Friday, November 13, 2015

A summary of James Ross's Immaterial Aspects of Thought

Here. 

47 comments:

Hugo Pelland said...

Are you kidding... I know that guy, the author of the blog, which is not active anymore afaik; I had long exchanges with him over the years. Not a dumb person, but just... amateurish... Aren't you supposed to be an actual career philosopher Dr. Reppert? Why not post your own interpretation of Ross' paper?

I guess it might be a waste of time since it would still include a dependency on the Primacy of Consciousness but perhaps your take would include a better defense; I don't know...

Victor Reppert said...

The article actually links to the essay itself, and I was presenting it more as a simplified picture than a defense of the argument against criticisms. I think it also links to the Feser-Oerter exchange on the issue which contains the most serious challenge I've seen.

Hugo Pelland said...

Fair enough, the summary does look good to me. I had not read the exchange mentioned in the comments; looks interesting.

Also, can I ask you what it means to you? What point does the paper support, which you think is useful to making some broader argument?

Hugo Pelland said...

Actually, almost missed that from another thread, but relevant here:
"I can imagine discovering that mind does exist and matter does not really exist. But if I decide that matter exists but that it never gave rise to mind, then it I couldn't say that without implying that I have the very mental states whose existence I was denying."

To say that you could imagine 'mind without matter' implies yet again the same principle that existence starts with the mind. But that's subjective, so why not start with matter, which does account for minds and define them neatly: we are matter-based human beings with minds. Ross' article then simply becomes examples of why mental/abstract/conceptual things are different, but still dependant on matter. Colors are wavelengths of lights we consciously perceive, not the other way around.

Victor Reppert said...

Well, let me turn this around. Why do I have to start with matter? I am not making delusion charges. Maybe you want to make them, and maybe you don't. I can't tell from what you say.

My big problem with starting with matter is that any fully developed definition of matter includes the deletion of mind. This seems to imply that we know what the mental is, and we have to figure out what matter is by deleting the mental from any conception of it.

Hugo Pelland said...

I agree that if it were to lead to the deletion of the mind, it would mean it's wrong. But it doesn't. The human ability to reason, think abstract thoughts and plan ahead of time are all mind processes we perform while our material body is conscious.

It's actually not clear to me how we can even talk about minds, at all, without this realization, unless we just assume minds exist, and work, somehow, regardless of the matter around them. What would a mind think of if there's no matter and its implications to think abkut?

Victor Reppert said...

The standard definition of matter deletes the mind from the basic level of analysis. If all causation is physical causation, that means that reasons-explanations have to be explained further down the line in terms of nonpurposive, nonmental states. If you aren't operating with that constraint, then it seems to me that what I think of as a soul is just a different type of matter, and in that case our dispute is verbal rather than substantive.

Hugo Pelland said...

Unless your position on naturalism and reason have changed, our disagreement is not just verbal. Material existence accounts for minds; so I don't get this idea that it necessarily eliminates it.

Victor Reppert said...

My argument depends on defining the material in a certain way. I am trying to find out if you accept that definition.

Victor Reppert said...

To me, naturalism is not a transparent idea by any stretch of the imagination. What is it that makes something "natural?" I could say that I was a naturalist, but that my naturalism includes a lot of things most naturalists don't believe in, such as a psychons (which used to be called souls), angelons (which used to be called angels, and one triune theon, who used to be called God. The guy that directed my doctoral dissertation once came up with the idea that the "physical" or " is just what scientific theory quantifies over, some scientific theories quantify over God, therefore that would make God physical, (and therefore natural).

Is location in space and time sufficient to make something natural or physical? Well, I think it likely that the soul has a location, so does that make the soul physical? Or maybe the soul is some different kind of physical particle that science hasn't discovered yet. Surely science hasn't found everything, so we can't say that all that exists is what science has found already.

My concept of what is required for naturalism is as follows:

1. The base level, whether we call it natural, material, or physical, is causally closed.
2. Everything above that level supervenes on the physical/material/natural.
3. Physics is mechanistic. The base level lacks intentionality, purpose, normativity, and subjectivity.

An interesting question is whether Thomas Nagel comes out as a naturalist on this model. He's not a theist, be he does want to put the mental on the ground floor of reality, so he wouldn't qualify on my view. But he's an atheist. (A real one). I would recommend J. P. Moreland's response in Philosophia Christi to Mind and Cosmos.

jdhuey said...

http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2010/09/29/seriously-the-laws-underlying-the-physics-of-everyday-life-really-are-completely-understood/

Victor,

The link above is to Sean Carroll's blog. That post and the two following it are germane to your suggestion that there might be undiscovered fundamental particles.

Gyan said...

Hugo Pelland,
"so why not start with matter"

Start with the "things" that you can immediately perceive. "Matter" as such is not so and is only arrived at after making a lot of inferences.

grodrigues said...

@Hugo Pelland:

"Material existence accounts for minds."

No it doesn't. The linked article provides a decisive refutation of such a claim.

Victor Reppert said...

Jhuey: Gosh I don't know. Have science decided whether there are strings, or not?

jdhuey said...

Victor,

In terms of everyday physics, strings or loops doesn't matter. The energy or gravity levels where string theory is important is far far in excess of everyday physics. Even something like fusion power does not depend on if string theory or quantum loop gravity is correct.

Hugo Pelland said...

Victor said...
"To me, naturalism is not a transparent idea by any stretch of the imagination. What is it that makes something "natural?""
This is yet turning things around from my perspective. I don't care much what makes something purely "natural" or to have a "natural" explanation. To use Gyan's suggestion, it may be better to say that I start with what we 'immediately perceive'. Basically, let me take a step back... the point is that we live in a world with real actual physical things around us. That is the objective natural world I am talking about as basis for defining existence. Asking questions such as 'what is material', or 'what is natural' is, to me, already a denial of that position; it places minds, again, on some pedestal where they necessarily exist regardless of that natural world.

"Is location in space and time sufficient to make something natural or physical? Well, I think it likely that the soul has a location, so does that make the soul physical? ..."
The right questions are actually: if one claims that something EXISTS, but independent of the natural or physical, what does it mean? Abstract objects, for example, exist in some non-physical sense; we 'think' of them, and they arguably even exist if we don't think of them, when objectively defined. But even when no one thinks of them, we cannot explain what it means for abstract objects to exist without any physical basis... unless you just assume there is such a thing as purely non-physical things which somehow exist

"My concept of what is required for naturalism is as follows:
1. The base level, whether we call it natural, material, or physical, is causally closed.
2. Everything above that level supervenes on the physical/material/natural.
3. Physics is mechanistic. The base level lacks intentionality, purpose, normativity, and subjectivity.
"
I think I agree with that yes, if by 'supervene' here you mean that these other things we believe exist are not defined as strictly natural/physical yet depend on the natural/physical to exist; such as abstract objects used as an example above. But then, even if we also agree that physics is purely mechanistic, it does not follow that "intentionality, purpose, normativity, and subjectivity" cannot possibly come from it. We actually don't even need to explain exactly how it works in details: we can observe its existence. Objectively, it is a fact that there are material humans depicting intentions-based behavior. We cannot say that it's because neurons A-B-C were triggered that the human decided to do something, but all we see is still a physical human doing physical thing because of both their "everyday physical" capabilities and "mental non-physical" capabilities, which are still physical in a philosophical sense. Why? Because the only way we see humans do things, and explain their intentions, is through the physical world.

"An interesting question is whether Thomas Nagel comes out as a naturalist on this model. He's not a theist, be he does want to put the mental on the ground floor of reality, so he wouldn't qualify on my view. But he's an atheist. (A real one). I would recommend J. P. Moreland's response in Philosophia Christi to Mind and Cosmos."
The only problem I have with Nagel is that he seems to be too hung up on the meaning of statements like
'only the natural world exists',
which is often used as a definition for Naturalism. To me, this is only a shortcut for:
'since all I believe, as a person, exists is part of the natural world, and I have not been convinced that the claims of supernatural existence, made by other people, are true, I tentatively conclude that only the natural world exists.'
But in any case, I will gladly look up that suggestion.

Hugo Pelland said...

grodrigues said...
"@Hugo Pelland:
"Material existence accounts for minds."
No it doesn't. The linked article provides a decisive refutation of such a claim.
"
No, the article does no such thing. Take the very beginning where the article says: 'Let's consider an exotic color called "bleen". This color is blue before January 1st, 2050, and green thereafter'. The problem is that this is not what a 'color' is. That kind of false-color can only be defined mentally, and thus render the entire exercise futile because it tries to show that something material cannot exist as defined by a non-material mind. But my point is that the mental exists because of material existence.

Again, it only seem to work in the context of the article because of the flawed approach of the Primacy of Consciousness.

grodrigues said...

@Hugo Pelland:

"No, the article does no such thing."

Apologies. My bad, as I was thinking of the original Ross's paper, not to the linked article which I have only just read.

"The problem is that this is not what a 'color' is."

The problem here is solely yours, since you spectacularly miss the point. The example using colors is manifestly unfortunate, but it is extremely easy to patch up (hint: Martin did not invent "bleen").

"But my point is that the mental exists because of material existence."

Yes you assert it without the least shred of argument, or even an awareness of the arguments on the other side. I already knew that, thank you very much.

Hugo Pelland said...

@grodrigues
I have read the full paper, a few times actually over the years, as it shows up in that kind of online discussion.
Regarding material-existence first, I mentioned how I "assume" the material to exist, first, and then can easily define what minds are. It's actually the other way around that fails: people just pretend they know they exist, as non-material minds, without any way of justifying that belief, and then also have to assume that the material world exist, because they could still be wrong. Can you do better? Of course not, because you are also in that same position; you are also currently using your material body to read something on a material device. Your intuition as to why you exist as a non-material mind is the strongest thing ever, I know, and you are justified to 'know' you are what you are, no matter what, but this means nothing in terms of what actually exists.

grodrigues said...

@Hugo Pelland:

"Regarding material-existence first, I mentioned how I "assume" the material to exist, first, and then can easily define what minds are."

This is pure chicanery as there is *no* account of mind from a purely materialist POV; none, period. In the best of circumstances, you are placing your bets in some yet unknown scientific confirmation of your prejudices -- which will never come. It is a particular ugliness of shallow scentismists that they never subject their own metaphysical positions to their faux scientific standards. Am I wrong? Write the Hamiltonean for the quantum system of the brain, solve the Schroedinger equation and deduce consciousness from it. Come on, I am waiting. Neither can you "define what minds are" unless by "define minds" you mean "defining them out of existence".

"It's actually the other way around that fails: people just pretend they know they exist, as non-material minds, without any way of justifying that belief, and then also have to assume that the material world exist, because they could still be wrong. Can you do better? Of course not, because you are also in that same position; you are also currently using your material body to read something on a material device. Your intuition as to why you exist as a non-material mind is the strongest thing ever, I know, and you are justified to 'know' you are what you are, no matter what, but this means nothing in terms of what actually exists."

Oh brother this is going to be difficult...

I do not "pretend" to exist as "as non-material mind", whatever the hell that means, neither have I ever mentioned any "intuitions". You are simply inventing things out of whole cloth. I mentioned *arguments*. And if you mean it as a tirade against substance dualism, you better find another target because I am not a substance dualist. At any rate, the quoted portion is *irrelevant* to Ross's *argument* -- which is abundantly clear that you do *not* grasp, your protestations not withstanding -- which has the following structure for a suitable P which I will not make explicit (go read the paper):

(1) Thought is P.

(2) no purely physical thing is P.

(3) Thought is not purely physical.

(3) follows from (1) and (2) by an application of Leibniz's law. Ross argues for (1) by contradiction and for (2) by marshalling arguments that span the entire history of philosophy from Aristotle to some jewels of contemporary analytical philosophy.

Hugo Pelland said...

grodrigues said...
" I do not "pretend" to exist as "as non-material mind", whatever the hell that means,"
Then you are the one who does not understand what I am talking about. You can keep whining that I don't get it, but you are not addressing what I am saying. All I know of is you are some person with a material body talking to me over the internet. Yet, you think that your thoughts are not just the produce of matter in motion. Why? What's special about your thoughts? Why should I believe you when you say they are not the product of the physical reality we live in?

" (1) Thought is P.
(2) no purely physical thing is P.
(3) Thought is not purely physical.
"
Well of course, but that means nothing in this context because I also defined thoughts as not 'purely physical'. Again, my point is that the thoughts we know of, ours, are the produce of physical things. And, the things that are like thoughts but not ours, objectively defined abstract objects such as mathematics, for example, are also always referring back to physical things because we would not be able to discuss them otherwise. Thoughts can point to things that either exist as purely physical things, or not; if they fall in the second category, they cannot possibly be purely physical, by definition. That's what your deduction here argues for; not against my position.

grodrigues said...

@Hugo Pelland:

"Yet, you think that your thoughts are not just the produce of matter in motion. Why? What's special about your thoughts? Why should I believe you when you say they are not the product of the physical reality we live in?"

I have just told you. Arguments. This has nothing to do with thinking myself or anyone special (from where do you pull this amount of crap?), but about arguments.

"Again, my point is that the thoughts we know of, ours, are the produce of physical things."

No, we do *NOT* know that. And besides, I was careful in the way I phrased the conclusion; what I said was "Thought is not purely physical". I do not deny that we are physical beings, I just deny that we are wholly physical or that what we are is wholly reducible to the physical as we understand it.

"Thoughts can point to things that either exist as purely physical things, or not; if they fall in the second category, they cannot possibly be purely physical, by definition. That's what your deduction here argues for; not against my position."

(1) No, that is not Ross's argument. You haven't even read it have you? Ok, so no point in pursuing it (not that I was ever in doubt about the pointlessness). (2) I can think not only of things that are not purely physical (example: a Banach space is finite-dimensional iff the closed unit ball is compact) I can think of non-existent things (example: Santa Claus), therefore by your *own concession* (not that I would agree with your "concession", it is in fact spectacularly wrong), thought is not purely physical. So you concede Ross's conclusion.

Hugo Pelland said...

"No, we do *NOT* know that. And besides, I was careful in the way I phrased the conclusion; what I said was "Thought is not purely physical". I do not deny that we are physical beings, I just deny that we are wholly physical or that what we are is wholly reducible to the physical as we understand it."

Correct, that's what I am curious about. How can you reach the conclusion that are more than just physical? Saying we cannot reduce our intelligence to the physical is an argument from ignorance.

Ross' paper doesn't help to answer that either because it uses our thinking abilities, as physical beings, to argue that we are more than just physical beings. (Yes I have read it; I can quote some passages later on when I am not on my phone to better explain.)

Gyan said...

Victor.
You wrote:
"physical" or " is just what scientific theory quantifies over, some scientific theories quantify over God"

Question: Which scientific theory quantifies over God?

Some problem with your psychons, angelons etc. It would simply not do to assert
"Or maybe the soul is some different kind of physical particle that science hasn't discovered yet. Surely science hasn't found everything, so we can't say that all that exists is what science has found already."

If you would take trouble to DEFINE what soul is, you would not say that. SOUL is a non-formal, non-quantitative thing. You are engaging in a parody of scientism.

Gyan said...

Hugo Pelland,
"the thoughts we know of, ours, are the produce of physical things."

How do you know this?

Hugo Pelland said...

Well, I should not say "we", so let me re-phrase.

I am only aware of "human thoughts"; I don't know what it means to talk about other "kinds" of thoughts. Humans are physical things. Therefore, the thoughts I know of, mine and others', are the products of physical things.

Gyan said...

Hugo Pelland,
But thoughts are surely not physical in the way human body is?

Anyway, there is an interesting argument for immateriality of thoughts at Edward Feser's blog today:
"Materialist or naturalist accounts of thought and its content typically suppose that they can be explained in terms of causal relations of some kind. The idea is that a thought will have the content that (say) the cat is on the mat if it bears the right sort of causal relation to the state of affairs of the cat’s being on the mat. And the main issue is that indeterminacy problems afflict every attempt to spell out the analysis. For the state of affairs we call the cat’s being on the mat can also be described as a state of affairs involving a domesticated mammal’s being on the mat. So why does the fact that this state of affairs causes the thought entail that the thought has the content the cat is on the mat as opposed to the content a domesticated mammal is on the mat? You can add details to the description of the causal relation to get around this problem, but the revised account of the causal relation will in turn face indeterminacy problems of its own. "

the intellect’s grasp of meanings is more fundamental than any behavior, gestures, utterances, aspects of the communicative context, etc. that might be used to teach or express meanings. Hence you are not going to be able explain the former in terms of the latter. You are not going to be able to reduce intelligence to patterns of behavior or dispositions to behavior (as the behaviorist holds), or explain it in terms of causal relations between the human organism and aspects of its environment (as causal theories of content hold), etc., because the behavior, causal relations, etc. have whatever semantic associations they have only by reference to an intellect which grasps those associations"

How would

Hugo Pelland said...

Of course they are not. The issue is this: thoughts approximate the "state of affair", which is the material reality. Not the other way around.

Flipping it is to make consciousness the basic existence piece, which is the Primacy of Consciousness, and sometimes starts arguments for supernatural existence, immaterial souls, infinite after-lives, etc... i.e. views not based in reality. Or, on the softer side, simply reject Naturalism or Materialism or Physicalism because they feel too strict: 'There ought to be more to me than just my body...but why?'

grodrigues said...

@Hugo Pelland:

"How can you reach the conclusion that are more than just physical? Saying we cannot reduce our intelligence to the physical is an argument from ignorance."

At this point I have to seriously ask "are you stupid"? Can you read? I just gave you the argument.

"Yes I have read it"

Oh I do not for a moment doubt that your eyes glossed over the words, and maybe you even spelled them out loud syllable by syllable, and very slowly, in an effort to grasp their meaning.

Gyan said...

Hugo Pelland,
"thoughts approximate the "state of affair", which is the material reality."
What does that mean?

How would you explain the persistence of personal identity through continuous material changes?
Your body continuously changes physically, yet it is always YOU. What is that persisting entity?

Bob said...

@Gyan

You are your memories...that is how the persistence of personal identity is explained. Remove your memory, remove you.

Gyan said...

@Bob,
And if you lose YOUR memory?
And maybe you regain YOUR memory?

Memory is pretty fickle. Few people retain memory of early infancy yet who would say that the personal identity did not persist from birth or even earlier?

David Brightly said...

Hugo,
Victor is being modest. In answer to your original question, Victor presents his own summary of Ross's argument in his article 'The Argument from Reason' in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Read it on Google Books or here, starting on p365. He says Ross’s argument can be formalized as follows, quote,
1 Some mental states have determinate content. In particular, the states involved in adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, squaring numbers, and taking their square roots are determinate with respect to their intentional content.
2 Physical states are indeterminate with respect to intentional content. Any physical state is logically compatible with the existence of a mulitplicity of propostionally defined intentional states, or even with the absence of propositionally defined intentional states entirely.
3 Therefore, the mental states involed in mathematical operations are not and cannot be identical to physical states.

Hugo Pelland said...

Gyan said...
"And if you lose YOUR memory?
And maybe you regain YOUR memory?
Memory is pretty fickle. Few people retain memory of early infancy yet who would say that the personal identity did not persist from birth or even earlier?
"
This reminded me of a thought experiment discussed in a video, from a few years ago, and I am glad I could find it here: https://youtu.be/RS4PW35-Y00?t=7m17s
(Or it should start at 7m17s if you click on the link directly.)

Hugo Pelland said...

Gyan said...
""thoughts approximate the "state of affair", which is the material reality."
What does that mean?
"
This is in direct response to Ross' "Immaterial Aspects of Thought" which states, when referring to things like numbers summation for example, that:
"... The machine cannot physically do everything it actually does and also do everything it might have done. (13) That is the heart of the matter. The physical, as process, is formally vague, no matter how far you extend it, or how minutely you describe its innermost mechanisms. The conclusion is that a physical process cannot realize an abstract function. It can at most simulate it..."
(I'll copy/paste more in a different comment; might be too long though...)

This seems obvious to the author because of the implied Primacy of Consciousness. However, if we ground our existence in the physical, the last sentence becomes: The conclusion is that an abstract thought cannot perfectly describe a physical process. It can at most approximate it by, for example, simplification and extrapolation. The pure abstract functions he is talking about throughout the paper are actually simplified versions of what reality is, of what we see in the physical world.

A response is found later in the paper:
"The cost of saying we only simulate the pure functions is astronomical. For in order to maintain that the processes are basically material, the philosopher has to deny outright that we do the very things we had claimed all along that we do. Yet our doing these things is essential to the reliability of our reasoning."
Yes, it is essential; hence a worldview leading to a denial of the reliability of our reasoning would be false. But I don't agree with the 'things we had claimed all along that we do' because these 'things' we do are reasoning, counting, thinking... the product of material beings using their brains. The thoughts we think about, or the actions that we do mentally, relate to either material things or other abstract things, which eventually fall back to being defined with some basis in reality, else we cannot even think about it. So I argue that our thoughts are no more determinate than the physical; we label them as determinate for convenience.

Hugo Pelland said...

To better illustrate, here's another quote from the paper, with reference to note (13) from above.

"Because a physical object cannot be in an infinity of states, the mind treated as a brain computer is of limited understanding.
[...]
The opposite seems to be true: there is nothing that is in principle unintelligible insofar as it has being, as Plato and Aristotle both thought. And we are able to be in an infinity of states of understanding, not successively but qualitatively. That is, we have the active ability to understand anything
[...]
Nothing is excluded because of its subject matter. Ours is not a successive infinite capacity (if we do not exist forever) but a selective infinite capacity. That is why the brain cannot even be the organ of thought, the way the eye is the organ of sight, as Aristotle, Avicenna, Averroes, Aquinas, and many others argued; otherwise, there would be something (that might be actually) that is unintelligible. Our corporeality imposes accidental limitations on understanding, the most important of which is that our contents of judgment have to be made by dematerialization (abstraction)
"

This shows yet another inadequate way to present the way our thinking processes work, with the implied assumption that reasoning is, a priori, considered to be something purely non-physical and thus of infinite reasoning potential. We know this is false as there are tons of limitations that the brain imposes on our ability to reason. From the simplest, such as inability to perceive certain colors and discuss them, to the most complex ideas related to how we go through logical arguments. There is no justification to this claim that the brain cannot be the organ of thought; the thinking beings we interact with are all humans with brain. The 'accidental' limitations are physical limitations.

Hugo Pelland said...

@David
True, and that's what's actually more interesting yes, to see Victor's ideas on this topic directly. His views seem to fit well with Ross' paper and thus subject to the same observations I am making here. I am not convinced by their claims that 'Some mental states have determinate content' unlike physical things.

grodrigues said...

And the "Hugo Pelland show" continues. So let us see what we have:

"This seems obvious to the author because of the implied Primacy of Consciousness. However, if we ground our existence in the physical, the last sentence becomes: The conclusion is that an abstract thought cannot perfectly describe a physical process. It can at most approximate it by, for example, simplification and extrapolation."

So first, Hugo says that "This seems obvious to the author because of the implied Primacy of Consciousness." This is, objectively speaking, nothing but pure invention. Ross *argues* for the premise that thought is formally determinate and *nowhere* does the author invoke "Primacy of Consciousness", whatever that means. An intellectual responsible and serious person, when making such a charge, would actually *show* where the argument uses, implicitly or explicitly, such a premise. But since the assumption is not there, and the impossible cannot be done, Hugo has not done it and will never do it. Then he says "However, if we ground our existence in the physical, the last sentence becomes: The conclusion is that an abstract thought cannot perfectly describe a physical process." It is a mystery how we got here, in fact it is not even clear that Ross would disagree with it, or in other words, it seems to be completely irrelevant. The only way for this to be relevant to Ross's argument, is reading it as a denial that thought is formally determinate, or the first premise in my construal of Ross's argument. I cannot make heads or tails of what he says next on "approximation" or about the "pure abstract functions" -- but of course, the fault is certainly mine.

Then he adds that "A response is found later in the paper:". So let us see what the response is.

"Yes, it is essential; hence a worldview leading to a denial of the reliability of our reasoning would be false. But I don't agree with the 'things we had claimed all along that we do' because these 'things' we do are reasoning, counting, thinking... the product of material beings using their brains."

So Hugo agrees that if Ross has proved the reductio, then physicalism is indeed false. So what is the response to the arguments? None, none at all, but simply a repetition of the mantra that thought is purely physical. Hugo is not even aware of the problems of denying that though is formally definite -- the whole section 3, from which the quote was mined, is devoted to it and all we have is "I do not agree".

And I should add that, as pointed out by me in November 16, 2015 7:06 PM, in November 16, 2015 6:35 PM Hugo already conceded Ross's conclusion.

grodrigues said...

But Hugo on a second post charges Ross again. Let us see:

"This shows yet another inadequate way to present the way our thinking processes work, with the implied assumption that reasoning is, a priori, considered to be something purely non-physical and thus of infinite reasoning potential. We know this is false as there are tons of limitations that the brain imposes on our ability to reason. From the simplest, such as inability to perceive certain colors and discuss them, to the most complex ideas related to how we go through logical arguments."

There is not a single thing that can be salvaged here. There is once again the complete bollocks of "the implied assumption that reasoning is, a priori, considered to be something purely non-physical". Second the infinite potentiality of our reasoning ability is a datum of experience that no one can deny -- and this Ross shows not only by examples, but by the same reasonings that show the formal definiteness of thought, since the latter readily implies the former. That we can grasp determinately modus ponens already is a case of the infinite potentiality of our reasoning ability, since to grasp modus ponens is to grasp the infinite token applications of modus ponens.

And as Ross continues to argue, to even be able to deny that we apply modus ponens, as Hugo pretends, one would have to grasp determinately what one is denying. And more arguments. Response? None. Given these examples, it does not matter whether our cognitive, reasoning abilities have some other limitations. But let us see what are the examples of these "tons of limitations that the brain imposes on our ability to reason": the "inability to perceive certain colors and discuss them". First perception is not abstract though so this is not even an example. Further more, to be able to know that there are some colors we do not perceive, of course we have to determinately recognize them and discuss them, make and evaluate propositions. As as "the most complex ideas related to how we go through logical arguments", I am eager for Hugo to clarify what in God's name those are, so that then I can shred them apart.

Hugo Pelland said...

@grodrigues said...

" - *nowhere* does the author invoke "Primacy of Consciousness", whatever that means
- It is a mystery how we got here
- I cannot make heads or tails of what he says next on "approximation" or about the "pure abstract functions"
- simply a repetition of the mantra that thought is purely physical
- Response? None.
- I am eager for Hugo to clarify what in God's name those are, so that then I can shred them apart.
"

Ok, so you simply don't know what I am talking about... you acknowledge you don't get it, multiple times, and misrepresented my views by saying ' thought is purely physical ' is my mantra, which it is not, or that I agree with Ross' conclusions, which I certainly reject.

I am left in the same position: I don't believe you when you claim you exist as a non-material mind. You are nothing more than a brain using its material body to communicate via the Internet right now. Thanks for trying!

grodrigues said...

@Hugo Pelland:

"Ok, so you simply don't know what I am talking about... you acknowledge you don't get it, multiple times, and misrepresented my views by saying ' thought is purely physical ' is my mantra, which it is not, or that I agree with Ross' conclusions, which I certainly reject."

There is not a single case of misrepresentation of your views on my part -- that is, simply *not true*. For example, I am well aware that you reject Ross's conclusions. What I *argued* November 16, 2015 7:06 PM was that your premises entail Ross's conclusion so you are *logically committed* to them.

Let us take my alleged failures of understanding.

"*nowhere* does the author invoke "Primacy of Consciousness", whatever that means"

No I do not know what *you* mean by "Primacy of Consciousness", but my point is that Ross does not invoke consciousness, or its primacy whatever that is, *anywhere*.

"It is a mystery how we got here"

This was in response to "However, if we ground our existence in the physical, the last sentence becomes: The conclusion is that an abstract thought cannot perfectly describe a physical process.". And it is indeed a "mystery" because it does *not* follow that "if we ground our existence in the physical" Ross's quoted sentence becomes "The conclusion is that an abstract thought cannot perfectly describe a physical process".

"I cannot make heads or tails of what he says next on "approximation" or about the "pure abstract functions""

I cannot make heads or tails because, once again, there is *no* meaningful sense to say that one approximately does modus ponens. "Approximate" in what sense? How approximate it is? It is you that does not have the foggiest idea what you are talking, so you just strung words together in the vague hope that they mean something, but they do not. And even assuming that they can be made sense of, they *necessarily* imply that we do not determinately add, do modus ponens, etc. In other words, to quote myself now "The only way for this to be relevant to Ross's argument, is reading it as a denial that thought is formally determinate, or the first premise in my construal of Ross's argument.".

The same for "The pure abstract functions he is talking about throughout the paper are actually simplified versions of what reality is, of what we see in the physical world." The pure abstract functions that Ross is talking about are mathematical objects. They are what they are, in particular, they are *not* "simplified versions of what reality is". Addition is not a simplified anything in reality -- but rather is reality itself (and if you are realist, this has added weight and meaning, but I will not go into that here). But once again you have strung up those words together, so you must have some idea in mind. I asked for clarification; you have not deigned to offer one, so now I am left guessing. Maybe by this sentence you mean that pure abstract functions can be used to model aspects of reality, than yes, that is true. But that, besides bearing no resemblance to what you originally said, is irrelevant to Ross's point.

Now I could continue, but this is pointless, nothing but a waste of time, for both you and me.

P.S: About "I don't believe you when you claim you exist as a non-material mind". I never claimed anything about existing "as a non-material mind". The sentence itself is ambiguous as it can mean different things. I told you elsewhere however, that I am not a substance dualist (and by the way, neither was Ross).

Hugo Pelland said...

@grodrigues
Sorry for the longer reply delay...The only waste of time I see here is when you write sentences such as 'you cannot read!!!' Everything else is interesting to look at, from my end at least, even if we disagree strongly on some key points here. Perhaps you don't see it like that but then I would wonder... why bother writing at all? There are no points given, no exam in the next thread; just a few other random online users who may nod in agreement, or not.

Just 2 things to quickly discuss, you said:
"There is not a single case of misrepresentation of your views on my part"
...but you did say...
"repetition of the mantra that thought is purely physical"
...which was not accurate. The use of the word 'purely' is key here since my position is that thoughts are 'not' purely physical (we cannot weigh them, taste them, touch them, detect them physically...) but a product of the physical; their existence is contingent on the physical. They are thus not in violation of physicalism, which reject that there exists things independent of the physical. And that's obviously just 'as far as we can tell' since we cannot possibly prove such statement. Physicalists like me just don't see a reason to believe there is such realm of existence.

Which brings me to the second point, regarding what you said here:
"I told you elsewhere however, that I am not a substance dualist"
I would be curious to know what you think of the video I linked to before in this thread. I wonder if you agree with the narrator's views since he is arguing against 'substance dualism'. Because I still don't know exactly what part of my views you actually disagree with.

To take a step back, from my end the simplest way to put it is that I see us as material beings living in a material world, first and foremost. We can discuss what exists, or not, and think about both kind of things, conceptually. But all that thinking we are doing is because we have material bodies; I don't see us thinking without a brain. It literally means nothing to me if you are talking about 'thinking' as an action detached from the material world. Because of that tie with the material world, we also think using only material things, as basic building blocks, and arrange them mentally to construct thoughts, abstract objects, ideas, and their relationships with each other.

Martin said...

grodriquez, I see you have your hands full dealing with Hugo over here. Meanwhile, on my blog, I have the same issues with skeppy, as you can go see for yourself.

It would be one thing if materialists simply disagreed, and we got down to the nub, and agreed to disagree somewhere. For example, that physical functions can be determinate after all. But it doesn't even get this far Hugo and skeppy miss the point so widely that there isn't really even communication taking place. You and I are trying to say that firetrucks are red, and Hugo and skeppy are disagreeing because ice cream tastes like chocolate. ???????? They are having entirely different conversations.

I wonder why that is...?

Hugo Pelland said...

Hey Martin, long time no see...

It's funny how I have not read 1 word written by you in over 1 year, and then randomly see you comment with something strange like that...

Don't you realize that this is just a comment thread on some  blog? How can anyone have their 'hands full' with this? This really is just for conversation purposes; no idea why you see this as more than just disagreement. That's what it is!

If it's too much for you, just ignore and move on; hopefully you have more real important things to care about... or better, on your blog, just erase all comments to preserve your safe space, if that pleases you. That wouldn't be new anyway... right?

Hal said...

"My concept of what is required for naturalism is as follows:
1. The base level, whether we call it natural, material, or physical, is causally closed.
2. Everything above that level supervenes on the physical/material/natural.
3. Physics is mechanistic. The base level lacks intentionality, purpose, normativity, and subjectivity."


This is a fair account of a naturalism that a physicalist or materialist might adhere to. But I wouldn’t accept it as an adequate conception of what seems to me to be a more reasonable form of naturalism.:-)

I think the following (which is found in Lawrence Cahoone’s book “The Orders of Nature”) better captures what is minimally required to be a naturalist:
1. Nature is one temporally enduring ensemble whose members are open to at least indirect mutual causal influences. No members of nature are causally isolated in principle. Nature is not divided into domains incapable of interaction as in the Cartesian, Lockean, or Spinozan dualism of “mind” and “matter.”
2. Nature must include at least the physical, material, biological, mental and cultural. A naturalist must regard not only the objects of physics, the material and the biological sciences, but minds, intentionality, meanings, communications, societies, artworks, etc., all as natural or part of nature.
3. The conclusions of the natural sciences must have robust significance for the metaphysics of nature. To fail to take the natural sciences seriously in one’s metaphysics is not to be a naturalist.

Two common claims that some naturalists make are to be rejected:
1. Naturalism ought not assume that everything that is or was or will be is natural. That is, no a priori stipulation is made that nature exhausts all complexes.
2. Naturalism ought not assume that nature is physical or material. Nature must include the physical but not make a priori presupposition about the ubiquity of physical entities, properties, or processes in nature.

This is a form of naturalism that is metaphysically local – it makes no a priori claims about the fundamental nature of reality.

Hugo Pelland said...

@Hal,

Interesting definitions; I think this is particularly important:
"2. Naturalism ought not assume that nature is physical or material. Nature must include the physical but not make a priori presupposition about the ubiquity of physical entities, properties, or processes in nature."
Because it does support the idea that accepting Naturalism doesn't necessarily entail belief that nothing supernatural, or non-natural, possibly exists; it's a less strict position, where the supernatural 'could' exist, but belief in it seems currently unsupported by reason.

Hal said...

Agree that is an important point. This "less strict position" would be termed "a local metaphysics" by Cahoone: given that we are fallible, finite beings it is more reasonable to adhere to a local metaphysics than traditional forms of metaphysics which claim to encompass the whole of reality.
Also, Cahoone points out that even if one were to claim that in the final analysis the base level of reality is mental rather than mechanistic, that claim alone is not sufficient to explain how it is that biological beings such as ourselves have mental properties.:-)