Monday, May 20, 2024

Lewis and Nagel

 

In Lewis’s essay “Meditation in a  Toolshed Lewis distinguishes between looking ay and looking along.  Looking at is the third person scientific perspective, looking along is looking from the first person perspective. This is the issue that is the subject of Thomas Nagel’s famous “What it is Like to Be a Bat.” Many, from J. B. Watson to Patricia Churchland, have argued the uselessness of introspection as sub-scientific. Lewis, like Nagel, argues that this kind of dismissiveness cannot be sustained, and he does sao on the grounds that to do so would undermine the very reasoning process that grounds the scientific argument on which the dismissal is based.  He writes:

Having been so often deceived by looking along, are we not well advised to trust only to looking at? in fact to discount all these inside experiences? Well, no. There are two fatal objections to discounting them all. And the first is this. You discount them in order to think more accurately. But you can't think at all - and therefore, of course, can't think accurately - if you have nothing to think about. A physiologist, for example, can study pain and find out that it “is” (whatever is means) such and such neural events. But the word pain would have no meaning for him unless he had “been inside” by actually suffering. If he had never looked along pain he simply wouldn't know what he was looking at. The very subject for his inquiries from outside exists for him only because he has, at least once, been inside. This case is not likely to occur, because every man has felt pain. But it is perfectly easy to go on all your life giving explanations of religion, love, morality, honour, and the like, without having been inside any of them. And if you do that, you are simply playing with counters. You go on explaining a thing without knowing what it is. That is why a great deal of contemporary thought is, strictly speaking, thought about nothing - all the apparatus of thought busily working in a vacuum. The other objection is this: let us go back to the toolshed. I might have discounted what I saw when looking along the beam (i.e., the leaves moving and the sun) on the ground that it was “really only a strip of dusty light in a dark shed”. That is, I might have set up as “true” my “side vision” of the beam. But then that side vision is itself an instance of the activity we call seeing. And this new instance could also be looked at from outside. I could allow a scientist to tell me that what seemed to be a beam of light in a shed was “really only an agitation of my own optic nerves”. And that would be just as good (or as bad) a bit of debunking as the previous one. The picture of the beam in the toolshed would now have to be discounted just as the previous picture of the trees and the sun had been discounted. And then, where are you? In other words, you can step outside one experience only by stepping inside another. Therefore, if all inside experiences are misleading, we are always misled. The cerebral physiologist may say, if he chooses, that the mathematician's thought is “only” tiny physical movements of the grey matter. But then what about the cerebral physiologist's own thought at that very moment? A second physiologist, looking at it, could pronounce it also to be only tiny physical movements in the first physiologist's skull. Where is the rot to end? The answer is that we must never allow the rot to begin. We must, on pain of idiocy, deny from the very outset the idea that looking at is, by its own nature, intrinsically truer or better than looking along. One must look both along and at everything. In particular cases we shall find reason for regarding the one or the other vision as inferior. Thus the inside vision of rational thinking must be truer than the outside vision which sees only movements of the grey matter; for if the outside vision were the correct one all thought (including this thought itself) would be valueless, and this is self-contradictory. You cannot have a proof that no proofs matter. On the other hand, the inside vision of the savage's dance to Nyonga may be found deceptive because we find reason to believe that crops and babies are not really affected by it. In fact, we must take each case on its merits. But we must start with no prejudice for or against either kind of looking. We do not know in advance 3 whether the lover or the psychologist is giving the more correct account of love, or whether both accounts are equally correct in different ways, or whether both are equally wrong. We just have to find out. But the period of brow-beating has got to end.t

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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114 comments:

StardustyPsyche said...

Lewis is simply adopting the strategy of the loser, throw over the table and declare a draw.

Victor Reppert said...

This is an argument?

SteveK said...

Why would SP start giving arguments now?

StardustyPsyche said...

No, but then "the period of brow-beating has got to end" is not an argument either.

Lewis does not, in general, make arguments, or at least arguments of clarity and philosophical import. He makes paragraphs of loosely worded appeals to emotions and straw-men.

Lewis was an author of fiction, in fact I recently found an old paperback of The Magician's Nephew, read and probably enjoyed in middle school by one of my children.

Lewis was also an author of religious apologetics.

When he attempted to write serious philosophical arguments even his fellow Christian philosopher showed how his words were riddled with pedestrian structural errors, without even getting to the more fundamental errors expressed.

What is the argument in the post? Pretty hard to identify with all the meandering polemics and colorful imagery lacking in argumentation substance.

There is the usual silliness of apologists that scientists are somehow defeating themselves or contradicting themselves or engaging in a vicious circle of some sort. No argument is presented to support such claims, just a few rhetorical questions posed in a most superficial strawman manner.

The target audience was clearly not serious philosophers, rather, the subjects of his apologetics outreach.

But, I see a bit of argument deep in there...

StardustyPsyche said...

"Therefore, if all inside experiences are misleading, we are always misled."
Ok, we are always misled, at least in some degree or some sense. That is what the scientific method is for, to cross check and eliminate the ways in which we are misled to the greatest degree are able to eliminate the ways in which we are misled.

We can never eliminate all possibility of being misled, which is why science is provisional. Philosophers of science know that, which is why there is no circularity in my materialism, none whatsoever.

StardustyPsyche said...

"A second physiologist, looking at it, could pronounce it also to be only tiny physical movements in the first physiologist's skull. Where is the rot to end? The answer is that we must never allow the rot to begin. We must, on pain of idiocy, deny from the very outset the idea that looking at is, by its own nature, intrinsically truer or better than looking along."
There isn't any such "rot" because there isn't any such vicious circularity or self contradiction...because science is self-consciously provisional.

But then Lewis get to the grotesque heart of his ugly apologetics:
"We must, on pain of idiocy, deny from the very outset the idea that looking at is, by its own nature, intrinsically truer or better than looking along."
Ah, the cry of the man on the street, the preacher in the pulpit, the Bible thumping zealot.

Don't try to tell me your fancy schmancy science is somehow better, I have my own eyes and I can tell you about the nature of reality and the cosmos and life and everything just as well as you big shots with your ivory tower degrees and science equipment.

Victor Reppert said...

Lewis doewn't claim introspection is infallible.

StardustyPsyche said...

Lewis explicitly claims parity or better, which is demonstrably false.

" We must, on pain of idiocy, deny from the very outset the idea that looking at is, by its own nature, intrinsically truer or better than looking along"

Of course the scientific method is truer and better.

Human beings had plain old introspection for hundreds of thousands of years and continued to live little better than especially well organized chimpanzees.

Only when we made the conscious decision to devise systems with the explicit goals of discovering, categorizing, and compensating for our many sensory biases and weaknesses did we finally begin to move into this great and unique era we presently live in.

For the first time in some 4 billion years of life on Earth ours is the first era to discover and characterize how the cosmos truly works from the submicroscopic to the vastness of the observable universe.

Meanwhile Bible thumping apologists like Lewis are grasping to hold on to at least some sort of parity, but that ship sailed before Lewis even wrote his polemic pleadings, but Lewis was too dull witted to understand he had already been left standing on the dock of the greatest voyage of discovery in the history of life on Earth, perhaps even of the entire universe.

Victor Reppert said...

Is sciece possible in which there are no intnetinoal states?

StardustyPsyche said...

Intentional states are an analogy, a simplified model of a complex dynamic process.

That sort of boxology or flow chart approach to psychology is typical of trying to figure out how the brain works using introspection. Such an analysis technique is hopelessly simplistic, sparse, and incomplete.

Victor Reppert said...

Does it follow from the science that anyone believes anything based on evidence? Lewis's point is that with no introspective information we wouyld never figure that out.

StardustyPsyche said...

Right, without being able to think we would not ever think of anything. I don't consider that to be an especially profound point to make.

Yes, we need our basic faculties of sensory perception, reasoning, communicating, and motor control.

People had those faculties for hundreds of thousands of years and remained hunter gatherers roaming about in small bands and tribes. They had as much intelligence, reasoning capacity, motor skills and powers of introspection as we do, yet they continued to live using stone tools, rudimentary clothing, and lacking in understanding of the cosmos beyond whatever their immediate senses told them and fantasies they dreamed up during introspection.

There is no call to discount introspection. There is a call to realize that introspection without science reaches a dead end of primitive hunter gatherer understandings.

Michael S. Pearl said...

Lewis wrote:
You go on explaining a thing without knowing what it is.

and

StardustyPsyche said:
Lewis is simply adopting the strategy of the loser, throw over the table and declare a draw. ... "the period of brow-beating has got to end" is not an argument either. ... Ok, we are always misled, at least in some degree or some sense. That is what the scientific method is for, to cross check and eliminate the ways in which we are misled to the greatest degree are able to eliminate the ways in which we are misled.

We can never eliminate all possibility of being misled, which is why science is provisional.


Why are you speaking in terms of possibilities?!?!?!!!! Just ribbing you. Rectification easily accomplished by substituting occasions for possibility. Moving on - - -

Headline: StardustyPsyche takes a shot but misses the target.

The point is that a significant thrust in what Lewis wrote was missed. First matter to appreciate: The scientific method is not the only method for cross-checking and eliminating. Second matter to appreciate: Scientific knowledge is not the only knowledge that is provisional.

Third matter to appreciate: With regards to method and knowledge, along the lines of the following is something I thought I might eventually use as a postscript to the "Cause and effect" thread: It is, to some extent, a tangential matter. ... That matter regards the relationship between experience and knowledge, or experience and knowing, or experience and coming to know. Is knowing an experience? Is there an experience of knowing? Is knowledge an experience? Is knowledge dependent on experience(s)? Is knowing/knowledge/coming-to-know dependent on the experience of choosing described in terms of the indeterminateness/free-from/free-to conditions?

To put it another way: Does eliminativist philosophy (seek to) eliminate experience as contributory to eliminativism? Or does eliminativism only hope to eliminate experience as contributory? If it is the as-yet-unachieved hope that is the case, while it is also the case that experience has not yet been eliminated from that philosophizing, then isn't the hope really one that amounts to a hope for the extermination of experience? Eh, maybe it's just the hope for exterminating as much experience as is practical while philosophizing? Wait. So what is the experience of having knowledge? Is the knowledge to be pursued the sort that makes experience as minimalized as possible? Minimal only because it cannot be extinguished if philosophizing is to go on?

I will not pursue the relation between knowledge and experience here. I am simply highlighting (and half-heartedly at that) matters which were ignored in effect.

StardustyPsyche said...

"The point is that a significant thrust in what Lewis wrote was missed."
Probably true, because Lewis was not a philosopher who made sound arguments, he was an apologist who expressed meandering polemical pleadings intended to appeal to his base, his target audience.

"The scientific method is not the only method for cross-checking and eliminating."
The scientific method is the only method humanity has available that allows for advance beyond primitive hunter-gatherer tribal level beliefs.

Humanity had introspection, humanity had other methods of acquiring knowledge and those methods reach a dead end in primitive tribal societies.

If you don't consider scientific knowledge "intrinsically truer or better" you are free to go off grid and live in the bush using stones and sticks for tools and introspecting your way to all the wonderful knowledge you can dream up thereby.

Victor Reppert said...

Lewia accepted this whole line of argument long before he was even a Christian, much less a Christian apologist. It wAS because of this argument that he moved from Platonistic materializsm to Absolute Idealism, but he considered himself an atheist even then. So don't give me this ad hominem crap about Lewis being an apologist, He was qualified to teach philosoaphy at Oxford, and came close to getting a position there. Are you qualified to teach philosophy at Oxford?

StardustyPsyche said...

"He was qualified to teach philosoaphy at Oxford"
He may very well have been qualified to present the philosophical positions of others.

You say he came close to getting a position there, so maybe he was a guest lecturer or adjunct lecturer or some similar role? Did he teach introductory survey courses in Greek philosophy? Perhaps he presented survey material of Kant, Descartes, and the like?

Well, fine. I mean, Ed Feser is a good enough teacher of philosophy at a community college. I don't doubt that Lewis had a roughly similar competency on the major historical schools of philosophy.

Michael suggested that I had missed the significant thrust of the OP. That is likely to be true, because the OP does not present a philosophical argument so much as just a generalized assertion that there are various ways of learning. Well, fine, not much of an argument and pretty mundane, but OK.

Where Lewis goes wrong is in equating, by claiming (scientific knowledge) is not "intrinsically truer or better". That claim is demonstrably false.

One simple demonstration of how false that claim is entails simply looking at how you live your life.

When you or somebody you know needs serious medical attention do you seek out practitioners of introspection? Or do you seek out the assistance of medical science?

Do you live your life by the fruits of introspection, or the fruits of science?

Supposing you want some light after dark, do you use your powers of introspection to figure out how to set some little sticks on fire, or do you use the science of artificial light generation and power generation?

Lewis provides us with a mere polemical lecture about a false equivalency. Yet he lived a modern luxurious life, not a life of the fruits of introspection.

Human introspection got us as far as stone tools and tribal mythology.

Scientific knowledge is "intrinsically truer or better" as you demonstrate by your personal choice to live by it, rather ungratefully I might add.

Lewis, and his followers, are the sort very eager to bite the hand that feeds them.

Kevin said...

The pain example from the OP is important to the overall thrust of the argument, I think.

The most brilliant scientists and doctors with the most advanced technology, unencumbered by any laws that could limit any conceivable test they might imagine, could in no way use their resources to describe pain, if they themselves had never experienced it. They could certainly figure out that the subject experiencing the pain found it an unpleasant sensation. They could track the pain through the subject's nervous system to understand the mechanic, and they could certainly devise ways of cutting the pain off.

But not only is there absolutely nothing they could do to describe the sensation of pain without having experienced it themselves, there is not a single thing, with all the scientific and medical and technological resources in existence, that could possibly motivate any of them to perform the research in the first place. To do that, they themselves must be able to empathize with pain, or at least suffering of some form, in order to understand the value of such studies and care enough to conduct them. Science is a wonderful investigative tool, but it is a pathetic motivational tool.

To motivate, and to be motivated, you need experiential knowledge. You need introspection. And for human happiness and flourishing, you need both. People in hunter gatherer societies could experience great happiness, and people in advanced societies can be especially miserable.

"Looking along" cannot produce scientific knowledge, but scientific knowledge cannot be produced without "looking along" as a motivation. I would rather live in a loving stone age society than a heartless advanced society, but that's just me.

StardustyPsyche said...

Kevin,
"The pain example from the OP is important to the overall thrust of the argument, I think."
Is it? What is pain? Where in nature does pain occur? What does pain indicate? Is pain an intrinsic existential feature of the cosmos? What do we learn when we experience pain?

Pain is a very low developmental level internal symbol for damage to an organism, or exposure to conditions that are in fact potentially damaging or in fact may not be potentially damaging but merely stimulate pain receptor nerves.

"could in no way use their resources to describe pain, if they themselves had never experienced it. "
Right, internal symbols such as pain, color, and other qualia are first person experiences of low developmental animals.

Very low developmental organisms experience pain. Do you suppose you have learned some great factual insight or some great intrinsic truth when you experience pain? A mouse can do as much.

Kevin said...

Is it?

Yes.

What is pain? Where in nature does pain occur? What does pain indicate? Is pain an intrinsic existential feature of the cosmos?

Those are indeed questions.

What do we learn when we experience pain?

Someone who experiences pain (and isn't a sadist or masochist) learns that pain is unpleasant and seeks to avoid inflicting it upon themselves and others, thereby making the world a better place. That is very crucial knowledge.

Pain is a very low developmental level internal symbol for damage to an organism, or exposure to conditions that are in fact potentially damaging or in fact may not be potentially damaging but merely stimulate pain receptor nerves.

Those are words. Very good.

Do you suppose you have learned some great factual insight or some great intrinsic truth when you experience pain?

So experience is only valuable if you get some "great factual insight" or "great intrinsic truth" out of it? Do you believe the only knowledge of value comes from science journals?

A mouse can do as much.

A mouse who does not inflict pain on me is much more appreciated than a scientist who does.

StardustyPsyche said...

"So experience is only valuable if you get some "great factual insight" or "great intrinsic truth" out of it? "
Experience of qualia is a very low level internal symbol of even relatively simple organisms, not a great human achievement.

Consider trigonometry, calculus, and advanced mathematics as a whole, compared to arithmetic.

Is advanced mathematics in any sense better than arithmetic? Well, even the most advanced mathematics requires arithmetic. The basic notions of counting remain even in the most advanced mathematics.

But, people have been counting for a very long time and they did not get far. Merely counting is relatively rudimentary and a very limited skill set.

If you think mere counting is on an equal footing as advanced mathematics, to me that indicates that you just have not considered the comparison very carefully.

So yes, the rudiments of introspection and basic reasoning that have been with us for tens of thousands of years remains, but that is not how we are going to unlock the mysteries of how the cosmos actually works.

Science is how we have learned so much and continue to learn real answers to questions human being have been asking and introspecting about for many tens of thousands of years.

Scientific answers are truer and better. Lewis provides no sound philosophical argument to the contrary, only a baseless pleading for a false equivalency.

Kevin said...

Experience of qualia is a very low level internal symbol of even relatively simple organisms, not a great human achievement

That didn't answer my question. But if I assume you believe it did, then I would take that to mean that yes, anything that doesn't provide a great factual insight or intrinsic truth is of such little value to you as to be worth belittlement.

I find that to be quite tragic.

SteveK said...

"So yes, the rudiments of introspection and basic reasoning that have been with us for tens of thousands of years remains, but that is not how we are going to unlock the mysteries of how the cosmos actually works."

You think introspection is primarily for unlocking the scientific mysteries of the cosmos? You see little value in the knowledge it provides towards understanding yourself, your family and the human condition in general? Tragic, indeed.

"Experience of qualia is a very low level internal symbol of even relatively simple organisms, not a great human achievement."

I'm willing to wager that you don't actually live this out like some kind of quasi-sociopathic person would, and instead you are posturing for the sake of maintaining your online persona.

Kevin said...

I suspect the claim is that Lewis himself is the one asserting that introspection is just as valuable as science for doing what science does. Uncharitably read, such as by a New Atheist driven by scientism and bigotry toward religious people, parts of the OP could be construed as meaning that.

I highly doubt that's what Lewis was saying.

SteveK said...

"Scientific answers are truer and better"

The public posturing will continue until religion is defeated!

Be careful what you advocate for, SP. As some of these 'truer scientific answers' become mainstream, don't be surprised when you and your family are treated like a dog or a pig or a mule. You're just an evolved animal after all, and you'll be treated like all of the others - da truer science sez so.

StardustyPsyche said...

Kevin,
"That didn't answer my question"
How so?

"anything that doesn't provide a great factual insight or intrinsic truth is of such little value to you as to be worth belittlement."
We has so called "looking along" (whatever that pointless term is supposed to mean) and it got us as far as privative stone tool tribal society beliefs.

Introspection proved to be a dead end that could facilitate a short and difficult life living as a subsistence hunter gatherer.

The religious, after gaining and living by all the advantages and advancements of modern science try to declare, falsely, some sort of equivalency.

If you think introspection is so wonderful and equivalent then by all means go off grid, live with tools of stone and sticks, and introspect your way to all the wonderful insights you can gain thereby.

I am sure you will have a great time just sitting around all day introspecting your way to great wisdom and knowledge, marveling endlessly at the wonderful world of color and smells and sensations and fantasies you inhabit and manipulate with your bare hands, sticks, fibers, and stones.

StardustyPsyche said...

"The public posturing will continue until religion is defeated!"
Indeed, we are well on the way. Rationality is trending up and religion is trending down.

Kevin said...

How so?

The question is "Do you believe the only knowledge of value comes from science journals?"

You are extremely focused on stone tools and sticks, which means the only thing you are thinking about is technological progress and other forms of scientific advancement. Now I'm really starting to wonder if you are so blinded by scientism that you don't even realize there is knowledge that doesn't derive from science.

Rationality is trending up

On what planet is rationality trending up? Because it isn't this one.

SteveK said...

Extreme tunnel vision resulting in blindness is a serious medical condition. I would get that checked out.

JameyWright said...

You keep saying "it got us as far as....", How do you know that? I was unaware that we in our ivory tower's of science could peel back millions of years and psychoanalyze ancient people's introspection. That's a neat trick you'll have to show me how it's done.
I for one don't plan on going off grid anytime soon, so I guess my only choice is your position. Only two positions, wait isn't that a logical fallacy like the "either/or" fallacy.
Yeah I think it is considering most people get along just fine without either choice in your extreme scenario. Myself I'll pick the third option (that most people inhabit) without the logical fallacies the only two options presented seem to rely on.

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"Extreme tunnel vision resulting in blindness is a serious medical condition. I would get that checked out."
Checked out? Nah, I'll just introspect about it!-)

StardustyPsyche said...

JameyWright,
"That's a neat trick you'll have to show me how it's done."
Pretty simple, people leave behind artifacts that are indicative of their level of understanding. The earliest writings we have are indicative of how the level of understanding people had achieved up to that point.

"I for one don't plan on going off grid anytime soon, so I guess my only choice is your position."
You can choose other positions, they will simply be incorrect, but they can be your positions.

"Yeah I think it is considering most people get along just fine without either choice in your extreme scenario"
What "extreme scenario" are you talking about?

"Myself I'll pick the third option (that most people inhabit)"
Indeed, most people live by the fruits of science while remaining ignorant of the fact that they are "getting along just fine" because people have advanced beyond mere introspection.

JameyWright said...

Your first point missed my point. You seem to have an almost psychoanalytical knowledge of their first person states of mind, beliefs, etc. I'm challenging that assumption. You don't have said knowledge. A guess is a guess.
Your next point is an argument by assertion, another logical fallacy. A logical fallacy plus another logical fallacy does not make even a valid argument.
The extreme scenario is your logical fallacy of either/or. Since there does exist a third option your argument is wrong.
You're still going to have to show me this unique psychoanalytical ability of yours to know someone's intimate state's of mind. Even psychologists don't assume such an ability. All those people are stupid is a meaningless assumption without said ability.

SteveK said...

Similar to the prayer studies where you don't know what you can't control. SP can't know who relied on introspection, and to what degree, to gain wisdom and insight and made the world a better place because they did that.

Michael S. Pearl said...

Kevin asked StardustyPsyche:
The question is "Do you believe the only knowledge of value comes from science journals?"

What does "of value" mean? StardustyPsyche had asked in what appears to have been a rhetorical fashion, "Is advanced mathematics in any sense better than arithmetic?" With the "better", that question also pertains to the "of value" issue. Is value a matter of science? Is it a matter of knowledge? Or, from the scientific - even the scientistic - perspective, does value reside in the domain outside of science, the domain of nonsense?

StardustyPsyche said...

Jamey,
"You don't have said knowledge."
Of course I do. I know that people of prehistory did not know the things that nobody knew until recently. Pretty simple.

People of prehistory did not know what makes the sun shine, or how far away the stars are, or the neurological functioning of their brains, or the causes of disease, or the fact of biological evolution, or about atoms, or electromagnetism, or how color vision works and on and on and on.

"A guess is a guess."
And a deduction is a deduction. In prehistory people told stories. We know that from encounters with tribal societies. They all have stories. Stories about spirits and ghosts and mythologies about creation and what the stars and the sun are and on and on.

We also know from early human history and the history of encounters with tribal societies that nobody knew about the things modern people have learned scientifically, prior to the advent of science.

"The extreme scenario is your logical fallacy of either/or"
Strawman. Either or what? You are just making that up out of whole cloth.

JameyWright said...

First the logical fallacies. Either people are scientific and modern or their living in cognitive dissonance by being religious, seems to be the implication of what you're saying. If I'm wrong than please correct me.
Since you merely assert things that leads to the second logical fallacy. That's not a straw man or made up, it's basic logic. The same logic that lead Alvin Plantinga, a highly respected Christian philosopher to declare "if someone turned in a paper with the same level of quality as Dawkin's "The God Delusion" in his intro to philosophy course he would flunk it". You prize reason clearly, which I admire. It's not too much to ask for logical consistency.
You can assert (without argumentation) that religious people live in cognitive dissonance but it remains a fallacy until you can prove it. Most people get along just fine in a modern world, proven by the fact that they survive, and whether or not they have cognitive dissonance I don't know. But as it stands two logical fallacies a valid argument does not make.
You mentioned the glorious scientific achievements that modern society has produced and correctly point out that ancient man could not have known that stuff. True and a valid premise in your deduction but your second premise on what they were (or modern religious people) thinking is mere conjecture and knowledge you can't possibly know, hence invalid and that makes your argument invalid. There's nothing logical about moving from agreed upon knowledge that they couldn't have had to what they did have (or their other thoughts for that matter) is impossible for anyone to know hence an invalid argument.
Unless of course you have that special ability I talked about. You're clearly very intelligent and I'm enjoying reading your replies on this website, way to keep us religious people on our toes.

Michael S. Pearl said...

StardustyPsyche never did respond to Kevin's question: "Do you believe the only knowledge of value comes from science journals?" StardustyPsyche does have a history of shying away from discussions cast in terms of value, importance, and the like. But, he might have given us enough material for a somewhat substantial investigation into - and on the basis of - what he has said. In proceeding, this investigation will try whenever possible to ignore certain apparent expressive inconsistencies on the part of StardustyPsyche such as that of May 21, 2024 at 7:28 PM when he said, "Only when we made the conscious decision to devise systems ...". That remark is inconsistent with what has long seemed to be the StardustyPsyche position that "the conscious" is epiphenomenal and, therefore, impotent and irrelevant, but this investigation probably does not need to consider such an apparent tangent.

As noted previously, StardustyPsyche wondered, "Is advanced mathematics in any sense better than arithmetic?" This followed his earlier statements remarking that "Scientific answers are ... better" and "the scientific method is ... better [than introspection]", statements to which the advanced/arithmetic question seems posed analogically so as to give some sense, some meaning to the claim of "better". StardustyPsyche does not himself analyze his use of "better", but, if he had, that analysis would have required considerations such as the following: In what sense is advanced mathematics better than arithmetic? In what sense is arithmetic better than introspection? The answer to both of these questions is that better is to be determined in terms of utility.

And that is really only to say that arithmetic is better than introspection only in those conditions under which arithmetic has more utility. Likewise, advanced mathematics is better than arithmetic only in those conditions within which advanced mathematics has more utility. Similarly, arithmetic is better than say trigonometry or calculus in those conditions for which arithmetic has more utility, such as when balancing a checkbook (which some of us still do).

Given the above noted StardustyPsyche attempt at analogy, this means that science is better than introspection for those conditions in which science has more utility. Likewise, introspection is better than science for those conditions in which introspection has more utility. There is, of course, also the matter of whether science is ever dependent on introspection. Maybe we will get to that later on in the discussion.

SteveK said...

I would argue that wisdom and inspiration are at the tip of the spear that pierced the veil of progress. Knowledge provides the information, wisdom provides the insight, inspiration provides the motivation. Prior to the first scientific discovery, there was no scientific knowledge that could be applied according to wisdom and no scientific knowledge that inspired action. Non-scientific knowledge, wisdom and inspiration did most of the work at the very beginning.

Michael S. Pearl said...

SteveK said:
I would argue that wisdom...

You are correct, sir! Wisdom is in that domain outside of science, the domain which historically has sometimes been referred to as nonsense.

Kevin said...

StardustyPsyche does have a history of shying away from discussions cast in terms of value, importance, and the like.

Asking if unthinking matter can give rise to a thinking entity is also a question too difficult to answer, per the free will discussion.

I suspect the dodge on the value issue will involve the denial of value as an actual existing thing, perhaps followed by the question of what it means to exist. Extreme reductionism involves the denial of much of reality.

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

"Either people are scientific and modern or their living in cognitive dissonance by being religious, seems to be the implication of what you're saying."
People are multifaceted. To be religious in the way most people are religious requires that a person think irrationally in that respect.

For example, the senate candidate Herschel Walker asked "if we came from apes why are there still apes? Think about it".

Herschel Walker is not, in general, a stupid person, or at least he is smart enough to play a somewhat complex game and make a lot of money and run for senate. Yet, clearly, on subjects that are related to his religious thinking he is a flaming moron. Just as an example.

"Alvin Plantinga, a highly respected Christian philosopher to declare "if someone turned in a paper with the same level of quality as Dawkin's "The God Delusion" in his intro to philosophy course he would flunk it"."

Alvin Plantinga is a hack. His EAAN is preposterous. Nobody outside of religious circles has the slightest respect for his philosophical arguments.

"it remains a fallacy until you can prove it."
I think you probably mean "unsubstantiated assertion" as opposed to "fallacy".

All the anti-evolution religious apologists are hacks. Hovind, Ham, Slick, Plantinga and on and on. Crackpottery.

Victor often posts "arguments" by Lewis, such as the OP. They are always defect laden apologetic pleadings, not sound philosophical arguments.

" There's nothing logical about moving from agreed upon knowledge that they couldn't have had to what they did have (or their other thoughts for that matter) is impossible for anyone to know hence an invalid argument."
There is a very great deal of evidence for the ways pre-scientific people think about themselves and the world around them. Nobody knows the exact mythololgies or stories that were first told but not recorded. Still, a great deal can be learned about the sorts of things pre-scientific people believe by studying the artifacts of prehistory, the mythologies of hunter-gatherer tribes, and the most early writings of people.

Nobody knows when the first creation myths were told, or the first attributions to imagined gods and spirits were made, but over time such mythologies have become features of tribal peoples around the globe.

"Unless of course you have that special ability I talked about. "
It is called anthropology. All major universities offer courses in anthropology. It isn't a matter of special abilities or mere guesswork.

StardustyPsyche said...

Michael,
"StardustyPsyche never did respond to Kevin's question: "Do you believe the only knowledge of value comes from science journals?" "
It is not an interesting question.

"That remark is inconsistent with what has long seemed to be the StardustyPsyche position that "the conscious" is epiphenomenal"
Right, it is pretty difficult to frame every discussion in the language of eliminative materialism. Most discussions are made at some abstract analytical level. A degree of trust is placed in the reader to make the differentiation, apparently misplaced trust in your case.

"And that is really only to say that arithmetic is better than introspection"
I didn't make that assertion. You are conflating things.

In general we use terms like "advanced math" or "advanced algebra". Adults do not get prizes for learning how to count or do arithmetic. Typically a person who is "better" at math is the person who can do "advanced" math.

Most people do not draw an equivalency between arithmetic and, say, calculus, or the advanced mathematics of modern physics. In general the practitioner of such advanced mathematics is considered to be "better" at math and to possess much greater skills and much higher mathematical knowledge than the ordinary person who merely knows how to add and subtract.

"There is, of course, also the matter of whether science is ever dependent on introspection."
And calculus is ever dependent on arithmetic, but calculus remains "truer or better".

Lewis attempted to draw a false equivalency, but there is no such equivalency. Without science we get the goofy nonsense of Hovind, Plantinga, Ham, and all the rest. And it is not just Christians who ask "if we came from apes why are there still apes?" In Islam there are weird assertions such that salt water does not mix with fresh water.

And on and on. All the mythologies of the world are what you get by introspection regarding the world around us. Science provides answers that are much "truer and better", the attempt at equivalency made by Lewis is false.

StardustyPsyche said...

Kevin,
" perhaps followed by the question of what it means to exist."
Oh, now I feel so dumb, asking for a definition of "exist" before responding to what does and does not exist, asking for a definition of "thinking" before responding to what does and does not think, and asking for a definition of "value" before responding to what does and does not have value.

But by all means, can you define what does and does not "exist"?

Does an object exist or is it only the material that object is composed of that exists?

If an object exists does that mean that if I break a brick in half something passed out of existence and new things came into existence? Or was there zero existential change when the brick was broken, merely a re-arrangement of that which exists without any change in the amount of existent stuff?

Suppose we write
2H2 + O2 = 2H2O
In chemistry we say that two molecules of hydrogen combine with one molecule of oxygen to form two molecules of water.
Nothing new began to exist.
Nothing old ceased to exist.

On that view of the meaning of the word "exist", the total amount of existent stuff is precisely static, unchanging. Yet we observe so much apparent change.

What is meant by "exist" if we consider the amount of existent stuff to never change, yet our senses seem to indicate new things coming in and out of existence continually? How can one define "exist" in a manner to reconcile this apparent contradiction, the apparent contradiction between existential inertia as opposed to observed change?

Kevin said...

Question isn't interesting, isn't relevant, blah blah blah. Dodge dodge dodge. Lie lie lie.

You don't answer them because your blinkered ideology puts you in a position where you can't answer them, even though the questions are remarkably simple.

You can't even answer whether thinking entities exist because you duck and weave on the definitions of thinking and existing, so clever you are, which is precisely why I refused to go beyond one premise in the free will thread until I got a simple, straightforward answer from you, which you proved incapable of doing, to no one's surprise. But you can sure keep presenting your false dichotomy and pretending no one has challenged it. New Atheist Antics 101.

So, here are a couple simple questions that an elementary student could correctly answer:

Does unthinking matter give rise to thinking entities?

Is the only knowledge of value that which comes from science journals?

Here's a third question: can you set your ignorant ideology aside long enough to answer these questions, or are you going to keep running away and pretending the questions are the problem and not you?

Michael S. Pearl said...

StardustyPsyche said:
Kevin's question: "Do you believe the only knowledge of value comes from science journals?"
It is not an interesting question.


It is not interesting to you. That's fine. But it is interesting to others who are intrigued by the reliance on "value" and are interested in how "value" might cohere with - might be consistent with - eliminativism (or determinism or reductionism).

StardustyPsyche said:
it is pretty difficult to frame every discussion in the language of eliminative materialism.

Acknowledged. Let me also add that this difficulty is not unique to eliminativism, meaning that no single instance of the difficulty and no single instance of a failure to overcome said difficulty is rightly regarded as a refutation. (I have no idea why humans, generally speaking, are so very obsessed with and so very defensive against refutation, but I have observed that such is the case, and that is why I put forth the previous sentence.) That being said, you do seem somewhat interested in choosing the words which would be most stridently consistent with your viewpoint. When I note a word choice that unnecessarily introduces possible inconsistency (meaning those instances in which an alternative expression is available which would avoid that very introduction of possible inconsistency), I am so noting for a couple of reasons: 1) to indicate to you that I am able to adopt your viewpoint, but also 2) because I anticipate that the most consistent expression of eliminativism, were it to be accomplished, would be self-evidently repulsive precisely as a result of what would be eliminated by eliminativism.

Having acknowledged the difficulty associated with expression, let me point out some reasons for why some of the superable difficulties are not overcome. There is certainly the occasionally insufficient analysis of the words chosen; that happens to everyone; it is rectified by having an openness to alternative expression. In some cases, the insufficient analysis results from the speaker having not yet developed a more versatile linguistic capability; this, too, is rectified by more fully developing the analytic capability (especially the ability to self-critique but also by being open to critique which others might offer). But then there are also less benign reasons.

To get into consideration of such reasons, it is first necessary to have some appreciation for the general character of language itself. I expect that language is inherently - but not insuperably - biased against viewpoints such as eliminativism owing to the fact that language largely originates as and emanates from expressions in terms of experiences. To the extent that this is so, using words to produce expressions which do not cohere with the viewpoint being expressed can dampen the severity of the viewpoint at issue, a dampening which alleviates the cognitive dissonance which arises between that viewpoint and the experience of human being. This dampening effect can also be used intentionally in order to be deceptive regarding how the viewpoint does not cohere with the experience of human being.

I do not believe that you intend to deceive. It is with that belief that I, on occasion, point out what seem to be unnecessary inconsistencies in your word choice. For example, when you said, "when we made the conscious decision to devise systems", a more precise expression - an expression more consistent with your viewpoint - would be something along the lines of "when we proceed[ed] to devise systems". You have no need of and avoid the inconsistencies introduced by "conscious" and "decision" (inasmuch as "decision" relates to "decide" which in turn suggests the actuality of alternatives from which one or an other can be selected).

Michael S. Pearl said...

StardustyPsyche said:
"And that is really only to say that arithmetic is better than introspection"
I didn't make that assertion. You are conflating things.


Now don't go getting all im-skeptical on me. I never said you made "that assertion" whatever "that assertion" is. And I conflated nothing. What I noted was an implication which follows from the context in which you said what you said.

StardustyPsyche said:
"There is, of course, also the matter of whether science is ever dependent on introspection."
And calculus is ever dependent on arithmetic, but calculus remains "truer or better".


I intentionally ignored the "truer" because the nature of truth seems wholly irrelevant to and unnecessary for the claim about "better", and it is the matter of "better" which is at issue for reasons already noted. In any event, your remark in no way detracts from the idea that science is ever dependent on introspection. Without introspection, there would be no science. That was the point.

StardustyPsyche said:
Lewis attempted to draw a false equivalency

Regardless of what Lewis was trying to say and regardless of how he said it, introspection remains a critically important aspect of science even though/if introspection is not sufficient for science (and though introspection seems not sufficient to effect the products of science). Don't you agree? If not, then why not? Hmmm. Wait. I can see that you might think this is some sort of "trap" (recalling a disproven im-skeptical accusation). After all, "introspection" suggests "conscious" but the conscious is supposed to be epiphenomenal. Hmmm. If this is the problem, then I admit that at the moment I do not know how to help. But, even so, I think you can see that this is a reasonable line of questioning.

StardustyPsyche said...

Michael,
"interested in how "value" might cohere with - might be consistent with - eliminativism (or determinism or reductionism)."
Fair enough. After all, what sense does "value" make if we are all just a bunch of field oscillation packets vibrating through the cosmos inexorably toward a deterministic single possible future?

For me, the answer is that ultimately nothing has value, life has no ultimate meaning, and then you die, to the extent one can reasonably speak of "value", "life", "meaning" at all on eliminative materialism.

Well, that seems rather bleak, perhaps, but not to me. While we may be just a collection of submicroscopic stuff, ultimately, I have no way to operate by analyzing 10^28 nearby submicroscopic bits whizzing about moment to moment.

To make problems tractable we abstractly draw boundaries around collections of material and analyze trends and averages and composite apparent behaviors. There is no inconsistency because the approximation and abstraction is done explicitly.

In other words, making abstract boundaries and analytical approximations are understood to be just that, so there is no self-contradiction in doing so.

Put another way, scientific materialism is self-consistent because it is self-consciously provisional.

StardustyPsyche said...

Michael,
"Without introspection, there would be no science. That was the point."
Sure, without eating there would be no science. Without the base functions shared with lower organisms we could not perform the advanced functions unique to our species.

You can have whatever value system you devise, up to you.

Most people consider advanced functions as "better".
A concert pianist is "better" than clanging a tin can with a stick.
Solving difficult problems in theoretical physics is "better" than counting to 5.
Scientific development of a cure for disease is "better" than introspecting that an exorcism of demons will cure the disease.

"Regardless of what Lewis was trying to say and regardless of how he said it"
I am addressing the assertions of the OP. If you want to make other points, up to you.

JameyWright said...

Your first statement is again a mere assertion and arguing by assertion is a logical fallacy. You can Google logical fallacies if you need a refresher.
I don't know nor care what one senator thinks. You made a descriptive statement about all religious people past and present with no logical proof to back it up. The dirty little secret is that I know is you can't prove that.
There's only two ways to prove it inductively or deductively (of course there's always a transcendental proof but I wanted to keep things simple with all the debate over transcendental arguments in general).
An inductive proof would require that you show that each and every religious person ever has this quality. That's clearly impossible and is easily challenged by the question "how do you know nonreligious people don't have the same quality"?
A deductive proof would require that you formulate an argument of some kind that proves all religious people ever have this quality, again good luck.
Alvin Plantinga is respected outside of religious communities, in fact I have a book that is nonreligious on some topic in epistemology that interacts with his warrant and proper function philosophy.
Don't worry if you don't know what that is, most people don't but he is the guru of warrant and everyone deals with him. That's a bit like saying Anscombe isn't taken seriously by non believers because she was Catholic. Both comparisons are so laughable as to only demonstrate a lack of knowledge with 20th century philosophy. But you can always Google Daniel Dennett's response to his review which is embarrassing for a professional philosopher to write.
No I don't mean unsubstantiated assertion. Without a special psychic ability you can't know what people are thinking period. And no anthropologist would claim that.
My whole point is reducible to two points: you claim knowledge of what people are thinking that you cannot in principle know and all you do is argue by bad logic and logical fallacies. If you were to separate out beliefs ancient thought that you could most likely give evidence for from beliefs you can't possibly know and stick with the former than problem one solved. Of course that doesn't solve applying the same psychic ability to contemporary people but it's a start. Problem two is a personal one so that's for you to figure out. BTW Plantinga believes in theistic evolution I think.

JameyWright said...

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2024/february-web-only/china-alvin-plantinga-apologetics-philosophy.html
Interesting story on Plantinga in China.

Hal Friederichs said...

Kevin,

"Does unthinking matter give rise to thinking entities?"

Human beings have evolved from non-thinking animals. So the answer to your question is "Yes".

I do agree with the view that there is such a thing as value in the world. That is because there are living things in the world. A world without life would have no value.

StardustyPsyche said...

Jamey,
"An inductive proof would require that you show that each and every religious person ever has this quality."
Anthropology does not do proof, it does evidence. If you want to believe in advanced ancient civilizations that disappeared without a trace, up to you, there is no evidence to support such speculation.

"Alvin Plantinga is respected outside of religious communities, in fact I have a book that is nonreligious on some topic in epistemology that interacts with his warrant and proper function philosophy."
You have a book...
Alvin Plantinga is a crackpot on the subjects of proofs of god's existence and arguments against naturalism. I don't doubt that he can recite some basics of philosophy. That is common among religious people, who typically can function quite well in the basics of survey courses on introductory philosophy, but then lapse into crackpottery when they try to apply philosophy in support of religion.

"That's a bit like saying Anscombe isn't taken seriously by non believers because she was Catholic."
No it isn't. Plantinga is not taken seriously because his arguments on the subject of religion and naturalism and god are junk. I don't know which particular sect of religion he ascribes to, and it does not matter with respect to the fact that his arguments are junk.

"No I don't mean unsubstantiated assertion. Without a special psychic ability you can't know what people are thinking period. And no anthropologist would claim that."
Anthropologists spend a great deal of time analyzing what people believe, and the sorts of thoughts that are associated with artifacts and practices such as engravings, tool making, and ritual burials.

No anthropologist claims to have identified that a particular person 40,000 years ago had a particular thought. But certain kinds of thought are required to, say, manufacture certain sorts of tools.

"My whole point is reducible to two points: you claim knowledge of what people are thinking that you cannot in principle know"
Wrong, I know that people who made stone tools had thoughts of planning ahead because knapping requires planning and intent, else you just end up with a pile of useless chips.

"Problem two is a personal one so that's for you to figure out."
I am sorry you have a personal problem but I cannot figure out your personal problems for you unless you clearly state them.

"BTW Plantinga believes in theistic evolution I think."
Right, he published a junk argument called EAAN. EAAN is so idiotic that you are likely to fall out of your chair laughing when reading it.



SteveK said...

"For me, the answer is that ultimately nothing has value, life has no ultimate meaning, and then you die, to the extent one can reasonably speak of "value", "life", "meaning" at all on eliminative materialism"

"Ultimately" and "ultimate" are unnecessary terms. Your own values have no value because, like color and other qualia, values don't actually exist as a property of matter. Eliminative materialism is a very strong acid that destroys everything that isn't matter in motion. Other than the matter in motion, it's all a hallucination and the hallucinations are a hallucination - again because only matter in motion exists. It's one of the topmost incoherent philosophies out there.

Kevin said...

Hal,

So the answer to your question is "Yes".

That is indeed the correct response. Others struggle to answer such questions because of their worldview, which should be an indication to the holder of such a worldview that there are flaws with it.

I do agree with the view that there is such a thing as value in the world. That is because there are living things in the world. A world without life would have no value.

This is also the correct response, but again, certain worldviews preclude the notion of an idea as existing, particularly since they also preclude the notion of "living things" which could even hold the idea of value to begin with - that's why the question of whether non-living matter can give rise to thinking entities must be avoided.

The value question was avoided by denying that value exists, but this of course did not address the issue. It was labeled uninteresting, but there was so much revealed by this dodge. If you criticize introspection but applaud scientific progress, then you have already revealed that you value science more than introspection. This of course led to the question about if the only valuable knowledge (since it has already been revealed that certain knowledge is valued over other knowledge) is if it is via science, which of course means absolutely nothing experienced on a daily basis except technology would be valued. Of course, since value doesn't exist, and neither does science and neither does the technology, all that is left is the abstract "observer" hallucinating things that don't really exist. So much to unpack there, for anyone who likes to think.

Of course, thinking doesn't exist.

Michael S. Pearl said...

SteveK said:
Your own values have no value because, like color and other qualia, values don't actually exist as a property of matter.

Kevin said:
The value question was avoided by denying that value exists ... This of course led to the question about if the only valuable knowledge ... would be valued. Of course, since value doesn't exist ...

I think StardustyPsyche is being misunderstood. Remember that he is a dualist. There is that which exists, and there is that which is real. Values do not exist, but they are real. StardustyPsyche (seemingly) holds that values are mere matters of subjectivity and are not matters of knowledge; in effect, values are aesthetic tastes. If that is a correct enough understanding about/description of the StardustyPsyche position, then when he says "science is truer and better" - while the manner of statement strikes as being more absolute than would be any aesthetic taste/judgment - all that StardustyPsyche is doing is vehemently stating his distaste for (in this case) any thought that introspection is important enough to even be important, certainly compared to science. Something like that. But maybe I am mistaken about the StardustyPsyche viewpoint.

Regardless, even if values are not matters of (or subject to) science, knowledge, or scientific knowledge, even if values are nonsense (following Wittgenstein in his Lecture on Ethics), it does not therefore follow that values and nonsense are not important. Human being occurs within the domain of importance, a domain outside of but also encompassing science.

Kevin said...

Sure, but my original question was if the only knowledge "of value" comes from science. I know many important things that were not learned via science, as does everyone else.

There are of course various ways to accommodate that to continue elevating Science, such as declaring that all forms of knowledge that use logical thinking, trial and error, etc are Science Broadly Construed, a rhetorical trick used by Jerry Coyne and Sam Harris as examples.

While confirming that Harris was indeed one of those who said plumbers were thinking scientifically, rather than the much more correct assertion that both plumbers and scientists think logically for problem-solving, I came across this:

But no branch of science can derive its judgments solely from scientific descriptions of the world. We have intuitions of truth and falsity, logical consistency, and causality that are foundational to our thinking about anything. Certain of these intuitions can be used to trump others: We may think, for instance, that our expectations of cause and effect could be routinely violated by reality at large, and that apes like ourselves may simply be unequipped to understand what is really going on in the universe. That is a perfectly cogent idea, even though it seems to make a mockery of most of our other ideas. But the fact is that all forms of scientific inquiry pull themselves up by some intuitive bootstraps.

It appears that even with the gaping flaws in much of his thinking, Sam Harris understands that science is very dependent upon ideas that are themselves not scientific. Granted, those ideas are not necessarily "knowledge" unless they are Knowledge Broadly Construed, but their importance still can't be denied.

Regardless, most people understand that knowledge not derived from science is extremely important. It takes the denial of vast swathes of reality to flounder with that concept.

Michael S. Pearl said...

Kevin,

Keep in mind that StardustyPsyche seems inclined towards dismissiveness with regards to matters of subjectivity, such as values. This can well be related to his obsession with being internally consistent as if that is a most important (subjective or otherwise) value. One way best to assure maintenance of internal consistency is to keep the subjectively preferred thinking relatively narrow and thereby avoid issues that bring into question whether the internally consistent albeit narrow viewpoint is consistent with/coherent with thinking about matters outside of the subjectively preferred narrow viewpoint. Values as matters outside of science threaten the coherence of scientistic thinking even though they do not inherently threaten scientific thinking. Those seeking truths in their multiplicity do not hamstring themselves in such a manner, nor are they stymied by mere incoherence. Indeed, the obsession with internal consistency is what often can be most stymieing.

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"Ultimately" and "ultimate" are unnecessary terms.
Nope, value can be relative. We can assign our personal relative values. That's what value is, a relative comparison.

"Ultimate" in this context means relative to the cosmos as a whole. There is nothing outside of the cosmos as a whole so there cannot be ultimate meaning, since there is nothing outside of everything to compare to.

"It's one of the topmost incoherent philosophies out there."
Your strawman might be incoherent, but my materialism is entirely self-consistent.

My materialism also requires a large number of precise definitions for seemingly simple terms, as well as a large number of very carefully chosen words to describe, plus the capability and willingness to positively engage in all those definitions and descriptions.

You, like all theists I have yet encountered, lack those traits and quickly lapse into shallow strawman quips, more's the pity for you then.

StardustyPsyche said...

Kevin,
"The value question was avoided by denying that value exists"
What does "exist" mean in this context?

Nobody here has displayed a combination of ability and willingness to define "exist".

There is no point is discussing what does and does not exist is you can't even define what "exist" means.

Michael S. Pearl said...

StardustyPsyche said:
My materialism also requires a large number of precise definitions for seemingly simple terms, as well as a large number of very carefully chosen words to describe, plus the capability and willingness to positively engage in all those definitions and descriptions.

And by what means are "precise definitions" achieved? By taking experiences into consideration at times?

Certainly.

By considering concepts derived from experiences?

Certainly.

Is your alleged "precision" supposed to eliminate the conceptualizing, the concepts which led to the "definition"?

If yes, then your definitions would be non-sense (in contradistinction to nonsense).

If no, then you can just as well pursue the concepts without having unnecessarily restricted the lexicon prior to discussion. Besides, how do you imagine you would arrive at definitions agreement (an agreement which would be provisional) without consideration in terms of concepts?

Your narrowed approach in terms of definitions might be personally useful for you in an attempt to reduce the number of variables for which you have to account at any given moment, but you risk sacrificing conceptual thinking when idolizing definitions.

With regards to capabilities, different people have different capabilities, and that means in order to "positively engage" it is necessary to modify expression for the sake of the other, so that the other might be better able to grasp the concepts at issue. In such a context and with such a consideration for the other, your approach to definition-insistence easily risks being indistinguishable from indoctrination.

SteveK said...

Nope, value can be relative. We can assign our personal relative values. That's what value is, a relative comparison.

You could arrange the comparison so that ultimately everything has value. It's up to you. Don't be such a negative Nancy.

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

My materialism also requires a large number of precise definitions for seemingly simple terms

More accurately, it requires redefining words to accommodate your materialism. Such as hallucination, which by definition excludes normal sensory experience, but which you redefine to mean all sensory experience, thereby rendering the word meaningless.

You talk about your materialism all the time. In what sense does your materialism exist? Does it not exist, but you still talk about it like it does? Or does it exist in the capacity that ideas and concepts exist, which are existent enough to change the world?

This is why the "precise definition" dodge is so boring. We both know ideas exist in a particular capacity, so why pretend that I might be talking about the same sort of existence as the sun? Does that make you feel like a careful thinker?

New Atheists are great at claiming wisdom and careful thinking, but not so great at demonstrating it. Their playbook is shallow and boring, not to mention hypocritical. Please do better.

Michael S. Pearl said...

Kevin said:
it requires redefining words to accommodate your materialism. Such as hallucination, which by definition excludes normal sensory experience, but which you redefine to mean all sensory experience, thereby rendering the word meaningless.

More importantly, the at issue use of hallucination and even the more moderate illusion render the viewpoint multiply senseless. When all thought is hallucination/illusion, then how can knowledge not be an hallucination/illusion? And if knowledge is an hallucination/illusion, then how is the materialism at issue anything other than self-contradictory? When it espouses knowledge or claims to have or to be based on knowledge, is it claiming anything other than being based on - and, in fact, being itself nothing other than - an hallucination/illusion?

SteveK said...

Everything has value relative to a heap of rotting trash, which is my personal "ultimate" to use in value comparisons. Even the cosmos and SP have value by comparison. This is a much more positive view of life. Try it.

StardustyPsyche said...

Michael,
"Your narrowed approach in terms of definitions might be personally useful for you in an attempt to reduce the number of variables for which you have to account at any given moment, but you risk sacrificing conceptual thinking when idolizing definitions."
Projection much? Your risks are not my risks.

I am just going by long experience. The com box will often go on and on with disagreement and the folks arguing do not even agree what the words mean. I find that process rather pointless.

Figuring out what the words mean is an integral part of conceptual thinking, at least, my conceptual thinking.

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"You could arrange the comparison so that ultimately everything has value. It's up to you. Don't be such a negative Nancy."
Right, if you find that everything else in the cosmos has value relative to you, and you have value to yourself, then fine, up to you. Those are your personal relative value sensibilities. Such value is not an existent feature of the cosmos outside of you, it is just your personal feelings, as all value judgements are.

StardustyPsyche said...

Kevin,
"This is why the "precise definition" dodge is so boring. We both know ideas exist in a particular capacity, so why pretend that I might be talking about the same sort of existence as the sun? Does that make you feel like a careful thinker?"

"particular capacity"

Ok, so there are different sorts of existence?

How many sorts of existence "exist"? Does existence exist?

"Does that make you feel like a careful thinker?"
Do you feel you can be a careful thinker without considering the nature of existence?

But, suppose we get back to your 2 examples of 2 different sorts of "exist".
1. Ideas
2. The Sun

By "sun" I am pretty sure you are providing an example of an obvious object, something with a mind independent ontological realization in the cosmos. The sun would exist as an object in the cosmos out in space doing all its sun things whether you or I or anybody knew about it or not. At least, on the conventional first level approximation of what an object is.

But do objects exist?

Can new stuff begin to exist and old stuff cease to exist?

E=mc^2
2H2 + 02 = 2H2O

Note the lack of any poof terms in those equations.
They are just that, equations. The LHS equals the RHS, precisely.
Nothing gets in or out.
No new thing begins to exist and no old thing ceases to exist.

That tells us that objects do not exist.
Only the materials that the objects are composed of exist.
Objects are just particular arrangements of existent material.

So, do ideas exist? Does any process exist?
We have already seen that spatial arrangements of materials do not exist.
Therefore, by the same sort of reasoning, spatio-temporal changes of arrangements do not exist.

Well, hang on, perhaps you are thinking, people talk about all kinds of objects and processes as existing. True, so that brings me back to the question.

How many sorts of existence are there?
Or as you used the word, in how many sorts of "capacity" of existence do we say there are?

"so why pretend that I might be talking about the same sort of existence as the sun?"
Because that is an unsettled debate going back at least as far as Plato.
Do abstract objects exist?

Plato said yes, abstract objects are real and they really exist in the world of forms.
A great many philosophers disagree, such as William Lane Craig, who says abstract objects do not exist.

So, here are few potentially useful "capacities" of existence.
1.Fundamental material (prime matter) has mind independent ontological being in the cosmos.
2.Spatial arrangements of material are mind independently the case in the cosmos.
3.Spatio-temporal progressions of material are mind independently the case in the cosmos.

Or would you add more capacities of existence, perhaps abstract objects do exist as Plato asserted?

Kevin said...

I hope that was as hilarious to type as it was to read.

Ok, so there are different sorts of existence?

Per the English language and its relationship to concepts, very obviously so.

How many sorts of existence "exist"?

Utterly irrelevant to anything I said.

Does existence exist?

"Does existence exist? - StardustyPsyche 2024"

Do you feel you can be a careful thinker without considering the nature of existence

Do you feel like you talk this way all the time to everyone around you, or do you maybe only do it to dodge easy questions on the internet? Rhetorical question, no need to answer.

Can new stuff begin to exist and old stuff cease to exist?

Utterly irrelevant to anything I said.

That tells us that objects do not exist...Therefore, by the same sort of reasoning, spatio-temporal changes of arrangements do not exist.

Okay, so the sun doesn't exist and doesn't warm or illuminate the planet which also doesn't exist. Got it.

Well, hang on, perhaps you are thinking, people talk about all kinds of objects and processes as existing. True

How can it be true if people don't exist?

Or would you add more capacities of existence, perhaps abstract objects do exist as Plato asserted?

Well since you claim you don't exist, meaning your materialism doesn't exist as an idea to talk about, then I guess I wasn't even asked this question.

StardustyPsyche said...

Kevin,
"then I guess I wasn't even asked this question."
That presupposes that the existence of objects and philosophical schools of thought is a necessary precondition for a question to be actual. I deny that presupposition.

Asking a question is a pattern of spatio-temporal progressions that do not require existent objects in order to be actual.

Kevin said...

This reminds me of the Calvin & Hobbes strip where Calvin expresses his newly developed appreciation of writing assignments, and tells Hobbes "I realized that the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning, and inhibit clarity." That's ultimately what this dodge amounts to, so thank you for reminding me of C&H. It was one of my favorite comic stripes back in the day.

Kevin said...

Unintentional Hobbes pun. Strips, not stripes.

bmiller said...

Kevin,

You should have claimed it was intentional. It's actually pretty good.

Kevin said...

It was an autocorrect, so I can't rightly take credit.

bmiller said...

So computers have a sense of humor after all!

SteveK said...

"Asking a question is a pattern of spatio-temporal progressions that do not require existent objects in order to be actual"

In response to the existent being with spatio-temporal properties that suggest a real, but not actual, verbal testimony that relevant to the physical dynamics of the issue at hand, the logic of physical actions and the normative scientific findings accumulated over the years, combined with the fabric of our individual human experiences does not support this at all.

AKA: Word salad doesn't mean anything.

bmiller said...

Not only that but using the word "is" asserts the existence something. In fact in order to make sense of that statement at all, all of the nouns must have a definition.

So if someone asserts that they can distinguish between a "pattern" and a chicken, then a "pattern", "spatio-temporal progressions", "existent objects" and "actual" must all have different definitions than a chicken. If none of them exist, then their definition must all be the same ..."nothing" or the opposite of existence. If they have different definitions then they must have existence (hence not "nothing")

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"Word salad doesn't mean anything."
It seems like word salad to you due to your lack of understanding of the terms, another indication of the importance of defining terms and the meanings the words have in the context they are used.

If you are not willing or able to engage in the process of understanding the words then they will remain unintelligible to you.

StardustyPsyche said...

bmiller,
"all of the nouns must have a definition."
Indeed, as well as all the other words.

Unfortunately, a dictionary is ultimately tautological. Each definition consists of words, and each of those words in turn have definitions which are composed of words that have definitions etc.

But, that is not an infinite regression, rather, a finite regression that is fundamentally circular and self-referential. There are a finite number of words in an unabridged dictionary and eventually all definition regressions circle around within that finite set of words.

To anchor this seemingly arbitrary set of circular abstractions we reference our own experiences. Further, on the scientific view, we provisionally postulate that others have broadly similar experiences such that their anchor for the meanings of words relative to the real cosmos is broadly similar to ours.

" "pattern" and a chicken, then a "pattern", "spatio-temporal progressions", "existent objects" and "actual" must all have different definitions than a chicken."
A chicken is a spatio-temporal progression of existent materials.

"If none of them exist"
Perhaps you can define "exist"?

What good does it do to assert what does and does not exist if we can't even agree on the definition of "exist"?

"then their definition must all be the same ..."nothing" or the opposite of existence."
Ok, well that might be a start. Maybe we can define "existence" by its opposite, "nothing".

So, "nothing" means "no thing".
Thus
A thing exists.
No thing does not exist.

But what is a "thing"? An object?

But what is an object? Is an object a single thing, or is an object a collection of things?

What exists then?
Does only fundamental material exist?
Or do our abstract considerations of collections of fundamental materials thereby cause real new things to come into existence?

Do changes among things exist?
Say there are 10 things in a particular spatial relationship to each other.
But, those 10 things are moving through space and time.
So, in the next moment those 10 things have a different spatial relationship to each other.
Did an old 10thing thing cease to exist and new 10thing thing begin to exist?

Is the process of change of spatial relationship between things over time itself a thing that exists?

I have never encountered a coherent set of answers to such questions other than eliminative materialism.

On eliminative materialism only fundamental materials exist.
No fundamental materials come into existence out of nothing.
No fundamental materials pass out of existence into nothing.
Fundamental materials (sometimes called matter-energy) are conserved.
All apparent things, apparent objects, and processes of such apparent things are progressions of arrangements of fundamental materials over time, and are not existent things in themselves.
Spatio-temporal progressions of arrangements between fundamental materials are not themselves existent things, rather, actual states of affairs between existent things.

Kevin said...

To anchor this seemingly arbitrary set of circular abstractions we reference our own experiences. Further, on the scientific view, we provisionally postulate that others have broadly similar experiences such that their anchor for the meanings of words relative to the real cosmos is broadly similar to ours.

Hence the amused exasperation when you suddenly act like "exist" must have an extremely specific definition provided, or else questions containing the word cannot possibly be answered. Even though you carry on many conversations in which you speak in the same general terms as anyone else, without suddenly stopping and claiming you can't proceed without some highly specified, twenty page thesis describing the meaning of "Ed Feser" is provided, and does Ed Feser even really refer to anything but an arbitrary collection of "spatio-temporal progressions of arrangements between fundamental materials". Of course you don't, because that would be just as idiotic as being confused by whether thinking entities (people) exist.

What's even better is, if there is any sense in which you would, in conversation with a family member or friend or stranger, use the word "exist" in the same way that any normal person would use it, then the answer to my question would have been "yes". You could have even added the qualifier of the manner in which you agree that a thinking entity exists.

Instead, you look to everyone as though your selectively-employed eliminative materialism dodge prevents you from being able to answer whether or not thinking entities (like people) exist, which is a glaring flaw with either your worldview or your personal application of it. You should probably rethink that, and whether your worldview has blinded you.

bmiller said...

What good does it do to assert what does and does not exist if we can't even agree on the definition of "exist"?

I'm sorry that language confuses you but I can't help. You seem to acknowledge that language exists by your use of it. Yet the words you use (that you claim do not exist "on eliminative materialism") show that you believe they do not exist. Quite a strange kettle of fish this notion of materialism.

It seems your system is so incoherent that to even describe it is to prove it is wrong.

SteveK said...

”On eliminative materialism only fundamental materials exist”

Since all of those nouns have the same meaning we can simplify the dictionary.

Chicken: a spatio-temporal progression of existent materials
Automobile: see chicken
Tree: see chicken
Hammer: see chicken
Rooster: see chicken

StardustyPsyche said...

Kevin,
"Even though you carry on many conversations in which you speak in the same general terms as anyone else"
I generally speak in the vernacular of the ordinary folks :-)

"twenty page thesis describing the meaning of "Ed Feser" is provided, and does Ed Feser even really refer to anything but an arbitrary collection of "spatio-temporal progressions of arrangements between fundamental materials". "
Sorry, don't know what you are talking about there. Feser is purveyor of crackpottery.

People have highly technical conversations and people have ordinary language conversations. Most people with a technical vocabulary shift between the modes of communication depending on circumstances. If that bothers you, oh well.

StardustyPsyche said...

bmiller,
" You seem to acknowledge that language exists by your use of it. "
Language does not exist in the eliminative materialism sense of "exist".

Language does exist in a very loose sense of reifying abstractions or processes as if they were existent things.

"It seems your system is so incoherent that to even describe it is to prove it is wrong."
Actually, my system is entirely coherent. If you fail to understand that fact then you simply have a few things left as opportunities for you to become more educated.

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"Since all of those nouns have the same meaning we can simplify the dictionary."
Automobile: see chicken
Tree: see chicken
Hammer: see chicken
Rooster: see chicken


Suppose we say:
*Ordinary solid objects are all made of atoms"

Ok, then by your "reasoning" all ordinary objects are the same, after all, they are all made of atoms.

SteveK said...

It’s your reasoning

SteveK said...

You are the one who said a chicken is a spatio-temporal progression of existent materials, a definition that applies to all ordinary objects. If you find your “suppose we say” situation laughable, there’s hope.

Kevin said...

Most people with a technical vocabulary shift between the modes of communication depending on circumstances.

Right, making your "exist" spiel nothing but a dodge, which has been my point for quite some time now.

JameyWright said...

Well your first paragraph shows a lack of understanding of the nature of proofs, evidence, and basic logic/reasoning.
The next couple of paragraphs on Plantinga show a clear lack of knowledge of the field. Word to the wise never pontificate on subjects you don't have a working knowledge to interact with. I mean you keep committing logical fallacies and that shows a clear ignorance of basic logic/reasoning skills.
But I'm willing to be corrected, I could be wrong after all. Please without any fallacies or ignorance of the field tell me your problem with Plantinga's epistemology?
Your stuff about anthropology is irrelevant to your descriptive statements of what all religious people think. Out of curiosity, and this is none of my business so feel free not to answer, where did you learn to reason and debate like this?
I've been cutting you slack because your debating multiple people. But the fallacies and ignorance only hurt your cause not help it. You obviously feel very strongly about your POV, don't you want to influence others?
I mean a fellow atheist or weak believer could stumble across this and do a little google search and see that I'm right? Is the thrill/angle just killing time ruffling feathers, won't knock you for that either. But don't you have some greater goal in mind?

bmiller said...

Language does not exist in the eliminative materialism sense of "exist".

Language does exist in a very loose sense of reifying abstractions or processes as if they were existent things.


Yes. Thanks for demonstrating my point. Eliminative materialism does not allow you to talk about eliminative materialism because eliminative materialism claims language does not exist.

In order to explain the eliminative materialistic position, you need to use language, which of course does not exist. Since it seems all of us can understand language it also seems all of us think language exists or else you would not be talking, and we would not be listening. I know you think you are hallucinating but even that doesn't exist given eliminative materialism.

I suspect there were too many drugs done in the past while having these types of discussions with similarly baked participants.

StardustyPsyche said...

JameyWright,
"debate"
"don't you want to influence others?"
I am not debating.

I don't generally discuss personal motivations because they are unverifiable.
Anybody can claim anything about why they are supposedly doing whatever.
Such claims are unverifiable so I find little value in making or responding to them.

Arguments on 3rd party facts and reasoning are not like that.
Claims of fact can be independently researched and corroborated, or discounted.
A rational argument that is made can be examined on its merits as presented.

" mean a fellow atheist or weak believer could stumble across this and do a little google search and see that I'm right?"
Right about what? Your speculations about my motivations?

Per your other question about Plantinga's "warrant", it has attracted little attention relative to "justification". Plantinga attempts to make a fine distinction between the two that ends up being based on his fundamental misunderstandings of the human reasoning process.

His EAAN is just crackpottery.

StardustyPsyche said...

bmiller,
"Eliminative materialism does not allow you to talk about eliminative materialism because eliminative materialism claims language does not exist."
That assumes that existence of language is a pre-requisite for discussion, a false assumption.

"In order to explain the eliminative materialistic position, you need to use language, which of course does not exist. "
Correct.

"I know you think you are hallucinating but even that doesn't exist given eliminative materialism."
I doubt that you or anybody else (besides me) on this thread understands the distinction between the non-hallucination regarding the material that the experience is about, as opposed to the hallucination that is the qualia itself.

For example, I experience seeing a yellow bananas. While that experience is only a highly distorted and inaccurate abstraction of what the banana really is, nevertheless, the perception of there being real stuff out there in approximately a particular spatial arrangement is grounded in the reality that there really is material stuff out there.

By contrast, the qualia yellow is an hallucination. There is nothing really yellow out there. Yellow is not even an approximate abstraction, merely an arbitrary symbol that is hallucinated and abstractly associated with incoming electromagnetic radiation that is in no sense "yellow".

"I suspect there were too many drugs done in the past while having these types of discussions with similarly baked participants."
Hallucinogenic drugs provide valuable insights into the aspects of human perception that are ordinarily just accepted as real but turn out to in fact be hallucinations.

Unfortunately, such drugs also tend to disrupt reasoning skills such that attempts at reasoned statements made by the person under the influence tend to be rather poorly reasoned and are often disjointed nonsense.

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

Unfortunately, such drugs also tend to disrupt reasoning skills such that attempts at reasoned statements made by the person under the influence tend to be rather poorly reasoned and are often disjointed nonsense.

That is what bmiller suspected.

SteveK said...

"In order to explain the eliminative materialistic position, you need to use language, which of course does not exist. "
Correct.


Make it make sense. How does one go about using something that doesn't exist?

bmiller said...

Drugs are bad.

SteveK said...

Should be entertaining to hear the response. Drugs sometimes have an unintended comedic effect.

Hal Friederichs said...

JameyWright,

What are you getting out of this?

That's a very good question.

I've no idea what SP gets out of this. I've long given up making any responses to his posts.

Considering how many years this has gone on, I also have no idea why others here keep responding. How many times does one have to go down that rabbit hole to realize it is a counter-productive process?

Having said that, I have to admit that in the past I have all too often gone done similar rabbit holes way too many times not only on this site but many others also. However, at this stage it appears to me that there is little hope of having productive conversations on this blog unless one can resist the temptation.

Kevin said...

Considering how many years this has gone on, I also have no idea why others here keep responding.

It's fascinating in an entertaining sort of way to see the lengths to which some people will go to avoid simply admitting they made an error in thinking, or, in extreme cases, they appear incapable of recognizing the possibility of committing an error in the first place. Productive, or even possible to be productive? Not at all. But entertaining enough to continue for the moment.

SteveK said...

Consider it an ongoing social experiment that tests an individual's ability to resist the discomfort of cognitive dissonance. If we keep ramping up the dissonance, I predict SP will either check herself into a mental hospital or stop believing in eliminative materialism.

JameyWright said...

Well, I'm Irish/American so we're notoriously hardheaded. You ought to see my family when we get together, we fight tooth and nail about the dumbest things. But perhaps others could benefit from it. All and all I love this site.

Hal Friederichs said...

Well, you all seem to have a much more positive outlook on this than I do. All I can do is wish you good fortune.

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"In order to explain the eliminative materialistic position, you need to use language, which of course does not exist. "
*Correct.*

"Make it make sense."
I already have, but that's OK, I don't mind using other words to say essentially the same thing.

"How does one go about using something that doesn't exist?"
I find that to be a very succinct and well put question that goes straight to the heart of the matter, another reason I don't mind repeating myself.

What does and does not exist?

On eliminative materialism "exist" is narrowly defined.
Only fundamental material exists.

Right now the standard model lists what are presently considered fundamental particles, such as quarks, neutrinos, and electrons, which are somewhat oddly considered as "pointlike" particles.

On quantum field theory those particles are actually abstractions, that is, they do not really exist, only fields exist.

On string theory the only thing that exists are itty bitty loops or strings.

Well, nobody knows, really, hopefully that is pretty clear. So whatever is really at the "bottom" I use the placeholder term of "fundamental material". Philosophers have considered prime matter for a very long time, so this is not a new idea by any means.

Material is conserved. No new material comes into existence out of nothing. No existent material passes out of existence into nothing.

But, referencing your question above, what if language existed? How could that be?
Do you mean a particular language, say, English? Where is this supposed existent thing called English? What is English made of? Nothing? If so, in what sense do you say that something made of nothing exists? Such an assertion would be incoherent.

Or by "language" do you mean "utterances"? What are utterances made of, say, air that varies in local pressure in particular patterns? Utterances come and go, so if an utterance exists then when one speaks something new is brought into existence and when the word is ended then something existent passes out of existence?

But hang on, if utterances are made of air, and there is the same amount of air in the atmosphere before, during, and after the utterance, just how can an utterance of air have come into existence and passed out of existence, given that the amount of air during that process remained static?

"Make it make sense" you implore. Fair enough.

On eliminative materialism an utterance is not an existent thing, rather, a process of existent things.

The 3rd Way of Aquinas comments on this subject
https://iteadthomam.blogspot.com/2010/02/third-way-in-syllogistic-form.html

People of that time considered new things to come into existence, and old things to pass out of existence, generation and corruption. What Aquinas did not realize is that nothing new ever comes into existence and nothing old ever passes out of existence.

The total amount of existent material in the cosmos is static. That existent material is fundamental material, and nothing else exists, only fundamental material.

All apparent generation and corruption is dynamic arrangements of the only thing that exists, fundamental material.

"The English language" is just a name we assign to the totality of processes of all the brains of all English speaking people that relate to the process we call language.

There are processes of existent material we consider as explaining other processes of existent material. The processes themselves do not exist, rather, they are the dynamics of, the spatio-temporal processes of, the only thing that exists, fundamental material.

Kevin said...

"The English language" is just a name we assign to the totality of processes of all the brains of all English speaking people that relate to the process we call language.

Name one thing in this paragraph that exists.

SteveK said...

That has got to be one of the top most incoherent ‘processes of existent things’ to exist on this blog. Please check yourself into the nearest psychiatric hospital for evaluation.

SteveK said...

The 2024 Eliminative Materialism Dictionary. Available soon on Amazon.

Chicken: a spatio-temporal progression of existent materials
Automobile: see chicken
Tree: see chicken
Hammer: see chicken
Rooster: see chicken
Language: see chicken
Thoughts: see chicken
Human: see chicken
Robot: see chicken

StardustyPsyche said...

Kevin,
"Name one thing in this paragraph that exists"
The materials your brain is composed of that varied in their arrangements over time in what we name "writing a paragraph".

StardustyPsyche said...

"Chicken: a spatio-temporal progression of existent materials
Automobile: see chicken
Tree: see chicken
Hammer: see chicken
Rooster: see chicken
Language: see chicken
Thoughts: see chicken
Human: see chicken
Robot: see chicken"
Yes, if you make a description general enough it will apply to a wide variety of things.

Chicken: an object
Rock: see chicken
Star: see chicken
Tree: see chicken
Toenail: see chicken

Ok, fine, what's your point?

I mean, sure, if one assigns a very generalized description to one object then another object will share that generalized description.

Again, what's your point?

Are you suggesting all objects are precisely the same object because we call them all "an object"?

StardustyPsyche said...

SteveK,
"That has got to be one of the top most incoherent ‘processes of existent things"

Please point out my alleged self-contradiction, I mean specifically.

Can you put 2 of my statements side by side and explain in what manner they contradict each other?

SteveK said...

“Ok, fine, what's your point?“

My point is that you assign a very generalized description to all objects because that is as detailed as you can go. When the only thing that exists are various shapes and sizes of spatio-temporal existent materials ungoing change, assigning a different word to them doesn’t change what they are. You’ve shown this to be true repeatedly.

SteveK said...

It’s called eliminative materialism for a reason.

SteveK said...

“Please point out my alleged self-contradiction”

I said it was incoherent, not contradictory.

Kevin said...

The materials your brain is composed of

Wrong paragraph.

But, while knowingly leaving myself wide open here, we can use this quote. You refer to my brain. Are you referring to something that exists? Something that doesn't exist? If it doesn't exist, why refer to it?

But if it does exist, then there are two versions of its existence on display in this topic.

One, my brain exists in the sense that the vast majority of people would say it, or any other physical object, exists. It can be looked at and felt, tasted by Hannibal Lecter, and so on. It is there, and there it is. The fact that it is made of cells which are made of atoms which are made of subatomic material doesn't change anything.

Two, my brain is an arrangement of existent material. But if that's true, then the arrangement exists, which means "my brain" is the term given to that particular arrangement of existent material, which is identical to option one. Putting a fast-moving spatio-temporal progression of existent material through the spatio-temporal progression of existent materials you call my brain will result in my death, just as surely as if we simply say getting shot in the head is lethal, which means the arrangements matter very much.

I see no useful knowledge or practical application deriving from eliminative materialism as a worldview. It explains nothing that can't be equally incorporated into other worldviews that acknowledge the very real existence of larger structures of material, whose arrangements result in special properties that other arrangements cannot achieve.