Sunday, September 10, 2017

Why physicalism isn't true

My argument is an attempt to show, not assume, that minds exist first, on the grounds that if they don't exist first, they cannot emerge. Mental states have to be a complexity-fact about the physical world if physicalism is true. But let's take the claim that "I am Victor Reppert" and the claim "I am Hugo Pelland." It seems perfectly conceivable that there is a world physically identical to this one in which you are me and I am you. If you say that such a world is impossible, you need to prove it, since it is conceivable. There is nothing about the physical world that guarantees that I will be me and you will be you. So physicalism cannot be true.

142 comments:

Ron said...

I can't conceive of a world where I am you and you are me. *you* couldn't be me. If you were me, you would be me, not you *being* me. Only I can be me. That's just a tautology. I can imagine worlds in which you look like me, or worlds in which you take my place, or worlds on which you are a Cartesian soul inhabiting my body. But those aren't worlds in which you are me. It seems like a contradiction for someone to be someone else, because if they were someone else they wouldn't be themself anymore. It's like saying you can imagine a world where a triangle is a square. You can't imagine that, because if t were a square it wouldn't be a triangle

Hal said...

I'll repeat what I posted in the earlier thread:

What about the law of identity?

It is possible to conceive things that are impossible. Am curious to learn why you would think otherwise.

I'll add:

We do have empirical evidence that thinking beings have emerged on our planet. So I don't think it reasonable to accept your claim that "minds cannot emerge."

Jim S. said...

It's not possible to conceive things that are logically impossible. I can't conceive of something as X and at the same time and in the same sense conceive of it as non-X.

Hal said...

Jim S.,

Well Victor's claim obviously violates the Law of Identity. And he claims he conceived of it.

So how would you address his claim?

bmiller said...

@Hal,

It is possible to conceive things that are impossible. Am curious to learn why you would think otherwise.

I can imagine impossible things, but I can't conceive of them being possible. I think that is the sense Victor is using the word conceive.

But of course, I defer to Victor.

Hal said...

bmiller,
I. think you are making an important distinction between the imaginable and the conceivable.
If someone says something is conceivable does that entail that it is possible? Perhaps they are confusing the imaginable with the conceivable?
How would you determine the difference?

Hugo Pelland said...

Thanks for the answer Victor. This is short but actually a great summary I think. It shows where we disagree and why. Here's how I see it:

"My argument is an attempt to show, not assume, that minds exist first, on the grounds that if they don't exist first, they cannot emerge."

I have said exactly the same before, in the opposite direction. On the primacy of physical existence, by assuming the material as basic existence first, minds don't exist from the start and emerge from physical processes. The assumption can indeed be proven wrong if it can be shown that minds do not exist in such a world. i.e. it's falsifiable.

So the question is 'can minds emerge from the physical?' In that same sentence, the answer was already included: that if they don't exist first, they cannot emerge. Given that they exist, this is the definition of the primacy of consciousness; minds exist first, regardless of the physical existing.

However, I don't think the case can be made that minds cannot emerge from the physical. On the contrary, their existence is completely explained by the physical existence we are part of. The only things our minds can think of are physical things. To think of non-physical things, we need to first conceptualize physical things and play around with the concepts and labels we get from these objects.

The best defense of that claim is children's development, in my opinion. They are like sponges; their minds do pretty much nothing but register what they are physically experiencing. The more they experience, the more they can self-reflect on what they now not only experience, but know. And it takes a while for these minds to realize they are not alone, in the sense that others also have minds that experienced different things. If you have never done it, do that test with a 4-year-old. It's even more amazing when you do it with the same child a few times and they finally get it! My 5-year-old niece did not understand why we were so proud of her when she got it the first time. She did not believe us when we said she got it wrong for the past 2 years!

Anyway, I digress, back to the post...

Hugo Pelland said...

"But let's take the claim that "I am Victor Reppert" and the claim "I am Hugo Pelland." It seems perfectly conceivable that there is a world physically identical to this one in which you are me and I am you. If you say that such a world is impossible, you need to prove it, since it is conceivable. There is nothing about the physical world that guarantees that I will be me and you will be you."

The "perfectly conceivable" world you conceive here is a world where minds exist independently of the physical bodies you are talking about. Therefore, you are not truly trying to start with the physical and show that minds cannot emerge; you are already stating that minds exist independently of the physical.

The correct thought experiment, if we start with a physical world, has 2 separate bodies, one we label as 'Hugo' and one as 'Victor'. Each of these physical bodies is able of abstract thinking; they have minds that allow them to conceptualize the physical world around them. Now, we have another physical world, identical in every single way, to the exact atom. Is it conceivable that 'Hugo' is now 'Victor' and vice versa? No, because the labels, the names, are attached to the physical body.


Even if we cannot explain how they got there, the thought experiment does not prove that minds cannot emerge from the physical. It remains possible. In other words, no, we cannot conceive of the world you are talking about. We can, however, think of a world where minds are independent of their physical bodies. In such world, it is possible to have physically identical copies with just the non-physical parts exchanged, somehow. But that's exactly what you said you are attempting to prove... that there's something completely non-physical about us. What is it?

" TL;DR" No, it's not conceivable that there is a world physically identical to this one in which you are me and I am you. Because my body is what makes me, me. The body I have, the experiences I feel, the mind I have, are all 100% the result of this body. A physically identical copy would be the same as me for a second, and then start to experience a different reality, and we would slowly drift apart. That's the closest I can come to your 'conceivable' world where minds can be exchanged.

Hal said...

My argument is an attempt to show, not assume, that minds exist first, on the grounds that if they don't exist first, they cannot emerge. Mental states have to be a complexity-fact about the physical world if physicalism is true.

I'd appreciate an explanation of what "complexity-fact" means. Have never encountered that term before.
As best I can make out it is similar to Intelligent Design claims of "irreducible complexity". Is that correct?

William said...

I personally like emergence as an explanation for the formation of consciousness, but I think I can see Victor's issue. The "complexity-fact" of consciousness means that there must be a fact about the universe that makes consciousness able to emerge, that is, there is in the design or form-prior-to-consciousness of the universe a law or potential rule about the contents of the universe that pertains to the formation or origination of consciousness.

This means that, historically, even before there was consciousness in the universe there had to be a "law of emergence" of consciousness as a feature of that ancient universe. Such a law of emergence of consciousness is in a way a law that only kicks in at the complexity level of certain things that have consciousness. Why should there be such a law of emergence?

Theists have it easy here, naturalists not so much.

Hal said...

William,

Obviously, changes can take place and new things can come into existence in the universe.

Secondly, consciousness is not the mark of the mental. Conscious beings existed for millions of years on this planet before beings with minds evolved.

I have to admit that what you said about a law of emergence escapes my understanding. That could be because I don't believe laws to be causally efficacious.

William said...

Hal,

First, you seem to use a different definition of "mental" and "consciousness" than the one I generally take these words to mean. I generally invert the meanings of "mental" and conscious" from your usage. But I think I see what you are saying-- by your idiosycratic usages, fish have "consciousness" but are not "mental" or some such.

Yes, it may be that the laws of physics, and regularities like the emergent laws of things like hydrodynamics or life are mere human descriptions, and are not causally efficacious. In such a situation, there are still regularities of emergence that may have explanations. So, there may be some other fact of the regularities of the universe that historically allowed consciousness to form.








Hugo Pelland said...

Not to speak for him but, Victor does in fact talk about causally efficacious laws, and he does not believe there was ever a universe devoid of consciousness, given that God existed all along. This is consistent with Theism of course.

But I don't see how this is 'easier' for Theists. It goes against many things we know of, from a scientific perspective. We know there were no humans at some point in the past, yet the universe existed without humans. So the definition of what minds are necessarily imply some sort of non-human minds, which is assumed, never proven. It also reverses the correct order for the 'laws' of nature, which are in fact descriptive, not prescriptive. They are our best approximation of how the universe works, but they are entirely human-made and thus 'not' causally efficacious.

Theism states that they are prescriptive because they are God's work, but I don't see reasons to believe that. It's self-fulfilling; the laws are labeled as causally efficacious and thus requiring a creator, but the creator's existence is justified because of the existence of such laws (among many other pieces of evidence of course).

In other words, we have humans who stated that the universe must be designed because they could describe the stuff around them with these precise equations, which they called laws. And then they used the existence of these so-called laws to argue that a god must have created them. But they ignore the fact that they created these laws in the first place, based on their observations of the world. And for some reason, when these laws were proven to be approximations (Einstein replacing Newtonian laws for instance), they simply moved the target further down the line, now arguing that there are constants that cannot be explained, more laws that must truly be laws, etc... Still, we have no reason to think that these laws which we created are nothing more than descriptions.

William said...

Hugo:

"
But I don't see how this is 'easier' for Theists. It goes against many things we know of, from a scientific perspective. We know there were no humans at some point in the past, yet the universe existed without humans. So the definition of what minds are necessarily imply some sort of non-human minds...
"

God would be at least one of those nonhuman minds. So that is why things are easier for the theist, who is allowed to assume that conditions are right for consciousness as a consequence of assuming God's consciousness prior to the universe as a whole.


Hugo Pelland said...

Right, in that sense I suppose it's easier, as in it's consistent with a creator god. I guess I was thinking about the fact that it does not help the task of proving that some god exists... but that's a different question.

Joe Hinman said...

I used to argue this a lot on CARM WITH with several atheists the most notable was a mathematician from Austria calling himself HRG (Hans Grume). He and his atheist coheart would alleged that they would conceive of a world with no God not created by God and that beat Plantinga's argument that God is necessary in all possible worlds.

I got then to admitted that they were only asserting the conception of a Godless world based upon doubting God's existence in this world. Since they cant prove God doesn't exist they are only begging the question.

People will say they are conceiving of something when in reality they have an idea of it but they don't really fully understand what that idea entails. I can think of the notion of a square circle but I cant picture one because it's a contradiction in shapes.

Hal said...

Joe,
That was a good point about atheism. The concept is parasitic upon the concept of theism.

What is conceivable or imaginable for one person can be inconceivable or unimaginable for another.

bmiller said...

@Joe,

I can think of the notion of a square circle but I cant picture one because it's a contradiction in shapes.

I think you've put your finger on the difference between what one can imagine (form a mental picture of) and what is conceivable (what is logically possible).

Hal said...

bmiller,
Are you saying that one can conceive of something that they cannot imagine?
I would think the opposite is the case.

We can imagine all sorts of impossibilities (logical or not). What is logically impossible cannot be conceived.

Hugo Pelland said...

I don't get that, what's the difference between imagine and conceive here? We can put the labels together, 'square circle', but we cannot literally think about it. We can think of either a square or a circle...

Hal said...

Hugo,
If you weren't able to imagine it, how could you even talk about it?

I can imagine that God that is an atheist, but that is impossible.

Have you read Kafka's The Metamorphosis? In it a human becomes an insect and still considers himself to be a human. That is impossible.

Things that are logically impossible like a square circle are basically meaningless and therefore inconceivable.

Hugo Pelland said...

But that's exactly what I mean, I can't conceive it nor imagine it. Square and circle are 2 labels put together; two words, two different shapes. Together they mean nothing and cannot even be imagined/conceived. In other words, I take 'imagine' and 'conceive' to be literal synonyms. We tend to use them in slightly different context but, besides that, what's the difference?

Hal said...

Hugo,
Maybe my imagination is better than yours.:-)

I agree that we can't conceive of a square circle for the reason you mentioned.

Perhaps you think that for one to imagine something they have to form an image in their mind, an image that they could represent with a drawing or painting. But I think that assumption is mistaken. We can imagine myriads of things that we can't form mental images of.

How about the other example I gave: that God is an atheist. Would you agree with me that it is logically impossible for God to be an atheist? Since God knows all things how can he know that he doesn't exist?

Are you able to imagine that?

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal said...
"Maybe my imagination is better than yours.:-)"
Haha, who knows... but seriously, my point depends on the fact that your imagination and mine work in the same way. So perhaps you do have a better one and that makes you understand things differently!
But...

"I agree that we can't conceive of a square circle for the reason you mentioned."
Ok, and you explain why:
"Perhaps you think that for one to imagine something they have to form an image in their mind, an image that they could represent with a drawing or painting."
Yes and no. So let's see:
"We can imagine myriads of things that we can't form mental images of."
What does imagine mean here then? It's like conceiving but without the mental image?
You could also say that you can conceive myriads of things that we can't form mental images of, or not? Why?

Now to the example:
" God is an atheist. Would you agree with me that it is logically impossible for God to be an atheist? Since God knows all things how can he know that he doesn't exist?"
Logically impossible, of course. So how can you think about that? By using something you can conceive/imagine, a god, and say what the other 'atheist' god is not: logical.

So here's what point; if you want to make a distinction between 'to conceive' and 'to imagine', base on the mental image possibility, then I argue that the only way you can 'imagine' more things than you can 'conceive' is by allowing imagined things to be based on the negation of conceived things.

You, I, and anyone else, can do nothing else but that. Unless you do have a better 'imagination' and are somehow able to literally think about illogical, impossible, perhaps even indescribable, things.

bmiller said...

@Hal and Hugo,

I got it wrong on a previous post while I think Joe got it right.

Imagination usually refers to being able to picture something in your mind (the root word is image). Conceivability usually refers to something you can hold in your mind that doesn't violate the laws of logic.
A typical example is a many many sided polygon. One can conceive of a 1000 sided polygon as well as one with 1001 sides, but one can't really form a picture of the 2 different things in one's mind.

Imagine:
to form a mental image of (something not present)

From SEP:Imagination:

It is also sometimes distinguished from mental states such as conceiving and supposing, on the grounds that imagining S requires some sort of quasi-sensory or positive representation of S, whereas the contrasting states do not.


Of course there is a lot of controversy regarding what is actually conceivable.

Hugo Pelland said...

Well that fits well with what I just said I believe.

If we really want a difference between 'to imagine' and 'to conceive', we can simply state that 'to conceive' is imagination plus extrapolation or reduction, where imagination is restricted by our senses and our ability to get an abstract representation of that physical reality our senses experience.

Hugo Pelland said...

I forgot the most important point here... controversy or not, I don't see any support for the idea that we can conceive of things that are illogical. But I will try to read more of that article you linked to bmiller; interesting stuff.

Joe Hinman said...

Hugo Pelland said...
I forgot the most important point here... controversy or not, I don't see any support for the idea that we can conceive of things that are illogical. But I will try to read more of that article you linked to bmiller; interesting stuff.

I agree that was my point. we can think of the idea of it such as square circle but we cam't imagine an actual square circle.

Joe Hinman said...

bmiller,
Are you saying that one can conceive of something that they cannot imagine?
I would think the opposite is the case.

We can imagine all sorts of impossibilities (logical or not). What is logically impossible cannot be conceived.

September 12, 2017 12:51 PM

another example, i can understand the notion of married bleacher I can point to a man and say "He is a married bleacher" but I don't understand what married bleacher would be

Hugo Pelland said...

You can think of square circle as much as not-a-circle. You can't positively, just by negation.

David Brightly said...

I agree with Ron back at the beginning. Only I would put it more strongly. Rather than say that it's contradictory for me to be you I'd say it was meaningless. I can't attach any sense to this. So I'd like to invite Victor to explain what he means.

Victor also says, There is nothing about the physical world that guarantees that I will be me and you will be you. I agree. It's a linguistic fact about how the pronouns 'I', 'me', and 'you' work.

Hal said...

Hugo,
So here's what point; if you want to make a distinction between 'to conceive' and 'to imagine', base on the mental image possibility, then I argue that the only way you can 'imagine' more things than you can 'conceive' is by allowing imagined things to be based on the negation of conceived things.

Guess I haven't explained things clearly enough as you appear to misunderstand my point about mental images.

As I understand it, mental images are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for imagining something. Certainly we sometimes do have mental images when imaging something, but I don't think we should conflate imagining with having a mental image.

Some examples: I can imagine what I would say to Trump if I met him. Or I can imagine what might have happened if Lincoln had not gone to Ford's theater on the night of his assassination. Or I can imagine that if Jack were wiser Jill would be happier.

Also, I see no reason for making a distinction between imagining and conceiving based on mental imaging. One can have mental images when conceiving something and when imagining something.

The relationship between what is imaginable and what is conceivable is a complex one. I do agree with you that we can't conceive of what is logically possible.

As to the "square circle". I think we would agree that we can't form a mental image of it. But since it is not necessary that one have a mental image of something in order to imagine it, I see no problem with saying it is possible to imagine a square circle but it is not possible to conceive of it. We can imagine meaningless things, we can't conceive of them, imho.

I'm glad David has reminded us of the real point of this discussion. I too would be interested in seeing Victor's response to the criticism of his original post.

bmiller said...

Heres a brief post by Bill Vallicella on imaginable, conceivable and possible.

bmiller said...

Since we are waiting for Victor to respond, perhaps he is referring to the fact that we have a personal experience of the world that can not be scientifically determined.

How do we explain consciousness? What isfirst-person experience?

I don't mean video gaming btw :-)

Joe Hinman said...

on metacrock' blot evolution of the God Concept part 2

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal, I think you are clear, but we either disagree are not talking exactly about the same things.

When you say that 'mental images are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions for imagining something', I disagree. Because we do need 'some' mental image to be able to imagine these things that are not just some mental image.

I would also disagree with the notion that 'The relationship between what is imaginable and what is conceivable is a complex one.' I think it's actually pretty simple. We can create mental images of certain things and use these mental images to create other mental images, or even things that we cannot create mental images of by either extrapolation, or negation, of these mental images.

But I said all of this already, no? So are we talking past each other or you disagree? It seems to me that it's the latter and I don't understand why.

Hal said...

Hugo,
I would also disagree with the notion that 'The relationship between what is imaginable and what is conceivable is a complex one.' I think it's actually pretty simple.

If it were that simple we wouldn't have to spend so much time discussing it.:-)

When I imagine if Jack were wiser that Jill would be pleased I don't have any mental image in my mind when I imagine that. What would an image of "wiser" look like? I don't deny that a person could form some mental images while imagining things, but I don't think it necessary.
We have two faculties being discussed here: that of the imagination and that of mental imaging. A person may have great powers of imagination but a weak one when it comes to forming mental images. Or the reverse may be true.

In any case, I don't have the impression we are talking past each other. We simply disagree on what what constitutes having an imagination. We do agree that we can't conceive of logical impossibilities and I think that is more important.

Hal said...

bmiller,
How do we explain consciousness?
I dont't feel like going down that particular rabbit hole today. :-)

If you are interested, you could check out this article

bmiller said...

Hal,

Thanks. I scanned the article.

I liked the ending:
"So I herewith issue aformal challenge to the consciousness studies community: either show that these arguments areflawed, or retire from the field, admitting that consciousness studies as the members of this community represent them are sheer nonsense."

I'm curious. Did you hear of any retirements? ☺

William said...

The entire paper linked above seems to me to be an argument from personal incredulity.

Hal said...

bmiller,

I'm curious. Did you hear of any retirements?

Nope. :-)

As much as I admire his philosophical work, Hacker is way too harsh on those who disagree with him.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal said...
"If it were that simple we wouldn't have to spend so much time discussing it.:-)"
Haha, well, you got a point. But what I mean is not that our disagreement is simple, nor that the discussion about imaginable and conceivable is simple. What I mean is that, after careful evaluation, I do find the relationship between what is imaginable and what is conceivable to be simple.
- Conceivable, we agreed to define, is what we can form a mental image of
- Imaginable is broader, it includes what we can conceive and extrapolation/negation of what we can conceive.
I argue that this is simple, and complete. We cannot think/conceive/imagine anything else.

Examples:
"When I imagine if Jack were wiser that Jill would be pleased I don't have any mental image in my mind when I imagine that. What would an image of "wiser" look like?"
Wiser is a relationship between 2 people. So you have 2 conceivable people, with conceivable wise-ness levels, and one has a level higher than the other: Jack is wiser.

Without the mental images of people, and of what it means to be wise, you could not imagine that. It does not matter how good someone is at doing that. My point is that the 'imagining' part depends entirely on the 'conceiving' part, to stick with our definitions.

"We do agree that we can't conceive of logical impossibilities and I think that is more important."
Yes, but I think the realization that we cannot think of things we have never experienced physically is extremely important too. At least for my defense of existence being based on the physical world. Because that position would be falsified if one could show that we can in fact think of things that are not based on 'conceived' things.

Stardusty Psyche said...

OP "My argument is an attempt to show, not assume, that minds exist first, on the grounds that if they don't exist first, they cannot emerge."
--Minds do not exist and they do not emerge.

" Mental states have to be a complexity-fact about the physical world if physicalism is true. "
--What we call a mind is a brain process. There is no mindstuff, or object that is a mind. The mind is not an existent thing, rather, it is an abstraction to model a very complicated physical process, the brain process.

"But let's take the claim that "I am Victor Reppert" and the claim "I am Hugo Pelland." It seems perfectly conceivable that there is a world physically identical to this one in which you are me and I am you."
--That sounds like perfect woo to me.

" If you say that such a world is impossible, you need to prove it, since it is conceivable."
--You are repeating the error of Anselm is concluding that a logical possibility necessitates a physical possibility. If you assert a physical system that is not in evidence the burden of proof is on you.

" There is nothing about the physical world that guarantees that I will be me and you will be you. "
--On determinism you must be you. On an omniscient god determinism must be the case. Therefore on an omniscient god you must be you.

Even absent an omniscient god, on a deterministic universe by any mechanism, you must be you.

Even absent a deterministic universe on the observation that you exist the posterior probability of you being you is 1.

The universe does not care if you are you. A physical object in another galaxy is a physical object in another galaxy irrespective of you being you or you never having been born. It's physical reality is independent of your personal sense of identity.

Your brain process is your brain process. If it had turned out to be some other brain process then that physical process would self identify differently than you do.

You are roughly like a computer that boots up at your birth, reads your ID number stored in ROM, and reports via text to speech that "I am Victor 10DF83B9". The mere fact that you detect yourself in some particular way is sufficient.

"So physicalism cannot be true."
--Non-sequitur.



William said...

So Dusty says the mind does not exist, but of course is wanting us to pay attention to his written words as if they had meaning.

Left as an exercise for the reader: show how Dusty's post is self-defeating if taken from from the stance that the mind does not exist :)

BillB said...

It seems perfectly conceivable that there is a world physically identical to this one in which you are me and I am you

This seems to me like asking about a world in which the number three is actually the number two, and vice-versa. To the extent that the question has any meaning, such a world would be identical to ours. Perhaps I misunderstand. :)

It also seems to me that a consciousness is generated out of purely material causes every time a human child is born. True, there could be an immaterial soul added at some stage. But we have no scientific evidence or means (maybe even in principle) of testing for this. The fact that full awareness develops so slowly and gradually strongly suggests to me that there are only physical causes at work.

Stardusty Psyche said...

William said.. September 15, 2017 10:43 AM .

" So Dusty says the mind does not exist, but of course is wanting us to pay attention to his written words as if they had meaning.

Left as an exercise for the reader: show how Dusty's post is self-defeating if taken from from the stance that the mind does not exist :)"
--Of course you leave it somebody else to argue what you are apparently incapable of arguing.

William said...

Performative contradiction:

1. If a mind does not exist, the ideas of that mind do not exist to that mind.
2. If there are no such ideas, the words that otherwise would express those ideas do not express such ideas to that mind.
3. If those words do not express such ideas, they do not have the meaning that would otherwise be intended to that mind.
4. Thus such a post above is meaningless from the standpoint of the mind which takes that stance, if taken from the stance that the mind does not exist.

bmiller said...

@William,

I believe you are literally arguing with a self-identifying mindless troll ☺

Hugo Pelland said...

bmiller, I am no fan of SP's style, but calling him a mindless troll is completely unwarranted imho...

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger William said.. September 15, 2017 12:31 PM.

" 1. If a mind does not exist, the ideas of that mind do not exist to that mind."
--You contradicted yourself already. To refer to "that mind" it must exist, yet your antecedent is "mind does not exist". Make up your mind :-)

" 2. If there are no such ideas, the words that otherwise would express those ideas do not express such ideas to that mind."
--Ditto.

" 3. If those words do not express such ideas, they do not have the meaning that would otherwise be intended to that mind."
--Ditto again, but I don't mind :-)

" 4. Thus such a post above is meaningless"
--At last we agree wrt 1,2,3.

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

That was my attempt at humor as indicated by the smiley face.
I found it ironic that William is arguing for the existence of a mind with someone who insists they don't have one.

Hugo Pelland said...

I see, fair enough!

William said...

Dusty:
1. If a mind does not exist, the ideas of that mind do not exist to that mind."
--You contradicted yourself already. To refer to "that mind" it must exist, yet your antecedent is "mind does not exist".
---------------------------------------------

But: 'If a mind does not exist, the ideas of that mind do not exist to /the square circle/' is also true, I think, just irrelevant.

I was covering for the case that some but not all minds were real, BTW. In that case a nonexistent mind can fail to have thoughts that do actually exist in another mind, you see.

Stardusty Psyche said...


Blogger William said..
September 15, 2017 7:52 PM.

" But: 'If a mind does not exist, the ideas of that mind do not exist"
--You seem to be having some difficulty with language here. There is no "that mind" if "a mind does not exist".


" I was covering for the case that some but not all minds were real, BTW. In that case a nonexistent mind can fail to have thoughts that do actually exist in another mind, you see."
--In simpler terms, a "mind" is a model, a colloquial term, or folk science. There is no such thing as mindstuff. A mind is what we call a brain process. When the brain dies the brain process stops so there is nothing existent such as a mind or a soul to somehow float off the body as released ectoplasm.

As the fetus develops the brain begins to function. No new ectoplasm mind or soul object came floating into the fetus like a parasitic space alien from a grade B movie. The brain simply develops by cell division and begins to function in utero. Eventually the brain process will stop. At no point in the human life is there ever a mind as a real existent thing.


Hal said...

The fact that a brain is necessary for humans to think and act for reasons has nothing to do with whether or not there is an afterlife.

Only creatures that have a mind are capable of thinking and expressing their thoughts with words. That is a grammatical truth. Anyone who denies that minds exist doesn't understand the meaning of the word "mind". The result is nonsense.

Hugo Pelland said...

"There is no "that mind" if "a mind does not exist"."
But we all talk about God here, even if there is no such thing, so what's the problem? ;)

------

Hal, I think what you wrote makes sense, but at the same time, there is in fact an illusion here, which most people never think about. That may be what SP refers to. We are not thinkers inhabiting bodies, we are the bodies.
Ever heard of that?

Joe Hinman said...


William said...
The entire paper linked above seems to me to be an argument from personal incredulity.


Hinman"Oops i never got back over to link up part 2

why incredulity: you think that paper is about doubting God? the point of it is that caning notions of God are not proof we made up God but discoveries of truth through progressive revelation.

Joe Hinman said...

Hal said...
The fact that a brain is necessary for humans to think and act for reasons has nothing to do with whether or not there is an afterlife.

Only creatures that have a mind are capable of thinking and expressing their thoughts with words. That is a grammatical truth. Anyone who denies that minds exist doesn't understand the meaning of the word "mind". The result is nonsense.

right Brain is hardware and mind is software

Joe Hinman said...

Hal, I think what you wrote makes sense, but at the same time, there is in fact an illusion here, which most people never think about. That may be what SP refers to. We are not thinkers inhabiting bodies, we are the bodies.
Ever heard of that?


It's a unity, Mind is emergent property that emerges from complexity of Brain,in biological organism doesn't mean there can;t be mind independent of body.

William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hugo Pelland said...

I like how Joe's article is called The Evolution of the God Concept. It's the perfect title.

It explains how different humans share the same kind of spiritual experiences, and how they often attribute them to something they call God. Out of ignorance and awe.

I understand the awe...

William said...

Joe,
I was referring to P M S hacker's paper not your chapter, sorry if I confused you.

William said...

Stardusty,

If as you claim the mind is brain function and the mind does not exist, do you mean that brain function does not exist? If not, then the mind must exist, right? Just a question of semantics then.

Stardusty Psyche said...

William said.. September 16, 2017 2:34 AM.

" If as you claim the mind is brain function and the mind does not exist, do you mean that brain function does not exist? "
--Does running exist? Can you bottle some running stuff? Does running have mass? What is the rest state of running? Does running pop into existence and out of existence depending on my speed of locomotion?

Running is a body process. Running is not an existent thing unto itself. Running is a word we attach to a characteristic set of bodily processes. That set of processes are real processes of a real body. Our simplification of that complexity by attaching the label of "running" is an abstraction.

What we attach the label of "mind" to is just the brain running, as it were.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Joe Hinman said.. September 16, 2017 12:20 AM.

" It's a unity,"
--Idle speculation of no more value than Russel's teapot.


" Mind is emergent property"
--emergent properties, like phenomena, are abstractions. The whole is not greater than the "sum" of the parts.

" that emerges from complexity of Brain,in biological organism doesn't mean there can;t be mind independent of body."
--Just because there is a teapot in my kitchen does not mean there can't be a teapot in orbit. So what?

Hal said...

Does running exist?

Yes.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hal said.. September 16, 2017 10:54 AM.

Does running exist?
" Yes."

Can you bottle some running stuff? Does running have mass? What is the rest state of running? Does running pop into existence and out of existence depending on my speed of locomotion?

Hal said...

Your questions assume that the only things that can exist are material substances. I see no reason for accepting that assumption.

Hal said...

Joe,
right Brain is hardware and mind is software

Software is useless without the hardware.

In any case, I think trying to compare the mind or the brain with a computer is of little explanatory value.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal,
Do you think assuming the physical exist is a valid assumption though?
Because then we can argue that minds exist because of the physical existence of the brain. Minds are indeed the label we put on that physical process.

Not sure why one would say minds, or running, does not exist though. That's just mixing things up imho...

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hal said.. September 16, 2017 12:47 PM .

" Your questions assume that the only things that can exist are material substances. I see no reason for accepting that assumption."
--So you cannot affirmatively answer my questions.

Where does running exist? In what sense does running exist?

If a thing exists but it is not made of anything at all, no material known or unknown then it is absolutely nothing at all. In what sense do you say absolutely nothing at all exists?

You don't seem to have thought this through very carefully.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Blogger Hugo Pelland said.. September 16, 2017 8:48 PM.

" Minds are indeed the label we put on that physical process."
--Right. We put labels on processes. A label is an abstraction, a model, a brain process. There is no outside realization for the label, although we consider a model to be valid if it converges on reality or closely approximates reality.

" Not sure why one would say minds, or running, does not exist though. That's just mixing things up imho..."
--Actually it is unmixing things. You were correct in saying that things like mind and running are labels we put on real processes. Many people, such as apparently Hal, mix up the label with a real existent thing. This is particularly true with "mind".

Many people have some fuzzy notion of an intelligent ectoplasm that resides inside the skull along with the brain and is somehow connected to it.

By insisting the mind does not exist I clarify that the mind is not an existent thing, only a label we attach to a process.

David Brightly said...

Photons.

William said...

The sun does not exist, only a label we attach to a process (of solar evolution).

David Brightly said...

Flames.

Hal said...

Hugo,
Of course physical things exist. We are material substances, spatial-temporal continuants with the capacity to reason and to act for reasons.

Our concept of mind was formed long before neuroscientists came along and started correlating brain activity with our mental capacities. You can only make precise and accurate correlations if you already have a good understanding and knowledge of what is being correlated.

Consequently asserting that the mind is the brain or that the mind is a process in the brain doesn't seem very helpful to me in understanding our mental capacities.

Not sure why one would say minds, or running, does not exist though. That's just mixing things up imho...

That is rather bizarre, isn't it? Running, walking, eating, exercising, talking, hearing, etc. are all activities humans and other animals engage in everyday. Why would anyone think those activities that they themselves engage in don't exist?

Hal said...

We put labels on processes.

"Poecesses" is a label. Does that mean processes don't exist?

Stardusty Psyche said...

William 2:12 AM

"The sun does not exist, only a label we attach to a process (of solar evolution)."
--Ok, that brings up an interesting point. What does exist? Do large scale objects exist? Do phenomena exist?

What exists is the fundamental. Right now our best available description of the fundamental is the standard model.

All our macro scale models, labels of phenomena, and labels of macro scale objects are approximations. They are considered valid approximations when they converge accurately on reality.

Fortunately, most people realize that when we say "the sun" we mean a collection of subatomic particles that are in a very complicated and vast process.

In the case of the brain process called "mind" that is unfortunately not the case. Most people still have the idea that there is some sort of ghostly intelligent thing inside the human body that somehow connects to the human body and survives the human body. That is, of course, just an ancient and ignorant superstition, yet it persists.

That ghost, the ectoplasm, does not exist.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hal said.. September 17, 2017 6:13 AM.

" We put labels on processes."

" "Poecesses" is a label. Does that mean processes don't exist?"
--A process does not exist as an object, a thing, an independent entity that itself has properties.

Real objects really change. A process is a valid description of how existent things change.

Hal said...

"Real", "Objects", "Change", "valid", "entity", "thing" etc. they all are just labels. Just like "runnning", "walking", "sleeping", "listening", etc. are labels.

As I pointed out earlier, you are simply assuming that the only things that exist are material objects. You still have not provided a good reason for making that assumption.

Hal said...

What exists is the fundamental.

Another label: "fundamental".

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hal said.. September 17, 2017 9:25 AM.

" you are simply assuming that the only things that exist are material objects. You still have not provided a good reason for making that assumption."
--I did, but you simply did not read or understand it.

What else could there be but something? If it is not something then it is nothing. In what sense does "nothing" exist or have properties, much less intelligence?

Something.
Some thing.
else
Nothing.
No Thing.

The very notion of an immaterial existent thing is an incoherent contradiction in terms.

If a thing is not made of something then in what sense does it exist? How does a thing made of nothing have structure? Without structure how does a thing that is made of nothing have properties at all, much less intelligence?

Material existence is the only coherent notion of a thing. All talk of immaterial real things is incoherent babble.

The evidence for material existence is vast. If you wish to speculate about some other sort of existence the burden is on you. So far nobody has even begun to meet that burden, only spewing meaningless incoherent babble about the immaterial.

Hal said...

SP,
Running is something. It is an activity. Yet you deny running exists.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hal said.. September 17, 2017 9:53 AM.

" Running is something. "
--Running is not a thing. Running has no independent existence. Running is not an object. Running does not have properties.

Running is a process of material objects.

The notion that something immaterial exists is incoherent babble.

Hal said...

The notion that something immaterial exists is incoherent babble.

Don't know why you keep babbling on about the immaterial. I've never claimed that immaterial substances exist.


Running is not a thing. Running has no independent existence. Running is not an object. Running does not have properties.
Running is a process of material objects.


None of those statements support your original claim that running does not exist. You are simply making the assumption that only a material object can exist. You are free to do that, but I still see no reason for accepting that assumption.

Hal said...

Running does not have properties.

Running is an activity. Activities can have properties.

Stardusty Psyche said...

Hal said...

" Running is an activity. Activities can have properties."
--What properties does running have? Where do they reside?

Are these properties of running or are they properties of the materials that together we describe as running?

Hal said...

Running can be fast or slow, inefficent or efficient, consistent or irregular, smooth or rough, etc.

Our descriptions of running include those and other properties of running.

bmiller said...

@Strawdusty,

Material existence is the only coherent notion of a thing.

What do you define as a materially existing thing then? Do you only mean an object that has mass, extension in space and location in space?

Hugo Pelland said...

I agree with SP on that part so let me try to answer bmiller's question.

Materially existing is what our sense-perception detects, experiences or feel, and everything else we can indirectly detect using other material things. It's basically anything we can ascribe SI units to.

Now, here's why I asked Hal: is it fair to assume material existence exists?

Hal replied yes of course, material things exist, but that was not really answering my question. I am asking whether you, or anyone else here, accepts that as a first assumption regarding existence.

I think we should, and it yields a consistent framework of what 'to exist' means, from the purely material, all the way to the most complex so-called 'non-material' things.

Now here's the problem. On the one hand, SP is correct imho to say that non-material things do not exist in reality, as objects in the physical world. But I think we can say that they do exist nonetheless, as dependants of the material world. The label 'running' that we put on a fast moving physical human being exists only in that narrow sense: it wouldn't exist without a physical runner in the first place. Saying that 'running' literally does not exist is thus more confusing, for conversation purposes, even if it is indeed correct to say that running doesn't have an existence of its own.

Moreover, none of this assumes only the material exists; that's a common misconception. We only assumes the material exists on its own, as base reality.

Hal said...

Hugo,
On the one hand, SP is correct imho to say that non-material things do not exist in reality, as objects in the physical world.

That amounts to saying that a non-material thing cannot be a material thing. That does not entail that non-material things do not exist.

I also think you need to clarify what you mean by "exists on its own". After all, just as running would not exist without a runner, you would not exist without oxygen. It doesn't follow that running or you are any less real because of that.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal,

We have to have a clear definition of what 'to exist' mean before we can even talk about whether something like 'running' or 'minds' or 'photons' exist. This is where I begin with the assumption that the material world, the physical, exists as a base reality.

To your point, that this "amounts to saying that a non-material thing cannot be a material thing. That does not entail that non-material things do not exist." I don't think that's an accurate interpretation of what I, or SP, is saying. It's obvious that a non-material thing cannot be a material thing, by definition, but the point is that these things we call "non-material" are contingent on material existence. But that is probably still not enough to answer your point asking to clarify what you mean by "exists on its own"."

So the point is that, under what I assume to be a base reality, material things exist and in turn cause other material things to exist. The resulting things are themselves material things that do exist. They are dependent on other physical things to exist, just like our bodies need oxygen to exist, but they are, in fact, material things that 'exist' in reality. This is different from labels, adjectives, concepts, that 'relate to' these physical things, without existing in the real world on their own.

Therefore, something like 'running' exists only because a material thing, 'the runner', exists. The runner exists in reality, as a material thing, so I call that to have an 'existence of its own', given that it falls under the assumed material reality. Labels or any concepts, on the other hand, are attached to something within that reality but do not exist. To use the examples of 'runners' and 'oxygen' again, it could be the case that a 'runner' exists without 'oxygen' (some ET) and vice versa, but it means nothing to talk about 'running' without a 'runner', so the label 'running' is entirely dependent on some physical thing doing the running in the first place, within that assumed material reality.

Hal said...

Hugo,

Labels or any concepts, on the other hand, are attached to something within that reality but do not exist.

Have to strongly disagree with this. Labels and concepts do exist. You couldn't even make the arguments you are making if they didn't.

Hal said...

Hugo,
I don't disagree with much that you are saying. But I am getting the impression that you somehow think immaterial things are somehow less real than the material. That the only thing that really exists is material.

Our existence as human beings depends as much on the non-material as the material. Laws, tales, concepts, thoughts, etc. are not material. We could not exist as humans without those things.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal,

"Labels or any concepts, on the other hand, are attached to something within that reality but do not exist." was indeed incomplete... it was supposed to be a repetition of the same idea: they do not exist on their own.

You are correct in stating that it's my opinion that immaterial things are somehow less real than the material. This is actually what I thought we all agree on! Or at least most of us... I mean, isn't it obvious that the concepts in our heads are less real than the real things they may or may not refer to?

But that does not mean that they are not influential. I do agree that "our existence as human beings "depends" as much on the non-material as the material. Laws, tales, concepts, thoughts, etc. are not material. We could not exist as humans without those things." However, the word depends does not mean the same thing at all here. Our 'existence' does not depend on these non-material thing. It's not because 'love' is non-material yet incredibly influential that 'love' somehow exists on its own. Without material beings existing, there would be no such thing as 'love'. The concept is defined in material terms.

My favorite example on that topic is usually colors. Do colors exist independently of the physical? Are colors concepts that exist regardless of our experience of light hitting our eyes? You know what my answers would be... what would be yours?

Hal said...

Hugo,
You are correct in stating that it's my opinion that immaterial things are somehow less real than the material. This is actually what I thought we all agree on! Or at least most of us... I mean, isn't it obvious that the concepts in our heads are less real than the real things they may or may not refer to?

Thanks for the clarification. Sorry, but it is not at all obvious to me that the concepts we employ in representing the world are any less real than the chair I am sitting on. Without those concepts I could not survive.


Our 'existence' does not depend on these non-material thing.

Why are you putting existence in quotes?
Neither of us would exist as humans without those non-material things.

Hal said...

Hugo,
It is interesting that we can agree an many things yet, despite that agreement, have such a fundamental difference as we now appear to have.

One way that fundamental difference is apparent is that I don't think my views regarding material and non-material things entails atheism. Although I personally don't believe in God, if I were to become a theist it would not change those views. I would simply see God as being the cause for making the universe the way it is. If I understand you correctly, you think that by conceptualizing material things as "existing on their own" that you have excluded any possibility of God's existence.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal said...
" it is not at all obvious to me that the concepts we employ in representing the world are any less real than the chair I am sitting on."
Interesting; not sure what to reply to that honestly... I would say the exact opposite: the concepts we employ are not in any way as real as the chair I am sitting on. The concepts are things we 'think' about, or objective labels that describe material things. My point is that without the material world, we cannot have any of these concepts. And the word 'we' is important here, as this is a human-centric definition, given that we are humans having a conversation about these concepts.

" Why are you putting existence in quotes? "
I use single quotes for emphasis purposes, and double quotes when either quoting someone or pointing out that the word I am putting in quote is not obvious. Just my style :)

" Without those concepts I could not survive [...]
Neither of us would exist as humans without those non-material things.
"
I don't understand that; what do you mean?

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal,
Regarding the second post (I had not even read it as I was writing mine), I don't think we disagree that much actually. It reminds me of a conversation I had on some forum, years ago. I was on the other side, being confused as to why someone would say that something non-material literaly does not exist. It just seems obviously wrong, as we have things like 'the color red', or 'love', or 'running', which are not material in the strict sense. But the point is not that these things do not exist, the point is that they are in fact material, because they are labels we attach to real material things. Something purely non-material, on the other hand, has literally no defined existence for us.

And you did get the wrong idea regarding my views on God, or gods in general. There is nothing in what I present as my theory of existence that excludes gods from the start. The one thing that it rejects is the notion that minds exist, regardless of the material. Minds are physical processes, something humans exhibit. My position is an opposition to the primacy of consciousness, which is arguable the default position for most people.

Hugo Pelland said...

FYI, it was surprisingly easy (even 6 years later!) to find the thread I mentioned:
http://www.wearesmrt.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=7474

I will read it again too; it will be interesting to see whether I agree with myself from that time, and the other people who wrote... Vagon is the one that changed my mind here. It seems small but in insight it was a big deal actually. I would say that's when I started to understand why I am a materialist, something that made no sense to me before that exchange.

I would be curious to know what you get from it Hal!

Hal said...

Hugo,
My point is that without the material world, we cannot have any of these concepts.

"Material" is a concept. We could not understand this world we live in without such concepts.

I don't understand why you think the existence of material objects somehow makes concepts less real.


I don't understand that; what do you mean?

If you don't have a mind, if you are unable to form concepts and express them with language, to have reasons and act on those reasons, then you would not be a human being.

And I doubt any of us would exist in any form because we would have been wiped out by another hominoid that did have a mind.

Thanks for explaining the quotes.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal,
" "Material" is a concept. We could not understand this world we live in without such concepts."
We could not 'understand' anything without concept, fair enough. But that has nothing to do with whether we could 'exist'.

"I don't understand why you think the existence of material objects somehow makes concepts less real."
I don't understand what your definition of 'real' is here. If I think of something, it's not 'real' automatically, obviously... so I have to turn the question around. Why do you think the existence of concepts somehow makes them as real as the material objects they may, or may not, point to?

"If you don't have a mind, if you are unable to form concepts and express them with language, to have reasons and act on those reasons, then you would not be a human being.

And I doubt any of us would exist in any form because we would have been wiped out by another hominoid that did have a mind.
"
But that has nothing to do with the existence of the physical human being, or another hominoid. The action you refer to, 'to act on those reasons', is what material beings do, it's a process of their brain. It helped them, sure, but it does not explain how they got their material bodies, and brain, in the first place.

Hal said...

Hugo,
Minds are physical processes, something humans exhibit.

Minds are not things at all. There are physical processes that take place in the brain. You appear to be making the same basic error that Timothy McCabe did: confusing the vehicle with its power.

Hal said...

Hugo,
But that has nothing to do with the existence of the physical human being, or another hominoid

Of course it does. We would not exist as human beings without the capacity to reason and form concepts.

William said...

Hal,

What is this word 'thing'? I do not think it means only what you think it means.

William said...

thing1
[thing]
See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
noun
1.
a material object without life or consciousness; an inanimate object.
2.
some entity, object, or creature that is not or cannot be specifically designated or precisely described:
The stick had a brass thing on it.
3.
anything that is or may become an object of thought:
things of the spirit.
4.
things, matters; affairs:
Things are going well now.
5.
a fact, circumstance, or state of affairs:
It is a curious thing.
6.
an action, deed, event, or performance:
to do great things; His death was a horrible thing.
7.
a particular, respect, or detail:
perfect in all things.
8.
an aim; objective:
The thing is to reach this line with the ball.
9.
an article of clothing:
I don't have a thing to wear.
10.
things.
implements, utensils, or other articles for service:
I'll wash the breakfast things.
personal possessions or belongings:
Pack your things and go!
11.
a task; chore:
I've got a lot of things to do today.
12.
a living being or creature:
His baby's a cute little thing.
13.
a thought or statement:
I have just one thing to say to you.
14.
Informal. a particular interest or talent:
Sports is not my thing.
15.
Informal. a peculiar attitude or feeling, either positive or negative, toward something; mental quirk:
She has a thing about cats.
16.
something signified or represented, as distinguished from a word, symbol, or idea representing it.
17.
a topic, behavior, or activity involving or limited to a specified group:
It’s a girl thing, so you wouldn’t understand.
18.
Informal. something that people do (often used in expressions of mild disapproval or mockery):
Since when did clapping at the end of a movie become a thing?
19.
Law. anything that may be the subject of a property right.
20.
new thing, Jazz. free jazz.
21.
the thing.
something that is correct or fashionable:
That café is the thing now.
that which is expedient or necessary:
The thing to do is to tell them the truth.
Idioms
22.
do / find one's own thing, Informal. to pursue a lifestyle that expresses one's self.
Also, do/find one's thing.
23.
make a good thing of, Informal. to turn (a situation, experience, etc.) to one's own profit; benefit by:
She made a good thing of her spare-time hobbies.
24.
not to get a thing out of,
to be unable to obtain information or news from:
The police couldn't get a thing out of him.
to fail to appreciate, understand, or derive aesthetic pleasure from:
My wife likes opera, but I don't get a thing out of it.
25.
see / hear things, Informal. to have hallucinations.

Hal said...

William,
The mind is not a thing in the sense of being a material or immaterial object. A mind is not a brain, nor is it some sort of immaterial thing that can causally interact with physical things.

Maybe next time you could link to a dictionary definition instead a half page post that makes it harder to navigate through this thread.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal said...
"Minds are not things at all. There are physical processes that take place in the brain."
Maybe the word 'exhibit' was not correct here because what you wrote is exactly what I meant as well.

" We would not exist as human beings without the capacity to reason and form concepts."
Yes, but that's not what I am talking about. I will let you complete; the capacity to reason and form concepts exists because...

Hal said...

Hugo,

Am not as impressed with Vagon as you appear to be.

He wrote:

"It is a concept, but that concept only exists as chemical or electrical signals in the brain."

That is a rather crude form of materialism.

Hugo Pelland said...

Well, you thought the 'materialism' I presented here entails that there is no god, which is not the case, so... you don't get it I am afraid. To be clear, I am not saying you are wrong; I am just running out of ways to correct your interpretation of my arguments. So let's not ignore that please: the capacity to reason and form concepts exists because...?

By the way, one thing I agree with: I am also not very impressed with that tread as I was back then. Perhaps it was more important to me because it changed my mind on something. But it does not make it impressive...

Hal said...

Hugo,
The possibility for the capacity to reason and form concepts exists because we have bodies with well developed brains. But the brain in a body is just the vehicle for the power. You appear to me to be confusing the power with its vehicle. That is why I disagreed with your claim that the mind is a physical process. The mind is no such thing.

If the power (or capacity) exists then it exists.


Maybe it will help if we go back to the example of the runner. Running cannot exist unless there is a runner. But neither can a runner exist unless there is running. (Sure a non-runner could exist, but we are talking about the existence of a runner).
There is an internal relationship connecting running with being a runner. You can't have one without the other. If one exists so does the other. It is not as if one exists and the other does not exist.

In the same way we know that we can reason and use words and concepts to represent and interact with the world. In other word we have minds. Because we have that capacity we have the vehicle for that capacity. It is not like one can exist without the other.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal said...
"The possibility for the capacity to reason and form concepts exists because we have bodies with well developed brains. But the brain in a body is just the vehicle for the power."
Exactly.

"You appear to me to be confusing the power with its vehicle. That is why I disagreed with your claim that the mind is a physical process. The mind is no such thing."
That's amusing frankly because I think you are the one confusing things... because you say:
"Running cannot exist unless there is a runner. But neither can a runner exist unless there is running."
That's an equivocation fallacy. Of course a runner cannot exist unless there is running, but that 'running' is the actual running, someone actually moving fast in reality, regardless of what we call it. But it does not mean that the runner can only exist if there is some concept of running. Yet, that's what you are arguing for here; you are claiming that the non-material concept of running is what allows the material running to exist. If not, you agree with me! So which one is it?

Hal said...

Hugo,
I don't understand what your definition of 'real' is here. If I think of something, it's not 'real' automatically, obviously... so I have to turn the question around. Why do you think the existence of concepts somehow makes them as real as the material objects they may, or may not, point to?

We can represent the concepts we think of with words or with drawings.
It is irrelevant whether or not what we conceptualize actually exists. I can share with you the concept I have of material things. Or I can share with you the concept I have of a unicorn, but that doesn't make the concept imaginary. You can pass those concepts on to others.
The concept of a house I have could be represented in a set of blueprints that are used to enable the construction of that house.
I don't understand why you wouldn't think concepts are real if we can represent them and and share them with others and even use them to make new and different material objects.

Hugo Pelland said...

~~ Had written these paragraphs below too, but that's long and unnecessary. Posting just as some extra thoughts, or clarifications ~~

Another way to put it is that it does not matter how we call that thing we observe as 'running'; the point is that it exists as a material thing, first. We then we put some label on it so that we can identify what it means for a runner to be running. But the material existence of the runner, the material muscles & fibers & energy that make the runner run, are all material objects that are part of the real world, and they all actually exist on their own. The label 'running', or whatever description someone running we use, is what cannot exist without a physical runner in the first place.

"In the same way we know that we can reason and use words and concepts to represent and interact with the world. In other word we have minds. Because we have that capacity we have the vehicle for that capacity. It is not like one can exist without the other."
But it is possible that one exists without the other. That's what Theists believe. They think minds exist without the vehicle, they think their minds will survive that physical body, they think God does not need any material vehicle to reason. Or at least some of them think all of that, and it's a possibility we cannot deny.

So the question really is: which one do you assume exist first? Are you able to talk about what it means 'to exist' without assuming either?
On the primacy of consciousness, one says that they assume that this thinking exists, on its own, no matter what.
On the primacy of material existence, one says that they assume that the material world exists, on its own, no matter what.
The latter is more complicated, as it must lead to the existence of the thinker, otherwise we run into a contradiction. But I also think it's not that difficult to reach that conclusion and it is better at explaining our human experience.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal said...
" We can represent the concepts we think of with words or with drawings.
It is irrelevant whether or not what we conceptualize actually exists. I can share with you the concept I have of material things. Or I can share with you the concept I have of a unicorn, but that doesn't make the concept imaginary. You can pass those concepts on to others.
The concept of a house I have could be represented in a set of blueprints that are used to enable the construction of that house.
I don't understand why you wouldn't think concepts are real if we can represent them and and share them with others and even use them to make new and different material objects.
"

That's just more of the same. You are talking about concepts as things that exist. Well, Santa Clauss exists then... How useful is that?

How do you differentiate between real material things, concepts that point to real material things, concepts that do not point to real material things, representation with real material things of things we do not know exist as real material things, etc... Let me know what words you prefer so we're talking about the same things.

Hal said...

Hugo,
But it does not mean that the runner can only exist if there is some concept of running. Yet, that's what you are arguing for here; you are claiming that the non-material concept of running is what allows the material running to exist. If not, you agree with me! So which one is it?

No I said there can not be a runner without running. "Runner" and "Running" are both concepts. You claimed that a runner could exist without running. I'm pointing out the the concepts of "runner" and of "running" are internally related. You can't have one without the other.

Sure there were creatures that existed before humans that could run and did not have those concepts. But if a creature could not run then it would not have been a runner. We make that distinction because we are capable of conceptualizing what a runner and running are.

Don't know where you got the idea that I thought such activities could not take place without the concepts. The concepts are necessary if we are to describe or explain such things running or runners.

Hal said...

Hugo,
Do you think the only kind of thing that can be said to be real or to exist is a physical (or material) object?

If not I don't see why you should have difficulty with the claim that an immaterial object like a concept could exist.

You are never going to be able to talk about or describe or explain anything in the world without using concepts.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal,
You cannot have one without the other because 'runner' and 'running' are in fact related to the exact same material stuff, the person and its environment.

Could you conceptualize a 'runner' and 'running' without some physical thing 'running'? Yes, of course, but then would a 'runner' be real? It depends. Are we talking about a 'runner' as in a person that may or may not run, or are we talking strictly about a 'runner' as something that is running as we are talking about it?

"Do you think the only kind of thing that can be said to be real or to exist is a physical (or material) object?"
Does Santa Clauss exist? Is Santa Clauss real?
And I already explained that there are things that can be said to exist but not be physical or material. Not sure about real though, that's not exactly the same. That's why I am asking you.

" If not I don't see why you should have difficulty with the claim that an immaterial object like a concept could exist"
I never said that they don't exist. I said that immaterial objects like a concept exist if, and only if, the material world exists.

"You are never going to be able to talk about or describe or explain anything in the world without using concepts. "
That's just stating the obvious. We need to add a bit more to that statement:
You are never going to be able to talk about or describe or explain anything in the world without using concepts that point to real material physical things you have yourself experienced because of your body and brain.

Do you agree?

Hal said...

Hugo,
A runner is someone who can and does engage in the activity of running. The activity of running exists and is as real as the runner. I don’t see why we should only be able to talk about a runner while she is running. Perhaps Jane went out running yesterday. Why couldn’t we talk about that today? We have a past tense in our language which enables us to converse about the past.

As with most activities we engage in, the running itself typically takes place during a period of time. It is not something a runner would do throughout her whole lifetime, but you could still call her a runner even when she is not running. But if she has never engaged in that activity then she is not a runner.

We can attribute properties to running that we wouldn't necessarily attribute to the runner. Jane's running can be smooth but that doesn't entail thatJane is smooth. Her running may appear to be effortless but that doesn't entail that Jane appears to be effortless.

If running exists then a runner exists. The existence of one necessitates the existence of the other. If we have no concept or word for running then it follows that we cannot say that a runner exists. But you seemed to indicate you had an issue with this. I’m not going to characterize you position in any great detail. Rather let you respond to what I have written here. I think this is a rather simple issue. If we can’t straighten this out then I see little need to waste time trying to address the rest of your last post.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal said:
- Don't know where you got the idea that I thought such activities could not take place without the concepts.
- If we have no concept or word for running then it follows that we cannot say that a runner exists.

Hal said...

"If we have no concept or word for running then it follows that we cannot say that a runner exists.

I think you overlooked that important word.

There is no implication that something cannot exist simply because we are unable to say it exists due to lack of words or concepts. The ancient Greeks were unable to say that neutrinos existed because they had no words or conception of what a neutrino is.

Hugo Pelland said...

Exactly, so the concept of 'runner' you have in your head may or may not point to an actual runner in reality, to an existing runner. So the point is that this runner, the real one, is a runner regardless of how we call it, regardless of whether there is someone to call the runner anything. It's the fact that there is, or was, a physical thing moving that makes a runner a runner. The existence of the concept is irrelevant when it comes to the existence of the runner. It's irrelevant whether we can talk about it. It is what it is. And because it is something we can say that it exists, and attribute it more appropriate labels.

Hal said...

Hugo,
You do realize that you are still applying the concepts of "running" and "runner" when describing this runner, don't you? Not to mention the concepts of "physical thing" and "moving" and "something".

You are even applying the concept of "existence". You can't even assert that this something is a material substance unless you understand the concept of a material substance.

I completely agree that the existence of the universe and the various things in the universe can exist without humans.

Could you explain what you mean by "more appropriate labels"? Is "label" a term you use for words? If not, what is the difference?

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal,
What does 'applying the concepts' have to do with whether something exists?

Hal said...

Hugo,
I pointed that out because I am having a hard time understanding the difference between applying concepts like "existence" with your "more appropriate labels".

Is there a difference between applying concepts in representing reality and using those labels you keep mentioning?

Hal said...

Correction:
..the difference between applying concepts like "existence" and applying your "more appropriate labels".

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal,
Not sure I understand your question; I don't see a difference between 'applying' concepts and 'using' concepts to talk about things. What do you mean?

Hugo Pelland said...

Also, 'and attribute it more appropriate labels' just meant 'and attribute it labels.' not sure why I added the extra words here. But I add something else:

"The existence of the concept is irrelevant when it comes to the existence of the runner. It's irrelevant whether we can talk about it. It is what it is. And because it is something we can say that it exists, and attribute it labels if we want to talk about it with each other."

Does that make more sense?

Hal said...

Hugo,

Yes, thanks for the clarification.

I would put it differently: when we say something exists we also talk about its properties. Those properties help us to identify what sort of thing we are talking about.

Does that sound equivalent to what you are trying to say?

Hugo Pelland said...

Sounds equivalent, yes.

David Brightly said...

So, gentlemen, after all that, Are there runnings? I'm happy to say there are, but we have to accept that we have now admitted more than mere bodies to the existents. Having chopped the world up into persisting bodies we accommodate its flux by saying that bodies undergo change and we have words denoting various kinds of change. To say that change exists is really to say that changes occur. But what about thinkings, feelings, fearings, believings, etc? If these are also kinds of change the obvious question is to ask, Change in what? However, it's not obvious to the senses what is undergoing change and so it's not unreasonable to postulate some insensible thing called 'mind' for the substrate of this change. Compare with the so-called 'luminiferous aether', perhaps.

One way of stopping the slide towards the ghost in the machine is to accept just the flux and no more. This appears to be SP's strategy. Physics tells us that there are quarks and leptons and their interactions. But these things are not at all like ordinary bodies writ very small and what their existence amounts to isn't clear. It's as if the ghost has crept back in at the other end of the scale.

Hal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hal said...

Hugo,
That's just stating the obvious. We need to add a bit more to that statement:
You are never going to be able to talk about or describe or explain anything in the world without using concepts that point to real material physical things you have yourself experienced because of your body and brain.


Do you agree?

No.
I think I'll stick with the obvious.

Just as we have the capacity to conceptualize "real material physical things" we also have imaginative powers that enable us to think of things we've never experienced.

Hal said...

David,
It's as if the ghost has crept back in at the other end of the scale.

Have you seen the movie The Incredible Shrinking Man? Think you'd probably enjoy the ending.

Hugo Pelland said...

David Brightly said...
"So, gentlemen, after all that, Are there runnings? I'm happy to say there are, but we have to accept that we have now admitted more than mere bodies to the existents."
Yes I think there are more than mere bodies in existence.

"But what about thinkings, feelings, fearings, believings, etc?"
Change in brain states.

"Change in what?"
Why 'in' ? The question is 'what' changed and the answer is always the brain, for feelings, beliefs, etc...

" it's not obvious to the senses what is undergoing change"
In what way is it not obvious? It's not obvious to myself right here, right now, that my mind is changing because of my brain reacting to physical/chemical reactions. But I think it's pretty obvious that this is what is happening. We know that is what is happening. There could be something else, should our Theists/Dualist/Supernaturalists friends be right. But I don't know what they refer to nor why they believe such 'other' or 'extra' thing exist.

"One way of stopping the slide towards the ghost in the machine is to accept just the flux and no more."
Not sure I understand that point right but I don't believe there is a 'ghost' in the machine. We are the machine and 'think' that we are somehow the controller of that machine; that intuition is wrong.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hal said...
"You are never going to be able to talk about or describe or explain anything in the world without using concepts."
Obviously.
"I think I'll stick with the obvious. "
But you are not addressing the point then: why do you think concepts exist in the first place?
You did say:
"Just as we have the capacity to conceptualize "real material physical things" we also have imaginative powers that enable us to think of things we've never experienced."
But that is still beside the point. These things you have never experienced: how can you think of them? What do you think of so that you can think of things you have never experienced?

Hal said...

Hugo,
But you are not addressing the point then: why do you think concepts exist in the first place?

Was that the point? I don't recall that being the point.

As to why we have concepts: quite simply, because we have minds.

You do realize, I hope, that reality is mind-dependent and language-dependent? Sure reality can exist without us, but it is incoherent to think that we can know and understand things-in-themselves without being mediated through our mind and language.

I know that the physical world is temporally prior, but the mind is logically prior when it comes to experiencing and understanding the physical world.

It's not obvious to myself right here, right now, that my mind is changing because of my brain reacting to physical/chemical reactions. But I think it's pretty obvious that this is what is happening. We know that is what is happening.

This is one of the reasons I abandoned materialism. Sure there are physical processes going on in the brain when we think. There are also physical processes going on in our brain when we go running or when we are eating, etc. To try and explain what we are doing when we think or when we run or when we eat by saying that it is due to brain processes is a vacuous explanation.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hi Hal,
"Was that the point?"
Yes, from the original post:
"My argument is an attempt to show, not assume, that minds exist first, on the grounds that if they don't exist first, they cannot emerge. "

And my partial answer was:
I have said exactly the same before, in the opposite direction. On the primacy of physical existence, by assuming the material as basic existence first, minds don't exist from the start and emerge from physical processes. The assumption can indeed be proven wrong if it can be shown that minds do not exist in such a world. i.e. it's falsifiable.

So the question is 'can minds emerge from the physical?'

Yes, their existence is completely explained by the physical existence we are part of. The only things our minds can think of are physical things. To think of non-physical things, we need to first conceptualize physical things and play around with the concepts and labels we get from these objects.

"You do realize, I hope, that reality is mind-dependent and language-dependent? Sure reality can exist without us [...]"
This is about what it means 'to exist', it's about 'existence'. That's what physicalism or materialism is about. In that context, no, reality is not mind-dependent and certainly not language-dependent. The physical, the material, does exist without us and the question is whether there is more to it.

"[...] but it is incoherent to think that we can know and understand things-in-themselves without being mediated through our mind and language."
Right, but that's about understanding. Not existence.

"I know that the physical world is temporally prior, but the mind is logically prior when it comes to experiencing and understanding the physical world."
When you say 'temporally prior', that's what it means to exist. Minds exist because the physical exist.

"To try and explain what we are doing when we think or when we run or when we eat by saying that it is due to brain processes is a vacuous explanation."
It is not the entire explanation; it's just the reason why it exists. It does not explain how it happens. But is there anything else needed for 'thinking' or 'running' to exist? I don't think so. Theists say you need a god. What do you think we need?

David Brightly said...

Hello Hal. Not seen the film but just read the synopsis on Wikipedia. An uncompromising ending then, despite pressure from the studio. Was put in mind of Haldane's On being the Right Size.

David Brightly said...

Hello Hugo. I guess I am speculating about how we arrived at the concept 'mind'. Our ancestors could see with their eyes that an instance of running involved a body and regular changes to the disposition of its limbs. But no such body could be seen or otherwise sensed as changing when thinkings and feelings occurred. They didn't have the concept of brain-state. Aristotle, apparently, thought that the brain was a kind of radiator for cooling the blood. Why not postulate an unseen body in which the thinkings occurred? Nineteenth century physicists, knowing that light was a vibration, postulated an insensible medium in which those vibrations took place. Same idea.

Hal said...

David,
Your comments about the subatomic level reminded me of the film. Since you already know the synopsis, I don't think I am spoiling anything with the following quote from the end of the film:
“. . . Existence begins and ends in man’s conception, not nature’s. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!”

Haldane's essay is interesting. Hadn't heard of it before. Thanks for mentioning it.

Hal said...

Hugo,
The "point" I was referring to was not that of the OP but of our discussion that started regarding the denial of the existence of running. We both agree that the universe existed before humans with minds evolved. I think we have a pretty big disagreement on what is entailed by that.

I understand all too well the claim by materialists that only material things can exist. Been there and done that, so to speak.
I do agree with them that there are not immaterial substances. But there are many things that exist that are neither material nor a substance. Laws, thoughts, concepts, rules, minds, etc. All of those non-material things are partly constitutive of our way of life. They are as real as the air we breathe.

The concept of existence is generated by our minds. We could not speak of other things existing without understanding that concept. You may think you can conceive of what the world is like independent of mind and language, but that is to my mind incoherent.