wrong.