Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tom Gilson gives a further defense of the AFR


John B. Moore said...

Gilson says: "Law and chance seem to be the only things operating to produce brain events. ... But law and chance have no regard for propositions." Gilson also identified "propositions as truth-bearers, and states of affairs as truth-makers."

I think it's confusing to bring in all this talk of propositions and truth-bearing. Truth does not need to be born. Truth simply is.

If you eliminate the confusing middleman of proposition, you see that "law and chance" are "states of affairs."

That's how the purely physical brain is connected with the truth.

B. Prokop said...

I believe THIS ought to be the final word on the AFR.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Anthony Fleming said...

Really enjoyed the read.

B. Prokop said...

"Propositions are not physical. Sentences and statements, identified as the expression of propositions, may be. Print out this comment and you'll have a page of physical sentences, but the propositions expressed by them are not physical."

This is similar to the argument I made many months (years?) ago on this very site, proposing that The Brothers Karamazov was proof that immaterial objects do exist. The novel cannot be equated with the physical book one holds, else you'd have to argue that there were thousands upon thousands of Brothers Karamazov, which is self-evident nonsense. Nor does it exist solely in the mind of the reader, since it would still be there even if no one currently alive had read it. (To believe that, one would have to say that Gilgamesh did not exist for the almost 3000 years between its being buried under Mesopotamian sands circa 1000 B.C. and its rediscovery in the 19th Century A.D.) It matters not whether Karamazov is recorded in ink, crayon, or blood. In fact, it matters not whether it is written down at all! Homer's Odyssey existed for centuries as an oral tradition before it was ever put to paper (or to whatever they used back then).

So the materialist is forced to either:

a) claim that there is no such thing as The Brothers Karamazov (good luck with that!), or

b) assert that the novel and its means of transmission are one and the same (which leads one to all sorts of logical paradoxes).

Ergo, immaterial entities exist, and materialism is false.

Jezu ufam tobie!

John B. Moore said...

The novel has lots of copies. Does that mean it's immaterial? Each physical copy is copied from the original that sprang from Dostoevsky's brain, which I would claim is also physical. The fact that physical things can be copies of one another does not suggest something immaterial.

The novel also exists in various forms. Originally it was just neuro-electric impulses and activation patterns in Dostoevsky's brain. Then it became spoken Russian words. Then his wife wrote them down on paper. Then it was printed. Then it was translated. Then it was made into a movie. Then it was read aloud for the audiobook edition. (I'm really into Dostoevsky.)

But none of these different physical forms suggests there must be an immaterial form.

B. Prokop said...

"But none of these different physical forms suggests there must be an immaterial form."

Only if you agree with my statement (b) above, which as I pointed out leads one to a boatload of logical paradoxes, chief among them being there are thousands upon thousands of independently existing Karamazovs out there.

If you're comfortable with that, then be my guest! Personally, I think the idea's insane.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Gyan said...

The novel "Brothers Karamazov" was NEVER "neuro-electric impulses and activation patterns in Dostoevsky's brain."
A particular bit of the novel, perhaps a sentence or a phrase could be associated with a momentary configuration of Dostoevsky's brain but how could the entire novel be?
Even while writing the novel, I assume, Dostoevsky's brain was engaged in lot of other activities-controlling the body, talking with other people, having not-novel related thoughts etc. How does one separate the novel from these things merely from the neural firing pattern?

John B. Moore said...

Gosh, you're right, Gyan. Dostoevsky never held the entire novel at one time in his brain. I guess it's true that the "Brothers Karamazov" is actually a very long string of words, not one unified, holistic concept.

Does this suggest the novel is non-physical?

David Brightly said...

If we start with a pretty ethereal notion of truth-bearer, viz propositions, it's hardly surprising that we find no 'meaningful connection' with physical events driven by 'law and chance'. So what are the arguments for propositions as truth-bearers? I would have thought that if according to a correspondence theory of truth, truth-bearers are in some relation with states of the world, and these latter are ultimately physical, then truth-bearers have to be physical too. The obvious entities to pick out as candidate truth-bearers are brains, or more precisely, states of brains. A sentence, spoken or written, is then a physical device for getting a truth-bearer, or a close approximation to it, from one brain into another. Propositions, as abstractions from sentences, are not the relevant object of study here. We are confusing the means with the ends, or, if you like, the medium with the message, to coin a phrase. And this is because the only handle we have on the actual truth-bearers, the brain states, is the sentences they cause and are caused by.

"Philip Swallow had been made and unmade by the system in precisely this way. He liked examinations, always did well in them. Finals had been, in many ways, the supreme moment of his life. He frequently dreamed that he was taking the examinations again, and these were happy dreams. Awake, he could without difficulty remember the questions he had elected to answer on every paper that hot, distant June. In the preceding months he had prepared himself with meticulous care, filling his mind with distilled knowledge, drop by drop, until, on the eve of the first paper (Old English Set Texts) it was almost brimming over. Each morning for the next ten days he bore his precious vessel to the examination halls and poured a measured quantity of the contents on to the pages of ruled quarto. Day by day the level fell, until on the tenth day the vessel was empty, the cup was drained, the cupboard was bare. In the years that followed he set about replenishing his mind, but it was never quite the same. The sense of purpose was lacking--there was no great Reckoning against which he could hoard his knowledge, so that it tended to leak away as fast as he acquired it."

This is not a metaphor.

B. Prokop said...


Just think for a bit about the implications of your equation of Karamazov with various physical means of storage. One of the worst is, if what I hold in my mind is the actual novel, and what you hold in your mind is also the actual novel, then not only do we have two independently existing Karamazovs, but the two of them are would have to be considered as equally valid. They are both, by your own reasoning, the very means by which the novel exists at all. So what, you say? Here's what. That means that Reality is "all in the mind"! My truth (no matter what I hold to be true) is no more or less true than yours. You may believe that the Sun revolves about the Earth, and you would be right!

Jezu ufam tobie!

B. Prokop said...

"The sense of purpose was lacking--there was no great Reckoning against which he could hoard his knowledge, so that it tended to leak away as fast as he acquired it."

Wow. I love that line! I feel that way all the time.

David Brightly said...

Hello Bob. Yes, it's the only passage from Changing Places that's stayed in my mind.

I would go with there being no such immaterial object as TBK (and thank you for the well-wishes!) We can easily imagine a world without TBK and in such a world I think we would say TBK did not exist---there was nothing at all that the name referred to. If we then imagine that world furnished with all the material trappings associated with TBK, then I think we would have say that TBK existed in that world. But we haven't had to add some further immaterial object. It's as if all those material bits and pieces somehow constituted what we mean by 'TBK'.