Monday, April 27, 2020

Is materialism the ultimate in science denial?

But, more seriously, it seems to me that there have to be in existence unitary selves in existence in order for the rational and mathematical inferences necessary for science to take place. Some single entity has to entertain successive thoughts in order to, say, prove the Pythagorean Theorem, or infer natural selection from finch beaks on the Galapagos Islands. If there is no single, unitary being called Charles Darwin who observes the beaks, and then creates a theory to explain how the beaks turned out to be the way they are, then no one actually ever finds out that evolution is true. The materialism that is supposed to be based on the successes of the scientific enterprise is actually inconsistent with the possibility of science. It is as if science-lovers have forgotten that scientists have to exist in order to have science, and their materialism, taken to its logical conclusion, is the ultimate in science-denial. (Chesterton would love this).

255 comments:

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Starhopper said...

Apropos of this discussion, I just read the following passage in Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man:

"By its very construction, it is true, every organism is always and inevitably reducible into its component parts. But it by no means follows that the sum of the parts is the same as the whole, or that, in the whole, some specifically new value may not emerge. That what is 'free', even in man, can be broken down into determinisms, is no proof that the world is not based on freedom." (my emphasis)

Great book, by the way. Even though I am only half way through (it can be a tough read at times), I can already confidently recommend it to everyone reading this blog.

Starhopper said...

I recall that I some time ago brought up the example of an automobile. You can have every part that makes up one, but until you assemble them, you do not have a car. You have not only brought all the components together, you have created something that did not previously exist - an automobile.

The same principle applies to watercolor. I can have all my paints, brushes, water, paper, etc., but I don't have a painting until I have made it. The finished product is more than everything that went into it.

One Brow said...

My wife suffers from a condition where she is constantly worried that she has given, traded, wished, promised, etc. the soul of herself or one of her loved ones to hell. She is constantly afraid of what her mind has done.

How does such behavior square with the notion that the self is unitary? A unitary self does not repeatedly do what it does not wish to do.

Starhopper said...

One brow,

Thank you for introducing me to the term "unitary self". I had never heard of it, but the concept goes a long way to explaining my (perhaps personal) interpretation of the Old Testament. I've always had difficulty in separating what the prophets were saying about personal salvation and corporate (i.e., national) redemption. It seems most of the time that the two are inseparable, and may even be the same thing.

I went to this site to learn more about the concepts of unitary and corporate selves. Very illuminating!

bmiller said...

One Brow,

Have you taken her to see a good priest?

Starhopper said...

"A unitary self does not repeatedly do what it does not wish to do."

One brow,

What your wife is suffering from is as old as the Fall of Man. As St. Paul wrote:

"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." (Romans 7:15)

If she honestly believes in hell, then she needs to understand that God desires no one to be damned, and the desires of God are (obviously) greater than any actions on her part. This is partly why I so greatly appreciate the wisdom of St. Faustina Kowalska, author of the prayer "Jesus, I trust in you!" (Jezu, ufam tobie!) A mere 5 words long (and only 3 in the original Polish), but it contains libraries of significance.

I pray those words every day, to remind me that not only am I not in control, but that the One Who is, has my best interest at heart - always, no matter what happens.

One Brow said...

Starhopper,

Believe me, I have discussed all that with my wife.

What you did not address is how this fits in with the unitary concept of the self.

Starhopper said...

"how this fits in with the unitary concept of the self"

The two notions of unitary and corporate self are inseparable. We all have an "I" that clearly demarcates us from the rest of the universe. But we are also equally corporate beings. I have an identity as father, son, uncle, grandfather, brother, friend, acquaintance, co-worker, neighbor, etc, which make up my identity.

We are not solitary entities, void of relationships.

It's not all one or the other. You can be a recognizable, specific being, while still being defined by your relationship with others. Existence is more complex than we give it credit for.

The ultimate ground of reality is the Holy Trinity. God (the "I am who am") is at rock bottom a community. The Father is "father" because He has a Son. The Son is "son" because He is begotten of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the Love which father and Son have for each other. Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING proceeds from this fundamental Truth.

bmiller said...

Are One Brow and Starhopper talking past each other?

What is meant by "unitary concept of the self". It seems they have different definitions in mind.

Starhopper said...

"It seems they have different definitions in mind."

That's entirely possible. As I said, I'd never heard of the term before yesterday, and may not understand it.

As I understand the term, "unitary self" is how I see myself from the inside (my thoughts, emotions, standards, opinions, etc.), whereas "corporate self" is how I am defined in terms of relationships (e.g., father, son, brother, husband, etc., as well as Catholic, American, white, baby boomer, etc.)

One Brow said...

I'm taking the term "unitary self" to refer to the concept of the self as a single thing, with a single will and intellect. I'm saying this notion does not comport with minds that are divided, where part of the mind is at odds with other parts of the self.

One Brow said...

I'm saying that there was no single entity called Charles Darwin, and there is no single entity called One Brow. We are composites of various brain processes that, if we are fortunate, can act together most of the time.

bmiller said...

So would a person be suffering from an illusion when they think there is actually a single entity called One Brow?

One Brow said...

So would a person be suffering from an illusion when they think there is actually a single entity called One Brow?

Well, not legally. Metaphysically, can a collection of different processes operating in different ways over different times on different physical media (i.e., different atoms) be considered to have a distinct existence? Since the issue is not what the senses perceive, I suppose "illusion" would be inappropriate. Perhaps a misapprehension?

Starhopper said...

Re-posted to correct numerous typos in first posting.

Personal identity can be a very tricky subject. I still recall how I was blown away upon learning that the cells in my body were not only outnumbered, but vastly so, by the independent microorganisms that call "me" home... and that I would swiftly die if they weren't there. So should I consider them to be an integral part of me, or just symbiotic organisms that happen to live inside me?

Then there was the realization that my body was replenishing itself at a rate which meant that practically every atom making up the physical "me" was not here just eight years ago or so. Yet I remain the same person.

And it gets worse, when you think that we are exchanging atoms all the time. Two people on an elevator, breathing normally, will get off at their respective floors the proud possessor of trillions of atoms that were just a few seconds ago part of the other person's body.

These are all reasons why I so strongly believe that the essential "me" is an immaterial entity.

April 30, 2020 11:03 AM

bmiller said...

Metaphysically, can a collection of different processes operating in different ways over different times on different physical media (i.e., different atoms) be considered to have a distinct existence?

That's the question that Victor is raising wrt to scientism.

Two responses:
1)If we define an entity as merely the materially constituent elements of that entity then we're just defining an entity arbitrarily. I say this because there are processes going on in, around and through One Brow and so the boundary between One Brow's processes and other processes is not something distinguishable according to this view.

Since the issue is not what the senses perceive, I suppose "illusion" would be inappropriate. Perhaps a misapprehension?

2) If One Brow in not a single entity then neither would the person having the misapprehension. How can a boundary-less changing collection of parts and processes be said to have any misapprehension at all over any length of time? Because if that's all it is, then why call it an entity in the first place?

David L said...

Naive comment here.
The human self is a construct, built upon the most basic motivations and developed via experience and learning . The patterns of this are built into the neural system and it's connections with the body organs. The neurons , which have survived the child's early pruning process grow on as lifetime span bio-ram devices . The patterns they form and hold as you experience and grow, become your 'selfness'. The elemental contents of biological forms may change completely, but the patterning of the self in the neurons is retained.
Of course the linkages of the patterns themselves can change as the self faces new experience, but the reference remains written in. There does not need to be an immaterial soul.
I suppose, in a sense, the actions of the neurons and the teeming interactions of the patterns are 'immaterial ' to us, as they are invisible and insensible. The intentional brain processing is normally directed to sense objects , or to to the abstracted concepts about those objects.
Though you can have a dim sense that there is huge amount of unseen processing going on, the neural processing is "about'" things. You can't directly experience what is actually happening physically.
Our experiencing self is more like a sailor on the wavs of an internal sea. Though strictly you could say ... all this stored and potential activity is my real self, its being.

Starhopper said...

All this reductionism (I.e., "[Fill in the blank] is nothing more than its component physical parts and associated processes.") makes me think of a person, who once he learns how the eye works, concludes that there is no such thing as light.

bmiller said...

It's worse than that.

The reductionist person ends up concluding that there is no such thing as persons.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
That's the question that Victor is raising wrt to scientism.

We are discussing philosophically, and not trying to use science to answer this question; therefore we are not engaging in scientism.

Two responses:
1)If we define an entity as merely the materially constituent elements of that entity then we're just defining an entity arbitrarily. I say this because there are processes going on in, around and through One Brow and so the boundary between One Brow's processes and other processes is not something distinguishable according to this view.


I agree. As I said above, metaphysically, it would be difficult to define any living organism as an "entity", except out of convenience.

2) If One Brow in not a single entity then neither would the person having the misapprehension. How can a boundary-less changing collection of parts and processes be said to have any misapprehension at all over any length of time?

By the misunderstanding of the consciousness that emerges from their corresponding activities.

Because if that's all it is, then why call it an entity in the first place?

Legally and casually, it makes the world easier to interpret.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
The reductionist person ends up concluding that there is no such thing as persons.

Recognizing that a person is not a unitary self is not denying the personhood.

One Brow said...

Starhopper said...
All this reductionism (I.e., "[Fill in the blank] is nothing more than its component physical parts and associated processes.") makes me think of a person, who once he learns how the eye works, concludes that there is no such thing as light.

As a person agrees with you that the whole can be more than the sum of the parts, I think you are over-simplifying.

bmiller said...

Legally and casually, it makes the world easier to interpret.

Why does misunderstanding something make the world easier to interpret?

And since there is no real boundary between a person and everything else, why not just say the sun is doing the misunderstanding since the sun's rays are causing chemical processes on One Brow's "skin".

bmiller said...

David L,

Didn't mean to ignore your comment, but not sure what you were getting at.

Let me ask you about this:
The human self is a construct, built upon the most basic motivations and developed via experience and learning .

You say the human self is a construct. Can I assume that you mean by "construct" something like a theoretical entity?

If so, then I'm confused.
Wouldn't there actually have to be a "human self" in order to form such a construct in the first place? Or do you mean that, of course, the self exists, but it takes some time for us to be able to recognize this fact after *self* reflection?

Starhopper said...

It seems that some of the commenters here think that personal identity disappears when a person is asleep or otherwise unconscious. But how could that be? Following that logic, newborn babies are not "selves", since they do not seem to think in any meaningful sense of the word for several weeks, and do not appear to make any distinction between themselves and their mother for 2 to 3 months. (So much for any possibility for the personhood of the preborn, since fetuses apparently are not conscious.) Is Stardusty in favor of infanticide? Or is it OK to kill a person while he's asleep?

bmiller said...

Or is it OK to kill a person while he's asleep?

Yes, that's what I've noticed also regarding the topic of using consciousness as a measure of whether or not it's OK to destroy something.

If that is the only moral criteria to be used, then you better have the NO-DOZ handy when having a discussion with Stardusty. For more than one reason ;-)

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
Why does misunderstanding something make the world easier to interpret?

I'm not even sure how to respond to this. Just about every time I see someone misunderstand a point, it's due to one for of over-simplification or another.

And since there is no real boundary between a person and everything else, why not just say the sun is doing the misunderstanding since the sun's rays are causing chemical processes on One Brow's "skin".

See, this is a great example. That boundaries are loose and flexible does not make them non-existent. The simplification of boundaries as either firm or non-existent makes them easier to understand, while taking you further from their truth.

Starhopper said...

One Brow,

Your latest posting is actually a good explanation as to why the Magisterium is so necessary. As the French movie director Robert Bresson wrote, "The real, when it has reached the mind, is not real anymore."

In other words, in the search for Truth we are actors as well as observers. In physics we have the principle "The act of observing changes what is being observed." This is known as the Observer Effect.

And this is why I could never be a biblical literalist, or a fundamentalist.

bmiller said...

I'm not even sure how to respond to this. Just about every time I see someone misunderstand a point, it's due to one for of over-simplification or another.

One possible response is to correct the misunderstanding.

You've been pointing out that One Brow was not a single entity but instead a boundary-less changing collection of parts and processes. I asked how could such a non-unified collection of stuff even have a misunderstanding and why even call it an entity.

You responded that calling it an entity "makes the world easier to interpret", but at the same time you've been saying that calling it a single entity is a misunderstanding. Hence my question.

See, this is a great example. That boundaries are loose and flexible does not make them non-existent. The simplification of boundaries as either firm or non-existent makes them easier to understand, while taking you further from their truth.

The reason I ask questions is to try to understand what you have in mind. I have been calling One Brow a "boundary-less changing collection of parts and processes" and up to this point you have not disagreed. But now it seems you are saying One Brow actually does have boundaries....or maybe not.

I don't have any clear idea of what your actual theory is.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
One possible response is to correct the misunderstanding.

When speaking metaphysically, of course we should.

You've been pointing out that One Brow was not a single entity but instead a boundary-less changing collection of parts and processes. I asked how could such a non-unified collection of stuff even have a misunderstanding and why even call it an entity.

Well, I have not called myself boundary-less, nor have I called myself an entity in metaphysical terminology.

You responded that calling it an entity "makes the world easier to interpret", but at the same time you've been saying that calling it a single entity is a misunderstanding. Hence my question.

Both are true, hence my response.

The reason I ask questions is to try to understand what you have in mind. I have been calling One Brow a "boundary-less changing collection of parts and processes" and up to this point you have not disagreed. But now it seems you are saying One Brow actually does have boundaries....or maybe not.

I don't have any clear idea of what your actual theory is.


My skin forms a barrier to prevent bacteria from access my internal organs. That's a boundary. Just about every atom of my being is one that was not a part of my body 40 years ago, so there is no firm separation between me and the world. I have some thypes of boundaries in some sense, but not a true boundary that separates me from anything else on earth.

Starhopper said...

"so there is no firm separation between me and the world"

I believe I understand what you mean, but more interesting to me are the boundaries between ourselves and the rest of humanity (and perhaps even the rest of "life").

I have a name, my own consciousness (and conscience), thoughts, opinions, beliefs, standards, hopes, dreams, regrets, etc. In this sense, I can truly be called an independent entity. No one else in the universe (or any other universe, if such there be) can share in my personal self awareness. If they did, they also would be "me", almost by definition.

But I am as well a relational being. I am father, grandfather, son, nephew, uncle, brother, husband... and to expand the web, Catholic, American citizen, Democrat, veteran, friend, co-worker, citizen, alumnus... and even enemy. And all of these attributes are vital components of what it is to be me.

Which is why (as I posted earlier) it is often so difficult in the Old Testament to distinguish between when the prophets are speaking to the nation or to a specific person. The boundaries between individual and corporate self can be rather muddy.

bmiller said...

Both are true, hence my response.

Your response was that you didn't know how to respond and you implied I had some sort of misunderstanding. Guess you're going to leave it at that.

My skin forms a barrier to prevent bacteria from access my internal organs. That's a boundary. Just about every atom of my being is one that was not a part of my body 40 years ago, so there is no firm separation between me and the world. I have some thypes of boundaries in some sense, but not a true boundary that separates me from anything else on earth.

OK. So One Brow does have a boundary in a certain sense. What makes that sense a false boundary and the other sense a true boundary?

Starhopper said...

"What makes that sense a false boundary and the other sense a true boundary?"

If I understand One Brow correctly (which may not be the case here),then I am actually with him on this one. The boundaries to one's self are neither true nor false, but are rather mushy. On the purely physical level, are the billions of bacteria which reside in my stomach (and without which I could not survive) "me" or something else? On an immaterial level, are all the representational attributes I listed above part of what makes me me? If so, then my very being as an individual is dependent on my interconnections with others. I am no longer "me" if you take away my fatherhood, sonship, citizenship, etc.

Where does "I" end and the rest of the world begin? Mushy indeed.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

I think you are on a different tangent than One Brow.

But let me ask why you would analyze a person on a purely physical level at all? You've been arguing that persons are more than just that right? Your recent post sounds reductionistic.

Starhopper said...

"Your recent post sounds reductionistic."

No, it's just one of those "for the sake of argument" things that I (perhaps too) often engage in. Think of it as having been preceded by "Now if you think that the material is all there is, then..."

It's a useful technique for getting someone whose mind is open to alternate ideas to think outside of their bubble.

Starhopper said...

I might add that it's a good way to get ME to think outside of my own bubble.

One Brow said...

Starhopper said...
I have a name, my own consciousness (and conscience), thoughts, opinions, beliefs, standards, hopes, dreams, regrets, etc. In this sense, I can truly be called an independent entity. No one else in the universe (or any other universe, if such there be) can share in my personal self awareness. If they did, they also would be "me", almost by definition.

My only objection would be in the notion that you are a single entity. I do not think either of us will persuade the other, but will be happy to go into more detail if you are curious.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
Your response was that you didn't know how to respond and you implied I had some sort of misunderstanding. Guess you're going to leave it at that.

Better would be "we" than "I". Misunderstanding the complexity of the world, by simplifying it, is the only way we can get by.

OK. So One Brow does have a boundary in a certain sense. What makes that sense a false boundary and the other sense a true boundary?

Not "true" in the sense of "absolute", nor in the sense of a full separation.

Starhopper said...

"My only objection would be in the notion that you are a single entity."

I understand that there are such things as split or multiple personalities, but these are cases of defective" identity. I would hate to define the normal by means of the abnormal.

Or are you referring to the subconscious? Because I don't see that as implying multiple entities, but rather different aspects of a single identity. If a house has a basement, that does not make it two buildings.

I wonder if we are quibbling over definitions, while we each acknowledge that we are both saying basically the same thing using different words.

One Brow said...

Starhopper said...
I understand that there are such things as split or multiple personalities, but these are cases of defective" identity. I would hate to define the normal by means of the abnormal.

Let's not confuse atypical with abnormal.

More to the core of what I believe our disagreement is, I see all humans (and other intelligent living things) as having an intelligence that arises from different processes going on in the mind. So, if there were a normal, I would see hearing/experiencing the "warring desires" within a brain as being more normal, even though most of us are very good at deciding a single voice to dominate the struggle.

bmiller said...

So Starhopper.

Do you think you are actually with One Brow on this one?

Starhopper said...

"Do you think you are actually with One Brow on this one?"

Hard for me to say, because I'm not at all sure that I understand what One Brow is saying. If he means that we all have conflicting motivations, desires, and contradictory beliefs, then I am on board with that. If he means that we desire one thing but do another, then absolutely. That's precisely what St. Paul said in Romans.

But if One Brow means that we are all multiple personalities, then that is where we part company. I consider such a state to be an abnormality. It absolutely does exist in some individuals, but it is no more the norm than is cancer.

But I do see potential for a meeting of the minds here.

bmiller said...

But I do see potential for a meeting of the minds here.

😂😂😂 Did you do that on purpose?

Starhopper said...

I wish I had.. but no, it was purely by accident.

bmiller said...

When you're born with a gift, sometimes it just happens effortlessly.

One Brow said...

Starhopper said...
Hard for me to say, because I'm not at all sure that I understand what One Brow is saying. If he means that we all have conflicting motivations, desires, and contradictory beliefs, then I am on board with that. If he means that we desire one thing but do another, then absolutely. That's precisely what St. Paul said in Romans.

I would go a little bit farther than that, in that we are the sum of differing (not always contradictory) processes. Rather than a unitary self that has rogue thoughts, I see codependent parts that form the whole.

But if One Brow means that we are all multiple personalities, then that is where we part company. I consider such a state to be an abnormality. It absolutely does exist in some individuals, but it is no more the norm than is cancer.

The personality is the combination of all the processes, not the individual processes. So, we only have one personality at any given moment in time.

Starhopper said...

Once again, are we saying the same thing, only using differing terminology? I'm not sure.

bmiller, step in as a disinterested observer. What's going on here?

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

It seems One Brow is disagreeing with you, so he must think you are not saying the same thing. But to be honest, it's very hard for me to understand what he is trying to express. When I've asked follow-up questions to his responses things seem to end up more and more vague.

As far as I can tell, he thinks everyone has something like a dissociative identity disorder, but instead of one of the identities manifesting at a time, it is a manifestation of a sum of dominating *processes*. The dominate *process mix* changes in real time.

I don't think that's your position. I think he came up with himself.

Just my 2 cents.

One Brow said...

I see it as the difference between a unitary being with conflicting desires, and conflicting processes creating a single will. It's a difference in what is ontologically prior.

Starhopper said...

Aaaarrrrgh! If it's nothing more than that, then it just a "chicken and the egg" question, and I've lost all interest in the subject.

Good discussion, however.

bmiller said...

I don't think it's a "chicken and the egg" situation as much as an ending of a discussion.

bmiller said...

One Brow,

I see it as the difference between a unitary being with conflicting desires, and conflicting processes creating a single will. It's a difference in what is ontologically prior.

First, do you disagree with the assessment I gave to Starhopper? Did I misreprensent what your theory?

Next:
Then do you consider *a unitary being* and *a single will* as ontologically the same thing?
Aren't unitary beings more than wills?

conflicting processes creating a single will
So processes create wills? How do they do that? What then creates those processes?

One Brow said...

Starhopper said...
Aaaarrrrgh! If it's nothing more than that, then it just a "chicken and the egg" question, and I've lost all interest in the subject.

Good discussion, however.


I think we agree our position are more a result of our respective beliefs than any empirical evidence and thus not answerable with external evidence, but it's not quite the cyclic paradox of chicken-and-egg.

I thank you for the discussion as well.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
First, do you disagree with the assessment I gave to Starhopper? Did I misreprensent what your theory?

Well, sensationalize it a little, perhaps. It's only the combination and interaction of the processes that gives rise to a personality, as opposed to separate, fully-formed personalities competing.

Then do you consider *a unitary being* and *a single will* as ontologically the same thing?
Aren't unitary beings more than wills?


The formation of the single will from the multiplicity of processes is what creates the illusion of the unitary being.

So processes create wills? How do they do that? What then creates those processes?

The wills are emergent properties of the processes, like the ability to play chess well is an emergent property of Alpha Go. The processes are created by the brain.

Starhopper said...

One Brow's latest comments convince me that he and I really are saying the same thing using very different terminology. OB talks about "emergent properties of the processes" and I say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In both cases, we affirm that there is "something" there which is the result of a process. OB calls this process "interaction" and I call it "assembly". The Brothers Karamazov is composed of words, but is not just that and nothing more (the position of Stardusty). A symphony is composed of notes, but is likewise not just a bunch of notes. A car is not merely an assemblage of auto parts. A human being is indeed a physical being.. but oh, so much more!

Starhopper said...

Stardusty's reductionist beliefs result in his denying that art, music, and literature are nothing more than the physical and energic components that go into them. The universe, in his view, is the sum of all of its parts and there the story ends.

Both One Brow and I say that assembling the components allowing the processes to go on is the beginning of the story. That's where individual entities have their role.

And I take it one step further in affirming that assemblages of persons are themselves entities.. with unique needs, ambitions, desires and even wills. This explains why the prophets in the Old Testament can rightly call nations to judgement, and not just persons.

Starhopper said...

... As America is under judgement today. (I couldn't resist!)

StardustyPsyche said...

Starhopper,
"This explains why the prophets in the Old Testament can rightly call nations to judgement, and not just persons. "
Notions like the whole is greater than the sum of the parts typically seem to be just arcane philosophical misconceptions that are fairly harmless in their ill conceived assertions.

But here we see an example of how destructive such notions can become if left unchallenged and such that they are allowed to run rampant and put into actual practice.

You feel it is just to call nations to judgement. So you say an entire nation can be found guilty and punished for actions seen by you to be perpetrated by the whole nation, based on your rather vague ideas that somehow collections of small things become a single large thing.

WL Craig has said much the same thing, as do many Jews, and Muslims, and others have said throughout history. How very diabolically convenient and petty and egocentric of you, and Craig, and all the rest, to rationalize your support for genocidal destruction by claiming, as Craig does, that they "were ripe for judgement", so sure, yeah, of course, kill them all, except those you wish to enslave.

Perhaps that is absolute morality after all, absolutely revolting and contemptible, there is your great morality giver.

"As America is under judgement today. (I couldn't resist!)"
Of course you could not resist rationalizing the suffering of tens of thousands of ordinary people of every description as somehow a just judgement of a whole nation by your source of absolute morality and justice. Your kind has long been pompously condemning the innocent with your fantasies of god on your side rationalizing the suffering of vast numbers as somehow part of a greater good. Let's see if you feel the same should you experience your last moments soon gasping in pain for oxygen until you die of asphyxiation. Will you consider the judgement just and the morality absolute then?

Starhopper said...

"Will you consider the judgement just and the morality absolute then?"

Yes, without question.

The nation of which I am a citizen, is soaked in the blood of innocent Iraqis, Syrians, Venezuelans, Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, Yemenis, and Indigenous Peoples everywhere. It builds its soap bubble "prosperity" on a foundation of lethal weaponry, from domestic mass murderers to international arms merchants to nuclear stockpiles, all at the expense of inadequate funding to education, health care, and our environment. We glut ourselves on produce gathered by migrant workers without meaningful rights who are paid near starvation wages. We refuse hospitality to those fleeing the violence and tyranny that was, after all, "Made in the USA", and imprison their children in cages. Our police brutalize our minorities and our corporate chiefs rake in billions while their workers do not get a living wage.

And you do not believe our nation ought to be under judgement? "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground." (Genesis 4:10)

StardustyPsyche said...

Starhopper,
"Yes, without question."
Really? Have you ever suffered intense pain, the panic of not being able to breath, and the intense fear of impending death? Perhaps you have.

"The nation of which I am a citizen, is soaked in the blood of innocent Iraqis, Syrians, Venezuelans, Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, Yemenis, and Indigenous Peoples everywhere. ... mass murderers to international arms merchants to nuclear stockpiles,... imprison their children in cages. Our police brutalize our minorities ..."
Therefore if you are struck by a pathogen that has no connection to any of that, merely a mindless microscopic parasite, such that you suffer intense pain and die, then as you die you will attribute your death caused by that parasite as actually being a judgement of god against our entire nation which you are a citizen of and therefore you will feel your own death due to a parasite infection is actually justified and ultimately good?

And all that is your vision of how absolute morality functions?

You may question if religion poisons literally everything, but there is no question religion has grotesquely poisoned you.

Starhopper said...

"Have you ever suffered intense pain, the panic of not being able to breath, and the intense fear of impending death? Perhaps you have."

Actually, I have.

The first time was in 1985, when I shattered my right shoulder (more than 100 bone fragments, I was later told) in an accident while in the Austrian Alps. It took the better part of a day to get me down off the mountain (Kaunertal), all the while in excruciating pain beyond my ability to describe. For many hours, I was convinced I would die on that mountain. (My shoulder hurts to this day, more than 30 years later.)

The second time was in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1996. I had been kidnapped by Russian gangsters. Absolutely no one knew where I was or that I was in trouble, so I had no prospect of outside help. By an absolute miracle (and the utter incompetence of the person assigned to watch over me), I managed to escape. But for a day, I was convinced I would die in a Turkish back alley.

The third time was two years ago, when I contracted a lethal infection in my right leg. I was hospitalized for a week in unbelievable pain, while doctors worked round the clock to first contain the infection, and then to eliminate it. For three days, they were prepared to amputate my right leg, and were preparing me psychologically for the event. I had made my peace with God, and was ready to die in that hospital.

So yes, I am more than well aware of what it means to be near death.

StardustyPsyche said...

dodge

Starhopper said...

"dodge"

How so? You asked a question, and I answered it.
I guess "You can't handle the truth!"

StardustyPsyche said...

"How so? You asked a question, and I answered it"
lie.
Dishonest use of the singular.
dodge.

bmiller said...

The formation of the single will from the multiplicity of processes is what creates the illusion of the unitary being.

What is having the illusion? The "multiplicity of processes"? The "single will"?

The wills are emergent properties of the processes, like the ability to play chess well is an emergent property of Alpha Go.

The ability of Alpha Go to play chess is a result of the programmers designing it to do that. So do the *processes* intend for a will to emerge?

The processes are created by the brain.

Likewise, does the brain intend for the processes to produce wills?

StardustyPsyche said...

"What is having the illusion? The "multiplicity of processes"?"
Yes, the brain operates with complex processes interconnected in a serial/parallel/networked system.

The first person perspective is the result of a self analytical process set that seems at times somewhat singular.

"Likewise, does the brain intend for the processes to produce wills?"
Intentionality is the result of processes that can form a model of a potential future state, also form a model of present state, and further form models of intermediate states that are analyzed to be likely to be included in a process from the model of the present state to the model of the future state.

Predators of even relatively simple species exhibit intentionality in stalking and attacking their prey. Other simple species exhibit intentionality in seeking out food and mating.

"Will" in the complex human or philosophical sense is not a prerequisite to intentionality.

Starhopper said...

"The formation of the single will from the multiplicity of processes is what creates the illusion of the unitary being."

Amazing how something that is clearly perceivable (unitary being) can be labeled an illusion. When I drive to the store (at least, back when we were still able to do such things), I do not ignore the reality of the car I am sitting in. I do not say, "My Toyota is merely an illusion. All that is really here is a collection of auto parts."

Of course all the processes that underlie the existence of "self" are themselves existent. But to jump from that to the rather bizarre conclusion that the end product of all those processes is somehow not real is utter nonsense.

bmiller said...

Existent processes are everywhere.

Why do some of them have illusions? Illusions that they apparently created themselves? Were they illusion free before they created their own illusions?

StardustyPsyche said...

"
Existent processes are everywhere.

Why do some of them have illusions?"
Because those are sensory processes, and all sensory processes have distortions, inaccuracies, and illusions.

Senses never provide a perfectly accurate internal model of the external world or the state of internal being, they don't have to. Senses only have to provide a sensory model that is close enough to reality to facilitate survival and reproduction.

bmiller said...

Don't processes just do what they do...react with other physical processes and so on? How could it be said that physical processes "have distortions, inaccuracies, and illusions."?

If physical processes can be said to "have distortions, inaccuracies, and illusions" then how could it be known? Can those processed be interrogated? And even if they could be interrogated, then how would we judge their response? Against other physical processes?

StardustyPsyche said...

"Don't processes just do what they do"
Yes

".react with other physical processes and so on?"
Yes

"How could it be said that physical processes "have distortions, inaccuracies, and illusions."?
"
You aren't very smart, are you?

"If physical processes can be said to "have distortions, inaccuracies, and illusions" then how could it be known? "
Stupid question. And yes, despite what your freshman course professor told you, there are stupid questions.

Starhopper said...

"If physical processes can be said to "have distortions, inaccuracies, and illusions" then how could it be known?"

Short answer: it could not be known. One could never be sure of one's own conclusion that an illusion was an illusion, because that conclusion could itself be an illusion, and there would be no way to solve that conundrum.

It's the Argument from Reason all over again.

StardustyPsyche said...

There is no argument from reason, only half baked ad hoc strawman assertions about reason.

Things are known approximately. That's what knowledge is, a probability estimate that X is the case.

Victor has a thread on the subject here, only 4 comments. One evening I started going through some of the things that old pompous vacuous windbag Chesterton had to say and it was so badly reasoned I could only get half way through the OP link.

I finished it the next day, unsurprisingly the entire linked piece was drivel.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
What is having the illusion? The "multiplicity of processes"? The "single will"?

Yes, both.

The ability of Alpha Go to play chess is a result of the programmers designing it to do that. So do the *processes* intend for a will to emerge?

Programmers taught AlphaGo the rules of chess. AlphaGo taught itself how to play chess well, by experience, in much the same way humans learn.

Likewise, does the brain intend for the processes to produce wills?

No. Why should it need to?

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
Don't processes just do what they do...react with other physical processes and so on? How could it be said that physical processes "have distortions, inaccuracies, and illusions."?

It would be better to say that the emergent self is generated with distortions it inherits with these properties.

If physical processes can be said to "have distortions, inaccuracies, and illusions" then how could it be known?

Would there be any reason it would not be in the same way you think the "distortions, inaccuracies, and illusions" of your putative unitary self "could be known"?

Can those processed be interrogated?

The emergent self arising from them can be.

And even if they could be interrogated, then how would we judge their response? Against other physical processes?

Or other emergent selves.

Is there a reason you believe that a belief in the unitary self improves on any of this?

bmiller said...

One Brow,

Yes, both.

Existent processes are everywhere.

Why do some of them have illusions? Illusions that they apparently created themselves? Were they illusion free before they created their own illusions?

Programmers taught AlphaGo the rules of chess. AlphaGo taught itself how to play chess well, by experience, in much the same way humans learn.

Programmers designed and wrote all the code for AlphaGo and intended it to play chess. So do the *processes* intend for a will to emerge?

No. Why should it need to?

Because you are asserting that what these *processes* do is similar to that of a software program designed by programmers who intended their program to play chess.

bmiller said...

One Brow,

Looks like we cross-posted. I'll read your reply

bmiller said...

One Brow,

It would be better to say that the emergent self is generated with distortions it inherits with these properties.

How can physical processes/properties be said to have distortions? What would a distorted physical reaction look like? Are the laws of physics distorted?

Would there be any reason it would not be in the same way you think the "distortions, inaccuracies, and illusions" of your putative unitary self "could be known"?

That's just it. I don't know how physical process can be said to have illusions, since they are just operating under the law of physics. To my mind, they aren't the kind of things that can have illusions in the first place. But you apparently do, so I'm interested in the explanation.

The emergent self arising from them can be.
Or other emergent selves.

But the question is in relation to physical processes being distorted and having illusions. I don't understand what that would even mean much less how one could come to know that.

StardustyPsyche said...

"But the question is in relation to physical processes being distorted and having illusions. I don't understand what that would even mean much less how one could come to know that."
Indeed, it has been explained to you multiple times but you just keep repeating that you don't understand.

The distortion is the delta between the internal model and the external reality.

Even a relatively simple animal with a small brain and various senses can form an internal representation of external reality. The distortion is the inaccuracy of the internal representation.

Human beings have made a great deal of progress in determining how our internal representations are distorted. We come to know about these distortions using a process called scientific research. You might want to try learning from such research as opposed to simply repeating "I don't understand" over and over.

bmiller said...

Stardusty,

Are you talking to yourself?

I've been interacting with One Brow's theory, not yours.

Starhopper said...

"I've been interacting with One Brow's theory, not yours."

Stardusty doesn't have a theory. By his own admission, he is nothing more than a collection of atoms and associated energy, which add up to nothing more than the sum of the parts. There is no self, no consciousness other than as an illusion (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out how illusions are even possible without a "self"), and no will.

When you interact with Stardusty, are interacting with a machine, not a person. At least, that's what he wants you to believe.

StardustyPsyche said...

bmiller,
"Are you talking to yourself?"
Among the things you don't understand is when somebody quotes your words and responds to your words they are talking to you.

Your list of things you do not understand is very apparently growing.

StardustyPsyche said...

Starhopper
"The nation of which I am a citizen, is soaked in the blood of innocent Iraqis, Syrians, Venezuelans, Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, Yemenis, and Indigenous Peoples everywhere. ... mass murderers to international arms merchants to nuclear stockpiles,... imprison their children in cages. Our police brutalize our minorities ..."
Therefore if you are struck by a pathogen that has no connection to any of that, merely a mindless microscopic parasite, such that you suffer intense pain and die, then as you die you will attribute your death caused by that parasite as actually being a judgement of god against our entire nation which you are a citizen of and therefore you will feel your own death due to a parasite infection is actually justified and ultimately good?

And all that is your vision of how absolute morality functions?

You may question if religion poisons literally everything, but there is no question religion has grotesquely poisoned you.

bmiller said...

Among the things you don't understand is when somebody quotes your words and responds to your words they are talking to you.

Normally that's what I would expect.

But since your response was unrelated to the points One Brow was making and my response to those points there's no telling what you think you're addressing.

bmiller said...

When you interact with Stardusty, are interacting with a machine, not a person. At least, that's what he wants you to believe.

It's Saturday night. Maybe the machine is more than a little "lubricated"?

Starhopper said...

"It's Saturday night."

Well, speaking for myself, I'm on my 2nd gin and tonic, and just finished this week's binge watching of Miami Vice. I'm half way through the 2nd season (out of 5).

bmiller said...

Gin and tonic.

Good protection from COVID-19 I hear.

Starhopper said...

Depends on your gin, and your tonic. I prefer "The Old Raj" brand gin, and "Fever Tree" tonic. A bit on the expensive side, but does the trick!

bmiller said...

Well, I guess you are under doctor's orders since you got back from the hospital, but your medication is too powerful for me.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
Existent processes are everywhere.

Why do some of them have illusions? Illusions that they apparently created themselves? Were they illusion free before they created their own illusions?


Are you asking why different processes have different results? Are you asking if a phenomenon not complex enough to have an illusion can be described as being illusion-free?

Programmers designed and wrote all the code for AlphaGo and intended it to play chess. So do the *processes* intend for a will to emerge?

I don't think the smaller processes have any intentions at all.

Because you are asserting that what these *processes* do is similar to that of a software program designed by programmers who intended their program to play chess.

Am I asserting tht similarity is due to the existence of programmers with intention? Did the program AlphaGo care about the intentions of the programmers?

bmiller said...

Are you asking why different processes have different results? Are you asking if a phenomenon not complex enough to have an illusion can be described as being illusion-free?

I started to re-phrase my questions, but I don't think I can ask the questions any more clearly. If you want to answer, fine. If not, that's fine too. It's your theory and if you don't want to explain it I can live with that.

Am I asserting tht similarity is due to the existence of programmers with intention?

Are you really asking me to clarify your own assertion? I can't read your mind, only what you write. If I misunderstood, then you can correct that if you want to.

Did the program AlphaGo care about the intentions of the programmers?

Personally I don't think a software program can *care* about anything at all so, to me, the question is a category mistake. Just like a wind-up toy soldier doesn't *care* that it appears to be walking, or a stone *cares* that it is rolling down a hill. All are different types of non-human things.

Starhopper said...

"A stone doesn't care that it is rolling down a hill." (rephrased for clarity)

Dammit! Now you have me wondering if it does care.

bmiller said...

Sounds like a folk song.

bmiller said...

But in a way, it actually does want to move down the hill and will unless something stops it.

bmiller said...

That is an analogical sense of the word *want* though.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
I started to re-phrase my questions, but I don't think I can ask the questions any more clearly.

Fair. I'll answer as best I can.

Why do some of them have illusions? Illusions that they apparently created themselves? Were they illusion free before they created their own illusions?

Because ultimately, all abstractions are error-prone, and when you weave together multiplicities of error-prone components, error appears. As you say below, to call the lower-level processes "illusion-free" is a category error.

Are you really asking me to clarify your own assertion?

That was intended rhetorically. My apologies for being insufficiently clear.

Personally I don't think a software program can *care* about anything at all so, to me, the question is a category mistake.

Yes, that was my point. Emergent systems don't need to care about intentions (or other reasons) they exist, they just learn a continue to move on.

bmiller said...

Because ultimately, all abstractions are error-prone, and when you weave together multiplicities of error-prone components, error appears.

Your theory is that these constituent components are physical processes right? But if they are just physical processes then I have to repeat this question:

How can physical processes/properties be said to have distortions? What would a distorted physical reaction look like? Are the laws of physics distorted?

But your response seems to imply that these physical processes experience error-prone abstractions that sum up to a larger error-prone abstraction.

As you say below, to call the lower-level processes "illusion-free" is a category error.

If I assume you mean that the *multiplicities of error-prone components* and *lower-level processes* are the same things, then it seems you are saying that these things both experience illusions and don't have them.

What am I missing?

Hal said...

Starhopper wrote:
"Then there was the realization that my body was replenishing itself at a rate which meant that practically every atom making up the physical "me" was not here just eight years ago or so. Yet I remain the same person."


I'm having trouble understanding why you think this "replenishing" would call into question the fact that you are the same person you were eight years ago.

Humans are living organisms. Like other living organisms, we are spatio-temporal continuants.

All living organisms, not just us, have to go through the "replenishment" you are referring to in order to stay alive.

Isn't the seed of an oak tree that is planted in your backyard the same organism when it grows to maturity and provides shade for your backyard picnics?

Good to see that everyone posting here seems to be doing ok during this pandemic.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
Your theory is that these constituent components are physical processes right? But if they are just physical processes then I have to repeat this question:

How can physical processes/properties be said to have distortions? What would a distorted physical reaction look like? Are the laws of physics distorted?


Technically, StardustyPsyche brought in the notion of distortions with regard to sensory interpretations. I prefer abstractions.

Either way, physical processes rely on key indicators to identify and respond to specific conditions in phenomena, rather than thoroughly investigating each phenomenon. Viruses are able to get into cells, for example, by using preexisting metabolic pathways.

But your response seems to imply that these physical processes experience error-prone abstractions that sum up to a larger error-prone abstraction.

I think the different ways these abstraction can mislead and confuse can't really be summed up by "sum up".

If I assume you mean that the *multiplicities of error-prone components* and *lower-level processes* are the same things, then it seems you are saying that these things both experience illusions and don't have them.

What am I missing?


I'm saying the whole, being more than the sum of its parts, also has experiences that no individual part has.

One Brow said...

Hal said...
Isn't the seed of an oak tree that is planted in your backyard the same organism when it grows to maturity and provides shade for your backyard picnics?

Which of the two ships of Theseus is the original ship?

bmiller said...

Either way, physical processes rely on key indicators to identify and respond to specific conditions in phenomena, rather than thoroughly investigating each phenomenon. Viruses are able to get into cells, for example, by using preexisting metabolic pathways.

Physical processes operate according to the laws of physics don't they? Do these processes violate the laws of physics then? If not, then how can you tell they're wrong/having illusions?

I think the different ways these abstraction can mislead and confuse can't really be summed up by "sum up".

Then what?

I'm saying the whole, being more than the sum of its parts, also has experiences that no individual part has.

OK, but that wasn't what I asked. In one place it seems you say these constituent components have illusions and in another it seems you say they don't.

If they don't have illusions but the whole does, then that is one thing, but then I don't see why you would attribute error/illusions to the parts causing illusions in the whole.

If they do have illusions, and are only following the laws of physics, then I don't understand how one could know/judge that unless you detect them violating the laws of physics.

bmiller said...

Welcome back Hal.

Pandemic means everyone is, at least, getting fat and has bad hair :-)

Hal said...

bmiller,

Thanks.
Being nearly bald I don't have to worry much about bad hair days, but I have gotten fatter.:-(

bmiller said...

That's a good philosophical question. Is having no hair the same as having bad hair ;-)

Hal said...

One Brow,
Which of the two ships of Theseus is the original ship?

Not sure how a non-living artifact is relevant to my original question. Also, " the original" does not mean the same as "the same".

Do you not think the seed of the oak tree planted in the backyard is the same living organism that grows to maturity? I certainly do.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
Physical processes operate according to the laws of physics don't they? Do these processes violate the laws of physics then? If not, then how can you tell they're wrong/having illusions?

You're moving from an ontological question to an epistemological question.

The short answer is: I can tell if someone is having an illusion in the same way you can tell if someone is having an illusion. Being an emergent being does not deprive one of investigative tools.

Then what?

With so many possibilities, the only words that cover everything are general words like "interact".

OK, but that wasn't what I asked. In one place it seems you say these constituent components have illusions and in another it seems you say they don't.

I have not intended to say the smaller component have had illusions. I apologize if that was unclear.

If they don't have illusions but the whole does, then that is one thing, but then I don't see why you would attribute error/illusions to the parts causing illusions in the whole.

There is a difference between an error in abstraction (something a single cell can fall prey to) versus an illusion (which requires a being complex enough to have a picture of the world).

One Brow said...

Hal said...
Do you not think the seed of the oak tree planted in the backyard is the same living organism that grows to maturity? I certainly do.

Thinking (loosely) of it as the same living organism makes my world easier to understand and interpret. However, since "the same" is different from "the original", in order to accurately agree or disagree, I'd have to know what you mean by "the same".

Starhopper said...

"I'm having trouble understanding why you think this "replenishing" would call into question the fact that you are the same person you were eight years ago."

There appears to have been some misunderstanding as to the intent of my posting. I was pointing out the logical consequences of a purely materialistic outlook. If, as the materialist insists, we are nothing more than a collection of atoms, then when those atoms change, we would not be the same person. Theseus's Ship would not be the same boat that brought Theseus home to Athens from Crete.

So if you want to maintain the continuity of personal identity over the span of a person'e lifetime, you must assert that there is a non-material element to a human being that persists despite the material replenishment of the physical body.

bmiller said...

I have not intended to say the smaller component have had illusions. I apologize if that was unclear.

There is a difference between an error in abstraction (something a single cell can fall prey to) versus an illusion (which requires a being complex enough to have a picture of the world).

OK. It seems you are making a distinction between an *error in abstraction* which a cell can have, while that same cell cannot have an *illusion*. Only a being composed of a large number of these cells can have an *illusion* which arises due to the accumulation of *errors in abstraction*. Right?

You're moving from an ontological question to an epistemological question.

The short answer is: I can tell if someone is having an illusion in the same way you can tell if someone is having an illusion. Being an emergent being does not deprive one of investigative tools.


The epistemological question was only the last of the 3 questions and these questions were aimed the constituent components. I did use the word *illusion* which I now realize you only apply to beings such as humans.

However, the 3 questions were related to this response of yours:

Either way, physical processes rely on key indicators to identify and respond to specific conditions in phenomena, rather than thoroughly investigating each phenomenon. Viruses are able to get into cells, for example, by using preexisting metabolic pathways.


Physical processes rely on such things as electron exchange between atoms (EEBA). EEBA is a constituent process of a virus. So while what a virus does is more complex than just EEBA, what a virus does consists of this process and others like it.

EEBA obeys the laws of physics doesn't it? Don't all of these constituent processes follow the laws of physics? How could these constituent processes be said to be in error, or erroring in abstraction or distorted or whatever one wants to label it? Errors mean that something is inaccurate or incorrect, right?

One Brow said...

Starhopper said...
So if you want to maintain the continuity of personal identity over the span of a person'e lifetime, you must assert that there is a non-material element to a human being that persists despite the material replenishment of the physical body.

Ontologically, I agree, to the opposite conclusion. I'm not the exact same person I was 5 minutes ago, just similar to more than 20 decimal places by any reasonable measure.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
OK. It seems you are making a distinction between an *error in abstraction* which a cell can have, while that same cell cannot have an *illusion*. Only a being composed of a large number of these cells can have an *illusion* which arises due to the accumulation of *errors in abstraction*. Right?

Accumulation of errors, interaction of conflicting parts, smoothing of the over all interpretation, and a host of other things.

EEBA obeys the laws of physics doesn't it? Don't all of these constituent processes follow the laws of physics? How could these constituent processes be said to be in error, or erroring in abstraction or distorted or whatever one wants to label it? Errors mean that something is inaccurate or incorrect, right?

By making errors that are not errors of physics, obviously.

Starhopper said...

" I'm not the exact same person I was 5 minutes ago"

Well, no less than the poet T.S. Eliot apparently agrees with you:

The knowledge imposes a pattern, and falsifies,
For the pattern is new in every moment
And every moment is a new and shocking
Valuation of all we have been.


or:

When the train starts, and the passengers are settled
[...]
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus


And many other places.

bmiller said...

By making errors that are not errors of physics, obviously.

OK. What non-physical errors are EEBA committing?

Hal said...

Starhopper,

You wrote: So if you want to maintain the continuity of personal identity over the span of a person'e lifetime, you must assert that there is a non-material element to a human being that persists despite the material replenishment of the physical body.

Thanks much for the reply.

As a non-materialist who believes the living organism we call "the human being" is still the same organism despite this replenishment, I am having trouble understanding why I would have to believe in this "non-material element" in order to believe in the continuity of personal identity.

After all, it is the same organism from conception to death. As long as the human body remains alive the human person is still the same person. In fact, without this replenishment the same human person would cease to exist.

Hal said...

One Brow,

I'm not using the word "same" in any technical sense.

Like the oak tree I gave in my example, we are living organisms. Each of us is the same organism from birth until death. Like all other living organisms we go through changes during our existence. The changes an oak tree goes through as it grows from a seed to a mature tree does not negate the fact that it is the same organism that was planted in the backyard.

Hal said...

Starhopper,

I'm sorry but I think I need to clarify what I meant when I wrote that I am a "non-materialist" in my reply to you above.

I'm not in the materialist camp whether it be reductive materialism or non-reductive materialism. But that doesn't entail that I am in the immaterialism camp. I don't believe there are mental or spiritual substances.

Hal said...

Theseus's Ship would not be the same boat that brought Theseus home to Athens from Crete.

I think the insurance company from which Theseus purchased insurance for his boat would beg to differ.:-)

In any case the criteria used to attribute continued identity of a living organism is quite different from that of an artifact.

Starhopper said...

Hal,

We're not disagreeing with each other. I'm just pointing out the problem that materialists would have in defending the continuity of persons, if the strictly material were all there is.

Starhopper said...

Hal,

I did not see your comment of 3:34 PM when I wrote my last posting. It looks like we do indeed disagree with each other. Not only do I believe in "mental or spiritual substances", I believe they are necessary in order to make sense out of the universe.

Hal said...

Starhopper,

Well, I'm only talking about the continuity of the human person, not making sense out of the universe.

So, I'm questioning your claim that because "practically every atom making up the physical "me" was not here just eight years ago or so" means that there is no continuity of the human person unless there is an immaterial substance that is "me".

As I pointed out earlier, it is the nature of living substances like organisms to undergo this kind of change and still be considered the same organism. The oak tree is the same organism it was when it was an oak seed. The human is the same organism from conception to death.

In fact it is only by undergoing change that a living organism is able to maintain this 'continuity of self'.

There may well be other arguments for positing an immaterial self, but I don't think this one accomplishes that.

bmiller said...

Starhopper,

I understand Hal to be saying that a person is a *substantial* being in perhaps a Thomist sense.

Humans are neither purely physical beings nor purely spiritual beings, but both at the same time.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
OK. What non-physical errors are EEBA committing?

Bringing in a virus though a portal instead of food. What errors do you think it is making?

One Brow said...

Hal said...
I'm not using the word "same" in any technical sense.

Like the oak tree I gave in my example, we are living organisms. Each of us is the same organism from birth until death. Like all other living organisms we go through changes during our existence. The changes an oak tree goes through as it grows from a seed to a mature tree does not negate the fact that it is the same organism that was planted in the backyard.


Speaking loosely, I agree.

Hal said...

bmiller,

You are correct that I am coming to this issue through our concepts of substances. But my views are much closer to Aristotelianism than Thomism.

When it comes to living substances like animals or plants we don't think a particular plant or animal loses its identity because of the metabolic changes taking place inside of it. All of the stuff that makes up a living organism can be replaced with new stuff and still maintain its identity.

So I find unpersuasive the view that because our bodies replace all of their atoms over an 8 year period a human would lose his identity. One does not have to posit some immaterial thing inside a human in order to retain his self identity as Starhopper claimed above.

Starhopper said...

"One does not have to posit some immaterial thing"

Perhaps one does not have to, but I nevertheless do. The world makes more sense when one does. Occam's razor applies here. A purely materialistic outlook requires an entire Rube Goldberg mechanism to explain continuity, which is totally unnecessary when one accepts that a human being is both material and immaterial. Continuity comes naturally. (Or should I say, supernaturally?)

Hal said...

Starhopper,

Perhaps one does not have to, but I nevertheless do.

That's fine. I'm not trying to dissuade you of that belief.

As I pointed out above, I'm not a materialist. But that doesn't obligate me to believe that there are mental or spiritual substances. Nor do I need to apply any sort of Rube Goldberg mechanism to explain continuity. Why would I? Like other living organisms, humans are spatiotemporal continuants.

bmiller said...

Bringing in a virus though a portal instead of food. What errors do you think it is making?

Electron exchange between atoms is just exchanging electrons between atoms not bringing viruses anywhere. I don't know of any errors the process is committing.

But that leads to another question. Why do you think a virus is making an error? Because you have a preference for its behavior?

bmiller said...

Hal,

You are correct that I am coming to this issue through our concepts of substances. But my views are much closer to Aristotelianism than Thomism.

With respect to substances, I don't think there is much of a difference.

What distinction would you draw?

Hal said...

bmiller,

The reason for distancing myself from Thomism is that it is a Christian philosophy.

As you said in your post: "Humans are neither purely physical beings nor purely spiritual beings, but both at the same time."

That is not what I believe.

bmiller said...

Hal,

If I had phrased it:

"Humans are neither purely physical beings nor purely souls, but both at the same time."

Would you consider that a more accurate description of your beliefs?

I consider spirit and soul as synonymous. If you look at the etymology, both words come from a root that means "breath".

Aquinas did not disagree with Aristotle as far as what substances are. You might say they were in substantial agreement :-)

Hal said...

bmiller,

I would not use the word "soul" at all.
A human being has a body and a mind. A human being is a body, a spatiotemporal continuant. But a human being is not a mind. A mind is not a thing or an object like the body is. We attribute a mind to a human because he displays an array of intellectual powers.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
But that leads to another question. Why do you think a virus is making an error? Because you have a preference for its behavior?

Assuming you mean "bringing in a virus is making an error", it's not about my preference, it about what the cell is using the portal for.

bmiller said...

I would not use the word "soul" at all.
A human being has a body and a mind. A human being is a body, a spatiotemporal continuant. But a human being is not a mind. A mind is not a thing or an object like the body is. We attribute a mind to a human because he displays an array of intellectual powers.


A substance has a material cause and a formal cause according to Aristotle right? Isn't that what you mean by a substance? It seems you are calling a body a substance here.

bmiller said...

Assuming you mean "bringing in a virus is making an error", it's not about my preference, it about what the cell is using the portal for.

I was asking about errors wrt EEBA which is a constituent process for an organism. I guess this won't get addressed. Regardless it didn't seem to follow that you would suddenly mention a virus.

Regarding your answer about the purpose of a cell using the portal correctly. How do you determine that?

Hal said...

bmiller,

I'm no expert on Aristotle, but I'm confused as to why you would think that a body is not a substance on account of his view of causation.

As I understand it, a substance is a kind of thing and the stuff of which it is made. So a human is a kind of animal. That is the thing it is. Whatever goes into making the human body is the stuff it is.

It is this concept of substance that I am primarily interested in: kinds of things and the stuff these things are made of.

It is this conception I happen to find most reasonable. Others find different conceptions more reasonable.

StardustyPsyche said...

Hal,
"I'm no expert on Aristotle,"
That is your good fortune. Aristotle was wrong about nearly everything he said regarding causation, substance, and motion.

His predecessors, the Greek Atomists, had a far more realistic view of the nature of the underlying reality.

Modern philosophers and scientists have even better views of causation, substance, and motion.

Aristotle represents a long middle period of misconceptions dragging humanity down to his level of ignorance on those subjects.

About the only thing Aristotle got right on those subjects is that motion in a void continues ad-infinitum. Unfortunately, Aristotle lacked the insight to combine that idea with the work of the Greek Atomists to produce the realistic models of reality as we have today.

It is ironic that this one thing Aristotle got right is ignored by modern Aristotelians. The reason it is ignored is that this single fact, that motion in the void continues ad-infinitum, destroys the First Way of Aquinas, and with it the whole of Thomistic/Catholic philosophy crumbles, and such theists lack the intellectual honesty to cope with how Aristotle himself stated the refutation to his own arguments.

Hal said...

Stardusty,

I dunno. Great thing about Aristotle is that he was really into the study of living things. I think there has been too much attention paid to the science of physics rather than to biology. But from my reading that is starting to change.

Since you are so interested in science, I would recommend reading the series of books by Stephen Gaukroger on the development of our scientific culture:

The Emergence of a Scientific Culture: Science and the Shaping of Modernity 1210-1685

The Collapse of Mechanism and the Rise of Sensibility: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1680-1760

The Natural and the Human: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1739-1841

Civilization and the Culture of Science: Science and the Shaping of Modernity, 1795-1935

bmiller said...

I'm no expert on Aristotle, but I'm confused as to why you would think that a body is not a substance on account of his view of causation.

A body is part of what makes up the substance of a human being. A body is also part of what makes up the substance of a corpse. The difference is what form the body is unified with.

We can tell which form the body is united with by determining if the body is animate or inanimate.

Aristotle's 4 causes are more of a way of giving a full explanation of what a thing is, it's not really his view of causation.

The 4 causes are:
1) The material cause
2) The formal cause
3) The efficient cause
4) The final cause.

The first explains what a thing is made of, the second explains the traits of the thing, the third explains how the thing got here, and the last explains what the thing tends to do. Aristotle thought you need to know these 4 things to understand what a thing (substance) is.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
I was asking about errors wrt EEBA which is a constituent process for an organism.

I don't understand the point you are making regarding EEBA.

I guess this won't get addressed. Regardless it didn't seem to follow that you would suddenly mention a virus.

Back on May 11:
Either way, physical processes rely on key indicators to identify and respond to specific conditions in phenomena, rather than thoroughly investigating each phenomenon. Viruses are able to get into cells, for example, by using preexisting metabolic pathways.

Your response was the first mention of EEBA in this thread.
Physical processes rely on such things as electron exchange between atoms (EEBA). EEBA is a constituent process of a virus. So while what a virus does is more complex than just EEBA, what a virus does consists of this process and others like it.

I didn't see the point then, and I still don't see the point. What are you trying to say?

Regarding your answer about the purpose of a cell using the portal correctly. How do you determine that?

I don't recall imparting a "purpose" into the way the cell uses the portal. However, that is the function of the portal.

One Brow said...

StardustyPsyche said...
His predecessors, the Greek Atomists, had a far more realistic view of the nature of the underlying reality.

You mean, with notions like "Bitterness is caused by small, angular, jagged atoms passing across the tongue; whereas sweetness is caused by larger, smoother, more rounded atoms passing across the tongue."?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomism

We should not mistake a realistic position in modern thought with a coincidental and superficial sameness in ancient writing. Atomists don't get extra credit because we like a couple of their guesses more.

Hal said...

bmiller,

A body is part of what makes up the substance of a human being. A body is also part of what makes up the substance of a corpse. The difference is what form the body is unified with.

I partially agree with what you say. When a human dies the body they had is called a corpse.


But the human body is a substance. We call it a human being because that is the particular kind of substance it is.

Your statement implies that in some way the human is distinct from the body it is.

Above I said that a human being has a body and a mind. But that is not the same as saying "I have a coin in my pocket." Rather it is like saying "I have an ability."
A human being has an array of corporeal characteristics and mental powers.

I also said that a human is a body and denied that a human is a mind. That is because the body is a substance. There are no mental or spiritual substances, only material ones.


By the way, I'm not saying that your understanding of what Aristotle believed is incorrect. But that is a question of interpretation or exegesis. I'm not doing that. Rather I am trying to explain my views here not give an explication of Aristotle's even though some of my views are inspired by him.

Starhopper said...

"Your statement implies that in some way the human is distinct from the body it is."

Exactly! That's the point of my bringing up the replenishment of our material bodies every 8 years or so. We're the same person, despite our material makeups changing (almost*) completely (i.e., we are "distinct" from our mere bodies).

Now yes, our bodies are indeed us, but not all of us.

* I specify "almost" because there are parts of us that, sadly, never get replenished, such as our teeth. Were that so, I would not now have 2 root canals, 3 crowns, and 1 implant, dammit!

Hal said...

Starhopper,

we are "distinct" from our mere bodies

I disagree. We are bodies. When we die our bodies are also dead.

bmiller said...

One Brow,

I don't understand the point you are making regarding EEBA.

As I understand it, your theory is that illusions people have are a result of errors in the constituent processes that make up a person. I assume you would agree that EEBA is a constituent processes that makes up a person. I'm merely asking you what errors are EEBA committing?

Your response was the first mention of EEBA in this thread.

I didn't see the point then, and I still don't see the point. What are you trying to say?

I asked the question because I want to see what you mean by "physical processes" having errors (or whatever you want to call them). When I think of physical processes, I think of chemistry and physics. Your responses are related to biology. I want to understand if you all physical processes are committing errors (or whatever you want to call them) or only some.

I don't recall imparting a "purpose" into the way the cell uses the portal. However, that is the function of the portal.

You used the example to illustrate some sort of error being made. In order to consider something to be in error, then we must be comparing it to, what we consider, it's true goal. You seem to be saying that you know the true goal of the portal and that if a virus is let in, then that is not it's true goal. I'm just asking how you make that determination.

bmiller said...

Hal,

I partially agree with what you say. When a human dies the body they had is called a corpse.


But the human body is a substance. We call it a human being because that is the particular kind of substance it is.


If the human body is a substance, then how can it be said that it's a different substance whether it's alive or dead? It remains a human body in both cases.

Your statement implies that in some way the human is distinct from the body it is.

I'm looking at your first statement above. You seem to be saying that humans have a body rather than they are a body. I assume that you misspoke, but then again, what makes a human body that is alive different from one that is dead if the human body is a substance full stop?

Hal said...

Starhopper,

That's the point of my bringing up the replenishment of our material bodies every 8 years or so.

But as I pointed out, the replenishment of the stuff composing living organisms does not entail the belief that it is no longer the same living organism.

It is only by replenishing that stuff that a living organism can continue to maintain its identity.

Basically what it comes down do is that you are confusing the stuff of a substance with the thing a substance is.


I have no issue with you believing you have some immaterial thing inside of you because of your religious beliefs. But your argument that the replenishment of the stuff in a human body proves this belief to be true is a failure.

Hal said...

bmiller,

You seem to be saying that humans have a body rather than they are a body. I assume that you misspoke, but then again, what makes a human body that is alive different from one that is dead if the human body is a substance full stop?

I didn't misspeak. A human can be said to have a body and to be a body.

A living human body has an array of powers that a corpse does not. Remember a substance is a kind of thing not simply the stuff of which it is composed. The criteria we use for determining the kind of thing a human body is are no longer present.

A corpse is simply the remains of the human being. It no longer is the living thing it once was.

StardustyPsyche said...

One Brow said
" You mean, with notions like "Bitterness is caused by small, angular, jagged atoms passing across the tongue; whereas sweetness is caused by larger, smoother, more rounded atoms passing across the tongue."?"
Yes, that is a fine work of reasoning that is amazingly close to the truth, vastly superior to the nonsense of speculation that Aristotle burdened the world with.

The truth is that atoms of different shapes do in fact pass across the tongue and their differences are in fact detected by our sensory cells and that does in fact account for, to a first approximation, how taste works.


" We should not mistake a realistic position in modern thought with a coincidental and superficial sameness in ancient writing."
Your understanding of the profound difference between the amazingly prescient proposals by the Greek Atomists and the regressive nonsense of Aristotle is what is superficial.

"Atomists don't get extra credit because we like a couple of their guesses more."
You know so little you do not realize that the Atomists did not merely guess, whereas Aristotle did guess, and Aristotle guessed wrong, very badly wrong in a way that set humanity back for some 2000 years, and continues to burden humanity as even many moderns thing that Aristotle's ignorant mistaken guesses are somehow a source of wisdom.

Atomists used sound reasoning to deduce that the underlying reality is composed of atoms moving in the void.

Atoms moving in the void.

Yes, a fantastically commendable deduction given their lack of modern technology to use for investigation.

Aristotle, on the other hand, denied that there could be a void, and instead proposed that all motion is in a medium such that objects naturally slow and stop and their motion is lost.

The atomists did not merely guess. The atomists had strong arguments, such as those to account for decomposition of solid objects, as well as mixing of materials and solutions.

bmiller said...

Stardusty,

Do you know what the ancient Greek philosophers defined the void as?

bmiller said...

Hal,

I didn't misspeak. A human can be said to have a body and to be a body.

Interesting. I don't remember something normally being said to have something that it actually is. Do you have another example from everyday speech?


A living human body has an array of powers that a corpse does not. Remember a substance is a kind of thing not simply the stuff of which it is composed. The criteria we use for determining the kind of thing a human body is are no longer present.

Then I don't think what you are saying is essentially different than Aristotle and Aquinas. It just seems you prefer to use different terminology than they used. Substantial beings, even if they are composed of the same stuff, can be differentiated by the powers they uniquely possess. So it is the powers they possess that makes them the unique kind of thing they are.

Aristotle would call that the substantial form of the being.

StardustyPsyche said...

bmiller,
"Do you know what the ancient Greek philosophers defined the void as?"
That was not settled at that time, and to some extent it still isn't.

If the void were to be absolutely nothing at all, some reasoned, then it cannot exist, since absolutely nothing at all does not have anything to exist, and therefore, some reasoned, the void was impossible.

Aristotle's greatest insight regarding motion, probably his only worthwhile insight regarding motion, appears in his Physics Book IV, where he has the great insight that motion in the void would continue ad-infinitum (and is therefore not the actualization of a potential). Aristotle in that passage describes the concept of uniform linear motion some 2000 years before Newton.

Unfortunately, Aristotle failed to build upon the far superior model of the underlying reality passed down by his predecessors, the Greek Atomists, who reasoned that at base all we observe is composed of atoms moving in the void.

If Aristotle had not failed, if he had combined his great insight the motion in the void continues ad-infinitum with the great insight of the Greek Atomists, that at base are atoms moving in the void, then Aristotle could have laid the foundation for inertial motion some 2000 years before Galileo and Newton.

But, hindsight is very clear, so in reality it took about another 2000 years for humanity to realize that space is, for motion, the functional equivalent of the void, such that motion in space is not impeded.

The Aristotelian argument from motion is based on the notion that motion occurs in an impeding medium such that an object will slow and stop and its motion will be lost. In truth motion is never lost, only transferred or transformed, because all motion is in space, which is a lossless medium, and thus the Aristotelian argument from motion for the necessity of a first mover collapses into mere ignorance.

bmiller said...

Stardusty,

That was not settled at that time, and to some extent it still isn't.

If the void were to be absolutely nothing at all, some reasoned, then it cannot exist, since absolutely nothing at all does not have anything to exist, and therefore, some reasoned, the void was impossible.


I merely asked you how the ancient Greek philosopher defined it, not whether it was settled. But good for you. You found out that they defined the void as nothing.

Aristotle argued that the atomists were wrong to say that atoms moved in the void because if there was nothing between atoms then they would all be in contact and would not be able to move since there would be no place to move from or move to.

Atomists used sound reasoning to deduce that the underlying reality is composed of atoms moving in the void.

Atoms moving in the void.

Yes, a fantastically commendable deduction given their lack of modern technology to use for investigation.


So, now that you know, do you agree with Aristotle or the atomists?

StardustyPsyche said...

bmiller,
"Aristotle argued that the atomists were wrong to say that atoms moved in the void"
"But in a void none of these things can take place, nor can anything be moved save as that which is carried is moved. Further, no one could say why a thing once set in motion should stop anywhere; for why should it stop here rather than here? So that a thing will either be at rest or must be moved ad infinitum, unless something more powerful gets in its way."
Aristotle Physics Book IV
- 215a19-215a21

Here we see the only significant correct thing Aristotle said about motion. His other ideas about motion were wrong, making his argument from motion for the first mover just so much rubbish.

But here we see Aristotle's one great insight about motion, that motion in the void continues ad-infinitum. The exception to moving ad infinitum, Aristotle tells us here is unless something more powerful gets in its way .

Thus, Aristotle correctly described the basics of motion in the void, that of linear uniform motion that can be altered only by interaction with another body.

bmiller said...

It seems I won't have to keep hearing about how Aristotle was wrong for arguing against the existence of the void ad infinitum.

For that I am grateful.

StardustyPsyche said...

Aristotle was wrong in his arguments against the existence of the void, as he was wrong about motion, except that he correctly described what motion in the void would be like if there were such a thing as the void.

But Aristotle was so completely wrong about motion, that in describing very well what motion in the void would be like, to him, that sort of motion was not possible, and therefore to him that was another reason to deny the existence of the void.

Aristotle was wrong about nearly everything related to physics and motion, thus his argument for the first mover based on motion is utter nonsense, and only a very foolish person could find any value in the argument for a first mover from motion.

The one thing about motion Aristotle got right was the basic nature of motion in the void if somehow there could be such a thing as the void.

bmiller said...

Aristotle was wrong in his arguments against the existence of the void,

Then you do believe that the void is actually nothing. Figures.

One Brow said...

bmiller,

I'm merely asking you what errors are EEBA committing?

Your understanding of my position is that every single constituent process is making an error? If yes, please re-evaluate. If not, why is this one process relevant?

I want to understand if you all physical processes are committing errors (or whatever you want to call them) or only some.

For most physical processes, and for processes at the most basic level, the category of "error" does not even apply.

You used the example to illustrate some sort of error being made. In order to consider something to be in error, then we must be comparing it to, what we consider, it's true goal. You seem to be saying that you know the true goal of the portal and that if a virus is let in, then that is not it's true goal. I'm just asking how you make that determination.

In a single-celled being, the cell functions in a manner to successfully reproduce and create new cells. The virus prevents that function. How is that not an error?

I don't need to know the "true goal", that's just mystical mumbo-jumbo. Knowing function is more than enough.

One Brow said...

StardustyPsyche said...

None of this should be taken as an endorsement of Aristotle, who was of course wrong about many things.

The truth is that atoms of different shapes do in fact pass across the tongue and their differences are in fact detected by our sensory cells and that does in fact account for, to a first approximation, how taste works.

That would be molecules, not atoms. We get vastly different tastes for the exact same set of atoms when their molecular arrangement is different, a notion that is much more Aristotelian than atomist.

Your understanding of the profound difference between the amazingly prescient proposals by the Greek Atomists and the regressive nonsense of Aristotle is what is superficial.

You have presented nothing that speaks against my understanding, and in fact your example undermined your position.

You know so little you do not realize that the Atomists did not merely guess, ...

Really? What else did they do besides guess, that Aristotle did not do?

... whereas Aristotle did guess, and Aristotle guessed wrong, very badly wrong ...

Aristotle's guesses fit the available knowledge of ancient Greek times better than Democritus's, which is why his ideas persisted.

Atomists used sound reasoning to deduce that the underlying reality is composed of atoms moving in the void.

They got some stuff right, and most stuff wrong, like any other ancient Greek philosopher.

Aristotle, on the other hand, denied that there could be a void, and instead proposed that all motion is in a medium such that objects naturally slow and stop and their motion is lost.

Which was wrong (based on the available knowledge), how? IIRC, Aristotle also acknowledged the movement in a void would not slow down.

The atomists had strong arguments, such as those to account for decomposition of solid objects, as well as mixing of materials and solutions.

Arguments were you no doubt pull out a few lucky guesses as see them as prescient. You sound like some fundamentalist justifying their religious scriptures.

bmiller said...

Your understanding of my position is that every single constituent process is making an error?

Yes.

If yes, please re-evaluate.

In order to re-evaluate I need new information.

For most physical processes, and for processes at the most basic level, the category of "error" does not even apply.

Thank you. A new distinction. What determines whether a physical process has errors or doesn't?

In a single-celled being, the cell functions in a manner to successfully reproduce and create new cells. The virus prevents that function. How is that not an error?

It seems you've determined that the function of the cell is to successfully reproduce and create new cells rather than allowing a viruses in. You think it should work that way. How is that not attributing a goal to a process?

Hal said...

bmiller,

Interesting. I don't remember something normally being said to have something that it actually is.

Well, if I were referring to the same thing that statement of mine would be false. But the 'body' I am referring to in 'I have a body' is not the same as the 'body' I am referring to in 'I am a body'. Let me explain.

Remember I wrote earlier that a human being has a mind. Having a mind is displaying an array of intellectual attributes. It is not like having an object such as a coin that I can place in my pocket. Using the word "mind" is a convenient way to talk about our powers of intellect and will.

In a similar way, saying that a human being has a body is a way of talking about our corporeal attributes:
If you have a skinny body, then you're skinny.
If you have a beautiful body, then you are beautiful.
If you have a frail body, then you are frail.

Since there are no mental substances, no objects that are minds, it makes no sense to say a human being is a mind.

But there are material substances. The material body, the animate spatiotemporal continuant that is made of flesh and blood, is the living organism we call human beings. So in this sense it does make sense to say that a human being is a body.

bmiller said...

Hal,

You have a sharp mind. In fact I'd go so far as to call you sharp ;-)

StardustyPsyche said...

bmiller ,

"Then you do believe that the void is actually nothing. Figures."
No, it means Aristotle was wrong about the void, the nature of the underlying reality, atoms, and motion.

It means Aristotle took a huge step backwards relative to his predecessors, the Greek Atomists.

StardustyPsyche said...

One Brow,
"Really? What else did they do besides guess, that Aristotle did not do?"
The Greek Atomists reasoned from such observations as the decay of objects, mixing and solutions such as salt, the transmission and blockage of odors...that at base substances were composed of atoms moving in the void.

Aristotle failed to build on that great work of his predecessors, and instead got nearly everything fundamentally wrong about physics and motion.

"Aristotle also acknowledged the movement in a void would not slow down."
Indeed, that is about the only thing Aristotle got right, as far as he took it. But since he rejected that kind of motion, which later came to be called uniform linear motion, and for other reasons rejected the void as impossible, Aristotle failed to make use of that great insight he had, that motion in the void continues ad-infinitum.

That insight destroys the Aristotelian argument from motion for the necessity of a first mover.

Aristotle's, and by extension Aquinas's argument from motion for the necessity of a first mover are rubbish because Aristotle wrote rubbish in his conclusions about motion. Garbage in, garbage out, that is the First Way.

If Aristotle had be sufficiently wise he would have realized that his argument from motion for the necessity of a first mover was rubbish because he was right about motion continuing ad-infinitum in the void.

bmiller said...

One Brow,

You sound like some fundamentalist justifying their religious scriptures.

You're right. He's probably spent too much time debating them and they finally won him over:-)



Hal said...

bmiller,

You have a sharp mind. In fact I'd go so far as to call you sharp ;-)

LOL!

Nice try, but if I have a sharp mind that would mean I have a keen intellect. You gotta remember that I am a body, not a mind. :-)

If I look sharp, then I am well dressed.

bmiller said...

OK Hal,

You convinced me that you're a keen guy. Sharp dressed too. :-)

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
Thank you. A new distinction. What determines whether a physical process has errors or doesn't?

When a living being can not perform a function due to the error.

It seems you've determined that the function of the cell is to successfully reproduce and create new cells rather than allowing a viruses in.

That is what the unimpeded activities of the cells do.

You think it should work that way.

I don't recall saying anything about "should". That's a value judgement. Certainly there are cells I would personally prefer not work this way, but that doesn't change how they function.

How is that not attributing a goal to a process?

In the sense that the cell has its own, primitive version of a goal? Sure.

One Brow said...

StardustyPsyche,

Again, no response should be taken to interpret that I think Aristotle is an authoritative source.

The Greek Atomists reasoned from such observations as the decay of objects, mixing and solutions such as salt, the transmission and blockage of odors...that at base substances were composed of atoms moving in the void.

Are you claiming that Aristotle did not reason from his observations, or merely confirming that the atomists did what Aristotle did?

Aristotle failed to build on that great work of his predecessors, and instead got nearly everything fundamentally wrong about physics and motion.

I don't see anything that makes this "great work" more than 'a couple of good guesses mixed in with a lot of nonsense' yet. Perhaps you have some evidence where the atomists got "physics and motion" right?

... Aristotle failed to make use of that great insight he had, that motion in the void continues ad-infinitum.

Of course, if Aristotle had access to a vacuum setting, he would probably have reasoned differently.

That insight destroys the Aristotelian argument from motion for the necessity of a first mover.

The argument for the first mover fails on many grounds. My disagreement here is with the romantic view you have acquired of the atomists.

If Aristotle had be sufficiently wise he would have realized that his argument from motion for the necessity of a first mover was rubbish because he was right about motion continuing ad-infinitum in the void.

What specific observations did Aristotle have access to that would lead to this conclusion?

bmiller said...

One Brow,

When a living being can not perform a function due to the error.

OK. Then it seems you can only detect these errors wrt a living being's malfunctions?

I don't recall saying anything about "should".

I was using *should* in the sense of an expected outcome, not a personal preference. I think you are agreeing with that sense.

In the sense that the cell has its own, primitive version of a goal? Sure.

This is pretty much the definition of a final cause.

One Brow said...

bmiller,

OK. Then it seems you can only detect these errors wrt a living being's malfunctions?

Anything that processes data can make errors in data processing, abstraction, etc.

I was using *should* in the sense of an expected outcome, not a personal preference. I think you are agreeing with that sense.

More like "desired" than "expected".

In the sense that the cell has its own, primitive version of a goal? Sure.

This is pretty much the definition of a final cause.

Think carefully. Are you saying that the final cause is decided by the goals of the organism? Because if so, you'll have to change a great deal of your morality.

bmiller said...

More like "desired" than "expected".

Let's start over. I meant "expected" when I used that word, not "desired". I assume you are agreeing with "expected". Am I wrong?

Think carefully. Are you saying that the final cause is decided by the goals of the organism? Because if so, you'll have to change a great deal of your morality.

I'm not taking a position on cellular morality.
If cells want to fool around with viruses, I would advise them against it since that is an error and impedes their true happiness of flourishing as cells.

bmiller said...

One Brow,

Anything that processes data can make errors in data processing, abstraction, etc.

Why did you change from living beings to anything that processes data?

StardustyPsyche said...

One Brow
"Perhaps you have some evidence where the atomists got "physics and motion" right?"
Arisitotle got virtually everything wrong on physics, motion, and the nature of the underlying reality.

The Greek Atomists did far better. They reasoned that the underlying reality is composed of particles too tiny to see, of different shapes that account for differences in properties, with a means to connect to each other, moving unimpeded in what we would call empty space, or they called the void.

Aristotle failed to figure out any of those facts, instead falsely reasoning about motion and the unmoved mover.

"What specific observations did Aristotle have access to that would lead to this conclusion?"
The same ones the Greek Atomists had available prior to Aristotle.

Unfortunately, what survives from that time is very fragmentary. But they had available to them a variety of observations, including the decay or wear of solid objects, mixing of solutions such as salt and then they drying of the solution to recover the solid, the transmission and blockage of odors, the continued movement of an object that is thrown, differences in resistance to motion in various liquid of gaseous mediums.

One Brow said...

bmiller,

I would have sworn I typed out a response yesterday.

Let's start over. I meant "expected" when I used that word, not "desired". I assume you are agreeing with "expected". Am I wrong?

I would say it is expected that a virus would evolve to take advantage of a cell's food portal. The virus has a different expectation for the portal than the cell does.

I'm not taking a position on cellular morality.

So, you feel it is acceptable to use different tools to decide what is moral in different situations?

Why did you change from living beings to anything that processes data?

When the conversation changed from 'this is an example of an error from abstraction using a cell' to "... only detect these errors wrt a living being's malfunctions?".

One Brow said...

StardustyPsyche,
"Perhaps you have some evidence where the atomists got "physics and motion" right?"

Arisitotle got virtually everything wrong on physics, motion, and the nature of the underlying reality.

You do understand that "Aristotle got things wrong" does not imply "atomists got things right", don't you?

The Greek Atomists did far better.

Cool. With regard to physics and motion, the stuff Aristotle got wrong, what did they get right?

So far, the only difference I've seen is that the atomists correctly guessed that there was void (and actually, not the same type of void that we consider void), and that Aristotle refused to believe in a void the atomists could not prove existed.

The same ones the Greek Atomists had available prior to Aristotle.

So, none.

Unfortunately, what survives from that time is very fragmentary. But they had available to them a variety of observations, including the decay or wear of solid objects, mixing of solutions such as salt and then they drying of the solution to recover the solid, the transmission and blockage of odors, the continued movement of an object that is thrown, differences in resistance to motion in various liquid of gaseous mediums.

You don't think Aristotle's physics accounts for those phenomena? Because I'm pretty sure it does.

Starhopper said...

"Unfortunately, what survives from that time is very fragmentary."

Boy, is that ever true! Some of the most famous names from ancient Greece, such as Homer and Plato, have left behind no archaeological evidence whatsoever. But my favorite example of there being but fragments is Heraclitus, one of the most brilliant philosophers of all time. But nothing of his (apparently only) book, On Nature, has survived. In fact, no work by Heraclitus has come down to us today. So how do we know about him? And how can we say with confidence that he was such a great philosopher?

Because other than Homer, he was possibly the most quoted individual by his contemporaries and near contemporaries of the entire ancient world. We have 129 quotations attributed to him. Here are just a sampling:

"Although the logos is common to all, most people live as though they possess a wisdom of their own."

"A circle's beginning is its end."

"The death of fire is the birth of air."

"Learning many things does not teach good sense."

"A stupid person tends to get aroused by every word."

And of course his most famous:

"One cannot step twice into the same river."

Starhopper said...

Ha! My earlier posting inspired me to brush up on my knowledge of Heraclitus, and I found (on the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) an article by one Daniel W. Graham in which he maintains that the popular translation ("One cannot step twice into the same river.") has it completely backwards, and that it should be translated "On those stepping into rivers staying the same, other and other waters flow." In other words, although the specific water a person steps on changes constantly, the river nevertheless remains the same.

Is this not what I was saying about the consistent identity of a person despite his body completely regenerating itself?

I am happy to find myself in such august company!

Hal said...

Starhopper,

Is this not what I was saying about the consistent identity of a person despite his body completely regenerating itself?


Not sure what you are saying here. I thought your position was that because of the changes in a human body one had to posit an immaterial (unchanging) substance to ensure identity of the person.

My position is that it is still the same body even though these changes are taking place in it. So I agree with the view that " although the specific water a person steps on changes constantly, the river nevertheless remains the same."

I'm not a substance dualist. There is only one kind of substance that makes up the living organism we call 'human': a material substance.

Even though I am not a theist, I think my position is consistent with the teachings of the Abrahamic religions for they all expect the body to be resurrected at the end of times.

Hal said...

Starhopper,

Not to criticize the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, but I tend to prefer using the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. They have a rather extensive entry on Heraclitus that was updated in 2019. It was actually written by Daniel W. Graham.
I found this quote regarding Heraclitus' views on flux to be quite interesting:
"If this interpretation is right, the message of the one river fragment, B12, is not that all things are changing so that we cannot encounter them twice, but something much more subtle and profound. It is that some things stay the same only by changing.

This is exactly the point I have been trying to make. A living organism can only remain the same by replenishing the stuff of which it is made.

Hal said...

Starhopper,

Just want to add that I don't think anything I've posted here should be take as an argument against the existence of God or a critique of those who believe they have souls and believe in God.

My concern here is explicating my conception of humans and other living organisms and why it makes sense to me. I can understand that others will have different conceptions.

Starhopper said...

Hal,

I think where we differ in our understanding of this issue in the matter of "personal identity". I absolutely agree with you that a living being must change, or it's not alive. Change is an integral part of the definition of (organic) life. But on either side of that great idea of "life" are non-living objects (such as a river) or what could even be called super-living beings (to borrow from the etymology of "supernatural"). Personal identity is more than just life - it is super (i.e., above, more than) life. You of course must be alive to have an identity, but life, in and of itself, is not enough. And that "something extra" is non-material.

You most probably do not believe that anyone has ever "come back" from the dead, in the sense that they have communicated with the still living, whereas I am quite comfortable in accepting that the Saints (and especially Mary) have made themselves present on innumerable occasions over the past 2000 years. (It's kind of part of being a Catholic.) I firmly believe that Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531 (Our Lady of Guadalupe), to St. Bernadette of Lourdes in 1858, and finally to three Portuguese children (Our Lady of Fatima) in 1917, and that there is sufficient evidence of all three appearances to reasonably and rationally believe in them. I even believe that Dante Alighieri appeared to Jacopo Giardino eight months after his death, revealing where the final 13 cantos of The Divine Comedy were located (they were missing, and no one knew where Dante had left them).

bmiller said...

One Brow,

I would say it is expected that a virus would evolve to take advantage of a cell's food portal. The virus has a different expectation for the portal than the cell does.

So there is no error committed?

So, you feel it is acceptable to use different tools to decide what is moral in different situations?

Well I had insisted on not taking a position on cellular morality, but now you've forced my hand.
I don't think cells are moral agents. Now it's out there.

When the conversation changed from 'this is an example of an error from abstraction using a cell' to "... only detect these errors wrt a living being's malfunctions?".

Fair enough. How do define abstraction wrt to what a cell does? Is it doing data processing?

bmiller said...

Hal,

I'm not a substance dualist. There is only one kind of substance that makes up the living organism we call 'human': a material substance.

Even though I am not a theist, I think my position is consistent with the teachings of the Abrahamic religions for they all expect the body to be resurrected at the end of times.


Without getting into the weeds, the Abrahamic generally considers the resurrection of the body to be the reuniting of the soul with the body and indeed restoring a person to a substantial being. At death, a person is no longer a substantial being, yet persists in the diminished form of the soul. Is your position consistent with this?

One Brow said...

bmiller,

So there is no error committed?

It's an error by the cell to admit the virus.

I don't think cells are moral agents. Now it's out there.

but, you do believe there is good or bad, when things are used properly or improperly.

Fair enough. How do define abstraction wrt to what a cell does? Is it doing data processing?

It's processing the data collected from it's environment to make decisions on reactions.

Hal said...

bmiller,
Without getting into the weeds, ....

Yes, let's avoid the weeds. :-)

I simply meant that in general the Abrahamic religions recognize the necessity of a body for the existence of human beings.

And, for the umpteenth time, I don't believe there are mental or spiritual substances. So in my view there is no such thing as a soul (or a mind) inhabiting or dwelling apart from a body.

Hal said...

Starhopper,
I think where we differ in our understanding of this issue in the matter of "personal identity"

I agree that we disagree.:-)


....revealing where the final 13 cantos of The Divine Comedy were located (they were missing, and no one knew where Dante had left them).

I didn't know this (or I had forgotten that I knew it). Thanks for the info.
My favorite part of The Divine Commedy is Purgatorio.

bmiller said...

Hal,

I simply meant that in general the Abrahamic religions recognize the necessity of a body for the existence of human beings.

And, for the umpteenth time, I don't believe there are mental or spiritual substances. So in my view there is no such thing as a soul (or a mind) inhabiting or dwelling apart from a body.


I don't mean to imply that you do believe there are mental or spiritual substances. I'm just trying to figure out why you would say that your position is consistent with Abrahamic religions and bring up the resurrection.

As I understand your position, once a person dies he becomes non-existent, so there is nothing to resurrect. To me, the positions don't look that similar.

I could see you making your point without mentioning the resurrection, but by tying it the resurrection seems confusing, at least to me.



bmiller said...

One Brow,

It's an error by the cell to admit the virus.

OK. What do you want to talk about. What is an error by a cell or what is an error by a virus?

but, you do believe there is good or bad, when things are used properly or improperly.

Well, I do think it's bad when someone changes the subject. The subject was was your theory.

It's processing the data collected from it's environment to make decisions on reactions.

So a cell can choose to refuse nourishment in one instance, and under the exact same circumstances it can choose to accept nourishment?

One Brow said...

bmiller,

OK. What do you want to talk about. What is an error by a cell or what is an error by a virus?

I thought we were discussing whether material things could make errors generally. In any case, we're getting close to 200 comments here, so it's probably getting be close to summing up time.

So a cell can choose to refuse nourishment in one instance, and under the exact same circumstances it can choose to accept nourishment?

I'm not aware of any evidence that any sort of being can do that, much less cells. I don't know that your statement in internally inconsistent, but it seems close. For example, if you have a different preference between example A and example B, the circumstance has changed.

Of course, this is different from a cell confusing a food source and a virus.

bmiller said...

One Brow,

I thought we were discussing whether material things could make errors generally. In any case, we're getting close to 200 comments here, so it's probably getting be close to summing up time.

I think you're right about it being the end of the road. You were explaining to me how cells make mistakes in abstraction and suddenly you're talking about viruses not making mistakes. I guess your theory will remain a mystery.

Of course, this is different from a cell confusing a food source and a virus.

If it's different, then why bring it up? You said:
It's processing the data collected from it's environment to make decisions on reactions.

In order to make a decision, something has to have choices. Otherwise it is compelled. I was wondering how you've concluded that cells make decisions.

Hal said...

bmiller,
I'm just trying to figure out why you would say that your position is consistent with Abrahamic religions and bring up the resurrection.


The resurrection of the body implies that the human being requires a body. That is consistent with my position.

That is all I was trying to point out.

bmiller said...

Hal,

OK, that makes sense.

I agree with you that the Abrahamic religions think a human being requires a body to be a complete human being.

The reason I'm asking questions is that I'm unfamiliar with your position and it's interesting. I'm just trying to see where the similarities are to what I'm familiar with and also the differences.

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
I think you're right about it being the end of the road. You were explaining to me how cells make mistakes in abstraction and suddenly you're talking about viruses not making mistakes. I guess your theory will remain a mystery.

I suppose viruses so make mistakes, but the virus using the food portal of a cell to enter the cell has not. The cell make a mistake in abstraction by interpreting the signals the virus sent as thinking the virus is food. I'm still wondering how you think think this is not a mistake on the part of the cell (or, if you agree it is a mistake, what's your point?).

In order to make a decision, something has to have choices. Otherwise it is compelled. I was wondering how you've concluded that cells make decisions.

I don't see a conflict between "has choices" and "is compelled". You can't be compelled to do something unless you have a choice to not do it.

bmiller said...

One Brow,

I'm still wondering how you think think this is not a mistake on the part of the cell (or, if you agree it is a mistake, what's your point?).

I've been asking questions to understand your theory. As I understand it, your theory is that a person is a transient mixture of purely physical processes that are erroring in various ways and causing illusions. Maybe it's even wrong to say it's a person, but better to say it's a different thing manifested moment to moment.

I've been wondering what the implications of this are. I won't rehash but basically there are 2 questions this brought to mind. April 30th I outlined them.

If a person is not existent as an entity over time and is merely a mixture of physical processes, then there is no person at all, only physical processes doing things. It seems to do away with the concept of existing entities all together. If there are no existent entities how can everyone be fooled in the exact same way as to place boundaries on certain sets of processes and not others and think this set is an entity. Not to mention the recursive problem of the non-existent entity contemplating how it it's getting fooled into thinking it exists when it actually doesn't.

If this non-exitent entity is only an arbitrary bundle of material/physical processes obeying the laws of physics, then I don't see how there can be "errors" since we define the laws of physics as inviolate. That is why I brought up EEBA. So if there are "errors" occurring, either the laws of physics are being violated or there is more to these "processes" than merely what is defined by physics in which case they are not purely material/physical beings.

I don't see a conflict between "has choices" and "is compelled". You can't be compelled to do something unless you have a choice to not do it.

OK, but I'm still wondering how you've concluded that cells make decisions.

StardustyPsyche said...

bmiller,
"If a person is not existent as an entity over time and is merely a mixture of physical processes, then there is no person at all,"
That pretty well sums up the eliminativist position.

But that is actually an oversimplification. The brain is a complex set of physical processes, which are sufficient to account for the sensation of the self and the continuity of self.

A key point is that the brain functions largely by comparing complex sets of stored models with incoming signal streams, uses correlation algorithms, and approximation thresholds.

So, if you see your friend one day, and the next, and the next he might look quite different. Different clothes, hair, angle of viewing, different lighting etc. But the brain correlates the incoming data stream with stored models of previous such data streams and if the correlation score rises above a threshold you give that person a single label "friend X".

The same is true for yourself. You actually change at least a little every day, even moment to moment. The brain has some internal self examination feedback loops, a bit like how your car can monitor itself and turn on the check engine light if a problem is detected, no magic, just self diagnostic signal paths.

Upon self examination that part of your brain correlates what is being self examined with the stored model of "me" and if it is close enough the brain labels that self examination as "me" and updates the stored model with the new model.

So, you continually examine yourself, correlate above a threshold, and update the stored model of yourself that will be used in the next correlation of "me".

The continuity of self is just an expanded version of facial recognition software, realized in your brain processes.

Hal said...

StardustyPsyche,

You wrote:

"gobbledygook"

StardustyPsyche said...

Which part of what I wrote is not clear to you?

Do you know how facial recognition software works?
Do you know what a self diagnostic routine is?
Are you aware that an algorithm can be realized on a variety of signal processing platforms?
Have you ever worked with correlation scores, thresholds, probability estimates, stored models, and data updates?

Hal said...

Don't you see how crazy it is to base your explanation of how one part of an animate being functions on an inanimate device that is designed to mimic the behavior of the whole animate being?

StardustyPsyche said...

Where did I say "mimic the behavior of the whole animate being"?

Memories are highly fragmentary. Internal models are stored as low resolution approximations, which turns out to be good enough for an animal to function.

Hal said...

Where did I say "mimic the behavior of the whole animate being"?

You didn't. And that is the problem. It is the human being that recognizes the face of another. That is what is being mimicked.

It is like trying to explain how humans have the capacity to speak with a talking doll.

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