Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fine on metaphysics and common sense

3:AM Magazine interviews metaphysician Kit Fine.  Fine remarks:

I’m firmly of the opinion that real progress in philosophy can only come from taking common sense seriously.  A departure from common sense is usually an indication that a mistake has been made.  If you like, common sense is the data of philosophy and a philosopher should no more ignore common sense than a scientist should ignore the results of observation.  A good example concerns ontology.  Many philosophers have wanted to deny that there are chairs or numbers [or] the like.  This strikes me as crazy and is an indication that they have not had a proper understanding of what is at issue.  By recognizing that these things are crazy we can then come to a better understanding of what is at issue and of how the questions of ontology are to be resolved.

Naturally, I agree, as any Aristotelian or Thomist would.  But why favor common sense?  Is this merely an ungrounded prejudice, an expression of bourgeois complacency, of discomfort with novelty, or a failure of imagination?  Or are there principled reasons for taking common sense seriously?

There are.  One reason is that common sense provides the conceptual framework apart from which our philosophical claims, including the claims of the skeptic who would deny common sense, lose their coherence.  Common sense can be mistaken on points of detail, but not wholesale.  That is why we find that the most radical assaults on common sense tend to be self-defeating.  Parmenides and Zeno denied the reality of change of any sort -- yet even they had to change their minds in order to come to this conclusion.  Alex Rosenberg’s scientism leads him to deny the reality of intentionality -- and thus to deny that his own thoughts, and indeed even the words in which he expresses this radical thesis, have any meaning.  No attempt to make such views coherent has succeeded or could succeed.  (Not that the Eleatics and Rosenberg are entirely comparable, mind you.  The arguments of Parmenides and Zeno are extremely interesting.  Rosenberg’s argument for scientism is not.)  

Even on points of detail, where common sense can be wrong, there is at least a presumption in its favor, albeit a presumption that can be overridden.  What J. L. Austin said of ordinary language (in his essay “A Plea for Excuses”) applies to the conceptual apparatus embodied in common sense:

[O]ur common stock of words embodies all the distinctions men have found worth drawing, and the connexions they have found worth marking, in the lifetimes of many generations: these surely are likely to be more numerous, more sound, since they have stood up to the long test of the survival of the fittest, and more subtle, at least in all ordinary and reasonably practical matters, than any that you or I are likely to think up in our arm-chairs of an afternoon – the most favoured alternative method…

[O]rdinary language is not the last word: in principle it can everywhere be supplemented and improved upon and superseded.  Only remember, it is the first word.

For reasons I have given before, respect for common sense does not entail either a blind adherence to tradition or a subjectivist appeal to “intuitions.”  Nor does it entail that we can expect much light to be shed on philosophical problems by sending out questionnaires and the like, after the fashion of “experimental philosophy.”  As I had reason to note in a recent post on philosophy and neuroscience, the perceptions of the “man on the street” can in fact subtly be altered by researchers who unknowingly insinuate debatable philosophical assumptions in the way they question their subjects.  And as Fine says:

Consider the question of whether mathematics is a priori or whether principles of abstraction of the sort proposed by Frege might provide a foundation for a significant part of mathematics.  How could asking the folk possibly be of any help in answering these questions? Physicists don’t ask the folk to look down telescopes and mathematicians don’t ask folk to assess the plausibility of their axiom.  And so why should it be any different for philosophy?  Or, take another analogy.  We don’t ask the folk to read X-rays since it takes skill and training to know what to make of them - to understand whether a particular blotch, for example, has any real significance.  It is no different, it seems to me, in regard to the intuitions of philosophers.  One needs skill and training to know what to make of them and it would be a terrible retrograde step to rely instead on the untutored judgments of ordinary folk.

I argued in another earlier post that respect for common sense in moral and political contexts by no means entails favoring the opinions of the mob over those of learned men.  Conservatism, rightly understood, is a sober middle ground position between snobbery and populism, neither disdaining the opinions of the common man nor considering them anything more than what Austin called the first word rather than the last word.  The same thing holds where metaphysics is concerned.  Though a sound metaphysics should be continuous with at least the broad outlines of the common man’s understanding of the world, it takes high intelligence, education, and leisure actually to develop such a metaphysics, and indeed even to understand what the issues are all about.

Nor is it only philosophers beholden to scientism or naturalism who have a tendency to depart from common sense.  Recent decades have seen a revival of metaphysics and philosophy of religion within analytic philosophy -- in itself a very welcome development.  But to a large extent this work has been in what might be called a broadly modernist-rationalist vein (in the Cartesian/Leibnizian sense of “rationalist”) rather than a classical (Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic, Thomistic or more broadly Scholastic) vein.  Fine, with his broadly Aristotelian sympathies, takes aim at one example of this regrettable tendency toward rationalism:

Yes, there has been a heavy emphasis on possible worlds in the philosophy of language and metaphysics.  I think that to a large extent this emphasis is misplaced, that the work done by possible worlds would be better done by other means. 

So instead of saying that necessarily, Socrates is a man, it would be more illuminating to say that Socrates is by his nature a man, putting the emphasis on the nature of Socrates rather than what is necessary. Or again, instead of understanding the counterfactual ‘if the match were struck it would light’ in terms of what would happen in the closest worlds in which the match is struck, it would be more illuminating to talk about the consequences of a situation (not a whole world) in which the match is struck. 

For the Aristotelian, reality (including the natures of things and what is necessary to them) is something we know through experience, not a priori and not via “modal intuitions” or the like -- even if (or rather precisely because) the Aristotelian conception of “experience” is richer than that of the empiricist.  (I discussed the Aristotelian-Thomistic attitude toward “possible worlds” and related ideas here.)  And for the Aristotelian-Thomistic philosopher, the rationalist/empiricist/Kantian merry-go-round is itself part of what needs to be superseded, part of the package of errors that entered Western thought with the anti-Scholastic revolution of the moderns.  

The restoration of common sense within metaphysics requires, ultimately, renewed attention to the insights of the ancients and medievals, and especially renewed attention to the Aristotelian strain within the larger classical tradition.  And Fine has made a significant contribution to the Aristotelian revival (most recently in Tahko’s Contemporary Aristotelian Metaphysics volume). 

77 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I chose not to pursue philosophy after undergrad level. If I had to do over again I wouldn't bother taking even one course. The only scenario where I'd take some courses is it were early 20th century at a place like Fordham or Georgetown. And then it would be a required part of the curriculum.

T.D. Leach said...

What do you think of Thomas Reid and the Scottish Common-Sense School? I'm just curious. His has always struck me as a more reason approach to epistemology than his counterparts.

goddinpotty said...

I see Fine mentions Schwitzgebel, but neither he nor you really takes on his argument, which is a pity -- I'd be interested in seeing that.

He is just "firmly of the opinion" that it's wrong. I seem to recall getting some flak in the last thread for giving my opinions, but it seems that is the standard for philosophizing.

Tuomas said...

Some good picks there from Kit's interview. One aspect of Kit's work in support of a more (neo-)Aristotelian line that should replace the Kripke-Putnam framework once and for all is the non-modal conception of essence. This is of course highlighted with the departure from the possible worlds approach as well. But it's surprising just how sticky the Kripke-Putnam type (de re modal) essentialism has proved to be. We really need to sort this out...

I've just been talking about these issues with Kathrin Koslicki; I gave a talk on neo-Aristotelian essentialism in Boulder today!

Eduardo said...

Potty

I am sorry if I interpreted you wrong... But I suppose everything is to ourselves at some degree opinions. Is just that some opinions are more mainstream or more standard than others.

Now in philosophy I suppose, the very foundations of a subject are ... well mere opinions, is just what you have concluded, or inferred, or felt orrrr well you got the point. Now these opinions are obviously .... well prone to be criticized.

So end of the line is... It is okay to have opinions, don't over value people's critique of them/

Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ray Ingles said...

Pretty much everything we've learned about the universe since we left the savannah has been counterintuitive. Round Earth, heliocentrism, continental drift, atomic theory, germ theory of disease, evolution, relativity, quantum mechanics... all deeply counterintuitive and unexpected. Frankly, in areas we can't test and have no experience in - my money's always on the answer being something we didn't expect.

Even long experience is no guarantee. People have been deeply and fundamentally wrong about their own bodies - Aristotle taught that the brain was basically a cooling system for the heart, and educated people believed that for centuries.

Anonymous said...

Zach said… Crazy to deny such deliveries of common sense.

You're not too clear on what "common sense" is, huh?

Ray Ingles said… Aristotle taught that the brain was basically a cooling system for the heart, and educated people believed that for centuries.

People can be "educated" to believe all sorts of things. Doubt many toddlers are going come out with that, though. Anyway, the items on your list are neither all "deeply counterintuitive" nor do they constitute "pretty much everything we've learned", so I think you're exaggerating.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Ray:

You've made a brilliant case for scientific anti-realism!

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Kit Fine writes: “ Many philosophers have wanted to deny that there are chairs or numbers [or] the like.

Surely, that’s wrong. Not one philosopher (indeed not one human whose cognitive capacity has not been gravely affected by mental illness) thinks that there are no chairs. Philosophers (such as anti-realists) may disagree about what the existence of chairs consists in, but nobody disagrees with the proposition “chairs exist”. After all one sits on them.

On the other hand, since Aristotelian-Thomists agree with most naturalists that realism is true, it becomes difficult for them to argue in favor of a commonsensical approach to metaphysics. Because, as we today know, reality is very different from how it appears to our common sense when we look around and move about. Like Ray Ingles does in this thread, naturalists will tend to point out how often our commonsensical intuitions about reality have been proven wrong, and indeed how often philosophical intuitions have been proven misleading. Given the track record it is reasonable for the realist to hold that common sense and philosophy should stop dabbling in fields where they have proven their inadequacy, and let the natural sciences do the job of describing how reality is.

Take for example the existence of final causes. The Aristotelian-Thomist will argue that without final causes reality (and indeed much of our natural language) becomes unintelligible. But why should the naturalist care one way or the other? Even if true, that would only reveal a fact about how the human brain works (namely that it is such that it needs concepts such as final causes or intentionality in order to work properly), and not anything about reality. After all science has demonstrably produced vast amounts of knowledge about reality without assuming the existence of final causes. For the naturalist the evolution of the human brain is a blind and purposeless event, and reality need not of course conform to the brain’s fashion of thought.

Zach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
machinephilosophy said...

Sure glad claims about the status of opinion and common sense get a free ride. On with the Self-referential Inconsistency Fest---celebrate the obliviousness and keep making unargued claims!

Ray Ingles said...

Anonymous - People can be "educated" to believe all sorts of things.

But it illustrates that even Aristotle's thought, when applied in areas that are testable, has failed the test. Even about things that are as close to common-sense experience as ones own body.

the items on your list are neither all "deeply counterintuitive"

Which ones aren't? Who anticipated them before actual experience and data compelled people to come up with new conceptual models?

nor do they constitute "pretty much everything we've learned"

I suppose "about the universe" is a tad broad. The physical universe, perhaps. Of course, that's the simplest, most mundane area, according to the philosophers.

Though even what we've learned about humans is rather surprising. The idea that a region the size of a continent can be governed for two centuries without a king, with only one major civil war? Now that's surprising. The absurdly low crime rate of a modern city? Whoa. The intellectual capacities of women? Yikes.

Eduardo said...

I find amazing nhow Zach have not read the entire post.... or is uncapable of unbderstanding things right after he heard "common sense".

Dr Feser have said IN THE POST ABOVE... that you don't have to blindly follow tradition or stick to your intuition no matter what...

I mean could at least read the post man!

___________________________________

Ray

Only your sensorial "area" is close to your experience. I see all the rest as good examples to failure of intuition. But nobody has any idea what goes on inside through normal experience. Usually is, get really hurt you die * don't know if we found out a way to not die after lots of blood, but this intuitive connection surely is true *; or that the heart is vital to the body...

I Mean I agree with your point... although I suppose the point that Fine and Feser are talking might be more fundamental stuff... but I think the own body example is really not part of our intuitive experience.

grodrigues said...

@Dianelos Georgoudis:

"how often philosophical intuitions have been proven misleading."

What philosophical intuitions have proven misleading?

"Take for example the existence of final causes. The Aristotelian-Thomist will argue that without final causes reality (and indeed much of our natural language) becomes unintelligible. But why should the naturalist care one way or the other?"

So if the claim is true, reality is unintelligible, but the naturalist can go on his merry way? Fine. That is indeed one of the claims, but:

"Even if true, that would only reveal a fact about how the human brain works (namely that it is such that it needs concepts such as final causes or intentionality in order to work properly), and not anything about reality."

No, the existence of final causes is a claim about reality not about how our brains work.

"After all science has demonstrably produced vast amounts of knowledge about reality without assuming the existence of final causes."

So *if* the Aristotelian's claims are correct, reality is unintelligible, but nevertheless natural science has produced "vast amounts of knowledge". Right.

"For the naturalist the evolution of the human brain is a blind and purposeless event, and reality need not of course conform to the brain’s fashion of thought."

Agreed on the last sentence. Naturalists got it all wrong.

Eduardo said...

Ray

Round Earth: i think the point is.... is also not intuitive that the Earth is flat... I thik that is the point.

Heliocentrism: True, intuition would probably make it look as the earth is stopped. I think the crux of the problem lies with our personal experience being stretched to all places of the universe. When you move... you feel the wind, so there is no way the Earth is moving because we would be blown off the planet.

continental drift: Definetely XD true , who could have thought of moving "rock" plates. As the reason for earthquakes.

atomic theory: Not really counter intuitive... you just have to reacch the idea that stuff eventually can be divided any more and Voilá ... atomic ideas start to pop up. I think atoms are really not counter intuitive.... at least not until you go Schroedinger XD with it


germ theory of disease: Yes no doubt, this one is surely counter intuitive, taking in consideration that back then intuition would dictate that the object has something wrong, and not that some other object is causing the mal-function.

evolution: ... well Darwin had an intuition that beings that looked alike came from a common ancestry.
Dunno if we intuitively think in creationist perspective though.... so I think this one might be a bit off in the list. ( remember tradition, and culture is not necessarily intuitive, just in case you try to argument about how everybody was a creationist. I mean really, look at beings out there, Before I learned about evolution, no intuitive idea about origins of creatures came to me )

relativity: I agree 100% XD that is craziest sh*t ever. Just taking a course on it can show how hard is to grasp relativity

quantum mechanics: Indeed it is counter intuitive... but only if you use Macroscopic scientific intuition. I mean, it was counter intuitive because scientists were used to a certain approach of nature and were all of asuddem forced to change it. I think the most counter intuitive part is the principle of uncertainty, THAT once again, is only counter-intuitive, because you are already used to Newtonian Mechanics or dynamics. So I think this one is 50-50 counter intuitive.


I think Ray that your list contains some fine example of counter intuitive "facts"/"truths" ( sorry dunno why, I can't use fact and truth like certain things anymore ). So I think Anon's critique is wrong at least to me.

Anonymous said...

Ray Ingles said...But it illustrates that even Aristotle's thought, when applied in areas that are testable, has failed the test.

Huh? Where did somebody say "Aristotle was infallible"?

Who anticipated them before actual experience and data compelled people to come up with new conceptual models?

Do you think that "experience" is somehow antithetical to common sense? Where did somebody say "common sense means anticipating everything that could ever be known"?


The physical universe, perhaps. Of course, that's the simplest, most mundane area, according to the philosophers.

Perhaps to some. It's not an Aristotelian view. (Unless you mean "mundane" literally, in which case it's trivially true, but irrelevant.)

The idea that a region the size of a continent can be governed for two centuries without a king, with only one major civil war? Now that's surprising. The absurdly low crime rate of a modern city? Whoa. The intellectual capacities of women? Yikes.

I guess now you're intentionally trying to be funny?

Anonymous said...

Eduardo said...I think Ray that your list contains some fine example of counter intuitive "facts"/"truths" . So I think Anon's critique is wrong at least to me.

Ok, if you think that Feser's reference to "common sense" means "whatever Ed and Ray can think of off the top of their heads" then you've missed the point. I guess you didn't read the post that was linked right in the body "on intuitions".

Eduardo said...

hmmm ... you got me there anon.

and yeah I haven't read this post I think.

"Actually yeahhhhh I interpreted the word the way it was taught to me XD."

Gene Callahan said...

Eduardo, the field in which the foundations are just opinions is called philodoxy, not philosophy.

Gene Callahan said...

Zach obviously overlooked the part where Ed said common sense is open to revision.

Gene Callahan said...

Ray, you have cherry-picked precisely the handful of MOST counter-intuitive discoveries and held them up as "everything we've learned since we left the savanah." We've learned billions of things since then, and you are able to point to a handful that are deeply counter-intuitive: I think you've made Ed's case!

Eduardo said...

You know... the post about intuitions sort of make intuitions, the things you can think our of the top of your head without any reflection after ... seem completely secondary.

I mean, I feel there is something I am not getting.

Let me see if I got this correct. This is a defense of intuition in making philosophy. Intuition is not really something that comes out of the top of your head, but rather self-evident facts to a layman that can be throughly shown to be correct through rational grounds.

Is this correct ????

And if so... Intuition, the thing you think of the top of your head or first impressions... well they become sort of secondary.

Dunno I sense like there is lacking a bridge to once conccept to the next.

--------------------------------

Now Anon, in my defense... You said that the list was not really intuitive, nowwww if intuition is some kind of knowledge that you can prove correct through rational means but you also have known it, to be correct all along, THEN yeah okay... Ray's list is worthless then, and my analysis, become leftest of all zero's. But if you take intuition the way we usually do, then Ray is not incorrect.

Eduardo said...

Gene

Had no idea there was such thing. Thanks, living and learning.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Zach,

I don’t unfortunately. This blog is a good resource for anything that has to do with Thomism, and some time back Ed posted a kind of table of contents for it. There is also Ed’s eminently readable “The Last Superstition”.

Still the idea is simple enough and can be elucidated using some examples:

Take the proposition “The function of the heart is to pump blood around the body”. Its meaning strikes one as quite obvious, and it is certainly a true proposition about reality. As it turns out though one can’t rewrite that proposition using only concepts which can be grounded in the naturalistic (i.e. strictly mechanistic) understanding of reality. Perhaps you are acquainted with cellular automata. Well, according to naturalism, reality is like a huge cellular automaton mechanistically evolving (albeit using probabilistic rules). But nothing in the evolution of a cellular automaton has “a function”. Take for example Conway’s Game of Life. There is a simple configuration there called “glider” which move in a straight line unless disturbed. But it makes literally no sense to say that the function of a glider is to move in a straight line. It just moves this way. Similarly, it makes no sense to say that the function of a so-called “glider gun” is to produce gliders - *unless* that is one knows that the “glider gun” was designed by an intelligent mind for that purpose. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway%27s_Game_of_Life for an interactive demonstration of a glider gun.

Take an even more basic proposition, such as “I am thinking about Paris”. According to naturalism (or, more properly, to materialism) thoughts are just physical processes which happen in our brain, but there is nothing in a physical process which is *about* something else. All physical systems, including our brains, have a state which evolves according to (probabilistically) mechanical rules, and that’s *all* there is to it. There is no “pointer” there to Paris or to anything else. The evolution of that state may well cause my writing down on a piece of paper “I am thinking about Paris”, but, again, there is nothing in the physical state of these graphite marks which is about Paris. In philosophy this is called “the problem of intentionality”.

Also so-called “propositional attitudes” (things like “believing that proposition X is true”, “hoping that proposition X is true”, “fearing that proposition X is true”, etc) do not fit well with naturalism. Indeed naturalist philosopher Alex Rosenberg goes as far as to explicitly reject the existence of propositional attitudes ( see: http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=4209 ), which only shows how grave the problem of intentionality is.

Naturalist philosophers have long thought about this problem without finding an adequate answer (in the sense of an answer that they themselves judge to be adequate). A good book with essays by several naturalist philosophers is “Naturalism in Question”. So far then the evidence does favor the claim that “reality is not intelligible without final causes”.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

grodrigues,

What philosophical intuitions have proven misleading?

That physical reality is deterministic, that the axioms of Euclidean geometry are true, that there is a formal system that will produce all true propositions of arithmetic, and so on. (Determinism is an especially misleading intuition, as it keeps going strong notwithstanding the fact that science has been proving it wrong for the last 100 years or so.) And of course all the great disagreements among philosophers are ultimately caused by them having different intuitions – which proves that many philosophical intuitions are misleading.

So *if* the Aristotelian's claims are correct, reality is unintelligible, but nevertheless natural science has produced "vast amounts of knowledge". Right.

Yes. The naturalist will point out that fields such as quantum mechanics have produced vast amounts of knowledge, but will also maintain that quantum reality is unintelligible, perhaps fundamentally so. The fact is that through the scientific method we can discover order (and thus knowledge) in physical phenomena even when we can’t understand the nature of the reality which produces it.

Naturalists will suggest with some plausibility that our brain evolved for understanding the kind of reality which is relevant for the evolution of our species, and that we should not expect it to be capable of using concepts which are necessary for understanding truths about reality which is far removed from our common experience of life. There is nothing a priori wrong when a naturalist suggests fundamental limits to our intelligence. On the other hand it is a tricky situation, because naturalists are apt to claim that their metaphysical beliefs are based on solid reasoning, and then turn around and claim that our brain is not made for reasoning about metaphysical beliefs.

grodrigues said...

@Dianelos Georgoudis:

"That physical reality is deterministic"

An intuition that was the product of certain modern physical theories (e.g. Newtonian mechanics), hardly relevant to the OP or my question.

"that the axioms of Euclidean geometry are true"

Are you saying that the axioms of Euclidean geometry are not true? What do you mean by that? Anyway, this is either a physical intuition or a mathematical intuition, depending on what you mean exactly, but is hardly relevant to the OP or my question.

"that there is a formal system that will produce all true propositions of arithmetic"

A mathematical intuition, hardly relevant to the OP or my question.

When I asked about philosophical intuitions, and given the OP, I really should have written metaphysical intuitions. So, do you have any examples that are relevant to the OP and my question?

"Determinism is an especially misleading intuition, as it keeps going strong notwithstanding the fact that science has been proving it wrong for the last 100 years or so."

Since I do not know of such a scientific proof can you show it to me, please?

"“So *if* the Aristotelian's claims are correct, reality is unintelligible, but nevertheless natural science has produced "vast amounts of knowledge". Right.”

Yes. The naturalist will point out that fields such as quantum mechanics have produced vast amounts of knowledge, but will also maintain that quantum reality is unintelligible, perhaps fundamentally so."

Look, do you even realize what you are saying? You say that reality is unintelligible (evidence, please?) and in the next sentence say that science has produced "vast amounts of knowledge". One of us does not understand what "unintelligible" means, and I am pretty sure it is not me, so maybe it is better if you tell me what you mean by it.

"The fact is that through the scientific method we can discover order (and thus knowledge) in physical phenomena even when we can’t understand the nature of the reality which produces it."

What you are saying is that reality is ordered, and thus intelligible, at least in part. I do not understand what you mean by "the nature of the reality which produces it".

"Naturalists will suggest with some plausibility that our brain evolved for understanding the kind of reality which is relevant for the evolution of our species, and that we should not expect it to be capable of using concepts which are necessary for understanding truths about reality which is far removed from our common experience of life."

What is reality "far removed from our common experience of life"? The domain and subject matter of metaphysics? Large cardinal axioms? The intricacies of the diabolical linear geometry of infinite-dimensional Banach spaces? The effective topos? The mysteries of quantum mechanics? What?

"There is nothing a priori wrong when a naturalist suggests fundamental limits to our intelligence."

And what are these a priori limits and what is the evidence for the existence of said limits ? Not that I hold that reality is completely intelligible to us, human beings, just curious about these naked assertions.

Untenured said...

@Gene Callahan 12:41:

Exactly right. Philosophers of a naturalistic bent have been telling us for nearly 40 years that we are rationally obliged to endorse complete and utter absurdities on the grounds that "science" has established "counterintuitive" claims in the past.

At bottom, they are committing a fallacy of equivocation. "Absurd" can mean either a)something that defies our untutored expectations or b)something demonstrably incoherent.

Naturalists have gotten into the habit of failing to make this distinction, and then using scientifically established claims that satisfy a) as an argument for contested philosophical claims that satisfy b).

There is nothing incoherent about the idea that the Earth moves, or that ordinary objects obey a non-Aristotelian dynamics, or that one species can produce offspring that belong to another species. These are all "a)" type claims.

The idea that intentionality is unreal, or that consciousness is illusory or that formal and final causation doesn't exist are all demonstrably incoherent. These are "b)" type claims.

And those who wish to defend these "b)" claims always try to piggyback them in on the credentials of "a)" claims which the natural sciences have established.

And then they use the whole "Science refutes common sense" rhetoric as a crutch for completely fatuous philosophical theses that happen to jibe with the secularist worldview.

Brian said...

Heh, I am reading Maritain's An Introduction to Philosophy, and the chapter I am currently reading is entitled "Philosophy and Common Sense."

I would probably find myself agreeing with Zach and Ray Ingles if Maritain did not divest me of my misunderstanding on what common sense actually is. Common sense is not the common consent of mankind. That would be an argument from authority, and Zach and Ray's examples show how that authority has been wrong.

But that is not what we mean by common sense. Common sense is ordinary knowledge that consists of 1) the data of our senses (e.g., bodies possess length, breadth, and height) 2) self-evident-principles (e.g., the whole is greater than its parts) and 3) consequences immediately deducible from these axioms. In other words, common sense refers to the immediate apprehension of self-evident first principles. It is the natural and primitive judgment of human reason.

Our ancestors failed in interpreting the data of their senses, which were correct in sensing the lack of motion of the earth locally. However, from that fact, the conclusion that the earth is absolutely motionless is unsustainable.

goddinpotty said...

@Dianelos Georgoudis:

Take an even more basic proposition, such as “I am thinking about Paris”. According to naturalism (or, more properly, to materialism) thoughts are just physical processes which happen in our brain, but there is nothing in a physical process which is *about* something else. ...Naturalist philosophers have long thought about this problem without finding an adequate answer (in the sense of an answer that they themselves judge to be adequate).

See here. It's just wrong to say that naturalists see an insoluble problem here. There are entire fields perfectly happy with naturalistic models of semantic phenomena.

To say there is nothing in a physical process which is *about* something else is question-begging. Maybe you can't imagine how a physical process can exhibit aboutness, but that is a limitation of your imagination.

The Deuce said...

One reason is that common sense provides the conceptual framework apart from which our philosophical claims, including the claims of the skeptic who would deny common sense, lose their coherence. Common sense can be mistaken on points of detail, but not wholesale. That is why we find that the most radical assaults on common sense tend to be self-defeating.

...and if you don't understand what Ed is talking about here, just read Dianelos Georgoudis' first post.

SR said...

Common sense can be mistaken on points of detail, but not wholesale.

I have in comments on previous posts, given reasons why common sense can indeed be mistaken on the wholesale level. To repeat:

1. Common sense has changed in fundamental ways within recorded history. (See Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances for the rationale behind this claim, or an all-too-brief synopsis of the claim here).
It should be noted that this claim is in itself a serious challenge to common sense, in particular the common sense of the modern age.

2. Mystics, if they are to be trusted, are in essence telling us that common sense is wrong, telling us, for instance, that intentional consciousness is not the basic nature of consciousness, and thinking it is is -- to put it bluntly -- a symptom of Original Sin. Metaphysics that tells us that common sense is more or less trustworthy are thus in league with Original Sin, not struggling against it.

3. And, as has been mentioned, quantum physics tells us that things can be in more than one state at once, that something happening here can change the state of something a million light years away, now, i.e., without a signal taking a million years to get there.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I really can't get enough of it.

Ordinary language arguments against ordinary language.

Reasoned critiques of critical thought.

Advisements to heed those whose vastly superior insight into reality enjoins us to ignore reality and all mortal authority.

Sensible, sober reminders not to take common sense too seriously. Yep, I eat it up.

Naturalistic arguments for intellectual realism.

And then there's the undying quantum bilocation shtick. I wonder how physicists came to accept the results and implications of QM.... Oh, right, now I recall: by following the empirical evidence, making it all as theoretically consistent as possible, subjecting it all to peer critique, and then making a logical choice about where to go from here, theoretically. QM may have made us face bilocation outside of certain Catholic saints, but what it hasn't delivered us from is plain logic. Given the results of physical experimentation, we can either follow things to their conclusion, or ignore it and observe our current models. In that sense, bilocation is peanuts. Truly rejecting common sense would entail biconceptualism, or the old Averroist "double-truth" heresy. (Now *that* was giving it to common sense, yu slackers!) Common sense dictates that either QM is true of the world or it's not. QM may say quanta are of two locations, but, curiously enough, its proponents are not of two minds about it.

Meanwhile, let's keep in mind that Fine is not defending common sense as naive realism. Just look at the works he's authored. Does his work really seem to be just common sense muttering to itself? Or consider Inwagen's ontology of particles and persons. Or Ruder Baker's constitution ontology. Or Olson's animalism. Or, hell, even the Stagirite's trusty old mind-blowing, world-shaping metaphysics. REALIDM IS NOT SOLIPSISM. REALISM IS NOT PHENOMENALISM. These thinkers all give common sense its due, as a first principle, but that hardly means they are limited solely to the deliverances of common thought (common in the German sense of "ordinär", or the older sense of "mean" in English).

Good grief, you pseudo-skeptics are such boobs. Exactly like the sophistry of old, you seem to use philosophy like it's a trick you learned in Men's Health. "How to Mind-F**k Anybody, and Get Washboard Abs By Flexing Dialectical Nuts!" Why not go the whole hog and deny we're actually, like, ya know, really communicating at all, and stuff?

Ray Ingles said...

Huh? Where did somebody say "Aristotle was infallible"?

I was pointing out that, in an area where he did not or could not test his logic, even as great a thinker as Aristotle could be dead wrong.

No one has claimed he's infallible, true... but it's even harder to test metaphysical claims than physical. So I don't think it's silly to regard his claims and conclusions to be at least tentative.

I'm not an agnostic about such things, since the term as coined means 'conclusions in that area are forever impossible'. I'm what I call a non-gnostic; 'we can't reach conclusions in that area yet.'

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

It strikes me as an open question whether metaphysical questions are harder to test than physical ones at least in this stage in the game. Just look at the LHC, the hunt for the Higgs, the Pythagorean frenzy that is string theory. Even determining the earth's circumference seems to have taken more effort than it took Aristotle to refute Parmenides in book 1 of the Physics. It just strikes me as an interesting query.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

*Eratosthenes

Ray Ingles said...

godinpotty - Maybe you can't imagine how a physical process can exhibit aboutness, but that is a limitation of your imagination.

I actually have a name for that phenomenon. I call it "Haldane's Error". Almost exactly a century ago, prominent physician, J. S. Haldane dismissed the 'mechanistic theory of heredity':

"On the mechanistic theory this [cell] nucleus must carry within its substance a mechanism which by reaction with the environment not only produces the millions of complex and delicately balanced mechanisms which constitute the adult organism, but provides for their orderly arrangement into tissues and organs, and for their orderly development in a certain perfectly specific manner.

The mind recoils from such a stupendous conception; but let us follow the argument further... This nuclear structure or mechanism must, according to the mechanistic theory, have been formed within a very short period by the union of two others - a male and a female one. How two such mechanisms could combine to form one is entirely unintelligible, and the observed details of the process tend only to make it, if possible, more unintelligible. When we trace each nuclear mechanism backwards we find ourselves obliged to admit that it has been formed by division from a pre-existing nuclear mechanism, and this from pre-existing nuclear mechanisms through millions of cell-generations. We are thus forced to the admission that the germ-plasm is not only a structure or mechanism of inconceivable complexity, but that this structure is capable of dividing itself to an absolutely indefinite extent and yet retaining its original structure...

There is no need to push the analysis further. The mechanistic theory of heredity is not merely unproven, it is impossible. It involves such absurdities that no intelligent person who has thoroughly realised its meaning and implications can continue to hold it."

Reading this passage, it's striking how clearly he recognized the functional requirements that a mechanism for inheritance would have to meet. But he could imagine no physical arrangement that could satisfy those conditions, and concluded that therefore such a mechanism was impossible. Indeed, he insisted that a spiritual explanation was the only remaining option.

What if Dr. Haldane had decided to "push the analysis further"? Might we have discovered the structure of DNA decades earlier?

There are lots of others who've done the same. But Haldane had such a grasp of what was needed, and so clearly and explicitly gave up, that he remains for me the exemplar of this trait.

grodrigues said...

@SR:

"And, as has been mentioned, quantum physics tells us that things can be in more than one state at once"

No, it doesn't. Or to be more precise, some heavy dose of qualification is needed, so much so, that whatever *philosophical* point you are trying to make would be completely deflated.

"something happening here can change the state of something a million light years away, now, i.e., without a signal taking a million years to get there."

Once again some heavy dose of qualification is needed. In particular, the sentence following the "i.e." seems to me that you misunderstand the nature of QM's non-locality.

Ray Ingles said...

Dianelos Georgoudis - The 'naturalist' chain of logic seems a little different to me. When saying "the function of the heart is to pump blood" aren't you assuming that it "was designed by an intelligent mind for that purpose"?

If intentionality could arise from naturalistic means (see the commentary on Haldane above) then some things would certainly have a function, but other things would simply have effects.

acucucuuc said...

Ray Ingles,

I read Haldane as expressing doubt that one mechanism could produce another mechanism. He says he cannot imagine how "this nucleus must carry within its substance a mechanism" that "produces the millions of complex and delicately balanced mechanisms which constitute the adult organism ..."

I don't see the relevance of this Haldane quote to the question of whether a mechanical process can give rise to "aboutness" or "intentionality" without assuming that "aboutness" or "intentionality" are really mechanical processes, despite our intuitions about them.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

That's a very interesting passage, Ray, could I ask where you originally read it?

SR said...

grodriguez,

Ok, let's make it simple. Common sense tells us that if you place a third filter between two already placed filters between you and a light source, the light should shine less intensely. But in certain cases it will make it shine more brightly.

Better yet, let's address the Barfield and mystical objections.

@Codgitator,

Reason is our common guide. The problem is what assumptions we use in our reasoning. Aristotle's, I claim, are highly questionable, given what mystics have to say. You can, of course, simply dismiss what they say, but I have found that things as a whole make more sense if one takes them seriously. (And reason is also our guide in deciding on which ones to take seriously.)

grodrigues said...

@SR:

"Common sense tells us that if you place a third filter between two already placed filters between you and a light source, the light should shine less intensely. But in certain cases it will make it shine more brightly."

Sorry for my obtuseness, but I have no idea what you imagine you are refuting in my post April 6, 2012 7:01 AM with this example.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing "intuitive" about a flat earth or that the earth is the center of the universe. That's absurd.

There is something inductively narrow regarding such ideas, but nothing intuitive about them.

Clearly your intuition is working properly if you can inductively prove a flat earth or geocentric universe incorrect.

Ray Ingles said...

Codgitator - It's from J. S. Haldane's Mechanism, Life, And Personality, 1913.

acucucuuc - It's more to the point that, just because we can't imagine at this point how they could be 'mechanical', that's not a reason to presume they can't be. As I noted on the other thread, what I've read of neurology seems to indicate that.

SRS said...

Regarding the Haldane quote: the funny thing is, you could very easily read Haldane's quote with an atheist twist.

"It's not possible for there to be a mechanism of heredity, because such a mechanism would have to be ridiculously complex, yet exactingly precise. Such a thing is something we could expect from a supreme mind, perhaps... but since nature has no such thing to call on, this is not an option. Thus, heredity is not mechanistic. It must be the result of some heretofore unknown force."

If Haldane had more faith in the power of a designing mind, he'd have been open-minded about heredity.

E.H. Munro said...

"Which ones aren't? Who anticipated them before actual experience and data compelled people to come up with new conceptual models?"

To give a historical counterargument to your claims, centuries before William Harvey came to understand the circulatory system farmers could have told you what Harvey "discovered". You may say that the circulatory system was "counterintuitive" but common people understood it and its importance before science caught on.

This is not to say that all knowledge is intuitive (so please don't go there) or that science is always the last to know (so please don't go there either). Merely that knowledge or discoveries aren't always "counterintuitive".

SRS said...

It's more to the point that, just because we can't imagine at this point how they could be 'mechanical', that's not a reason to presume they can't be.

Of course, this kind of thinking was blown apart with... modern science. Quantum physics screwed the "mechanical" perspective at fundamental levels. People were making your exact argument in the early 20th century: "Look at the success of classical physics. Are you really saying that what we're seeing in these experiments can't be explained in a similar way, just because we can't see how right at this point in time?" That school of thought has largely gone away.

But that would just go to show that expecting everything to fit the "mechanical" paradigm, certainly "mechanics" as we know it, has been undercut by modern science.

Which means that when we're faced with various phenomena that cannot be explained under our current scientific paradigm, we do have reason to believe the paradigm is wrong. It even turns your quip back on itself: how much later would the developments of quantum physics have come if scientists took on your perspective?

Far later, apparently.

SR said...

@grodriguez,

I wasn't trying to refute your post, just point out that one need not know the ins and outs of the mathematics of quantum physics to experience something weird. To actually try to refute your post I would have to quote a chapter or two from something like Nick Herbert's Quantum Reality, to which you would likely reply that he is not trustworthy, to which....

In short, to debate who has the "correct" interpretation of quantum physics, while interesting, is not going to get anywhere in this venue, which is to say, we aren't going to resolve whether or not quantum physics is a wholesale or retail challenge to common sense. Hence, I recommend looking at the larger picture, to wit, the mystical and Barfieldian picture, as it is one's position on that that will, among other things, determine how one interprets quantum physics.

grodrigues said...

@SR:

"I wasn't trying to refute your post, just point out that one need not know the ins and outs of the mathematics of quantum physics to experience something weird."

1. I know the ins and outs of the mathematics of QM.

2. I never denied that QM has its share of counter-intuitiveness.

"In short, to debate who has the "correct" interpretation of quantum physics, while interesting, is not going to get anywhere in this venue, which is to say, we aren't going to resolve whether or not quantum physics is a wholesale or retail challenge to common sense."

Thanks for proving my point.

SR said...

@grodriguez,

I never denied that QM has its share of counter-intuitiveness.

It seems to me that "counter-intuitive" is an overly weak term to use. How about "unimaginable", in the sense that we cannot form mental pictures of what is going on at the quantum level. To be told that the earth rotates, if one hasn't grown up knowing that it does, is counter-intuitive, but imaginable, as one can mentally picture it moving. That doesn't work with quantum reality. And isn't "picturable" more or less what we mean by "common sense" -- or at least part of what we mean (the other part being "conforms to Aristotelian logic", which of course is another bone of contention).

CRC said...

How about "unimaginable", in the sense that we cannot form mental pictures of what is going on at the quantum level

We don't know what's going on at the quantum level, at least not in the relevant sense. It's not that we have a certain idea and cannot picture it.

And can you form a mental picture of a 1000 sided polygon?

SR said...

@CRC,

We don't know what's going on at the quantum level, at least not in the relevant sense. It's not that we have a certain idea and cannot picture it.

So we don't know what's going on at the quantum level, yet we hold that all physical things are what they are (in their sense-perceptible aspects at least) because of what is going on at the quantum level. Yet we think we can get a viable metaphysical system without considering the possibility that what is going on at the quantum level might be contradictory to the common sense ideas we have from the reality with which we are familiar. Interesting.

And can you form a mental picture of a 1000 sided polygon?

Sure, in the relevant sense :)

Anonymous said...

Yet we think we can get a viable metaphysical system without considering the possibility that what is going on at the quantum level might be contradictory to the common sense ideas we have from the reality with which we are familiar. Interesting.

It's interesting, because what I said was A) true, and B) exposes your understanding of quantum physics is flawed.

You're arguing that "the truth of quantum physics is soooooo crazy, and from that we can conclude..." In reality, it's interpretations of quantum physics that are sooooo crazy, and their truth is not evident. Which may well constitute a reason to reject them.

Philosophers don't fail to consider the possibility that everything may not actually make sense in some way. They have their axioms and assumptions and work with them, and can even concede everything from "maybe the world is unintelligible" or what else. It's just not productive to dwell on, unless you want to pretend to be deep.

Which is interesting, but may not be the sort of interesting you were hoping for.

Sure, in the relevant sense :)

If you actually understood what you're talking about, you wouldn't be saying that. But wait, understanding what you're talking about would preclude your message. So I suppose you think the lack of comprehension on your part is some kind of asset.

Mystics are fun!

Ray Ingles said...

SLC - such a mechanism would have to be ridiculously complex, yet exactingly precise. Such a thing is something we could expect from a supreme mind, perhaps... but since nature has no such thing to call on, this is not an option.

Keep reading a bit; this turns into a discussion relevant to your concerns.

CRC said...

Keep reading a bit; this turns into a discussion relevant to your concerns.

No, not really. The fact remains that the bit you quoted could just as easily have come from the mouth of an atheist, with the most minor of modifications.

Furthermore, DNA's status as being "completely mechanistic and materialist" is precisely the sort of thing questioned by Aristotileans. You even see that in TLS, if you keep reading. It's treated there as a finding which fits better with the non-mechanist case than the mechanist.

SR said...

@Anonymous at 3:00 PM


It's interesting, because what I said was A) true, and B) exposes your understanding of quantum physics is flawed.


If you're going to refer to "what I said", posting as 'Anonymous' doesn't help. Assuming you are CRC (since that is where this quote came from), then I don't see how "We don't know ..." somehow cashes out as "true" and showing my ignorance. But anyway,


You're arguing that "the truth of quantum physics is soooooo crazy, and from that we can conclude..."

My "conclusion" is that we can't conclude based on QP alone.

In reality, it's interpretations of quantum physics that are sooooo crazy, and their truth is not evident.

I thought it was interpretations that I was talking about. Of course their truth is not evident, which is why thinking about them is in the province of metaphysics.

Which may well constitute a reason to reject them.

And that sounds like begging the "common sense is reliable" question.

CRC said...

And that sounds like begging the "common sense is reliable" question.

Look, as near as I can tell your position up until now has been "quantum physics shows us that the world defies common sense in some radical way". If you don't mean that it's been demonstrated by science... merely that it's possible to come up with an interpretation of QP that you imagine it being somehow incomprehensible, then that's not saying much.

You don't even need quantum physics. Find something for which science cannot now or in principle provide an explanation for. Imagine it was the result of something incomprehensible and/or illogical. You have what you're looking for.

grodrigues said...

@SR:

"I never denied that QM has its share of counter-intuitiveness.

It seems to me that "counter-intuitive" is an overly weak term to use. How about "unimaginable", in the sense that we cannot form mental pictures of what is going on at the quantum level. To be told that the earth rotates, if one hasn't grown up knowing that it does, is counter-intuitive, but imaginable, as one can mentally picture it moving. That doesn't work with quantum reality."

The great physicist Lev Landau (a sort of Russian version of Feynman) said, a propos of General Relativity, that mathematics gives us the tools to understand what we can no longer imagine.

In other words, I do not know what you imagine is the relevance of pointing this out -- it was addressed (indirectly) in the OP (and while you are it, read Untenured's post April 5, 2012 4:06 PM).

SR said...

@CRC,

Look, as near as I can tell your position up until now has been "quantum physics shows us that the world defies common sense in some radical way".

My position is that mysticism and the work of Barfield tell us that common sense is not a reliable guide to metaphysics, and that, given that view, QP has a reasonable interpretation that is also counter to common sense.

If you don't mean that it's been demonstrated by science... merely that it's possible to come up with an interpretation of QP that you imagine it being somehow incomprehensible, then that's not saying much.

Assuming I didn't have the overarching view, I would still consider QP's existence to at least raise the question of how far common sense can be reliable.
In that case, it seems that agnosticism is called for, rather than assuming we can ignore its crazy interpretations.

You don't even need quantum physics. Find something for which science cannot now or in principle provide an explanation for.

I have, it's called consciousness.

Imagine it was the result of something incomprehensible and/or illogical. You have what you're looking for.

Or I can imagine that it is not the result of anything, but the cause of everything, which I do (assuming it is not restricted to its subject/object form). And it is incomprehensible, since it is what comprehends.

SR said...

@grodriguez,

The great physicist Lev Landau (a sort of Russian version of Feynman) said, a propos of General Relativity, that mathematics gives us the tools to understand what we can no longer imagine.

GR and QM pose different challenges. With mathematics one can understand spacetime curvature, though one can even get some understanding without it. But wasn't it von Neumann who said (something like) "Nobody understands it [QM]. You just get used to it." One can understand the mathematics, but that still does not mean one understands what quantum reality "is like".


In other words, I do not know what you imagine is the relevance of pointing this out -- it was addressed (indirectly) in the OP (and while you are it, read Untenured's post April 5, 2012 4:06 PM).

I just reread the original post and do not see where it is addressed, even if indirectly. As for Untenured's post, you do realize that I am coming at this common sense question from the diametrically opposite view of that of the naturalist?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Here's an interesting spanner I'll toss in.

On what basis do atheists assert that certain, if not all theological, claims are, to quote Haldane, "not merely unproven, [but] impossible"? I have people like Stenger, Dawkins, and Rosenberg in mind.

Here are three examples the discussion might focus on:

1. Non-embodied personhood

2. Immortal life without metabolism

3. Eucharistic transubstantiation

I think it's also crucial to keep in mind that, historically, it is competing scientists and the academic establishment, rather than "religion" (?), which has generated the principal and most vociferous objections to new discoveries. Hence it was a Christian like John Philopponus who challenged the (largely Arabic) insistence on the infallibility of Aristotle, precisely because God's power surely could perform works outside of or even contrary to A's system. Again it was a Christian like Oresme who explicitly refuted the ontological necessity of Aristotelianism on the grounds that, again, God's power was unlimited, and thus "natural philosophy" could of necessity only be provisional and empirical (i.e. noetically humble). In Galileo's time, as well, it was the academic establishment which opposed Galileo, and only later, for complex political and personal reasons, that the Pope, who had been one of Galileo's earliest and most enthusiastic patrons, chose to suppress Galileo's status *as a self-professed Catholic author*. Similar cases abound. Anyway, onward.

grodrigues said...

@SR:

Methinks we have reached the point of talking past each other (I use we, but most probably the fault is all mine). Anyway, here goes:

"But wasn't it von Neumann who said (something like) "Nobody understands it [QM]. You just get used to it." One can understand the mathematics, but that still does not mean one understands what quantum reality "is like"."

The word "understand" is being used in different senses. We *do* understand quantum reality, even if only in part, because of the mathematics that models it. It tells us that reality at the quantum level exhibits certain features, lacks certain features, etc. If this is not understanding, then what counts as understanding?

"I just reread the original post and do not see where it is addressed, even if indirectly."

Maybe I am misreading you, but for example, consider the following quote from Kit Fine in the OP:

Consider the question of whether mathematics is a priori or whether principles of abstraction of the sort proposed by Frege might provide a foundation for a significant part of mathematics. How could asking the folk possibly be of any help in answering these questions? Physicists don’t ask the folk to look down telescopes and mathematicians don’t ask folk to assess the plausibility of their axiom. And so why should it be any different for philosophy?

Who should we ask about QM? The experts. Then what is the relevance of all this talk to the OP? As far as I can see, none.

Ray Ingles said...

CRC? - The fact remains that the bit you quoted could just as easily have come from the mouth of an atheist, with the most minor of modifications.

Well, no. Not any atheist I'd recognize. It's a strawman, really.

DNA's status as being "completely mechanistic and materialist" is precisely the sort of thing questioned by Aristotileans.

And yet, nobody's found any non-material component to it. Molecular biology, not Aristotelianism, is what seems to be be designing the new medicines and therapies...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Oops, that's quite a gaffe on my part, the "mostly Arabic" bit, I mean. So that the gaffe doesn't distract us from the rousing discussion I'm sure my spanner will produce (uhh...), what I was trying to express in passing was that Philoponus was a kind of seminal bulwark against what would become an Aristotelian hegemony as the Aristotelian corpus was mediated by the Arabs in the early to high Middle Ages, a hegemony that found its apotheosis in the Averroism which was officially if not dogmatically repudiated (in 1277 by Bishop Tempier of Paris, if memory serves me, here on the fly) on precisely the Catholic principles which Philoponus and others had sown into Scholasticism.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

That's a good one, Ray! Ever hear the one about the Soviet cosmonaut who disproved theism when he went into space... and saw no trace of God? Gasp! You mean methodological empiricism has failed to find immaterial principles of reason and natural order? I'm shocked. You should look up that cosmonaut, maybe you guys could swap notes, start a blog, maybe even hit the road with an atheist Abbott and Costello routine. I'm sure you'd make the line-up for the next Reason Rally.

In any event, are you implying that *atheism* is designing new medicines and therapies?

SR said...

@grodriguez,

It tells us that reality at the quantum level exhibits certain features, lacks certain features, etc. If this is not understanding, then what counts as understanding?

Granted, but then how is it that some experts can think that the many-worlds interpretation makes sense, while other experts think that consciousness collapsing the state vector makes sense, or non-local pilot waves, and so on? There is clearly enough that is not understood to allow for all this metaphysical speculation.

Who should we ask about QM? The experts. Then what is the relevance of all this talk to the OP? As far as I can see, none.

It is from experts that I have learned what I have. Are von Neumann, Everett, Wheeler, Stapp, Deutsch, Herbert, Smolin, et al, not experts?

The relevance is that, while other challenges to common sense (like Copernicus, or non-Euclidean geometry, or GR) can be adapted to, it is not at this point obvious that that is the case with QP. So (see my post at April 6, 2012 5:53 PM to CRC) there is relevance, even though QP, by itself, is not decisive with respect to the common sense question.

Anonymous said...

Don't you know, if it is false, then it wasn't common sense!

Anonymous said...

Some Real metaphysics by a "philosopher" who really knows and quite literally sees very clearly what he is talikng about and describing.

The Nature of Reality Itself can be said to be Spherical, without center or bounds.
It is not elsewhere. It is not a point. It is not separate.
The "ego" versus "object" - mind - is a mental fiction. It is not a description of Reality Itself, not a description of what experiencing is in any moment.
Experience is not based on "point" and separation.
There are no "points".
There are no "centers".
There is infinite association.
Boundless Touch.
Centerless Being.
Everything is organized in the manner of sphers - NOT points. What appears to be a point is an apparent conjunction of spheres.
There is no point, no center, no finality, no dilemma, no ego.
All difficulty can be transcended, because everything is a Sphere - Boundless, Centerless Being, Bright.
The Root of the body, the Root of the mind, the Root of emotion, and the Root of breath must be realized.

Eduardo said...

Funny ... this comment up there was made once in this blog and another time on a Piece by Alistair McGrath on ABC site.

I wonder who is the "philosopher"... or is it like a net MEME , slowly spreading with a phantom author behind it.

A. R. Diaz said...

@ SR,

"Or I can imagine that it is not the result of anything, but the cause of everything, which I do"

Exactly what does this mean? What do you mean by "cause" and by "everything"? Also, do you hold that conceivability (imagining this or that) guarantees real possibility?

"And it is incomprehensible, since it is what comprehends."

I'm sorry, but again, exactly what do you mean by "comprehends" or "it is what comprehends"––as you put it, that seems to be giving the quiddity of something––? I suspect it is comprehensible after all, at least in the sense in which "it is what comprehends" (whatever that means).Anyways, I ask, in part, because something which comprehends need not be, for that very reason, incomprehensible. So I suspect you understand "comprehending" somewhat differently?

Ray Ingles said...

Codgitator - You mean methodological empiricism has failed to find immaterial principles of reason and natural order?

A la Laplace, they've had no need of that hypothesis...

In any event, are you implying that *atheism* is designing new medicines and therapies?

Nope. I just find it interesting that you don't have to be a theist to do so. And that, so far as I can see, being a theist is no advantage.

SR said...

@A R Diaz,

[me]"Or I can imagine that it is not the result of anything, but the cause of everything, which I do"

[you]Exactly what does this mean? What do you mean by "cause" and by "everything"?

I mean that the metaphysical prime -- that which lies under all of reality -- is consciousness, that there is nothing "outside" of consciousness. To provide the full picture so as, for example, showing how this can avoid cashing out as subjective idealism -- is not possible here. I suggest reading up on Nishida's logic of place for a way this can be done.

Also, do you hold that conceivability (imagining this or that) guarantees real possibility?

What is "real possibility"? Are unicorns really possible? I don't know -- ask a biologist. And who or what would guarantee it?

As for what 'comprehends' means, I'm sure you have a dictionary. As for how it might mean something different in this context, first we would have to work out in detail just what this context is, which as mentioned is impossible in this venue.

Michael said...

So much of the banter back and forth, talking about scientific theories and common sense misses how "common sense" is actually being defined by the OP. Most the posts here are irrelevant and missing the point.

I suggest doing some research about what Dr. Feser takes to be the definition of "common sense". It definitely is NOT what anyone is thinking when they raise their fingers to type anything with a scientific flavor.

We are talking about things such as "change exists", which is a presupposition of any scientific theory (correct me if I am wrong).

Ciao,
Michael

Tony said...

All difficulty can be transcended, because everything is a Sphere - Boundless, Centerless Being, Bright.


Anonymous: thank you for another example of Gnu incoherence: To be a sphere, is, precisely, to be limited, bounded, and to provide meaning to a "center". To be "bright" has no meaning unless "not-bright" has meaning also, and if not-bright does have meaning then distinguishing between that which is bright and that which is not-bright implies not all is Bright.

Gnu mysticism wants to transcend rational thought, but all it manages to do is set thought aside and stop being intelligent at all. Exactly what Frost and Steele did at N.I.C.E. Where Plato would have us (actually) seeing shadows on the cave wall, Gnu mysticism would have us bulldoze the cave itself and simply imagine the "reality" that could cast such shadows as you wish it would cast, and then call THAT "more" than Plato's shadows.

machinephilosophy said...

Actually, being a theist *is* an advantage in scientific inquiry. Fully developed, it is the realization of ultimate personhood assumed necessarily by a logically referred-to mind-related system which necessarily influences all finite minds regardless of their views or the subject or nature of their inquiry, including the assumptions of science and empirical research.

Cognitive propriety depends on an already-existing mind as guiding backdrop of conscious awareness, not just some independent or asietic cognitive ether of supervisory assumptions. Assumptions don't exist in the absence of mind.

Theism produces a far greater purpose, and therefore motivation, since it's universal, necessary, and assumes a God-mind that guarantees an ultimate enduring significance and reliability to all inquiry, science-related or not. Ethics and morality take on a greater meaning and significance because of the existence of God. Reality is not just the universality of causal law and matter in motion, although universal causality is a prior condition for the possibility of finite moral activity.

The incentive of thought and life is limitless with theism, because everlasting significance and meaning are possible only if God exists.

That doesn't mean that an atheist's commitment or integrity etc. cannot equal the theist. It can and sometimes exceeds that of many theists (as in the case of some personal longtime friends who are atheist). But theism simply has certain motivational, ennobling, and visionary features that an atheist perspective simply does not have, although for many atheists it simply does not need them or already has them in somewhat analogous---but still not strictly equivalent---senses.

Ray Ingles said...

machinephilosophy - Sounds like you have a fruitful hypothesis for a research topic, there! If I understand you correctly, theists should be more productive in science than atheists, on average, all things being equal. This should be demonstrable, no?

Several measures spring to mind. Frequency of publication, prominence of journals published in, frequency of citation of the papers published - you should be able to determine exactly how much theists differ from atheists in such areas (given a sufficient sample size, or course).

Ideally you could control for things like age, education, funding, and so forth. Populations that a comparable in most respects and differ only by theism/atheism would be the most useful, I'd think.

Let me know your results when you publish...