Friday, December 14, 2012

Nagel and his critics, Part V


Our look at the critics of Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos brings us now to philosopher of science John Dupré, whose review of the book appeared in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.  The review is pretty harsh.  At his kindest Dupré says he found the book “frustrating and unconvincing.”  Less kind is the remark that “as far as an attack that might concern evolutionists, they will feel, to borrow the fine phrase of former British minister, Dennis Healey, as if they had been savaged by a sheep.”

The remark is not only unkind but unjust.  At the beginning of his review, Dupré gives the impression that Nagel is attacking neo-Darwinian evolutionary biology per se.  Dupré writes: 

Darwinism, neo- or otherwise, is an account of the relations between living things past and present and of their ultimate origins, full of fascinating problems in detail, but beyond any serious doubt in general outline.  This lack of doubt derives not, as Nagel sometimes insinuates, from a prior commitment to a metaphysical view -- there are theistic Darwinists as well as atheistic, naturalists and supernaturalists -- but from overwhelming evidence from a variety of sources: biogeography, the fossil record, comparative physiology and genomics, and so on.  Nagel offers no arguments against any of this, and indeed states explicitly that he is not competent to do so.  His complaint is that there are some explanatory tasks that he thinks evolution should perform that he thinks it can't.

The unwary reader might conclude from this that Nagel is claiming that neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory is in general wrong, that he thinks he can show this on the basis of a few problem cases, and that he doesn’t think he needs to bother with empirical evidence of the sort Dupré cites in order to show it.  But that is a grave distortion of Nagel’s position.  In fact Nagel does not say that neo-Darwinian explanations are in general wrong; he merely thinks that that sort of explanation cannot account for every single aspect of the biological realm.  And when Nagel criticizes neo-Darwinians for their metaphysical commitments, he is not saying that Darwinian explanations in general lack grounding in empirical evidence; rather, he is claiming that the view that neo-Darwinism can account for every single aspect of the biological realm is based in metaphysics rather than science -- specifically, in a materialist metaphysics. 

Indeed, it is this conjunction of neo-Darwinism with materialism that is the target of Nagel’s attack in the book -- not neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory per se and certainly not evolution more generally.  Nagel does not want to abandon evolutionary explanations, and he does not deny that many such explanations have empirical evidence in their favor.  Rather, he wants to situate evolutionary theory within a different, non-materialist metaphysics.

As Dupré acknowledges, in Nagel’s view the main obstacles to a completely materialistic-cum-Darwinian account of the world are consciousness, rationality, and moral value.  And Dupré seems to allow that whether these phenomena can be accounted for in materialist neo-Darwinian terms is indeed at least in part a philosophical (as opposed to purely biological) question, and that even philosophers committed to naturalism are divided on the question.  Hence while Nagel’s proposed alternative to materialism (a kind of neo-Aristotelian but non-theistic teleology) is certainly a minority view, that it is an attempt to deal with a real problem is something even many of Dupré’s fellow naturalists will concede.  So why all the scorn (as opposed to mere disagreement) on Dupré’s part?

In part the reason is that Dupré thinks Nagel is attacking a straw man insofar as Nagel characterizes materialism as inherently reductionistic.  For in fact (and as other reviewers have rightly pointed out, as we’ve seen in earlier posts) reductionism has largely been abandoned by contemporary philosophers of science.  (Dupré, an important and interesting anti-reductionist philosopher of science, deserves part of the credit for this.)  Dupré writes: 

Nagel expresses a view that was popular among philosophers of science half a century ago, and has been in decline ever since.  It is a view that is perhaps still common among philosophers of mind (David Chalmers much discussed book The Conscious Mind (1996), for example, bases its argument for dualism on a similar view of materialism), but reductionism has been almost entirely rejected by philosophers actually engaged with the physical and biological sciences: it simply has no interesting relation to the diversity of things that scientists actually do. 

But while Dupré is right about reductionism in philosophy of science, there are two problems with his remarks considered as a criticism of Nagel.  First of all, Dupré himself allows that a reductionist construal of materialism is at least still operative in much work within the philosophy of mind.  Yet as Dupré realizes, Nagel’s criticisms of materialism largely concern precisely this philosophical sub-discipline, insofar as he puts so much emphasis on the impossibility of a reductionist account of consciousness and rationality.  So, if reductionism is still a live issue in the philosophy of mind, Nagel can at least to that extent hardly be accused of attacking a straw man.

But secondly and more importantly, even if reductionism were no longer an issue even in the philosophy of mind, Dupré’s complaint would not really be a serious objection to Nagel.  For it is no good merely to point out that reductionism is no longer in fashion among naturalists.  The question is whether they can reject reductionism consistent with maintaining a position that can in any interesting sense be called “naturalistic.”   In particular, non-reductionistic versions of materialism have a tendency to collapse into either property dualism -- the sort of view defended by Chalmers -- or a quasi-Aristotelian commitment to formal and final causes -- which (as I noted in my own review of Nagel) is essentially what Nagel is defending.  So, if one rejects both Chalmers’ and Nagel’s views (as, of course, Dupré does) it is no good to note that most naturalists are no longer reductionists, and leave it at that.  One needs to show that this anti-reductionism doesn’t effectively put these naturalists precisely into either Chalmers’ camp or Nagel’s; and Dupré does nothing to show this.

As we saw in the previous post in this series, another critic of Nagel, Alva Noë, recognizes that there is a real problem here.  Noë writes: 

Some reviewers… seem glad to dismiss Nagel's call to arms. This may be because they find it implausible that either philosophy or the practice of science is committed today to… [the] idea that, theoretically at least, reality is physical and that physics therefore is the fundamental science of reality.  Very few thinkers today seek to reduce neuroscience to biology, biology to chemistry, and chemistry in its turn to physics. In practice, these are recognized to be autonomous domains.

This is right, but it is a superficial and unsatisfying observation.  For there is no stable or deeply understood account of how these autonomous domains fit together.  The fact that we are getting along with business as if there were such an account is, well, a political or sociological fact about us that should do little to reassure.  And anyway, as Nagel urges, the fact remains that where mind is concerned, not to mention society and economics, we lack sciences that are well-established, well-grounded and successful, loud pronouncements to the contrary notwithstanding.  We haven't explained life and mind. 

End quote.  Now to this sort of criticism, it seems that Dupré would reply that whatever difficulties face materialistic accounts of consciousness, rationality, etc., they are outweighed by the considerations in favor of a broadly materialistic-cum-Darwinian view of the world.  Dupré writes: 

What seems to me beyond any serious question is that the results and insights gained by the vast quantities of philosophical and quasi-philosophical work on consciousness in the last few decades is hardly comparable with the successes that stand to the credit of evolution. 

and 

But here I will only repeat that we have surely not been offered anything harder to deny than the general truth of evolution. 

But there are two problems with such a retort.  First of all, the success of existing Darwinian explanations simply does nothing by itself to show that they are likely to be sufficient explanations of all biological phenomena, including consciousness and rationality.  Here Dupré seems to be making a mistake which so many naturalists (including some of Nagel’s other critics) make -- namely, fallaciously drawing a metaphysical conclusion from a methodological premise.  The success of metal detectors does not by itself give us any reason to think that everything in the natural world must be the sort of thing metal detectors detect (e.g. coins, nails, etc.).  And the success of materialistic-cum-Darwinian methods of explanation does not by itself give us any reason to think that everything in the biological realm must be the sort of thing of which a materialistic-cum-Darwinian explanation can be given.

Of course, we already have independent reason for thinking that non-metallic objects exist.  But then, we also have independent reason for thinking that there are biological phenomena -- such as consciousness and rationality -- which cannot be given a materialistic-cum-Darwinian explanation.  Indeed, as we have seen in the previous posts in this series, Nagel has in previous works (his book The Last Word, his article “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” and elsewhere) developed important lines of argument (only summarized in the new book) which imply that it is impossible in principle to account for consciousness and rationality in materialistic-cum-Darwinian terms.

And that brings us to the second problem with Dupré’s retort.  If someone gives you an argument which purports to demonstrate that there cannot possibly be an explanation of X in terms of Y, it is no response at all merely to assert that the general success of Y-explanations indicates that X must after all be explainable in terms of Y.  To borrow an example from my post on Noë, it would be absurd for a critic of Gödel to suggest that the general success of our methods of proof shows that Gödel's incompleteness theorems must be mistaken.  No one would take such a critic seriously for a moment unless he somehow showed, directly and without a hand-waving appeal to the general success of our formal methods, that the arguments for Gödel's theorems contained some heretofore unknown flaws.  For unless he does so, such a critic would simply be missing the point or begging the question.  Similarly, unless Dupré gives us some direct refutation of Nagel’s arguments against the possibility in principle of a materialistic-cum-Darwinian explanation of consciousness and rationality, his appeal to the general success of evolutionary explanations also merely misses the point or begs the question.  And yet Dupré gives us no such refutation.  He says that “this is not the place to pursue” Nagel’s arguments about consciousness, and that the issues Nagel raises about rationality are “deep waters, no doubt” which cannot be plumbed in the scope of a review.  Hence he rests his case on a mere appeal to the general success of evolution -- as if this did anything mere than merely reassert the very claim Nagel has argued against, rather than answering Nagel’s arguments! 

Similarly question-begging are Dupré’s remarks about probabilities and about the content of a non-reductionist form of materialism.  On the former subject Dupré writes: 

Nagel constantly asserts that to explain the existence of consciousness, etc., evolution must not just show that they are possible, but also that they are likely, or to be expected.  This is, I suppose, a further expression of his rationalism, the expectation of a certain kind of intelligibility.  But still it seems to me poorly motivated.  At the time of my birth it was very unlikely that I would several decades later be reviewing a book by a famous philosopher; but it is not mysterious that this eventually came about. The improbability has been declining rapidly for the last few decades.  Just so with evolution.  The evolution of reason may well be very unlikely indeed on a young, hot planet.  It's a great deal more likely by the time there are highly social, if not yet rational, multicellular organisms with very complex nervous systems. 

End quote.  The problem with this, as we saw in earlier posts in this series (since some of Nagel’s other critics make similar claims), is that the reason consciousness and rationality are in Nagel’s view unlikely on a purely materialistic-cum-Darwinian picture of nature is not the same kind of reason that it is unlikely that a newborn Dupré would grow up to review a book by a famous philosopher.  The latter scenario is improbable but not impossible.  But if Nagel’s arguments concerning consciousness and rationality are correct, then it is in principle impossible to get consciousness and rationality out of nothing more than materialistic-cum-Darwinian processes.  You might as well say (once again to borrow an example from the earlier posts) that you can get a true circle out of a polygon if you add enough sides.

On the question of what an anti-reductionistic materialism would look like, Dupré writes: 

A more sensible materialism goes no further than the rejection of spooky stuff: whatever kinds of stuff there may turn out to be and whatever they turn out to do, they are, as long as this turning out is empirically grounded, ipso facto not spooky.  Such a materialism is quite untouched by Nagel's arguments. 

But surely the problem with this is obvious.  This characterization of non-reductionistic materialism is completely unhelpful unless we have some non-question-begging explanation of what counts as “spooky.”  And that is something Dupré does not give us.  In particular (and to repeat a point made above) Dupré does not tell us how a non-reductionistic materialism differs from either property dualism or neo-Aristotelianism.  Perhaps he would say that materialism differs from these other views in not being committed to paradigmatically “spooky” entities like ectoplasm, vital spirits, gods-of-the-gaps, and the like.  But if so, then he would be attacking a caricature, since (as I noted earlier in this series of posts) neither the Cartesian nor the Aristotelian is actually committed to these hoary straw men.

Perhaps Dupré would say instead that while the property dualist’s immaterial properties, the Aristotelian’s formal and final causes, and the like are not “spooky” in the way these other entities are, they are nevertheless not empirically grounded.  But that is false.  The property dualist would say that the existence of qualia is in fact as empirically grounded as anything could be, since we know them from introspection.  It is true that the arguments for their immateriality appeal to further theoretical considerations, but (as philosophers of science have been emphasizing now for decades) that is true of all empirically-based arguments.

Aristotelian notions like the theory of act and potency, hylemorphism, and the like are also empirically grounded.  To be sure, they are not empirically grounded in the same way that theories in physics, chemistry, and the like are empirically grounded, insofar as they are not subject to falsification of the sort the latter theories are.  The reason is that they are claims about issues in the philosophy of nature rather than in empirical science -- that is to say, claims about what any possible empirical world has to be like if we are to have scientific knowledge of it, whereas physics, chemistry, etc. concern the specific sort of empirical world that actually exists.  (I have explained the relationship between the philosophy of nature and empirical science in an earlier post.)  Still, insofar as they start from the most general features of empirical reality as we know it from experience (such as the fact of change), they are empirically grounded.

(It is this generality that makes the difference between the disciplines.  We know from experience that change exists.  But the existence of change is nevertheless not empirically falsifiable in the same way that theories in physics and chemistry are, because any experience or set of experiences that could be put forward to falsify it would themselves be instances of change.  Thus, if you are going to try to defend a radically non-Aristotelian philosophy of nature -- for example, one that denies change altogether -- you are going to have to do so on the basis of considerations that go beyond anything physics, chemistry, etc. or experience in general can tell you.  That is to say, if you are going to falsify Aristotelianism, you are not going to be able to do it on observational or experimental grounds, but only on competing philosophical grounds.)

So, merely to say that a “sensible materialism” would reject “spooky” entities, in the sense of entities belief in which has no empirical grounding, is not yet to explain how a sensible materialism differs from either property dualism or Aristotelianism.  If Dupré at this point were simply to stipulate that entities of the sort the property dualist or Aristotelian would allow don’t count, his position would be entirely ad hoc.   And if he has some principled reason for excluding them, he doesn’t tell us what it is (at least not in his review).

So, bluster notwithstanding, Dupré has not actually presented any criticisms of Nagel that are not either aimed at caricatures, or question-begging, or ungrounded or beside the point.  And it is ironic in the first place that he is as critical of Nagel as he is, since Dupré’s important work in defense of a non-reductionistic philosophy of science only bolsters the neo-Aristotelian position -- and thus, indirectly, Nagel’s position.

224 comments:

1 – 200 of 224   Newer›   Newest»
Eduardo said...

So Doctor Feser, any reviews that actually try to face Nagel on his own grounds or all of them so far have been just a serious misundertanding or misconception of Nagel's argument?

Anonymous said...

I read dupre's critical review and to say I was disappointed is an understatement.

"materialism is the denial of spooky things" LOL!

Do you really need a professorship to come up with stupidities like this one?

Plus, wouldn't quantum theory refute materialism based on this definition?

As per einstein... "Spooky action at a distance" and all that jazz?


Eduardo said...

They don't make Ph.D's like before ... I think


rank sophist said...

His mention of "spooky stuff" strikes me as something that a high school sophomore on the debate team might come up with--but perhaps that's an insult to high school sophomores on debate teams. It's just pathetic that a Hallquist-level quip like that was spouted by someone with an education, let alone with real credentials. You could spend five posts pointing out the fallacies involved in that comment alone. It's kind of depressing.

Eduardo said...

errr he is a member of Triple-AS(AAAS)... NOW THAT'S SPOOKY!

Untenured said...

This review, like Leiter and Weisberg's and like Noe's, is another example of how truncated and limited the post-Quinean, naturalistic conception of philosophy is.

I think much of the problem is that they have no concept of the philosophy of nature as an enterprise distinct from both natural science and metaphysics or logic.

Natural philosophy attempts to make the world of experience intelligible, starting with extremely basic and uncontroversial a posteriori premises and then conjoining them with the logical deductions necessary to reconstruct the data of experience in a way that is congruent with what we cannot reasonably doubt. It is a truism that natural scientists do not, and indeed should not, do this.

But once you reject the whole notion of the philosophy of nature, you cannot help but think that there are really only intellectual tasks: natural science and a priori "conceptual" reflection.

And once you buy into this picture of intellectual activity, feeble arguments like "the scientists don't need to appeal to it in order to explain stuff, therefore there is no good reason to countenance it" start to look like solid arguments.

But this just shows how muddled and confused most contemporary philosophy is. Contemporary philosophers won't endorse the legitimacy of natural philosophy, but they will schizophrenically embark upon "location projects" and "paraphrase projects" and "conceptual analysis" all of which presuppose a level of knowledge independent of natural science. But they will, at the same and sometimes in the same breath, declare that what science does not need to posit for its own narrow purposes need not be posited by philosophy.

As always with naturalists: pragmatism when playing defense and realism when playing offence; whether the two cohere be damned. Keep the supernatural foot out of the door at all costs.

Black Luster said...

Dupre says:

"... but reductionism has been almost entirely rejected by philosophers actually engaged with the physical and biological sciences: it simply has no interesting relation to the diversity of things that scientists actually do."

While I applaud anti-reductionism as much as the next guy, I'd also like to see the data that this claim is inferred from.

CJ Wolfe said...

@ Eduardo-

The fact that this appeared in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews I think is deserving of a response in itself. It's usually top-notch, and very widely read. Alot of people will be getting their opinion about Nagel's book from this review by Dupre

Crude said...

On the bright side, even if a lot of people read ndpr, that one line - 'Materialism just means spooky stuff doesn't exist!' - is going to strike just about any level-headed reader as being ridiculous.

CUNY student said...

"The problem with this, as we saw in earlier posts in this series (since some of Nagel’s other critics make similar claims), is that the reason consciousness and rationality are in Nagel’s view unlikely on a purely materialistic-cum-Darwinian picture of nature is not the same kind of reason that it is unlikely that a newborn Dupré would grow up to review a book by a famous philosopher. The latter scenario is improbable but not impossible. But if Nagel’s arguments concerning consciousness and rationality are correct, then it is in principle impossible to get consciousness and rationality out of nothing more than materialistic-cum-Darwinian processes. You might as well say (once again to borrow an example from the earlier posts) that you can get a true circle out of a polygon if you add enough sides."

I agree with this, but I'm not sure that this is what Nagel is arguing for. If I understand correctly, Nagel has a (to my mind puzzling) probabilistic argument that criticizes the materialistic view for making the emergence of consciousness and rationality improbable. His claim is that we need teleology to make the emergence of this likely (or non-miraculous). Isn't Dupre's response directed at that point?

Anonymous said...

There has also been some commentary on Nagel's book on the New APPS blog, starting here:

http://www.newappsblog.com/2012/12/thomas-nagel-and-the-principle-of-sufficient-reason-or-on-unprincipled-natural-teleology.html

Anonymous said...

"There has also been some commentary on Nagel's book on the New APPS blog, starting here."

"Did someone say PSR?" -Alexander Pruss

Another Anon said...

Feserites and non-Feserites should try this survey:

http://necessarybeing.net/

Anonymous said...

Necessarybeing survey set up by Machine Philosophy?

Anonymous said...

I think that one was set up by Pruss, Rasmussen and company.

Eduardo said...

lol funny survey.

... errr so the final part of the commentary on Nagel's book is that he doesn't care about science (and the future of course) because, well you know, he gave up on standard materialistic explanation, is that it???

errr... let's all pray to the goddess Scientia! U_U hum I will turn Comte's church into fact, I can obviously see that people are in some need for it.

Anonymous said...

Here's what the review actually says:
A more sensible materialism goes no further than the rejection of spooky stuff: whatever kinds of stuff there may turn out to be and whatever they turn out to do, they are, as long as this turning out is empirically grounded, ipso facto not spooky. Such a materialism is quite untouched by Nagel's arguments.

Not sure what is wrong with that, other than perhaps the name materialism ('naturalism' is better). It is a fair description of the actual metaphysics of science, and either you believe it or you believe something else. Perhaps you find the designation "spooky" degrading, but other than your hurt feelings, what is wrong with it?

Eduardo said...

Spooky... come on is a completely subjective word, I can simply move the goal posts as much as I want and as a consenquence of that I can defend no position whatsoever since I have no definite position. Something that was spooky yesterday is not spooky today like magnetism, or the mechanism of the stars or why white people can't dunk a ball!

Is just like me going to you and saying: "Oh well all there is this undefined thing that is not spooky to me!!!!"

You would laugh, especially if I had a Ph.D.

Edward Feser said...

Anonymous @ 2:59 pm:

What a bizarre remark. Did you actually read my post, or just the combox discussion? Because after quoting the very passage you cite, I took several paragraphs to explain what was wrong with it. The problem has nothing to do with hurt feelings, but rather with begged questions and straw men.

rank sophist said...

It's also a potential No True Scotsman fallacy, for what it's worth.

Untenured said...

The word "spooky" is as empty a designator as any. If materialism is committed to the rejection of "spooky" things, then I guess quantum entanglements and abiogenesis are out the door. So I guess Bell's inequalities and Stanley Miller's experiments establish that materialism is false on scientific grounds. Glad we can move on now.

What you think is "spooky" depends upon what your conception of nature is, and is no grounds for drawing any conclusions of philosophical significance.

DavidM said...

I was confused by the same paragraph as CUNY student. Dupre writes: "Nagel constantly asserts that to explain the existence of consciousness, etc., evolution must not just show that they are possible, but also that they are likely, or to be expected." Feser responds not by saying that Dupre has Nagel wrong, but by explaining that Nagel really argues that consciousness etc. are in principle impossible. But if Dupre is not simply mistaken about what Nagel constantly asserts, then Nagel does grant the possibility...

It seems like the relevant distinction to defend Nagel would be between what is likely in a particular case (that Dupre the individual would do such and such) and what is likely in general (that there would be someone like Dupre). Dupre's analysis makes sense for the former, but Nagel is talking about the latter.

Edward Feser said...

Hello CUNY student and DavidM,

Nagel's arguments about consciousness (in "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?," "The Psychophysical Nexus" etc.) and rationality (in The Last Word) -- arguments he summarizes and/or alludes to in Mind and Cosmos -- entail that there cannot even in principle be an explanation of consciousness and rationality in terms of material facts as the materialist understands what it is to be a material fact. (Hence Nagel's call for a new conception of the material world.) Since we surely have to read Mind and Cosmos in terms of this earlier work, it is silly for Dupre and others to pretend that all Nagel is saying is that consciousness and rationality are improbable in just the way it was improbable when Dupre was a baby that he would end up reviewing Nagel's book.

When Nagel says in the new book that a good explanation of consciousness and rationality will not make them out to be "vanishingly improbable" etc. it is clear that what he means is that given only the conjunction of materialism and Darwinism, consciousness and rationality could arise only via something like magic, a sheer accident that had nothing to do with the material precursors given the gap in principle between the former and the latter. It's not like baby Dupre giving rise to book reviewer Dupre, where you can trace the links between the two and connect them in an intelligible way, however improbable it was that the latter would arise from the former. It's more like something suddenly appearing where absolutely nothing had been (not "nothing" in the Lawrence Krauss sense - i.e. something -- but nothing in the sense in which the word is used in English, i.e. the absence of anything whatsoever).

As I said in an earlier post, what Nagel says about the origin of life is different -- there he might have in mind improbability rather than impossibility in principle, though I'm not sure. But for some reason Dupre doesn't talk about that. He talks about examples where it is clear that Nagel thinks there is an "in principle" gap.

Edward Feser said...

Untenured,

I'm just shocked that you haven't yet upbraided me for passing up a perfect opportunity to link to "Cousin Dupree."

Glenn said...

Give 'im time--he ain't done yet watchin' her wax her skis.

Untenured said...

@Ed:

This is a better link...

http://www.steelydan.com/heyluke.html

Edward Feser said...

Ha! Don't forget Wilson's retort:

http://blog.moviefone.com/2006/07/29/owen-wilson-replies-to-mr-steely-dan/

Anonymous said...

Untenured,

Your post at: December 15, 2012 8:00 AM was spot on.

Anonymous said...

“Spooky” is not as well-defined as one might like, but it obviously doesn’t mean merely “strange”. Quantum physics is strange, but not spooky – it doesn’t posit any non-physical or supernatural entities. (Well, mostly – in my view, the Copenhagen interpretation does have a spooky quality since it gives a privileged role to an observer who is not part of the theory. But that is why it is out of favor and present-day physicists tend to prefer the Many-Worlds interpretation which while quite a bit stranger is not spooky in the above sense).

rank sophist said...

One could play No True Spooky from now until doomsday, Anon. It doesn't make it any less fallacious.

Anonymous said...

@anon,

Not only is MWI spooky, it's in fact spookier than Copenhagen since it posits innumerable and unobservable universes. Also, decoherence according to einstein is spooky, so I suppose you'll have to take on your disagreements with him.

Whether it is out of favor or not is not relevant. Furthermore, what physicists are committed to as a means to distinguish which interpretation is better is nothing more than a logical fallacy. In addition, while MWI has been slightly on the rise there is still a huge number of scientists and philosophers who prefer the Copenhagen interpretation.

Positing an observer is not at all spooky. It's in fact the ground of the most fundamental aspect of our experience, which makes science possible. Or are you denying that you are in fact an observer?

You seem to be quite confused on many fronts.

A lot can be said about the bankruptcy of materialism and talk of "spooky" stuff is indicative of how ridiculous it is nowadays to defend just a ridiculous belief system. But hey, the will of the atheist has always been able to overrule his reason - or whatever that thing that brains do when they zap around electrical currents or whatever. ;-)

Eduardo said...

Hence it is begging the question, since he would and could simply relabel the new feature as not spooky not realy super-natural or non-material.

The word doesn't help one bit XD you see, it was just better to put forth some rule and show or just say and point to some book, that such rule is compatible with materialism OR that the position he holds is materialism or why he thinks that position is part of materialistic philosophy, and that Nagel fails to present a good case or any case at all against said position.

If you were to just talk about super-natural and non-material entities, that is also vague, what exactly defines something as THAT?
Personally I don't see how one can not simply postulate any kind of material/natural (which deep down is just whatever overall concept of the building blocks of reality I have) and use to explain anything and just say that if science is unable to find the origins of these effects is just because we are incompetent or what we currently have can't detected it but doesn't mean it is spooky but rather that it is a new form of the same old same old... You can follow this for whole of eternity and your position will never be beaten because you can postulate anything and everything new that is found, is taken to be just the same old same old.

Is a clever way to have no position(or rather to define one as just the antithesis of a certain position)

Anonymous said...

Correction:

...and talk of "spooky" stuff is indicative of how ridiculous it is nowadays, to defend such a belief system.

Papalinton said...

Dr Feser
Am I still banned?

Eduardo said...

Paps shut up, you got nothing to add to this conversation, and you already had all to say about this conversation before, all anyone has to do is look in the previous comboxes for your posts and see how... unrelated they are... or how not argumentative they happen to be. So just go back to whatever land you came from paps, for the love of Dawkins. XD.

Anonymous said...

"Favorite books: The God Delusion"


Simply based on that, you should be banned.

;-)

Anonymous said...

@other anon

Not only is MWI spooky, it's in fact spookier than Copenhagen since it posits innumerable and unobservable universes.

In the earlier comment, I was trying to make a distinction. MWI is extremely strange, and possibly so strange that you would want to reject it. But it is explictly non-spooky relative to Copenhagen.

The problem with Copenhagen is not that there are observers, but that observation plays a non-physical role (or more precisely, a role that is outside the theory). In MWI, observers are just as physical as anything else.

Whether it is out of favor or not is not relevant. Furthermore, what physicists are committed to as a means to distinguish which interpretation is better is nothing more than a logical fallacy.

Why? Are we not supposed to pay attention to the opinions of people who actually understand this stuff at a professional level?

In addition, while MWI has been slightly on the rise there is still a huge number of scientists and philosophers who prefer the Copenhagen interpretation.

Didn’t you just claim such arguments are “a logical fallacy” in your preceding sentence?

You seem to be quite confused on many fronts.

Well, one of us is.

Eduardo said...

This will be cruel Anon, but scientists are not professionals in logic (maybe mathematical logic) their job is to make experiments and find a way to get money for those experiments XD, run researches, create theories, discuss theories, and convince other scientists of their position. (there is of course more that a Scientist do but ... I don't feel like wirting it all that I can remember)

However several areas of science do not "create" the need to for certain things, for instance you can create an interpretation of a certain theory that is not in accordance to some epistemological theory or metaphysical theory or could even be illogical, BUT the theory would still work because what you want from it is the predicted values it can give to you.

Let me put a crazy example so you can get it, imagine if I were to say that a certain experiment is explained by pressupposing that matter is made of poneys, I go through a lenghty mathematical demonstration to why poneys explain the experiment, and considering that I made no mathematical mistake and that I was able to succeed in my demonstration ... would you really believe there are poneys in the experiment? Or would you tell me that poneys were just the way you found to explain the experiment???
Either way, my poney-theory works, but it still sucks in other areas.

yeah ... lenghty.

Anonymous said...

But it is explictly non-spooky relative to Copenhagen.



No, it isn’t. I gave you one of the reasons why it isn’t already. Another, is (provided by Paul Davies) the fact that it undermines rationality. He elaborates on this in one of his articles. If you want more info search for it.


The problem with Copenhagen is not that there are observers, but that observation plays a non-physical role

The observer collapses the wave function. It’s that simple. Nothing spooky about it. The MWI claims infinite splits but no one knows how, when and why the splits happen. If that’s not yet another spooky aspect of it, then I don’t know what is.

In MWI, observers are just as physical as anything else. 


Or so they claim. What is one to make of a material observer to me is nothing short of incoherent /shrug


Why? Are we not supposed to pay attention to the opinions of people who actually understand this stuff at a professional level? 



Opinion backed up by facts yes. Not opinions backed up by biases and wishful thinking. The two main reasons why MWI is preferred are: 1. It’s committed to materialism and 2 it ignores the problems posed by the theory.

Didn’t you just claim such arguments are “a logical fallacy” in your preceding sentence? 



Of course, I did. The difference is I never appealed to that statement as you did in order to make a point. I simply corrected your errors and stated the facts when I made reference to it. I do not base my preference for Copenhagen on the majority rule fallacy or any other argument from authority as you do.

The irony is, that MWI taken to its extreme leads to an idealistic universe essentially constituted by mathematics (that would be the level 4 multiverse of Tegmark).

You still sound confused. But you may continue if you like.

Eduardo said...

O_O oh I love this hardcore Physics Meets Philosophy talk!

Anonymous said...

Eduardo,

Then I would highly recommend Heisenberg's Physics and Philosophy.

You can read it for free here:

http://www.naturalthinker.net/trl/texts/Heisenberg,Werner/Heisenberg,%20Werner%20-%20Physics%20and%20philosophy.pdf

I read it in one single day. That's how interesting I found it to be. It's not that long either.

Are you a physics student, by the way? I vaguely remember you mentioning that you were in the sciences but don't remember, which branch specifically.

Eduardo said...

I am a physics student XD. But studying to be a professor not a researcher... although I think I will go for both degrees n_n hopefully!


Cool, I bet there is on google books too, let me save this PDF.

There we go!

Eduardo said...

By the way realized that I wasn't cruel at all with the other anon.

Lol I sounded like a bully XD.

Anonymous said...

Could the 'spooky' anon, or any materialist or naturalist, please explain to me just what they actually mean, with some precision and clarity, by physical or material or natural?

Eduardo said...

U_U oh damn it... is so simple: THAT WHICH IS NOT SPOOKY!

_____________

soorrrry had to say it! XD

Anonymous said...

LOL, Eduardo.

Another Anon said...

"Could the 'spooky' anon, or any materialist or naturalist, please explain to me just what they actually mean, with some precision and clarity, by physical or material or natural?"

I'm not a materialist, but I can help.

1) [Premise 1]
2) [Premise 2]
3) [Premise 3]
C) Therefore, non-physical observers/observations are spooky.

Fill in the premises, take as many as you like.

Eduardo said...

1) [Premise 1] = it came from the mind of someone that is not a naturalist nor a materialist.

2) [Premise 2] = It makes me feel like I don't see nature in the right way

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

U_U folks as a trained (I failed the course though XD) naturalist mysef, I am pretty damn sure that is what is going in everybody's mind.

Anonymous said...

More than you want to know

The Devil Himself said...

Playing Devil's Advocate here, also disclaimer: I'm not a physics major.

Wouldn't MWI be preferable based on the principle of parsimony? Yes, you end up with infinite branching universes, but they are all the same "type" of thing, and apparently there only needs to be one "type" of observer.

Copenhagen on the other hand does not have the infinitudes, but on this explanation you have two "types" of things, the material, and the potentially non-physical observers/observations. And no, I don't think that non-material things are spooky at all, but still, don't they count as another "type?"

However, maybe if these non-material observers/observations can be adequately explained, maybe the DON'T count against simplicity. Also, this is relevent:

http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2012/12/another-argument-on-simplicity.html

Black Luster said...

From the Naturalism link:

"On a scientific understanding of ourselves, there’s no evidence for immaterial souls, spirits, mental essences, or disembodied selves which stand apart from the physical world."

Insert Feser's metal detector analogy, etc etc. Nagel would go batty if he read this.

Anonymous said...

From anonymous' link of "more than you want to know"
What constitutes knowledge: Naturalism as a worldview is based on the premise that knowledge about what exists and about how things work is best achieved through the sciences, not personal revelation or religious tradition. The knowledge we have of ourselves and our place in nature is the achievement of a collective effort to construct a consistent view of the world that permits prediction and control. This effort proceeds by experiment and rational inquiry, and the knowledge gained is always subject to further testing as understanding matures. Wanting something to be true, or having the intense personal conviction that something is true, are never grounds for supposing that it is true. Scientific empiricism has the necessary consequence of unifying our knowledge of the world, of placing all objects of understanding within an overarching causal context. Under naturalism, there is a single, natural world in which phenomena arise.

The bolded part is exactly why naturalism is false. It's based on nothing more than wishful thinking and blind faith.

The rest of the passage merely tried to pass scientific/experimental inquiry as metaphysical naturalism.

Also, of what exactly is empirical investigation knowledge of? We're back to setting up arbitrary rules pretending to investigate a "something" that the naturalist knows not of.

This sort of nonsense, the ignorant conflation of science with materialism/naturalism is not only a failed rhetorical tool but something that is evidently self-undermining.

So I call the naturalist's bluff and raise him this:

http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/arn/koons/rk_incompatibilitynatreal.htm

;-)

Anonymous said...

Black Luster,

Allow me to correctly state the claim from the anturalist website:

"On a scientific understanding of ourselves (which is extremely limited in scope and depth due to its restrictive nature), it s impossible to investigate anything immaterial such as souls, spirits, mental essences or disembodied selves, which stand apart from the physical world. Any attempt by a scientist or philosopher to preclude such realities based not on rational argumentation or anything empirical, is such a misappropriation of science and a bastardization of the discipline. Science is not in the business of telling us what exists, but rather in the business of investigating correlations between physical existents, which amend themselves to scientific inquiry. Anything that fall outside of this narrow scope of science, the science should remain silent and agnostic about.

Glenn said...

Here's another symptom of the mental defects which may arise from overuse of the metal detector:

"The source of value: Because naturalism doubts the existence of ultimate purposes either inherent in nature or imposed by a creator, values derive from human needs and desires, not supernatural absolutes."

IOW, dubito ergo non existit.

I propose the following addition to the Tenets of Naturalism:

The source of chess strategy: Because naturalism doubts the existence of ultimate purposes either inherent or imposed, what spookyists refer to as strategy has no actual existence; rather, it is a misnomer indiscriminately applied to various configurations of tactical moves.

Eduardo said...

Yep values = ILLUSION!!!!

imagine if I saw a car for the first time in my life and set it on fire because I was feeling cold have that destroyed any value the owner of the car had in it a value that only existed in the owner's head to begin with.

Nah there is no value in the world and clinging to this idea under naturalism is being irrational, but them again there is no rule or virtues in naturalism we can all be happy.


Anonymous said...

That link didn't answer my question in the slightest. It simply talk about naturalism only recognising the physical, the elements described by physics, and the natural world without giving a fundamental definition of these.

Eduardo said...

I think we could get really close to the actual definition of natural and material (I AM HOPING PEOPLE have indeed tried to do this otherwise a tear woudl run down my face) by thinking about the consequences of the following phrase.

The world is made of dead matter

Emphasis in the DEAD!

Eduardo said...

So let me start this out, sorry my dear materialists and naturalists but uncle Ed has no need for you U_U! (sort of)

If something is dead then it has NO WILL, so there is no WILL in any fundamental block of reality.

All the phenomena that occur must occur due to some cause since there is no way a phenomena could decide when it will occur.

From this we realize that the universe is causually closed since every phenomena that happen will be the result of another phenomena.

All phenomena happen for no reason, since the entire reality is dead and there is no WILL there is also no form of future plan, or tendency in reality.

So the search for explanation of all phenomena must inevitably end with no explanation whatsoever, since to have an explanation to everything is also to exclude a series of possibilities, but if reality is fundamentally dead, it can not choose anything, so it makes no sense to why it is A instead of B. We must conclude that there are fundamentally no explanation for the existence of any phenomena.

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

My mind got locked here XD.
Don't know if something being dead include the idea of rules... or not.

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reighley said...

@Anonymous,
"The observer collapses the wave function. It’s that simple. Nothing spooky about it."

I'm glad you find it simple. I find it completely baffling.

Untenured said...

@Anon:

Nice try, but no. Pick up any scientific or philosophical discussion of Bell's inequalities and count the number of times the phrase "spooky action at a distance" occurs.

So either the philosophers and scientists themselves are prepared to countenance "spooky" phenomena, or your use of that term is simply synonymous with "non-material"; in which case Dupre's statement that "materialism denies spooky things" is vacuous.

Untenured said...

And for the record, the ALONETANU94 bot has now contributed more to the discussion than papalinton, Being Itself and Djindra combined.

Eduardo said...

LOL man that is cruel XD... but so true.

Although Djindra was doind some rather more civil talks in one thread not long ago... he was talking to wheeler XD.

E.R. Bourne said...

The term ‘spooky’ is indicative of an inability to rise above the imagination. To be beholden to one’s imagination, in the strict sense of the term, is to necessarily be committed to some version of materialism. When St. Thomas discusses the history of philosophy, he designates those who could not rise above sensible reality, which would include the imaginative faculty, as occupying the earliest stages of actual philosophical inquiry. Since man first knows through his senses, it is reasonable that he should first investigate the nature of physical things, but to remain at this level of knowledge is to refuse stepping beyond the entrance. It is the crudest and most unrefined sort of philosophy.

Anonymous said...

E.R Bourne,

Plato made the same observation with his allegory of the cave. That allegory alone, singlehandedly annihilated materialism in its entirety. Some modern and post-modern buffoons just don't seem to get it unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

This is kind of off-topic, but does a Thomist have any use for the Fine-Tuning argument? The Fine-Tuning argument concludes that the cosmological constants were specifically chosen to allow life to arise, evolve and persist. But don't Thomists argue that ANY sort of change or existence, fine-tuned or not, ultimately depends on God?

Glenn said...

Plato made the same observation with his allegory of the cave.

This is true. And getting the idea is fairly easy.

But stating it in language which is plain, intelligible and sensible is not necessarily as fairly easy.

I can 'see' far better than I can articulate using plain, intelligible and sensible language, so I very much appreciate E.R. Bourne's formulation.

Glenn said...

For example, my 'seeing' enables me to slap together something chiasmus-like like this,

They become sensible who rise above the level of sensible reality; they who do not rise above the level of sensible reality become anything but sensible.

...and then triply modify it like this,

They alone become sensible who rise above the level of sensible reality, whereas they do not who do not.

Nicely packaged.

But while the forms are nice, it is the content that really matters, and now the content has to be unpacked.

I remember once reading this (though, since memory morphs with time, it's probably not an exact quote):

"Within a single moment, a person can turn over more things in his mind, sort them out, and draw conclusions from them than he can express in speech or writing in half an hour or more."

And I remember my mind exclaiming, "Yes!"

But that was a long time ago, and expressing--plainly, intelligibly and sensibly--in speech or writing remains a huge problem for me.

So I have a lot of respect for people who can do that.

seanrobsville said...

@ Anonymous Re Fine-Tuning

If certain physical and chemical constants were just a fraction out from their observed values, life could never have arisen. Life does not seem to be an accidental occurrence but somehow is actually required by the universe.

According to some cosmologists, the universe began as a quantum fluctuation in the limitless Void (Hartle Hawking cosmology). In the absence of an observer, the evolving universe remained as a 'multiverse' - a coherant quantum superposition of all logically possible states.

Throughout its early history the universe continued to develop as an immense superposition of probabilities. Not only was the structure of the universe superposed, but all logically possible states of matter, physical constants, properties and laws were simultaneously present and evolving into ever increasing diversity.

Quantum theory states that any physical system remains in a superposed state of all possibilities until it interacts with the mind of an observer. But as an observer's mind makes contact with a superposed system, all the numerous possibilities collapse into one actuality. At some instant one of these possible alternative universes produced an observing lifeform. The first act of observation by this mind caused the entire superposed multiverse to collapse immediately into one of its numerous alternatives.

That one alternative version of the multiverse was not just the first configuration to be inhabitable by mind. The fact that it was the first configuration also guaranteed that it was the only configuration. All uninhabited alternative universes, ranging from the nearly-but-not-quite habitable few, to the anarchic and unstructured vast majority, were instantly excluded from potential existence. According to the participatory anthropic principle the evolving multiverse was thus always destined to resolve itself into a sufficiently ordered state to allow itself to be observed.

But isn't this all just pure metaphysical speculation? Well maybe not. The participatory anthropic principle makes potentially verifiable statements about the early history of the universe, the speed of evolution and the occurrence of extremely unlikely evolutionary steps, including the first appearance of life itself.

The series of events needed to make the universe habitable by sentient mind, up to and including the evolution of animals complex enough to support sentience, would have proceeded at the maximum possible rate and efficiency (almost by definition - because the myriad strands of the superposition were essentially racing against one another for 'winner takes all').

Because a myriad parallel universes were simultaneously evolving, the most highly improbable combinations of chemical and cellular building blocks needed to bring about living organisms would inevitably appear, even if the probability of them doing so in an 'ordinary' universe were infinitesimally small.

Eduardo said...

Pretty interesting way to put it.

So it was inevitable for life to arise huh ?

Well since this was off-topic I don't see any point to ask questions about that Sean XD, but must say it is pretty interesting.

Anonymous said...

Glenn,

"Within a single moment, a person can turn over more things in his mind, sort them out, and draw conclusions from them than he can express in speech or writing in half an hour or more."

But that was a long time ago, and expressing--plainly, intelligibly and sensibly--in speech or writing remains a huge problem for me.

So I have a lot of respect for people who can do that.


The first paragraph is a nice explication of how I sometimes experience y my thoughts. So much going on in my mind, yet I have to channel it all through the eye of a needle to verbally explicate it.
Saying things in a simple and understandable way is a good quality to have.

I will say this though, you have a very interesting way of expressing your thoughts on this blog Glenn. That is certainly something that I've noticed from reading your posts. I for one enjoy and appreciate your style quite a bit.

Anonymous said...

Because a myriad parallel universes were simultaneously evolving, the most highly improbable combinations of chemical and cellular building blocks needed to bring about living organisms would inevitably appear, even if the probability of them doing so in an 'ordinary' universe were infinitesimally small.

I'm pretty sure this claim commits the gambler's fallacy.

Eduardo said...

Gambler's fallacy?

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

Shoot u_u I was trying to not discuss about it ... but damn it was so interesting.

seanrobsville said...

The Gambler's Fallacy refers to sequential mutually exclusive events. The Participatory Anthropic Principle refers to simultaneous parallel possibilities which remain unresolved until the collapse of the superposition.

Crude said...

The PAP, to me, sounds an awful lot like a programming heuristic.

Anonymous said...

The Gambler's Fallacy refers to sequential mutually exclusive events. The Participatory Anthropic Principle refers to simultaneous parallel possibilities which remain unresolved until the collapse of the superposition.

The collapse of the superposition however is a result of probabilistic outcomes, which are no different than those committed in the gambler's fallacy. Enough trials - or so they claim - will eventually get you to a universe with life. That's the gambler's fallacy.

How are your claims any different and what prevents it being the case that life never emerges in this multiverse in the first place? That is very unclear and based on what you've said so far I don't see how you can escape the fallacy.

Anonymous said...

One more thing Sean,

Do you consider quantum decoherence to be a hinderance to the PAP? If not, why? I'm genuinely interested in this, not really trying to argue either way.

Anonymous said...

One final thing Sean,

I'm not saying that your idea is not interesting. It certainly is a fascinating thought, especially since the "creation" of reality is in some sense retroactively dependent upon the observations of a sentient being at a later time. I'm just trying to see how much scrutiny such an idea withstands.

seanrobsville said...

@ Crude The PAP, to me, sounds an awful lot like a programming heuristic.

Yes it is. The evolving superposition explores all of 'possibility space'so it will inevitably find the 'global optimum'.

seanrobsville said...

@ Anon. Quantum decoherence involves the interaction of a superposed system with its surroundings. However it's debatable whether the universe has any surroundings.

seanrobsville said...

Regarding the Gambler's Fallacy. We aren't realy dealing with probabilities so much as certainties. According to the heuristic model, we can be certain that everything that is logically possible, no matter how improbable, will be exhaustively explored in the infinite variations of the superposition.

Perhaps I sould add that in the Buddhist view of the PAP, one of the alternative universes becomes 'inhabitable' by a mind, which causes the collapse of the superposition. A superposed physical system cannot cause its own collapse, but requires interaction with a non-physical mind.

Anonymous said...

Sean,

The reason I brought up the decoherence thing is because it is sometimes referenced as an attack on Copenhagen interpretation (which is the model you seem to be using for the PAP). In your opinion, there is not conflict between the two?

Arthur said...

"Spooky"? Sheesh, is that the best these guys can do? I wish someone would pay me money to write rubbish like that.

I notice anonymous at 2:45 trying to define the term "Spooky", but his definition is far from satisfactory. He tells us that "Quantum physics is strange, but not spooky", but that hardly clarifies much. What are the criteria for being "strange" or "spooky"? I'm fairly sure that no-one will tell us.

Then he suggests that "non-physical or supernatural entities" are the "spooky" things. I think I can see where this is going; we're on a verbal merry-go-round. Things materialists don't want to posit are "spooky", or "strange", or "immaterial", or insufficiently "physical", or whatever. What you're not going to hear is a clear definition (other than an Ostensive one) of any of these important terms.

I'm reminded of an article I read called 'Against the Supernatural as a Profound Idea':
http://www.paul-almond.com/Supernatural.htm
It's written by an atheist, but I think most of its reasoning works in both directions.

I think I can see what's really going on here. "Spooky" or "Supernatural" or "Strange" things are just the things that Materialists don't like. It's nothing more substantial than that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Prof Feser,

In an unrelated matter, a recent Sam Harris lecture on free will is making the rounds amoung the New Atheist circles and it would be generous and helpful if you or someone could spend some time to respond to his points in a post. The younger generations are persuaded by this garbage so easily. It seems to be more of the same old same old neurobabble.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ih6f-0T2Ow0&feature=player_embedded


Would greatly appreciate it! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"It seems to be more of the same old same old neurobabble."

It’s a lot to read, but this might help, if you have not read them already.

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2012/01/could-free-will-be-an-illusion-2012-version.html

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2012/01/jerry-coyne-on-why-you-dont-really-have-free-will.html

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2012/01/more-on-jerry-coyne-on-free-will.html

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2009/05/free-will-meets-neuroscience.html

Anonymous said...

@Arthur: not sure what point you think you are making. Obviously "spooky" is a word that is evocative but not precisely defined, And yes, it designates "things that materialists don't like".

My definitions may be idiosyncratic, but I think they are pretty clear. QM involves many strange phenonmena and theories, but they are all supported by observation and the usual drive of physical theory towards explanations that are mathematics, compact, symmetrical.

"Spooky" on the other hand means (in my usage) intelligent but non-physically-based entities like gods and ghosts. Yes, materialists don't like them and "spooky" is just a word. So what?

Anonymous said...

"Spooky" on the other hand means (in my usage) intelligent but non-physically-based entities like gods and ghosts. Yes, materialists don't like them and "spooky" is just a word. So what?

Matter (whatever that word is supposed to mean - other than some ghostly incoherent "substance") according to materialism is not intelligent. Also, according to materialism humans are whole material entities. Those two fundamental claims of materialism render intelligence illusory.

Intelligence however is the most fundamental aspect that makes humans what they are. Since to deny that we are intelligent is to commit a reductio ad absurdum then the materialistic thesis must be rejected.

What we are now left with is a human being that is not wholly material but also has an immaterial aspect to it. That immaterial aspect, which is the being's intellect is certainly not spooky, but that which must be presupposed and that which must exist for there to even be an evaluative criterion known as "spooky".

Keep in mind, that grouping God (proper name) with gods (noun) and ghosts (myths) is a typical yet idiotic tactic used by atheists that only serves to expose their own ignorance on the matter.

There is nothing spooky about the intellect. It simply doesn't fit into the narrow, unimaginative and absurd structures of materialism/naturalism. Since the choice is losing either ones Mind or a false set of beliefs (materialism) sensible people choose to lose their beliefs.

If this does not suffice to answer your so what question, then here is something that hopefully will. It's just an arbitrary and ridiculous pseudo-requirement that the materialist throws around in order to hedge the fact that reality infinitely surpasses his little sandbox, which he is too scared to depart from. The sandbox of course, is nothing more than good ol' Plato's cave, where all the underdeveloped "thinkers" seem to reside.

Eduardo said...

Spooky = something that can choose it's actions?

Like ... We do?

Oryou mean something that profoundly unpredictable?

Like we are ....

The problem with defining things that way is that they become instinctive and all sorts of holes will show up because we can't always define in words what we feel and think.

For instance to me spooky is what is unknown... Or escapes our every day experience, like a meteor crushing you, that is very spooky.

You might mean spooky as something that haven't yet been contestualized in some system of your choice (aka an explanation that you like), so then the word spooky makes much more sense!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 11:14 AM

Thanks sir!

I love reading and I've read some pieces from maverick philosopher before, excellent stuff! I'll definitely check those out. I also ran a search here and found Feser had made some relevant comments in his series of posts on Rosenburg, Part VIII.

Another Anon said...

The way I see it, "spooky" is something that does not have an explanation.

Eduardo said...

(unrelated folks)

What the heck are we???

The Hacker group Anonymous XD?

Yet Another Anon said...

"What the heck are we???

The Hacker group Anonymous XD?"

I can see at least two explanations. Maybe we are too lazy to come up with nicknames.

Another advantage of being Anonymous is that if we say something disingenuous, stupid or untenable, we can vanish a lot easier without having to respond or take the blame.

Eduardo said...

errr... Are we going back to the what is a explanation exactly???

But I guess materialism would be then: The philosophical position that there are no effects without material causes.

No wait, then we go back to defining what is material...

I think there is a way to define materialism, but using classes doesn't seem to get what I mean, maybe if I define materialism through experiences, something like: Materialism is the belief that whatever event you perceive will be related to some object in the world... No wait this go back to asking what is the world and we go back what is matter question.

Perhaps then, materialism is the belief that we are ONE GIGANTIC Pool Game???

Eduardo said...

Well YAAnon XD(find a name to you!)

LOL this remind of a chracter from a Cartoon I use to see, he would always come out from behind the rocks say something and vaaaaanisssshhh.

Well in all seriousness I really don't mind, I remember posting as anonymous once, the guy got mad that I was anonymous, then I revealed my name and he just ignored my argument ... t_t wasn't not that even that good, the argument.

Anonymous said...

Matter (whatever that word is supposed to mean - other than some ghostly incoherent "substance") according to materialism is not intelligent. Also, according to materialism humans are whole material entities. Those two fundamental claims of materialism render intelligence illusory.


Well, you certainly have proven that you can knock the stuffing out of a straw man.

Anonymous said...

"The way I see it, "spooky" is something that does not have an explanation."

Something that is spooky does not have an explanation.

Thus, something that is not spooky does have an explanation.

Dualism can be explained.

QM can be explained.

Observers can be explained.

Eduardo said...

Errr... he gotta point there.

Maybe the there is something lacking in that definition of materialism. Something metaphysical or epistemological... and no it is not empiricism, we would end up with a contradiction of have not experienced the whole of reality and yet talk about it.

reighley said...

@Eduardo,
"Are we going back to the what is a explanation exactly???"

I do think that one is going to keep cropping up until we stop pretending that the answer is obvious.

Perhaps Anonymous would like to take a crack at defining the term "explanation".

Anyhow I have yet to hear a reasonable definition of "explanation" which could ensure that every phenomenon had one.

So I guess the world is spooky.

seanrobsville said...

@ Anonymous
Yes the PAP is dependent upon a strong version of the Copenhagen interpretation.

seanrobsville said...

"Maybe the there is something lacking in that definition of materialism. Something metaphysical or epistemological..

An alternative way of confronting materialism is to ask what matter does and how it does it, rather than what it is.

If we assume that materialism = mechanism = physicalism = computationalism = workings of a universal Turing machine, then if we can demonstrate the existence of a non-procedural process we have seriously undermined materialism.

The Anglican philosopher J R Lucas has used this kind of argument regarding Godel's theorem: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~jrlucas/mmg.html

Arthur said...

"intelligent but non-physically-based entities like gods and ghosts"
Oh, I see, so "Supernatural" things are the things that are "non-physically-based". We're still on the verbal merry-go-round. You'd understand that if you'd read the article I linked to.

So what are the "non-physically-based" things? Let me guess, they're the "supernatural", "mysterious", "strange", "metaphysical" things that materialists don't like.

Can you see the problem? I ask you about one nebulously-defined term, and you reply with another nebulously-defined term. It may seem as though we're making progress, but actually we're getting nowhere.

Further, if you admit that the word "Spooky" "designates 'things that materialists don't like'", then the whole thing sounds circular. "Materialists reject spooky things" sounds silly enough, but translate this into "Materialists reject the things that materialists don't like" and it sounds even worse.

You've also reinforced another of my preconceptions. I said that "What you're not going to hear is a clear definition (other than an Ostensive one) of any of these important terms." It seems that I was partly right. You mention "entities like gods and ghosts" as an example but don't tell us what these things have in common (other than being "supernatural", not "physical" enough, etc., obviously).

The most substantial part of your definition was to say that "non-spooky" things are "supported by observation". That might be relevant, but it's also deeply question-begging. Thomists, for instance, will tell you that God, too is "supported by observation" of change, the moral law, the continued existence of contingent beings, etc.

What's that? You think those arguments don't work? You're welcome to say so. Indeed, those are the criticisms you should be making instead of throwing around unhelpful terminology like "spooky" or "supernatural" that hides your views rather than justifying them.

Ultimately, you actually seem to agree that "spooky is just a word", but don't seem to see the problem. If "spookiness" were just being thrown around as a bit of verbal flavouring, that'd be fine, but it seems to be the crux of many arguments against so-called "Spooky" things. "That's spooky!" is being presented as a substantial objection, a criterion for Materialist/Naturalists/whatever to use, whereas we both seem to agree that it isn't. It's just a buzzword, a slogan. That's the problem.

Sorry if I sound bitter, but I've had this conversation a few times before and I'm anxious to get to some substantive stuff.

Untenured said...

I believe that the origin of the term "spooky" as a designator for the non-physical originates with Jeffrey Poland. Unless I am mistaken, he first presents it in the context of a discussion about Hempel's Dilemma, the (to my mind cogent) argument that most contempoarary physicalists are defending a vacuous thesis because they either cannot demarcate the physical from the non-physical or because their conception of the physical is overwhelmingly likely to be false.

As this discussion has amply demonstrated, the strategy of trying to answer this argument using "spooky" as a contrast class with "physical" is pretty hopeless.

Principle of Sufficient Reason said...

Did someone say "explanation?"

Eduardo said...

Well, then what is the sufficient reason for an event?

I think we will back at defining what is matter and what is considered spooky.

Although the idea of sufficient does bring something to the table, it apparently starts to connect cause and effect through its characteristcs or something related to them.

Anonymous said...

Well, you certainly have proven that you can knock the stuffing out of a straw man.

It is often the case that when a materialist is shown the logical conclusions of his beliefs, which are obviously absurd, resorts to hiding his discomfort behind the empty label of a straw man accusation.

That's why instead of proving the improvable (materialism and its "alleged" coherence) you resort to complaining. Nothing new really.

Anonymous said...

Untenured,

I believe that the origin of the term "spooky" as a designator for the non-physical originates with Jeffrey Poland. Unless I am mistaken, he first presents it in the context of a discussion about Hempel's Dilemma, the (to my mind cogent) argument that most contempoarary physicalists are defending a vacuous thesis because they either cannot demarcate the physical from the non-physical or because their conception of the physical is overwhelmingly likely to be false.


Do you mind elaborating more on this, please? I am very curious at this critique and what he has to say pertaining to the problems of demarcating the physical from the non-physical. specific examples would also be most welcome!

Anonymous said...

@Arthur: if you want precision, you better leave metaphysics alone and take up mathematics.

The use of physical vs. intentional explanations in different circumstances appears to be hardwired into human cognition. (See this article for instance). So we all know very well what the difference between these two modes of being is and the demands to make it precise is just disingenuousness.

Anonymous said...

The use of physical vs. intentional explanations in different circumstances appears to be hardwired into human cognition.

Correlating various neurological patterns with activities A,B and C respectively is hardly illuminating when dealing with ontological matters and their truthfulness. Claiming otherwise is to commit the genetic fallacy.

In addition, the term "hardwired" is just an instance of materialist bias creeping into philosophy. We are not hardwired, simply because we have no wires. We are living beings with essences, not machines.

Eduardo said...

A precise definition of a concept hardly seems to be something that can only be done with numbers and their relations.

Actually anon you seem to be begging the question, we are talking exactly about modes of being, not our instincts about when there intention and when there isn't.

For instance some metaphysics could simply propose that there intention in all the universe, so a person's mind would slowly get used to think that physical and intentional are tangled together and not separated as seem to assume. Yet the proposition that there is intention in all the universe still needs to be a precise other wise it would be vague and hard to discuss or even impossible to discuss the topic.

Eduardo said...

So are we defining materialim as the mental reaction to certain phenomenas???

Like when I see a rock fall I see no intention and when someone throws a rock at me, I see intention on that?

Hmm I don't know it seems to be epistemologically weird to do that, because if you throw the rock down and hit me in the head, I might just conclude it was an accident and not that there was a actual intention of you to do it, definately it would make no sense to thin like that.

Eduardo said...

So wait... intention is spooky than!

But does that mean I have have intentionally wanted intention to be spooky or is it REALLY spooky???

Gotta stop doing crack man =_=...

Anonymous said...

Correlating various neurological patterns with activities A,B and C respectively is hardly illuminating when dealing with ontological matters and their truthfulness.

On the contrary, it is infinitely more illuminating than the usual ungrounded bullshit that permeates these discussions. As Darwin wrote, "He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke."

In addition, the term "hardwired" is just an instance of materialist bias creeping into philosophy. We are not hardwired, simply because we have no wires. We are living beings with essences, not machines.

"Hardwired" is a metaphor, surely that isn't too difficult a concept to grasp. We have a nervous system with a certain innate structure, which does contain wire-like entities, and "hardwired" refers to the parts of it that appear to be fixed and unchangeable (as opposed to the parts that are learned).

For example, humans are hardwired to perceive red, blue, and green wavelengths of light. Other animals are wired for no color vision, or to perceive ultraviolet (there is a color called "bee purple" that is invisible to humans, and utilized by flowers). This is completely obvious and the mechanisms are well-understood.

That we have hardwiring for concepts like "intentionality" is a subtler matter, harder to detect and an object of current research, although it seems pretty obvious that there is something like that in place. There are many human universals and of course they are implemented as neural machinery.

Eduardo said...

Hard to see why knowing how a baboon works, act or whatever could help ontological questions. Unless you pressupose that answer have a determined structure within the baboon, but the correlation ungrounded, at least in science.

The rest of the comment is irrelevant, people see certain wavelenghts, and these correlate to what usually call color... Does it follow that colors exist, or blue is what it is because of it essence or because of a trick in my brain... It doesn't seem to be the case.

Now about ungrounded stuff, man I can already where we going with this, we gonna end up concluding that what we experience is the way we think it is, and we gonna end with some form of pragmatism to save science's fruits ...

Anonymous said...

"On the contrary, it is infinitely more illuminating than the usual ungrounded bullshit that permeates these discussions. As Darwin wrote, "He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.""

It's plenty grounded, you just don't like it and can't deal with it. Not to mention, Lockean metaphysics is part of the problem to begin with.

So long as you don't deal with the metaphysics, your understanding of the baboon (along with everything else) is always going to be cut short. And if your concern is only pragmatism, not truth, what can I say? Our interests don't intersect.

"This is completely obvious and the mechanisms are well-understood."

Except for, you know, the whole actual "perception" thing.

But once you rule out the vast amount of what neither your methods nor your metaphysics can account for, well, you're doing a bang-up job.

Or are you going to say you eschew all metaphysics? Go ahead, say you're neither a naturalist nor a materialist.

"That we have hardwiring for concepts like "intentionality" is a subtler matter, harder to detect and an object of current research, although it seems pretty obvious that there is something like that in place."

It only seems obvious because those metaphysics you disdain but cannot help but rely on, demand it to be so if it exists... and then you proceed not to think it through much. Once you deal with the very thing spooking you, you start to realize just how hard the problems are. In fact, they maybe unsolveable in principle with your metaphysics, hence the eliminativists and the rest.

Really, we who actually understand the basics of metaphysics are plenty happy to hear about the empirical research being done. More often than not it tends to, intentionally or not, underscore exactly what we're saying.

Anonymous said...

On the contrary, it is infinitely more illuminating than the usual ungrounded bullshit that permeates these discussions. As Darwin wrote, "He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke."

It is worthless for the topic in question. There are physical operations that accompany mental activity. Even pre-scientific thinkers could tell you that. Correlating the two does absolutely nothing to illuminate the subject matter in this discussion. Nor does is help you a single bit in your propagation of materialism. How is it that you don’t see this is beyond me.

I’m not really sure what exactly darwin meant with that quote, but if it is an attack on metaphysics, then I can only laugh at him. If it’s a critique of the problematic metaphysics of Locke then I would agree. Regardless, I don’t really think much of him. He is irrelevant to me as a thinker.


"hardwired" refers to the parts of it that appear to be fixed and unchangeable (as opposed to the parts that are learned).

This is a misappropriation of the term even in its metaphorical sense. We as humans have a specific form, which is dynamic and subject to change. We also have certain capacities to act in certain ways, which we may choose to actualize or not. We have the capacity to see various colors (based on our essential form) and navigate ourselves through the world using sight for example, while other creatures have the capacity to navigate through their environment via different means, such as echo location in bats (a different type of form). Furthermore, the reality of brain plasticity seems to be an instance of experiences influencing and morphing the physical brain, so again, the way you are defining human beings is very problematic.

That we have hardwiring for concepts like "intentionality" is a subtler matter, harder to detect and an object of current research, although it seems pretty obvious that there is something like that in place.

Again, we have the potential to discover intentionality in the world. That is not something anyone in their right mind would contest. The fact that said activity is accompanied by brain activity tells us exactly nothing about the world. Any attempt to discredit intentionality based on this false notion of being hardwired, or even the correct notion of an essential form would be committing the genetic fallacy. As such, all assertions of this sort are invalid.

I don’t know how else to explain this to you.

Anonymous said...

Correction:

We as humans have a specific form, which is dynamic and manifests in numerous ways, which are subject to change.

Another Anon said...

"In the current study we designed vignettes to elicit two different types of conceptual representations: social interaction and mechanical action."

The article certainly looks interesting, and it shows we have different areas of thye brain that percieve patterns that are "mechanical" and patterns that are "intentional." But what does this have to do with explaining intentionality? Saying that "it happens in the brain" doesn't really help. Obviously, mental activies involve brain activity. It's just that explanations involving only material and efficient causes fall flat.

And of course, the Aristotelian would argue that there is goal directedness, or a sort of proto-intentionality at every level of existence.

seanrobsville said...

There is no such thing as matter.
There is no such thing as mind.

There are however physical processes and mental processes.

If you try to find 'matter', what you are left with when you've taken everything apart is a set of ever-changing probability distributions and their interactions, driven by the seething impermanence of random energy fluctuations of quantum emptiness. There is no 'thing' there, just process and change.

Similarly, if you look for the mind, you will never find it. It is a non-physical (ie non-deterministic and non-procedural) process of perpetual change driven by arising and fading intentionality towards its ever-changing objects. Ultimately, there is no 'thing' there, just freedom and emptiness.

Anonymous said...

"If you try to find 'matter', what you are left with when you've taken everything apart is a set of ever-changing probability distributions and their interactions, driven by the seething impermanence of random energy fluctuations of quantum emptiness. There is no 'thing' there, just process and change."

There is neither process nor change without something processing or changing. Likewise, probability distributions describe something. Even Berkeleyan idealism is a something.

"ltimately, there is no 'thing' there, just freedom and emptiness."

Freedom without a thing is nonexistent. If emptiness is something other than nothingness, there's something there.

The source of change, even for quantum energy fluctuations, is an open question.

seanrobsville said...

@Anon
No permanent 'thing' can function, for to function it must change and in so doing must itself undergo change.




Anonymous said...

"No permanent 'thing' can function, for to function it must change and in so doing must itself undergo change."

There's still a thing, even if it's a changing thing. You simply cannot have change without a thing. Even a series of discrete things is still a series of discrete things.

Anyway, you can get pretty far with there being no such thing as matter. Sure, okay, there's George Berkeley with some interesting arguments. There's still something, it's just not matter.

seanrobsville said...

'There's still a thing, even if it's a changing thing'
That's what they used to believe about the luminiferous ether.

Untenured said...

"On the contrary, it is infinitely more illuminating than the usual ungrounded bullshit that permeates these discussions. As Darwin wrote, "He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke."

Sounds plausible to me. I mean, who is more likely to unravel the problem of universals, diachronic identity, the nature of modality and the realism anti-realism debate than the primatologists?

Untenured said...

And if you don't mind, could please send me links to some of Jane Goodall or David Attenbourough's groundbreaking work on, say, personal identity or the indiscernability of identicals?

Or maybe you just really like that Darwin quote and wanted to through it at us and you weren't exactly paying close attention to whether it made a whole hell of a lot of sense in this context?

E.R. Bourne said...

Actually, to a certain degree, Anon's Darwin quotation is correct. The man who seriously attempts to understand nature would do well to go out into the world and study actual natural things like animals.

The problem, though, is that this does nothing to show that philosophy or metaphysics are in any way "ungrounded." In fact, it demonstrates the complete opposite. The bent of Aristotle's mind, for instance, was toward the examination of the natural world, and he was a meticulous observer of the living and non-living things around him. If he were alive today, you would be more likely to find him a comparative zoologist rather than a "philosopher" in the modern sense of the term.

That many people find metaphysics "ungrounded" probably stems from the fact that they have usually entered into the conversation in the middle and not at the beginning. It also definitely has to do with modern philosophy, whose most prominent representatives did think that true philosophy could be done in seclusion from the outside world. Kant was a scientist for most of his life, but when he decided to write the Critiques, he became a recluse. Moreover, Descartes is perhaps the stereotypical example of rejecting sense data for the sake of practicing true "philosophy."

None of this, though should be confused with the broader philosophical tradition which, rather than rejecting study of the world, sees engagement with it to be the crucial starting point to actual philosophy. And Aristotelians or Thomists are not spouting off "ungrounded" arguments merely because they do not believe that materialism is just obviously supported by hard science. It is not.

Anonymous said...

Untenured,

Can you answer my question at:

December 21, 2012 3:05 PM

?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

seanrobsville,

This is what happens when you try to turn an irrational belief/religion into something that is not. Buddhism was never meant to be a rational worldview in the Western sense of the word.

What you are essentially claiming is that nothing actually does something and that nothings actually have freedom. These claims, while important and central to Buddhism, make absolutely no logical sense. The quantum vacuum furthermore, is not nothing but a something with a structure and potentialities. Nor is it correct to claim that a permanent something must necessarily require its essential nature to be changed in order to act. That is simply false.

seanrobsville said...

@ Anon

'Things' are snapshots of processes. The rosebud, the rose and the rosehip are the mind taking a snapshot of a process. Where exactly does bud end and flower begin, and flower end and hip begin?

Arthur said...

"if you want precision, you better leave metaphysics alone and take up mathematics."

I don't think I'm being unreasonable in my request for more clarity, Anon. If someone tells me that God is "supernatural", and that "supernatural" things don't exist, and even seem to be using what is and isn't "supernatural" as an epistemelogical criterion to dismiss whole groups of things, then "What does 'supernatural' mean?" seems like a reasonable question.

In response to that question, it does no good to tell me that I'm being disingenuous and asking for too much precision. ('Oh, you sceptics, always wanting to know what we mean! You're just asking for too much precision!') These are crucial terms in Materialist reasoning, and your failure to describe them in any meaningful way is a pretty serious problem. If you can't see that problem, too bad; most of us can.

You just seem to be making excuses. I've helped you realize that terms like "Supernatural", "Material", "Spooky", etc. don't mean anything substantial, but rather than abandon them you've just decided to embrace their flimsiness.

Eduardo said...

Or processes are just state of things!

reighley said...

@Anonymous,
"So we all know very well what the difference between these two modes of being is and the demands to make it precise is just disingenuousness."

This statement upsets me very much. I hope you will forgive me for not taking you seriously.

Anonymous said...

@seanrobsville

Processes are what things do. Blossoming in the case of the rose, is what the flower does.

DNW said...

Feser's points regarding the sidestepping and hand waving (my characterizations despite his having used the latter term) contained in the review, were well and forcefully stated.

As has also been mentioned here many times before, the conceits of the most modern practitioners of the philosophy of science hardly matter when legions of reductionists still professing fealty to supposedly now surpassed materialist doctrines, are frenziedly operating in the public spaces and daily using the "outmoded" predicates in the buttressing of their public policy arguments.


Interesting to see also from the comments of Eduardo and others, that the definitional questions posed to strict materialists as to just what matter or material reality are, keep recurring - and always without genuine resolution.

It leads one to suspect that naturalism actually reduces in practice to only slightly veiled forms of more old fashioned and overtly shrugging kinds of empiricism or pragmatism: The kinds that simply rule questions about the "actual" or real nature of ... what? "things"? out of court; in favor generally of what is manipulable. Thus, "Everything per definition is matter, and nothing is not", or "It's not interesting", or "I don't care", would seem to be the more honest if less politic replies.

In this then, one can see some structural parallels between the core attitudes of progressive managerial politics and the naturalism that so often ( and somewhat puzzlingly) goes hand in hand with it. You might, as many others have previously done, sum it up with the operative phrase: "I don't care what 'it' really is; I'm only interested in gaining the power to shape it according to my tastes."

That makes a kind of sense then ... in so far as the taster himself can be said to have enough coherence and identity to "have" tastes in some sort of possessive form, which, apparently, presupposes or imagines a coherent possessor despite the system's underlying reductionism.

Of course, forthrightly reducing the reducer makes the groundings of the social and interpersonal claims of the now reduced-reducer somewhat more problematical. People habituated to old ways of thinking are likely to start asking, "In the name of, or for the sake of exactly what again?"

But then that worry over what, if anything, identifiable is doing the tasting or manipulating or demanding, arises only when the rule that prohibits these kinds of marginal questions being posed, is violated in the first place.

A smoothly operating society, would not allow these kinds of question to arise to cause such trouble.


By the way and speaking of trouble, can any Anonymous explain why it's too much trouble to come up with an identifying tag? Certainly no one can trace you back to your house in order to mock you.

Feser doesn't even require an e-mail.

seanrobsville said...

@Anon
"Processes are what things do. Blossoming in the case of the rose, is what the flower does."

One could equally argue that things are arbitrary stages that processes pass through. The earlier stage of the blossoming rose was a little brown hairy thing that fell out of a rosehip.

The fact that phenomena can be interpreted in these two different ways suggests that the mind of the observer is doing a lot of work behind the scenes.

It's reminiscent of the arbitrariness of the wave (process) versus particle (thing)duality.

Anonymous said...

who is more likely to unravel the problem of universals, diachronic identity, the nature of modality and the realism anti-realism debate than the primatologists?

What Darwin and naturalism do is replace those unanswerable problems with answerable ones. So, rather than spinning around in the same circles endlessly, we actually know more now (eg) the neural basis of human cognition than we did 50 years ago, and will know more 50 years hence.

The example I gave is a good one, I think. The fact that our nervous system seems to have dualism built in does not say anything definitive about whether metaphysical dualism is true or false. But it certainly gives a fresh perspective on the question. To me, it suggests that all of our conceptual schemes are pragmatic responses to the need to survive, rather than images of absolute truth, and we would do well to not confuse any of our thoughts with the ultimate nature of reality.

Arthur said...

"What Darwin and naturalism do is replace those unanswerable problems with answerable ones."

That sounds like suspiciously like saying, "What Darwin and naturalism do is change the question without acknowledging it". You're welcome to ignore questions you're not interested in and focus on others, but just "replacing" one question with another sounds like trickery to me.

Another Anon said...

"The example I gave is a good one, I think. The fact that our nervous system seems to have dualism built in does not say anything definitive about whether metaphysical dualism is true or false."

What's your definition of dualism? The line about dualism being "built in" just screams property dualism.

The point Feser et al are arguing is that materialist interpretations of the data both now and 50 years into the future will fall flat.

Eduardo said...

So the idea is to not answer the question but to replace it for a different question that you believe or you know you can answer! Brilliant! why the heck didn't I thought of that? Oh yeah because it is not answering the question it is simply replacing it, is like a magic TRICK!

Well this makes no sense, yeah we know more because we went on opened a guy's head looked inside, then we invented the microscope, and then we connected a computer to it and invented all sorts of gadgets to get data from neural systems, we then interpreted the data according to some preconceived idea we have in our pragmatic brains which could simply mean that we are tricking ourselfs into believing we know more today then yesterday, just because the human brain has a pragmatic desire to survival, which include the belief of progress which for all you know is not true. Causes of the mechanisms start in metaphysics, actually all sorts of cool questions that my pragmatic desire to survival brain can and most likely start in phylosophy and metaphysics! Which makes Bourne's point quite true I think(read I desire to survive by agreeing because I fear for my life, or rather my brain fear that the meaningless and illusory concept of life in my head may stop existing!).

Thanks, we will simply ignore your comments since they are just your pragmatic desire for survival, who seems to be quite fucked up to the point it just prefers to deny any knowledge of objective truth or to discuss anything that doesn't feel good with it. Second you knew the brain had "dualism" because it acted different depending on the stimulus???
Well my pragmatic desire to survival tells me to reject such notions since they don't sit well with the number of rules and principles I created in my head.

Thank you very much sir, and Have a Good day n_n!

And Merry Christimas, and have a pragmatic desire to survival during the festivities!

Arthur said...

Somehow the more I listen to Materialists, the less I'm impressed by their ideas. First I talk to Anonymous, who pretty much admits to using a bunch of buzzwords, but still doesn't see the problem. ("Spooky" is "just a word", you see. It's not supposed to mean anything substantial.) Now we have Anonymous (not sure if it's the same one) openly claiming to "replace" questions with other questions.

It's one thing for someone to accuse their opponents of "replacing" one question with another or using empty buzzwords, but when Materialists themselves are comfortable declaring this, something has gone badly wrong.

reighley said...

@Anonymous,
"To me, it suggests that all of our conceptual schemes are pragmatic responses to the need to survive, rather than images of absolute truth, and we would do well to not confuse any of our thoughts with the ultimate nature of reality"

I admit to certain grudging admiration to the way in which this horrible, horrible argument was constructed. Whereas some would form their antecedents by saying "Suppose" or even "Given", you write "To me". Whereas some would conclude their arguments with "Therefore", you write "we would do well".
There are two problems with presenting an argument this way. The first is that it violates a local convention as pertains to logical rigor. We would like it if you started from premises we all agreed on, made an effort to establish the definition of the terms you use and stick to the conventions of logical reasoning. Everybody knows what to do with a "Assume->Therefore". If you hand me a "To Me->We Would Do Well" I have trouble figuring out what you are saying.
The second problem with the argument is that it is false on its own merits. I assert that (a) some things are real, and some statements are true. (b) There is some hope of finding those things out. Furthermore, I think that denying either of those things reduces the long run survival prospects for the population doing the denying, and that it would be best for everybody if we committed ourselves to some sort of realism with respect to our metaphysics.
You should be able to convince yourself of the first couple clauses by assuming the opposite and deriving a sort of contradiction. That last part you are just going to have to trust your gut on : I really do not understand how you expect to make arguments that are subjective and dependent on the survival of the arguers progeny.

Eduardo said...

Man I laughing so hard here, hahahahahha

XD.

This is gold, I am telling you, this is gold, this is the type of comedy all humans can relate to XD.

Eduardo said...

Okay look... let me explain to all of you what Anon meant.

*To know nature/reality/exterior world is to do Science.

*Philosophers have tried to understand the world for centuries.

*There were very few results of this search in terms of technology.

*After search of nature shifted towards naturalism there was a boom in technology.

*Therefore Naturalism did way more in terms of technology then any other philosophical school!

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

The argument is still bad, but at least is not glorifying our salvior... Darwin, may his name be praised... and it doesn't have TO ME and WE WOULD DO WELL!

There ya go, let's pretend that is what Anon said and bring sanity back to this chamber.

Eduardo said...

you know... we shall not use the name of Darwin in vain...

Sorry U_U I just have to do this joke.

Anonymous said...

@reighley:
I admit to certain grudging admiration to the way in which this horrible, horrible argument was constructed.

Well, it wasn’t exactly an argument, so if you read it as one you are bound to be disappointed despite your grudging admiration.

The first is that it violates a local convention as pertains to logical rigor

That is a laugh. I’ve done graduate-level work in mathematics, so I think I know what logical rigor looks like. The arguments here have the form of logic but none of the content, since the concepts are all ill-defined and rest on various unexamined intuitions.

Not to mention that about half of the “arguments” are something like “go read 1000 pages of Aquinas and maybe you’ll understand”, in which even the form of logic has gone out the window.

Anyway, my statement was a considered opinion based on some facts that I introduced earlier, rather than a piece of fake logic. It uses English, not some sort of bastardized formalism. If it’s not enough of an argument for you, you’ll have to get one somewhere else.

Furthermore, I think that denying either of those things reduces the long run survival prospects for the population doing the denying, and that it would be best for everybody if we committed ourselves to some sort of realism with respect to our metaphysics.

Um, you do realize that you are taking a classical pragmatist/Darwinian viewpoint here? Which is fine by me, but you seem to be undermining your own naive version of realism.

Eduardo said...

"...you’ll have to get one somewhere else."

True True.

Eduardo said...

Actually Anon, Reighley was trying to show that denying those two propositions would most likely kill a lot of people. He is not undermining anything XD, do you think only ONE type of philosophy will prosose a certain thing ??? Well that doesn't seem to be true, unless you suppose every conclusion can only steam from one path of reasoning, which is most likely wrong, and you know that being a mathematician.

Well you are of course right that we are not formal, but your argument was very bad, still, if it was never meant to be an argument; then well let me let you into something. It could be interpreted as one! So we replied to that what it looks like to be a critique or an argument, much like we answer Sean's statements, but the difference is that Sean tries to clarifies his position; you Anon seem a-Okay with presenting shitty statements that are internally incoherent and get's defensive that we attacked it.

I mean there is NO social contract among us and you are not obligated to meet any criteria to say whatever you want, but the same goes for us, we can critique whatever you say, that is the cool thing about debates, if you came to offer nothing but assertions and not understand the questions being discussed... well ...

Eduardo said...

"...since the concepts are all ill-defined and rest on various unexamined intuitions."

Well the first proposition seems to be somewhat true, but people does seem to argue for their definition by pointing you to a book where someone can write pages and pages about the subject, so the fact that you complaim about ill-definition and people pointing at a book the has the definition that you want doesn't make any sense unless of course you didn't really cared about the question in the beginning XD

Now the second is straight bullshit, I am sorry, I am pretty certain you removed that one out of ass to bring to this world XD. Even though people discuss metaphysics all the time (I think that is what you mean by intuition...) pretty much shows that it is not unexamined. Actually I bet you have concluded that just because you READ YOUR METAPHYSICS into the science you read and go like "OH! it is so obviously this way!!! all other possibilities are wrong!!!", it is a very typical move with people that understand nothing of metaphysics, and suppose you can't discuss it in any objective sense, which is also very common.

Arthur said...

The arguments here have the form of logic but none of the content, since the concepts are all ill-defined and rest on various unexamined intuitions.

Funny, that's exactly what I'd say about Materialism, too.

Anyway, care to tell us about a few of these "ill-defined" concepts and "unexamined intuitions"?

Eduardo said...

"...naive version of realism."

Coming from the person which just stated that our ideas are just pragmatic desires for survival...


Another Anon said...

"That is a laugh. I’ve done graduate-level work in mathematics, so I think I know what logical rigor looks like. The arguments here have the form of logic but none of the content, since the concepts are all ill-defined and rest on various unexamined intuitions.

Not to mention that about half of the “arguments” are something like “go read 1000 pages of Aquinas and maybe you’ll understand”, in which even the form of logic has gone out the window."

Citation needed. If you have an issue, give us something to work with.

Eduardo said...

"The arguments here have the form of logic but none of the content"

I thought logic was all about the method or form of how we lay out an argument... content? If you do a argument from Deduction you have used the content of logic, if premise 1 was wrong, you are using something else, you know metaphysics, epistemology, you know THE REST of philosophy and it's outcome or whatever other system you want to use.

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

@Anonymous:

"I’ve done graduate-level work in mathematics, so I think I know what logical rigor looks like. The arguments here have the form of logic but none of the content, since the concepts are all ill-defined and rest on various unexamined intuitions."

So do I; I can smell a bullshitter a mile away and you stink.

Eduardo said...

I was wondering when Grodrigues was going to show up and kill someone with math.

reighley said...

@Anonymous,

"That is a laugh. I’ve done graduate-level work in mathematics, so I think I know what logical rigor looks like."

I wouldn't have wasted my time writing that if I wasn't absolutely sure you knew what logical rigor looked like. I just think you should be using some more of it.

"Anyway, my statement was a considered opinion based on some facts that I introduced earlier, rather than a piece of fake logic. It uses English, not some sort of bastardized formalism. If it’s not enough of an argument for you, you’ll have to get one somewhere else."

I do not know if you are acquainted at all with the medievals, but shooting your mouth off to a bunch of scholastics and then not being interested in formalistic arguments about basic terms is a little bit like stepping into a boxing ring and announcing that you don't see the point of all this punching. To quote Monty Python "I came here for an argument".

"Um, you do realize that you are taking a classical pragmatist/Darwinian viewpoint here? Which is fine by me, but you seem to be undermining your own naive version of realism."

I do so realize, and whatever it may seem, it does not undermine my position in the slightest.

I tried to make a case for "my own naive version of realism" not only by introducing the argument that convinces me, but also by trying my hand at an argument that might convince you. Which is to say that nobody will be impressed to learn that pragmatism fails on realist grounds, but you should note that it also fails on pragmatic grounds. The idea is not only incorrect, it is bad for you.

Now I don't know how far I can get with that kind of an argument because I am not at all a pragmatist but at least I am willing to try. If you want to convince anybody of anything ever you must engage them on their own terms. To do otherwise is just bad form.

Eduardo said...

" If you want to convince anybody of anything ever you must engage them on their own terms. To do otherwise is just bad form"

That is going to stick behind a Truck XD.

Anonymous said...

I do not know if you are acquainted at all with the medievals, but shooting your mouth off to a bunch of scholastics and then not being interested in formalistic arguments about basic terms is a little bit like stepping into a boxing ring and announcing that you don't see the point of all this punching. To quote Monty Python "I came here for an argument"

In one breath you claim to be interested primarily in truth with a capital T, in the next (above) you seem more concerned with the rules of some sterile game. Pick one, because I don’t think they are very compatible.

Anonymous said...

"Pick one, because I don’t think they are very compatible."

How so?

Another Anon said...

Less kind is the remark that “as far as an attack that might concern evolutionists, they will feel, to borrow the fine phrase of former British minister, Dennis Healey, as if they had been savaged by a sheep."

^I guess now we know what that feels like.

Black Luster said...

We evolved to differentiate between mechanical and intentional patterns.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBJZwYpHUBo

Eduardo said...

My teacher told me we evolved to only analise analytical equations in science. Maybe that is some mechanical intention in a scientist head.

reighley said...

@Anonymous,
"In one breath you claim to be interested primarily in truth with a capital T, in the next (above) you seem more concerned with the rules of some sterile game. Pick one, because I don’t think they are very compatible."

I am very sorry to have confused you. At the risk of boring you allow me to briefly summarize my position.

(1) pragmatism is false and also bad for you.

(2) naturalism is false and also in contradiction with experiment.

(3) some statements are true universally.

(4) the best reasoning is the most precise.

(5) a commitment to formally correct reasoning and a belief in a real world are not only compatible but logically entail one another.

(5) your exposition leaves something to be desired.

Eduardo said...

I dunno why... but this anon, I feel like I have seen him before or at least someone very similar to him.

seanrobsville said...

Maybe we should dispense with the term 'materialism', because it can only be adequately defined when we have an acceptable definition of matter as a thing in itself, devoid of any (spooky?) mental involvement. Since this requires us to know what matter is as a noumenon, we aren't going to get there before Christmas.

Perhaps a more productive approach is to use the word 'physicalism', which is concerned with describing and predicting the phenomenal behavior of systems in terms of mathematical and logical algorithms.

If physicalism is universally true, then all phenomena (no matter what their fundamental nature may be) are isomorphic with mechanistic algorithms and can thus in priciple be simulated by the activities of a universal Turing machine.

If physicalism is not universally true, then there must exist at least one phenomenon that cannot even in principle be reduced to mechanistic algorithms.

This denial of physicalism is sometimes known as ontological mysterianism.

Arthur said...

@SeanRobsville:

Hey hey, a meaningful definition of basic terms! See, guys, it's not so hard.

I slightly baulk at the alternative to Physicalism being "Ontological Mysterianism", though. Is mystery really the only alternative to "mathematical and logical algorithms"? I'm sure Physicalists would like to think so.

seanrobsville said...

@ Arthur

Is mystery really the only alternative to "mathematical and logical algorithms"?

Yes, I'm afraid so. Because if you could explain in a stepwise logical manner how it worked, it would be algorithmic.

Non-algorithmic = unexplainable mysterianism

Another Anon said...

sean,

"Yes, I'm afraid so. Because if you could explain in a stepwise logical manner how it worked, it would be algorithmic."

Would you say that we have the means to objectively find out what the patterns are? Also, I'm pretty sure that physicalism is the idea that everything can be described in terms of matter and energy, whether or not the process follows a pattern.

Aside: Though without something like final causality, we run into Hume's problem. We see that A causes B on a regular basis, but it is a mystery as to why the correlation exists.

seanrobsville said...

I'm pretty sure that physicalism is the idea that everything can be described in terms of matter and energy, whether or not the process follows a pattern.

This basically is just another form of vague materialism.

Physicalism nowadays is usually coupled with the Church–Turing–Deutsch principle, which states that a universal computing device can simulate every physical process. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church-Turing-Deutsch_principle

Anonymous said...

@seanrobsville,
"the Church–Turing–Deutsch principle, which states that a universal computing device can simulate every physical process."

Care to take a swing at the definition of "simulate"?

It's easy to imagine that there are physical processes which can be approximated very closely by an algorithm, but never computed exactly. Most of the phenomenon described by classical mechanics are like that.

Just because something is described by a differential equation of a particular form doesn't mean your computer can handle it (it might be non-linear).

That said, many body problems or turbulent flow don't seem particularly "mysterious", or even non-physical.

I've said it before but trying to extend the Church-Turing thesis to the whole universe seems very foolhardy. I can buy C-T, but C-T-D has never made sense to me.

Of course, a large part of my objection to physicalism is that it resists definition. That said I agree with Arthur, we must try! Any thoughts on what constitutes an "explanation"?

reighley said...

oh wait,
that last @Anonymous was me:

reighley

forgot to fill in my name

Anonymous said...

One could equally argue that things are arbitrary stages that processes pass through. The earlier stage of the blossoming rose was a little brown hairy thing that fell out of a rosehip.

Of course, one could even argue anything they want. I just don't think this attempt to substantialize process - an abstraction - makes much sense. The way I see it, process always presupposes substance so even if one were to invert the relationship, the presupposition of substance or the substantialization of something would still be present.

seanrobsville said...

Simulation implies prediction.

An effective computational simulation of a real-world system is one that, given a set of input values, will predict output values within some arbitrary limits of accuracy deemed 'useful' or 'acceptable'.


Explanation requires the ability to lead the enquirer through a chain of effects assigned to their causes by mathematical or logical statements. The most exhaustive version of an explanation would be a high-level listing of the program running the simulation.

Hence systems that can't be simulated can't be explained.

seanrobsville said...

The way I see it, process always presupposes substance so even if one were to invert the relationship, the presupposition of substance or the substantialization of something would still be present.

But what if the process were non-physical?

Anonymous said...

@anon


What Darwin and naturalism do is replace those unanswerable problems with answerable ones.

That is simply wrong. Naturalism is simply to limited and pathetic to answer these questions, so naturalists simply ignore them. Furthermore, metaphysical questions are not unanswerable. There are plenty of answers available for people open-minded enough to accept them. In addition, science cannot function with metaphysics. People who claim otherwise are just deluded. Try and do science without causality and identity and then come and tell me if it works. ;-)





So, rather than spinning around in the same circles endlessly, we actually know more now (eg) the neural basis of human cognition than we did 50 years ago, and will know more 50 years hence. 



We know more now in the field of neuroscience. But the examples you provide provide us with exactly zero knowledge to tackle the questions at hand. I told you this before and I say this to you again.


The example I gave is a good one, I think.

No, it isn’t. It’s irrelevant.


The fact that our nervous system seems to have dualism built in does not say anything definitive about whether metaphysical dualism is true or false.

That’s what I have been telling you all along.

But it certainly gives a fresh perspective on the question.

No, it doesn’t because it simply does not address it in the first place.


To me, it suggests that all of our conceptual schemes are pragmatic responses to the need to survive, rather than images of absolute truth, and we would do well to not confuse any of our thoughts with the ultimate nature of reality.

This is not a result of neuroscientific research and fMRI scans. This is simply the darwinian and pragmatic doctrines masquerading as neuroscience.

Finally, in an attempt to refute what you’ve been saying in its totality, I shall ask you this: Does the above statement assist you in survival? In other words, whether you come to that realization and even more so, state it on an online blog, does that do anything for your survival? No, it doesn’t. So by your pragmatic-meets-darwinist standards, what you said is invalid.

Anonymous said...

@reighley

(2) naturalism is false and also in contradiction with experiment.

Can you provide a few of these examples?


*This is not the materialist anon. This is the other anon that is arguing with the materialist anon.

Eduardo said...

lol, this is starting to get really confused XD.

seanrobsville said...

'Naturalism' is another term that is so vague and all-encompassing as to be almost useless.

Are qualia natural?
Is intentionality natural?
Is free-will natural?

Eduardo said...

hahahha I agree with Sean to throw away the use of Materialism and Naturalism.

I think the problem is that their definitions involve eliminating certain phenomenas of reality, so it get's really hard to create a rule that eliminates ghosts let's say. If we knew all about ghosts then we might find a difference between ghosts and other things, but of course if we know everything about ghosts then either we invented or it exists and we studied it XD. So both choices aren't exactly great for any of these schools of thought because one refutes it and the other is just pure especulation which send us in a eternal search for a definition that is based somehow in experience.

seanrobsville said...

How about 'Mechanistic Reductionism'?
Where...
Mechanistic reductionism is the belief that all phenomena (including the human mind) can in principle be simulated by, and explained in terms of algorithmic models running on general purpose computing machines.

Anonymous said...

Guys,

Instead of wrecking your minds to come up with definitions of the epitome of absurdity (materialism/naturalism), let its adherents do the work.

;-)

Eduardo said...

That ... could work.

Yeah I think that could define rather well, the only thing left is either to choose between two things:

1 = We mean that a physical computer can simulate any phenomena that exists

2 = We mean that our idea of how a computer works can simulate any phenomena that exists.

I think the primary difference is just that one has to involve experiments and the other just involves theoretical thinking.

Eduardo said...

Smiley Anon (keep using so I know it is you XD)

I understand it, and I obviously see why we should let THEM do this. But I learned something with internet debates/talks: U_U Don't let your adversary do any type of inference, it just gives them more chance to be: assholes, be more vague, use red herrings, attack you... so on and so on.

Unless of course you happen to be talking to someone that is sincerely interested in the talk and not just to propagandize their view; if this is the case then of course we should just let the adversary do his thing as you do yours since every time one of you talk, both of you gain.

But let's face it, this is not the situation right now XD.

seanrobsville said...

I used the term 'general purpose computing machines' to try to include both the theoretical (a universal Turing machine) and the practical (stored program computers as actually constructed).

Eduardo said...

Oh well, if you mean to include both then I think this could work as definition.

seanrobsville said...

If we've put up a strawman let the materialists/naturalists,physicalists/reductionists etc explain exactly why it is a strawman

Eduardo said...

At worst case scenario, they will simply say that we are just creating strawmen and the real definition is that it has no definition ò_Ó.

At least the strawman is beautifully defined XD.

reighley said...

@seanrobsville,

I think both of these definitions are very good ones.

I hope you have realized that your definition of simulation leaves a large grey area between the easily predictable phenomenon and the purely mystical ones which (we suppose) obey no physical laws.

In particular chaotic phenomenon will very quickly break out of any error bars you might set for it.

I can also imagine that there would be phenomenon which obey definite physical constraints, which are known, but for which the constraint yields a non unique solution.

I would actually prefer such a scheme actually. Rather than making a hard dichotomy between "physical" phenomenon "non-physical" we could posit a continuous spectrum.

Objects of high quantum number, composed mostly of fermions, traveling at nonrelativistic speeds in free space could be described as "very physical".

Visions of the divine presence could be "not very physical".

I wonder if some sort of information measure could be coopted to measure the physicalness of a phenomenon. Take that idea about physical laws being Turing computable programs and then measure the information in the expression of the program itself.

@Anonymous,
The experiment I was thinking of when I wrote that naturalism is in contradiction with experiment is the continuing effort to actually identify what the laws of nature might be.

Naturalism requires that they exist, and that nothing unaffected by them exists.

Nonetheless every effort to compose a comprehensive list of natural laws has discovered holes. Furthermore the form that these laws take is subject to artifacts resulting from the constraint that a repeatable experiment must be performed. So proposed physical laws must have a space/time translation symmetry simply because the experiment needs to be performed later, elsewhere. The demands of measurement mean that cause must be proportional to effect, which means that physical laws tend to be continuous and usually linear somehow. This does not need to come from nature, only from the methodological constraints.

The reason for the constant appearance of discrepancies in the body of physical laws is that these constraints tend to produce laws which are very accurate in circumstances close to the experimenter but gradually diverge as circumstances vary.

I think the sensible thing to conclude from our scientific efforts is that anything that might answer to the term "natural law" is either an approximation of reality or is unknowable by human beings. The first case concedes that, for any natural law, things violating it exist. The second case is just mysticism by another name.

Anonymous said...

Are qualia natural?
Is intentionality natural?
Is free-will natural?


Sure, insofar as they designate anything real and well-defined. Why shouldn’t they be?

Are you asserting that qualia, intentionality, and free-will are supernatural?

Eduardo said...

Anon, Sean means:

Are any of these Natural as Naturalism defines Natural?

Eduardo said...

I think as Naturalism would tend to define Natural... they would say none of those are natural and therefore non-existent.

dover_beach said...

Sure, insofar as they designate anything real and well-defined. Why shouldn’t they be?

Are you asserting that qualia, intentionality, and free-will are supernatural?


Does one have to begin at the beginning on every single thread?

Eduardo said...

Yeah, we have to hahahahah

Now if you mean you have to read from the first comment.... Wellll dunno not really. You should just read from the end to the beginning hahaha.

reighley said...

Naturalism seems a little easier to define. I think it refers to the doctrine that everything that is abides by rules (natural laws). Like the definition of physical it can be made strong or weak by choice of what constitutes a "law".

If we don't require that the rule be somehow accessible to human minds, then naturalism seems to me to be almost trivially true. Sean likes to require that the laws be Turing computable, which is probably a bit too strong to be true (which is why Sean is not a naturalist).

I'm sure qualia and intentionality obey some sort of rules even though we don't discuss much what they might be. Free will seems to explicitly deny rules (or at least rules of a certain kind?). That is also a tricky one to define.

Anybody interested in submitting a definition of "free will" to the Ed Feser Combox Dictionary of Philosophy?

seanrobsville said...

How about...

Free will is the construction of two or more alternative inexistent scenarios, one of which is then selected on the basis of its associated qualia, rather than its projected consequences.


So all we need to do is describe the mechanisms of operation of intentionality and qualia, and we have produced a completely deterministic explanation for free will.

Anonymous said...

@reighley

Thanks for the analysis of natural law. It was very interesting.

Anonymous said...

@Reighley


The reason for the constant appearance of discrepancies in the body of physical laws is that these constraints tend to produce laws which are very accurate in circumstances close to the experimenter but gradually diverge as circumstances vary.

Do you have any specific examples where experiment has lead to discrepancies in measurements? Or an articles on the topic? If you don't have anything readily available, no worries.

reighley said...

@Anonymous,

"Do you have any specific examples where experiment has lead to discrepancies in measurements? Or an articles on the topic?"

Articles, no. That exposition was my own private argument for caution in the face of "natural law". It is the angst that comes from watching someone expand a Taylor series and then lop off the high order terms because they are "small".

As for experimental discrepancies, you should not have to look far for examples. The most well known one at present is the phenomenon that goes by the name "dark energy". I like the anomalous magnetic moments personally.

The history of science is actually a series of experimental failures. Nothing new is learned if an experiment works as expected. There is also a certain comic hubris to the whole enterprise, because every once in while somebody will go on the record with the opinion that physics is nearly done.

I'm sure that some sort of explanation will be found for both dark energy and the anomalous magnetic moments (and neutrino oscillation, and um gravity etc.) The point is that we have been doing this for a couple of centuries now and we know the outcome. There are anomalies under our anomalies. Our theories may become arbitrarily precise approximations but they are unlikely to give us an exact account of nature, free from question marks.

But what did we expect? We are constantly ignoring the tail of some power series because it is too small to measure.

Anonymous said...

Sure, insofar as they designate anything real and well-defined. Why shouldn’t they be?

They are not naturalistic because naturalism simply cannot account for them. Intentionality, qualia and free will are denied and considered illusory by naturalism. Of course, naturalists being unable to live up to their beliefs continue to act and pretend that these things are in fact real.

So no, naturalism cannot sustain qualia, intentionality and free will.

Also, just because something can be well defined that does not mean it's real and natural. Unicorns and Cartesia demons can both be well defined yet neither is real or natural.

You fail miserably in providing a coherent definition of naturalism (no surprise there) and now you're retreating back to the ridiculous claim that just because something can be defined it is therefore part of a naturalistic worldview.

grodrigues said...

@reighley:

"It is the angst that comes from watching someone expand a Taylor series and then lop off the high order terms because they are "small"."

If the series converges (the function is analytic) the higher order terms *are* small and you can control the error term.

On the other hand, if physicists do that on a daily basis on divergent series and then invoke obscure tricks and give them high-falutin labels like "renormalization", you should go heckle them...

(runs away from a crowd of angry physicists with pitchforks)

Eduardo said...

Grodrigues is correct XD.

But we gotta analyse a physics book, especially one of mathematical physics to know what they are up to.
The standard physics book treats more simple problems so it might not be enough to conclude anything.

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