Saturday, May 14, 2011

Leibniz’s Mill

In section 17 of his Monadology, Leibniz puts forward the following argument against materialism:

Moreover, it must be confessed that perception and that which depends upon it are inexplicable on mechanical grounds, that is to say, by means of figures and motions.  And supposing there were a machine, so constructed as to think, feel, and have perception, it might be conceived as increased in size, while keeping the same proportions, so that one might go into it as into a mill.  That being so, we should, on examining its interior, find only parts which work one upon another, and never anything by which to explain a perception.  Thus it is in a simple substance, and not in a compound or in a machine, that perception must be sought for.  Further, nothing but this (namely, perceptions and their changes) can be found in a simple substance.  It is also in this alone that all the internal activities of simple substances can consist.

Because of the example he alludes to, this argument is sometimes referred to as “Leibniz’s Mill.”  How is it supposed to work?  Given the emphasis on simplicity, Leibniz’s point is clearly at least in part that a mind cannot be a composite thing, as a mill is composite insofar as it has parts which interact.  Rather, a mind has to be simple in the sense of something non-composite or without parts.  A useful exposition of the argument so interpreted can be found here.  So understood, the argument is akin to Descartes’ “indivisibility argument” and to anti-materialist arguments from the unity of consciousness.  (I discuss the indivisibility argument in chapter 2 of Philosophy of Mind and the unity of consciousness in chapter 5.)

Another way to read the argument, though, would be to take it to be saying that the mill example shows there to be a gap between material-cum-mechanical facts on the one hand and mental facts on the other.  If the brain were made the size of a mill so that we could walk around in it, we would never encounter in it anything that corresponded to thinking, feeling, and perception.  All we would encounter are material parts interacting causally (even if the causal interaction would be more complex than what the mill analogy suggests).  The point would seem to be that we could know all the material facts without knowing any mental facts (thus making the argument akin to Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument), or that the entirety of the material facts does not entail any mental facts (thus making it akin to the zombie argument).  On this reading, considerations about simplicity versus compositeness arguably would not be essential to the main, anti-materialist point of the argument – though Leibniz himself presumably thought that the gap between material and mental facts should lead us to regard the mind as simple rather than composite.

In his new book Leibniz’s Mill: A Challenge to Materialism, Charles Landesman seems to be reading the argument in this second way.  William Hasker reviews the book here, and understandably complains that Landesman overlooks the “simplicity” aspect of Leibniz’s argument.  (Hasker, by the way, provides a very useful exposition of the anti-materialist argument from the unity of consciousness in his important book The Emergent Self.)  In fairness to Landesman, though, Leibniz’s Mill is (despite the title) not primarily intended as an exposition of Leibniz, who actually plays a relatively small role in the book.  And it is in any event worthwhile considering this second reading of the argument, whether or not it corresponds entirely to Leibniz’s own intentions.

Landesman considers the following objection raised by John Searle in his book Intentionality:

An exactly parallel argument to Leibniz’s would be that the behavior of H2O molecules can never explain the liquidity of water, because if we entered into the system of molecules “as into a mill we should only find on visiting it pieces which push one against another, but never anything by which to explain” liquidity.  But in both cases we would be looking at the system at the wrong level.  The liquidity of water is not to be found at the level of the individual molecule, nor are the visual perception and the thirst to be found at the level of the individual neuron or synapse.  (p. 268)

It is ironic that Searle should put forward such an objection, given that he is also a critic of materialism who has himself elsewhere denied that such cases are “exactly parallel.”  In particular, he has insisted that whereas liquidity, solidity, and other such properties of material systems have what he calls a “third-person ontology” insofar as they are entirely objective or “public” phenomena equally accessible to every observer, consciousness has by contrast a “first-person ontology” insofar as it is subjective, “private,” or directly accessible only to the subject of a conscious experience.  But then it would seem to follow that if we observed a system of water molecules on the large scale – not just an individual molecule or two but the whole system – and noted that they were moving around in such-and-such a way relative to one another, we would (given the standard scientific account of liquidity) just be observing the system’s liquidity.  By contrast, if we observed, on the large scale, the system of neurons which makes up the brain, we would not thereby observe the conscious experiences of the person whose brain it is.  This is a consequence of Searle’s own distinction between third-person and first-person ontology, and his own insistence that consciousness is unique in having the latter sort of ontology.  (See my paper “Why Searle Is a Property Dualist” for references and for further discussion of Searle’s views.)

Landesman makes a related point in response to Searle when he notes that when observing either a mill-sized brain or a mill-sized system of water molecules, we would not be limited to observing the individual neuron or molecule but could imagine instead observing the systems on the large scale.  And when we do so, Landesman continues, we would certainly be able to observe the liquidity of the water if by “liquidity” we mean a certain kind of interaction between molecules.  On the other hand, we might instead mean by “liquidity” the phenomenal features liquid water presents to us – the way it looks or feels to us, for example – and these, Landesman allows, would not be observable as we walked through a mill-sized system of water molecules.  But then, liquidity in this sense would really not be a feature of the water itself in the first place, but only of our experience of it.  And in that case it is irrelevant that we would not observe it in observing the system of molecules.  (Cf. my discussion of the fallacy Paul Churchland commits when he suggests that the red surface of an apple is really just “a matrix of molecules reflecting photons at certain critical wavelengths.”)  By contrast, thought and perception are features of the mind itself, and yet we would not be aware of them in observing the large-scale interactions between neurons in a mill-sized brain.  Thus, Landesman concludes (quite correctly, in my view), Searle’s objection fails.

Now one might, as Landesman notes, respond by insisting that in observing the interactions between neurons, it might be that “we are in fact observing thoughts and perceptions, although we fail to recognize them for what they are” (p. 24).  But as Michael Lockwood writes in Mind, Brain and the Quantum:

To [Leibniz’s argument] I suppose one could retort by asking Leibniz how he expected to know if he had found something that explained Perception.  Except that that is supposed to be his point: one wouldn’t know and hence nothing one encountered could explain Perception. (p. 35)

And as Landesman says, it is hard to see how one could justify the claim that in our stroll through a mill-sized brain we would “in fact” be observing thoughts and perceptions without realizing it, unless one is assuming the truth of some particular theory about the mind/brain relationship that could ground this suggestion.  But in that case one would merely be begging the question against Leibniz, whose point is that the mind is not susceptible of explanation in terms of such a theory.  And if one instead took the eliminativist view that the mind is illusory and that mentalistic descriptions should simply be replaced by neuroscientific ones, then one would in effect be conceding Leibniz’s point that an inspection of neural processes will never reveal thought or perception.

Still, one might suggest that Leibniz’s argument can be seen to fail when we consider that if we were to walk through a computer expanded to the size of a mill, we wouldn’t observe the program it is running, the symbols it is processing, etc.  But it is still running the program and processing the symbols for all that.   (Lockwood considers such an objection at p. 35 of Mind, Brain and the Quantum.)  But this analogy is no good either.  The problem is that – as Searle has trenchantly argued – “computation” as usually understood is not an intrinsic feature of the physical world in the first place, but an observer-relative feature.  Nothing counts as the processing of symbolic representations, the running of algorithms, etc. except relative to human interests – in particular, those of the designers and users of computers.  That is why we wouldn’t observe the distinctively computational features of a mill-sized computer – they aren’t there intrinsically in the first place, but only ever assigned by us.  (Similarly, if we examine the physical features of a written word – whether normal-sized or expanded to the size of a mill – we will never observe its meaning or semantic content, but that is because the meaning or semantic content is not intrinsic to the physical properties of a written word in the first place, but rather derived from us as language users.)  But mental features would have to be intrinsic to the brain, if materialism were true.  So the proposed analogy between computers and brains fails.

But what if Searle is wrong and something like computation really is an intrinsic feature of the material world after all?  For example, isn’t DNA rightly said to contain the “program” or “information” for an organism?  And yet, if a DNA molecule were made the size of a mill, we wouldn’t observe this “program” or “information.”  So, doesn’t this show that Leibniz is mistaken?

I don’t know if using computationalist language is the best way to put the point, but I think such a response would be a promising one.  But it would not help the materialist in the least.  For if we say that there is something intrinsic to a material system in virtue of which it “points to” something beyond itself (as “information” does) or to a certain end-state (as a “program” does), then we are either attributing to matter something like final causality as it is understood in the Aristotelian-Scholastic tradition (as I have noted in earlier posts, such as this one) or we are attributing to it something like intentionality and thus adopting either a panpsychist, or dual-aspect, or neutral monist account of matter.  And in either case, we are thereby abandoning a materialist conception of matter – and thus conceding the main point of Leibniz’s argument.

565 comments:

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Paul Mollica said...

Argh!!! I've been looking for this book for weeks, and have not found a library that stocks it!

Thanks, anyway, for the typically great review.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

Whoops, that's Leo Mollica, not Paul :)

djindra said...

First Leibniz asks us to imagine a factory constructed to "perceive." Then he asks us to walk through it and show in its inner workings a thing called "perception." Evidently Leibniz doubts we can do such a thing. Therefore it follows we could not have constructed the factory he expects us to walk through. So how can we walk through this mill if we can't even construct it? Either Leibniz likes to dabble in nonsense or he thinks arguments from ignorance amount to more than admissions of ignorance.

Let Leibniz walk through a candy mill. Using that machinery can he explain hunger? Does the fact that a materialist believes in candy factories and hunger make him a dualist? The proposition is silly. There is no reason to expect the full meaning of perception is easily explained by looking at the "machinery" of the brain. Let's look at the muscles of the body. Does this easily explain the tango? Perception is a much more difficult problem, that's all.

Leibniz can explain how a mill works. He can explain what the machinery does. He offers this well understood system against a very poorly understood brain. Suppose someone asked Leibniz to walk through an iPhone? How would he explain that? Where are those images and voices coming from? He would be mystified. That does not prevent others with better understanding from explaining how the device does what it does. Leibniz was under the mistaken impression that ignorance is a dead-end.

Anonymous said...

Leibniz was under the mistaken impression that ignorance is a dead-end.

Leibniz was under the correct impression that, given how we perceive matter, we're not going to explain certain things given said perception. In the case of the mind, this is fatal, and thus we have to start changing our perception.

That you think 'candy mills not explaining hunger' is an apt reproduction of Leibniz's thought experiment doesn't speak well of your understanding here. Nor does you thinking that the problem is "not knowing the particular mechanical details of how an iPhone works".

djindra said...

"Leibniz was under the correct impression that, given how we perceive matter, we're not going to explain certain things given said perception."

His nonsensical "thought experiment" certainly didn't prove the point.

"That you think 'candy mills not explaining hunger' is an apt reproduction of Leibniz's thought experiment doesn't speak well of your understanding here."

Or maybe it doesn't speak well for yours.

James said...

"Either Leibniz likes to dabble in nonsense or he thinks arguments from ignorance amount to more than admissions of ignorance."

Wait -- taken at face value, your comments would invalidate any proof by contradiction. Say I wish to prove that any continuous function on a compact set has a maximum. I begin by saying "Suppose f(x) is a function which is continuous on a compact set, but does not have a maximum there." I show that this implies a contradiction.

Would you respond "No! You're asking us to suppose that f(x) exists, but evidently we can do no such thing, since f(x) can't exist. Therefore your proof is invalid."?

Crude said...

If someone tells me that 1 + 3.4 = A 2 liter bottle of Fanta, and I point out there's no possible way that can be so, it seems to me they can reply "You're just ignorant of a way that 1 + 3.4 could = A!" And that doesn't seem like a very strong reply to the claim that 1 + 3.4 does not equal 2l Fanta.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Plantinga touches on what seems to be exactly the same theme in his paper “against materialism” (http://philosophy.nd.edu/people/all/profiles/plantinga-alvin/documents/AGAINSTMATERIALISM.pdf ). There is also a more easygoing talk with the same title ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixa-zmLV38k ). Both discuss Leibniz’s mill.

In my judgment materialism is as good as dead. Now it is perhaps the case that most atheist are materialists, but materialism does not I think represent the strongest atheistic position. Some kind of naturalistic dualism with consciousness evolving mechanically, and in a way that exactly correlates or supervenes with physical states, would represent a stronger worldview. If God exists then we can only learn from thinking about the stronger non-theistic worldviews, whereas beating the dead horse of materialism does not offer that profit.

djindra said...

Dianelos Georgoudis,

With all of the great strides made by science -- pure materialism -- in the last century, and with the progress accelerating at an exponential rate, it's bizarre that anyone could conclude materialism is dead.

Anonymous said...

Guys, on djindra the Philosopher has some sound advice at Topics VIII:xiv 164b 8-15.

Daniel Smith said...

djindra: "science -- pure materialism"

It's interesting that you equate science with materialism. Materialism is a philosophy. Science is observational study. Perhaps you meant to say that many scientists are materialists?

What's even more interesting is that scientific study would be impossible in a materialist universe. Science depends upon regularities and patterns in nature. That matter regularly and predictably obeys rules and conforms to forms or essences speaks to teleology and mind. A purely materialist universe would be random chaos and science would be impossible.

Joe said...

@djindra

"Suppose someone asked Leibniz to walk through an iPhone? How would he explain that? Where are those images and voices coming from? He would be mystified. That does not prevent others with better understanding from explaining how the device does what it does."

Nope...there is no image and there is no voice except perhaps there is a mind that perceives it. If not it will only be electromagnetic wave and sound wave. Your analogy does not show anything.

"Does the fact that a materialist believes in candy factories and hunger make him a dualist?"

Nope. That makes him an incoherent materialist. Any form of consistent materialism is in the end eliminative materialism, so it is wrong for him to say hunger since it reeks of the mental you see. Of course there is such thing as "What is it like to be hungry" and thus the materialists mentioned above are being inconsistent.

"He offers this well understood system against a very poorly understood brain. "

This is the problem with materialists with you included. First, argument should not be built upon hope of something will happen in the future, that somehow a research in the future will show something that fulfills your present lack of evidence that the mental is reducible to the physical. "Materialism of the gaps" so to speak.

Second, arguments presented by dualist is arranged to show that in principle it is impossible to reduce the mental to the physical. But of course by mocking dualist as scientific illiterate or maybe having no blind faith to scientific grand posturing is the easier path than arguing.

djindra said...

Feser paraphrases Leibniz’s Mill:

"If the brain were made the size of a mill so that we could walk around in it, we would never encounter in it anything that corresponded to thinking, feeling, and perception. All we would encounter are material parts interacting causally (even if the causal interaction would be more complex than what the mill analogy suggests)."

But why no mention that this is circular? It assumes material parts interacting causally is not (in the brain's case) identical to thinking, feeling, and perception.

Then Feser refers to a supposed distinction in kind:

"The point would seem to be that we could know all the material facts without knowing any mental facts (thus making the argument akin to Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument),"

Again, this assumes there is a difference in kind between material and "mental" facts. There is no evidence of that. When Mary can finally see color for herself this is a material fact. It's empirical. It's simply one more material fact she did not know and now does.

"And if one instead took the eliminativist view that the mind is illusory and that mentalistic descriptions should simply be replaced by neuroscientific ones, then one would in effect be conceding Leibniz's point that an inspection of neural processes will never reveal thought or perception."

You cannot find what does not exist. Leibniz assumed mind's existence. So the eliminativist emphatically rejects Leibniz's point. How can there be concession in that?

djindra said...

More issues:

"The problem is that - as Searle has trenchantly argued - 'computation' as usually understood is not an intrinsic feature of the physical world in the first place, but an observer-relative feature. "

Are people not part of the physical world? People have been computing for thousands of years. Where did this ability come from? Do you think maybe all brains 'compute' quite naturally without us ever knowing it? So it's not necessarily true that 'computation' is not part of the physical world. Maybe our brains have been doing so for millions of years. How do we judged distance? Trigonometry. How does a bat locate its prey?


"Nothing counts as the processing of symbolic representations, the running of algorithms, etc. except relative to human interests - in particular, those of the designers and users of computers."

Likewise, nothing counts as the processing of symbolic representations, the running of algorithms, etc., except what is relative to owners of brains. Likewise the distinctively computational features of brains are assigned by our brains and, to follow the analogy, the designer of brains -- which seems to be Nature.

IOW, if symbolic representations within computers are only assigned by us then symbolic representations within our brains are also only assigned by us. So I hardly see the difference. Where we locate and manipulate the symbols is irrelevent. Either we can locate the process of manipulation or not.

But even more to the point, when bees dance they are are running through a series of algorithms. This is not relative to human interests.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

djindra,

Why do you think the great success of the physical sciences favors materialism? Given how well that success fits with theism, and given how many modern discoveries of the physical sciences (from the nature of quantum phenomena to the apparent fine-tuning of the universe to the deeply mathematical nature of the universe) do not fit well with naturalism (let alone with materialism), one would say that the opposite is true.

Perhaps you are saying that the physical sciences have falsified the belief that the first human was a male named Adam, was first made of clay into whose nostrils God blew, and so on. If that’s what you are thinking then you are quite right. The physical sciences have also falsified astrology, the belief in witchcraft, the belief that stars are little lights, the belief that physical phenomena are deterministic, and so on.

We could discuss materialism as much as you wish, but my point is this: Given that that are stronger non-theistic worldviews (I understand very few academic philosophers nowadays are materialists) why waste our time on materialism?

Crude said...

djindra,

But why no mention that this is circular? It assumes material parts interacting causally is not (in the brain's case) identical to thinking, feeling, and perception.

Is it circular if I claim that 1 + 3.4 clearly does not equal 2l of Fanta? It seems I'm unjustly assuming "1 + 3.4 != 2l Fanta" by your rules.

Further, below you claim the eliminativist is arguing there is no mind. Are they being circular as well?

It looks like you're defining circularity as pointing out that which follows naturally given the claims in question.

You cannot find what does not exist. Leibniz assumed mind's existence. So the eliminativist emphatically rejects Leibniz's point. How can there be concession in that?

Because Leibniz's argument is that, given our understanding of matter, there can be no mind present in those physical processes - and his thought experiment is attempting to illustrate this. The eliminativist is not rejecting Leibniz's point, they're agreeing: You're right, Leibniz, there's no mind there. There's no mind ANYwhere.

Are people not part of the physical world? People have been computing for thousands of years. Where did this ability come from? Do you think maybe all brains 'compute' quite naturally without us ever knowing it?

You seem to be insisting that computation does in fact happen, and it is intrinsic. But Ed responds to this in the very OP, and he has in TLS as well: But what if Searle is wrong and something like computation really is an intrinsic feature of the material world after all? For example, isn’t DNA rightly said to contain the “program” or “information” for an organism? And yet, if a DNA molecule were made the size of a mill, we wouldn’t observe this “program” or “information.” So, doesn’t this show that Leibniz is mistaken?
I don’t know if using computationalist language is the best way to put the point, but I think such a response would be a promising one. But it would not help the materialist in the least.

Anonymous said...

Joe, Daniel, Crude, Dianelos,

Seriously, please check out Topics
VIII:xiv 164b 8-15.

djindra said...

Dianelos Georgoudis,

You ask why I think the great success of the physical sciences favor materialism. I think the answer should be obvious to anyone who understands the scientific method. You assert the "deeply mathematical nature of the universe" does not fit well with naturalism. That's false. It fits quite well. And I don't know of any "stronger non-theistic worldviews" that would fit with the necessary presuppositions of modern science. Those presuppositions include that everything happens due to material causes, and that it is possible in principle to find those material causes.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

I don't have an annotated version so I'm guessing your meaning. I'll just say we're all men in the street here. And that includes Feser.

djindra said...

And there is this:

"Similarly, if we examine the physical features of a written word - whether normal-sized or expanded to the size of a mill - we will never observe its meaning or semantic content, but that is because the meaning or semantic content is not intrinsic to the physical properties of a written word in the first place, but rather derived from us as language users."

Of course it's true that words themselves have no inherent meaning. That's what symbols are -- mere placeholders for meaning. Basically symbols help organize data. We can think of words as a way of compressing data and gaining footholds into memory. So "apple" expands into a great web of associations. Our brains use "apple" like a keyword in a very sophisticated search engine. "Apple" references textures, colors, myths, tastes, legends, movies, emotions. and all other personal memories connected to apples. The engine refines that search according to current context. Somewhere in our brains we have "apple" the symbol. Somewhere else we have various memories connected to that symbol. Our brains made those connections mostly without our conscious choice. It is the intrinsic nature of our brains. But we did not assign meaning to "apple." The meaning of the word took shape without our consent. Mere exposure to apples and the contexts of those exposures during our lives formed the meaning for us. Maybe that's all meaning really is. If so, examining those neurological connections is examining the production of "meaning" in the same way that examining an engine's pistons is examining the production of power. Meaning is active, not passive. Meaning is not a thing you can hold in your hand any more than power is a thing you can hold in your hand. Maybe it's a thing done to you not by you. If so then looking for that chain of causation in brain cells is not futile. It's not inappropriate. And it's not much different than what happens in a computer.

djindra said...

Joe,

"Nope...there is no image and there is no voice except perhaps there is a mind that perceives it. If not it will only be electromagnetic wave and sound wave. Your analogy does not show anything."

There is no image or voice in our mind either. We hold that image in our head as a collection of synapse connections. If we hold it there, we ought to be able to find it there. What else might we find there? Your suggestion that we won't find the "mind" there too is based on what exactly? Maybe your answer will answer why you misunderstood my point. My analogy works because I was referring to Leibniz and his mystification of the brain. I don't get the attitude that wants to mystify those things yet unexplained. There are plenty of things we have today that would defy explanation by the 18th century man. We don't understand plenty today. That does not define the limits of our future knowledge.

"First, argument should not be built upon hope of something will happen in the future, that somehow a research in the future will show something that fulfills your present lack of evidence that the mental is reducible to the physical. 'Materialism of the gaps" so to speak'"

Unfortunately for you the gaps keep getting smaller. It's amusing that you'd think materialists build arguments upon hope. I wonder how much success it will take to drag you into the light?

Crude said...

djindra,

There are plenty of things we have today that would defy explanation by the 18th century man.

Except that the 18th century science and materialist philosophy would be hopeless in the face of modern science as well. And I mean that in a fundamental sense - the difference between now and then isn't "materialism, but now we've studied". It's "materialism defeated and discarded, hesitantly replaced by something vague and noncommital".

Unfortunately for you the gaps keep getting smaller. It's amusing that you'd think materialists build arguments upon hope.

Materialism's been taking a beating for centuries. The response has been to keep redefining what materialism is. At this point it's so up in the air it practically has no content as a definition, because 'material' will just be 'whatever we need to say of the world to form a theory.'

I mean, look in this very thread. You insisted that hey, maybe computation is fundamental to the world - but you seemed to have missed the fact that Ed granted that possibility, and pointed out that making computation intrinsic to matter is of no help to the materialist. Your response is, apparently, to just regard the idea that computation is intrinsic to matter as materialism. (And to do so without realizing it, apparently. Meditate a while on what it means to say 'meaning is something that happens to you, not by you'. What's this "you"?)

The funny thing is, I've been saying this for a while on this blog. That "panpsychist, or dual-aspect, or neutral monist account of matter" or even the A-T concept of matter, is not only going to be embraced, but it's going to be called "materialism". Because at this point the word is the only thing that matters. The ideas themselves are pretty much dead.

Crude said...

anon,

I read your reference and liked it. I'm not taking this very seriously though - all in good fun.

djindra said...

Crude,

"Is it circular if I claim that 1 + 3.4 clearly does not equal 2l of Fanta? It seems I'm unjustly assuming "1 + 3.4 != 2l Fanta" by your rules."

You are stating "x clearly does not equal y." That's a simple assertion. It could be true, it could be false. That is not what Leibniz does. He's a bit more slippery. This is his tactic:

I assure you something is in the box. Although I don't know what is in the box, it is not x. Now look in the box. Tell me what you find. But don't dare tell me it's x because I told you x is not there.

I'd call that circular.

"Further, below you claim the eliminativist is arguing there is no mind. Are they being circular as well?"

Maybe, but with a difference. There is possible resolution. Hopefully there is no claim of having found something until it's actually found. There is an expectation that evidence will either confirm or destroy the hypothesis. And you could say the same for the root assumption. If a materialistic world-view wasn't so consistently successful there would be good reason to doubt it. But it is very successful. That success is feedback, and rightly so.

"The eliminativist is not rejecting Leibniz's point, they're agreeing: You're right, Leibniz, there's no mind there. There's no mind ANYwhere."

That's a weird spin on the thing. It reminds me of Feser's "One Further God" article a few weeks back. I guess the atheist and the monotheist are alike after all. They both reject a bunch of gods.


"You seem to be insisting that computation does in fact happen, and it is intrinsic. But Ed responds to this in the very OP, and he has in TLS as well"

So he does. But how serious is he? He writes, "And yet, if a DNA molecule were made the size of a mill, we wouldn’t observe this 'program' or 'information.'" -- it makes me think he's expecting a thing rather than a process. And he drifts off from there into an assertion of final cause.

Crude said...

djindra,

I assure you something is in the box. Although I don't know what is in the box, it is not x. Now look in the box. Tell me what you find. But don't dare tell me it's x because I told you x is not there.

I'd call that circular.


This isn't Leibniz's argument by a longshot. It doesn't even have correspondence with his Mill example. It's a base caricature.

Leibniz is pointing out how we define and envision matter, and what follows given our defining and envisioning. "But how you conceive of matter as is incorrect" is one way to respond to Leibniz, but his thought experiment brings that into relief.

There is an expectation that evidence will either confirm or destroy the hypothesis.

No, there's not. What's being given is a guideline of how to interpret the data, not a hypothesis about what the data will show. You're apparently one of those people who hears what eliminative materialism is, and then decides 'They can't be saying that, that's nuts. Let me change that to something that sounds less crazy.'

That's a weird spin on the thing.

Weird spin? It pretty much follows directly, especially given how you phrased it.

So he does. But how serious is he? He writes, "And yet, if a DNA molecule were made the size of a mill, we wouldn’t observe this 'program' or 'information.'" -- it makes me think he's expecting a thing rather than a process. And he drifts off from there into an assertion of final cause.

No, what he 'expects' is that, if meaning or the like is intrinsic to matter, then a definition of matter which denies such intrinsic natures or properties doesn't survive. Further, Ed gave a spread of alternate possibilities aside from Aristo-Thomism: "a panpsychist, or dual-aspect, or neutral monist account of matter". Because if you reject the materialist account, several more are in the running. Ed's being fair about that.

djindra said...

Crude,

"This isn't Leibniz's argument by a longshot. It doesn't even have correspondence with his Mill example. It's a base caricature."

We'll just differ on that. I think it's exactly the form of Leibniz's argument.

"You're apparently one of those people who hears what eliminative materialism is, and then decides 'They can't be saying that, that's nuts. Let me change that to something that sounds less crazy.'"

Actually, I'm one who prefers to talk to real people with ideas they actually develop. You tell me an eliminative materialist *should* believe one thing. That may or may not be true. I know from experience that people often categorize others in ways that don't mesh with reality. It happens to atheists. It happens to theists. I'll bet it happens to eliminative materialists.

"No, what he 'expects' is that, if meaning or the like is intrinsic to matter, then a definition of matter which denies such intrinsic natures or properties doesn't survive."

Are we jumping from brains (a subset of matter) to matter itself. If so, that does not follow. Are we talking about meaning or purpose in a cosmic sense or meaning in a subjective, brain related sense? I think the subject has switched gears to the cosmic. I wouldn't go searching neurons for cosmic meanings.

djindra said...

Crude to Anon:

"I'm not taking this very seriously though - all in good fun."

That's how it should be.

Crude said...

djindra,

Actually, I'm one who prefers to talk to real people with ideas they actually develop. You tell me an eliminative materialist *should* believe one thing.

Does reading someone's books and taking them at face value count as "talking to real people"? Sometimes, a person says something crazy and means it. Even materialist philosophers.

Are we jumping from brains (a subset of matter) to matter itself. If so, that does not follow. Are we talking about meaning or purpose in a cosmic sense or meaning in a subjective, brain related sense? I think the subject has switched gears to the cosmic. I wouldn't go searching neurons for cosmic meanings.

Man. All I can do now is just suggest you read what's being claimed to understand it, not just argue it.

That's how it should be.

Given what you've said in the past, to you this is largely a political fight by proxy.

Jinzang said...

With all of the great strides made by science -- pure materialism

Some of the great strides in science, quantum mechanics, for example, sit very poorly with materialism. What is a materialist to make of Schrodinger's cat, simultaneously alive and dead?

djindra said...

Crude,

"[Feser] pointed out that making computation intrinsic to matter is of no help to the materialist."

I was going to get to that last paragraph. Thanks for reminding me.

He wrote: "For if we say that there is something intrinsic to a material system in virtue of which it “points to” something beyond itself (as “information” does) or to a certain end-state (as a “program” does), then we are either attributing to matter something like final causality as it is understood in the Aristotelian-Scholastic tradition (as I have noted in earlier posts, such as this one) or we are attributing to it something like intentionality and thus adopting either a panpsychist, or dual-aspect, or neutral monist account of matter. And in either case, we are thereby abandoning a materialist conception of matter - and thus conceding the main point of Leibniz’s argument."

I could get lost on the tangents so I'll simplify.

I have a screwdriver. Somebody made it for a purpose. But I also have a window that doesn't stay up. I like fresh air. So I wedged the screw driver under the raised window and now it stays up. Last night I went to a screening of Days of Heaven. In the movie a screw driver is used in self defense. Blood was spilled. That's two cases of a screw driver being used for purposes other than its original intent. Did these lapses break some cosmic rule? If final cause is important surely some crime must have been committed. But I don't think anyone would say there's cause for alarm -- other than the dead body.

So this makes me wonder. How serious is this final cause if it can be so cavalierly appropriated for other ends? If it's merely a recognition that living things use other things for their own ends, it's a trivial concept. I sometimes use screwdrivers for their intended end. But it simply does not follow that an end is intrinsic to that material system we call a screwdriver. It doesn't point to any particular screw or any particular window or aggressor. It points nowhere. To claim it does is to misunderstand intent. Furthermore, to claim the screwdriver points to something beyond itself is to trivialize transcendence. Yes, I admit I've used things for a purpose. But it's pure silliness to make the leap that this admission makes me a dualist.

djindra said...

Crude,

"Given what you've said in the past, to you this is largely a political fight by proxy."

Feser's article starts with that reference to THE MONADOLOGY. Leibniz starts that by merely positing the monad. Seems harmless right? Yet he ends with:

"Whence it is easy to conclude that the totality of all spirits must compose the City of God, that is to say, the most perfect State that is possible, under the most perfect of Monarchs.... This City of God, this truly universal monarchy, is a moral world in the natural world, and is the most exalted and most divine among the works of God... It is also in relation to this divine City that God specially has goodness, while His wisdom and His power are manifested everywhere. ...Finally, under this perfect government no good action would be unrewarded and no bad one unpunished, and all should issue in the well-being of the good, that is to say, of those who are not malcontents in this great state..."

That's political. Feser is political. From what I can tell a lot of people on this site seek political ends. I've been around. I have eyes.

Crude said...

djindra,

I can keep this short, thankfully.

But it's pure silliness to make the leap that this admission makes me a dualist.

Yes - and Feser didn't DO that. In fact, he named a number of positions which are better situated to handle the questions of mind and thought aside from his own preferred position. Did you even read and understand his entire comment before leaping in against it? The entire post was largely a critical one, not one advocating A-T (hence, again, at the end his expressly noting some of the viable alternatives.)

That's political. Feser is political. From what I can tell a lot of people on this site seek political ends. I've been around. I have eyes.

Right, except you can go about this the wrong way: You can decide "I don't like that decision! I'm going to deny and attack and do everything I can to kick dirt on any argument I think may come to a conclusion I dislike!", or "I'm going to see what the arguments are, which are strongest, which are not, and make decisions based on that information."

For someone who is motivated principally by politics, option 1 looms. And it makes conversation tiring.

djindra said...

"In fact, he named a number of positions which are better situated to handle the questions of mind and thought aside from his own preferred position."

Feser is neither credible nor capable of offering better positions. The implication that he is doing us a favor is laughable.

"The entire post was largely a critical one"

--- the primary target being materialism. I don't sit on my hands when I see propaganda posing as philosophy, particularly when it's aimed at people like me.

"You can decide 'I don't like that decision! I'm going to deny and attack and do everything I can to kick dirt on any argument I think may come to a conclusion I dislike!'"

If you think that this is what I'm about you are mistaken. Besides, you are picking the wrong guy. Try turning that critical eye towards Feser. You don't seem to have a problem putting my reasoning under scrutiny. I don't have a problem putting yours or Feser's or anyone else's under scrutiny.

Pursophia said...

"But why no mention that this is circular? It assumes material parts interacting causally is not (in the brain's case) identical to thinking, feeling, and perception."

With some simple reflection one can see that the two things are different. Which shows that no one is "assuming" anything, but sees that it is impossible to equate the two.

For instance if I am reasoning If A=B, and B=C, Then A=C. This is different than examining the C-fibers in my brain. The two things are qualitatively different. C-Fibers are not rational, thoughts are. You either see it, or you don't (because you are blind?).

Crude said...

djindra,

Feser is neither credible nor capable of offering better positions. The implication that he is doing us a favor is laughable.

How would you know? It's really becoming clear you didn't even read the post fully before blasting it. You went off on a "maybe computation really DOES take place!" tangent without seeming to realize Ed himself discussed that very possibility. You ranted about how Ed's criticisms don't mean we must be 'dualists' despite Ed giving a spread of viable alternative possibilities.

Again, you seem to be in full-on politics mode: Ed can't be right, because you don't like what you think his politics are. What he actually says seems secondary to the fact that he's the one saying it, therefore he must be disagreed with.

--- the primary target being materialism. I don't sit on my hands when I see propaganda posing as philosophy, particularly when it's aimed at people like me.

Propaganda? There it is, the politics again. Arguments, thought experiments, referencing others' arguments - it's just propaganda to you, valid or no.

Aimed at 'people like you'? Unless you mean 'metaphysical materialists', it's not all about you or your odd group. Though that at least indicates just what the politics problem here is.

If you think that this is what I'm about you are mistaken.

The evidence indicates otherwise. One can never know for sure, but hey, can't ignore the evidence can I?

Besides, you are picking the wrong guy. Try turning that critical eye towards Feser.

I do. For one thing, I actually read his posts before commenting. I ask questions when something seems unclear. But then, I've argued enough online to simply try to have discussions, rather than thinking of myself as a one-man culture warrior who must object no matter what, lest the dread Political Enemies be thought of as having a tertiary point.

I don't always agree with Ed. But if Ed gives an argument whose conclusion I don't like, and part of the argument is "2+2=4", I don't feel the need to insist 2+2 != 4 with hopes that if I just disagree with everything he says, maybe the conclusion won't be supported.

djindra said...

Pursophia,

"C-Fibers are not rational, thoughts are. You either see it, or you don't (because you are blind?)"

Yes, I'm blind to that sort of circular reasoning. Try unplugging some of those neurons. When rational thoughts go away it's fairly safe to assume rational thoughts might very well be due to those connections. I think maybe you expect to find something different. But that's expectation.

BenYachov said...

djindra,

Why don't you just get off you lazy commie liberal arse and learn some philosophy for once?

Your politics bore us all to tears.

If I moved to the far left politically Feser's philosophical take down of the New Atheism would still ring true to me.

Just as Eric Reitain's (who is a Process Theologian and an apparent political liberal) take down of Dawkins rings true to me on the logical level in spite of my political differences with him.

It's not hard genius.

Anonymous said...

LOL, I love seeing Ben hulk out.

Never stop posting, bro.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

You're wrong as ever. Whatever philosophy you've been studying hasn't done you much good. Best stay clear of it.

djindra said...

Crude,

"It's really becoming clear you didn't even read the post fully before blasting it. You went off on a "maybe computation really DOES take place!" tangent without seeming to realize Ed himself discussed that very possibility."

Feser was not offering options. He was playing a game of tag. Every option opposed to Leibniz was either false or a capitulation. It's a silly game and he deserves to be blasted for it.

BenYachov said...

Typical non-response and void of any intelligent content. What we have come to expect from the likes of djindra.

anon wrote:
>LOL, I love seeing Ben hulk out.

I prefer becoming The Force Unleashed! Like Galen Marek, too good to be Vader. Too Bad-ass to be Luke!

>Never stop posting, bro.

Ok.

Gnu Boy writes:
>Whatever philosophy you've been studying hasn't done you much good.

If you define "good" as being extremely ignorant and anti-intellectual. A person who believes or disbelieves according to his feelings instead of his reason. Then yeh philosophy hasn't done me any "good".

Thank God for that.

BenYachov said...

>That's political. Feser is political. From what I can tell a lot of people on this site seek political ends. I've been around. I have eyes.

Perhaps djindra can tell the rest of us where to get discounts on tin foil hats?

BenYachov said...

Materialism is to Gnu-Atheism what Young Earth Creationism is to modern Fundamentalist Christianity.

A belief that is merely dogmatically held and not rationally explored.

There are better ways to look at Genesis and there are better ways to be an unbeliever. One must first value reason over feeling and mindless dogma.

Crude said...

djindra,

Every option opposed to Leibniz was either false or a capitulation.

I think anyone can look over your responses and see clearly that you weren't even aware of most of what Ed was saying in a pretty straightforward blog post. You think Ed 'deserves to be blasted' apparently for little reason more than 'politically, he's on the wrong side'.

And, that's that.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

It's amusing that anon would warn people to stay away from me yet encourage your antics. Ideology is truly fickle.

BenYachov said...

djindra

It's not ideology. I suspect BDK doesn't share my political views. But I can count on him to read the relevant philosophy before offering an opinion. Even if he choices not too he says so openly & doesn't attempt any criticism after that.

He is an Atheist who has enough pride not to look like an ignorant dick.

So what pray tell is your malfunction?

Typical Gnu.

djindra said...

Crude,

You brought up politics in this thread, not me. Don't pretend it was me. Just to set the record straight, I'm interested in the topic of "mind" and it has nothing to do with politics. Contrary to the assertion made here, I have given the issue of "you" a lot of thought. I've given artificial intelligence a lot of thought. I picked up a copy of Feser's book on mind. I haven't finished so I'll withhold judgment. But the fact that he started with Descartes and took the brain in a jar so seriously doesn't hold promise. Coincidentally I am reading Wilson's Consilience. His chapter on mind was a refreshing contrast. But as I said, I'll withhold judgment for now.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

You're boring.

BenYachov said...

You are still an ignorant dick.

>I haven't finished so I'll withhold judgment. But the fact that he started with Descartes and took the brain in a jar so seriously doesn't hold promise.

If the above where really true why don't you follow your own advice? OTOH the later part of that sentence already indicates you have made up your mind ahead of time. In spite of your protests you wish to reserve your judgment.

OTOH if you had any brains at all & if you are really reading Feser's books. You would address specific arguments in the book (citing page number & chapter) and present a counter argument.

But for some reason you have chosen the path of the ignorant dick?

You are hopeless.

djindra said...

BenYachov,

"if you are really reading Feser's books. You would address specific arguments in the book (citing page number & chapter) and present a counter argument."

I will.

BenYachov said...

Finally.

BenYachov said...

BTW mere nay-saying doesn't count as a counter argument.

BenYachov said...

Also you can start by actually reading this post then think of a comment if any.

Anonymous said...

It's amusing that anon would warn people to stay away from me yet encourage your antics. Ideology is truly fickle.

When did I warn people to stay away from you?

Bro, you really really like putting words in other people's mouths. You've done it here several times. You cannot call Ben out on his trolling when you do this kind of thing.

Unless, of course, this is all part of an extremely elaborate troll of yours. In that case I salute you.

BenYachov said...

>You cannot call Ben out on his trolling..

WHAT! YOU CALLED ME A TROLL!!!!!

Now stand by why I write 10,000 words as to why you ARE WRONG & I am better than you & why you are totally evil.......or I could not do that & just chill.

Cheers!:-)

Other Anon said...

Anon at 9:35:

'Twas I who warned others to steer clear of a certain poster, not you.

djindra said...

Anonymous,

"Bro, you really really like putting words in other people's mouths. You've done it here several times."

Read the posts. I'm innocent of this particular charge. Btw, if you post under the name Anonymous there's bound to be confusion.

Anonymous said...

Ok cool story brah.

dguller said...

First, information only makes sense in a particular context. For example, DNA does not represent genetic information intrinsically, except when included as part of a biological pathway that involves transmission of DNA from one organism to another (usually during reproduction), translation of DNA into mRNA, and subsequent translation of mRNA into proteins, which then do the actual physical work in the cell. Without the context of this very complex evolved biological system, DNA would not contain genetic information. That is also why just walking around a DNA molecule will not reveal genetic information, because you will not see the functional role that DNA plays in the transmission of genetic information and the creation of proteins. Similarly, just wandering around the brain, or a Leibnizian mill, will not reveal important features, because the context is gone, and without context, there is no sense at all of what is going on.

Second, in what sense is the mind “simple”? If the mind were simple, then we could not divide it into composite parts, and we can clearly do so. We can divide the mind into memory, perception, thought, feeling, emotion, awareness, and so on. Sure, it all hangs together in a unity, but many unified entities are composite.

djindra said...

dguller,

"Second, in what sense is the mind “simple”?"

Exactly. Leibniz offers this assertion as a "thus" but it simply does not follow and it's clearly untrue. The "mind" may be the most complex thing on the planet.

"That is also why just walking around a DNA molecule will not reveal genetic information, because you will not see the functional role that DNA plays in the transmission of genetic information..."

Or, IOW, we don't know what we're looking for. Above, Feser makes an erroneous statement that demonstrates the limitation of technological ignorance: "Still, one might suggest that Leibniz’s argument can be seen to fail when we consider that if we were to walk through a computer expanded to the size of a mill, we wouldn’t observe the program it is running, the symbols it is processing, etc." This is simply untrue. He thinks it's true because he's not familiar enough with the cpu and its instruction set and the structure of the symbolic representations. But those of us who are familiar can in fact reconstruct everything about the program from any state. That's what reverse engineering does.

dguller said...

Djindra:

>> This is simply untrue. He thinks it's true because he's not familiar enough with the cpu and its instruction set and the structure of the symbolic representations. But those of us who are familiar can in fact reconstruct everything about the program from any state. That's what reverse engineering does.

I think that he is partially correct. To walk through a computer would be to observe different patterns of electrical signals, and possibly discover the underlying algorithms that generate them. However, to truly know what those signals mean or signify would require seeing the computer in its broader context and how it is used by human beings. That is why I said that context is paramount in this case, because context is delimits what something means or signifies. Personally, I think this whole line of thought is incorrect, because it ignores this important fact.

George R. said...

For example, DNA does not represent genetic information intrinsically, except when included as part of a biological pathway that involves transmission of DNA from one organism to another (usually during reproduction), translation of DNA into mRNA, and subsequent translation of mRNA into proteins, which then do the actual physical work in the cell.

dguller,

How would you explain all the apparent teleology implied in this system?

We can divide the mind into memory, perception, thought, feeling, emotion, awareness, and so on. Sure, it all hangs together in a unity, but many unified entities are composite.

What is it that causes all these things to hang together?

Crude said...

"Context" was mentioned in the original post - see the "observer-relative" discussion. djindra disputed this, and Ed mentioned what happens if one takes a position where computation is intrinsic rather than observer-relative. Nor did Ed offer up this up as "proof of immaterialism". (Supervenience has also been discussed in a past post.)

dguller said...

George:

>> How would you explain all the apparent teleology implied in this system?

First, the teleology is not apparent, but rather quite real.

Second, the functions of the different components in the system only make sense when understood in the context of the system itself. This is important, because if the system changes, then the functions of its components can also change, which means that the idea of intrinsic function or purpose does not make much sense, at least to me. This is something that happens during evolutionary history, for example, in which a particular phenotypic trait changes its function as the natural context changes.

>> What is it that causes all these things to hang together?

I do not know, but I would suspect an integration of neural pathways in the brain into an autobiographical self. There are a number of coordinating centers in the brain that would likely be involved in such a process. This is because they receive an enormous amount of intput from other brain regions, and send out an enormous amount of output to other brain regions, as well as the fact that damaging them results in significant distortions of our conscious experience of our selves. For example, the thalamus, parts of the cerebral cortex, especially the posteromedial cortices (PMC), and others, would be good candidates.

Crude said...

dguller,

So you're saying that in a certain context, brain state X is about steak (say, a thought of "I would like some steak" by a hungry person)? Is the context observer-relative or not?

George R. said...

dguller:
“First, the teleology is not apparent, but rather quite real.”

You realize, of course, that teleology necessarily implies intelligence.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> So you're saying that in a certain context, brain state X is about steak (say, a thought of "I would like some steak" by a hungry person)? Is the context observer-relative or not?

I think that some aspects of the context are observer-relative. For example, there must be some evidence that the person is, in fact, having such a thought, whether evident to that person due to a conscious awareness of such a thought or some behavioral disposition, such as reaching for a steak absentmindedly, which can also be observed by a third party. However, other aspects of the context are not observer-relative, such as the fact that steaks do exist and are available for consumption by biological organisms, for example.

dguller said...

George:

>> You realize, of course, that teleology necessarily implies intelligence.

Not necessarily. It certainly implies intelligence when we have had experience of conscious and intelligent organisms designing artifacts for particular purposes, but where we have no such experience, one cannot generalize. Furthermore, Darwin nicely showed how mindless processes can result in design.

Crude said...

I think that some aspects of the context are observer-relative. For example, there must be some evidence that the person is, in fact, having such a thought, whether evident to that person due to a conscious awareness of such a thought or some behavioral disposition, such as reaching for a steak absentmindedly, which can also be observed by a third party.

So... what? "Whether a person is having such a thought" is observer-relative? It couldn't be a fact of the matter, even to me, that I am thinking 'I want steak' right now, and that 'I want steak' has a particular meaning?

Furthermore, Darwin nicely showed how mindless processes can result in design.

We don't know that the processes in question, or what govern them, are 'mindless'. And we have plenty of evidence of instances where similar processes are used by intelligent agents. What if those processes are teleological?

dguller said...

Crude:

>> So... what? "Whether a person is having such a thought" is observer-relative? It couldn't be a fact of the matter, even to me, that I am thinking 'I want steak' right now, and that 'I want steak' has a particular meaning?

The person having the thought is one of the observers, no? I am experiencing myself as having a thought, which essentially means that I am observing both the thought and myself having the thought. Maybe you meant something else by “observer-relative”?

>> We don't know that the processes in question, or what govern them, are 'mindless'. And we have plenty of evidence of instances where similar processes are used by intelligent agents. What if those processes are teleological?

First, you are assuming that teleology requires a mind. Just because we have some experience of consciously creating artifacts with specific purposes does not mean that all purposeful entities in the universe are similarly created by a conscious designer. That would involve the fallacy of overgeneralization.

Second, the nice thing about Darwinian natural selection is that all you need is hereditary and differential transmission of traits, limited resources, and differential adaptation potential of those traits, and natural selection automatically occurs in an algorithmic process. There is no need for any mind at all, except as an ad hoc addition. Honestly, where is there a mind involved in designing these features of biological organisms? Perhaps a mind started the whole process going, and then let it run automatically, but why would you think that, except due to a theological assumption?

George R. said...

deguller:
"Not necessarily."

Well, then we’re just using the term “teleology” equivocally; for I define teleology as the directing of something toward an end with the end in mind, and you can’t have an end in mind without a mind -- can you? What you are calling teleology is what I would call merely apparent teleology, to wit, that which seems to be directed with an end in mind but really isn’t. In order for true teleology to be present, the end must somehow be the cause of the thing’s being directed toward it. The end, however, comes to be in reality only after that which is directed toward it. So here’s the problem: how can that which comes after be the cause of that which came before? There is only one way: if the form of that which comes after were to preexist in some intelligence. Otherwise, the end would not be a cause at all, but only an effect -- and the “teleology” would only be apparent.

djindra said...

dguller,

Years ago I disassembled (from the binary image) and "reverse engineered" completely commented source code for two early versions of DOS. I'd look for isolated functions, follow their inputs and outputs, and figure out their functions bit by bit. It's tedious but eventually the whole comes into view simply by solving the puzzle one piece at a time. Was I finding some substance deposited there by the original programmer? No more than a dinosour leaving its footprints is leaving part of itself. It's strictly a material endeavor.

Of course context does help understanding. I knew the "big picture" context but not the context of each piece of the puzzle. We do know context in relation to our brains. We know the inputs and outputs. We know the environment. We know what the mill does. Walking through our mind mill is essentially the same problem but much more complex. This is a problem for engineers, not philosophers. That's why so many philosophers feel lost in the mill. They have no idea where to start.

Crude said...

dguller,

The person having the thought is one of the observers, no?

But that would make the objective aboutness of the brain state intrinsic, yes? The person having the thought about steak knows they are having a thought about steak. Or do they need to 'interpret their brain state' to do this? And then interpret their interpretation? Etc.

That would involve the fallacy of overgeneralization.

But I engaged in no fallacy: I asked 'how do you know?' and pointed at evidence that speaks against the claim you made. I certainly did not say 'humans use evolutionary processes, therefore a mind definitely uses all evolutionary processes'.

There is no need for any mind at all, except as an ad hoc addition.

We don't know if there's "no need for any mind" in nature itself. Mind or the mind-like may be, in numerous ways, fundamental to nature or matter for all we know. Further, the theory - as far as it goes - 'works' under either assumption.

And that's key: Assuming there is no mind is an ad hoc assumption. It's not demanded, nor even implied, by the theory insofar as the theory is scientific as opposed to some extraneous philosophical claim. Beyond that, insofar as humans are concerned, minds purposefully using, guiding and directing evolution is plainly attested to. That's data, at the very least.

Perhaps a mind started the whole process going, and then let it run automatically, but why would you think that, except due to a theological assumption?

And maybe a mind both started and sustained the process with either particular interventions, or interventions at all points. Why would you rule that out, except due to an atheological assumption?

The science, as far as it is science as opposed to philosophical speculation, can't decide the question.

dguller said...

George:

>> Well, then we’re just using the term “teleology” equivocally; for I define teleology as the directing of something toward an end with the end in mind, and you can’t have an end in mind without a mind -- can you? What you are calling teleology is what I would call merely apparent teleology, to wit, that which seems to be directed with an end in mind but really isn’t. In order for true teleology to be present, the end must somehow be the cause of the thing’s being directed toward it. The end, however, comes to be in reality only after that which is directed toward it.

I am using teleology in Aquinas’ sense, according to Feser, which does not necessarily involve an end “in mind”, but only involves the existence of ends towards which different processes are guided towards. I do not consider these ends apparent, but actually are quite real and were present before conscious human beings evolved tens of thousands of years ago, and will continue once we have gone extinct.

>> So here’s the problem: how can that which comes after be the cause of that which came before? There is only one way: if the form of that which comes after were to preexist in some intelligence. Otherwise, the end would not be a cause at all, but only an effect -- and the “teleology” would only be apparent.

I feel like you are equivocating on the meaning of “cause”.

On the one hand, there is the standard definition that involves temporal priority, i.e. X causes Y iff X is prior to (or at least, present with) Y. On the other hand, there is the Aristotelian final cause, which is the ultimate end of a particular process or chain of events, which necessarily must occur after the antecedent series of steps. For example, the end of an acorn is an oak, and the oak occurs at the end of the series of causal events starting with an acorn.

You arrive at your paradox when you conflate these two senses of “cause”, and try to squeeze the latter into the former. In other words, you are stuck with the paradox of how something present at the end of a series must also be present before the series. Why make this move at all? Why not keep these two senses of “cause” separate?

Here’s an analogy that I’m fond of. The sentences, “John is coming” and “Nobody is coming” appear to similar, and have the basic form of subject and predicate, i.e. subject S is predicate P. However, they are radically different when you look beyond the superficial similarities and into the deeper syntactic structure. “John is coming” is used when there is a subject, i.e. John, heading towards me. “Nobody is coming” is used when there is no subject, i.e. nobody, heading towards me. Making the same move that you made above, I would be tied into philosophical knots trying to figure out how “nobody” can be a genuine subject, how nobody can be somebody, and how nothing can be something. Why bother getting on that ride at all? Just know that the sentences are used differently, and stick to their rules of use.

Same thing with “cause”. Do not confuse antecedent causes with subsequent causes, because they are used differently, even though they are both “causes”. Similarly, “John” and “nobody” are both subjects of sentences, but the former is a real subject, and the latter is the absence of a subject. No need to confuse them by conflating them through an equivocation.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> But that would make the objective aboutness of the brain state intrinsic, yes? The person having the thought about steak knows they are having a thought about steak. Or do they need to 'interpret their brain state' to do this? And then interpret their interpretation? Etc.

No, the person having the thought about steak knows that they are having such a thought, but this thought is dependent upon a number of underlying processes and contextual factors that gives it its sense, which is why I said that it was not intrinsic, but got its sense from its context. And that means that if the context changes, then the sense changes, too.

>> But I engaged in no fallacy: I asked 'how do you know?' and pointed at evidence that speaks against the claim you made. I certainly did not say 'humans use evolutionary processes, therefore a mind definitely uses all evolutionary processes'.

You did overgeneralize. You described examples of human beings making artifacts with particular purposes, and then shifted gears to talk about entities that were not made by humans. You appeared to have inferred that since human-made artifacts have an intentional purpose, then all entities with a purpose must also have been made by an intelligent designer. If you were not making this inference, then there is no fallacy, but if you are not making this inference, then what is your point exactly?

And I answered how I know. There is nothing in the processes of evolution of natural selection that involve a conscious mind guiding the process. Feel free to point out where in the process an intelligent mind intervenes to guide the process.

>> Assuming there is no mind is an ad hoc assumption. It's not demanded, nor even implied, by the theory insofar as the theory is scientific as opposed to some extraneous philosophical claim. Beyond that, insofar as humans are concerned, minds purposefully using, guiding and directing evolution is plainly attested to. That's data, at the very least.

I disagree. Evolution appears to be a mindless algorithmic process that automatically occur once certain baseline conditions are set in motion. And the messy, bloody and vicious phenomena in the natural world are exactly what you would expect from a mindless process that was utterly indifferent to the results of its efforts. Again, I would love for you to point to evidence of a mind purposefully guiding the evolutionary process, and how you could tell the difference between a mindless evolutionary process from a mindful one.

>> And maybe a mind both started and sustained the process with either particular interventions, or interventions at all points. Why would you rule that out, except due to an atheological assumption?

Because there is nothing in the data that requires it. Evolutionary biologists never refer to a mind guiding the process in any of their models or equations. If it was essential, then it would have to be incorporated to explain something in the data, but it isn’t included, because it isn’t necessary. Perhaps you could explain how it is necessary?

Crude said...

No, the person having the thought about steak knows that they are having such a thought, but this thought is dependent upon a number of underlying processes and contextual factors that gives it its sense, which is why I said that it was not intrinsic, but got its sense from its context.

The problem here is that "context" is a mind-laden word itself. But maybe you're going with more of that Aquinas teleology.

You did overgeneralize. You described examples of human beings making artifacts with particular purposes, and then shifted gears to talk about entities that were not made by humans.

If I said "humans use evolutionary processes, therefore all evolutionary processes are used by a mind". But I did no such thing - go ahead, quote where I said such. I was pointing out one line of evidence that supports the possibility that evolution is guided by a mind. Citing evidence to establish or bolster a possibility commits no fallacy. And I note you're not disputing the evidence.

There is nothing in the processes of evolution of natural selection that involve a conscious mind guiding the process. Feel free to point out where in the process an intelligent mind intervenes to guide the process.

Easily done in the case of any situation where humans are using evolutionary processes. Do show me how you can establish that you positively no evolution is a process guided by no mind? You're making the claim - support it.

Evolution appears to be a mindless algorithmic process that automatically occur once certain baseline conditions are set in motion.

No, evolution is modeled as an algorithmic process give certain assumptions. "Appears to be mindless"? You have a Dembski-style Design Filter? Or is this just "well that's what I think"?

And the messy, bloody and vicious phenomena in the natural world are exactly what you would expect from a mindless process that was utterly indifferent to the results of its efforts.

Interesting theology. So if we can't conclude what you consider to be a benevolent mind, we can't conclude any mind? And you know what to expect not only from minds, full stop, but also all 'mindless processes'?

C'mon. You're going way beyond science and you know it.

Because there is nothing in the data that requires it. Evolutionary biologists never refer to a mind guiding the process in any of their models or equations.

A) Evolutionary biologists, such as Eugenie Scott and others, also are on-record as stating that whether or not evolution is mind-guided or personal is outside the scope of science (See the NABT controversy), B) Some evolutionary biologists in the design camp do make these claims (Yes, they're very controversial - but you didn't qualify your statement), and C) "Necessity" isn't necessary. Science doesn't work in the realm of absolute certainties. Evolution is entirely compatible with input from minds, at all points or particular points. Again, we have evidence of this.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

dguller wrote: “Similarly, just wandering around the brain, or a Leibnizian mill, will not reveal important features, because the context is gone, and without context, there is no sense at all of what is going on.

Imagine Leibniz’s mill expanded to cover the entire universe. All context is now there, but there is still no such thing as a quale or as a belief to be found in it.

George R. said...

Dguller:
“I am using teleology in Aquinas’ sense, according to Feser, which does not necessarily involve an end 'in mind', but only involves the existence of ends towards which different processes are guided towards.”

Oh, really?

Ed Feser:
“Yet it is impossible for anything to be directed toward an end unless that end exists in an intellect which directs the thing in question toward it.” (The Last Superstition, pp. 115-116)

dguller said...

George:

Yes, really.

“there is a kind of goal-directedness that exists even apart from conscious thought processes and intentions … our conscious thought processes are really but a special case of the more general natural phenomena of goal-directedness or final causality, which exists in the natural world in a way that is mostly totally divorced from any conscious mind or intelligence” (TLS, p. 70)

“The Aristotelian idea is precisely that goal-directedness can and does exist in the natural world even apart from conscious awareness” (TLS, p. 115)

“most final causality is thought by Aristotelians to be totally unconscious … For Aristotelians, our conscious thought processes are only a special case of the more general phenomenon of goal-directedness or final causality, which exists in the natural world in a way that is mostly divorced from any conscious mind or intelligence. To “intend a goal” in the sense Aquinas has in mind in the passage just quoted is not necessarily to make a conscious decision to pursue some goal, but rather just “to have a natural inclination toward something”” (Aquinas, p. 19).

BenYachov said...

Well that sucks. An intelligent Atheist (i.e. dguller) shows up.

One who has actually read the relevant material(TLS, AQUINAS) and is actually making some interesting comments.

Then some anom putz shows up acting like a jerk.

I say ban the putz & let Crude, dguller and George fight it out.

I want to see a good argument from a thoughtful Atheism. Not the childish rantings of a PZ wannabe.

BenYachov said...

BTW for the record I don't believe you can show God is behind evolution scientifically.

No Scientism! Positivism is dead! 1949 called and they want it back.

Even AJ Flew dumped it at the height of his Atheism.

God is proven philosophically. Teleology in Evolution suggests God IMHO but doesn't conclusively prove HIM.

>And the messy, bloody and vicious phenomena in the natural world are exactly what you would expect from a mindless process that was utterly indifferent to the results of its efforts.

Yeh Crude is right there are theological problems with this objection but I'm sick right now. Maybe later I'll lay some of my mojo wisdom on the dgeller man.

Cheers friends.

Crude said...

Ben,

BTW for the record I don't believe you can show God is behind evolution scientifically.

I agree, I don't think you can. But more than that, I don't think you can show He isn't either, as far as science on its own goes. All you can get is either agnosticism or inferences of various strength towards a mind.

The 'evolution is true therefore your God doesn't exist' line only cuts against YECs. Against anyone else it's a whole different game.

As for the theological reply, the point isn't just that there are theodicy responses available, but that the claim itself is one of theology and philosophy. "God/Minds wouldn't do THIS" and "Mindless things would do THIS" ain't science.

Get well soon.

Anonymous said...

"God/Minds wouldn't do THIS"

exactly! The church wants black plagues, influenzas, natural disasters, not to say world wars

not only did you never read Kant on Aquinas's old pseudo-arguments, you never read Voltaire. One doesn't have to read TLS if you understand a bit of Aristotle's categories

one doesn't need to have read 10 volumes of hindu cosmology to ...not reject it. similarly one doesn't need to have mastered Aquinas's Summa to not accept it, or a "final cause", in a theological sense --the spanish influenza had a final cause (ie, the deaths of what 20 million) .

that said, who said I was an atheist? conclusionary. not accepting Feser's right wing, machiavellian pseudo-scholasticism does not mean one exactly agrees with Dawkins et al

dguller said...

Crude:

>> The problem here is that "context" is a mind-laden word itself. But maybe you're going with more of that Aquinas teleology.

Well, ALL words are “mind-laden”, being a part of a language that requires beings with minds to begin with, and so I’m not too sure what you’re getting at.

>> If I said "humans use evolutionary processes, therefore all evolutionary processes are used by a mind". But I did no such thing - go ahead, quote where I said such. I was pointing out one line of evidence that supports the possibility that evolution is guided by a mind. Citing evidence to establish or bolster a possibility commits no fallacy. And I note you're not disputing the evidence.

I never said that evolution could never be guided by a mind. I said that evolution by NATURAL selection does not appear to be guided by a mind. Evolution by ARTIFICIAL selection IS guided by conscious human beings. This was actually brought up by Darwin himself. However, his broader point was that artificial selection is parasitic upon the principles of natural selection, and is actually a special case of a broader phenomenon. It’s just that instead of random variation, human breeders would consciously choose the traits they wanted to evolve.

>> No, evolution is modeled as an algorithmic process give certain assumptions. "Appears to be mindless"? You have a Dembski-style Design Filter? Or is this just "well that's what I think"?

That’s right. That is the model, and there is no place for any mind guiding natural selection. Show me one that does, if you believe that a mind must be involved in the process.

>> Interesting theology. So if we can't conclude what you consider to be a benevolent mind, we can't conclude any mind? And you know what to expect not only from minds, full stop, but also all 'mindless processes'?

Sure, I suppose it is possible that a sadistic and evil cosmic intelligence designed the algorithm of evolution by natural selection. I think it makes more sense that the process is indifferent to good and evil, and only generates what seems to increase survival in the present. Whether that survival mechanism is good or evil is irrelevant to the process. That model seems to explain the facts better than one that involves an intelligence, whether fundamentally good or evil, because if fundamentally good, then why so much evil, and if fundamentally evil, then why so much good?

>> A) Evolutionary biologists, such as Eugenie Scott and others, also are on-record as stating that whether or not evolution is mind-guided or personal is outside the scope of science (See the NABT controversy),

Factual claims about how the world works are best addressed by scientific inquiry. So, if the possibility of a guiding intelligence behind evolution cannot be scientifically addressed, then the matter is just inconclusive, and no-one should take any position on it. Personally, because there is no real way to know, and the reasons given by those who support such a mind are weak, then I am happy to conclude that there is no such thing.

>> B) Some evolutionary biologists in the design camp do make these claims (Yes, they're very controversial - but you didn't qualify your statement),

True, I should have qualified my statement.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> and C) "Necessity" isn't necessary. Science doesn't work in the realm of absolute certainties. Evolution is entirely compatible with input from minds, at all points or particular points. Again, we have evidence of this.

Evolution is compatible with any fantastic hypothesis. Evolution is compatible with being generated by the entrails of invisible cosmic unicorns, by the random aftereffects of the magical flutes of leprechauns, and so on. Once you get away from science, there is no longer any real constraint upon what one can hypothesize, and one quickly spins off into fantasy and speculation. That in and of itself is fine, because people can think whatever they want, but when they start to bet their lives upon one hypothesis in particular that has no warrant over and above the near-infinite number of alternatives, then one is not being epistemically responsible, and can get into trouble when reality eventually collides with oneself.

dguller said...

Dianelos:

>> Imagine Leibniz’s mill expanded to cover the entire universe. All context is now there, but there is still no such thing as a quale or as a belief to be found in it.

Why is there is no such thing as a quale? There are certainly qualia occurring in the minds of conscious human beings within the universe. The important point is that one must not miss the forest for the trees, which essentially means that one must approach a problem with the right perspective. This ideally means approaching it in a way that does not make the phenomena in question become undetectable.

For example, if I started with the perspective from the opposite end of the universe, then there are no human beings, or planet Earth, or Milky Way, because they cannot be seen from the opposite end of the universe. All that follows from this is that this is the wrong perspecitve from which to study our galaxy.

BenYachov said...

dguller,

Animals do not have intellective souls.

Like Dennett we might not believe they are truly conscious.

Their "suffering" isn't comparable to human suffering. If we believe Thomas Nagel we don't know what it is like to be a bat. Reading the human experience of suffering into the unknown and unknowable suffering of animals is the anthropomorphic fallacy. Animals have blind instinct and mindless sensation. They have no concept of being a "self" nor do they conceive of themselves as beings who are suffering. They have no knowledge they are mortal. When they die their "minds" such as they are cease to exist along with any primitive memory of pain.

To cry over animal suffering makes about as much sense as crying over the planet Jupiter being hit by comets.

Only spiritual beings can truly suffer. Animals are not spiritual beings.

dguller said...

Ben:

>> Only spiritual beings can truly suffer. Animals are not spiritual beings.

It depends upon the animal in question, and particularly on whether they can feel pain. If they can feel pain, and recall the circumstances of that pain, and alter their future behavior to avoid that pain, then they can suffer, as far as I’m concerned. Certainly, they cannot suffer over the fact that they are mortal, because they likely lack such concepts, but to limit suffering to only what human beings can experience needlessly limits pain and suffering.

I think that it is pretty clear that primates and dogs, for example, do feel pain, they wince they hurt, they nurse their injuries, they appear sad and downcast, they isolate themselves when harmed by loved ones, all of which indicates pain and suffering. The fact that they share many aspects of biology with us, including a mammalian brain very similar subcortical pathways, and a common evolutionary history, means that there is no principled reason to deny their experience of feelings and emotions. I mean, one does not require a cerebral cortex to have feelings, but only to experience them in a human way.

Why do you believe that human consciousness is the only form of conscious awareness that exists amongst biological organisms? Don’t you think that there is enough evidence to agree that some mammals, especially those that share neurobiological features with us, have a common evolutionary history, and have behavioral dispositions that make the most sense if underlying mental states are assumed, have some form of consciousness, and thus can feel pain and suffering?

I mean, what are feelings to begin with? They are mental states that represent the degree to which the body is within homeostasis. In other words, when the various components of the body are themselves operating in an optimal range, then the brain detects this as a pleasurable situation, and when the components of the body are operating outside the optimal range, then the brain detects this with negative feelings. And given the tightly interwoven relationship between the body and brain in which they effective form an anatomical and functionally integrated system, it makes sense that bodily states would generate feeling states.

There is no reason why some non-human mammals would not be able to experience such feelings, unless you could show that feelings require a cerebral cortex. Fortunately, there is no such evidence. In fact, there is good evidence that feelings fundamentally depend upon nuclei in the brain stem that receive information from the body on the way to the higher regions of the brain through the thalamus. Even more interestingly, this same area of the brain is also where the first set of bodily signals is processed and mapped, and thus would be the first waystation to an evaluative process that determines whether bodily signals are positive or negative, and thus generate feelings to communicate this assessment.

If you are interested, an excellent account of this idea is Antonio Damasio’s new book, “Self Comes to Mind” (2010).

Crude said...

dguller,

Well, ALL words are “mind-laden”, being a part of a language that requires beings with minds to begin with, and so I’m not too sure what you’re getting at.

Not in the appropriate sense, no. Minds are what supply "context". Unless you believe context is intrinsic in nature. And even then, the question is open.

I said that evolution by NATURAL selection does not appear to be guided by a mind.

Nope. You said: "Furthermore, Darwin nicely showed how mindless processes can result in design." That's a strong statement, dguller, and it requires the claim that natural processes are not guided by a mind - otherwise, Darwin didn't show what you claim he did.

Now, you can say "do not appear to be guided". But that's still a claim - again, where's the evidence?

That is the model, and there is no place for any mind guiding natural selection. Show me one that does, if you believe that a mind must be involved in the process.

No: The model does not exclude or include a mind in and of itself. The model, and science, is neutral on the question. *You* have said that there is no mind at work in evolution. You then shifted to 'there appears to be no mind' at work in evolution. I expressly did not say 'must'. I said 'is possible', and I provided evidence that you apparently accept.

You, so far, have no evidence other than your personal beliefs, and some theological speculation.

That model seems to explain the facts better than one that involves an intelligence, whether fundamentally good or evil, because if fundamentally good, then why so much evil, and if fundamentally evil, then why so much good?

And if it's fundamentally neither good nor evil? And if a persuasive theodicy is offered for the 'good' or 'evil'?

You just gave away the game here, you realize. You're tying our evaluation of whether or not evolution has a mind not to stricly scientific evidence, but to theological speculation. And really, you won't be doing better speculation than the theologians.

So, if the possibility of a guiding intelligence behind evolution cannot be scientifically addressed, then the matter is just inconclusive, and no-one should take any position on it. Personally, because there is no real way to know, and the reasons given by those who support such a mind are weak, then I am happy to conclude that there is no such thing.

Wonderful - except you just abandoned science to make your conclusion. What's more, you abandoned science for theology and personal belief. And anyone who disagrees with your theological evaluations and personal beliefs would have ample reason to conclude (since having decisive science on one's side no longer matters, you say) that a mind is behind evolution.

Evolution is compatible with any fantastic hypothesis.

Including 'it's all blind chance and luck and there's no purpose even though there's teleology all over the place and minds can and do demonstrably direct evolution'. Every bit as fanciful and unscientific as unicorns. Really, moreso, since minds demonstrably exist.

You talk about 'once you get away from science', but by your own admission you just did that, to rely on theology and philosophical/personal evaluation. And if you can do that, so can everyone else.

Le Biques Nude said...

that said, who said I was an atheist? conclusionary. not accepting Feser's right wing, machiavellian pseudo-scholasticism does not mean one exactly agrees with Dawkins et al

Can you present concrete examples of Ed's writings being:

1. Right-wing
2. Machiavellian
3. Pseudo-scholastic.

I'm OK with (1) because I repudiate leftists, but (2) and (3) seem far off from what I've read. Cheers.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> You just gave away the game here, you realize. You're tying our evaluation of whether or not evolution has a mind not to stricly scientific evidence, but to theological speculation. And really, you won't be doing better speculation than the theologians.

No, I am not. My case is divided into two parts. One, scientific, and the other, speculative. The scientific one is that our understanding of evolutionary biology does not require any inclusion of a supernatural intelligence. It does not add anything, and so why bother adding it, by Ockham’s razor? The speculative one is that, even under the assumption that going beyond the scientific evidence was permissible, there are alternative explanations that should be given equal weight to the religious ones, and excluding them appears to be ad hoc.

So, on the one hand, I am saying that speculation is worthless, and on the other hand, even if it was worthwhile, it does not lead to the conclusions that its proponents would hope for. It’s called a horned dilemma. Either X or not-X. If X, then your conclusion fails. If not-X, then your conclusion fails. I mean, it’s not an especially original logical move.

>> Wonderful - except you just abandoned science to make your conclusion. What's more, you abandoned science for theology and personal belief. And anyone who disagrees with your theological evaluations and personal beliefs would have ample reason to conclude (since having decisive science on one's side no longer matters, you say) that a mind is behind evolution.

I did not abandon science. Say that someone says that there is a magical population of dwarves living on a planet in a solar system billions of light years away. Sure, it is logically possible that such a population exists. However, there is no good evidence to justify their existence. Should I just remain 50-50 about the matter, or can I say that because there is no good evidence for its existence, then I can push it down to a low likelihood of being true? I think that one would be reasonable to conclude that this belief is highly unlikely to be true, and thus to forget all about it unless better evidence comes in. It would make no sense for someone to bet their livelihood and future career upon such a belief, just because it is possible that it is true, and does not contradict any scientific laws at this time.

>> Including 'it's all blind chance and luck and there's no purpose even though there's teleology all over the place and minds can and do demonstrably direct evolution'. Every bit as fanciful and unscientific as unicorns. Really, moreso, since minds demonstrably exist.

First, it’s not all chance and luck. There is random variation, but there is also the constraints of evolutionary history, the differential adaptive effects of different traits, and so on. Seriously, plus in the algorithm of natural selection into a computer, and you will see the evolution of “organisms” that the original programmer never imagined or conceived of, which indicates that the process itself creates entities and not some guiding intelligence.

Second, you are equivocating on “purpose”. There is a sense of teleology that no-one would deny, which is that physical entities follow natural laws, and head towards specific ends. Then there is the sense of teleology that says that those ends must be present at the very beginning in order to guide the process, and that this requires an intelligence to lay them down. THAT is the sense of teleology that was rejected in the modern period.

Third, of course minds exist and can manipulate evolution. But does it follow that a mind always manipulates evolution? I don’t think so. I mean, minds also push rocks around. Does it follow that minds always push rocks around when they move? Doesn’t gravity do that sometimes, and is gravity a mind?

dguller said...

Crude:

>> Not in the appropriate sense, no. Minds are what supply "context". Unless you believe context is intrinsic in nature. And even then, the question is open.

“Context” is defined as “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed”. Given that definition, the mind can conceptualize the setting in which an event occurs, but the setting exists independently of the mind trying to understand it.

>> Nope. You said: "Furthermore, Darwin nicely showed how mindless processes can result in design." That's a strong statement, dguller, and it requires the claim that natural processes are not guided by a mind - otherwise, Darwin didn't show what you claim he did.

Mindless processes CAN result in design. Just because conscious minds can result in design, too, does not imply that mindless processes necessarily cannot. What is the inference that I’m missing? Care to provide it?

>> Now, you can say "do not appear to be guided". But that's still a claim - again, where's the evidence?

A tree falls upon a person’s head, and that person’s skull is fractured. Does the explanation of the skull fracture require the invocation of a guiding mind? I think not, because the principles of mechanics are sufficient to explain how heavy objects falling upon a skull with sufficient force can result in a fracture of the skull. There is no need to bring up a guiding mind at all.

Similarly, when you have a situation in which there is differential and hereditary transmission of phenotypic traits, competition for limited resources, and differential adaptive capabilities for different phenotypic traits in particular environments, then you get evolution by natural selection. There is no need to invoke a guiding mind at all within this process. The design that results from natural selection can be fully understood without any such mental involvement, and so why bother postulating it at all?

>> No: The model does not exclude or include a mind in and of itself. The model, and science, is neutral on the question. *You* have said that there is no mind at work in evolution. You then shifted to 'there appears to be no mind' at work in evolution. I expressly did not say 'must'. I said 'is possible', and I provided evidence that you apparently accept.

First, there is evidence in the form of artificial selection of conscious minds influencing evolution. What follows from this in terms of natural selection? How does one infer from the fact that human beings can manipulate the natural environment to the natural environment itself was created by a powerful intelligence? That would be like arguing that because birds fly with feathers in their wings that flight itself in all its manifestations requires feathered wings.

Second, you are correct that evolutionary biology could possibly be consistent with a divine intelligence, but it would possibly be consistent with any fantastic hypothesis I could imagine. However, the fact that this additional element is not involved in any models whatsoever implies that it does not contribute to the explanation of the natural phenomena at all, and thus is completely ad hoc. There is no need to add it, except to serve an alternative agenda.

>> And if it's fundamentally neither good nor evil? And if a persuasive theodicy is offered for the 'good' or 'evil'?

Good luck with that. And I’m sure that a husband that rapes and abuses his wife could somehow be understood to truly be a loving and beneficent mate. After all, it is a logical possibility, which as we know is always enough to justify anything.

Crude said...

dguller,

One, scientific, and the other, speculative. The scientific one is that our understanding of evolutionary biology does not require any inclusion of a supernatural intelligence. It does not add anything, and so why bother adding it, by Ockham’s razor?

First, who said anything about 'supernatural'?

Second, nor does it require the assumption of a mindless, unguided nature. Therefore, why bother adding it, by Ockham's razor?

Unless you mean "if I assume a mindless nature, I don't need to assume a mindful one". But I can ask, why assume a mindless nature if I assume a mindful one?

See, your understanding of Ockham's razor is flawed. It's not "if I can imagine one alternative, I can eschew any other alternative". Otherwise, you could postulate a 6000 year old universe where all of reality popped into existence as an atheistic theory. "I can imagine they just popped into existence uncaused from nothing. Therefore, Ockham's razor..."

Again: Science does not work in requirements as strong as you're making them out to be, which is 'I can't even imagine an alternative within the scope of merely logical possibility'.

So, on the one hand, I am saying that speculation is worthless, and on the other hand, even if it was worthwhile, it does not lead to the conclusions that its proponents would hope for.

And I'm giving you a horned dilemma of my own. If the question is considered purely by scientific investigation alone, then you don't get to an atheist conclusion - you get to an agnostic one. But if you allow non-scientific evidence to count, then not only is a mind-centric or even theistic answer possible, it happens to be where the abundance of evidence directs. You'll reply "maybe in your view", but I've been supplying the evidence. You have no evidence to speak of unless you assume that nature is fundamentally without a mind in any relevant sense.

My horned dilemma, as opposed to yours, actually works.

I did not abandon science.

Sure you did. Here's you again: "So, if the possibility of a guiding intelligence behind evolution cannot be scientifically addressed, then the matter is just inconclusive, and no-one should take any position on it. Personally, because there is no real way to know, and the reasons given by those who support such a mind are weak, then I am happy to conclude that there is no such thing."

You yourself said that if science can't settle the matter, no one can take any position on it. Therefore, granting that science can't settle the matter, you went on to say that personally even if that's the case you're going to conclude there is no mind involved in nature.

That, dguller, is abandoning science to take your position, by your own reckoning.

But if you want to count evidence and speculation that is not purely scientific, then you've got a swarm of evidence to deal with - everything from theodicies, to philosophical argument, to suggestive limited evidence from human minds, to otherwise.

Again, you're in it deep whichever way you go. By your own standards. I fully expect you to start changing your standards now.

Crude said...

Seriously, plus in the algorithm of natural selection into a computer, and you will see the evolution of “organisms” that the original programmer never imagined or conceived of, which indicates that the process itself creates entities and not some guiding intelligence.

You're making assumptions about the programmer: Not only what he knows or doesn't know, but what actions he takes while the program is running. I can give you a programmer who runs an evolutionary algorithm knowing exactly what the end result is geared towards. I can give you a programmer who intervenes while the program is running. And even in your example, the programmer has some idea of what he'll get - he programmed the damn thing.

There is a sense of teleology that no-one would deny, which is that physical entities follow natural laws, and head towards specific ends.

Except for the people who deny it. "Entities follow natural laws"? Read your Hume. Hell, read TLS again. Feser wrote about this.

Third, of course minds exist and can manipulate evolution. But does it follow that a mind always manipulates evolution?

You keep trying to work in this 'always' and 'must' on me - even after I keep explicitly disavowing 'always' or 'must'. Science doesn't deal in certainties. I'm saying that A) you've provided no evidence that nature operates devoid of a mind, B) I've provided evidence of minds directing and guiding evolution, C) science itself, as science, can't conclude either way.

I mean, minds also push rocks around. Does it follow that minds always push rocks around when they move? Doesn’t gravity do that sometimes, and is gravity a mind?

Good question! But science doesn't know the ultimate description of fundamental regularities in nature. For all science can tell anyone, full-blown occassionalism is true. What are these natural forces, these fundamental laws, at the bottom (or top?) level? Are there even such things ultimately?

Science. Doesn't. Know. It works with certain assumptions, a certain faith.

We do know - we have first-person evidence! - that minds exist, and what minds can do. Whether anything truly, ultimately 'mindless' in the relevant sense even exists, we have only speculation regarding. And really, it's all we'll ever have without assumption, or philosophical/metaphysical argument - as far as that can get us.

Crude said...

“Context” is defined as “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed”.

Do you really fail to see the problem of talking about 'context' independent of a mind, when the definition of 'context' assumes as mind?

Mindless processes CAN result in design. Just because conscious minds can result in design, too, does not imply that mindless processes necessarily cannot. What is the inference that I’m missing? Care to provide it?

Dguller, show me with nothing but science that mindless processes - processes that take place without being ultimately sustained by, and/or directed by, a mind - even exist. Your alternative only gets off the ground if you make extra-scientific assumptions to begin with. Science is a shockingly anemic thing.

A tree falls upon a person’s head, and that person’s skull is fractured. Does the explanation of the skull fracture require the invocation of a guiding mind?

Again with the 'require'. But who's making this 'require' argument? I'm saying, ultimately - and for all science knows, since science does not deal in such ultimates - yeah, a mind played a role. Now, science can give a model which is neutral on the question of whether there was or wasn't a mind ultimately involved - it can make certain assumptions, it can rule out certain questions and choose to remain agnostic - and from that, it can grant some great utility. And if theists or others were making the argument that you can't make a predictive model without answering the question of whether or not mind is fundamental to nature, you'd have a point.

But neither theists nor those relevant 'others' are talking on that level. They ARE dealing in ultimates. Just as an atheist is an atheist at the level of ultimates, not mere pragmatic, limited models. And that's where your problem lies.

How does one infer from the fact that human beings can manipulate the natural environment to the natural environment itself was created by a powerful intelligence?

Various arguments - argument by analogy, argument by what we'd expect of a teleological process, arguments that grant certain assumptions (which people will argue about)... really, there's a million of them. They're extra-scientific. They may even involve assumptions. And they won't necessarily be utterly conclusive.

Fun fact: That's how you'd have to establish that nature was not created by a powerful intelligence too.

There is no need to add it, except to serve an alternative agenda.

There is no need, as far as the science goes, to add "no mind caused it", except to serve yet another alternative agenda. I haven't been offering up intelligence being at work in nature as part of a "scientific" theory.

Me, I'm fine with science as science being utterly agnostic on many important questions. You, however, don't seem nearly as comfortable with that. Think about that.

After all, it is a logical possibility, which as we know is always enough to justify anything.

My friend, you are the one embracing mere logical possible alternatives as definitive here. I'm not. You're the one who's been legitimizing theodicy and speculation here - I've just been running with it.

Again, the funny thing is, you seem vastly less comfortable with the fact that these questions - certainly as far as science goes - can't be definitively answered, than I am. And I'm the theist here!

dguller said...

Crude:

>> Second, nor does it require the assumption of a mindless, unguided nature. Therefore, why bother adding it, by Ockham's razor?

It does require such an assumption if there is no postulation of a guiding intelligence in the models of natural selection. I mean, if a theory does not postulate X and Y, then it can be considered to be X-less and Y-less, by definition. In other words, I am not adding something, i.e. X-less and Y-less, to the theory, but rather am pointing out the absence of X and Y within the theory itself. If it’s not there, then it’s not there. It’s really that simple.

>> See, your understanding of Ockham's razor is flawed. It's not "if I can imagine one alternative, I can eschew any other alternative". Otherwise, you could postulate a 6000 year old universe where all of reality popped into existence as an atheistic theory. "I can imagine they just popped into existence uncaused from nothing. Therefore, Ockham's razor..."

Ockham’s razor is used when one develops a theory that makes a number of assumptions that result in sufficient explanatory power of the phenomena in question. The idea is that there is no point in adding assumptions to a theory if those added assumptions actually do not increase the explanatory power of the theory at all.

With regards to natural selection, the theory works just fine without any guiding intelligence. I mean, you keep getting all caught up in philosophical sophistry when all you have to do is to explain some natural phenomena that the principles laid down by natural selection just cannot possibly explain, and that can only be explained by postulating a guiding intelligence. Honestly, go for it. No more logical possibility and other cop-outs. Just bring some concrete facts and figures.

>> And I'm giving you a horned dilemma of my own. If the question is considered purely by scientific investigation alone, then you don't get to an atheist conclusion - you get to an agnostic one. But if you allow non-scientific evidence to count, then not only is a mind-centric or even theistic answer possible, it happens to be where the abundance of evidence directs. You'll reply "maybe in your view", but I've been supplying the evidence. You have no evidence to speak of unless you assume that nature is fundamentally without a mind in any relevant sense.

First, what is the “abundance of evidence” that you keep talking about that demonstrates that a guiding intelligence is necessary to make sense of evolution?

Second, with regards to your horned dilemma, I do not agree that one can only conclude agnosticism. I would say that if there is no good evidence for X, then I can reasonable say that X is likely false. It does not make sense to say that X has a 50% chance of being true.

For me, good evidence about how the world works is scientific evidence, because it is the only form of evidence that actually takes painstaking steps to control for biases, cognitive distortions, and confounding factors that can result in false results. Armchair speculations without good empirical data is basically useless to me, except as an interesting pastime. So, if there is no good scientific evidence for a guiding intelligence, and a theory that does not postulate such an entity is sufficient to explain natural phenomena, then I can reject the extra entity as probably false. Sure, better evidence may come along in the future, but for now, I’ll put my money on false.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> But if you want to count evidence and speculation that is not purely scientific, then you've got a swarm of evidence to deal with - everything from theodicies, to philosophical argument, to suggestive limited evidence from human minds, to otherwise.

Theodicies: Coming up with any logical possibility to justify empirical data is not impressive to me at all. As I said earlier, it is like saying that a husband who rapes and beats his wife is truly a loving and beneficent mate, because one comes up with some possible explanation for his behavior. I mean, it’s logically possible after all. I certainly hope that you would not counsel women in such relationships to stay with their men, because it is logically possible that they are truly loving and considerate. And if you wouldn’t do that in that situation, then why would you do it with a theodicy?

Philosophical argument: Most premises are only as good as the empirical data that they are built upon. Again, science is essential to this process.

Limited evidence from human minds: Not too sure what you mean here, but if you mean that our cognitive capacities are limited, then we should be even more hesitant about postulating all-powerful entities that other fantastical beings to explain the world. You cannot claim to be humble, but engage in grandiose activities at the same time.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to your conclusive evidence that evolution can only make sense if guided by a powerful intelligence. I hope I get an answer, unlike your refusal to state whether you believe that atoms exist or not.

Crude said...

dguller,

I hope I get an answer, unlike your refusal to state whether you believe that atoms exist or not.

I replied to you, repeatedly, with questions that you evaded. You did not understand my point: That what an 'atom' was for Lucretius was very different from what an 'atom' was for Descartes, which was different for what an 'atom' is for Newton, and so on, up to the present time.

Likewise, what an atom is is different for Aristotle, compared to what it is for Descartes, compared to what it is for Berkeley, ... etc.

If you can't appreciate that point, it's your loss. I can happily grant that our various models for atoms have this or that utility. In terms of metaphysical ultimates? That's another issue.

Philosophical argument: Most premises are only as good as the empirical data that they are built upon. Again, science is essential to this process.

Many premises aren't built on "empirical data". Not all "empirical data" is "science", and even when informed by "science", most philosophical speculations are still not decisive. Certainly not the ones that matter to you.

With regards to natural selection, the theory works just fine without any guiding intelligence.

The theory "works just fine" (let's put aside arguments from biologists who disagree with that - Margulis, etc) without assuming nature is unguided and mindless. See the NABT and Eugenie Scott again. The theory, insofar as science goes, is entirely silent on which of the two conceptions of nature is the correct one. The razor, insofar as the theory goes, slices both claims. It needs neither.

Second, with regards to your horned dilemma, I do not agree that one can only conclude agnosticism. I would say that if there is no good evidence for X, then I can reasonable say that X is likely false. It does not make sense to say that X has a 50% chance of being true.

Except - insofar as science goes - there is no good evidence that nature is fundamentally mindless, or lacking a mind in the relevant sense. Science is helpless there. The mere existence of a 'mindless nature' is suspect in terms of pure scientific speculation, sans extra-scientific assumption. And "but the creator would have to be evil I think!" does not get you to "therefore there is no creator".

Finally, it's come to this:

Anyway, I’m looking forward to your conclusive evidence that evolution can only make sense if guided by a powerful intelligence

Dguller, I have repeatedly, over and over, resisted your attempts to rephrase my argument from "is possible, and there is evidence for" to "absolutely must be". And you have in response continued to try and falsely reconstruct my argument to have me saying "absolutely", such that no other explanation is even imaginable. You are desperately pushing for a strawman here, and after I've clarified more than twice.

So I have to say it: You're being dishonest. Cop to it and knock it off, or frankly, I'll settle for calling you out as a liar and ending things there.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> Do you really fail to see the problem of talking about 'context' independent of a mind, when the definition of 'context' assumes as mind?

If there were no settings in the natural world in which entities existed in specific associations, then there would be no concept “context” at all. The mind is representing real relationships in the world, and is calling these particular relationships “the context”.

>> Dguller, show me with nothing but science that mindless processes - processes that take place without being ultimately sustained by, and/or directed by, a mind - even exist. Your alternative only gets off the ground if you make extra-scientific assumptions to begin with. Science is a shockingly anemic thing.

First, what does “ultimately sustained by” mean? And if this level of reality is fundamentally beyond the reach of science, then what is able to reach it? Philosophy? Theology? What safeguards and mechanisms exist to falsify philosophical and theological theories? What are these standards, and what is the evidence that these standards reliably connect with “ultimate” reality?

Second, yes, I assume that the world operates according to predictable regularities that empirical investigation can uncover. Oh wait. It’s not an assumption. It is something that we experience every single day when we predict anything correctly. Unless you are saying that it is all just dumb luck?

Third, if science is so anemic, then feel free to disregard its discoveries. Don’t bother getting antibiotics for a bacterial infection. Don’t bother driving a car or riding in a plane. Don’t bother using the Internet.

>> Again with the 'require'. But who's making this 'require' argument? I'm saying, ultimately - and for all science knows, since science does not deal in such ultimates - yeah, a mind played a role.

Ohhhh. So you’re saying that you have no idea, but it is possible that there is a mind operating behind the scenes, a mind that is not part of any scientific model, and does not explanatory work, but still, because, well, maybe, we should consider it. Got it.

>> Now, science can give a model which is neutral on the question of whether there was or wasn't a mind ultimately involved - it can make certain assumptions, it can rule out certain questions and choose to remain agnostic - and from that, it can grant some great utility. And if theists or others were making the argument that you can't make a predictive model without answering the question of whether or not mind is fundamental to nature, you'd have a point.

It is not neutral. If science does not utilize a guiding intelligence in any of its theories, then there is no need to postulate it at all. That is not neutral. It only becomes neutral when you postulate a hidden layer of reality that science is unable to reach, but the human mind can by a particular method of philosophical and theological reasoning that has been shown to be a reliable generator of truth about this layer by falsifying alternative theories that are now rejected by consensus of philosophers and theologians.

dguller said...

>> But neither theists nor those relevant 'others' are talking on that level. They ARE dealing in ultimates. Just as an atheist is an atheist at the level of ultimates, not mere pragmatic, limited models. And that's where your problem lies.

And that is the problem. Nobody knows anything about these ultimates. Sure, one can speculate, but without tethering such speculation to a reliable method and empirical data, you are just flapping in the air. An atheist says that there is no good evidence for an ultimate being with the specific properties that theism requires, and that is a good enough reason to reject such a being as likely false. All evidence relies upon speculative assumptions about an aspect of reality that humans are fundamentally ignorant about. It is even worse than stumbling in the dark, because at least when one is stumbling, one has solid ground under one’s feet, and solid objects in one’s path that can serve as guides. At the level of ultimate reality, there is nothing firm and solid.

>> Various arguments - argument by analogy, argument by what we'd expect of a teleological process, arguments that grant certain assumptions (which people will argue about)... really, there's a million of them. They're extra-scientific. They may even involve assumptions. And they won't necessarily be utterly conclusive.

Care to provide the best argument you got?

>> Fun fact: That's how you'd have to establish that nature was not created by a powerful intelligence too.

I suppose I’d also have to work as hard to demonstrate that there are no invisible unicorns magically creating my children at all moments. Would it be enough to simply say that there is no evidence for such entities, and that therefore, they are false, or should I be agnostic about them? And do you believe that they exist? And if not, then why not? If you deny that they exist, then you have now made a claim, and there is a burden of proof upon you. Wasn’t that what we agreed upon before?

>> Again, the funny thing is, you seem vastly less comfortable with the fact that these questions - certainly as far as science goes - can't be definitively answered, than I am. And I'm the theist here!

Actually, I am comfortable with not having answers to most important questions. But, I am uncomfortable with people who claim to have answers and who declare that their answers require people to live according to specific codes of conduct and adhere to specific belief systems, when it is all based upon flimsy evidence. I am uncomfortable with those who go beyond the evidence and claim special knowledge that they cannot possibly have, and manipulate the lives of others.

Crude said...

Reposting it again so you damn well see it:

Anyway, I’m looking forward to your conclusive evidence that evolution can only make sense if guided by a powerful intelligence

Dguller, I have repeatedly, over and over, resisted your attempts to rephrase my argument from "is possible, and there is evidence for" to "absolutely must be". And you have in response continued to try and falsely reconstruct my argument to have me saying "absolutely", such that no other explanation is even imaginable. You are desperately pushing for a strawman here, and after I've clarified more than twice.

So I have to say it: You're being dishonest. Cop to it and knock it off, or frankly, I'll settle for calling you out as a liar and ending things there.

Crude said...

dguller,

And if this level of reality is fundamentally beyond the reach of science, then what is able to reach it? Philosophy? Theology? What safeguards and mechanisms exist to falsify philosophical and theological theories?

Logical argument, adherence to fundamental rules of reason, evidence that is not strictly scientific and more. Is it perfect? No - surprise, neither is science. You must agree, because you engage in these things happily and recognize their worth - so long as they come to the conclusion you want.

Second, yes, I assume that the world operates according to predictable regularities that empirical investigation can uncover. Oh wait. It’s not an assumption. It is something that we experience every single day when we predict anything correctly. Unless you are saying that it is all just dumb luck?

The assumption was about the nature of those regularities, what constituted the explanation for them. As for whether it's all dumb luck, go ask Hume and the like-minded about that - it's more their bit.

What science doesn't tell you is what constitutes those 'laws', if they even exist. They're brought in without question - because science is helpless on that topic. Further, you don't have "empirical verification" of numerous things - the nature of these "laws", whether those laws are inviolate (and therefore whether they're reliable when extrapolated into the past, into the future, or into situations beyond your observation.), etc. Assumptions are in play more than you realize, even on this limited subject.

Third, if science is so anemic, then feel free to disregard its discoveries. Don’t bother getting antibiotics for a bacterial infection. Don’t bother driving a car or riding in a plane.

Anemic != not useful. It simply doesn't supply answers to what you apparently hope it does. Further, science didn't "discover" the car or the plane, or the internet. Those things are creations: Made by designers, made by minds. Engineers are not scientists.

The theory of relativity, in and of itself, doesn't do much in this world. Methods and products developed by engineers, do. And making cars is not "science".

Ohhhh. So you’re saying that you have no idea,

No, I'm saying *science*, as *science*, does not answer this question in either direction, or even lend all that much direction. I have evidence, I've supplied a sample of it. *You* have nothing but claims which go vastly beyond science. You just seem unwilling to admit it. You're going to have to.

One does not require Cartesian certainty in a belief to hold it. All that's needed is reason enough, evidence enough. And that's had in abundance.

It is not neutral. If science does not utilize a guiding intelligence in any of its theories, then there is no need to postulate it at all.

Science does not "utilize" unguided, mindless nature in any of its theories either. It has models which are - by necessity - neutral on that question. There is no need to postulate a mindless, unguided nature at all as far as science is concerned. Science can't give an answer to "should we expect this phenomena more from a mindless nature or a mindful one", because one can't even ask the question in a way science can handle, without sneaking in extra-scientific assumptions.

Crude said...

At the level of ultimate reality, there is nothing firm and solid.

And you know this how?

You always go on about how people shouldn't speculate about ultimate reality - and then you, repeatedly, turn around and do it yourself, with worse reasoning in play. There is ample evidence, philosophical, and yes, even empirical, to suggest that the nature we see and experience is the product of a mind or minds. You don't even need to make these minds ultimate if you wish - I'm expressly setting aside things like the Five Ways and Thomism here, and going with some pretty mundane observations and arguments. And I'm *still* getting better support than atheism.

All you've given so far is a horrible misunderstanding of science, theological speculation, and sheer appeal to logical possibility. And considering you've said in the past that logic may not even hold at the level of 'ultimates', you're even unchained from even that.

Care to provide the best argument you got?

I've already provided examples of evidence, and you've largely ignored them. So far your own response has been a claim that you know what to expect of a powerful mind, and mindless nature. Still waiting for support on that, but it seems you've given that up.

Would it be enough to simply say that there is no evidence for such entities, and that therefore, they are false, or should I be agnostic about them?

I'd say atheist claims about the universe are on the same level as invisible magic unicorns, certainly in terms of scientific support, sure.

Further, your example has a glaring flaw: The existence of rival explanations to explain the data in question. If we had phenomena and the only explanation offered for it was "invisible naturalistic high-tech unicorns", no, I'd say we should stay agnostic on the question, if no evidence whatsoever for the explanation was offered.

But when we have alternate explanations, the game changes. And we do have them: Ones that include appeal to a mindful or mind-guided nature, and ones that include appeal to mindless and unguided nature. At least the former is better supported (by empirical evidence, by philosophical argument, by more) than 'unicorns' as given, so we can go with that.

But, I am uncomfortable with people who claim to have answers and who declare that their answers require people to live according to specific codes of conduct and adhere to specific belief systems, when it is all based upon flimsy evidence. I am uncomfortable with those who go beyond the evidence and claim special knowledge that they cannot possibly have, and manipulate the lives of others.

Right, dguller. You're sure angry at naturalists, who make claims about "ultimate reality" and how that means we should live our lives, aren't you? You sure get angry when atheists start giving odds on the makeup and nature of nature itself, and that 'ultimate reality' you keep insisting no one can know anything about, right?

Bull.

Given your lopsided handling of these questions, I propose the following: What you dislike is people who disagree with you. Not because they claim 'certainty', because plenty of them don't claim certainty. And evidence does not become "flimsy" just because you wish it to be, or because there is the mere logical possibility of being wrong.

Your personal distaste with the decisions other people make is not itself an intellectual reason to oppose those decisions. Granted, you may engage the good ol' nihilistic atheist line of "I don't need a reason". But then, why should anyone else care about your feelings about such matters?

dguller said...

Crude:

I'm busy with prepping for a presentation I have to give for tomorrow. I'll answer your comments tomorrow.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> I replied to you, repeatedly, with questions that you evaded. You did not understand my point: That what an 'atom' was for Lucretius was very different from what an 'atom' was for Descartes, which was different for what an 'atom' is for Newton, and so on, up to the present time.

Just wanted to comment on this, too.

What about “God”? Does the fact that the definition of God has changed over the centuries mean that it is also just a model with some utility? I mean, if you can reject the reality of atoms, because of shifting definitions over the centuries, then I should be able to reject God for the same reason, right?

dguller said...

Crude:

>> Logical argument, adherence to fundamental rules of reason, evidence that is not strictly scientific and more. Is it perfect? No - surprise, neither is science. You must agree, because you engage in these things happily and recognize their worth - so long as they come to the conclusion you want.

How do you know that adherence to logic, reason and non-scientific evidence is a reliable method to understand the deepest level of reality? How does one know when the application of this method has resulted in a true representation of deepest reality? How does one know when one has gone wrong in one’s attempts?

>> The assumption was about the nature of those regularities, what constituted the explanation for them. As for whether it's all dumb luck, go ask Hume and the like-minded about that - it's more their bit.

Hume never said that it was all dumb luck. All he said was that he could discover no necessary connection between a cause and its effect using his reason and experience, but that they occur with sufficient regularity that our minds impose such a necessary connection upon them. It does not follow from this that it is all random.

>> What science doesn't tell you is what constitutes those 'laws', if they even exist. They're brought in without question - because science is helpless on that topic.

You are correct that science has no deeper explanation at this time, and maybe never will. But my contention is that other methods, such as philosophy and theology, may give the appearance of understanding such deep matters, it is illusory, because they have no idea whether their ideas actually line up with something at the deepest level of reality. Since you seem to think that they do, perhaps you could provide evidence for that contention?

>> Further, you don't have "empirical verification" of numerous things - the nature of these "laws", whether those laws are inviolate (and therefore whether they're reliable when extrapolated into the past, into the future, or into situations beyond your observation.), etc. Assumptions are in play more than you realize, even on this limited subject.

I do not have to assume anything about the deeper explanation for why these laws and regularities occur. Science can treat them as brute facts at this time, and perhaps if our scientific knowledge advances to the point that we can explain them better, then we will do so. Again, there are no assumptions here. There is the conclusion of innumerable experiences in which regularity is observed and confirmed. Is this logical necessity and absolutely certain? No, but it happens often enough that we can expect it to continue to occur in the future. In other words, it is a safe bet to make.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> If you can't appreciate that point, it's your loss. I can happily grant that our various models for atoms have this or that utility. In terms of metaphysical ultimates? That's another issue.

Let me be more specific then. Do you believe that atoms exist, if by “atom”, I mean a tiny entity that contains a nucleus with protons (and possibly, neutrons), and surrounding electrons? Or is it just a model that is useful, i.e. an accounting fiction?

>> Many premises aren't built on "empirical data". Not all "empirical data" is "science", and even when informed by "science", most philosophical speculations are still not decisive. Certainly not the ones that matter to you.

All the worse for “philosophical speculations”.

>> The theory "works just fine" (let's put aside arguments from biologists who disagree with that - Margulis, etc) without assuming nature is unguided and mindless. See the NABT and Eugenie Scott again. The theory, insofar as science goes, is entirely silent on which of the two conceptions of nature is the correct one. The razor, insofar as the theory goes, slices both claims. It needs neither.

I disagree. If a theory has sufficient explanatory power on the basis of assumptions A, B and C, then there is no need to add D to the theory at all. In that sense, it is a D-less theory, but not because it has a metaphysical agenda to suppress D, but only because D is USELESS to the theory at hand, and by Ockham’s razor, can be rejected.

>> The mere existence of a 'mindless nature' is suspect in terms of pure scientific speculation, sans extra-scientific assumption.

Again, if there is no good evidence for a mind guiding the process, other than logical possibility, then a guiding mind can be excluded. What about the possibility that your neighbor is secretly controlling your thoughts, and is making you feel like they are your own, and does so by not demonstrating any change in any of his normal behaviors? Well, there is absolutely no evidence for such a scenario, which obviously means that it is 50-50, right? At what point would you feel comfortable saying that this is false? Oh, and if you deny that your neighbor is controlling your thoughts, then now the burden of proof is upon you to prove that he isn’t doing it. I’m pretty sure that’s the ground rules that we have established, right?

>> Dguller, I have repeatedly, over and over, resisted your attempts to rephrase my argument from "is possible, and there is evidence for" to "absolutely must be". And you have in response continued to try and falsely reconstruct my argument to have me saying "absolutely", such that no other explanation is even imaginable. You are desperately pushing for a strawman here, and after I've clarified more than twice.

Fair enough. I just thought that you had something more compelling and was interested in what that might be. But, if your case amounts to logical possibility with some armchair theorizing as evidence using a method that has not been demonstrated to actually be reliable in determining metaphysical truths, then hey, no problem. As I said, I was hoping for something more robust, but I’ll take what I can get.

BenYachov said...

>I mean, if you can reject the reality of atoms, because of shifting definitions over the centuries, then I should be able to reject God for the same reason, right?

It's clear what Crude means here. If I say I believe in Atoms do I believe in "a particle so small as to contain no void" (i.e. Lucretius) or "A unit of matter made of Elections Protons and Neutrons"?

Because they are not the same. Well claiming you don't believe in "God" has similar implications. Do you not believe in some being who is a being beside other beings? Or do you deny Being Itself?

Big difference.

How is it you don't get this simple concept?

BTW you blew it on the suffering thingy but one thing at a time.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> And you know this how?

I was speaking within the context of my analogy of wandering in the dark. The lack of firmness and solidity was in contrast to the firmness and solidity of walking in a room in the dark. I was not saying that at the deepest level of reality, there is nothing solid. I have no idea what is at that level.

>> All you've given so far is a horrible misunderstanding of science, theological speculation, and sheer appeal to logical possibility. And considering you've said in the past that logic may not even hold at the level of 'ultimates', you're even unchained from even that.

Could you please show me evidence that metaphysical speculation is a reliable guide to truth about reality at its ultimate level?

>> I've already provided examples of evidence, and you've largely ignored them. So far your own response has been a claim that you know what to expect of a powerful mind, and mindless nature. Still waiting for support on that, but it seems you've given that up.

I’ve gone over the thread, and here’s the evidence that you have provided.

You mentioned artificial selection as evidence of a mindful evolutionary process. I responded that I was talking about natural selection, not artificial selection, and that artificial selection, as Darwin noted, was itself parasitic upon the principles of natural selection, and did not contradict them at all. I also noted that just because minds can influence some evolutionary processes does not imply that ALL evolutionary processes are influenced by a mind.

You mentioned that computer programmers often know what the results of their algorithms are. I said that this is irrelevant, because there are also many times when the outcomes are unknown to them until they occur, which means that they are the result of the algorithms themselves, and not the designer of the algorithms. That would be like blaming the father for the criminality of the child when the father was many steps removed from such a thing.

You mentioned “argument by analogy, argument by what we'd expect of a teleological process, arguments that grant certain assumptions (which people will argue about)... really, there's a million of them”. I wanted to know the best argument from these “million”, the one that you found the most compelling, but you refused to provide it.

You mentioned “everything from theodicies, to philosophical argument, to suggestive limited evidence from human minds, to otherwise”. I replied to this on May 19, 2011 2:15 PM. You did not reply to my comments on this issue, except to say that many premises of philosophical arguments were not based upon scientific data. That was irrelevant, because I never said that all premises relied upon empirical data, but only that most of them, and that the premises were only as good as the quality of the empirical data, the best of which has been rigorously attained by scientific methods.

So, I actually have responded to your evidence, and have engaged with it in, I think, a reasonable way.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> I'd say atheist claims about the universe are on the same level as invisible magic unicorns, certainly in terms of scientific support, sure.

But remember, there is no empirical evidence at all for such entities, and according to you, that is not enough to rule them out, which means that we should be agnostic about their existence. And how is theism any different, except that it is something believed by billions of people, but when is popularity of an idea a sign of its truth?

>> Further, your example has a glaring flaw: The existence of rival explanations to explain the data in question.

If there are rival metaphysical theories that are supposed to explain the empirical world, then how would you determine which of the rival explanations is true?

>> But when we have alternate explanations, the game changes. And we do have them: Ones that include appeal to a mindful or mind-guided nature, and ones that include appeal to mindless and unguided nature. At least the former is better supported (by empirical evidence, by philosophical argument, by more) than 'unicorns' as given, so we can go with that.

First, my unicorn theory IS supported by the empirical evidence, because it explains the natural world itself. The magical music of the unicorns somehow sustains the natural world. You cannot fault me for the “somehow”, because you have no idea how God sustains the world, either.

Second, philosophical arguments are only useful when the conclusions can be confirmed independently. The premises may be false, the reasoning may be fallacious, which we would never know unless we could see if the conclusion actually was true. Without independent confirmation, we just do not know if the arguments are any good, and since there is no independent confirmation, then I’m afraid that philosophical arguments are not particularly useful, except as exercises in speculation.

dguller said...

Ben:

>> It's clear what Crude means here. If I say I believe in Atoms do I believe in "a particle so small as to contain no void" (i.e. Lucretius) or "A unit of matter made of Elections Protons and Neutrons"?

Really? Do you really think that when people are talking about atoms, they are using Lucretius’ definition? Have you read any books on physics, chemistry, biochemistry, and so on? Find me a single quote in which a science textbook that talks about atoms is talking about the ancient Greek or Cartesian or Berkeleyan version.

>> Because they are not the same. Well claiming you don't believe in "God" has similar implications. Do you not believe in some being who is a being beside other beings? Or do you deny Being Itself?

First, I am a being who is a being beside other beings, and so, yes, I do believe in such an entity.

Second, I do not deny Being itself. If you want to call the Necessarily Existing Ground of All Being, God, then more power to you. I can then call it Reality, and we can call it a day. God is not just the Necessarily Existing Ground of All Being, but rather has several other properties that are more contentious, I think, such as intellect, will, love, and so on, which are quote anthropomorphic, I think. Again, I have no problem with the idea that the universe that we experience is grounded in something deeper that serves as a necessarily existing substrate, but whether that substrate is a personal entity with psychological properties or is a mindless pulsating generator of being, I do not know. And if you want to call the latter “God”, then I’m okay with that, but you would be driven from any church or mosque or temple on the planet.

BenYachov said...

>Really? Do you really think that when people are talking about atoms, they are using Lucretius’ definition?

Do you really think what what we mean by "God" is magical faeries?


Did you really read Feser or have I made a fool of myself thinking you where a cut above the average Gnu and did your homework?

You haven't learned the difference between Theistic Personalism vs Calssic Theism. Or the five levels of knowing God in TSL?

>I think, such as intellect, will, love, and so on, which are quote anthropomorphic, I think.

So you didn't read Feser after all.

Doctrine of analogy!

I am so disapointed with you. I expect this crap from djindra! You are in trouble young man!

BenYachov said...

>First, my unicorn theory IS supported by the empirical evidence, because it explains the natural world itself. The magical music of the unicorns somehow sustains the natural world. You cannot fault me for the “somehow”, because you have no idea how God sustains the world, either.

This is nonsense.

It's been done before.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=go6m-KNUmG4

You have not done your homework!

dguller said...

Ben:

>> Do you really think what what we mean by "God" is magical faeries?

Of course not. Do you really think that when people talk about “atoms”, they are talking about the ancient Greek concept, and not the modern scientific one? Of course not, which is why I disagreed with Crude on this matter.

I think that he is avoiding answering this question about the reality of atoms, and obfuscating with his slippery use of definitions. This is because it would conflict with his claim that materialism, because it has revised its concepts over the centuries, is ultimately an open concept that could include anything in it, and is not concrete at all. My point is that there have been real advances and truths about the material world that are part of the definition of materialism, and the fact that these advances required conceptual revision does not thereby falsify them. If he can admit that atoms really and truly exist, then there is a constraint upon materialism, because it must incorporate atoms into its definition, and thus is not a random and haphazard affair.

>> You haven't learned the difference between Theistic Personalism vs Calssic Theism. Or the five levels of knowing God in TSL?

I have read it, and I hope I understand it. The bottom line is that the properties of divine intellect, will and love are all supposed to be modeled somehow on the human versions of intellect, will and love. In other words, classical theism takes these human capacities, and projects them into the fabric of reality by claiming that the human experience is the definitive experience and reality must model itself after our inner states of mind. Why does reality have to match our psychology, I wonder? Just because that is how we operate does not mean that the Necessarily Existing Ground of All Being must do the same.

>> Doctrine of analogy! I am so disapointed with you. I expect this crap from djindra! You are in trouble young man!

I find the doctrine of analogy to be incoherent. X is like Y, except that X is nothing like Y. How does that help at all? It gives meaning with one hand, and then takes it away with the other. At the end, it is an incoherent idea.

BenYachov said...

>I find the doctrine of analogy to be incoherent. X is like Y, except that X is nothing like Y.

That is not the doctrine of analogy. That is not even close.

You have not done your homework. You have not read Feser carefully.

>I have read it, and I hope I understand it. The bottom line is that the properties of divine intellect, will and love are all supposed to be modeled somehow on the human versions of intellect, will and love.

That is Theistic Personalism! That isn't even close to Classic Theism.

Go back and re-read. You get an D.

I would give you an F but I feel compassionate today.

BenYachov said...

>In other words, classical theism takes these human capacities, and projects them into the fabric of reality by claiming that the human experience is the definitive experience and reality must model itself after our inner states of mind.

Feser says this where?

Well?

BenYachov said...

>I think that he is avoiding answering this question about the reality of atoms, and obfuscating with his slippery use of definitions.

Rather you are so used to arguing against a Theistic Personalist God you are clueless how to polemic a Classic view so you equivocate.

BenYachov said...

@Crude

I am going to lose it here.

You try and talk some sense into him.

>If you want to call the Necessarily Existing Ground of All Being, God, then more power to you.

There is no other God then NEGOAB.

>And if you want to call the latter “God”, then I’m okay with that, but you would be driven from any church or mosque or temple on the planet.

Rather the Pope would excommunicate me for not professing this God. Or he might give me a pass if he thought I was an idiot who didn't know any better.

dguller said...

Ben:

I’ll respond when I get home so I can quote from Feser’s books properly.

BenYachov said...

>My point is that there have been real advances and truths about the material world that are part of the definition of materialism.

Materialism is the philosophy that only matter exists. Not that Matter exists.

BenYachov said...

I'll save you the trouble.

To understand what serious religious thinkers do believe, we might usefully distinguish five gradations in one’s conception of God:
1. God is literally an old man with a white beard, a kind if stern wizard-like being with very human thoughts and motivations who lives in a place called Heaven, which is like the places we know except for being very far away and impossible to get to except through magical means.
2. God doesn’t really have a bodily form, and his thoughts and motivations are in many respects very different from ours. He is an immaterial object or substance which has existed forever, and (perhaps) pervades all space. Still, he is, somehow, a person like we are, only vastly more intelligent, powerful, and virtuous, and in particular without our physical and moral limitations. He made the world the way a carpenter builds a house, as an independent object that would carry on even if he were to “go away” from it, but he nevertheless may decide to intervene in its operations from time to time.
3. God is not an object or substance alongside other objects or substances in the world; rather, He is pure being or existence itself, utterly distinct from the world of time, space, and things, underlying and maintaining them in being at every moment, and apart from whose ongoing conserving action they would be instantly annihilated. The world is not an independent object in the sense of something that might carry on if God were to “go away”; it is more like the music produced by a musician, which exists only when he plays and vanishes the moment he stops. None of the concepts we apply to things in the world, including to ourselves, apply to God in anything but an analogous sense. Hence, for example, we may say that God is “personal” insofar as He is not less than a person, the way an animal is less than a person. But God is not literally “a person” in the sense of being one individual thing among others who reasons, chooses, has moral obligations, etc. Such concepts make no sense when literally applied to God.

BenYachov said...

Level three is the highest level of Knowledge we can have of God using our mere human reason alone.

That is the God of the Catholic Church, Moses Maimonides, the Reformers, The Eastern Orthodox and Muslims.

No other God will be defended or discussed. Trying to refute anything less than this God is a F***ing waste of our time.

dguller said...

Ben:

>> There is no other God then NEGOAB.

If this God was completely indifferent to your individual well-being, then would you worship it? What if it was more like Spinoza’s God? Would you be so passionate about your relationship with it? Or would you treat it as you treat the laws of gravity, i.e. as a fixed element of reality that you must consider when you are navigating through the world, but that does not require your reverence or worship?

>> Rather the Pope would excommunicate me for not professing this God. Or he might give me a pass if he thought I was an idiot who didn't know any better.

When I said, “the latter”, I was referring to my statement, “a mindless pulsating generator of being” as what the NEGOAB could end up being. So, go ahead, walk into a Catholic Church and tell the priest and the congregation that God is a mindless pulsating generator of being, and see how long before they call you a heretic and throw you out.

BenYachov said...

Your response betrays you. I believe in no Theistic Personalist shit false shit "god".

BenYachov said...

You have not studied the doctrine of analogy.

Come back when you do.

BenYachov said...

>“a mindless pulsating generator of being”

By this you mean something that isn't unequivocally a meta-human mind.

dguller said...

Ben:

>> None of the concepts we apply to things in the world, including to ourselves, apply to God in anything but an analogous sense. Hence, for example, we may say that God is “personal” insofar as He is not less than a person, the way an animal is less than a person. But God is not literally “a person” in the sense of being one individual thing among others who reasons, chooses, has moral obligations, etc. Such concepts make no sense when literally applied to God.

Are you saying that I can call God “X” if God is “not less than X”? Fine, then God is a plant, because he is not less than a plant. But it’s okay, because I’m calling God a plant only in an analogous way, because they are both alive, but not in any sense of “alive” that is operative in the natural world, which means that he isn’t really alive at all, except that he is, except that he isn’t, and on and on.

And that is why this whole analogy thing is just incoherent. You take with one hand and infuse God with a particular meaning, and then strip away any shred of meaning, and pretend that there is some truth left when really there is nothing but the word used, devoid of any semantic content. It would be better to just say that you have absolutely no idea what God is, because that is what it comes down to.

I mean, analogies only work when there is enough similarity between two propositions to warrant a connection. For example, love is like a drug in that they both are intoxicating, and the meaning of “intoxicating” is clearly evident in both. It makes no sense to say that X is like Y, because they both share Z, and then say that, really, they don’t share Z at all, because X cannot possibly really have Z as a property at all. That is not even an analogy, but it sure looks like one on the surface.

dguller said...

Ben:

>> By this you mean something that isn't unequivocally a meta-human mind.

I don’t even know what that means. What does this mind look like? Does it have thoughts? Feelings? Drives? Motivations? Ideas? Perception? Sensation?

BenYachov said...

So we have located your problem dguller.

You don't understand the doctrine of analogy.

Go back & re-read AQUINAS.

BenYachov said...

Sorry if I lost patience with you.

Now go learn analogy.

We don't do unequivocal "deities" here.

BenYachov said...

>And that is why this whole analogy thing is just incoherent.

I think you equate "incoherent" here with "unequivocal".

A "god" who is unequivocally comprehensible is not God and unworthy of our worship.

Crude said...

dguller,

I mean, if you can reject the reality of atoms, because of shifting definitions over the centuries, then I should be able to reject God for the same reason, right?

Where did I say I 'reject the reality of atoms'? What 'reality' are you even talking about? Read what I wrote again.

How do you know that adherence to logic, reason and non-scientific evidence is a reliable method to understand the deepest level of reality?

Why should I assume it's not? Logic, reason and non-scientific evidence are extremely useful in the natural world. You're trying to use logic and reason with regards to the 'deepest level of reality' yourself.

Further, I'm not arguing here that a mind who created our universe is at the 'deepest level of reality'. For this discussion, I'm leaving quite a lot of metaphysics off to the side.

Hume never said that it was all dumb luck.

That causes don't necessarily follow from effects, and that all we ever experience is inexplicable regularity, does open the door to 'dumb luck', yes. Or something worse.

Since you seem to think that they do, perhaps you could provide evidence for that contention?

What evidence and reason I've already provided, you dismiss with "Well maybe logic and reason suddenly are inapplicable!" and no reason to believe that. If you're appealing to sheer possibility - again, not even possibility bounded by logic - you've already lost.

Again, there are no assumptions here.

You do have to explain and/or assume exactly what I said you do. For you, laws of physics may well have been different a thousand years ago. They may be different a thousand years hence. But, what the heck, you'll go with whatever's popular right now.

Do you believe that atoms exist, if by “atom”, I mean a tiny entity that contains a nucleus with protons (and possibly, neutrons), and surrounding electrons? Or is it just a model that is useful, i.e. an accounting fiction?

What are protons? What's a nucleus? What are these things, really and ultimately? Do they have intrinsic natures, like thomists believe? Do they have experience or proto-experience, like panpsychists say? Are they thought, like idealists say?

And does science itself decide between these and many other options?

Crude said...

All the worse for “philosophical speculations”.

Yours, given your assumptions.

If a theory has sufficient explanatory power on the basis of assumptions A, B and C, then there is no need to add D to the theory at all.

And you are making an assumption "D" - 'nature is utterly unguided and mindless'. It adds nothing to the theory. It is metaphysical assumption, and one more mysterious and unsupported than my view.

Again, if there is no good evidence for a mind guiding the process, other than logical possibility, then a guiding mind can be excluded.

There's plenty of evidence, I've given a sample of some. But worse, there's no good evidence for the existence of mindless or mind-unguided nature as far as science itself is concerned. "The process is unguided", you say - I ask, where's the evidence for that? Unlike you, I've actually provided some evidence for my claim, and the existence of minds and the mind-guided is undeniable. The existence of the mindless and unguided? Eminently deniable.

But, if your case amounts to logical possibility with some armchair theorizing as evidence using a method that has not been demonstrated to actually be reliable in determining metaphysical truths, then hey, no problem.

You're the only person here appealing to pure possibility (again, not even 'logical' possibility), and offering no evidence whatsoever for your claims, while demanding I not only offer evidence, but do so conclusively in a way a logic-eschewing person - yourself - is unable to deny.

Let's see you provide scientific evidence for the claim "nature is unguided and mindless", that doesn't involve assuming what you intend to prove.

Crude said...

Ben,

You try and talk some sense into him.

How? He's openly speculating that sense, reason and evidence are worthless when it comes to thinking about the causes of our world, etc. He'll go from talking about how speculating about 'ultimate reality' is hopeless and that one can never be sure of their beliefs about it - then turns right around and defends his and others' beliefs about it (that there is no God, etc.)

And he already tipped his hand anyway. It's all about politics. The problem isn't that people believe something without having absolute certainty (which you don't get in science anyway), it's that he doesn't like what they believe. So we have to argue about this ad nauseum while he obfuscates and looks for any possible way to get the conclusion he wants, because otherwise people will do things he disapproves of.

It's dull, but hey, I've got free time today.

BenYachov said...

@Crude

One has to expose the philosophy of Hume and point out it is not science.

It's philosophy. Really bad illogical, self-refuting and incoherent philosophy.

Unlike Aristotle or Aquinas who rock the house philosophically.

I propose the title of a new book.

THE HUME DELUSION.

Crude said...

Ben,

I'm actually tying both my hands behind my back here, leaving Aquinas and Aristotle aside and simply going with more mundane claims (mind being fundamental to nature, or active in the nature we see) to expose some pretty inane ones (science shows nature is mindless and unguided!, etc).

To put it as I've put it elsewhere, atheist arguments don't lay a finger on Aquinas' or Aristotle's God. But more than that, they don't even compare favorably to 'theistic personalist' deities. Now, I may be a classical theist, but the atheist has to be an atheist about all gods, period. (Or they used to, before some of them started worshiping future-AIs).

I'm showing that science doesn't say anything close to what many atheists assume it says, and that the result is that relying on science and some pretty basic empirical observations should put someone at agnosticism to theist-leaning anyway.

BenYachov said...

Then I will get out of your way and enjoy the show.

BenYachov said...

I will say this dgeller is still trying to rock the whole scientism thingy.

He still hold the New Atheist self- refuting philosophical dogma that rejects philosophy as useless in understanding reality compared to science.

The contradiction there is hard to get past. Which is why I can't even consider Atheism on the rational level.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> Where did I say I 'reject the reality of atoms'? What 'reality' are you even talking about? Read what I wrote again.

You still haven’t answered the question. Do atoms, as I defined them above, exist or not?

>> Why should I assume it's not? Logic, reason and non-scientific evidence are extremely useful in the natural world. You're trying to use logic and reason with regards to the 'deepest level of reality' yourself.

So, you have no evidence for the reliability of these methods to accurately describe and discover truths about the deepest level of reality. The only evidence that you have is that it works in the empirical world, and you are hoping that it also works beyond it. The problem is that just because a set of tools works in one area does not mean that it also works in another area. A hammer is great for driving nails into wood, but it’s horrible for cleaning fine china.

>> Further, I'm not arguing here that a mind who created our universe is at the 'deepest level of reality'. For this discussion, I'm leaving quite a lot of metaphysics off to the side.

Okay.

>> That causes don't necessarily follow from effects, and that all we ever experience is inexplicable regularity, does open the door to 'dumb luck', yes. Or something worse.

So, either something is necessary or it is random? Is that what your epistemology entails? Mine is a bit more generous in that contingency can involve regularity and patterns, as well as random events. Certainly, I read Hume as saying that just because causal relationships are not necessary, then they still involve regularity and patterns, and not necessarily are just random events.

>> What evidence and reason I've already provided, you dismiss with "Well maybe logic and reason suddenly are inapplicable!" and no reason to believe that. If you're appealing to sheer possibility - again, not even possibility bounded by logic - you've already lost.

I’m not dismissing anything. I’m curious what your evidence is that logic and reason, which work incredibly well in the empirical world, are equally effective in the deepest metaphysical level of reality. It does not appear that you have any evidence for this contention. There’s no point in getting upset at me for pointing this out.

>> You do have to explain and/or assume exactly what I said you do. For you, laws of physics may well have been different a thousand years ago. They may be different a thousand years hence. But, what the heck, you'll go with whatever's popular right now.

The opposite of absolute certainty is not absolute ignorance.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> There's plenty of evidence, I've given a sample of some. But worse, there's no good evidence for the existence of mindless or mind-unguided nature as far as science itself is concerned. "The process is unguided", you say - I ask, where's the evidence for that? Unlike you, I've actually provided some evidence for my claim, and the existence of minds and the mind-guided is undeniable. The existence of the mindless and unguided? Eminently deniable.

Can you point me to an evolutionary biology textbook that includes a divine mind to explain the evolutionary process? You cannot, because there is no such explanation, and why? Because there is no need to postulate a guiding mind. I mean, come on. Sure, it is possible that there is a guiding mind hidden behind the scenes and not making itself evident in the activity of the natural world, but that is an added assumption that must be justified.

I am fully justified in saying that the principles of natural selection are sufficient to explain evolution, and these principles make no mention of a guiding mind, which means that it appears to play no real role in evolution. Again, you need more than possibility here. I am not saying that it is possible that there is no mind. I am saying that adding a mind to the theory does not add anything to the theory’s explanatory power.

>> Let's see you provide scientific evidence for the claim "nature is unguided and mindless", that doesn't involve assuming what you intend to prove.

Can we agree that if a theory can explain its respective phenomena by principles A, B and C, then we can exclude D as unnecessary? And if not, then why do we need to include D at all? D would have to do some explanatory work. If it does not, then why include it? That does not mean that D does not exist, but only that D does not play a role in explaining the phenomena in question.

Do you disagree with this?

Crude said...

dguller,

You still haven’t answered the question. Do atoms, as I defined them above, exist or not?

Answer my points of clarification, then we'll talk.

So, you have no evidence for the reliability of these methods to accurately describe and discover truths about the deepest level of reality. The only evidence that you have is that it works in the empirical world, and you are hoping that it also works beyond it.

I have no reason to think reason, logic and evidence suddenly fail at the level of ultimate reality, or even the empirical reality beyond what we normally deal with. So as it stands, I have plenty of reason to think these 'tools' will work, and you've given me no reason aside from (il)logical possibility to believe they do not.

Certainly, I read Hume as saying that just because causal relationships are not necessary, then they still involve regularity and patterns, and not necessarily are just random events.

Not necessarily, but may well be. There's a reason he entertains the problem of induction so seriously.

I’m not dismissing anything.

Yes, you are. You may have an emotional problem with admitting as much - not my concern. For you, the effectiveness of logic, reason and evidence should suddenly be discounted depending arbitrarily on what we're talking about. Believe it if you want - but that's pretty weird.

The opposite of absolute certainty is not absolute ignorance.

Funny, that's been my line so far. Maybe you're seeing the light.

Can you point me to an evolutionary biology textbook that includes a divine mind to explain the evolutionary process? You cannot, because there is no such explanation, and why? Because there is no need to postulate a guiding mind. I mean, come on.

Can you point me to an evolutionary biology textbook that gives a scientific demonstration that nature is unguided and mindless? You cannot, because there is no such demonstration, and why? Because science is unable to resolve such questions. I mean, come on.

I am fully justified in saying that the principles of natural selection are sufficient to explain evolution, and these principles make no mention of a guiding mind, which means that it appears to play no real role in evolution.

The principles of natural selection, even if we granted they were "sufficient to explain evolution" - this is highly debatable now - are silent on the ultimate or even distant-enough origins and causes of variation. Those same principles do not make mention of an unguided, mindless nature.

Again - where's the scientific evidence that nature is an unguided, mindless thing in the relevant sense? How would or does science go about determining 'nature is unguided and mindless' or 'nature is guided and mindful'?

Do you disagree with this?

"Nature is mindless and unguided" is "D" here. Are you going to finally provide evidence that nature in general, or even evolution in particular, is unguided and mindless?

Think of it this way. There's a claim, "A rock fell off a cliff and killed Dan." We go examine Dan's body, we do an autopsy on Dan. Yes, a rock fell off a cliff and killed Dan.

Do we, with that information alone, have enough evidence to say "Dan was murdered" or "Dan was not murdered"?

Anonymous said...

.

One Brow said...

BenYachov said...
OTOH if you had any brains at all & if you are really reading Feser's books. You would address specific arguments in the book (citing page number & chapter) and present a counter argument.

That, you too will be ignored by various followers of Dr. Feser.

BenYachov said...

>That, you too will be ignored by various followers of Dr. Feser.

People only ignore you One Brow because you make bad arguments and you still don't seem to understand the difference between physics vs metaphysics.

Light absorption properties = color?

Or infinite Box cars with motors = to regular box cars.

You bring it on yourself guy.

BenYachov said...

Crude writes:
>>Why should I assume it's not? Logic, reason and non-scientific evidence are extremely useful in the natural world.

dgeller responds"
>So, you have no evidence for the reliability of these methods to accurately describe and discover truths about the deepest level of reality.

In order to give this "evidence" you have to assume the very thing you asked Crude to prove!

Skepticism is so incoherent!

BenYachov said...

In order to "refute" it you must assume Logic, reason and non-scientific evidence are still useful for the argument to be coherent.

But then again it's still self-refuting.

Modern Philosophy sucks!

Give me that old time Classic Philosophy!

dguller said...

Ben:

>> In order to give this "evidence" you have to assume the very thing you asked Crude to prove!

I am not asking Crude to justify reason and logic in themselves, because that would be circular, as you rightly pointed out. I am asking him to justify his use of logic and reason as reliable tools when understanding the foundations of reality. All he can say is that they are reliable in the empirical world, but it does not follow that they are reliable when we dig deeper into reality.

Here’s an analogy. A hammer works to break rocks, but does it follow that a hammer works to break atoms? Of course not, because the force of a hammer blow is insufficient to break the strong nuclear forces of nuclei.

Similarly, using logic and reason works well in the empirical world as tools to understand how it works, but it does not follow that they also work at the deeper level of the foundations of reality. Perhaps at that level, there are a new set of patterns and regularities that cannot be captured by our rules of logic. After all, the deeper we dig into reality, the more bizarre it seems to become, and our intuitions have had to be revised in light of findings in relativity and quantum mechanics.

Crude said...

dguller,

All he can say is that they are reliable in the empirical world, but it does not follow that they are reliable when we dig deeper into reality.

You're making an exception to logic, reason and evidence for no other reason than an appeal to sheer (il)logical possibility.

Look at your own example: A hammer breaks rocks, but it doesn't break everything. Wonderful. But in this case, the tools in question are a hell of a lot more broad (logic, reason, evidence), and you've provided no reason to think they'll suddenly fail us.

After all, the deeper we dig into reality, the more bizarre it seems to become, and our intuitions have had to be revised in light of findings in relativity and quantum mechanics.

You know why our intuitions - in this case, this means scientific models - had to be revised in the case of the quantum world?

Due to logic, reason, and evidence. The quantum world IS weird, and STILL those things have been tremendously useful. That's more evidence for me, and none for you.

Crude said...

I'd also like to point out this disparity.

I note that the combination of these things can lead a person to reasonably conclude the existence of a mind or God - and hey now, maybe logic doesn't apply when it comes to certain things, maybe reason totally breaks down, maybe evidence is useless! We can't say!

But when it comes to concluding that there is no God, well, that's okay, that's consistent with the evidence in your view, a very logical and reasonable conclusion to arrive at.

That's an inconsistent approach. Everything is mysterious, too mysterious to reason about or hold even a qualified belief in... if you don't like the belief. If you favor the belief, well, the rules and assumptions suddenly change. That's a very convenient, hypocritical approach.

Domini Canes said...

Crude:

"With one who denies first principles, do not dispute."

Crude said...

"With one who denies first principles, do not dispute."

Yeah, maybe you're right. Putting it that way...

dguller said...

>> Think of it this way. There's a claim, "A rock fell off a cliff and killed Dan." We go examine Dan's body, we do an autopsy on Dan. Yes, a rock fell off a cliff and killed Dan.

Do we, with that information alone, have enough evidence to say "Dan was murdered" or "Dan was not murdered"?

Given the information that you provided, the odds are that Dan was not murdered. That is because there are more possibilities in the set “Dan was not murdered” than the set that “Dan was murdered”, and thus the former is more likely than the latter. So, if we are going on probability alone, then the latter is where I’d put my money.

Having said that, someone who wanted to show that Dan was murdered would have the burden of proof to show that their account is more likely than the non-murder account. Notice that this is also one reason why those who make affirmative claims have the burden of proof. Those making a negative claim have the odds in their favor by default, and the odds have to be shifted in the opposite direction by additional evidence provided by the one asserting the affirmative position.

Crude said...

dguller,

Given the information that you provided, the odds are that Dan was not murdered.

Great - not a question I asked. I asked: with that information alone, have enough evidence to say "Dan was murdered" or "Dan was not murdered"? This isn't about your gut instincts on gambling.

And a person who said "Dan was not murdered" would also have a burden. Whoever makes the claim, has a burden. Making assumptions about 'evidence space' is ridiculous.

But I think Domini was right. You've pretty much said that you're willing to throw out A = A, etc in this conversation, and you don't exactly operate on the up and up. No sense going further.

BenYachov said...

Good show Crude.

I'm off to see Pirates of the Caribbean 4 in 3d.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

dguller:

You write: “I am asking him to justify his use of logic and reason as reliable tools when understanding the foundations of reality. All he can say is that they are reliable in the empirical world, but it does not follow that they are reliable when we dig deeper into reality.

I think that if your naturalism leads you to doubt logic, then you’d better doubt your naturalism first.

Perhaps at that level, there are a new set of patterns and regularities that cannot be captured by our rules of logic.

Perhaps you are equivocating on the meaning of “logic”. After all the concepts of “pattern” and “regularity” entail logic. If there are patterns and regularity at the deepest levels of reality then logic holds at that level.

After all, the deeper we dig into reality, the more bizarre it seems to become, and our intuitions have had to be revised in light of findings in relativity and quantum mechanics.

Even so, I don’t see why revising our intuitions about how the world is implies that we should also revise logic. It seems you are suggesting the following syllogism:

1. Some intuitions have been proven to be wrong when going deep enough.
2. Logic is based on intuitions.
3. Therefore we should not trust logic when going deep enough.

I trust you see that this syllogism is invalid.

As for the bizarreness of quantum mechanics, this is only the case on naturalism. It is naturalists trying to describe a naturalistic world that would produce quantum phenomena that are at a loss, and suggest interpretations of quantum mechanics that are beyond implausible. But this does not mean that naturalists should doubt in logic. After all, the physical sciences are based on math, and math is based on logic. If you doubt the validity of logic then you doubt the validity of the physical sciences.

And, incidentally, it’s not only quantum mechanics that appears to be bizarre on naturalism. So is the deeply mathematical nature of the universe, the computationally complex behaviour of physical primitives such as the electron, the apparent fine-tuning of the universe, and so on. All of which fit very well with theism. Even so many people still believe that the physical sciences support naturalism.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> Great - not a question I asked. I asked: with that information alone, have enough evidence to say "Dan was murdered" or "Dan was not murdered"? This isn't about your gut instincts on gambling.

First, all evidence is probabilistic, and so it is ultimately about odds.

Second, given the evidence that you provided, the evidence is more in favor of Dan not being murdered than his being murdered.

>> And a person who said "Dan was not murdered" would also have a burden. Whoever makes the claim, has a burden.

That is true, but since the evidence is already in favor of Dan not being murdered, all the person making the negative claim has to do is refute the arguments for the positive claim. In other words, they can play defense, because the default is in their favour.

>> Making assumptions about 'evidence space' is ridiculous.

What assumptions? It is a basic matter of probability. Why are the odds better that one rolls a combined total of 6 on two dice than rolling a 2? Because there are MORE WAYS to roll 6 than 2. Same thing with Dan’s murder. There are more ways for Dan NOT to be murdered than for him to be murdered.

>> But I think Domini was right. You've pretty much said that you're willing to throw out A = A, etc in this conversation, and you don't exactly operate on the up and up. No sense going further.

Okay. It’s been fun. Take care.

dguller said...

Crude:

I have been trying to post my responses to your comments for a day, but only a few of them are getting through. I'll try to repost them again later.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> you've provided no reason to think they'll suddenly fail us.

Just as you’ve provided no reason to think that they still work in a different context from which their efficacy has been established.

>> Due to logic, reason, and evidence. The quantum world IS weird, and STILL those things have been tremendously useful. That's more evidence for me, and none for you.

Actually, this does help my case. What kind of evidence was it? EMPIRICAL evidence that was actually quite puzzling and mysterious, such as black body radiation. Physicists did not just sit around using logic and reason in their armchairs to derive what went on at the subatomic level. They used it to understand empirical phenomena and derived a brilliantly successful scientific theory in the process. And how did they know that their conclusions were right? Because it fit the empirical data. What analogous process exists when one is pondering the characteristics at the deepest level of reality? What are the guidelines that have been shown to reliably demonstrate when one’s conclusions accurately represent the deepest level of reality? How are theories falsified and rejected?

dguller said...

Crude:

>> You're making an exception to logic, reason and evidence for no other reason than an appeal to sheer (il)logical possibility.

And you are just assuming that they continue to be valid at the deepest level of reality. You have no logic, reason or evidence to justify yourself, or you would have provided it by now. You are just saying that they work very well in the empirical world, and so they should continue to work, but this is just an assumption.

And even granting that they do, in fact, work at that level of reality, then how would you know when your arguments are correct? Let us say that you have completed an argument about the deepest level of reality, and come to a conclusion. How do you know if this conclusion actually holds at that level? Your premises are based upon general features of the empirical world, and you are assuming that they equally operate at the foundation. This is an assumption that has to be justified, I think.

Take the example of QM, for example. Until Planck quantized energy, energy was considered a continuous variable, and it was only when scientists came across abnormal phenomena, such as black-body radiation, that they had to change their assumptions. The point is that there was data that guided the arguments that scientists were making. What data do you have when it comes to how the most fundamental and deepest part of reality operates?

BenYachov said...

The Mythology of modern Atheism is that it's philosophies are the key to reason and rationality while religion is the gateway to superstition and magical thinking.

After watching dgeller debate I think it is clear the opposite is truly the case.

Only religion based on classic philosophy is rational. Modern Atheism is an Ad Hoc just so story that rejects A=A.

Thus Feser's thesis is vindicated in practicum.

I see no practical difference between "Logic breaks down in deep reality" vs "God did it".

I don't think dgeller you are really an Atheist. I think you disbelieve in a Theistic Personalist "deity". But then again so do I and the Pope.

Best get started on studying the doctrine of Analogy.

Crude said...

Ben,

The Mythology of modern Atheism is that it's philosophies are the key to reason and rationality while religion is the gateway to superstition and magical thinking.

After watching dgeller debate I think it is clear the opposite is truly the case.


Well, look at the position he's taking. It's not justifiable to approach questions about God, or even whether nature reflects a mind, using logic, reason, and evidence? "Dan was killed by a rock crushing him" being the sole evidence means we should conclude Dan wasn't murdered, rather than be agnostic on the question? These aren't the replies of someone who respects reason. They're the replies of someone mortified at where it leads, and wanting to avoid it at all costs.

Notice, by the way, that he's also sinking science (which I believe is another thing Feser talked about). Now scientists who held theories that turned out to be wrong weren't justified in holding their beliefs at the time. They had no evidence they were right, because it was possible they were wrong. But our theories now are possibly wrong, so...

Scientologists fare better than this.

Daniel Smith said...

dguller: "And you are just assuming that they continue to be valid at the deepest level of reality. You have no logic, reason or evidence to justify yourself, or you would have provided it by now. You are just saying that they work very well in the empirical world, and so they should continue to work, but this is just an assumption."

This is one of the most amazing cases of contradiction I've ever witnessed. What he's saying (and remember HE'S the empiricist here), is that you have "no evidence" other than the entirety of the "empirical world"!!!

I guess, when it contradicts his preconceived biases, that's just not enough!

Wow!!!

dguller said...

Crude:

What if there are phenomena at the deepest level of reality that are fundamentally different from those at the empirical level? Our rules of logic are applicable in the empirical world, but perhaps a new set of rules would have to apply when we go deeper, especially since empirical (i.e. scientific) methods are insufficient, according to you? So, there would be logic, but a different logic, and using the logic derived from empirical phenomena would be inapplicable at the deepest level.

This is already a tacit assumption where Thomism is concerned, because when it talks about God, there is a recognition that God is unlike anything that we can imagine, and that fundamentally, our language and concepts cannot unequivocally capture what he is like. So, he is power, is intellect, is will, is goodness, and so on, “somehow”. That “somehow” means that our conceptual categories break down at this point, because God operates at a logic different from ours, and so we have to talk “analogously” about him.

I am saying that you should follow your own principles, and be humble about what you conclude about fundamental reality, because we are limited. I would have no problem if you were saying that fundamental reality MIGHT be like X, Y and Z, but really, we do not know. It would similar to how physicists talk about superstring theory. Sure, it makes a lot of sense, is logically coherent, seems to follow premises that we believe are true, and would explain a lot, but we just don’t know, because there is no good evidence for it, except for the conclusions of logic and reason, which scientists recognize just isn’t good enough, because they can often lead one astray, especially since the world often violates the conclusions of our reasoning processes, which means that we have to revise our assumptions. However, without some feedback mechanism to let us know whether our conclusions are true representations of reality, we are stuck spinning our wheels in the air. Is there such a feedback mechanism for metaphysical speculations?

Again, I have no problem with speculating about this level of reality, because it could lead to useful hypotheses and ideas that could be subsequently tested for truth. I do have a problem when people say that their speculations MUST be true. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. We just don’t know right now. And the problem is that by accepting this approach, religion just falls apart, because it relies upon certainty and belief in speculation. Not only does it know with certainty what the deepest level of reality is, but that it is a “person” who cares about each individual human being, and makes demands about how each individual is supposed to live. I think that this goes far and beyond the evidence, but you likely disagree.

In other words, I think that it is better to have NO map than the WRONG map, especially in an area that we are essentially ignorant about.

So, the interesting questions are:

(1) Do you believe that your conclusions about what the deepest level of reality is supposed to be like are necessarily (or even, likely) true?

(2) Do you believe that we have a reliable methodology to determine the properties of this level of reality?

(3) And if you do, then how have you confirmed that the conclusions of this methodology are reliable?

Thanks, and take care.

dguller said...

Daniel:

>> This is one of the most amazing cases of contradiction I've ever witnessed. What he's saying (and remember HE'S the empiricist here), is that you have "no evidence" other than the entirety of the "empirical world"!!!

Here’s the problem. Either we can understand the deepest level of reality with empirical methods or we cannot. Crude believes that we cannot, because if we could, then science would be the best method to determine this level of reality. So, we are talking about something OTHER THAN the empirical world, but are using methods that have demonstrated incredible success in the empirical world. I am wondering why suppose that a method that works in one context necessarily works in another. Wouldn’t this have to be demonstrated?

dguller said...

Ben:

Okay, I’ve read over the passages in Feser’s books about the doctrine of analogy.

He describes an analogy as between univocal and equivocal terms. A univocal term is one that retains the same sense when used in different contexts, and an equivocal term is one that has a different sense when used in different contexts. An example of a univocal term would be the use of “red” in “red truck” and “red Stop sign”, and an example of an equivocal term would be the use of “bark” in “tree bark” and “a dog bark”. This is from TLS on p. 89.

An analogical term is one that neither has the same sense in different contexts nor has a complete different sense in different contexts. The example that Feser uses on p. 89 of TLS is “seeing” a tree in front of you and “seeing” the truth of a mathematical theorem. In that example, “seeing” is used analogically, i.e. “neither completely identical nor absolutely incomparable” (Aquinas, p. 33).

That’s all he says on the matter in those two books.

According to my understanding of an analogy, two terms are analogous, if they share a common property. In other words, X is like Y iff X and Y both share P. For example, “life is like a box of chocolates”, which share the property, “you never know what you’re going to get”. That is how an analogical term can be “neither completely identical nor absolutely incomparable”.

When you apply this to God, you assume that God and creation must share some common properties, or else the analogy fails altogether. My understanding of God is that he is supposed to be utterly transcendent and beyond comparison with his creation, being as exalted as he is. Furthermore, whenever concepts are used to describe him, they are immediately taken away with a disclaimer akin to “but really, he is nothing like this”. And my point is that if God is nothing like his creation, then he cannot be described even analogously, which means that he cannot be described.

So, does God and creation both share univocal properties? If they do, then God is not utterly transcendent. If they do not, then he cannot be described at all.

Let me know what you think.

Thanks.

Crude said...

dguller,

What if there are phenomena at the deepest level of reality that are fundamentally different from those at the empirical level?

You're appealing to bare (il)logical possibility here, again. What reason do we have for believing that at "the deepest level of reality" that logic, reason and evidence suddenly are helpless? You've been treating this "what if?" as a knock-down objection - it simply isn't. And I've said before, inferring a mind in nature doesn't even require that said mind is part of 'the deepest level of reality'.

This is already a tacit assumption where Thomism is concerned

Great. A) I've explicitly put aside Thomism here, so this is unconnected, and B) God is not utterly inscrutable on Thomism anyway. But utter inscrutability is what you're going for here.

I am saying that you should follow your own principles, and be humble about what you conclude about fundamental reality, because we are limited. I would have no problem if you were saying that fundamental reality MIGHT be like X, Y and Z, but really, we do not know.

Frankly, this is a load of crap. This entire discussion has had you trying to paint what I've been saying in terms of "must"s and absolutes, and me not only denying that, but getting pretty ticked that you kept trying to saddle me with making claims to absolute knowledge. Now you're telling me that your problem is with some imagined certainty I never claimed to have.

Again: Bull.

And the problem is that by accepting this approach, religion just falls apart, because it relies upon certainty and belief in speculation.

No, it doesn't. Faith is not certainty, nor does faith need to be utterly groundless - indeed, in Christianity, it is not utterly groundless. You're painting religion in general as "Believing in something, with absolutely no room for the possibility that you are wrong, for no good reason". It ain't the case.

Either we can understand the deepest level of reality with empirical methods or we cannot. Crude believes that we cannot, because if we could, then science would be the best method to determine this level of reality.

No, I believe that science as science has limits. Not every "empirical method" is itself scientific. In fact, I've made the point that empirical methods can in fact help us shed light on 'ultimate reality' and what to think about it - and Thomists certainly don't eschew the empirical.

BenYachov said...

>That’s all he says on the matter in those two books.

According to the index of my copy of AQUINAS pages 32-33, 58, 105-107, 124, 128 all reference analogy and how it relates to God vs Creation. So he says a lot.

>And my point is that if God is nothing like his creation, then he cannot be described even analogously, which means that he cannot be described.

This is an old objection.

http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~jross/analogy.htm

http://christianthinktank.com/godtalk.html

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html

QUOTE"Now, for the Thomist, a proper understanding of these various aspects of classical theism requires a recognition that when we predicate goodness, knowledge, power, or what have you of God, we are using language in a way that is analogous to the use we make of it when applied to the created order. It cannot be emphasized too strongly, though, that this has nothing to do with “arguing from analogy” after the fashion of Paley’s design argument; indeed, it is diametrically opposed to Paley’s procedure.......Rather, what we mean is that there is in God something analogous to what we call goodness in us, something analogous to what we call knowledge in us, and so forth; and in God, it is one and the same thing that is analogous to what are in us distinct attributes. From a Thomistic point of view, it is precisely because theistic personalists apply language to God and creatures univocally that they are led to deny divine simplicity and in general to arrive at an objectionably anthropomorphic conception of God.

dguller said...

Ben:

You didn't answer my argument at all.

In order for an analogy to work, two things being compared must have a shared property that has an univocal sense. In other words, X is like Y iff X and Y have a shared property P AND P must have a univocal sense.

Let me give an example. Love is like a drug in the sense that they both share the common property of intoxication. "Intoxication" can either have a univocal, equivocal or analogous sense.

If the shared property P has an equivocal sense, then it has a number of different meanings: M1, M2, and so on. But one must specify which particular meaning, which means that one must turn it into a univocal term (i.e. P means M1 or P means M2, and so on). Take "intoxication"(i.e. P). It can mean either “being in a state in which one has lost one’s senses” (i.e. M1) or “Shaggy’s album” (i.e. M2). The analogy only makes sense if we are specifying M1 and not M2, and so one must make the meaning of the shared property univocal, i.e. with a clear, unambiguous meaning. In this case, that would mean P as M1.

But the problem is that if the shared property P must have a univocal sense, then we can talk about God’s properties univocally when we are speaking analogously about him. But Aquinas says that is impossible, which is why we have to talk analogously to begin with. As Feser says, “the language we use to refer to God is not used in the same or ‘univocal’ sense in which it is applied to things in the world” (TLS, p. 89). In other words, when one makes a comparison between God and the world that forms the basis of the analogy, then there must be a common property P. Now, P may have a number of possible meanings, M1, M2, and so on. We have to pick one meaning, say M1, to get the analogy going. However, once you have done that, you have assumed that M1 has the same sense when describing God and describing the world. Unfortunately, this is impossible, as per Feser’s quote, and thus you cannot speak analogously about God at all.

What about the common property P having an analogous sense? Well, let’s look at what that would mean. An analogy only occurs when you are comparing two things, X and Y. It does not refer to a specific entity, but only a comparison based upon a shared property P. So, what does it even mean to say that a property has an analogous sense? What is being compared? Can you explain to me what this even means??

So, you are stuck. Either you admit that God’s properties can have univocal senses, which means that Aquinas is wrong, or you admit that they cannot (as per Aquinas), which means that one cannot talk about God at all.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> No, it doesn't. Faith is not certainty, nor does faith need to be utterly groundless - indeed, in Christianity, it is not utterly groundless. You're painting religion in general as "Believing in something, with absolutely no room for the possibility that you are wrong, for no good reason". It ain't the case.

You have to believe in it with certainty. Does the Bible praise skeptics and doubters, or those who believe with utter certainty to the point that they will even agree to murder their sons?

>> No, I believe that science as science has limits. Not every "empirical method" is itself scientific. In fact, I've made the point that empirical methods can in fact help us shed light on 'ultimate reality' and what to think about it - and Thomists certainly don't eschew the empirical.

What empirical methods are not scientific? Science is just a methodologically rigorous form of common sense inquiry that adds precision with mathematical modeling and technology to extend our senses. It also makes strict attempts to control for human bias, cognitive distortions, and confounding factors. Other than that, it is the same thing we do every day when we try to figure out ordinary things that are happening around us.

I’m waiting for your answer to the rest of my points in the comment at May 21, 2011 at 6:10 PM, especially my three questions.

Thanks.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> You're appealing to bare (il)logical possibility here, again. What reason do we have for believing that at "the deepest level of reality" that logic, reason and evidence suddenly are helpless? You've been treating this "what if?" as a knock-down objection - it simply isn't. And I've said before, inferring a mind in nature doesn't even require that said mind is part of 'the deepest level of reality'.

Here’s where things get interesting. You are now making a claim, i.e. that at the deepest level of reality, the same rules of logic and reason that are reliable in the empirical world are still fully reliable. The burden of proof is upon you. Earlier, you said that you assumed that the rules continue to hold. An assumption is not an argument, and so your contention is on as fragile ground as mine, which means that you have to be agnostic, which also means that you have no idea whether they still operate.

>> Great. A) I've explicitly put aside Thomism here, so this is unconnected, and B) God is not utterly inscrutable on Thomism anyway. But utter inscrutability is what you're going for here.

So, according to Thomism, pure reason is capable of discerning the details of what goes on at the deepest level of reality? Or are there limits, and if there are limits, then how do you know what those limits are? And if there are limits, then there are aspects of reality that are fundamentally beyond reason, which validates my point, i.e. that we just do not know what is going on at that level.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> Frankly, this is a load of crap. This entire discussion has had you trying to paint what I've been saying in terms of "must"s and absolutes, and me not only denying that, but getting pretty ticked that you kept trying to saddle me with making claims to absolute knowledge. Now you're telling me that your problem is with some imagined certainty I never claimed to have.

Good, so you admit that you do not know what is going on at that level of reality. Or maybe you claim that although you lack absolute knowledge, your knowledge is more probable than ignorance, and thus you have some sense of what is likely going on. If this is true, then how do you perform your probability calculations?

dguller said...

Ben:

And one more thing about the common property P having an analogous sense, rather than a univocal or equivocal sense. Remember, an analogy is supposed to help our understanding by linking something that we do understand with something that we do not, and it does so by emphasizing the common property that the two things share. So, to say that P has an analogous sense means that its sense must be due to a common property (say, P2) that is shared between X2 and Y2.

The problem is whether P2 has a univocal or equivocal or analogous sense. If P2 has a univocal sense, then you are stuck with the same problem about divine properties not possibly being univocal. If P2 has an equivocal sense, then you must specify the particular meaning, and thus make it univocal. If P2 has an analogous sense, then you are stuck with finding another common property P3, and the problem rears its head again.

In other words, if you want to say that P has an analogous sense, then unless you can terminate the meaning in a univocal sense, then you are stuck with an infinite regress, which means that analogy doesn’t help here, either.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

So, what does it even mean to say that a property has an analogous sense? What is being compared? Can you explain to me what this even means??

I like Barry Miller's analysis from A Most Unlikely God: when we attribute X to God, we identify God with the limit case of X. Since the limit case of X is, by definition, not an instance of X, there is no shared attribute or property.

dguller said...

Leo:

>> I like Barry Miller's analysis from A Most Unlikely God: when we attribute X to God, we identify God with the limit case of X. Since the limit case of X is, by definition, not an instance of X, there is no shared attribute or property.

Then, by my reasoning, there can be no analogy at all between God and other beings that have the property X. And if my reasoning is correct, then we cannot talk about God at all, whether univocally, equivocally, or analogically.

dguller said...

Leo:

I haven’t read Miller’s work, but there is an account of his concept of limit case at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy under “Divine Simplicity”.

The example that the author there gives to make sense of this idea is speed limits. He says that there is an upper limit of speed, i.e. the speed of light, but there is no lower limit of speed, because a speed of zero is not a speed at all, and thus represents a limit case.

I think that this is interesting, but ultimately does not help much. There is an equivocation on “speed” happening here. One the one hand, there is “speed” in the sense of actual and measurable movement in space-time, and on the other hand, there is “speed” in the sense of a variable in mechanical equations, charts and graphs. A speed of zero in the former sense is not a speed at all, because the object is not moving, but a speed of zero in the latter sense is a speed, because the number zero can be plugged into equations, represented on graphs, and so on. To argue otherwise would be like arguing that one cannot put the number zero on a graph, because zero does not exist, and thus cannot be placed anywhere. This is obviously false, because the number “zero” on a graph (which is something) just represents zero (which is nothing). There is nothing more going on.

So, the idea that God can have a property P (from the divine standpoint), which is not a property P (from the creation standpoint), but is a limit case, which means that it both is and is not P, is just not helpful. Again, it seems to ultimately be based upon the fallacy of equivocation, and if it is not equivocating, then it is incoherent and contradictory.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

dguller:

There is no equivocation here: Miller uses "speed" only in the sense that a speed of zero is not a speed. It is essential to his argument that he do so.

There is no sense in which God does and does not have a property P. God is identical with the upper limit case of P, which limit case is not to be construed as an instance of P, wherefore we cannot truly state that P(God). As per Miller's (and St. Thomas') theory of analogy, there is nothing held in common between creatures and God. I am utterly confused as to why you think that analogy requires such community.

Crude said...

dguller,

Good, so you admit that you do not know what is going on at that level of reality.

And here we go again: Cartesian certainty, or cartesian doubt. No matter what evidence I have, no matter what arguments, no matter how supported by logic or reason my stance is, unless I can say "I have cartesian certainty that this is correct", I have carestian doubt - and magically, all the evidence, arguments, and reason disappear in your eyes.

Sorry, dguller - that illustrates just how desperate your position is. This isn't about reason, logic, evidence and rationality. It's about blocking out any inference you don't like, on any grounds.

Here’s where things get interesting. You are now making a claim, i.e. that at the deepest level of reality, the same rules of logic and reason that are reliable in the empirical world are still fully reliable. The burden of proof is upon you.

I love how you say "at the deepest level of reality", quoting me pointing out that the argument I've given here does not require said inferred mind(s) are at "the deepest level of reality".

But more than that, sure: I am making a claim, the burden of proof is on me. The problem for you is, I'm supplying it, and pointing out ways it can be supplied. You're responding by saying "Well, maybe logic, reason and evidence don't apply to what you're making inferences about! Maybe A != A there!" - but that's bare (il)logical possibility. If you want to take that position, you're welcome to it - as I said, that illustrates desperation.

More than that, it applies to anything - not just the 'ultimate level of reality'. It applies to our world: Maybe logic, reason and evidence aren't applicable the next galaxy over. Maybe they aren't applicable sufficiently below the earth's crust. Maybe they aren't applicable to any number of problems we're currently investigating and don't have a full suite of answers for. Maybe many of the answers we do have are wrong - logic is not proven, it's axiomatic. Evidence and argument are parasitic on logic. And cartesian certainty is never available.

You have to believe in it with certainty.

No, you don't. Faith is praised, but faith is not certainty. Having utter certainty is not required in Christianity, or in any major religion I can think of. Now, having utter faith may be commendable - but it is no requirement, demonstrably.

What empirical methods are not scientific?

Mere observation is not science. Historical investigation is not science. Day to day rational inferences are not science. Interpreting scientific data within a given metaphysical context is not science.

As for your questions: 1, yes, likely - and my arguments here don't require this to be 'the deepest level of reality'. 2, yes. 3, by their repeated success in their application.

And now I have 3 questions for you: Is it reasonable to make inferences about what cannot be known with certainty? Do you accept the first principles of reasoning? Does the fact that first principles are axioms mean that any conclusion reached using first principles is untrustworthy?

dguller said...

Leo:

>> As per Miller's (and St. Thomas') theory of analogy, there is nothing held in common between creatures and God. I am utterly confused as to why you think that analogy requires such community.

What sense is there to an analogy in which the two terms that are being compared have nothing in common? The whole point of an analogy is that two terms SHARE some common property. Otherwise, you cannot even make an analogy at all. Think about it. “Love is like a drug” would not make any sense at all unless “love” and “a drug” shared a common property. I mean, it’s in the very way we use analogies, i.e. X is LIKE Y, which presupposes that X is similar (i.e. “like”) to Y in some sense. To say that X is like Y in absolutely NO sense itself makes no sense.

Now, maybe you don’t mean “analogy” at all. Maybe you are talking about some super-special way to talk about God that appears to be utterly incoherent, seems to make absolutely no sense, but somehow, by some magic spell, suddenly becomes coherent. In that case, don’t call it “analogy”, but call it something else, and don’t even bother trying to justify it at all. Just take it on faith that words that appear to turn into word salad miraculously retain metaphysical meaning.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> Sorry, dguller - that illustrates just how desperate your position is. This isn't about reason, logic, evidence and rationality. It's about blocking out any inference you don't like, on any grounds.

Not at all. I am saying that no-one has any good idea of what is going on at the deepest level of reality, and so we should all just shut up about it. You are claiming to have some idea, and are evading the issue by focusing on absolute certainty.

This is quite simple, actually. Do you believe that you have a good idea of what is going on at the deepest level of reality? If you do, then how did you determine what is going on there? And how do you know that this method is reliable?

>> I love how you say "at the deepest level of reality", quoting me pointing out that the argument I've given here does not require said inferred mind(s) are at "the deepest level of reality".

Minds? I’m actually talking about your refusal to acknowledge the existence of atoms, because we cannot explain their properties from the fundamental level of reality.

>> But more than that, sure: I am making a claim, the burden of proof is on me. The problem for you is, I'm supplying it, and pointing out ways it can be supplied. You're responding by saying "Well, maybe logic, reason and evidence don't apply to what you're making inferences about! Maybe A != A there!" - but that's bare (il)logical possibility. If you want to take that position, you're welcome to it - as I said, that illustrates desperation.

What proof did you supply that using the rules of logic and reason that work so well at the empirical world also operate at the deepest level of reality? All you said was that you assume that they do. I’m sorry that I don’t find that a compelling argument. I mean, either tell me how you know that the methodology that works so well in the empirical world is also reliable at the deepest level of reality, or admit that you just don’t know. I’m not desperate at all. I’m actually just curious.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> More than that, it applies to anything - not just the 'ultimate level of reality'. It applies to our world: Maybe logic, reason and evidence aren't applicable the next galaxy over. Maybe they aren't applicable sufficiently below the earth's crust. Maybe they aren't applicable to any number of problems we're currently investigating and don't have a full suite of answers for. Maybe many of the answers we do have are wrong - logic is not proven, it's axiomatic. Evidence and argument are parasitic on logic. And cartesian certainty is never available.

Except that we have abundant evidence in our world that these rules are reliable. With regards to other galaxies, they appear to be made of the same atomic components as others, which is evident by spectroscopy and other scientific methods. I know, I know. Atoms don’t exist, but bear with me. Their behavior can also be understood on the basis of the same natural laws that we have discovered in our own neck of the woods. There is no astronomical phenomena, as far as I know, that is an exception to the rule. And since we have experience with one galaxy, i.e. our own, then we can infer to others. This is totally different from the most foundational level of reality, which no-one has any experience of. So, it’s really no comparison.

>> No, you don't. Faith is praised, but faith is not certainty. Having utter certainty is not required in Christianity, or in any major religion I can think of. Now, having utter faith may be commendable - but it is no requirement, demonstrably.

Why is faith praised? Because it is belief in the unseen, i.e. that which there is little evidence for. Otherwise, it would be like praising someone for believing in the sun. No big deal. What makes faith a big deal is the fact that one believes in what is not evident. Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

>> Mere observation is not science. Historical investigation is not science. Day to day rational inferences are not science. Interpreting scientific data within a given metaphysical context is not science.

Observation is a part of science, but has to be done in the right way to control for cognitive distortions, biases, and confounding factors. Historical investigation is science, but it is a highly uncertain one, because the data set that one is making inferences from is fragmented and limited.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> As for your questions: 1, yes, likely - and my arguments here don't require this to be 'the deepest level of reality'.

First, they do if the mind that you are talking about is the foundation of reality, which a good Thomist would say, I think.

Second, how do you know that it is likely? What are the odds, and how did you calculate them? And how do you know that this method is reliable at that level of reality, other than that it works at the empirical level, which actually just begs the question.

>> 2, yes.

And what is this method?

>> 3, by their repeated success in their application.

What are some successful conclusions of this approach? And how do you know that they are successful?

>> Is it reasonable to make inferences about what cannot be known with certainty?

Yes, it is reasonable, but one must be tentative, depending upon the degree of probability involved. It also depends upon how similar what is being inferred is to what is known better. So, inferring the behavior of a body in space can be done with a great deal of certainty, because we have a great deal of experience with such bodies and the laws of their motion. However, if a body of knowledge that one knows well is being used to predict an area that one knows very poorly, then one should not pretend to know more than one does. The rules that govern billiard balls are not the rules that govern atoms.

I’ll give you an example. Trying to predict Black Swans is basically impossible, because a Black Swan is, by definition, something that is not present as a possibility in any model that is being used to predict the future. Because of this, it is a complete waste of time to try to predict them, and to pretend that one can is to be doomed to a rude awakening. Again, better to have no map than the wrong map.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> Do you accept the first principles of reasoning?

I do accept them in the empirical world, because they have been shown to be highly successful in understanding ourselves and our world. Beyond that, I do not know, because I do not know if at the deepest level of reality the patterns and regularities that are present as identical to those present at the empirical level. Since I do not know, I remain agnostic.

>> Does the fact that first principles are axioms mean that any conclusion reached using first principles is untrustworthy?

No, it is trustworthy within its domain of applicability. It is clear that the rules of logic and reason that we use is applicable in the empirical world, but I do not know whether they would also apply in the same way to the rock-bottom level of reality.

You have to remember that these principles were not thought up out of the blue, but were codified in response to how our world actually works. In other words, they did not drop out of heaven into our minds, but were the result of hundreds of years of work by logicians to determine the rules by which we can infer one set of propositions from another on the basis of how the world works. And if you read any logic textbook, it always includes examples from the empirical world to justify whether an inference is valid or invalid. That means that they are fundamentally rooted to our empirical world, and do not necessarily apply outside of it.

BenYachov said...

>You didn't answer my argument at all.


Rather I told you to study Aquinas' Doctrine of analogy and you seem intent about doing anything else but that.

Your own ideas about analogy are irrelevant.

>In other words, if you want to say that P has an analogous sense, then unless you can terminate the meaning in a univocal sense, then you are stuck with an infinite regress, which means that analogy doesn’t help here, either.

Only if you want a comprehensible "god". If He is comprehensible then He is not God. You cannot have an unequivocal sense of what God is in nature but with analogy you can have some sense of what he is & what he is like comparable to us.

For example God is analogously like a person compared to us but that simply means it is wrong to say he is impersonal like a rock or mindless force.

Now go read the links I gave you and stop dicking around.

BenYachov said...

>The whole point of an analogy is that two terms SHARE some common property.

Why don't you say what you mean. Two terms that are in some sense or some level unequivocal to one another that SHARE some common property.

You are taking about two beings. Not comparing Being Itself with a being.

>Otherwise, you cannot even make an analogy at all.

You cannot arrive at some unequivocal comparison which is true. But you can know something about it. God is like a person analogously means God is not impersonal.

You originally only gave me two choices. God is like a human person or God is impersonal. We have a third alternative.

Crude said...

dguller,

You are claiming to have some idea, and are evading the issue by focusing on absolute certainty.

Considering you've been trying to paint me as being absolutely certain throughout this entire conversation, I'd say this is projection. Oh, but I can't be absolutely certain. ;)

This is quite simple, actually. Do you believe that you have a good idea of what is going on at the deepest level of reality? If you do, then how did you determine what is going on there? And how do you know that this method is reliable?

Again, my argument doesn't require that what I'm talking about be the "deepest level of reality". But yes, I do think I have reasonable beliefs about it, I determined it by evaluating the evidence, by logic, by reason. I have faith in my reason and evidence because they've performed beautifully, and logic are first principles of reasoning besides.

Minds? I’m actually talking about your refusal to acknowledge the existence of atoms, because we cannot explain their properties from the fundamental level of reality.

I never required that "we explain their properties from the fundamental level of reality" - that hardly makes sense. You're trying to pretend that, so long as there's still a word called "atoms" in use, that democritus' views and metaphysics (for example) were correct - no matter how different our current understanding of atoms are, no matter how bad his metaphysics.

What proof did you supply that using the rules of logic and reason that work so well at the empirical world also operate at the deepest level of reality? All you said was that you assume that they do.

Pal, if your argument against me is "Maybe logic doesn't hold sometimes! Maybe evidence is inapplicable! Maybe Cthulhu, long may he squirm, shall wash over our universe and send his Deep Ones to feast upon us!", like I said: Desperate move. You're welcome to it.

The effectiveness of reason and evidence is on display in our world. First principles are first principles. Deal with it, as they say.

Except that we have abundant evidence in our world that these rules are reliable.

Not by your crazy-ass standards. We ASSUME that what is true in our region of space is true elsewhere. We ASSUME that what is true now was true in the past. We have no evidence of it, by your standards, because the evidence relies on logic (which you discard), reason and evidence (both of which you question when their conclusions can't be demonstrated).

We have no experience with any other galaxies except our own - and a tiny, tiny pocket of that one. We make assumptions all over the place, though they're based on logic, reason, and evidence gained locally. But we assume these things hold elsewhere and at other times. But by assuming, we undercut our claim to knowledge. Thus, we have no evidence that (say) what holds here holds elsewhere. We better throw out the principle of mediocrity!

You falsely accuse me of denying "atoms" exist, but buddy, I'd rather be accused of denying atoms than of denying A = A, or even being agnostic about this.

Crude said...

Why is faith praised? Because it is belief in the unseen, i.e. that which there is little evidence for.

There can be plenty of evidence for that which is unseen - unless we use your standards of science. Faith is a requirement even if evidence is great - belief when lacking certainty is faith. And Christianity demonstrably does not demand certainty - you were wrong.

Observation is a part of science, but has to be done in the right way to control for cognitive distortions, biases, and confounding factors. Historical investigation is science, but it is a highly uncertain one, because the data set that one is making inferences from is fragmented and limited.

Sight can be "part of science", but it damn well is not science. If you want to blow up "science" to mean that whenever we use logic, we reason, we argue, make observations, listen to testimony, see anything, etc, that we are "doing science", fine. Then Aquinas was a scientist, and we're engaging in science right now.

I do accept them in the empirical world, because they have been shown to be highly successful in understanding ourselves and our world.

Wonderful - for you, first principles are things which have to be justified. I'll leave someone else to explain the particular brand of insanity you've adhered to. Once again, you think that entertaining A != A is a mark of reason. More power to you, you crazy diamond!

Yes, it is reasonable, but one must be tentative, depending upon the degree of probability involved.

Fantastic - then you're skunked. Your reply to me is it is in fact reasonable to come to conclusions based on logic, reason and evidence, so long as the trio are sufficiently strong, and your conclusion is tentative rather than that of cartesian certainty. Down goes your defense.

BenYachov said...

As Feser says, “the language we use to refer to God is not used in the same or ‘univocal’ sense in which it is applied to things in the world” (TLS, p. 89).

>Unfortunately, this is impossible, as per Feser’s quote, and thus you cannot speak analogously about God at all.

Do read the text and stop reading your own thought into the text.

QUOTE"Similarly, God is not personal, or good, or powerful, or intelligent in the same sense in which a human being is, but He can nevertheless correctly be described in these terms if they are understood analogously; while there is nothing in God that is even analogous to evil, or weakness, or stupidity so that these terms cannot be applied to Him at all."END QUOTE

You private ideas of analogy quaint as they are have nothing to do with what Feser or Aquinas taught.

You are confusing speaking analogously about God with having some unequivocal knowledge about what God is via analogy.

But analogy can tell me God is not impersonal but He is like a person thought only analogously since he is not unequivocally a human person.

dguller said...

Ben:

>> For example God is analogously like a person compared to us but that simply means it is wrong to say he is impersonal like a rock or mindless force.

But he is still nothing like a person at all, because he does not share any properties with people, otherwise, we could talk about them univocally, which is prohibited by Thomism. So, he is neither impersonal nor personal, because he lacks any properties that are comparable to either persons or impersonal objects. That would be more consistent.

Maybe that is the mistake? Saying that if God cannot be X, then he must necessarily be not-X. However, if it turns out that he cannot be not-X, either, then we should say that he is neither X nor not-X. Maybe the law of non-contradiction doesn’t hold for God after all for some properties?

And regarding the links that you mentioned.

The christianthinktank one says, “If we know that we can speak analogically of x and y, then we can posit a similarity, even if we cannot specify or conceptualize the point of identity beyond what is already stated in the predications. To affirm 'similarity' is thus only to affirm an analogy.” This is mostly a pretty good statement of what I’ve been saying.

This would appear to have the problem that I identified, i.e. that it would imply that both creatures and God share univocal properties, which Aquinas says is impossible. However, the solution that the author mentions is that if ones takes God’s essence as univocal in the sense of being both ontologically and epistemologically prior to creation, then God’s intellect contains the forms that creation takes, and thus the similarity is between God’s ideas and created beings.

As it says: “The Thomist cause/effect scheme provides for similarity between the essence of God and the creature; the relation between God's intellect and nature provides the univocal point for analogy. And the creation of derivative subjectivities and objectivities after the pattern existing in the divine essence and actualized by the decision of the Intellect, created the access path of analogy by creation of the first different modus essendi.”

Before I proceed to criticize this, I want to know if you think I have a good grasp of this point. I don’t want to attack a straw man.

Leo Carton Mollica said...

dguller:

Now, maybe you don’t mean “analogy” at all. Maybe you are talking about some super-special way to talk about God that appears to be utterly incoherent, seems to make absolutely no sense, but somehow, by some magic spell, suddenly becomes coherent. In that case, don’t call it “analogy”, but call it something else, and don’t even bother trying to justify it at all. Just take it on faith that words that appear to turn into word salad miraculously retain metaphysical meaning.

I have already provided an account of analogy that evades this critique, viz. Miller's limit-case theory.

Until you are able to present yourself with civility, I have nothing more to say.

dguller said...

Leo:

>> Until you are able to present yourself with civility, I have nothing more to say.

I apologize for my snark, but I am genuinely puzzled by your statements. You state that an analogy can occur between X and Y even though there is nothing in common between X and Y. I replied that in order for an analogy to occur between X and Y, there MUST be a common property between X and Y. That is the definition of “analogy”. You might as well be telling me that squares can be circles. Miller’s account does nothing to address this issue, except by defining “analogy” in his own idiosyncratic way, but it then is not analogy at all, which was my point.

And that is part of my frustrations with theology, terms are used that are utterly drained of meaning, and then everyone pretends as if nothing has happened. That is why I made my snark, because I find that the rules are distorted for God where things mean X, and then are said to mean not-X, and then there is this pretending that something profound has just happened.

Crude said...

dguller,

Let's take stock of the lay of the land here.

Your big argument against me is this: I accept first principles, reason, arguments and evidence when considering questions about reality. Your response is that you reject first principles, and don't consider as "evidence" any evidence that points towards a conclusion that can't be known with cartesian certainty.

As I've said - if you want to walk down that road, more power to you. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn can be your attitude towards reason. But I won't pretend you're a reasonable person while doing so.

Your second argument, or attempted argument, has been to paint me as having utter certainty that I'm right. But I've explicitly denied that from the start - I have more than enough evidence to reasonably believe what I do. Recognizing it's (il)logically possible I could somehow be wrong doesn't wreck my position, or disturb me, and your claims that religion in general (and Christianity in particular) demand utter certainty are demonstrably wrong. So again, you fail here.

I'd suggest you take stock of your own position and come to grips with just how desperate and inconsistent it is, but hey - we know that this is politics for you. Making sense and having good reasons is a distant second or even third to being able to deny what you want primally to deny, and affirm what you want to affirm. Not a good state to be in, but really, that's your state to embrace. And I admit, there's something funny about a NA wannabe taking a position that explicitly denies reason, logic and evidence. Feser was eerily accurate on that front.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> Your big argument against me is this: I accept first principles, reason, arguments and evidence when considering questions about reality. Your response is that you reject first principles, and don't consider as "evidence" any evidence that points towards a conclusion that can't be known with cartesian certainty.

I do not reject first principles, and I doubt anything can be known with Cartesian certainty. So, it appears that we may have been talking past one another.

I accept first principles within their appropriate domain, and that domain is where they have been shown to be reliable tools to ascertain the truth. That domain is within the empirical world that science studies. When you leave that domain and start heading towards the deepest level of reality, which is beyond science to study, then you are in new territory in which the rules that were operative in the empirical world might not apply. Again, I am not saying that our rules of logic do not operate at this level of reality, but only that we do not know if they do, and so we should be agnostic about it.

To cite your favorite example, the ancient Greeks thought that atoms were tiny indivisible solid balls that essentially bounced off of one another. That was their understanding of how solid entities worked, and they mistakenly applied these assumptions to the atomic world. They turned out to be wrong, especially when we eventually learned enough to truly study this realm, and learn its properties. And that is what happens when we try to apply principles that we are familiar with and know well into areas and contexts that they have not been validated.

I mean, it’s like reading a study that showed that a drug has worked for the middle-aged, and assuming that it must also work for the elderly and the young. It might, but it might not, and independent verification would be needed before we could know.

You keep painting me as someone who rejects logic and reason. I absolutely do not, but I think that their power and usefulness has been validated in our attempts to understand the empirical world, but when you start talking about the deepest level of reality, then I just don’t know, and the truth is, neither do you. You just assume that they still work as well as they do in the empirical world, and then argue that because everyone has to make assumptions, then you should be entitled to yours. Well, there are assumptions based upon phenomena that have repeated reliably often enough that the assumptions can be trusted, and there are assumptions that we have no experience with at all.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> Your second argument, or attempted argument, has been to paint me as having utter certainty that I'm right. But I've explicitly denied that from the start - I have more than enough evidence to reasonably believe what I do. Recognizing it's (il)logically possible I could somehow be wrong doesn't wreck my position, or disturb me, and your claims that religion in general (and Christianity in particular) demand utter certainty are demonstrably wrong. So again, you fail here.

That’s fine. You do not have absolute certainty. You have probability on your side. I’ve asked a few times how you have calculated the odds being in favor of our current rules of logic being fully applicable at the deepest level of reality, and it would help me out if you could explain this. I actually have no idea how to calculate the probability here, which is why I am trying to remain agnostic and say that I honestly do not know.

And as for certainty in religion, I cited a Biblical verse that explicitly stated that certainty was necessary. I can cite a few more, if you like. Perhaps you can cite Biblical verses to the effect that it is good to doubt and be skeptical, and that believers should always keep an open mind to the possibility that they wrong, and that it is possible that God does not exist and that their religion is false?

dguller said...

Crude:

>> I'd suggest you take stock of your own position and come to grips with just how desperate and inconsistent it is, but hey - we know that this is politics for you. Making sense and having good reasons is a distant second or even third to being able to deny what you want primally to deny, and affirm what you want to affirm. Not a good state to be in, but really, that's your state to embrace. And I admit, there's something funny about a NA wannabe taking a position that explicitly denies reason, logic and evidence. Feser was eerily accurate on that front.

Yes, I mentioned that politics is one factor that interests me in these issues, and so naturally it is all politics for me. That totally follows.

And finally, again, I do not deny reason, logic and evidence. I just do not know whether there are patterns and regularities that operate at the deepest level of reality that would require revisions to our current rules of logic and reason to accommodate. On this thread, for example, the very idea of “analogy” has been drained of all meaning for the sake of being able to describe the deepest level of reality, as have most other properties of this reality, especially since it cannot be described univocally, and so it does not seem implausible that our concepts and rules of thought are simply inadequate when it comes to that level of reality.

You mentioned that my argument would require utter inscrutability. It does not. It only requires partial inscrutability. In other words, if there are some aspects of this deepest level of reality that is beyond our concepts and logic, then my point is proven. We are not up to the task at this time, and so we should be humble about our ignorance, and be tentative about our speculations, knowing that without a reliable map of the territory, we are effectively flying blind. That is certainly a leap that you are entitled to make, but I would tread carefully there.

Crude said...

dguller,

I do not reject first principles, and I doubt anything can be known with Cartesian certainty. So, it appears that we may have been talking past one another.

dguller, when you start talking about how "maybe logic doesn't apply, maybe reason is useless, maybe evidence is inapplicable" - that is rejecting first principles. You seem to think that axioms are things we justify then use, or that rejecting first principles is okay so long as what you're talking about is out of view. It ain't the case.

When you cite things like the greek atomists in and of themselves, you're pointing out little more than this: In hindsight they were wrong, and at the time it was logically possible for them to be wrong. And my reply is this: That it's logically possible to be wrong about a conclusion reached by logic, reason and evidence does not make it untenable to hold said conclusion. Even for people who were wrong, given their knowledge and arguments at the time, it could have been entirely justifiable to believe what they did.

So the argument that 'it's entirely possible for you to be wrong', doesn't do what you want it to do here. Adhering to conclusions derived from first principles, reasons, arguments and evidence remains good reason even when lacking that utter certainty.

I’ve asked a few times how you have calculated the odds being in favor of our current rules of logic being fully applicable at the deepest level of reality, and it would help me out if you could explain this.

You're the one who has been asserting odds calculations that you have no access to. Me, I've been making the more modest claim of believing X, given reasonable standards. Ditching first principles is not 'reason'. Demanding certainty is not 'reason'.

And as for certainty in religion, I cited a Biblical verse that explicitly stated that certainty was necessary.

It did not say it was necessary - it gave a definition of one view of faith. And whether it was an accurate translation is another question, since NIV translates it as: "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for." Your view makes less sense when you go on to read that the sort of faith being talked about is faith of those who, taken literally, were directly corresponding with God. Their faith was in accordance with, not lacking, evidence. It was incomplete evidence in that it did not grant complete certainty.

Further, bible quotes wouldn't settle this. You'd say your interpretation is best, and I'd say that my interpretation is tempered by sources outside the Bible - Catholic that I am. But the preponderance of evidence is on my side on this. Even Paul openly speculated about the possibilities of being wrong. Christianity is not a faith limited exclusively to the bible.

Crude said...

Yes, I mentioned that politics is one factor that interests me in these issues, and so naturally it is all politics for me. That totally follows.

I think the fact that politics is a motivating factor, a strong one by your own terms, is worth taking account of, yes. Especially when you bring it up out of the blue.

You mentioned that my argument would require utter inscrutability. It does not. It only requires partial inscrutability. In other words, if there are some aspects of this deepest level of reality that is beyond our concepts and logic, then my point is proven.

That's a heavy retreat from what you've been maintaining in this thread. You're welcome to it, but if your position has shrunk to 'Okay, perhaps you're right, and it's entirely possible for the logic, evidence, and reason to justify you as far as they go on', great. That's not the same as 'flying blind', anymore than adhering to a principle of mediocrity is 'flying blind'.

As for the Thomists, I've not been making Thomist arguments - I've been arguing that I can get damn far before even bringing them up. You seem to be misunderstanding their claims, but I leave Leo and company to that argument.

dguller said...

Crude:

And one more thing.

I have asked you on a number of occasions why you believe that the rules of logic and assumptions that have been so successful in the empirical world apply equally successfully to the deepest foundation of reality. I would really appreciate an answer to this, because I think that it is important.

Let us say that you rigorously apply the rules of logic and reason, and churn out a number of conclusions. Are they true? Do they accurately represent what is going on at the deepest level of reality? How do you know which conclusions are true and which are false? In other words, how do you get feedback from the deepest realm of reality regarding whether your conclusions are true or false. With empirical conclusions, things are much more straightforward. You reason your way to a conclusion, which is ultimately a hypothesis, and then you set up an experiment to see if the conclusion actually holds true in the empirical world. Is there an analogous process with metaphysical speculations? Or is there just the conclusions, and that’s it?

I mean, you can construct a beautiful and elegant system regarding this deep ontological realm that is the substrate and generator of the empirical world, but how would you ever know if it was true? The example that I cited was superstring theory, which is beautiful, symmetrical, elegant, logically coherent, consistent with the evidence, but physicists are withholding judgment about whether it is actually true, because there is no independent corroboration that it is accurate. Perhaps a similar attitude should be taken by those who speculate using our rules of logic and reason about what the deepest level of reality is truly like? In other words, treat them as interesting theories that might turn out to be true, but right now, we should be agnostic, and hope that in the future, we will be in a better position to know for sure.

This does not strike me as unreasonable and ridiculous, but I’d appreciate your thoughts on it.

Thanks.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> dguller, when you start talking about how "maybe logic doesn't apply, maybe reason is useless, maybe evidence is inapplicable" - that is rejecting first principles. You seem to think that axioms are things we justify then use, or that rejecting first principles is okay so long as what you're talking about is out of view. It ain't the case.

Then we’ll just have to differ. First principles are assumptions that we have abstracted from our experience of the world. Does it follow that they apply to elements of reality that we have no experience of? I really do not know.

>> When you cite things like the greek atomists in and of themselves, you're pointing out little more than this: In hindsight they were wrong, and at the time it was logically possible for them to be wrong. And my reply is this: That it's logically possible to be wrong about a conclusion reached by logic, reason and evidence does not make it untenable to hold said conclusion. Even for people who were wrong, given their knowledge and arguments at the time, it could have been entirely justifiable to believe what they did.

Of course it was justified that they believe what they did, but the point is that they were wrong. They used the wrong tools, because they did not have the right ones. There is nothing wrong with doing the best with what one has, but to pretend that the tools one has are useful in all situations and contexts is just hubristic.

>> So the argument that 'it's entirely possible for you to be wrong', doesn't do what you want it to do here. Adhering to conclusions derived from first principles, reasons, arguments and evidence remains good reason even when lacking that utter certainty.

It does work for me, because one can adhere to a set of beliefs that make sense, given the conceptual framework of the time, but that turn out to be false. I agree that one is justified to believe them at the time.

dguller said...

Crude:

>> You're the one who has been asserting odds calculations that you have no access to. Me, I've been making the more modest claim of believing X, given reasonable standards. Ditching first principles is not 'reason'. Demanding certainty is not 'reason'.

You can’t have it both ways, though. You cannot say that it is totally unfair of me to demand absolute certainty from you, and now say that it is totally unfair of me to demand some kind of probability or odds calculation that shows that your beliefs are more likely to be true than false. No certainty, no probability. Just assumption and faith.

Crude said...

dguller,

You can’t have it both ways, though. You cannot say that it is totally unfair of me to demand absolute certainty from you, and now say that it is totally unfair of me to demand some kind of probability or odds calculation that shows that your beliefs are more likely to be true than false.

I'm not doing such. I said your probability estimates were hopeless for what you've discussed, and certainly your reaction given said estimates. According to you, arriving at a conclusion involving logic can't be trusted, because you fundamentally regard logic as suspect. You're asking for evidence, argument and reason while, in essence, stating from the outset that you'll question any axiom, no matter how fundamental, and throw out any inferential evidence on the grounds that we can't be utterly certain.

It's like arguing with a solipsist who pleas, "All I want is some evidence that there are minds other than my own", and hopes you don't notice that he's rigged his standards of evidence so he can regard anything he dislikes as 'not evidence'.

First principles are assumptions that we have abstracted from our experience of the world. Does it follow that they apply to elements of reality that we have no experience of? I really do not know.

Like I said, if you want to reject first principles, that's your prerogative. But I think it's clear that in doing so, you embrace a position that is vastly more magical than even the most outlandish quasi-theism has on offer.

More power to you, seriously. But it's not a position compatible with the "reason" ground.

Of course it was justified that they believe what they did, but the point is that they were wrong.

No, the point was that they were justified. And they would have been justified equally if they turned out to be correct as well. Because the logical possibility that they could be wrong simply wasn't a factor in their being justified in their beliefs. The fact that they were working off axioms, and that axioms are taken as self-evident rather than proven, did not undermine their justification either.

So telling me it's hubristic to use first principles or rely on inferences and evidence and arguments connected with those because you think it's in some possibility space that logic doesn't apply, just doesn't get very far. Nor does arguing against certainty - even Thomists don't argue Christianity is certainly true from Thomism. A successful Five Ways gets one to God - Christianity requires further argument.

Is there an analogous process with metaphysical speculations? Or is there just the conclusions, and that’s it?

Depends on the metaphysics in question. But even without experiment, you can evaluate consistency, you can look for logical flaws, you can develop and critique arguments - it's not a "Here's my thought, we're done" move by a longshot. Mathematics, similar - there's no empiricism there. Yet no one goes, "2 + 2 = 0, now have faith in my answer."

but physicists are withholding judgment about whether it is actually true,

No, they're not. Some are. Hawking's running around giving speeches M-theory is true and the final theory is that there is no final theory. Dawkins praised him, belching out some witticism about how "physics has finally found its Darwin". If you don't think people are hopping on the multiverse and M-theory bandwagon with less rigor than many Scotists and others have, you're not looking at the testimonies. It's not for nothing that guys like Peter Woit have gone on about the problems string theory has posed in the community.

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