Saturday, October 31, 2015

Groothuis on propositions and materialism

Here. 

58 comments:

John Moore said...

To sum up the Groothuis article: Symbols point to things; therefore materialsm is false.

Can't the "pointing to" be a purely physical thing?

I see a ball roll downhill from here to there, and I think that's a purely physical thing. How did the ball get from here to there? Materialists speak of forces and inertia, and they suppose those things are purely physical (material). What's the problem?

Dualists seem to forget that E=MC^2 and that matter and energy are interchangeable. Or they point out that we can't explain precisely what a force like gravity is, so they jump to the conclusion that it must be immaterial. Or they assume somehow that other symbolic relationships can't be the same sort of thing as balls rolling downhill. Why not?

Again, the dualists seem to making an argument from ignorance.

Victor Reppert said...

But they don't point in a physical way, and they operate at a distance. How do you reduce the relation of a thought to its object of thought using the laws of physics?

Bob said...

Victor,

Reference thoughts, what do you mean by saying that they operate at a distance?

David Brightly said...

Victor, do you think the the Wicked Witch of Materialism can be vanquished by a six line spell? If not, where do you think Groothuis goes wrong? Here's my suggestion. His (2) seems to say that propositions are causally effective. The usual understanding of 'abstract' is 'outside the causal nexus'. So in so far as (3) says that propositions are abstract it's in contradiction with (2), independently of the meaning of the word 'materialism'.

My guess is that the mistake we so easily make is to assume with Groothuis that it's propositions that are necessary 'for navigating everyday life'. What is necessary is causally efficacious states of the brain. Propositions are merely abstractions from the sentences we use to 'transfer' states from my brain into yours and vice versa. If you tell me 'There's a bear in the cave' my brain changes state but there is nothing 'proposition-like' about the new state, or the old state, or the difference between them. Analogy: the HTML encoding this page has language-like features but the pattern of pixels it produces on my screen does not. So I reject Groothuis's (2).

Hugo Pelland said...

This all goes back to a more fundamental issue: how can a non-material existence make any sense at all? Philosophers arguing against materialism have an implicit, unsupported, belief that abstract things, or anything they define as non-material actually, can exist independently of the material world. But how is it so? Because they accept the primacy of consciousness, which means that thoughts, ideas, concepts, abstract things, somehow exist by default. They then claim that materialism fails to account for them within the material realm. They basically created a famework in which one of the rules states that non-material things exist and later conclude: the material world cannot account for the non-material.

A better ontology starts with the material to define things. Anything, even abstract things, are then defined on top of that material existence. The non-material elements then refer to material things, even in negative cases. It is then a conclusion of that approach which states 'the matetial is all there is as far as we know'. Unlike the primacy of consciousness which assumes the non-material to exist, the primacy of material existence simply asserts that the material world exists without denying the possibility that something non-material exists; it's just virtually impossible to explain such existence since we are, as conscious agents, part of that material world. Our intellect, ideas, feelings, all depend on the material existence. Even objective truths are dependant on that same material world.

In short, dualists have it backward; they accept the non-material first (including their own non-material monds) and then claim that the material world cannot account for them. But they never accounted for their own non-material existence...

Hugo Pelland said...

*(including their own non-material minds)

Crude said...

David,

Victor, do you think the the Wicked Witch of Materialism can be vanquished by a six line spell?

Materialism isn't exactly a big threatening powerhouse. Why would it need an epic to be dispensed with? Logical positivism went down with far less, and seemed a whole lot bigger once upon a time.

If you tell me 'There's a bear in the cave' my brain changes state but there is nothing 'proposition-like' about the new state, or the old state, or the difference between them. Analogy: the HTML encoding this page has language-like features but the pattern of pixels it produces on my screen does not

On materialism, no, there's no 'language-like features' on this webpage - that's, at best, a derived intentionality. But your mind also has no language-like features, because that's derived too. It's all derivations of derivations with no original intentionality, on pain of materialism being false. But if it's all derivations, it can never get off the ground to begin with.

This seems a bit easy, but why in the world should it be hard?

Hugo,

A better ontology starts with the material to define things.

I have an even better ontology: we start with 'this crap, whatever it is', and acknowledge that we don't know whether it's immaterial or material - or, if it's material, what manner of material it is.

Unlike the primacy of consciousness which assumes the non-material to exist

The existence of the material can be denied without contradiction. Deny the existence of consciousness and even many materialists have no time for you.

If we're choosing between primacies, consciousness wins in a heartbeat. And if we dispense with both primacies, materialism's in a hell of a lot of trouble already.

Hugo Pelland said...

Denying the material world means Radical Skepticism, where nothing can be said to exist for sure, no?

Hugo Pelland said...

(Same with denying consciousness...)

Crude said...

Denying the material world means Radical Skepticism,

Not at all. Nor is radical skepticism just a lack of certainty in some total sense - that's way too weak. You're thinking of solipsism, which is also a heck of a lot stronger than simple idealism.

I can work with a world where I deal with this 'stuff', whatever it is, without needing to commit to materialism. Call it all thought a la Berkeley. Or the abhorrent-to-moderns Aristo-Thomist 'matter'. Maybe neutral monistic 'stuff'. Or panpsychist 'stuff'. Or maybe, for most of my purposes, the ontology is irrelevant.

Gyan said...

'the matetial is all there is as far as we know'.

we know?? I know nothing of the sort. Before I learnt big words, I knew that there are lifeless things, there are living things and there are conscious beings like me.
That is where any ontology has to start with,

B. Prokop said...

I'm just going to have to second some of the comments already made here:

"A better ontology starts with the material to define things."

Why "better"? Ought we not to start with the recognition that there are "things" before we start categorizing them as material or non-material?

"Anything, even abstract things, are then defined on top of that material existence."

Where does this "on top of" come from? There are billions of people (Hindus and Buddhists) who start with all that we see being illusion, and go from there to a (grudging) acknowledgment of the material.

"The non-material elements then refer to material things, even in negative cases."

Huh? I think this line needs a bit more explanation. As it stands, it sounds like mere assertion with no case having been made.

"It is then a conclusion of that approach which states 'the matetial is all there is as far as we know'."

Maybe that's all you know, but I can make a pretty lengthy list of non-material entities that I know of without even breathing hard.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Gyan said...

The conscious subject is not empirical entity. See the discussion at Maverick Philosopher of Wittgenstein that "the seeing eye is NOT in the visual field".

"Who or what does the seeing? What is the subject of visual consciousness? Should we posit a self or I or ego that uses the eye as an instrument of vision, so that it is the I that sees and not the eye? No one will say that his eyeglasses do the seeing when he sees something. No one says, "My eyeglasses saw a beautiful sunset last night." We no more say that than we say, "My optic nerve registered a beautiful sunset last night," or "My visual cortex saw a beautiful sunset last night."* We say, "I saw a beautiful sunset last night."

But then who or what is this I? It is no more in the world than the seeing eye is in the visual field."

Gyan said...

Crude,
Science could not be done in a Berkeley-ean universe. The science could only exist in a metaphysical framework in which the existence of things could be taken for granted, objectively independent of us and our minds.

grodrigues said...

@David Brightly:

"Victor, do you think the the Wicked Witch of Materialism can be vanquished by a six line spell?"

Do you think Groothuis' arguments can be vanquished by your less-than-six-line spell? Your response seems to be that Groothuis' makes a rather elementary blunder (*) as he takes (1) propositions as abstract, and thus with no causally efficacy, but (2) he needs them to have causal efficacy. But of course nothing in what Groothuis' writes leads to (2). You are simply projecting what *physicalists* need (e.g. causally efficacious proxies for propositions) onto Groothuis.

Nothing you say even *addresses* Groothuis' two objections. In fact it is quite the opposite, you are just making his point for him. For example (and this is just one example) you speak about brain states as if they were any less abstract than propositions. Or did you ever stubbed your toe in a brain state? Now, the option for you is to paraphrase every talk about "brain states" in terms of objects allowed by the physicalists' ontology, but you have not shown how this is supposed to work. All you have done is eliminate "propositions" for "brain states" as if that made a substantial difference, or was a substantial improvement -- it is not.

(*) Groothuis is ambiguous here, as he writes "Propositions, as immaterial or abstract objects". Abstract objects are immaterial but not all immaterial objects are abstract.

David Brightly said...

Yes, I do. Groothuis offers just one newly published argument to a limited internet audience which might easily contain a mistake. It certainly has ambiguities. Established philosophical positions involve dozens of carefully scrutinised arguments and are unlikely to carry obvious mistakes.

Groothuis says that propositions are necessary for navigating daily life. I, an unsophisticated reader of his website, take that to imply a causal connection between propositions and moving my limbs around. Is there a more sophisticated, non-causal, account of this connection that I'm missing?

I concede I'm vague about brain states. Everyone is, especially in a blog comment. But I have no trouble understanding how, say, a pendulum clock works in terms of 'clock states', or how a car engine works in terms of 'crankshaft/piston/valve states'. These are all physical to my mind, or, better, physical configurations, and, no, I've never stubbed my toe on one.

David Brightly said...

Regarding Groothuis's second, shorter argument, and without delving deeply into the nature of relations, we might say that even in a world purely of space, time, and matter, some things would be smaller than other things, and perceiving this does not require the existence of or an ability to grasp some immaterial 'relationship' entity. Seeing that the cat is on the mat is no harder than seeing the cat in the first place. The latter requires seeing that the cat's head is on the cat's body, after all. In other words, we don't have to accept Groothuis's Platonism.

Miguel said...

I suppose you could say that the intentionality of thought is material, *if* you adopt a teleological, non-mechanistic view of nature (as seems to be Thomas Nagel's strategy in his book "Mind and Cosmos"). However, most modern materialists are not willing to accept such a view, and in this case, intentionality joins other phenomena such as "qualia" or consciousness as something utterly mysterious and seemingly incompatible with materialism. Given a mechanistic conception of nature, how could anything be *about* another thing? If thoughts are but neurophysiological physico-chemical reactions in our brain, how could they be about other things? What in matter would point towards something else? To accept this is to accept a teleological view of reality (which is, I think, correct), but that's incompatible with the mechanistic view of nature most materialists subscribe to. And as some philosophers noted, adopting such a teleological view of nature leaves one open to arguments like Aquinas's fifth way for proving the existence of God.

And then there's the deeper, more troublesome problem of reason.. Not only do we have intentional thoughts, but we also entertain determinate and universal concepts, whereas matter is always particular and indeterminate in relation to meaning. And besides that, there's also the problem of mental causation -- our thoughts must be caused by other thoughts by virtue of their propositional content, and not simply by the physical firing of neurons. Reppert himself has written extensively on this, as did many other philosophers like William Hasker, James Ross and Edward Feser, to name a few.

Victor Reppert said...

On reflection, I think the way I would differ with the way Groothuis presents his argument (and he is just presenting it in a short post as opposed to in some longer work), is that when I develop the argument I usually look at how the material is defined. It seems to me that unless you follow Nagel, or, as a materialist, you are willing to accept Nagelism as a form of materialism, you have to define matter by defining the mind out of it. It seems to me that if you exclude the mental from the ground floor, then you have to "sneak it in" upstairs by doing something that fudges categories.

Crude said...

Gyan,

Science could not be done in a Berkeley-ean universe.

Yes, it could. All that science requires is regularity of experience, which Berkeley's view gives you. The 'what' of what's being experienced, in a metaphysical sense, is irrelevant.

Science is ontologically pluralistic.

David,

Yes, I do. Groothuis offers just one newly published argument to a limited internet audience which might easily contain a mistake. It certainly has ambiguities. Established philosophical positions involve dozens of carefully scrutinised arguments and are unlikely to carry obvious mistakes.

This is some weird kind of special pleading. Logical positivism's fundamental error was fundamental and is pretty easy to grasp and communicate, despite its considerable popularity at the time. And materialism about the mind is hardly 'established' - it's fairly recent, and the defenses of it are lacking.

I concede I'm vague about brain states. Everyone is, especially in a blog comment. But I have no trouble understanding how, say, a pendulum clock works in terms of 'clock states', or how a car engine works in terms of 'crankshaft/piston/valve states'.

Back to the intentionality you speak of being derived, rather than original.

David Brightly said...

Well, let's just say that I was not impressed by DG's perhaps over-compressed arguments and seized an opportunity to make a joke. The important thing is, How have I misunderstood him?

I'm afraid I don't understand your references to intentionality. I take my critique of DG to hinge on our understanding of the nature of propositions. The language-like feature I find in HTML encodings is syntax rather than intentionality. Could you run your objection past me again?

Crude said...

David,

The language-like feature I find in HTML encodings is syntax rather than intentionality. Could you run your objection past me again?

Actually, a better idea here seems to be you to unpack your claims. And before you do, let's start with the straightforward definition of syntax: "the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language."

So, you've found a 'language-like feature' in HTML. Alright; is this feature objectively, irreducibly a part of the world, present regardless of whether or not you're looking at it, or there's anyone around to look? Or, when you talk about the 'language-like features in HTML', are you talking instead about something that is derived - understandings and interpretations you place on what you look at, and which require interpretation on your part to exist to begin with?

Saying 'Syntax, not intentionality' gets nowhere when 'syntax' is wrapped up with intentionality to begin with.

Gyan said...

Crude,
If things depend upon thoughts, then how come I perceive the same world as you?
Then the assumption has to be made, that things depend upon the mind of
God. I see no especial point in this assumption.
It is better to just assume things are non-mental.

planks length said...

I see no especial point in this assumption.

Unless it's actually the case.

David Brightly said...

OK. The HTML analogy was intended to illustrate that a language-like entity such as a file of well-formed HTML can have effects, like a 2-d array of pixels, that lack language-like features. Likewise, a physical realisation of a proposition, viz, a spoken sentence, can also have effects in a very un-language-like medium, viz, a brain. This I take to be the explanation for how propositions acquire the causal powers implicit in DG's (2). Does the bitstream from blogger.com have objective syntactic structure? Yes, of course. The mindless machine under my desk exploits it to do the rendering into pixels. This is an intentionality-free zone. How the mindless machine got there is another issue.

grodrigues said...

@David Brightly:

"Yes, I do."

Fair enough, as I also view that (variants of) Groothuis' arguments as conclusively dispelling physicalism as the non-sensical view that it really is. At any rate, my point was simply that the complaints you lodge against Groothuis can be lodged with equal force against *your complaints*.

"Groothuis says that propositions are necessary for navigating daily life. I, an unsophisticated reader of his website, take that to imply a causal connection between propositions and moving my limbs around. Is there a more sophisticated, non-causal, account of this connection that I'm missing?"

What Groothuis says is not "propositions are necessary for navigating daily life" but "The propositional content of statements is required for navigating everyday life", which is a different thing. If the difference makes a difference I am not completely sure, because I do not know the the exact details of his views, but given that nearly all classical accounts (certainly the historically important ones) of truth and knowledge do not need causal efficacy of *propositions* in the sense of efficient causality, the situation is exactly as I said it was, you are simply projecting the physicalist's problems onto Groothuis.

"I concede I'm vague about brain states. Everyone is, especially in a blog comment. But I have no trouble understanding how, say, a pendulum clock works in terms of 'clock states', or how a car engine works in terms of 'crankshaft/piston/valve states'. These are all physical to my mind, or, better, physical configurations, and, no, I've never stubbed my toe on one."

The problem is not one about vagueness. I simply made the trivial observation that brain states are as much abstractions as propositions are. So decrying propositions on account that they are abstractions and then lay hand of other abstractions, namely brain states, is self-defeating (*). So it is hard to figure out what exactly you have in mind here. The only way to understand what you are saying in a way that is acceptable to physicalists is to cash out talk involving "physical configurations of brains" in terms of physical objects. But of course you cannot do such a reduction -- or more modestly, you have not shown how it is done, or anyone has for that matter, which is the reason why these arguments, which are fairly classical in their general thrust, have survived till this day.

(*) This ties in with Victor's point.

"Regarding Groothuis's second, shorter argument, and without delving deeply into the nature of relations, we might say that even in a world purely of space, time, and matter, some things would be smaller than other things, and perceiving this does not require the existence of or an ability to grasp some immaterial 'relationship' entity."

So you use the property of size and observe that the relation of being "smaller than" is not an external relation, but an internal one, depending only on the sizes of the corresponding objects. But the relation R of intentionality between thought and reality is not an internal relation, or at least you have not shown it is. It certainly is not in most physicalist accounts of intentionality which depend on causal relations (and fail miserably). And while Groothuis' argument is ambiguous on this point, it need not be read as (1) R is immaterial (a positive determination) (2) ergo physicalism is false, but as (1) R is not material (a denial) (2) physicalism is false. For the former to go through, one does indeed need some form of Platonism, but the latter does not. In other words, we do not have to accept Groothuis's (implicit) Platonism (I certainly do *not*) as it is only one possible way to account for the relation between truth bearers and truth makers.

Hugo Pelland said...

An eternity ago (2 days), Crude said:
"I have an even better ontology: we start with 'this crap, whatever it is', and acknowledge that we don't know whether it's immaterial or material - or, if it's material, what manner of material it is.
[...]
I can work with a world where I deal with this 'stuff'
"

But what are you talking about when you say 'this crap'/'stuff'? Basically, it's not really the word that we use that matter but what we are referring to. Do you start with what you think about, or what you perceive? Dualists arrive at their conclusion because they start with what they think about, instead of what they perceive, as a basis for existence. That's pretty much what you hint at with:
"Maybe neutral monistic 'stuff'. Or panpsychist 'stuff'. Or maybe, for most of my purposes, the ontology is irrelevant."
Whatever we want to call this stuff, there is definitely a need to define an ontology so we can discuss what exists in relation to other things. That's what materialism is all about. Denying the relevance of defining existence, an ontology, essentially means there is no point in even trying to understand what we believe in and why.

Gyan said:
"'the matetial is all there is as far as we know'.
we know?? I know nothing of the sort. Before I learnt big words, I knew that there are lifeless things, there are living things and there are conscious beings like me.
That is where any ontology has to start with,
"
I honestly don't 'know' about anything non-material that would exist without the material world as a reference. And that's really what materialism means. You cannot even 'think' of non-material things because you think because you are alive, with a material functioning brain, and it's physically impossible for you to think about non-material things. People 'claim' they do so, they even believe non-material things exist, independent of the material world, but they cannot ever justify that existence, except for the fact that they assume that non-material existence to exists, and then complain because materialist cannot disprove it.

Bob said:
" "A better ontology starts with the material to define things."
Why "better"? Ought we not to start with the recognition that there are "things" before we start categorizing them as material or non-material?
"
Yes, I would agree that the word is not what really matters. My native language is French and I would not use the literal translation of 'material' if I were to have this discussion in French, for example, so that's not the point. The idea is to start with a basic reality, some objective facts that do not depend on our own existence to be true. Basically, it's an assumption that reality is real, instead of assuming that my thoughts are real.

" "Anything, even abstract things, are then defined on top of that material existence."
Where does this "on top of" come from? There are billions of people (Hindus and Buddhists) who start with all that we see being illusion, and go from there to a (grudging) acknowledgment of the material.
"
Same as what I just replied to Gyan; we cannot even think of non-material things, being material humans ourselves. Any concept we refer to always include some material component. Starting with an illusion is another way to approach things, sure, but I don't see where that leads us since, within that illusion, we still need to have some base, some grounding in an objective framework, and that would be what we refer to as reality. They can still claim it's not really real, but I am not sure what's the point... besides, again, the assumption that there is more to reality to start with, and again the complain that materialism cannot discredit that assumption.

Hugo Pelland said...

Bob said:
" "The non-material elements then refer to material things, even in negative cases."
Huh? I think this line needs a bit more explanation. As it stands, it sounds like mere assertion with no case having been made.
"
Same again, but to give an example, we cannot think of something that's, in principle, non-material such as 'infinity'. The best we can do is think of something, some material real thing, and imagine it being very very long, or have a very very large number of things, without ever stopping. But again, you see, I need to say 'not stopping' which we recognize as the opposite of a series of objects that do stop, without a real idea as to what it means to 'never stop'.

" Maybe that's all you know, but I can make a pretty lengthy list of non-material entities that I know of without even breathing hard."
Of course that's what you think, but you will find it impossible to do without referring to the material. Every single entity you will define will either be material, or refer to the material, or be defined as 'not-something-material' and thus not justified to exist. Because to be purely non-material is to literally not exist.

Gyan said:
" The conscious subject is not empirical entity. See the discussion at Maverick Philosopher of Wittgenstein that "the seeing eye is NOT in the visual field". "
You cannot have a conscious subject without its corresponding material existence. 'Seeing' is possible only because of the eye, regardless of the feeling of sight which is subjective and non-transferable. It's only because consciousness is defined a priori as non-material that this kind of approach, using sight as an example, seem like a problem for materialism. But it's not. The problem is always with the starting point, with the assumptions that the dualist makes to reach these conclusions.

grodrigues said
"I also view that (variants of) Groothuis' arguments as conclusively dispelling physicalism as the non-sensical view that it really is."
The non-sensical view is to pretend that there is such a thing as non-physical things that exist without the physical world as objective basic reality. I am using this quote because it's yet another word which can be used instead of 'material' and yield exactly the same principle. The dualist has to assume that his/her mind/consciousness is non-physical, first, and then go on and complain that non-physical things cannot be explained in terms of physical things. The basic assumption flies under the radar, but it's still there, and it's wrong.

Crude said...

Hugo,

But what are you talking about when you say 'this crap'/'stuff'? Basically, it's not really the word that we use that matter but what we are referring to. Dualists arrive at their conclusion because they start with what they think about, instead of what they perceive, as a basis for existence. That's pretty much what you hint at with:

There's multiple kinds of dualists, with some radically different views - so that can't be right.

As for 'This stuff'? The point of putting it that way is: it's ontologically indeterminate to begin with. You're talking about what people 'start with' - but there's no need to start anywhere for practical purposes. We can get by saying 'We're not sure whether this is 'material' or 'physical' or 'purely mental' - we can leave this as a nice big question mark, and still get a whole lot done.

See, you keep saying 'We can't even think of non-material things!', but you question beg that from start to finish by insisting that what you experience is 'this material stuff'. Who in the world would find that compelling?

I've given you a third road out of here: you don't need to make assumptions. And if you criticize the dualist for making assumptions, the dualist is free to criticize you for making yours. Worse, the dualist is going to have the better argument, because experience is undeniable. The ontology of what is being experienced is vastly more deniable; that 'stuff' may well be pure experience a la Berkeley. That 'matter' may be Aristo-Thomist matter rather than the modernist version.

All you've done here is insist that 'We can't even think of a non-material thing!' But all we can think of... is thought. You slap 'material!' on the thought and think you've made a point, but all you've done is make a definition of 'material' so vague and content-free that Berkeley is a materialist under your view.

Sounds to me like if you don't want to make any assumptions, then the only avenue left open to you is ontological agnosticism. Goodbye dualism, but goodbye materialism as well.

Crude said...

David,

OK. The HTML analogy was intended to illustrate that a language-like entity such as a file of well-formed HTML can have effects, like a 2-d array of pixels, that lack language-like features.

It's pretty easy to interpret 'a 2-d array of pixels' in a way which has language-like features; welcome to morse code.

And the point of that observation is - you're dealing with derived intentionality. You can derive a few rocks on the ground into a map as well, then marvel at how this thing you imagine to be wholly material could have intentionality. But it's no surprised - you derived it. Explaining how you can derive it without relying on yet another deriver, which would also need to be explained, ad infinitum? Now that's the trick.

Does the bitstream from blogger.com have objective syntactic structure? Yes, of course.

The claim that the wholly material is imbued with syntax and language even if no mind is engaged in deriving such intentionality from it, then you're in the land of the teleological already, and modern materialism is false. Hello, Aristotilean views of matter, with all its formal and final cause goodness.

You keep making these definitive claims about the lack of teleology in this or that, but at the same time making use of teleological and purposeful language to talk about those same things. It doesn't do to say 'Yes, but, I really mean it lacks those things, so just imagine it does' - that's part of what's being disputed here.

Gyan,

If things depend upon thoughts, then how come I perceive the same world as you?

I don't know that you do, frankly. That sounds like yet another assumption - how come I can help myself to assumptions you like, but assumptions you don't must be avoided?

Further, assuming that the world is material doesn't help with explaining your assumption that we both experience the same thing; you can come up with an explanation for what mediates that experience, but so can Berkeley, so can Aquinas, and so can others.

And you would prefer Aquinas' explanation, wouldn't you? You got done suggesting to me in another thread that you're a good and loyal Thomist.

Then the assumption has to be made, that things depend upon the mind of

You actually only have to make assumptions if you're chasing after ontological explanations - but why do that? You can be agnostic about ultimate ontology if you hate assumptions. You certainly don't need a complete ontology to do science. And if you do try to build up an ontology, you're going to be racked out with assumptions and, in the case of materialism, contradictions.

No matter what, you're going to need to start with experience itself. But the best part? Experience isn't an assumption - it is not a hypothesis.

Hugo Pelland said...

Crude,
"There's multiple kinds of dualists, with some radically different views - so that can't be right."
Well, regardless of the 'kind' of dualist we are talking about, they all agree that there exists things which are material, and things that are completely independent of the material. Otherwise, they are not dualists.

"Sounds to me like if you don't want to make any assumptions, then the only avenue left open to you is ontological agnosticism. "
No, we all make assumptions. Materialists' implicit assumption is that the material exists, while the Dualists' assumption is that the mental exists (so does Berkeley). We cannot not make assumptions, when discussing what exists or not, since we always have non-falsifiable notions of solipsism, as you mentioned above. We thus have to start with something as our basic reality.

Your other objections could be discussed only after acknowledging the starting point we all have, and assumptions we all make.

Crude said...

Well, regardless of the 'kind' of dualist we are talking about, they all agree that there exists things which are material, and things that are completely independent of the material.

They also, crucially, define the 'material' differently.

No, we all make assumptions. Materialists' implicit assumption is that the material exists, while the Dualists' assumption is that the mental exists (so does Berkeley). We cannot not make assumptions, when discussing what exists or not,

Actually, we can - in fact - avoid making assumptions. And we can certainly lessen the ones we make.

Nor are the cases equal. Both the materialist and the dualist - and everyone else - starts with knowledge that the mental exists. Not assumption: knowledge. It's self-evident. Cut off your assumptions there, and you're left with the mental. Not even the solipsist doubts it.

The idea that the materialist starts with the material and avoids the mind is precious.

grodrigues said...

@Hugo Pelland:

"The dualist has to assume that his/her mind/consciousness is non-physical, first, and then go on and complain that non-physical things cannot be explained in terms of physical things. The basic assumption flies under the radar, but it's still there, and it's wrong."

Dualists (and there are various stripes of dualists) give *arguments* for why the soul is immaterial, they do not simply "assume it".

Hugo Pelland said...

Crude,

" we can - in fact - avoid making assumptions. And we can certainly lessen the ones we make.

Nor are the cases equal. Both the materialist and the dualist - and everyone else - starts with knowledge that the mental exists. Not assumption: knowledge. It's self-evident. Cut off your assumptions there, and you're left with the mental. Not even the solipsist doubts it.

The idea that the materialist starts with the material and avoids the mind is precious.
"

You're right up until the last sentence. That's not what I am saying. The knowledge of your own existence is undeniable. But now that you know you exist, you can look around and decide what your theory of existence is. Mine starts with the real world, the natural, the physical, the material.

Then, what grodrigues said is a good parallel:
Dualists (and there are various stripes of dualists) give *arguments* for why the soul is immaterial, they do not simply "assume it".
Because it's the same here, and you are right. Dualists don't assume the immaterial soul, but they do assume their theory starts with the immaterial existence; the only way to rationalize such beliefs.

David Brightly said...

Thanks, GR, for the detailed comments. The challenge for DG is to show the materialist the inadequacy of his world view in terms that the materialist himself accepts. Given his somewhat spartan world view the materialist is always struggling to understand quite what is meant by traditional terms like 'proposition' and 'relationship'. His understanding of (2) has to be in causal terms, if only for methodological reasons. If DG's understanding of (2) is non-causal then, in a subtle way, he is begging the question against the materialist, and the argument fails to convince him.

I entirely agree with your trivial observation. However, in explanatory talk it is common to use the abstract terms when we are generalising over many instances. We say that the induction stroke is followed by the compression stroke, and the expansion stroke drives the crankshaft, for example, generalising over all cylinders in all engines. That these abstractions can be materially realised and that we are talking about the realisations is implicit. One isn't reducing the abstractions, one is realising them.

I will have to think a little more on what you say about the intentionality 'relation'.


Crude, you make a good point regarding a 2d-array of pixels. Anything can be seen as a message provided there is something to interpret it as such. But looking back to what I said I see it's not essential that the effects, the output of the interpreter as it were, be un-language-like. Translation from one language to another being the obvious counter-example. I was trying to emphasize how a language fragment and its effects on an interpreter can be radically different.

I'm sorry, but I can't make sense of enough of what you subsequently say to respond. I get the impression that for you syntax and language are intrinsically intentional concepts. Any talk of syntax and language means intentionality is in the neighbourhood, as it were. I disagree.

grodrigues said...

@Hugo Pelland:

"Because it's the same here, and you are right. Dualists don't assume the immaterial soul, but they do assume their theory starts with the immaterial existence; the only way to rationalize such beliefs."

This are just baseless claims with not even a scrap of evidence to back them up. Who are these dualists? How exactly do they assume "immaterial existence"? Nothing to discuss here.

Hugo Pelland said...

grodrigues, if you want to point out some line of reasoning that justifies non-material existence, please do so. I am simply talking from experience, and don't see how it can be otherwise, but it's not impossible. The article Victor linked to, in this thread, certainly makes that implicit assumption.

"The answer is that there is more to a statement than its physical or mental expression. Every statement affirms a proposition, which is the meaning of the statement. Only this reality of propositions can explain the unity of meaning in the diversity of forms of presentation."

No justification anywhere for this. It's just assumed that there is such a thing as a non-material world where propositions exist, independent of any material reality. Why does such existence makes sense? Only because the non-material is assumed to exist.

Crude said...

Hugo,

You're right up until the last sentence. That's not what I am saying. The knowledge of your own existence is undeniable.

Experience, the mental, is undeniable.

But now that you know you exist, you can look around and decide what your theory of existence is. Mine starts with the real world, the natural, the physical, the material.

And off you go to immediately question beg. 'The real world'? That's exactly what you're theorizing about.

You start with your experience. You -theorize-, on top of that experience, that your experience is about this thing you call 'the material'.

And, as I keep saying - and which you don't reply to - you don't need to take that ontological leap if you don't want to. You can be ontologically agnostic, and nothing about your experience presses materialism on you; that's a leap of faith by your view. And your leap of faith doesn't give you answers, but confusion.

Because it's the same here, and you are right. Dualists don't assume the immaterial soul, but they do assume their theory starts with the immaterial existence; the only way to rationalize such beliefs.

No, they start where everyone else starts, and they make arguments from there.

The only one who makes an unwarranted assumption about what exists is this conversation... well. You.

And you make that assumption, sans justification, by your own admission.

Crude said...

David,

Anything can be seen as a message provided there is something to interpret it as such. But looking back to what I said I see it's not essential that the effects, the output of the interpreter as it were, be un-language-like. Translation from one language to another being the obvious counter-example. I was trying to emphasize how a language fragment and its effects on an interpreter can be radically different.

And I'll just reply on turn that you're engaged in implicit teleology by speaking of a 'language fragment' or even its 'effects on an interpreter'. It's yet more derived intentionality (in which case we're back to asking where it all begins), or it's original intentionality - and materialism is done with anyway.

I get the impression that for you syntax and language are intrinsically intentional concepts. Any talk of syntax and language means intentionality is in the neighbourhood, as it were. I disagree.

It's one thing to say you disagree. It's another thing to demonstrate.

If every single 'materialistic' explanation of how a mind operates relies crucially on teleological and intentional concepts - if matter has a language, and this arrangement of matter or material process is 'about' something else - then the jig is up. Language and the intentional are supposed to be eliminated from the materialist understanding of the mind. Explaining how the mind is devoid of the intentional by way of explanations which rely on intentional concepts does no good.

Which is why, at this point, there's either a faith utterance similar to Hugo's - 'I just believe that everything is matter and that's that' - or there's a promissory note, where someday, perhaps in a hundred years, someone will come along and take care of this. (We'll need successor concepts for things like 'explanation' and 'mind' and 'person', but that's yet more work someone else will have to do.)

Why should I have faith in this again? Science doesn't demand it. Reason doesn't demand it. Perhaps someone's religious faith demands it, but I'm not a mormon or a cultist of Gnu so the religious precepts aren't binding on me.

David Brightly said...

Can you give me an example of something that lacks intentionality, please?

Hugo Pelland said...

Crude,
"Experience, the mental, is undeniable."
And that 'mental' is non-material this time, or nothing specific like you said before? It seems clear to me that you imply non-material. The problem is that even if your experience is true to you, no matter what, it does not justify the belief that the mental is a basic reality without any grounding in the material world. I am convinced that the reason why I am thinking is because I have a material body. It could be that I am really just a brain in a vat, but I assume I am not and that the physical world is really real. I base my worldview on that, to evaluate what's real or not.

"And off you go to immediately question beg. 'The real world'? That's exactly what you're theorizing about."
It's not question begging, it's an assumption. We all make assumptions. You just keep asserting the opposite because the knowledge of your own self is the thing you can know the best; and it's stronger than your will to take a step back and analyze what it means to be 'real'. I have no reason to accept your implied claim that you exist non-materially. Your existence is justified, in reality, because of your ability to manifest yourself materially, right now, as a human communicating over the internet.

"You start with your experience. You -theorize-, on top of that experience, that your experience is about this thing you call 'the material'."
I assume the material is real. Correct. Because it makes more sense than assuming the non-material, my mind, is real, regardless of the material. My existence is grounded in reality; my existence is not grounded in my own thoughts, even if that's the most basic thing I can know of. What’s wrong with looking at things from different angle and realizing that starting from the material world is an objectively sound way to approach claims?

Hugo Pelland said...

"And, as I keep saying - and which you don't reply to - you don't need to take that ontological leap if you don't want to. You can be ontologically agnostic, and nothing about your experience presses materialism on you; that's a leap of faith by your view. And your leap of faith doesn't give you answers, but confusion."
But I am not confused, everything makes sense, and you might simply have never really thought about this approach; I don't know which part you don't understand... and I also don't know how you can pretend you don't make any assumptions about your own existence when you have to, if you want to claim some form of certainty about anything. Your own thinking experience is real to you, of course, and that's not where I am talking about assumptions. But right after you start thinking and try to understand what's real, you need to start assuming that the world is real, or like the Dualists, that your thoughts are real, and then try to see if you can make them fit. Under the material-first approach, thoughts are products of the brain, that's why we are conscious. Under the mental-first approach, the real world makes sense because it matches thoughts/experiences and others with similar mental processes share similar experiences. The problem is concluding that the mental can thus exist 'without' the material.

"No, they start where everyone else starts, and they make arguments from there."
My argument is that 'where everyone starts' is the problem. People forget that their mental experience is not absolute truth for anyone else but themselves. Starting with our own mind leads to the non-issues raised by Groothuis' article, for example, where the material does not account for all the mental, and thus materialism is defeated. Except that any claims, literally any, is always based on some material thing; their existence thus depends on the material. But Dualists want to claim that there is more to the material world precisely because they already 'know' that the non-material realm exists independent of the material realm.

"faith utterance similar to Hugo's - 'I just believe that everything is matter and that's that' "
But that's completely false because there is more than just 'matter'. Abstract things exist, concepts exist, mental stuff exists, and they are not defined as 'matter'. The point you misunderstand is that my claim is about what their existence depends on, which is the material world. As I said recently we cannot even think of non-material things; show me how you can think of something not grounded in the material world. Show me something non-material that you define for what it is, instead of only for what it's not.

Crude said...

Hugo,

It's not question begging, it's an assumption. We all make assumptions.

Hugo, do you realize that question begging is a kind of assumption?

What’s wrong with looking at things from different angle and realizing that starting from the material world is an objectively sound way to approach claims?

No, apparently, you do not understand what begging the question is.

But I am not confused, everything makes sense, and you might simply have never really thought about this approach; I don't know which part you don't understand... and I also don't know how you can pretend you don't make any assumptions about your own existence when you have to, if you want to claim some form of certainty about anything.

See, this is just more evidence that you don't understand what you're talking about.

You think that by making out of the blue assumptions you've gained the ability to be utterly certain about what you think. The fact that you've made an out of the blue assumption should be the very thing that ensures, whatever conclusion you come to, you're -not- utterly certain.

Rather, if you are utterly certain, it's owing to not just blind faith, but fully invested blind faith. Weird stuff, pal.

Your own thinking experience is real to you, of course, and that's not where I am talking about assumptions. But right after you start thinking and try to understand what's real, you need to start assuming that the world is real, or like the Dualists, that your thoughts are real, and then try to see if you can make them fit.

I actually don't. No one does, really. Believe it or not, ontological agnosticism is an option. Now, I'm no ontological agnostic, but it's not because I'm forced to make a choice and commit to a deep and fleshed out ontology. You can do science, go to work, live, and engage in your life with the answer of 'I don't know' to ultimate ontology.

Here's the best part: the same people who yammer on about how atheism is 'a lack of belief', are mortally afraid of this simple fact. Go figure.

Except that any claims, literally any, is always based on some material thing; their existence thus depends on the material.

Patently false, and evidence that you're in over your head on this topic. You seem to think 'I assume that everything is material. Therefore all things have to be material, and whatever you talk about is material too' is some kind of refutation people should be concerned about, as opposed to evidence you don't know much about this topic but darn well know what conclusion you want.

Further, you keep talking about 'dualists', but as I've noted - the field is much, much larger than that. Even the dualists comprise more than one side; the A-T view of the material is a view that materialists reject.

But that's completely false because there is more than just 'matter'. Abstract things exist, concepts exist, mental stuff exists, and they are not defined as 'matter'. The point you misunderstand is that my claim is about what their existence depends on, which is the material world. As I said recently we cannot even think of non-material things; show me how you can think of something not grounded in the material world.

Oh dear God. You try to correct me and insist that not everything is material, at which point you cite mental stuff, concepts, and abstract things. Then you go on and say we can't think of non-material things. So either we can't think of, by your own goddamn definitions, 'concepts, mental stuff, and abstract things', or they're all material by your view.

Gyan said...

Crude,
"Further, assuming that the world is material doesn't help with explaining your assumption that we both experience the same thing"

Existence of things that exist independently of us-- is the bedrock. It is not even an assumption unless one wants to be a solipsist.

Hugo Pelland said...

Crude, you are very confused on what I believe and why, and present none of your views, so I am not sure why you disagree so strongly, or even what you precisely disagree on... your main accusation is that I don't support my claims, but you just say 'you're wrong' without any justification. It's not helping correct any of the mistakes I make; because of course I commit some, I am not perfect obviously... and my biggest problem probably being that I answer to someone who just had an all-caps hissy fit with mentions of ass-to-mouth sex because, you know, that's what really matters when discussing LGBT rights. So, my expectations are very low but, anyway, on to your comment:

- Question begging would be if I assume 'the material is all there is' and then conclude 'the material is all there is'. That's not what I am doing. Some non-material existence could exist, in principle, but I don't know how we can justify it.
- Yes, I am certain of some things, such as the physical world is real and actually physical, not just some illusion. Again, it's an assumption only in the sense that I cannot disprove hard solipsism (as Gyan pointed out) or other ideas à la Berkeley, which are completely useless when discussing the reality we live in and its implications.
- I don't see what I have blind faith in; you mention no specific point with that charge.
- People who are agnostic regarding their ontology can function perfectly well; this applies to most of the big philosophical question I would say. But what's the point here? We are discussing existence and what it means, so saying 'I don't know' is useless, and you say that's not your position so what is it?
- Saying 'I don't know' to the question 'Does God exist?' is the same, yes, since there is not much to talk about regarding gods if one simply says 'I don't know'. The Theist can then present claims and if the listener does not believe them, they are an Atheist, rightly justified in saying they have nothing more than 'a lack of belief'.
- I don't 'assume that everything is material'. I start with the material as an objective reality, which is described by things, such as abstract concepts, that we do label as non-material because we cannot touch/smell/feel them directly. But their existence is defined in terms of the material world even if Dualists (or any other non-materialists you want to bring in) and that's where I ask to be proven wrong.
- We cannot think of 'purely' non-material things; things that would exist even if the material world did not. A much simpler parallel is with colors; someone who is colorblind cannot think of colors, no matter how hard we try to explain them what colors are. Similarly, some animals, birds mostly if I recall correctly, and even some people, mostly women, can see UV light as demonstrated by experiments where objects look identical to the non-UV-light perceiving people. We cannot even think of such colors, and people who do see them have a really hard time to talk about them because language did not evolve to cover such colors.
- 'Concepts, mental stuff, and abstract things' are defined in material terms, in my view, because we discuss them in relation to the material world. I don't jump to that conclusion and I never intended to draw it; it was a slow process which found the biggest hurdle with logical absolutes.

David Brightly said...

Crude, My primary purpose in writing here is not to persuade readers to change their minds. Certainly not you, of all people! The primary purpose is to get ideas criticised and I appreciate that you are a stern critic of the kind of thoughts I’m likely to produce. The meta-commentary about faith, promissory notes, science, reason, Aristotle, final causes, etc, is wasted on me personally, though others may enjoy it. What I would like to do is to pin down this objection you have that by using terms like 'syntax' and 'language' I am sneaking in intentionality at the foundations of my attempts to explain it. If that were so, then, yes, the goose is cooked. I'd like to start by showing that we can use these terms in describing physical systems without ascribing intentionality to them. We need a system that we agree lacks intentionality. I suggest the car engine that I introduced earlier. Can we agree that a car engine lacks intentionality, both intrinsic and derived?

Crude said...

David,

Can we agree that a car engine lacks intentionality, both intrinsic and derived?

No, we can't, because 'derived intentionality' is exactly that - derived. Say that the sputtering noise a car engine makes means that it's in need of repairs, and you're right back to deriving intentionality. Whether or not a car engine lacks derived intentionality is dependent on factors other than the engine itself.

I'd like to start by showing that we can use these terms in describing physical systems without ascribing intentionality to them.

You're not just trying to describe physical systems. You're trying to describe a mental system, the supreme intentional system. Indeed, it's the place where all the intentionality otherwise evident in the world was chased to over the years in order to provide for purportedly intention-free models.

You talk dismissively of criticisms as things wasted on you, though others may 'enjoy' them. Fine; let me give a smug reply of my own. It's not my job to help you make sense of your rather desperate ontology; I'm happy to criticize it and point out its shortcomings. Your inability to offer up 'physical descriptions' of the mind without using the very thing you're trying to exorcise is your problem, not mine.

Crude said...

Gyan,

Existence of things that exist independently of us-- is the bedrock. It is not even an assumption unless one wants to be a solipsist.

It's an assumption even if the alternative is solipsism. And the alternative isn't; these things I experience that I seek an ontology for (optionally, might I add) don't need to be 'material'. There exist other possibilities, logical and otherwise. That people dislike them is of little concern.

Hugo,

Crude, you are very confused on what I believe and why, and present none of your views, so I am not sure why you disagree so strongly, or even what you precisely disagree on... your main accusation is that I don't support my claims, but you just say 'you're wrong' without any justification.

No, I repeatedly zero in on precisely where you're wrong, or where your conclusion doesn't follow from your claims or your evidence. And then you do things like this, where my ability to rationally disagree with you is implied to hinge on my providing an alternative view. Which is just damn weird.

and my biggest problem probably being that I answer to someone who just had an all-caps hissy fit with mentions of ass-to-mouth sex because, you know, that's what really matters when discussing LGBT rights.

That was me laughing my ass off at you and Cal trying desperately to think of some reason why it's of the utmost importance to threaten Christians with jailtime if they don't want to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. When you're engaging in mental contortions of the style of 'What if they live in Death Valley and this is the only bakery in town and they desperately want a wedding cake and also they don't know how to bake, and this is exactly why we need to jail Christian bakers who will bake a cake for gay people but not same-sex weddings', I'm not going to pretend it's all serious.

Some non-material existence could exist, in principle, but I don't know how we can justify it.

According to you, 'just assuming it's true' is justification enough. You do it for the material world, by your own measure.

Granted, others don't just assume the truth of their ontology from the outset, but you don't seem ready to appreciate that.

Yes, I am certain of some things, such as the physical world is real and actually physical, not just some illusion. Again, it's an assumption only in the sense that I cannot disprove hard solipsism (as Gyan pointed out) or other ideas à la Berkeley, which are completely useless when discussing the reality we live in and its implications.

Heh. 'It's an assumption only in the sense I assume it from the start and provide no evidence, and also I can't undermine the alternative views, some of which are particularly scary, and also I can't figure out answers to key objections which render the view incoherent.' Oh, is that all.

I don't see what I have blind faith in; you mention no specific point with that charge.

Perhaps it's that thing you assume from the start and have the utmost confidence in, despite an inability to prove it, assuming it before having evidence, etc?

But what's the point here? We are discussing existence and what it means, so saying 'I don't know' is useless, and you say that's not your position so what is it?

No, we're talking about what one is rationally compelled to accept. While I'd happily argue the intellectual value and consistency of, say, hylemorphic dualism or the like, I'm taking a shorter route here; the idea that 'materialism' or even 'cartesian dualism' is demanded to 'do science', etc, is simply bunk.

Crude said...

Saying 'I don't know' to the question 'Does God exist?' is the same, yes, since there is not much to talk about regarding gods if one simply says 'I don't know'. The Theist can then present claims and if the listener does not believe them, they are an Atheist,

And the moment the atheist says 'God doesn't exist', 'God likely doesn't exist', 'X was not guided by God', etc, they've made a claim and have a burden. The problem is, most atheists are 'lack of belief' atheists only when time comes to defend their view, and are 'positive atheists' otherwise.

I don't 'assume that everything is material'. I start with the material as an objective reality,

You have a funny definition of objective reality here, when it is explicitly - and by your own admission - an unwarranted assumption. Note, however, that 'lacking materialism belief' is not treated by you as a live option, where the onus is on you to make your case, and the unpersuaded agnostic can comfortably remain in their agnosticism. There, the issue changes.

We cannot think of 'purely' non-material things; things that would exist even if the material world did not.

Back to the question-begging, since what these 'things' are to begin with is precisely what's under discussion. It makes as much or more sense to say we cannot think of 'material things'. We can think of 'what we experience', whatever that is.

'Concepts, mental stuff, and abstract things' are defined in material terms, in my view, because we discuss them in relation to the material world.

See the above. Even on your new terms, it doesn't wash. In broader terms it still doesn't wash, since the inability to go from 'material stuff' as defined in the modern view, to 'concepts, mental stuff and abstract things' is legendary. It's an outstanding problem.

But here. You keep saying 'material' and 'physical'. You insist that the dualists are wrong, you imply you've read and studied and found their views lacking.

Alright. How do the substance dualists differ from the hylemorphic dualists when it comes to the question of matter? Let's hear your explanation.

Gyan said...

Crude
It is indeed an assumption in the sense sanity is an assumption. But I thought we were discussing things within sanity

Hugo Pelland said...

Crude, first, let's get this silly thing out of the way:
"That was me laughing my ass off at you and Cal trying..."
Your reaction was so messed up that whatever we were 'trying' to do is no excuse. As I said, it's interesting to see how some things work in your head... and we might have a different sense of humor, or at least a different appreciation of the appropriate timing for that kind of humor to be effective.

"No, I repeatedly zero in on precisely where you're wrong, or where your conclusion doesn't follow from your claims or your evidence."
The problem is that you misrepresent what I wrote; and I really think it's because you don't understand what I am saying... it could mean that I am completely incoherent, but I can't tell from some comments on a blog obviously. When I have such conversations in person, that's not how it goes, but it's never with people who disagree so strongly, so it's hard to tell.

Plus, I am not even getting to any kind of strong conclusions; this is again some wrong inference on your part. You cannot even acknowledge the fact that materialism, at least for me as I don't know what others think, means nothing more than a disbelief in anything that's define as independent of the material reality we live in. It is not a claim that the material is all there is; it's about the fact that I honestly don't know what it means to exists outside of it. Of course, a shortcut is that 'the material is all there is' but that's exactly the same kind of shortcut as the following:

"And the moment the atheist says 'God doesn't exist', 'God likely doesn't exist', 'X was not guided by God', etc, they've made a claim and have a burden."
It depends. If someone says 'The God I believe in is ABC' and then someone concludes 'God doesn't exist', it entirely depends on what the ABC was. It might straight-forward that this God doesn't exist. Or, if the Atheist making the statement says 'God doesn't exist' in a general sense, then it's not even possible to support that claim since God is ill-defined. It most likely is a simple shortcut for 'All the God hypothesis I heard of were unconvincing and I thus conclude that God doesn't exist until someone comes forward with actual good reasons to believe'.

Hugo Pelland said...

"what these 'things' are to begin with is precisely what's under discussion. It makes as much or more sense to say we cannot think of 'material things'. We can think of 'what we experience', whatever that is"
Sure, in terms of what we 'know', we have to start with 'what we experience'. But I thought I was clear about the fact that I beyond that point... We agree that there is nothing more basic than our internal feelings of being, that sense of self, the 'me', the 'I', etc... It's just not what I am talking about. I am trying to explain what it means to exist, how we can assess what exists or not.

To do this, my basic assumption is that, even if my own thinking appears to be the most basic existence I can think of, I am suspending that belief temporarily to use a different starting point: that material world around us. If I cannot get to a point where I justify my own self then, of course, I have gone down the wrong path; that would be a form of reductio ad absurdum. But it's not the case. I can justify my own existence as part of this material world since the 'I', the 'me', my 'self' is actually present in that world because of the material presence of my body. This is the only objective definition of 'me' there is, so it's actually even stronger than that initial feeling of self which I cannot share directly with anyone, and can only assume is similar to these other people with physical bodies.

So these 'things' that are under discussions are what these people with material body talk about, what they say they can think of, be it something that map to the material reality or not. In all cases, literally all cases, people will use words that refer to that same material reality when talking about 'things'. Even when discussing things they believe are non-material, they still refer to material 'things' as a way to explain what the non-material thing they believe in is not; never what it really is. Because there is no way to say what it is.

"You insist that the dualists are wrong, you imply you've read and studied and found their views lacking. Alright. How do the substance dualists differ from the hylemorphic dualists when it comes to the question of matter? Let's hear your explanation"
No, I don't imply that, I don't pretend to know about every single explanations related to dualism, I don't have some general explanation the rejects all of their claims, and I don't know about the difference between these 2 kinds of dualists. And I will not get anything from you since all you are trying to do is prove me wrong without really understanding what I am talking about.

My claim of 'dualists are wrong' does not extend beyond personal observations regarding all the dualists' claims I have heard, such as the article this blog post links to, or Victor's arguments, to give only 2 examples. My beliefs directly contradict the notion of dualism as far as I know, but I am more than happy to read more claims and explanations as to how dualists justify their beliefs, and compare that to what I believe. I am pretty sure though that there will be the implicit assumption that 'non-material existence exists' and some arguments that 'the material cannot account for non-material existence'. This is what I pointed out regarding Groothuis' article. Basically, same thing as 'There is no God'; it's just a shortcut.

Crude said...

Gyan,

It is indeed an assumption in the sense sanity is an assumption.

And yet, somehow, people can reject the assumption and sanity prevails.

Hugo,

To do this, my basic assumption is that, even if my own thinking appears to be the most basic existence I can think of, I am suspending that belief temporarily to use a different starting point: that material world around us.

Alright. So, you have in front of you undeniable knowledge and experience. Here's your evidence, your starting point.

But! You don't like that.

So, you discard the evidence and knowledge you have, immediately beg the question, declare your ontology to be 'materialism' and then decide that the mind absolutely must be material on top of it.

But gosh, it's those people who start with the undeniable knowledge who are the ones with faith. Go figure.

This is the only objective definition of 'me' there is, so it's actually even stronger than that initial feeling of self which I cannot share directly with anyone,

No, it's not the only "objective definition". What you're looking for here is 'possible ontological basis', of which there are multiple possibilities. You just dislike them.

You're free to question beg and have blind faith. Really! You are. But don't roll in with these things, then lecture everyone about your rationality. You just show how out of your depth you are.

Even when discussing things they believe are non-material, they still refer to material 'things' as a way to explain what the non-material thing they believe in is not;

As I've already said, you repeatedly beg the question. You define anything they talk about as 'material' - you don't even point at the material aspect of it, you simply assert 'That's material, I know that because I assume it from the beginning' - and then insist that they're referring to material things. Hell, you've even defined thought, abstract ideas and logic as material. Good job, man.

No, I don't imply that, I don't pretend to know about every single explanations related to dualism, I don't have some general explanation the rejects all of their claims, and I don't know about the difference between these 2 kinds of dualists.

Yet when I suggest that a possible alternative - agnosticism and self-doubt, instead of diving deep into the waters of ontology with blind faith, question begging and unwarranted certainty - you're perplexed.

Okay, Hugo. Let's dumb this game down even further.

Explain what the material is - according to the only dualists you know. Let's see you do even that.

Hugo Pelland said...

Crude,
"you have in front of you undeniable knowledge and experience"
What's undeniable is that "I" experience some things, but these things may or may not exist. I have to assume they do.

"you discard the evidence and knowledge you have..."
No, the knowledge of the material world is what I based my view of existence on. You misunderstand what I discard.

"...immediately beg the question, declare your ontology to be 'materialism'..."
No, already told you: materialism is the conclusion, not the starting point. There is no question begging. You misunderstand what the starting/end points are.

"...and then decide that the mind absolutely must be material on top of it."
No, I don't decide that, it's how we discuss minds in the real world; I just don't see what's non-material about it.

"it's those people who start with the undeniable knowledge who are the ones with faith"
No, not my words; just your own wrong interpretation. Did I mention faith?

"No, it's not the only "objective definition""
Yes it is. I exist in the real world only because I have a physical body. There is no other way you, or myself, can talk about myself, or yourself, objectively. You are a person with a material body who's reading on some form of electronic device right now; nothing more.

"What you're looking for here is 'possible ontological basis', of which there are multiple possibilities"
Sure there are, such as the flawed primacy of consciousness, and I reject all the ones I have heard of for different reasons. I am open to others.

"You define anything they talk about as 'material' - you don't even point at the material aspect of it "
You are right, I did not point at the material aspect of anything, because you provided none. Literally anything works; that's why I don't give precise examples. You have not given even 1 example of something that you would consider 'non-material' so that I can tell you why it's actually defined in 'material' terms. Perhaps it's implied in that next quote? Let me know...

"you've even defined thought, abstract ideas and logic as material"
No, I did not define them as material; you confused this with 'defined in material terms'. Read the thread again and ask a more precise question if you don't see the difference.

"Explain what the material is - according to the only dualists you know."
That makes no sense; ask dualists you know if you want to know something 'according to dualists'...

Finally, did you notice how I replied to every single word you wrote but, by filtering the bullshit such as 'Good job, man', it turned out to be much shorter? That combined with the fact that I has to answer a flat out 'no' 5 times in that 1 comment makes me start to think you're just trolling...

David Brightly said...

OK, Crude, good. We might get on to derived intentionality later, but we can agree that the engine has no intrinsic intentionality, yes? Let's concentrate on a single cylinder. With the piston descending and one valve open we'll say that the engine (cylinder) is in state I (induction). With the piston ascending and both valves closed it's in state C (compression). With the piston descending and both valves closed it's in state P (power). And with the piston ascending and the other valve open it's in state E. We are just using the terminology of 'states' and the labels, I, C, P, E as shorthand descriptions of what motions the mechanical structure of the engine allows it to make. No intentionality so far I hope?

Crude said...

Hugo,

What's undeniable is that "I" experience some things, but these things may or may not exist. I have to assume they do.

No, you don't have to. And when you assume they exist, there's no need to assume that they are material.

No, the knowledge of the material world is what I based my view of existence on. You misunderstand what I discard.

You have no knowledge of the material world. An assumption is not knowledge.

No, already told you: materialism is the conclusion, not the starting point.

"What’s wrong with looking at things from different angle and realizing that starting from the material world is an objectively sound way to approach claims?"

Your words, Hugo - not mine. You start with the material world to begin with. You jump from that assumption to the assumption that all things must be material.

No, I don't decide that, it's how we discuss minds in the real world;

No, we don't. You define all discussion of 'the real world' as 'material'. Big difference.

Yes it is. I exist in the real world only because I have a physical body.

Hugo, at this point, you're done. You've already shown your move: You start off by defining all of your experience as 'material'. Indeed, you define all things, all ideas, all talk as material. Then you complain that everything that dualists talk about is actually material, such that all this non-material talk makes no sense.

You're out of your league. Which is why when I asked you to simply define how the dualists - those guys who you said you've read the arguments and ideas of, and refuted...

"That makes no sense; ask dualists you know if you want to know something 'according to dualists'..."

So, in other words - you have no idea.

Finally, did you notice how I replied to every single word you wrote but, by filtering the bullshit such as 'Good job, man', it turned out to be much shorter?

Goodness gracious. You mean quoting part of a reply rather than the whole thing yields a shorter list of quotations?

I'd do the same, but if I filtered out all the bullshit from your comments, I'd have nothing left to quote.

Hugo Pelland said...

Crude, you left out the most important things:
"No, it's not the only "objective definition""
Yes it is. I exist in the real world only because I have a physical body. There is no other way you, or myself, can talk about myself, or yourself, objectively. You are a person with a material body who's reading on some form of electronic device right now; nothing more. Do you have another way to talk about yourself Crude?

...and...

You have not given even 1 example of something that you would consider 'non-material' so that I can tell you why it's actually defined in 'material' terms. Perhaps it's implied in that next quote? Let me know...
"you've even defined thought, abstract ideas and logic as material"
No, I did not define them as material; you confused this with 'defined in material terms'. Read the thread again and ask a more precise question if you don't see the difference.

"I asked you to simply define how the dualists - those guys who you said you've read the arguments and ideas of, and refuted..."

I don't claim to have refuted Dualists'; I don't believe them. They claim that there is something more than just the natural world. Just like you pretend that you are objectively recognizable as more than just an existing physical body. People, including you of course Crude, also believe in dead people who exist, right now, as non-material people, for example. That's the kind of Dualistic claims I reject because existence, as defined as starting from the real world and not our thoughts, does not provide evidence for such non-material realm of actual existence. People just talk and write about it, about how it's 'possible' it exists... sure, it is possible. That does not disprove materialism; because materialism is, and will always be, a rejection of claims of immaterial existence.

But I am also interested in reading your exchange with David so I won't add more now.

David Brightly said...

Given certain conditions the engine will run for a finite number of cycles passing through the states.

I, C, P, E, I, C, P, E, . . . , I, C, P, E

A computer scientist would say that this is one sentence from the language over the alphabet {I, C, P, E} consisting of finitely many repetitions of the sequence I, C, P, E, in that order. He says that the syntax of this language is denoted by the expression

S --> (ICPE)*

The '*' denotes zero or more repetitions of the term to its left. The sentences of such simple languages can be recognised by equally simple machines called Finite State Automata. What we are doing here is using some of the terminology used to describe natural language to describe artificial language, and more generally, to describe patterns extended in time or space. Stretching the metaphor a bit, we might even say that the engine 'speaks' the language (ICPE)*. This is harmless and imputes no intentionality to the mechanism. It is mere description.