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UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 03:06 PM
EDIT: please don't derail this thread by attacking Gould's version of NOMA instead of the one presented, or by making some sort of generalised argument as to why NOMA can't work before you've bothered to try to work out whether this one works.

Stephen Jay Gould tried to make peace between science and religion by claiming they were non-overlapping magisteria ("teaching authorities.") I think he had the right idea but implemented it wrongly. He basically assigned ethics and "meaning" to religion and factual claims about reality to science. There are several fatal problems with this scheme. The first is that ethics needs to be consensual (we have to make laws about things like abortion) and secular people won't accept that ethics be left in the hands of religion. Surely it would be better placed in the hands of philosophers... The second is that Gould's version of religion is materialistic - it is religion stripped of all mysticism and miracles - and therefore effectively unrecognisable to either side. Thirdly, when you take into account the problems in philosophy of science raised by Hume's arguments about induction and Kuhn's paradigms and the problems raised by people like Wittgenstein and Rorty about subjects like metaphysics and language then you are forced to accept a Popperian account of scientific truth as "justified belief" rather than "Truth."

So Gould's NOMA doesn't work. I'm trying to develop a different version. Same basic idea, different means of demarcation.

Whatever else we might think science, religion and philosophy are, they can be considered as forms of communication which operate in the context of certain sets of assumptions and rules - families of what Wittgenstein called “language games”.

In terms of this redefinition of NOMA, the key distinction is not what the statements are about but the means by which they justify, or attempt to justify, beliefs.

For example:

Geologist: “The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.”

Young-Earth Creationist: “The Earth is about 6000 years old.”

These are both examples what Dawkins calls “existence claims”, in this case claims about the history of a specific physical object. Both of them, for different reasons, ought to be qualified with “I believe that…” This is not supposed to imply that they are equal – that geology is “just another belief system” which is no better than young earth creationism. When I say “belief” I do not mean faith. “Faith” is a specific sort of belief – belief in something despite the absence of any scientific or rational justification for doing so, as epitomised by Abraham. Beliefs which are justified by a scientific discovery don’t stop being beliefs simply because they are justified by more than blind faith or intuition. The scientist always justifies his belief about the age of the Earth in terms of observation-based scientific evidence, whereas the primary justification for the YEC claim is not science, but an analysis of the Old Testament made under the assumption that that text is an infallible account of the history of the world. Because of this difference in means of justification – because the geologist is playing the language game of science and not that of young earth creationism - the geologist is implying considerably more than just “I believe that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old.” She is also implying “…and if you understand the relevant scientific evidence then you ought to believe it too.” Saying “I believe the Earth is 6000 years old because that’s what is implied by the Bible, and I believe the Bible is literally true” is one thing. Saying “I believe the Earth is 6000 years old and if you understand the relevant scientific evidence then you ought to be believe it too” is something else entirely.

In the first case, if you do not happen to believe the Bible is an infallible history of the Earth then there is no obligation that you to accept the claim. The believer can always warn you of the threat of damnation for your refusal to accept the word of God, but you are free to ignore that too. Perhaps I should qualify that by saying that you ought to be free to ignore it because you have a solid ethical case for being free to ignore it, but that there are places in the world, especially the Islamic world, where you are not free to ignore religiously-justified beliefs of this sort. In the western world we have fought for and won this freedom after a living through a dark millennium during which the Catholic Church did everything in its considerable power to deprive us of it. The ruling of the Inquisition against Galileo may only have been repealed in 1992, but it ceased to have anything but symbolic meaning at least two centuries ago. Everybody knew that the Catholic Church had got it wrong, including the Catholic Church.

In the second case, you are obliged to accept the “existence claim.” We are free to arbitrarily ignore scientifically-justified claims only if we are prepared to abandon our own rationality. There is no rational obligation to justify a personal rejection of claims which are themselves justified by dogma, scripture, faith or revelation and there is no rational means at all of justifying a rejection of claims which are themselves justified by observation-based science.

What matters is here not what the belief is about (the Earth), but how that belief is justified and whether or not the believer expects others to share their belief.

Which language game is being played by the YEC? The answer depends on the reasons given by that YEC as to why he believes what he believes. Most YECs would happily agree that their belief system is founded on the Bible, not science, and that this includes their belief about the age of the Earth. Regardless of this, the creationist movement has a long history of trying shoehorn its pseudoscientific religious claims into science classes. It does this because it is aware of the supremacy of scientifically-justified claims over biblically-justified claims and fears the power of science to undermine the interpretation of religion it defends. This is the essence of the ethical case that scientists and all free-thinking human beings have against the creationist agenda. In plain English it means “you have no ethical right to impose your religiously-justified beliefs upon me, because you have no means of demonstrating to me why I should accept them.” It is unethical to deprive people of access to accurate scientifically-justified information. It is also unethical to claim scientific justification for beliefs which have no legitimate scientific justification.

However, this cuts both ways. If it is unethical for a creationist to attempt to impose non-scientifically-justified beliefs on others then it is also unethical for scientists, atheists and skeptics to attempt to impose their non-scientifically-justified beliefs on people who don’t happen to share them. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Materialism is a metaphysical belief. It is not scientifically-justified. Therefore Gould has no justification for demanding or expecting that religious people share his commitment, meaning his conception of religion is likely to be useless as far at they are concerned.

No observation-based scientific experiment can support the claim that science is the only possible means of gaining knowledge about reality (accurate or inaccurate) or support or undermine physicalism or determinism. Neither can we use science to establish whether or not is possible for something to affect the universe in a way which is itself theoretically undetectable to science. All of these questions are epistemological or metaphysical, not scientific.

We have the beginning of a redefined NOMA:

The magisteria are to be distinguished on the grounds of how beliefs/claims are justified.

Scientific beliefs are those which are solely or primarily justified with scientific evidence - by the analysis of observation and experimentation.

Examples of scientific beliefs/claims:

The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old.
Human activity is affecting the Earth’s climate.
At least most of the time, natural selection is key factor driving evolutionary change.
X’s DNA was present in the sample sent to the forensic laboratory.

Religious beliefs are those which are solely or primarily justified in terms of scripture, faith and religious dogma. It is not legitimate to expect anybody-else but yourself to accept these beliefs/claims. It must be a free personal choice.

Examples of religious beliefs/claims:

The Earth is about 6000 years old. (scripture)
It is immoral/illegal to consume blood. (scripture (Leviticus 7:26))
I know it seems awful, but it must all be part of God’s plan. (faith)
God hates America. (dogma (see: Westboro Baptist church))

Philosophy is to be considered as a tool, and a reference library of historical philosophical mistakes. The tool is to be used to ensure consistency within personal belief systems.

Examples of philosophical beliefs/claims:

Ethical: I believe abortion is wrong because I accept Peter Singer’s argument.
Metaphysical: I believe that there has never been a state of absolute nothingness, because nothing can come from nothing and something definitely exists.

Ethical beliefs fall into two categories. Some ethical claims have to be communal and consensual. How the community arrives at ethical conclusions has not been specified. Personal ethics can be derived from anywhere you like, including scripture, provided you understand and accept that ethical claims of this sort cannot be imposed on other people: in the social environment of the modern world we have to strive to find common ethical ground.

Metaphysics, aesthetics and all the other branches of argument-based philosophy can remain personal; there is no pressing need to get community agreement because an individual person’s metaphysical or aesthetical beliefs do not generally affect the lives of other people. If you think a metaphysical belief is actually harmful then you’ll have to offer a philosophical argument as to why it is ethically unacceptable to allow people to believe such things.

How does the above scheme compare to Gould’s? As it stands, most of the contentious issues remain untouched.

The reason most of the contentious issues remain untouched in the above version of NOMA is that I have left out the most philosophically-problematic category of claims/beliefs. Claims like these:

(1) “I know what red looks like to me.”
(2) “My splitting headache caused me to take a load of painkillers.”
(3) “I know what consciousness is because I am aware of my own consciousness.”
(4) “I know what mystical experiences are because I have experienced them myself.”

These claims are not based on scripture, faith or religious dogma. Neither are they based on science, since each one of them can be made without any reference to scientific evidence. They aren’t usually the results of philosophical arguments either. On the contrary, these are the sorts of beliefs that are more likely to be fed in to philosophical arguments as self-evidently-true premises. They are subjectively-justified beliefs. Their subjective nature means that, like religiously-justified beliefs, the believer has no reason to expect anybody-else to accept them. However, they differ from religiously-justified beliefs insomuch as the person who believes them is considerably more justified in doing so than a person who is depending on dogma, scripture or faith. Scripture and dogma come from external sources like the Bible or Westboro Baptist Church. Faith is not justified by anything at all (that’s what makes it faith). I don’t have faith that I’m conscious. I believe I am conscious because I am directly aware that I am.

All claims of this sort are philosophically problematic.

(1) is the crucial statement which is either uttered or not uttered by Mary the colour-blind scientist in Frank Jackson's “knowledge argument” against materialism.

(2) is denied by eliminative materialists and cognitive scientists who view “folk psychology” as a “bad theory”.

Statements like (3) are the kind of statements Wittgenstein’s “private language argument” is designed to undermine. “Consciousness” is a beetle in a box.

(4) is arguably the most problematic of all, since it combines problems which apply to the previous three with the additional complication of having profound religious significance to the person who believes it.

What is the point in this NOMA?

Once we accept that neither science nor religion is capable of delivering absolute, untainted truth then we can see that all knowledge claims are different sorts of belief and that science and religion cannot cause any sort of conflict which matters provided they don't get their means of justification mixed up. If religious people recognise that their religiously-justified beliefs can't compete with scientific beliefs on scientific turf and aren't acceptable as ethical beliefs that can be imposed on others then most of the problems percieved to be caused by religion cease to be problems. As their half of the bargain the scientific community has to make sure it isn't making claims in the name of science which actually depend on metaphysics. If both these things happen then there is no need for any great conflict between science and religion because all that is left to discuss is the status of the subjectively-justified claims I've seperated into a category of their own. And in resolving, or attempting to resolve (for it is impossible, I think), the status of those claims, both the scientific and religious community have no choice but to defer to philosophy, since neither science nor religion can compete with modern philosophy in terms of having addressed (or tried to) this problem. In other words, the point of this NOMA is to stop the pointless conflict between science and religion by forcing the extremists on both sides to accept that the only genuine point of contention is philosophical and not resolvable by science and religion having a war. No scientific or religious text can tell you how to interpret Wittgenstein or Rorty - you have to try to work it out for yourself by thinking very, very hard. No scientific or religious text can tell you what Mary will say when she finally sees red for the first time, nor whether "folk psychology" is a theory. And no scientific or religious text will ever conclusively and objectively prove or disprove the existence of genuine (as opposed to delusional) mystical experiences. Science should be the business of making accurate predictions about future observations and justified claims about what we would observe if we could travel back in time. Religion should be a necessarily subjective and personal business to do with an individual's relationship to the Divine (or lack of, as the case may be). Sciences loses nothing if scientific people cease to make metaphysical claims without realising it. Religion loses nothing by ditching fundamentalism and literalism. On the contrary, I think that an accurate understanding of where science stops and metaphysics starts actually enhances one's understanding of what science really is and that fundamentalism and literalism actually get in the way of a proper understanding of what religion is really about.

Of course, there will be those who actually want the conflict to continue, because they won't be happy until the they have destroyed their percieved opponents. I am trying to demonstrate to those persons that this can't ever happen. It is not within the power of science to destroy religion, or vice versa, because neither side can conclusively win the real battle, which is about philosophy. The closest thing you can ever get to a victory is something like this version of NOMA: something which keeps science and religion in their proper places and prevents either of them from trying to grab bits of philosophy, or worse, trying to directly grab bits of scientific territory for religion or religious territory for science. Scientists trying to use science to make decisions about ethics or meaning end up looking stupid, as do religious people who try to decide how old the earth is by analysing the Old Testament.

HansMustermann
25th May 2009, 03:38 PM
You almost had me nodding through until I got to the "What is the point in this NOMA?" part.

The fact is: Science is based on actually having some evidence, _and_ it produces usable predictions too. The other is not just a fairy tale, it's freaking useless too.

As a simple example: the computer you wrote that on, was possible because _science_ made some exact predictions about how those electrons and atoms will behave. The GPS you use in your car is because science can produce some very exact predictions about the positions of those orbiting things at any given moment. Your car, your telephone, the electricity you get at the socket, even the economy that allows you such luxuries, etc, are all based science. And not just as in "belief", but as in having a scientific method that makes them possible at all. Etc.

Handwaving about god's will and divine plan, which is all that religion does, can produce nothing of the kind. You can't punch some numbers into the divine plan and get your coordinates. You can't write a prayer (starting only from religious sources) that gives you a working turbine. Etc.

Do you understand that distinction? Good.

I don't need any deeper philosophy there, nor any attempt to reconcile it with a fairy tale. It just works as it is. That's enough for me.

Yes, you can do word-games like calling both "belief" or using vague irrelevant things like "both aren't absolute", but it seems to be at best a "Chewbacca defense". It spews plenty of such irrelevant things, but doesn't even touch the meat of the matter and why we have that demarcation in the first place.

How about this NOMA, briefly:

1. If you want a _method_ that works, has solid evidence, and produces useful stuff, that's that-a-way, through the door called science.

2. If you just want a vague and non-useful fairy tale to believe in, in fact one of a few hundreds of conflicting and mutually-incompatible fairy tales, that's the other way, through the door called religion.

Handwaving about the semantics of "belief" or about both not being "absolute", doesn't negate that basic point: one has evidence and works, the other is just a useless fairy tale.

Should I try to reconcile the too? Why? It would only taint #1 with some useless baggage that don't add any useful thing, and in fact it just diminishes its usefulness. Ditto the other way around. Whoever wants/needs the fairy tale, just needs the BS reassurance in it. Reconciling some scientific ideas into it, would at most diminish its usefulness in that role. You don't want to hear about burden of proof or Occam's Razor when you just need some "I'll live after death" reassurance.

Basically: A chocolate cake and a steaming turd aren't absolutes either, and we could make an equal case of both being just translated into arbitrary neural signals in the end, plus they both are brown, etc. But I'll take the former over the latter anyway. And I don't want to make a mixture of the two, thank you very much.

Bob Blaylock
25th May 2009, 03:58 PM
please don't derail this thread by attacking Gould's version of NOMA instead of the one presented, or by making some sort of generalised argument as to why NOMA can't work before you've bothered to try to work out whether this one works.


Why? Can you suggest a better way to derail this thread?

Soapy Sam
25th May 2009, 04:03 PM
The distinction between reality and non reality seems clear cut enough that mice and beetles have few problems recognising it. In fact the only creatures who do have difficulty with the difference are some humans.
Anything that does not overlap with reality is unreal.

paximperium
25th May 2009, 04:04 PM
Well, modern pseudo-philosophers, especially theistic ones, are always attempting to give some relevance to their "craft" and special plead their way to relevance. Their lack of utility or relevance to society or science must be galling.

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 04:09 PM
You almost had me nodding through until I got to the "What is the point in this NOMA?" part.

The fact is: Science is based on actually having some evidence, _and_ it produces usable predictions too. The other is not just a fairy tale, it's freaking useless too.

As a simple example: the computer you wrote that on, was possible because _science_ made some exact predictions about how those electrons and atoms will behave. The GPS you use in your car is because science can produce some very exact predictions about the positions of those orbiting things at any given moment. Your car, your telephone, the electricity you get at the socket, even the economy that allows you such luxuries, etc, are all based science. And not just as in "belief", but as in having a scientific method that makes them possible at all. Etc.

Handwaving about god's will and divine plan, which is all that religion does, can produce nothing of the kind. You can't punch some numbers into the divine plan and get your coordinates. You can't write a prayer (starting only from religious sources) that gives you a working turbine. Etc.

Do you understand that distinction? Good.


Religion isn't supposed to be "useful" in the way science is. Any notion that it was useful in that way had already been blown out of the water during the period in Europe where the Black Death wiped out half the population and it became clear that the Clergy had no answers and that God was as angry with them as He was with the peasants. One of the main purposes of justifying beliefs with science is that those beliefs are useful in this sort of a way. However, for all their practical applications, scientifically-justified beliefs are of no use at all when it comes to making difficult ethical choices or trying to find meaning in the world. If some people find religion useful for these things then, as scientists, we aren't in a position to tell them they are wrong. We can resist them imposing their religious ethics and meaning on us, but we can't turn into the oppressor and start trying to impose materialistism, determinism and atheism on them.



I don't need any deeper philosophy there, nor any attempt to reconcile it with a fairy tale. It just works as it is. That's enough for me.

Yes, you can do word-games like calling both "belief" or using vague irrelevant things like "both aren't absolute", but it seems to be at best a "Chewbacca defense".


Nothing could be further from the truth. The philosophical arguments about the status of subjectively-justified claims is anything but irrelevant. Anyone who thinks it is does so because they haven't tried hard enough to understand those arguments and why they matter. They aren't word games - they are the first step towards a much deeper understanding of the philosophical problems which make the war between science and religion unresolvable.


It spews plenty of such irrelevant things, but doesn't even touch the meat of the matter and why we have that demarcation in the first place.

How about this NOMA, briefly:

1. If you want a _method_ that works, has solid evidence, and produces useful stuff, that's that-a-way, through the door called science.

2. If you just want a vague and non-useful fairy tale to believe in, in fact one of a few hundreds of conflicting and mutually-incompatible fairy tales, that's the other way, through the door called religion.


That's not NOMA. That's somebody trying to say "Science is the way and all religion is ********!!!", whilst totally failing to acknowledge the philosphical problems inherent in making such a claim.

If you want a method which produces useful practical beliefs about reality, science is indeed the way. But if you think that means there is no place left for religion then I think you are mistaken.


Handwaving about the semantics of "belief" or about both not being "absolute", doesn't negate that basic point: one has evidence and works, the other is just a useless fairy tale.


Fairy tales were never supposed to be useful, apart from as metaphors and tales about morality.

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 04:10 PM
Why? Can you suggest a better way to derail this thread?

Please go away and scribble somewhere-else.

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 04:13 PM
The distinction between reality and non reality seems clear cut enough that mice and beetles have few problems recognising it. In fact the only creatures who do have difficulty with the difference are some humans.
Anything that does not overlap with reality is unreal.

As soon as you start making claims about what reality is and what overlaps with it then you are deep in the metaphysical doo-doo. Science makes justified claims about probable future observations. It doesn't tell us what reality is or what observers are.

Science and religion both make claims about reality. They just happen to be different sorts of claims which are justified in very different ways.

paximperium
25th May 2009, 04:17 PM
Science and religion both make claims about reality. They just happen to be different sorts of claims which are justified in very different ways.
True. One is justified by empirical evidence and is useful and the other is justified by semantics, fantasy and is useless.

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 04:18 PM
Well, modern pseudo-philosophers, especially theistic ones, are always attempting to give some relevance to their "craft" and special plead their way to relevance. Their lack of utility or relevance to society or science must be galling.

Irrelevant to science, yes. Irrelevant to society? I don't think so, somehow.

Science is a tool for making accurate predictions about future observation. From a strictly scientific point of view, "society" is something you'd have to ask socio-biologists about. All explanations would end up being given in terms of science. For ethical guidance, we'd end up turning to the behaviour of vampire bats and claiming that this is what altruism evolved from. This is "the naturalistic fallacy" writ large - the attempt to derive an ethical "ought" from a scientific "is." Society in general takes a dim view of scientists who make this mistake, and rightly so.

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 04:21 PM
True. One is justified by empirical evidence and is useful and the other is justified by semantics, fantasy and is useless.

That is your point of view - part of your own belief system. That's all well and good provided you don't think you have sufficient justification to impose those beliefs on anybody else. You believe that alll religion is useless fantasy. If you actually try to claim this is absolute truth - that you know that this is the case - then you are being as bad as the religious people you so despise, because you're doing exactly the same thing: trying to impose your non-scientifically-justified belief system on other people as if it was justified by science.

It is a two-way process. If you want religion to stop trying to steal scientific territory then you must also accept that you can't ram your own metaphysical beliefs down the throats of non-materialists and religious believers. If you can't use science to prove them wrong then you've no right to tell people that what they believe is necessarily nonsense.

Hokulele
25th May 2009, 04:22 PM
Science and religion both make claims about reality. They just happen to be different sorts of claims which are justified in very different ways.


I agree with HansMustermann and disagree with your conclusion (actually, I disagree with a large part of your premise).

The biggest difference between science and religion isn't the justification, but the reliance on causality. This is what gives science the predictive power religion lacks (or at least, has historically been shown to lack). You definitions of philosophy and metaphysics seems to be an attempt to set and straddle a gray area between causality and acausality. As Hans noted, a lack of causality basically does make something useless when it comes to learning about the nature of the universe in which people find themselves.

If X=4, then puppies!

paximperium
25th May 2009, 04:24 PM
Irrelevant to science, yes. Irrelevant to society? I don't think so, somehow. I disagree here.

Science is a tool for making accurate predictions about future observation. From a strictly scientific point of view, "society" is something you'd have to ask socio-biologists about. All explanations would end up being given in terms of science. For ethical guidance, we'd end up turning to the behaviour of vampire bats and claiming that this is what altruism evolved from. This is "the naturalistic fallacy" writ large - the attempt to derive an ethical "ought" from a scientific "is." Society in general takes a dim view of scientists who make this mistake, and rightly so. Something we can actually agree with.

Science is great at answering the "is" questions. However, it is rarely useful for answering the "ought" questions. However, you falsely assume that because that science is not good at answering this questions that "religion" or philosophy automatically has "magisteria" over this area. I completely disagree here.

Religion's claim to ethics, morality etc. is no more justified or
"true"(often way less so) than anything a scientists could claim based on vampire bats.

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 04:28 PM
I disagree here.
Something we can actually agree with.

Science is great at answering the "is" questions. However, it is rarely useful for answering the "ought" questions. However, you falsely assume that because that science is not good at answering this questions that "religion" or philosophy automatically has "magisteria" over this area.


If you read the opening post carefully then you'll find that I didn't actually say that.


I completely disagree here.

Religion's claim to ethics, morality etc. is no more justified or
"true"(often way less so) than anything a scientists could claim based on vampire bats.

Neither approach is any use in terms of consensual ethics. Nothing scientists say about vampire bats is relevant and no religiously-justified ethical claim is any use in a secular discussion of ethics. And if science and religion can't do ethics then we have no choice but to turn to philosophy, even though it can't provide firm answers either. The opening post leaves many questions about ethics unanswered, not least because I don't have the answers.

paximperium
25th May 2009, 04:28 PM
That is your point of view - part of your own belief system. That's all well and good provided you don't think you have sufficient justification to impose those beliefs on anybody else. You believe that alll religion is useless fantasy. I don't believe it is entirely useless. I believe it is good at making people feel good and part of a society. However it does so by making up a fantasy. It does nothing a secular alternative could not.

If you actually try to claim this is absolute truth - that you know that this is the case - then you are being as bad as the religious people you so despise, because you're doing exactly the same thing: trying to impose your non-scientifically-justified belief system on other people as if it was justified by science. You are projecting. I want religion out of secular government and education. I have no interest in imposing anything on religion. I have no wish to restrict religion.

My ultimate wish is for religion to be taken as seriously as Santa Clause, a quaint childhood fantasy that everyone grows out of and people are embarassed to openly believe.

It is a two-way process. If you want religion to stop trying to steal scientific territory then you must also accept that you can't ram your own metaphysical beliefs down the throats of non-materialists and religious believers. Who are you arguing with?

If you can't use science to prove them wrong then you've no right to tell people that what they believe is necessarily nonsense. The moment religions stop making ANY claims about reality is when science will stop proving them wrong.

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 04:33 PM
I agree with HansMustermann and disagree with your conclusion (actually, I disagree with a large part of your premise).

The biggest difference between science and religion isn't the justification, but the reliance on causality.


You'll have to expand that, because it could mean various different things.


This is what gives science the predictive power religion lacks (or at least, has historically been shown to lack). You definitions of philosophy and metaphysics seems to be an attempt to set and straddle a gray area between causality and acausality.


Yes. I'm trying to seperate that "grey area" off into the magisterium of philosophy so science and religion can't have a pointless, unresolvable fight about it.



As Hans noted, a lack of causality basically does make something useless when it comes to learning about the nature of the universe in which people find themselves.


The definitions of science and religion I have given do not explicitly say anything about causality. They do not, for example, rule out some form of teleology in evolution. But then neither does neo-Darwinism...

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 04:38 PM
I don't believe it is entirely useless. I believe it is good at making people feel good and part of a society. However it does so by making up a fantasy. It does nothing a secular alternative could not.


Again...this is what you believe and your belief is not entirely justified by science. I don't accept your view because I don't accept your metaphysics. You have no scientific justification for telling me that I ought to accept your metaphysical beliefs.


You are projecting. I want religion out of secular government and education. I have no interest in imposing anything on religion. I have no wish to restrict religion.

My ultimate wish is for religion to be taken as seriously as Santa Clause, a quaint childhood fantasy that everyone grows out of and people are embarassed to openly believe.

Who are you arguing with?


Anyone who doesn't know where science stops or where religion stops.


The moment religions stop making ANY claims about reality is when science will stop proving them wrong.

You are trying to grab too much territory for science. If I claim that there may be a teleological component to evolution then it is a claim about reality - a claim that science can't ever prove wrong. And this is just one example...another one would be the claim that humans have free will. Humans are quite definately part of reality, but science can't pass judgement on whether or not free will is possible.

Ron_Tomkins
25th May 2009, 04:39 PM
UE:
Regardless your intelligence and interesting arguments, it is really hard to take you seriously when you make statements like this:

Materialism is a metaphysical belief. It is not scientifically-justified.

This claim is 100% absolutely wrong (It is the antithesis of what Materialism is). The only thing Materialism is based on is precisely Scientific Evidence and the principle that there is nothing else except the material

Materialism is based on reliable predictions that can be repeated anytime and that are independent of our beliefs. For example: Water will boil at a specific temperature. This is ALWAYS true, not because some random scientist believes so, but because all the evidence points to that and absolutely nothing else




No observation-based scientific experiment can support the claim that science is the only possible means of gaining knowledge about reality (accurate or inaccurate)

So according to you, all the major advances and discoveries in science which have given us knowledge about the round-shaped nature of the earth, the solar system, gravity, quantum electrodynamics, electromagentism.... none of those things revealed anything about reality that we were ignorant about before? None of those proved to be useful? (Have you stopped to wonder how the computer you're using to read my words came about? Do you think maybe science played any kind of role in its making?)

It seems to me, the only thing that has opened the window to the true nature of the universe, has been disciplined scientific study of nature (as opposed to perpetuating myths and urban legends)

...Or do you still find the theory of the world sitting on an infinite amount of turtles more revealing of the true reality of the universe?


It is not within the power of science to destroy religion,

That was never the purpose of science anyway. Again, you seem to have an erroneous idea of what science is, and what it is about

paximperium
25th May 2009, 04:45 PM
Again...this is what you believe and your belief is not entirely justified by science. I don't accept your view because I don't accept your metaphysics. True, using your belief system that is not based on much of anything except what you want, there is nothing that can ever change your mind.
You have no scientific justification for telling me that I ought to accept your metaphysical beliefs. Except for its success, yeah none at all.:rolleyes:

Humans are quite definately part of reality, but science can't pass judgement on whether or not free will is possible.Actually it can. It depends how you define "free will" just like any philosophical arguments that rely on semantics. Are you talking about Contra-causal free will or causal "free will"?

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 04:55 PM
UE:
Regardless your intelligence and interesting arguments, it is really hard to take you seriously when you make statements like this:

This claim is 100% absolutely wrong (It is the antithesis of what Materialism is).


It's 100% absolutely right. Materialism, in all its guises, is a metaphysical belief. It's either the claim that only material things exist (ontology) or it is a claim about causality (determinism, basically.)


The only thing Materialism is based on is precisely Scientific Evidence and the principle that there is nothing else except the material


That is precisely the sort of claim I want to prevent scientific people from making. Materialism is not based on scientific evidence. Idealism could be true and yet the results of every conceivable scientific experiment turn out exactly as they do today. Saying "there is nothing else except the material" just opens up a philosophical can of worms. What do you mean by "material"? What do you mean by "there is nothing else"? How do you know? Now...you may be able to provide some sort of justification for why you believe materialism is true but there is no way you'll be able to provide scientific justification for it.



Materialism is based on reliable predictions that can be repeated anytime and that are independent of our beliefs.



No it isn't. It is a metaphysical position based on nothing at all.

Science is based on repeatable observations and accurate predictions.

Also, science is not independent of our beliefs, as demonstrated by Thomas Kuhn and others.


For example: Water will boil at a specific temperature...


Except for when it doesn't....


So according to you, all the major advances and discoveries in science which have given us knowledge about the round-shaped nature of the earth, the solar system, gravity, quantum electrodynamics, electromagentism.... none of those things revealed anything about reality that we were ignorant about before?


No, I certainly did not say that.


None of those proved to be useful?


Or that.


(Have you stopped to wonder how the computer you're using to read my words came about? Do you think maybe science played any kind of role in its making?)


You're attacking a strawman. I didn't say the things you are claiming I said and don't believe the beliefs you are attacking.


It seems to me, the only thing that has opened the window to the true nature of the universe, has been disciplined scientific study of nature (as opposed to perpetuating myths and urban legends)

...Or do you still find the theory of the world sitting on an infinite amount of turtles more revealing of the true reality of the universe?


I find many aspects of both philosophy and religion to be revealing in ways science couldn't ever match. Science is science. The very same things which make it useful for the things it is useful for make it useless for the things it isn't useful for.



That was never the purpose of science anyway. Again, you seem to have an erroneous idea of what science is, and what it is about

I have a crystal clear idea of what science is:

Science is a means of justifying practically-useful, probabilistic beliefs about future observations of reality and about what we would observe if we could travel back in time. If you think it is anything more then you are mistaken.

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 04:59 PM
True, using your belief system that is not based on much of anything except what you want, there is nothing that can ever change your mind.


You have no right to try to change my mind, because you have no way of knowing you are right and I am wrong - no way of verifying whether or not I am justified in believing what I believe, because it is dependent on subjective factors about which you have no knowledge. By saying "you believe whatever you want", you are attacking my belief system without having any justification for doing so. I would say I have a higher standard of coherency within my belief system than you do and that I am taking more evidence into account than you. Unlike yourself, I don't go around rubbishing every sort of belief which doesn't happen to agree with my own.



Actually it can. It depends how you define "free will" just like any philosophical arguments that rely on semantics. Are you talking about Contra-causal free will or causal "free will"?

I'm not talking about compatibilism, if that's what you mean. I am talking about libertarian or "co-creational" free will - something which is causal but not in a way which contradicts normal causality, the possibility of which was established by Kant.

Fiona
25th May 2009, 05:01 PM
I found the OP very interesting. It is possible I have not understood it, however, because some of the responses do not seem to me to be addressing what is being said.

As I took the OP the argument is that there are different realms of discourse: in particular religion and science. There is a tendency for them to find themselves in opposition to each other. This opposition is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the limits of each position. That misunderstanding leads to a number of consequences, but most importantly to a tendency to overextend the scope of each approach. At the same time this results (though I am not sure if the idea is that that there is a causal relationship here) in both sides attempting to get rid of the other by muscling in on the territory.

The OP suggests that this is flawed and that the only possible way through is to recognise that neither can deal with the field which is proper to the other: and that we need a different discipline to resolve some of these issues: and that discipline is philosophy.

If that is what is being said then I think I agree with it.

But I will be interested to hear from the OP as to whether I am on the right lines

paximperium
25th May 2009, 05:10 PM
I would say I have a higher standard of coherency within my belief system than you do and that I am taking more evidence into account than you. Sorry but I'm a Utilitarian, I don't much care about useless beliefs.
Unlike yourself, I don't go around rubbishing every sort of belief which doesn't happen to agree with my own.And that's a bad thing how? I attack harmful beliefs. I attack beliefs that retard human progress. I don't consider it alright for people to believe that gays don't deserve equal rights or that magic will cure their kid's diabetes or cancer. Sorry but I actually care about my fellow human beings.

I'm not talking about compatibilism, if that's what you mean. I am talking about libertarian or "co-creational" free will - something which is causal but not in a way which contradicts normal causality, the possibility of which was established by Kant. No. There is no such thing.

If reality is causal, there is no free-will. Unless a neuron or "brain process" can fire contra-causally(via whatever process you can claim), every neuron and brain chemical reaction in your brain will fire in an exact pathway alreadt determined by physics.

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 05:17 PM
I found the OP very interesting. It is possible I have not understood it, however, because some of the responses do not seem to me to be addressing what is being said.


That may mean you understood it better than those respondents...


As I took the OP the argument is that there are different realms of discourse: in particular religion and science. There is a tendency for them to find themselves in opposition to each other. This opposition is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the limits of each position. That misunderstanding leads to a number of consequences, but most importantly to a tendency to overextend the scope of each approach. At the same time this results (though I am not sure if the idea is that that there is a causal relationship here) in both sides attempting to get rid of the other by muscling in on the territory.


Yes. The main proponents of the conflict, on both sides, are so busy attacking the other side that they tend to lose sight of the limitations of their own.


The OP suggests that this is flawed and that the only possible way through is to recognise that neither can deal with the field which is proper to the other: and that we need a different discipline to resolve some of these issues: and that discipline is philosophy.

If that is what is being said then I think I agree with it.


Yes, that is what is being said, although philosophy can't ever conclusively answer those key questions either. What it can do is help an individual person to think more coherently about them. It is no use approaching these philosophical issues from the point of view of a scientific or religious person who already thinks they know the answers. No religious or scientistic dogmatist can seriously confront the ideas of people like Hume, Kuhn, Wittgenstein or Rorty and come out with their dogma intact. Instead, they should come away with a whole load of new questions....better questions.

UndercoverElephant
25th May 2009, 05:23 PM
Sorry but I'm a Utilitarian, I don't much care about useless beliefs.


They aren't useless to me.


And that's a bad thing how? I attack harmful beliefs. I attack beliefs that retard human progress.


Well, that is a big claim. I have religious beliefs which are neither harmful nor retarded. They do not contradict science and are not harmful to me or to society.


I don't consider it alright for people to believe that gays don't deserve equal rights or that magic will cure their kid's diabetes or cancer. Sorry but I actually care about my fellow human beings.


So do I, which is why I rejected Gould's version of NOMA.



No. There is no such thing.

If reality is causal, there is no free-will.


Kant proved that the existence of normal causality does not preclude the existence of libertarian free will. You do not know that free will does not exist. Science can't prove such a thing and philosophy has already proved that such a thing is possible. Strictly speaking (according to Kant) we can never objectively know whether it exists or doesn't exist.


Unless a neuron or "brain process" can fire contra-causally(via whatever process you can claim), every neuron and brain chemical reaction in your brain will fire in an exact pathway alreadt determined by physics.

I don't know what "contra-causal" means. Libertarian free will is another type of causality, not "contra-causality."

paximperium
25th May 2009, 05:35 PM
They aren't useless to me. Good point. Many beliefs are useful or hold value to those who believe in them.

Well, that is a big claim. I have religious beliefs which are neither harmful nor retarded. They do not contradict science and are not harmful to me or to society. And so I don't attack those. However, many benign religious beliefs are mixed in with so much BS that it is impossible to not criticize even the less harmful belies.

Kant proved that the existence of normal causality does not preclude the existence of libertarian free will. You do not know that free will does not exist. Science can't prove such a thing and philosophy has already proved that such a thing is possible. Strictly speaking (according to Kant) we can never objectively know whether it exists or doesn't exist. That is a different discussion. I'm not familiar enough with Kant's version to discuss this at this point.

I don't know what "contra-causal" means. Libertarian free will is another type of causality, not "contra-causality." This is another discussion but contra-causal is anything that contradicts causality.

Lord Muck oGentry
25th May 2009, 05:47 PM
(1) “I know what red looks like to me.”

What work is the word " know" doing there?

You might not have mastered the use of the word " red". Or you might be fibbing when you say " That looks red to me. "

But it makes no sense to say: You might have got it wrong if you hadn't checked carefully how it looked to you ( but in fact you guarded carefully against this possible error).

Ron_Tomkins
25th May 2009, 06:04 PM
For example: Water will boil at a specific temperature...

Except for when it doesn't....

Huh? And when exactly is that?

Have you found a particular case in which water doesn't boil at more than 100 degrees? Or a case in which it boils at minus 10 degrees?

If so, you may have a case against materialism

paximperium
25th May 2009, 06:06 PM
Huh? And when exactly is that?

Have you found a particular case in which water doesn't boil at more than 100 degrees? Or a case in which it boils at minus 10 degrees?

If so, you may have a case against materialism
Uh...psst...air pressure.

Ron_Tomkins
25th May 2009, 06:07 PM
Saying "there is nothing else except the material" just opens up a philosophical can of worms. What do you mean by "material"? What do you mean by "there is nothing else"? How do you know?


UE, we've been through this annoying silly argument infinite times (not just with you)

No, of course to this day we don't know that there is anything else beyond the material. But we have no reason to believe, given the absolute lack of evidence that there is anything else but matter

Do you know with absolute certainty that there isn't an invisible flying dragon? Have you looked all over the Universe? Of course you haven't. Would it be reasonable to believe there is one, given the fact that you don't have 100% certainty that there isn't one? No
It's the same principle we're operating under

Until there is new evidence, this (the material) is all we have

Apathia
25th May 2009, 06:24 PM
There's a lot I haven't digested in the OP yet, especially how your NOMA is different from Gould"s.

But two things to start:

"Magisteria"
There's the connotation of each having its own imperial territory.
But then we want to go off a conquering and bring all under a single Authority.
(Yes, I understand the concept of scientific authority is not the same as religious, but is is about the whole land measured by the same "ruler.")

It seems from my initial reading that you'd like to see Philosophy in some kind of UN capacity, keeping the ambitious in their own borders.
Your new NOMA is again an attempt to tell them to stay in some kind of sovereignty of their own. (Like they're ever going to.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't care for a territorial Science or a territorial religion.
I'd really rather have all the land united without boarders and without a mere tolerance of conflicting claims.

The scientific method doesn't calculate answers to questions of morality and meaning. But it does answer questions of what is healthy. And that does have moral implications. It's not the be all end all, but it's not an imperial kingdom.

Religion doesn't have to be an imperial kingdom either.
I quote the Dalai Lama in my sig as an example that religion can respect empirical evidence and not claim a trump over it.

I hope that one day we'll be able to be just the physical/mental/spiritual/social beings that we are without divisions of rival institutions denigrating each other.

NOMA reminds me of PETA. "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals."
In the very name people and animals are still in sharp contrast, and animals are the objects of people's actions. In NOMA there's still a high wall of separation.

But then again, perhaps they still need fences to be good neighbors.

Fiona
25th May 2009, 07:05 PM
Ok, thank you UE.

If that is the case then I would take issue with you at the same point as HansMustermann, but not necessarily for the same reasons, nor to the same extent.

Once we accept that neither science nor religion is capable of delivering absolute, untainted truth then we can see that all knowledge claims are different sorts of belief and that science and religion cannot cause any sort of conflict which matters provided they don't get their means of justification mixed up.

I think this is too strong and perhaps misrepresents what you are arguing. As I understand it you have a good case in saying that neither science nor religion can produce absolute truth: and I doubt that any in the sceptical camp would seriously dispute those: though there are people in both the scientific and the religious communities who would, perhaps.

But to say that all knowledge claims are different sorts of belief is only true for a particular meaning of the words "knowledge claims" and "belief", and I think this is one source of confusion arising from what you have written.

the key distinction is not what the statements are about but the means by which they justify, or attempt to justify, beliefs.

As I see it the "ideal" scientist does not really make "knowledge claims" in the strong sense. It is fundamental to the enterprise that conclusions are provisional;and that what we seem to know can be overturned. For me the essential part of the scientific approach is not the conclusions, but the method by which they are reached. That method has been wonderfully successful in very many areas: far wider than could have been envisaged in the past. It is both natural and desirable that we should use it wherever we can, because good results have come out of such use even where it was not obvious that they would. I do not think we are in a position to say where the limits might lie.

I do not think that the religious use the term "belief" in the same way: and nor do I think the "knowledge claims" are comparable. You acknowledge that just after the bit I quoted, so I am not disagreeing with you at all here: but given you have recognised the importance of the language game it cannot be surprising that your decision to characterise these two things using the same terms has led to some hostility. Indeed I think you got a bit lost in your own argument when you came to your conclusion: or perhaps I did - that is quite likely :).

If religious people recognise that their religiously-justified beliefs can't compete with scientific beliefs on scientific turf

The problem here, as I see it, is that religious people are just as caught up in our culture as anybody else: and they are just as rational. The very success of the scientific method has led to a widespread presumption that it can properly apply to all problems. While I do not think we have any certainty about where the limits of the scientific method might lie, I personally take the view that there are such limits. In our eagerness to make best use of the tool we have somehow come to a place where other "language games" are not taken seriously. That places the religious in an impossible position: they are facing the societal equivalent of Jowett.

"First come I. My name is Jowett.
There's no knowledge but I know it.
I am the Master of this College,
What I don't know isn't knowledge."
(sorry I cannot attribute that, mods: it comes from somewhere other than the inside of my head: but I do not know where)

It is unwise to try to justify something wholly outside the realm of science within the terms of science: but in this climate it is understandable that they should do so, for they are also impressed by the success of science: and they find it hard to be heard if they talk in more appropriate terms. It seems that way to me, anyway

and aren't acceptable as ethical beliefs that can be imposed on others then most of the problems percieved to be caused by religion cease to be problems.

Yes to this part: and many religious people do recognise that they have no locus to impose their ethics: there are others, but they are not really a problem in my country though I understand that is not true everywhere. But I will add that there are many who are not religious but who yet try to impose their ethical beliefs on others: this is not a problem confined to religious people and to that extent I think your outline of the problem is not adequate though your analysis is interesting

As their half of the bargain the scientific community has to make sure it isn't making claims in the name of science which actually depend on metaphysics.

Again, yes. And, again, I think most do behave in that way: but I cannot deny that there are some who do not; just as is also true for the religious. And as with the preceding paragraph there are many who are not in any meaningful sense part of the "scientific community" who yet make such claims and justify them with what has been called "scientism".

If both these things happen then there is no need for any great conflict between science and religion because all that is left to discuss is the status of the subjectively-justified claims I've seperated into a category of their own. And in resolving, or attempting to resolve (for it is impossible, I think), the status of those claims, both the scientific and religious community have no choice but to defer to philosophy, since neither science nor religion can compete with modern philosophy in terms of having addressed (or tried to) this problem. In other words, the point of this NOMA is to stop the pointless conflict between science and religion by forcing the extremists on both sides to accept that the only genuine point of contention is philosophical and not resolvable by science and religion having a war. No scientific or religious text can tell you how to interpret Wittgenstein or Rorty - you have to try to work it out for yourself by thinking very, very hard. No scientific or religious text can tell you what Mary will say when she finally sees red for the first time, nor whether "folk psychology" is a theory. And no scientific or religious text will ever conclusively and objectively prove or disprove the existence of genuine (as opposed to delusional) mystical experiences. Science should be the business of making accurate predictions about future observations and justified claims about what we would observe if we could travel back in time. Religion should be a necessarily subjective and personal business to do with an individual's relationship to the Divine (or lack of, as the case may be). Sciences loses nothing if scientific people cease to make metaphysical claims without realising it. Religion loses nothing by ditching fundamentalism and literalism. On the contrary, I think that an accurate understanding of where science stops and metaphysics starts actually enhances one's understanding of what science really is and that fundamentalism and literalism actually get in the way of a proper understanding of what religion is really about.

I broadly agree with this but I would make one point which occurs to me: I have absolutely no locus. I am not within the community of science nor of religion, so I cannot say if they lose anything by taking your proposal or not. This seems to me to be an important point. There are religious people who visit this board and I suspect that some of them would take the view that, far from losing nothing, they would lose it all if they ditched fundamentalism and literalism. They are by no means typical of religious people I have met but I do not think I am in a position to judge what is essential to any religious person. That is not so true for science (though it is for many of our more "fundamentalist" sceptics, I think) and the fact that I can say that points up a difference which is not addressed in your characterisation. I think it is fatal to your attempted reconciliation, however, not because

Of course, there will be those who actually want the conflict to continue, because they won't be happy until the they have destroyed their percieved opponents.

but rather because I am not convinced you are seeing the essentials from within. I think your perfectly reasonable analysis falls for this reason. But it is a pity.

Kopji
26th May 2009, 01:13 AM
Ok, I just don't see 'Philosophy' as being the end all battleground. Philosophy provides us with tools, but I see us all as essentially problem solvers. Tools to solve problems come from many sources.

Ethical behavior or answers arise from our meeting problems - and working out solutions. When I use the word 'problems' it is not in a bad sense, more like the sense that as humans we struggle with how to live, and that's part of being human.

I don't see the need for NOMA walls. Science, philosophy, and art/religion are part of the same human stuff.

Darat
26th May 2009, 01:31 AM
I agree with HansMustermann and disagree with your conclusion (actually, I disagree with a large part of your premise).

The biggest difference between science and religion isn't the justification, but the reliance on causality.

...snip...

I'd say there is one much bigger difference - one works (as far as we can tell) and one doesn't (as far as we can tell).

To date the only "language game" that does what it says it does is the language game we call "science". All the other "language games" we have come up with, so far, whether that be religion or metaphysics simply do not do what they say they do.

ImaginalDisc
26th May 2009, 02:00 AM
There's a response to your essay here. (http://fc01.deviantart.com/fs20/f/2007/231/4/a/TEAL_DEER_by_kunika.jpg)

PixyMisa
26th May 2009, 02:17 AM
Science is the study of what is real, philosophy the study of knowledge, and religion is whatever worthless nonsense you care to make up.

There's no "non-overlapping magesteria" when it comes to understanding the natural world. There's science, and there's crap.

Oh, and this just in: Frank Jackson's "Mary's room" argument is still logically invalid.

paximperium
26th May 2009, 02:25 AM
The basic premise is pretty simple.

Science is used to study anything within reality that it can until it can no longer do so based limited technology or knowledge at that time so religion/philosphy automatically lays claims hold over that area.

Religion/philosophy then retreats as science starts to further expands into their once sacred areas such as conciousness, free will and ethics; complaining all the way as their "magisteria" shrinks.

Basically philosphy and religion lives in the realm of science's ignorance.

PixyMisa
26th May 2009, 03:49 AM
That's a little unfair to some parts of philosophy.

paximperium
26th May 2009, 03:56 AM
That's a little unfair to some parts of philosophy.
True, I am being a bit unfair. Certain aspects of it especially epistomology, logic etc. seems to have good utility and reasoning behind it.

However, huge chunks of what was once philosophy is being swallowed up by scientific enquiry. I find the anti-science nonsense spewed by certain philosophers to be exceedingly silly and nothing more than attempt to defend this shrinking little world and to give some relevance to their field.

PixyMisa
26th May 2009, 04:03 AM
Agreed. I list Chalmers, Searle and Jackson as my personal Axis of Facepalm.

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 04:11 AM
This is another discussion but contra-causal is anything that contradicts causality.

I have to point you back to Kant (unfortunately). There is no logical reason why a form of causality (free will) cannot exist in a complementary way to normal physical causality. In other words it can be acausal from the point of view of science without actually contradicting normal causality.

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 04:14 AM
Huh? And when exactly is that?

Have you found a particular case in which water doesn't boil at more than 100 degrees?


At the top of Mount Everest it boils at 69 degrees. At the bottom of Death Valley it will boil at more than 100 degrees, although only marginally.

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 04:19 AM
UE, we've been through this annoying silly argument infinite times (not just with you)


That's because it's not silly. The argument is caused by people who have various sorts of assumptions built into their use of language. I can't accept the claim "we have never observed anything non-material" because the claim involves assumptions about the meaning of the word "material" which themselves have metaphysical assumptions. In other words, people who make this claim haven't usually thought carefully enough about what exactly they are claiming. Given the context of this thread, this cannot be ignored.



No, of course to this day we don't know that there is anything else beyond the material. But we have no reason to believe, given the absolute lack of evidence that there is anything else but matter


The same assumptions are present in the above paragraph. I could just as easily say "We have never observed anything else beyond the mental" and yet be making exactly the same claim you are making.


Do you know with absolute certainty that there isn't an invisible flying dragon? Have you looked all over the Universe? Of course you haven't. Would it be reasonable to believe there is one, given the fact that you don't have 100% certainty that there isn't one? No
It's the same principle we're operating under

Until there is new evidence, this (the material) is all we have

I'm not saying "one day we might observe something non-material". I am saying that depending on how one interprets your claim, it could mean all sorts of different things.

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 04:24 AM
Hi Apathia

There's a lot I haven't digested in the OP yet, especially how your NOMA is different from Gould"s.


Gould's version is materialistic. He implicitly imposes materialism on religion. Gould's version also doesn't account for non-religious ethical positions.


But two things to start:

"Magisteria"
There's the connotation of each having its own imperial territory.
But then we want to go off a conquering and bring all under a single Authority.
(Yes, I understand the concept of scientific authority is not the same as religious, but is is about the whole land measured by the same "ruler.")

It seems from my initial reading that you'd like to see Philosophy in some kind of UN capacity, keeping the ambitious in their own borders.
Your new NOMA is again an attempt to tell them to stay in some kind of sovereignty of their own. (Like they're ever going to.)


I can but try.


I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't care for a territorial Science or a territorial religion.
I'd really rather have all the land united without boarders and without a mere tolerance of conflicting claims.

The scientific method doesn't calculate answers to questions of morality and meaning. But it does answer questions of what is healthy. And that does have moral implications. It's not the be all end all, but it's not an imperial kingdom.

Religion doesn't have to be an imperial kingdom either.
I quote the Dalai Lama in my sig as an example that religion can respect empirical evidence and not claim a trump over it.

I hope that one day we'll be able to be just the physical/mental/spiritual/social beings that we are without divisions of rival institutions denigrating each other.

NOMA reminds me of PETA. "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals."
In the very name people and animals are still in sharp contrast, and animals are the objects of people's actions. In NOMA there's still a high wall of separation.

But then again, perhaps they still need fences to be good neighbors.

Yes. They can just about manage to have no fences if their neighbour is philosophy, but when it comes to a direct relationship between science and religion then I think a fence is required - a fence which is acceptable to reasonable, moderate people on boths sides but which will annoy the hell out of the extremists.

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 04:29 AM
Ok, thank you UE.


Fiona, I have to think about your post before responding to it. This is a work in progress. I'm trying to sort my argument out because I'm trying to write a book about it. Thanks for the feedback, it was exactly the sort of thing I am looking for.

What country do you come from?

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 04:32 AM
Ok, I just don't see 'Philosophy' as being the end all battleground. Philosophy provides us with tools, but I see us all as essentially problem solvers. Tools to solve problems come from many sources.

Ethical behavior or answers arise from our meeting problems - and working out solutions. When I use the word 'problems' it is not in a bad sense, more like the sense that as humans we struggle with how to live, and that's part of being human.

I don't see the need for NOMA walls. Science, philosophy, and art/religion are part of the same human stuff.

I wish there was no need for the walls. Unfortunately, what I see is people claiming to represent science and religion respectively who do not appear to recognise any boundaries at all to the side they represent. This failure causes a conflict that many people incorrectly consider to be unresolvable. It seems a shame to me that in a world where there are so many genuinely unsolvable problems that we should have a war between western science and western religion which can be solved with nothing more than better education.

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 04:36 AM
There's a response to your essay here. (http://fc01.deviantart.com/fs20/f/2007/231/4/a/TEAL_DEER_by_kunika.jpg)

A green deer?

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 04:38 AM
Science is the study of what is real, philosophy the study of knowledge, and religion is whatever worthless nonsense you care to make up.

There's no "non-overlapping magesteria" when it comes to understanding the natural world. There's science, and there's crap.

Oh, and this just in: Frank Jackson's "Mary's room" argument is still logically invalid.

As usual, not worth a response. You didn't read or understand the opening post. I don't know why you bother taking part in debates, PixyMisa. To you, "debate" means "repeating my own point of view ad infinitum and making no effort to understand anybody-else's."

Robin
26th May 2009, 05:04 AM
I have to point you back to Kant (unfortunately). There is no logical reason why a form of causality (free will) cannot exist in a complementary way to normal physical causality. In other words it can be acausal from the point of view of science without actually contradicting normal causality.
I am not aware of Kant ever having said that, but you are perfectly right in any case.

Causality (of any type) does not exist in logic, it is not a priori. So there is no logical reason why all sorts of causality cannot co-exist.

But if you discount the intuitions borrowed from naive realism what reason do we have to suppose there is causality of any type?

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 05:38 AM
I am not aware of Kant ever having said that, but you are perfectly right in any case.

Causality (of any type) does not exist in logic, it is not a priori. So there is no logical reason why all sorts of causality cannot co-exist.

But if you discount the intuitions borrowed from naive realism what reason do we have to suppose there is causality of any type?

Not sure I understand the question. A reality without any sort of causality would be pure chaos, wouldn't it?

Foster Zygote
26th May 2009, 06:38 AM
At the top of Mount Everest it boils at 69 degrees. At the bottom of Death Valley it will boil at more than 100 degrees, although only marginally.

And science never predicted this! You've defeated science! I now believe in God!

Robin
26th May 2009, 06:47 AM
Not sure I understand the question. A reality without any sort of causality would be pure chaos, wouldn't it?
Why? How do you define causality? Is causality/chaos a dichotomy?

maddog
26th May 2009, 06:57 AM
I see a few possible problems here. The first is a practical problem (please pardon my over simplifications): The YECs are never going to *admit* that there is no scientific justification for a 6000 year old "Creation" and accept that Science has strong justification for several billion years, any more than scientists (some, yes, but not in general) are going to accept that Science has no place arguing the 6000 years with the YECs, regardless of justification or the basis of "understanding" the "facts".

Ignoring the YECs for a moment, let's look at the current official Catholic point of view, that the Big Bang theory does not interfere with church teaching, i.e. that God created, and if that creation took place through the mechanism of the Big Bang, then so be it. This, much like the science of it, is chasing origins. To which magisteria does this belong, then? Science wants to find out the how, where, when, etc; while religion says it knows the why (goddidit), and doesn't necessarily care about the how, where, when. But then, those still conflict, because what happens when science says it all started with a matter-antimatter co-creation out of nothing, and all there was before that was nothing? Because then, religion will say even when there was nothing, there was god... and then there's still an argument, and the magisteria MUST, by necessity, if not overlap, then at least fight over the boundaries.

Then there are your "problematic" statements, such as (3) “I know what consciousness is because I am aware of my own consciousness.”
Sure. That's problematic to science, because it's recursive, rather like "I choose to believe that I have a free will. [as opposed to all things being pre-destined]" Can science evaluate that? Ummm yeah, I don't think so. But neuro-science is sure going to try. And religion is certainly going to have a point of view (i.e. Catholics say "yes" on free-will, while Jehovah's Witnesses say "no")

So, is it left to philosophy or metaphysics? Hardly. Moreso, is it appropriate to leave it P&M? Probably not. Science would say no, religion would say no -- both are loathe to give up any area they can influence. And a lot of people would say that philosophers and metaphysicists are all full of crap anyway, and that's probably true.

I guess my point is that NOMA may be a nice idea, but impossible. Kind of like World Peace. Even if there was such a thing as non-overlapping, there would be war at the borders. But the OP was a fascinatingly good read anyway -- thanks for posting it.

Apathia
26th May 2009, 07:01 AM
They can just about manage to have no fences if their neighbour is philosophy, but when it comes to a direct relationship between science and religion then I think a fence is required - a fence which is acceptable to reasonable, moderate people on boths sides but which will annoy the hell out of the extremists.

Perhaps we yearn for the 'simpler" days when Religion was everything and the Authority. So some of us want Science to be the new everything.

I don't think Philosophy is up to being the Authority we desire.

But shelve that for a while.

Suppose we think in broad terms of human activity.
There is objective inquiry
and there is relationship/community/being

I don't think we can make an apartheid of these. They are both integral to who we are.

Objective inquiry is the pursuit of objective knowledge about ourselves, others, and the environment.
"spirituality" is about how we relate to ourselves, others, and the environment. It's not about knowledge of the objective sort but of Integration and Being.

The self-betrayal of fundamentalist and conservative religion is its insistence on dogmatic beliefs as the glue to bind a community.
Scientific inquiry of itself is neutral to how we personally and communally relate. But some who seek of it a new kind of religion or Authority try to use it to denigrate the "spiritual" aspect of our being. This is a betrayal of scientific inquiry.

I wouldn't call these separate endeavors "magisteria," anymore than growing grapes and making wine must be carried out by entirely separate institutions.

(Note: I deliberately use the word "spiritual," but I'm not talking about the supernatural or spirit beings.)

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 12:56 PM
I see a few possible problems here. The first is a practical problem (please pardon my over simplifications): The YECs are never going to *admit* that there is no scientific justification for a 6000 year old "Creation" and accept that Science has strong justification for several billion years, any more than scientists (some, yes, but not in general) are going to accept that Science has no place arguing the 6000 years with the YECs, regardless of justification or the basis of "understanding" the "facts".

Ignoring the YECs for a moment, let's look at the current official Catholic point of view, that the Big Bang theory does not interfere with church teaching, i.e. that God created, and if that creation took place through the mechanism of the Big Bang, then so be it. This, much like the science of it, is chasing origins. To which magisteria does this belong, then? Science wants to find out the how, where, when, etc; while religion says it knows the why (goddidit), and doesn't necessarily care about the how, where, when. But then, those still conflict, because what happens when science says it all started with a matter-antimatter co-creation out of nothing, and all there was before that was nothing?


At that point science is trying to do metaphysics, and should probably shut up. "It all started with a matter-antimatter co-creation out of nothing, and all there was before that was nothing" has nothing to do with science. It's pure metaphysics.

Yes, some YECs will never admit there is no scientific justification for what they believe (though not all of them - some are happy to acknowledge that the contradiction exists and say that in such cases they feel they must go with the Bible instead of science.) I'm trying to drive a wedge between those people and more sensible religious people.


Then there are your "problematic" statements, such as (3) “I know what consciousness is because I am aware of my own consciousness.”

Sure. That's problematic to science, because it's recursive, rather like "I choose to believe that I have a free will. [as opposed to all things being pre-destined]" Can science evaluate that? Ummm yeah, I don't think so.


Neither do I. Science doesn't know what to make of such statements, because they can't be translated/reduced into statements about physical objects. They are non-scientific claims.


But neuro-science is sure going to try.


Then the neuroscientists in question need to listen to the eliminative materialists and stop trying to do something which is impossible.


And religion is certainly going to have a point of view (i.e. Catholics say "yes" on free-will, while Jehovah's Witnesses say "no")


A point of view based on what, exactly? Certainly not science.


So, is it left to philosophy or metaphysics?


What else could it be left to? This *IS* metaphysics. The question about the existence of free will is the ultimate metaphysical question. It doesn't get any more metaphysical than that.


I guess my point is that NOMA may be a nice idea, but impossible. Kind of like World Peace.


I still hold out hope that it is less impossible than world peace. I know that both science and religion exist in harmony in my own worldview. I see no reason why it can't be the same for others. World peace, on the other hand, is truly impossible, because there's too many humans and not enough resources.


Even if there was such a thing as non-overlapping, there would be war at the borders. But the OP was a fascinatingly good read anyway -- thanks for posting it.

Cheers, and thanks for the feeback.

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 12:59 PM
And science never predicted this! You've defeated science! I now believe in God!

Err....eh?

Somebody else incorrectly stated that water always boils at 100 degrees. I corrected them. I did not say that this "defeats science". In fact, it should be obvious from the opening post that the last thing I want to do is defeat science. I am a staunch defender of science. The only thing I'm trying to defeat is metaphysics dressed up as science i.e. pseudoscience.

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 01:00 PM
Why? How do you define causality? Is causality/chaos a dichotomy?

I'd define causality as the relationship between causes and effects.

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 01:02 PM
Perhaps we yearn for the 'simpler" days when Religion was everything and the Authority. So some of us want Science to be the new everything.

I don't think Philosophy is up to being the Authority we desire.

But shelve that for a while.

Suppose we think in broad terms of human activity.
There is objective inquiry
and there is relationship/community/being

I don't think we can make an apartheid of these. They are both integral to who we are.

Objective inquiry is the pursuit of objective knowledge about ourselves, others, and the environment.
"spirituality" is about how we relate to ourselves, others, and the environment. It's not about knowledge of the objective sort but of Integration and Being.

The self-betrayal of fundamentalist and conservative religion is its insistence on dogmatic beliefs as the glue to bind a community.
Scientific inquiry of itself is neutral to how we personally and communally relate. But some who seek of it a new kind of religion or Authority try to use it to denigrate the "spiritual" aspect of our being. This is a betrayal of scientific inquiry.

I wouldn't call these separate endeavors "magisteria," anymore than growing grapes and making wine must be carried out by entirely separate institutions.

(Note: I deliberately use the word "spiritual," but I'm not talking about the supernatural or spirit beings.)

Thanks for the feedback. I have quite a lot to think about here. This about my third attempt to reformulate NOMA so it works. It's getting better, but I clearly have more work to do.

paximperium
26th May 2009, 01:23 PM
I'd define causality as the relationship between causes and effects.
Then nothing can be acausal. Please do tell what acausal events are possible?

fls
26th May 2009, 01:53 PM
Who is your audience for your version of NOMA? Because it depends upon your ability to exclude, a priori, certain fields from scientific inquiry. And I suspect that once a scientist reaches the part where you inform them that fruitful, interesting, and insightful areas of scientific inquiry are actually psuedoscience, they won't bother to read any further. If you are sincere about this endeavour, and you wish to include scientists in your audience, you need to make your description of science into something that is recognizable to a scientist.

Linda

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 02:00 PM
Who is your audience for your version of NOMA?


Everyone, but it is primarily directed at scientific materialists who don't know much about people like Wittgenstein and Rorty.


Because it depends upon your ability to exclude, a priori, certain fields from scientific inquiry. And I suspect that once a scientist reaches the part where you inform them that fruitful, interesting, and insightful areas of scientific inquiry are actually psuedoscience, they won't bother to read any further.


Which fruitful areas of science are you refering to?

I hope you aren't talking about The Varieties of Religious Experience, 'cos that ain't science in my book.


If you are sincere about this endeavour, and you wish to include scientists in your audience, you need to make your description of science into something that is recognizable to a scientist.


Perhaps the scientists in question need to do a bit more thinking about what their own concept of science is? I've defined science very specifically so as to limit it to the investigation of what it is possible to observe and predict. If a particular scientist thinks science can go beyond this then it is their concept of science which needs to change, not mine. Sure, there are plenty of scientists out there who don't know the difference between science and metaphysics. I have no intention of bending my definition of science so it allows this illusion to persist. There has to be a trade-off. I'm trying to get scientists to understand that if they want to stop religion meddling in their business then they've got to stop meddling in metaphysics themselves.

What percentage of practicising scientists don't know the difference between science and metaphysics? I don't know, but I'm guessing it is a sizeable proportion. As far as I am concerned, this is no more acceptable than religious people claiming scientific justification for beliefs which have nothing to do with science.

Science loses NOTHING by keeping it's dirty mittens off metaphysics. The threat is to people like PixyMisa, who doesn't know the difference between a scientific claim and a metaphysical claim and who want to be able to claim that their entire belief-system is justified by science when in fact this is not true. I am not pandering to delusions like this. I want to drive a wedge between extremists of this sort and people who have a bit more of a sophisticated, educated view of science.

fls
26th May 2009, 02:06 PM
I'd define causality as the relationship between causes and effects.

Causality is a special case of the relationship between events.

Linda

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 02:07 PM
Then nothing can be acausal. Please do tell what acausal events are possible?

How does defining causality as the relationship between cause and effects lead to the conclusion that nothing can be acausal???

fls
26th May 2009, 02:35 PM
Everyone, but it is primarily directed at scientific materialists who don't know much about people like Wittgenstein and Rorty.

Which fruitful areas of science are you refering to?

This:

"It all started with a matter-antimatter co-creation out of nothing, and all there was before that was nothing" has nothing to do with science. It's pure metaphysics.

and this:

Then the neuroscientists in question need to listen to the eliminative materialists and stop trying to do something which is impossible.

I hope you aren't talking about The Varieties of Religious Experience, 'cos that ain't science in my book.

I guess that can serve as another example, then.

I suspect that "because I say so" will not be sufficient.

Perhaps the scientists in question need to do a bit more thinking about what their own concept of science is?

Why? If someone is making useful discoveries, discoveries which are considered scientific by their colleagues, why would they doubt their concept of science?

I've defined science very specifically so as to limit it to the investigation of what it is possible to observe and predict. If a particular scientist thinks science can go beyond this then it is their concept of science which needs to change, not mine.

Why? Why should stepping on your toes be of concern to anyone?

Sure, there are plenty of scientists out there who don't know the difference between science and metaphysics. I have no intention of bending my definition of science so it allows this illusion to persist. There has to be a trade-off. I'm trying to get scientists to understand that if they want to stop religion meddling in their business then they've got to stop meddling in metaphysics themselves.

Then you need to present evidence that one will follow from the other (if religion is going to meddle regardless of what scientists do, then it doesn't behoove scientists to change), and you need to find a way to distinguish metaphysics a priori which doesn't capture a chunk of established, fruitful and interesting science.

What percentage of practicising scientists don't know the difference between science and metaphysics? I don't know, but I'm guessing it is a sizeable proportion. As far as I am concerned, this is no more acceptable than religious people claiming scientific justification for beliefs which have nothing to do with science.

I think that most scientists pay little attention to metaphysics. But I think the reason is that when it makes vacuous claims, like telling scientists that studying the conditions surrounding the Big Bang isn't science or that it's impossible to study mental states, it loses credibility.

Science loses NOTHING by keeping it's dirty mittens off metaphysics.

Unfortunately, the loss of fruitful, insightful, and interesting fields of inquiry is not considered the loss of NOTHING. Scientists don't really consider anything out-of-bounds, and telling them something can't be done probably really only has the effect of making them try harder.

Do you sincerely think that anyone will listen to you if you start out like this?

Linda

fls
26th May 2009, 03:22 PM
It's like when you spent all that time telling me that the kind of medical research that I'm involved in isn't science because it deals with subjective impressions. All it tells me is that you don't know what you're talking about.

Linda

paximperium
26th May 2009, 03:30 PM
How does defining causality as the relationship between cause and effects lead to the conclusion that nothing can be acausal???
So what caused the cause?

PixyMisa
26th May 2009, 03:36 PM
Science loses NOTHING by keeping it's dirty mittens off metaphysics.
What do you even think you are talking about here?

The threat is to people like PixyMisa, who doesn't know the difference between a scientific claim and a metaphysical claim and who want to be able to claim that their entire belief-system is justified by science when in fact this is not true.
Strawman, ad hominem.

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 03:56 PM
Hi Linda


Which fruitful areas of science are you refering to?

This:

Originally Posted by UndercoverElephant View Post
"It all started with a matter-antimatter co-creation out of nothing, and all there was before that was nothing" has nothing to do with science. It's pure metaphysics.


and this:


Then the neuroscientists in question need to listen to the eliminative materialists and stop trying to do something which is impossible.

I hope you aren't talking about The Varieties of Religious Experience, 'cos that ain't science in my book.


I guess that can serve as another example, then.

I suspect that "because I say so" will not be sufficient.


"Because I say so" doesn't come into it. I've placed a strict limit on what can legitimately be called "science." That limit is this: science has to be based on something which is observable and repeatable. The examples above are all non-science.

"It all started with a matter-antimatter co-creation out of nothing, and all there was before that was nothing" is non-scientific because it is making a claim about how something can come from nothing. That claim can't possibly be based on observation. We don't even know whether there has ever been a state of nothingness, let alone how something could come from it. That something could come from absolutely nothing is a logical impossibility. It's an a-priori metaphysical "truth". More to the point, even if we had a time machine we could not go back in time and observe this magical creation of something from nothing because the laws of physics break down before you get to the purported nothingness - it's like trying to approach a black hole.

Science loses nothing by admitting this is a metaphysical question, because in the whole 400 years of the history of science, absolutely no progress whatsoever has been made in answering it.

Neuroscientists trying to answer questions about the status of subjectively-justified claims is just as silly. Wittgenstein and Rorty both believed that all philosophical problems arise out of unconscious assumptions built into the vocabulary in which they are stated. If they are right, and I believe that they are, then no advances in neuroscience can make the slightest bit of progress on this issue.

As for William James...we've been through this before. If that is science then it is the study of anecdotal reports of something which has no scientific meaning. To a neuroscientist, "religious experiences" means "something going on in your brain."




Perhaps the scientists in question need to do a bit more thinking about what their own concept of science is?

Why? If someone is making useful discoveries, discoveries which are considered scientific by their colleagues, why would they doubt their concept of science?


Please give me some examples of the sort of discoveries you are talking about.



I've defined science very specifically so as to limit it to the investigation of what it is possible to observe and predict. If a particular scientist thinks science can go beyond this then it is their concept of science which needs to change, not mine.

Why? Why should stepping on your toes be of concern to anyone?


It's not my toes they are stepping on. If they are going to call themselves scientists then they should be concerned about their lack of understanding of what science actually is.

Scientists producing pseudoscience helps nobody.



Sure, there are plenty of scientists out there who don't know the difference between science and metaphysics. I have no intention of bending my definition of science so it allows this illusion to persist. There has to be a trade-off. I'm trying to get scientists to understand that if they want to stop religion meddling in their business then they've got to stop meddling in metaphysics themselves.

Then you need to present evidence that one will follow from the other (if religion is going to meddle regardless of what scientists do, then it doesn't behoove scientists to change),


I can't do that. That's like trying to get the Palestinians to recognise the state of Israel before the Israel recognises the state of Palestine. I have to appeal to the moderates on both sides, because it is only they who can force the extremists to change (and if you say this can't happen then I'll point you to the situation in Northern Ireland, where we now have ex-terrorists in government condemning people who are trying to continue the fight as "enemies of the island of Ireland" - and succeeding in stopping the violence.)


and you need to find a way to distinguish metaphysics a priori which doesn't capture a chunk of established, fruitful and interesting science.


That's easy. Or at least it should be. I'm not quite sure what you think qualifies as science which I am claiming is not. I need some examples.


I think that most scientists pay little attention to metaphysics.


Which is rather a problem, because it means they end up making metaphysical claims and mistakenly calling them "science."


But I think the reason is that when it makes vacuous claims, like telling scientists that studying the conditions surrounding the Big Bang isn't science or that it's impossible to study mental states, it loses credibility.


Any scientist who thinks science can go all the way back to Big Bang is delusional. Physics breaks down before you get there. Any scientist who thinks he is studying mental states is also mistaken. He studies brain states and anecdotal reports of mental states. "Mental states" has no strictly scientific meaning (and we are being STRICT here), as the eliminative materialists correctly point out.




Science loses NOTHING by keeping it's dirty mittens off metaphysics.

Unfortunately, the loss of fruitful, insightful, and interesting fields of inquiry is not considered the loss of NOTHING. Scientists don't really consider anything out-of-bounds..


Don't they? What about the scientific study of souls?


and telling them something can't be done probably really only has the effect of making them try harder.


They can try as hard as they like, they will not be able to study souls. Or God. Or Love. Or justice....



Do you sincerely think that anyone will listen to you if you start out like this?


I didn't start out like that. It "started" when somebody stated that it was difficult to take me seriously when I say things like "materialism is a metaphysical position." Sorry, but materialism really is a metaphysical position. This is not up for debate: anyone who thinks materialism is not a metaphysical position is wrong. There is only one serious attempt I am aware of to defend a non-metaphysical version of materialism and the person who made that attempt was Richard Rorty. I sincerely wish that more scientists understood (a) why he tried to create a non-metaphysical materialism and (b) what is required of a non-metaphysical version of materialism. I suspect that many of the people who call themselves "materialists" would be shocked by Rorty's position. That's their problem, not his. He defended the position they should be defending. Part of my intention in devising this argument (which is part of a book I am trying to write) is to explain to scientists why they need to take Rorty very seriously indeed.

Geoff

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 03:57 PM
It's like when you spent all that time telling me that the kind of medical research that I'm involved in isn't science because it deals with subjective impressions. All it tells me is that you don't know what you're talking about.

Linda

Linda,

It is impossible for me to respond to this without details of exactly what you are talking about.

Geoff

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 03:59 PM
What do you even think you are talking about here?


No point in trying to explain it to you, PixyTrixy, 'cos you aren't interested in understanding anything I believe or why I believe it. All you are interested in doing is trying to explain to me what you believe, which is of no interest to me because I already understand exactly what you believe, why you believe it, and what is wrong with that belief system.

(And don't try to deny that you aren't interested in what I believe, because you've said so quite explicitly on more than one occasion.)

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 04:00 PM
So what caused the cause?

Another cause, presumably.

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos
26th May 2009, 04:28 PM
I have to point you back to Kant (unfortunately). There is no logical reason why a form of causality (free will) cannot exist in a complementary way to normal physical causality. In other words it can be acausal from the point of view of science without actually contradicting normal causality.
What? I can see how it might be considered uncaused from the point of view of science, but if it is going to have any effect on the physical world, it had better be causal.

But let's back up and consider this uncaused, nonphysical thing. What determines the sorts of effects it has on the physical world?

~~ Paul

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 04:29 PM
Linda:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/materialism-eliminative/


In articles such as “Mental Events and the Brain” (1963), Paul Feyerabend explicitly endorsed the idea that common-sense psychology might prove to be radically false. Indeed, Feyerabend held that practically any version of materialism would severely undermine common-sense psychology. Like many of his contemporaries, Feyerabend argued that common-sense mental notions are essentially non-physical in character. Thus, for him, any form of physicalism would entail that there are no mental processes or states as understood by common-sense (1963, p. 295).

Like Feyerabend, Quine also endorsed the idea that mental notions like belief or sensation could simply be abandoned in favor of a more accurate physiological account. In a brief passage in Word and Object (1960), Quine suggests that terms denoting the physical correlates of mental states will be more useful and, as he puts it, “[t]he bodily states exist anyway; why add the others?” (p. 264). However, Quine goes on to question just how radical an eliminativist form of materialism would actually be, implying no significant difference between explicating mental states as physiological states, and eliminating mental state terms in favor of physical state terms. He asks, “Is physicalism a repudiation of mental objects after all, or a theory of them? Does it repudiate the mental state of pain or anger in favor of its physical concomitant, or does it identify the mental state with a state of the physical organism (and so a state of the physical organism with the mental state)” (p. 265)? Quine answers this question by rejecting it, suggesting there is no interesting difference between the two cases: “Some may therefore find comfort in reflecting that the distinction between an eliminative and an explicative physicalism is unreal” (p. 265).

Here we see a tension that runs throughout the writings of many early eliminative materialists. The problem involves a vacillation between two different conditions under which mental concepts and terms are dropped. The first scenario proposes that certain mental concepts will turn out to be empty, with mental state terms referring to nothing that actually exists. Historical analogs for this way of understanding eliminativism are cases where we (now) say it turned out there are no such things, such as demons and crystal spheres. The second scenario suggests that the conceptual framework provided by neurosciences (or some other physical account) can or should come to replace the common-sense framework we now use. Unlike the first scenario, the second allows that mental state terms may actually designate something real — it's just that what they designate turn out to be brain states, which will be more accurately described using the terminology of the relevant sciences. One possible model for this way of thinking about eliminativism might be the discontinuance of talk about germs in favor of more precise scientific terminology of infectious agents. Given these two different conceptions, early eliminativists would sometimes offer two different characterizations of their view: (a) There are no mental states, just brain states and, (b) There really are mental states, but they are just brain states (and we will come to view them that way).

These alternative ways of understanding eliminative materialism produced considerable confusion about what, exactly, eliminative materialism entailed. Moreover, since it was difficult to see how the second version was significantly different from various forms of reductive materialism (hence, Quine's skepticism about the difference between elimination and explication) it also raised doubts about the distinctiveness of eliminative materialism.

Much of this was brought to light in the discussion generated by an influential 1965 article by Richard Rorty entitled, “Mind-Body Identity, Privacy, and Categories”. Rorty's so-called “disappearance” theory appeared to openly endorse both conceptions of eliminative materialism, suggesting that sensations do not actually exist and that they are nothing but brain processes (p. 28). As one might expect, the ensuing discussion focused on getting clear on what Rorty's theory actually claimed. For example, Cornman's article introducing the phrase ‘eliminative materialism’ claimed that Rorty was arguing that talk about sensations denotes brain states in much the same way that talk about Zeus's thunderbolts (allegedly) denotes electrical discharges. Unfortunately, besides suggesting a questionable perspective on reference, this interpretation raised further questions about what distinguished eliminativism from reductionism. In one helpful article by William Lycan and George Pappas (1972) — entitled, appropriately enough, “What Is Eliminative Materialism?” — the authors convincingly argued that you can't have it both ways. You can either claim that common sense mental notions do not pick out anything real and that mental terms are empty, in which case you are a true eliminative materialist; or you can claim that mental notions can be, in some way, reduced to neurological (or perhaps computational) states of the brain, in which case you are really just a good-old fashioned materialist/reductionist. In a follow-up article, Steven Savitt (1974) introduced the distinction between ontologically conservative (reductive) and ontologically radical (eliminative) theory change, which helped to further clarify and distinguish the central claims of eliminative materialism as it is understood today.

In more recent history, eliminative materialism has received attention from a broader range of writers, including many concerned not only with the metaphysics of the mind, but also the process of theory change, the status of semantic properties, the nature of psychological explanation and recent developments in cognitive science. Much of this attention has been fostered by the husband-wife team of Paul and Patricia Churchland, whose writings have forced many philosophers and cognitive scientists to take eliminativism more seriously. In his 1981 article, “Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes”, Paul Churchland presents several arguments in favor of dropping commonsense psychology that have shaped the modern debate about the status of ordinary notions like belief. Patricia Churchland's provocative 1986 book, Neurophilosophy, suggests that developments in neuroscience point to a bleak future for commonsense mental states. Another influential author has been Stephen Stich. His important 1983 book, From Folk Psychology to Cognitive Science: The Case Against Belief, argues that even conventional computational psychology — which is often assumed to vindicate common-sense psychology — should reject taxonomies for cognitive states that correspond with belief-desire psychology. These authors' views are discussed in more detail in Sections 3 and 4 below.


This is not empty word games. It is what happens when philosophers of science and neuroscientists seriously confront the limitations of scientific enquiry. How do you feel about eliminative materialism? I'm no eliminative materialist, but I understand exactly why the above history played out the way it did because I see it repeated every time I try to have a serious discussion about these issues on boards like this one. The philosophically-naive materialists vacillate between saying that mental states "are" brain states and saying that they don't really exist at all. Many will keep wobbling forever, because, like our good friend PixyMisa, they aren't yet ready to confront the holes in their own belief system. Some are tougher-minded than that and it is they who end up having to choose between eliminativism and abandoning materialism altogether. The toughest-minded of all end up reading Rorty.

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 04:33 PM
What? I can see how it might be uncaused from the point of view of science, but if it is going to have any effect on the physical world, it had better be causal.


(Supposedly) random quantum events don't effect the physical world?


But let's back up and consider this uncaused, nonphysical thing. What determines the sorts of effects it has on the physical world?


Depends what sort of thing you are talking about. If it's God then the answer is nothing: God is not determined by anything. If it is something like karma or synchronicity then the answer is more like "something like whatever it was that determined the laws of physics." What determines the laws of physics?

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos
26th May 2009, 04:41 PM
he philosophically-naive materialists vacillate between saying that mental states "are" brain states and saying that they don't really exist at all.
Are you sure this isn't because the definition of "mental state" is as slippery as a frog?

If you ask some people about mental states, they may say that mental states don't exist. This is because they think of a mental state in a dualistic way but don't believe in dualism. Therefore, their take on "mental state" doesn't exist. Let's face it, when some immaterialists talk to me about mental states, it is clear they are assuming dualism. The term "mental state" has become polluted with dualism.

If you ask other people about mental states, they will jump to thinking about "brain states" and then say that brain states are brain function.

Now, when someone says that a complete neurophysiology has no room for, say, desire, what does he mean? I don't think he means that people don't desire things. I think he means that desire is so poorly defined that the sloppy folk definition will have no place in the completed science.

It's like sunrise. It has no place in astronomy. But the sun certainly does come and go each day. And it's like elan vital. There is no place for a life force in biology. But things are certainly alive.

~~ Paul

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos
26th May 2009, 04:46 PM
(Supposedly) random quantum events don't effect the physical world?
Yes, they do. They are uncaused but causal. I just wanted to make that distinction. They are not "acausal from the point of view of science."


Depends what sort of thing you are talking about. If it's God then the answer is nothing: God is not determined by anything.
Sorry, I was using the term determines in an informal way. How does God decide what effects to have on the physical world?

If it is something like karma or synchronicity then the answer is more like "something like whatever it was that determined the laws of physics." What determines the laws of physics?
I'm not sure, but let's say nothing. They just are. But no one would use the term free will to describe the laws of physics and the deterministic/random way in which they form the world. The libertarian free willie is not aided by another fixed, deterministic system of impersonal laws that has no connection with his memories (which are part of the physical world).

And this still leaves us with the question of how a separate world of laws can have an effect on the physical world and not itself, by induction, also be physical. In other words, why aren't there just more physical laws and why haven't we noticed them?

~~ Paul

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 05:00 PM
Yes, they do. They are uncaused but causal. I just wanted to make that distinction. They are not "acausal from the point of view of science."


Sorry, I was using the term determines in an informal way. How does God decide what effects to have on the physical world?


I guess that question must be directed at people who believe in an intelligent God, which doesn't include myself. I'd say "making decisions" is a cognitive process which requires a brain. I'd say that any God I believe is not this sort of God.

I could give you some speculative answers as to how it might appear that God "makes decisions", but what would be the point? I can't prove any of it and most people round here wouldn't even be able to understand what I was trying to explain, let alone have any reason to believe it. The question lies firmly in the domain of religion.



I'm not sure, but let's say nothing. They just are. But no one would use the term free will to describe the laws of physics and the deterministic/random way in which they form the world. The libertarian free willie is not aided by a fixed system of impersonal laws that has no connection with his memories (which are part of the physical world).


Free will is not in the same category as karma and synchronicity. It is more like the issue of how God makes decisions.

I am willing to try to answer these questions, but not in public, for reasons explained in the opening post of this thread. Those answers are part of my religious beliefs and if I start posting them on this board then people are likely to think I'm trying to convince them those beliefs are true. If the only interest people here have in my religious beliefs is rubbishing them and I have no means of objectively defending them then it is doubly-pointless discussing them here. If somebody genuinely interested in the Occult asks me the question in private, I'll try to answer, because I know the person I am talking to has a genuine interest in trying to understand the answers.


And this still leaves us with the question of how a separate world of laws can have an effect on the physical world and not itself, by induction, also be physical.


A question which science can't answer....

UndercoverElephant
26th May 2009, 05:04 PM
Are you sure this isn't because the definition of "mental state" is as slippery as a frog?


The slipperiness you refer to is an integral part of the problem discussed in the article. There's no way to unslipperify it.


If you ask some people about mental states, they may say that mental states don't exist. This is because they think of a mental state in a dualistic way but don't believe in dualism. Therefore, their take on "mental state" doesn't exist. Let's face it, when some immaterialists talk to me about mental states, it is clear they are assuming dualism. The term "mental state" has become polluted with dualism.


So has the term "physical state". There's confusion all round.


If you ask other people about mental states, they will jump to thinking about "brain states" and then say that brain states are brain function.

Now, when someone says that a complete neurophysiology has no room for, say, desire, what does he mean? I don't think he means that people don't desire things. I think he means that desire is so poorly defined that the sloppy folk definition will have no place in the completed science.

It's like sunrise. It has no place in astronomy. But the sun certainly does come and go each day. And it's like elan vital. There is no place for a life force in biology. But things are certainly alive.


I think the problem runs much deeper than you do. It is not a co-incidence that we can't agree on what these terms mean. There's a conceptual problem lurking at the root of all of them, and getting rid of it is NOT easy, especially if you want to go on being a materialist.

See you tomorrow, it's my bed time.

Robin
26th May 2009, 05:18 PM
I'd define causality as the relationship between causes and effects.
You are just defining it in terms of itself. How can we know what a cause is if we don't know what causality is?

What is a cause? What is an effect? What is the relationship between them?

fls
26th May 2009, 05:28 PM
"Because I say so" doesn't come into it. I've placed a strict limit on what can legitimately be called "science." That limit is this: science has to be based on something which is observable and repeatable. The examples above are all non-science.

Then the scientist who is performing research that you consider non-science simply points out that you have formed a poor definition of science.

"It all started with a matter-antimatter co-creation out of nothing, and all there was before that was nothing" is non-scientific because it is making a claim about how something can come from nothing. That claim can't possibly be based on observation. We don't even know whether there has ever been a state of nothingness, let alone how something could come from it. That something could come from absolutely nothing is a logical impossibility. It's an a-priori metaphysical "truth". More to the point, even if we had a time machine we could not go back in time and observe this magical creation of something from nothing because the laws of physics break down before you get to the purported nothingness - it's like trying to approach a black hole.

No matter how much you wish to make it a truth, this is simply something that you do not know. And this demonstrates that your definition of science has broken down. Because we do have other tools at our disposal than observation. We can use the power of symmetry and conservation to use what we know about one set of conditions to fill in what conditions must apply on the side which is unobserved. Fortunately, scientists do not choose to limit themselves unnecessarily.

Science loses nothing by admitting this is a metaphysical question, because in the whole 400 years of the history of science, absolutely no progress whatsoever has been made in answering it.

This is simply incorrect.

Neuroscientists trying to answer questions about the status of subjectively-justified claims is just as silly. Wittgenstein and Rorty both believed that all philosophical problems arise out of unconscious assumptions built into the vocabulary in which they are stated. If they are right, and I believe that they are, then no advances in neuroscience can make the slightest bit of progress on this issue.

Again, "because I say so" will be of no interest to neuroscientists who are participating in interesting and useful discoveries.

As for William James...we've been through this before. If that is science then it is the study of anecdotal reports of something which has no scientific meaning.

Using a poorly formed definition of science.

To a neuroscientist, "religious experiences" means "something going on in your brain."

That would depend upon what was discovered when studying religious experiences. They would start with the brain, anyway.

Please give me some examples of the sort of discoveries you are talking about.

Evolution through natural selection. Special relativity. Aspirin.

It's not my toes they are stepping on. If they are going to call themselves scientists then they should be concerned about their lack of understanding of what science actually is.

Why? Ignoring the issue allows them to proceed with performing research, making discoveries, answering questions, etc. What more would they want?

That's easy. Or at least it should be. I'm not quite sure what you think qualifies as science which I am claiming is not. I need some examples.

What you have mentioned here - the study of the Big Bang and the conditions at the time or prior, the study of consciousness, the study of subjective impressions.

Which is rather a problem, because it means they end up making metaphysical claims and mistakenly calling them "science."

That doesn't seem to be a problem for the scientists.

Any scientist who thinks science can go all the way back to Big Bang is delusional. Physics breaks down before you get there. Any scientist who thinks he is studying mental states is also mistaken. He studies brain states and anecdotal reports of mental states. "Mental states" has no strictly scientific meaning (and we are being STRICT here), as the eliminative materialists correctly point out.

So you say.

Don't they? What about the scientific study of souls?

Clearly you need to read this book.

Spook by Mary Roach (http://www.amazon.com/Spook-Science-Afterlife-Mary-Roach/dp/0393059626).

Actually everybody needs to read this book and anything else written by Mary Roach.

They can try as hard as they like, they will not be able to study souls. Or God. Or Love. Or justice....

Again, it is fortunate that no one seems to be listening to you.

I didn't start out like that. It "started" when somebody stated that it was difficult to take me seriously when I say things like "materialism is a metaphysical position." Sorry, but materialism really is a metaphysical position. This is not up for debate: anyone who thinks materialism is not a metaphysical position is wrong. There is only one serious attempt I am aware of to defend a non-metaphysical version of materialism and the person who made that attempt was Richard Rorty. I sincerely wish that more scientists understood (a) why he tried to create a non-metaphysical materialism and (b) what is required of a non-metaphysical version of materialism. I suspect that many of the people who call themselves "materialists" would be shocked by Rorty's position. That's their problem, not his. He defended the position they should be defending. Part of my intention in devising this argument (which is part of a book I am trying to write) is to explain to scientists why they need to take Rorty very seriously indeed.

Geoff

Then you seriously need to consider talking about something that scientists will recognize as science, rather than some perverted form of it.

Linda

Robin
26th May 2009, 06:04 PM
I think the problem runs much deeper than you do. It is not a co-incidence that we can't agree on what these terms mean. There's a conceptual problem lurking at the root of all of them, and getting rid of it is NOT easy, especially if you want to go on being a materialist.
I still don't see what this alleged conceptual problem is. I can't see why there should be any problem with mental states being brain states.

But if, for some reason, mental states were something other than brain states - why would that be a problem for a materialist?

But the conceptual probem for the non-materialist is quite clear and so far non-materialists never even attempt to address it.

If consciousness is non-physical then it works according to a different set of laws

So how do these other laws interact with physical laws? Is there some intermediate law that translates between them? If so then that is three sets of laws.

So the non-materialist must conjecture two or three sets of laws.

But can anybody explain how this other set of laws would differ from physical laws? No.

Does this other set of laws settle the hard problem of consciousness? No.

Does this other set of laws settle the mind/body problem? No.

So you have this multiplication of entities with no explanatory power whatsoever - in fact a reverse explanatory power - now you have more to explain as well as the original problem (which has never been properly defined in any case).

So by parsimony we should just go with one underlying order - either everything is physical or nothing is.

Robin
26th May 2009, 06:48 PM
I didn't start out like that. It "started" when somebody stated that it was difficult to take me seriously when I say things like "materialism is a metaphysical position." Sorry, but materialism really is a metaphysical position. This is not up for debate: anyone who thinks materialism is not a metaphysical position is wrong.
As I have pointed out before, the only truly non-metaphysical position is Physicalism. I have always enjoyed that irony.
I sincerely wish that more scientists understood (a) why he tried to create a non-metaphysical materialism and (b) what is required of a non-metaphysical version of materialism.
Most scientists I have spoken to on the subject have a grasp of these issues that is far, far in advance of your own.
Part of my intention in devising this argument (which is part of a book I am trying to write) is to explain to scientists why they need to take Rorty very seriously indeed.
I don't really see the point - very few scientists, in my experience, are materialists in any case. You should probably do some research on the philosophical position of scientists before you go jumping to conclusions.

I would have thought that Rorty's position would be more challenging for philosophers than it would be for scientists. If we are to take Rorty seriously then your philosophy degree was pretty much a waste of time.

tsig
26th May 2009, 09:24 PM
That's a little unfair to some parts of philosophy.

Can you define those parts.

tsig
26th May 2009, 09:31 PM
I have to point you back to Kant (unfortunately). There is no logical reason why a form of causality (free will) cannot exist in a complementary way to normal physical causality. In other words it can be acausal from the point of view of science without actually contradicting normal causality.

Causeless causes non contradicting ceases completely, correcting causality.

tsig
26th May 2009, 09:39 PM
No point in trying to explain it to you, PixyTrixy, 'cos you aren't interested in understanding anything I believe or why I believe it. All you are interested in doing is trying to explain to me what you believe, which is of no interest to me because I already understand exactly what you believe, why you believe it, and what is wrong with that belief system.

(And don't try to deny that you aren't interested in what I believe, because you've said so quite explicitly on more than one occasion.)

You might want to let PixyTrixy get a word in here.

Do you always do both sides in a conversation?

tsig
26th May 2009, 09:43 PM
Everyone, but it is primarily directed at scientific materialists who don't know much about people like Wittgenstein and Rorty.



Which fruitful areas of science are you refering to?

I hope you aren't talking about The Varieties of Religious Experience, 'cos that ain't science in my book.



Perhaps the scientists in question need to do a bit more thinking about what their own concept of science is? I've defined science very specifically so as to limit it to the investigation of what it is possible to observe and predict. If a particular scientist thinks science can go beyond this then it is their concept of science which needs to change, not mine. Sure, there are plenty of scientists out there who don't know the difference between science and metaphysics. I have no intention of bending my definition of science so it allows this illusion to persist. There has to be a trade-off. I'm trying to get scientists to understand that if they want to stop religion meddling in their business then they've got to stop meddling in metaphysics themselves.

What percentage of practicising scientists don't know the difference between science and metaphysics? I don't know, but I'm guessing it is a sizeable proportion. As far as I am concerned, this is no more acceptable than religious people claiming scientific justification for beliefs which have nothing to do with science.

Science loses NOTHING by keeping it's dirty mittens off metaphysics. The threat is to people like PixyMisa, who doesn't know the difference between a scientific claim and a metaphysical claim and who want to be able to claim that their entire belief-system is justified by science when in fact this is not true. I am not pandering to delusions like this. I want to drive a wedge between extremists of this sort and people who have a bit more of a sophisticated, educated view of science.

What is this sophisticated, educated view of science?

tsig
26th May 2009, 09:50 PM
Linda:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/materialism-eliminative/



This is not empty word games. It is what happens when philosophers of science and neuroscientists seriously confront the limitations of scientific enquiry. How do you feel about eliminative materialism? I'm no eliminative materialist, but I understand exactly why the above history played out the way it did because I see it repeated every time I try to have a serious discussion about these issues on boards like this one. The philosophically-naive materialists vacillate between saying that mental states "are" brain states and saying that they don't really exist at all. Many will keep wobbling forever, because, like our good friend PixyMisa, they aren't yet ready to confront the holes in their own belief system. Some are tougher-minded than that and it is they who end up having to choose between eliminativism and abandoning materialism altogether. The toughest-minded of all end up reading Rorty.

And you are one of those "toughest-minded"?

tsig
26th May 2009, 09:57 PM
(Supposedly) random quantum events don't effect the physical world?



Depends what sort of thing you are talking about. If it's God then the answer is nothing: God is not determined by anything. If it is something like karma or synchronicity then the answer is more like "something like whatever it was that determined the laws of physics." What determines the laws of physics?

Nothing.

Why do you think they require a determiner?

PixyMisa
26th May 2009, 10:16 PM
No point in trying to explain it to you, PixyTrixy, 'cos you aren't interested in understanding anything I believe or why I believe it.
I didn't care what you believed in one specific argument, because your beliefs were not relevant to that argument.

All you are interested in doing is trying to explain to me what you believe, which is of no interest to me because I already understand exactly what you believe, why you believe it, and what is wrong with that belief system.
Really? Then why did you make such a hash of demonstrating this that your posts were three parts logical fallacy to one part unsupported opinion?

(And don't try to deny that you aren't interested in what I believe, because you've said so quite explicitly on more than one occasion.)
And one part lack of reading comprehension.

So, let's try again, shall we?

What do you think you're talking about with your
Science loses NOTHING by keeping it's dirty mittens off metaphysics.
To me it looks like nothing more than an ad hominem and a strawman, but then you include those in pretty much everything you post, so maybe you had something else in mind as well.

PixyMisa
26th May 2009, 10:20 PM
Can you define those parts.
Well, there's Popper's work on falsifiability. And Hume on epistemology.

Maybe one or two others...

PixyMisa
26th May 2009, 10:29 PM
Linda:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/materialism-eliminative/

This is not empty word games.
No. It's what I've been telling you all along.

It is what happens when philosophers of science and neuroscientists seriously confront the limitations of scientific enquiry.
What limitations? That it can't study that which does not exist?

How do you feel about eliminative materialism?
It's a perfectly cromulent philosophy.

I'm no eliminative materialist, but I understand exactly why the above history played out the way it did because I see it repeated every time I try to have a serious discussion about these issues on boards like this one.
Because you're talking nonsense?

The philosophically-naive materialists vacillate between saying that mental states "are" brain states and saying that they don't really exist at all.
From that article:
(a) There are no mental states, just brain states and, (b) There really are mental states, but they are just brain states (and we will come to view them that way).
These two statements are saying the same thing. There is no vacillation, nor any naivete, just differences in phraseology.

So in other words, that's an ad-hominem and a strawman. Again.

Many will keep wobbling forever, because, like our good friend PixyMisa, they aren't yet ready to confront the holes in their own belief system.
What holes, and what belief system, might you be referring to here?

Some are tougher-minded than that and it is they who end up having to choose between eliminativism and abandoning materialism altogether. The toughest-minded of all end up reading Rorty.
And what do these "toughest-minded" take away from this?

PixyMisa
26th May 2009, 10:34 PM
You might want to let PixyTrixy get a word in here.

Do you always do both sides in a conversation?
But it's so much easier that way!

fls
27th May 2009, 03:00 AM
Linda,

It is impossible for me to respond to this without details of exactly what you are talking about.

Geoff

I just meant it as an example of the problems a scientist will have taking you seriously. It's not a helpful example if you don't remember our discussion on whether subjective impressions are used in science.

Linda

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 03:03 AM
You are just defining it in terms of itself. How can we know what a cause is if we don't know what causality is?

What is a cause? What is an effect? What is the relationship between them?

I can see no non-circular way of defining them. Can you?

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 03:13 AM
Linda



"Because I say so" doesn't come into it. I've placed a strict limit on what can legitimately be called "science." That limit is this: science has to be based on something which is observable and repeatable. The examples above are all non-science.

Then the scientist who is performing research that you consider non-science simply points out that you have formed a poor definition of science.


Sorry, but with the greatest respect, if you think science can based on something non-observable or non-repeatable then I'm afraid it is you who have formed a poor definition of science.



"It all started with a matter-antimatter co-creation out of nothing, and all there was before that was nothing" is non-scientific because it is making a claim about how something can come from nothing. That claim can't possibly be based on observation. We don't even know whether there has ever been a state of nothingness, let alone how something could come from it. That something could come from absolutely nothing is a logical impossibility. It's an a-priori metaphysical "truth". More to the point, even if we had a time machine we could not go back in time and observe this magical creation of something from nothing because the laws of physics break down before you get to the purported nothingness - it's like trying to approach a black hole.

No matter how much you wish to make it a truth, this is simply something that you do not know. And this demonstrates that your definition of science has broken down. Because we do have other tools at our disposal than observation. We can use the power of symmetry and conservation to use what we know about one set of conditions to fill in what
conditions must apply on the side which is unobserved. Fortunately, scientists do not choose to limit themselves unnecessarily.


You think the claim that we cannot approach a black hole is wishful-thinking on my part? You think the claim that the laws of physics break down before we get back to the big bang is wishful-thinking?

I don't know what to say apart from "you're wrong, Linda." You seem to think that science can tell us what is north of the north pole.




Please give me some examples of the sort of discoveries you are talking about.

Evolution through natural selection. Special relativity. Aspirin.


All of the above were discovered as the result of repeatable observations. Why do you think my definition of science excludes them???



It's not my toes they are stepping on. If they are going to call themselves scientists then they should be concerned about their lack of understanding of what science actually is.

Why? Ignoring the issue allows them to proceed with performing research, making discoveries, answering questions, etc. What more would they want?


How can you research something you can't observe and/or repeat?



That's easy. Or at least it should be. I'm not quite sure what you think qualifies as science which I am claiming is not. I need some examples.

What you have mentioned here - the study of the Big Bang and the conditions at the time or prior, the study of consciousness, the study of subjective impressions.


You think science can study conditions prior to the big bang???

Linda....I like you. You're not scientistic. I get the impression you're more of a Buddhist than a skeptic. But science really, truly CANNOT study conditions prior to the big bang. There isn't any "before the big bang." Claiming science can study such a thing is exactly the same as claiming science can tell us what conditions are like north of the north pole.

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 03:16 AM
I still don't see what this alleged conceptual problem is. I can't see why there should be any problem with mental states being brain states.

But if, for some reason, mental states were something other than brain states - why would that be a problem for a materialist?

But the conceptual probem for the non-materialist is quite clear and so far non-materialists never even attempt to address it.

If consciousness is non-physical then it works according to a different set of laws


I don't see why that is necessarily true. Or rather - the fact that there may be additional laws in play doesn't mean that consciousness breaks the laws of physics.


So how do these other laws interact with physical laws? Is there some intermediate law that translates between them? If so then that is three sets of laws.


Not sure how to answer the question because I don't know why you think consciousness has to follow different laws if it is non-physical.



So by parsimony we should just go with one underlying order - either everything is physical or nothing is.

I believe there is only one underlying order. I just don't label it "physical."

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 03:17 AM
You might want to let PixyTrixy get a word in here.

Do you always do both sides in a conversation?

I do when the other person openly admits they aren't interested in understanding what I believe or why I believe it.

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 03:18 AM
What is this sophisticated, educated view of science?

The one which was defended by people like Kuhn, Feyerabend and Rorty.

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 03:20 AM
And you are one of those "toughest-minded"?

According to Rorty's definition of "tough-minded" and "tender-minded" philosophers, the answer is yes.

fls
27th May 2009, 03:21 AM
Linda:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/materialism-eliminative/

This is not empty word games. It is what happens when philosophers of science and neuroscientists seriously confront the limitations of scientific enquiry.

Which of the people referenced were neuroscientists?

Linda

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 03:23 AM
Nothing.

Why do you think they require a determiner?

Not necessarily, no. Which is why I also don't believe that the "laws" which determine things like karma and synchronicity require a determiner either.

The problem of the origin of the laws of physics is directly connected to the discussion about NOMA because Paul Davies' has claimed that NOMA can't work because science depends on it's own faith-based belief system. This accusation is based on the fact that scientists have to have "faith" that the laws of physics are consistent, and because they have no way of explaining where those laws came from. I haven't yet decided how best to try to refute this claim.

paximperium
27th May 2009, 03:26 AM
I do when the other person openly admits they aren't interested in understanding what I believe or why I believe it. The question you have never answered is WHY should anyone care?

It is a serious question. You seem to make this argument that no one here believes in or agrees with. You make an argument that science is limited(or that conciousness, that little pet belief, is sacred)but no scientists here or any neuroscietists for that matter agrees with but instead continue to study something you claim can never be studied.

So again, why should anyone care what you think or believe?

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 03:27 AM
I just meant it as an example of the problems a scientist will have taking you seriously. It's not a helpful example if you don't remember our discussion on whether subjective impressions are used in science.

Linda

I do remember it, I just didn't ever agree with you.

I think we have to sort out this "north of the north pole"/"before the big bang" problem. If you think science can study non-existent things of this sort then there is no chance we can agree on the possibility of science studying non-physical things.

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 03:32 AM
The question you have never answered is WHY should anyone care?

It is a serious question.


Why should anyone care if they understand the person they are debating with?

Because otherwise there is no point in talking.


You seem to make this argument that no one here believes in or agrees with.


That's not quite true. There is a range of responses. Some people agree with much of what I have to say. Others don't even understand it.



You make an argument that science is limited(or that conciousness, that little pet belief, is sacred)but no scientists here or any neuroscietists for that matter agrees with but instead continue to study something you claim can never be studied.


It has nothing to do with what I think is sacred and everything to do with the fact that I understand certain things about 20th-century philosophy that most of the people here do not understand.

How many people reading this thread understand Wittgenstein or Rorty?

Probably about the same number as those who roughly agree with what I'm saying.

Now...you might say "Rorty and Wittgenstein were philosophers, why should scientists care what they said?" The answer is that they were probably the most influential and important philosophers of the last 100 years and what they said has a direct bearing on what is being discussed in this thread.

I can't help it if the JREF is inhabited by people who aren't quite as well-educated as they think they are.


So again, why should anyone care what you think or believe?

If they don't, then why are they bothering to respond to my posts?

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 03:34 AM
Which of the people referenced were neuroscientists?

Linda

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_Churchland

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurophilosophy


Neurophilosophy is the interdisciplinary study of neuroscience and philosophy. Work in this field is often separated into two distinct methods. The first method attempts to solve problems in philosophy of mind with empirical information from the neurosciences. The second method attempts to clarify neuroscientific results using the conceptual rigor and methods of philosophy of science.

The pair of philosophers who have brought wide attention to this field (in both of these forms) are Patricia and Paul Churchland.


Eliminative Materialism only exists because of modern neuroscience. Patricia Churchland is usually classed as a philosopher, but she is so heavily-influenced by neuroscience that most philosophers consider her to be more of a scientist than a philosopher.

paximperium
27th May 2009, 03:44 AM
It has nothing to do with what I think is sacred and everything to do with the fact that I understand certain things about 20th-century philosophy that most of the people here do not understand. Sorry, but frankly you've yet to answer why should I care?

How many people reading this thread understand Wittgenstein or Rorty? Why should I care?

Now...you might say "Rorty and Wittgenstein were philosophers, why should scientists care what they said?" The answer is that they were probably the most influential and important philosophers of the last 100 years and what they said has a direct bearing on what is being discussed in this thread. So what? Who are they again? Why should I care?

I can't help it if the JREF is inhabited by people who aren't quite as well-educated as they think they are. Still no answer? The "I'm too smart for you all" is not a very convincing argument? Why should I care?

If they don't, then why are they bothering to respond to my posts?Because you are making claims that sound idiotic.

Perhaps you sound smart to your fellow philosophers but your inability to communicate your thoughts to normal folk or even very smart normal folk is very telling about your philosphy.

An apparent philosophy so complicated that no one understands it except for its proponents. Amazing how you've logicked yourselves into uselessness.

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 03:53 AM
Because you are making claims that sound idiotic.

Perhaps you sound smart to your fellow philosophers but your inability to communicate your thoughts to normal folk or even very smart normal folk is very telling about your philosphy.

An apparent philosophy so complicated that no one understands it except for its proponents. Amazing how you've logicked yourselves into uselessness.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rorty/#RST


2.3 Rationality, Science, and Truth

Attacking the idea that we must acknowledge the world's normative constraint on our belief-systems if we are to be rational subjects, Rorty has drawn a great deal of criticism that takes science, particularly natural science, as its chief reference point. Two general kinds of criticisms are often raised. The first insists that science consists precisely in the effort to learn the truth about how things are by methodically allowing us to be constrained in our beliefs by the world. On this view, Rorty is simply denying the very idea of science. The other kind of criticism seeks to be internal: if Rorty's view of science were to prevail, scientists would no longer be motivated to carry on as they are; science would cease to be the useful sort of thing that Rorty also thinks it is (see, eg., Bernard Williams, "Auto da Fe" in Malachowski). However, Rorty's view of science is more complicated than he himself sometimes implies. He says: "I tend to view natural science as in the business of controlling and predicting things, and as largely useless for philosophical purposes." ("Reply to Hartshorne," Saatkamp 32) Yet he spends a good deal of time drawing an alternative picture of the intellectual virtues that good science embodies (ORT Part I). This is a picture which eschews the notion that science succeeds, when it does, in virtue of being in touch with reality in a special way, the sort of way that epistemologists, when successful, can clarify. It is in this sense specifically that Rorty disavows science as philosophically significant. Good science may nevertheless be a model of rationality, in Rorty's view, exactly in so far as scientific practice has succeeded in establishing institutions conducive to democratic exchange of view.

The provocative and counterintuitive force of Rorty's treatment of rationality and science in terms of conversational ethics is undeniable. It is important to realize, though, that Rorty is not denying that there is any bona fide use of notions like truth, knowledge, or objectivity. Rather his point is that our ordinary uses of these notions always trade for their content and point on particular features of their varying contexts of application. His further point is that when we abstract away from these different contexts and practices, in search of general notions, we are left with pure abstract hypostatizations incapable of providing us with any guide to action at all. The upshot, Rorty holds, is that we simply do not have a concept of objective reality which can be invoked either to explain the success of some set of norms of warrant, or to justify some set of standards over against others. This is perhaps clearest in Rorty's treatment of the concept of truth. With regard to truth, Rorty's rhetoric and philosophical strategy has indeed shifted over the last three decades. As late as in 1982 (in CP) he still attempted to articulate his view of truth by drawing on William James's famous definition in terms of what is good in the way of belief. Soon after this, however, Rorty comes to doubt the point of any theory of truth, and, following Davidson's lead explicitly rejects all attempts to explicate the notion of truth in terms of other concepts. Rorty's mature view of the point and significance of the concept of truth is first elaborated in "Davidson, Pragmatism and Truth," in ORT. Recent expressions are found in the first of the two Spinoza Lectures given at the University of Amsterdam in 1997, "Is it Desirable to Love truth?", in the paper, "Is Truth a Goal of Inquiry? Donald Davidson versus Crispin Wright" (TP), as well as in the introductions to, respectively, TP and PSH. In these writings Rorty argues that while "truth" has various important uses, it does not itself name a goal towards which we can strive, over and above warrant or justification. His argument is not that truth is reducible to warrant, but that the concept has no deep or substantive criterial content at all. That is, there are only semantic explanations to be offered for why it is the case that a given sentence is true just when its truth conditions are satisfied. So aiming for truth, as opposed to warrant, does not point to a possible line of action, just as we have no measure of our approximation to truth other than increasing warrant. Indeed, for Rorty, this is part of what makes the concept so useful, in a manner not coincidentally analogous with goodness; it ensures that no sentence can ever be analytically certified as true by virtue of its possession of some other property. Rorty's attitude to the concept of truth has been much criticized, often on the grounds that the very notion of warrant, indeed the concept of belief in general, presupposes the notion of truth. However, it may be that we can do justice to these connections without supposing that the notion of truth thus involved backs up the notions of belief and warrant with any substantive normative content of its own. Indeed, that neither the concept of truth, nor those of objectivity and of reality, can be invoked to explain or legitimate our inferential practices and our standards of warrant, is the essence of Rorty's conversationalism, or epistemological behaviorism.


What do you think of that?

I can't force you to care about philosophy. Either you do or you don't. Personally, I was forced towards trying to understand Rorty because I have a religious commitment to seeking truth.

Darat
27th May 2009, 04:05 AM
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rorty/#RST



What do you think of that?

I can't force you to care about philosophy. Either you do or you don't. Personally, I was forced towards trying to understand Rorty because I have a religious commitment to seeking truth.

If that is a a good summary of his philosophy and if you believe that it somehow supports your opening post then you have yet to understand Rorty. When you do understand it you will realise that your approach in your opening post is the very antithesis of his philosophy. As Robin put it earlier:

...snip...

I would have thought that Rorty's position would be more challenging for philosophers than it would be for scientists. If we are to take Rorty seriously then your philosophy degree was pretty much a waste of time.

paximperium
27th May 2009, 04:12 AM
I think you philsophers really need to work on your narrative and grammar. That was terrible.

Besides that point, on this little essay alone:
1)"I tend to view natural science as in the business of controlling and predicting things, and as largely useless for philosophical purposes."
I agree with the first part but disagree with his conclusion. It isn't good for philosophical questions yet but can definately be useful and even be used to answer philosophical questions and purposes.
2)I don't believe any ultimate "truth" will or can ever be reached. All we can hope for is the best and most consistent version of it. Interesting question if the search is warranted or if any objective truth is possible.

So again. How does this support anything you;ve been arguing and why should I care?

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 04:12 AM
If that is a a good summary of his philosophy and if you believe that it somehow supports your opening post then you have yet to understand Rorty. When you do understand it you will realise that your approach in your opening post is the very antithesis of his philosophy. As Robin put it earlier:

I have no response to that apart from to say that you still don't understand Rorty.

But don't worry about it: neither does Dan Dennett.

paximperium
27th May 2009, 04:14 AM
I have no response to that apart from to say that you still don't understand Rorty.

But don't worry about it: neither does Dan Dennett.
Did I mention that the "I'm too smart for you" argument is often worthless?

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 04:14 AM
I think you philsophers really need to work on your narrative and grammar. That was terrible.


Rorty was a professor of English Literature. ;)


Besides that point, on this little essay alone:
1)"I tend to view natural science as in the business of controlling and predicting things, and as largely useless for philosophical purposes."
I agree with the first part but disagree with his conclusion. It isn't good for philosophical questions yet but can definately be useful and even be used to answer philosophical questions and purposes.


How?


2)I don't believe any ultimate "truth" will or can ever be reached. All we can hope for is the best and most consistent version of it. Interesting question if the search is warranted or if any objective truth is possible.

So again. Why should I care?

Depends whether or not you think science delivers truth. Many people around here do believe that. I know I believed it for many years.

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 04:19 AM
Did I mention that the "I'm too smart for you" argument is often worthless?

What else am I supposed to say?

It's not "I'm too smart for you." It's more a case of "I spent two decades thinking like you do and then I spent several years learning what that way of thinking looks like from the wider perspective of philosophy." i.e. "I'm better educated than you." Sorry if that sounds arrogant, but in the case of a PixyMisa or a Darat, it's true.

Rorty spent much of his career trying to explain to people like Dennett that they'd missed something important. He failed. The penny never dropped for Dennett. He still doesn't understand why Rorty defended the position he defended. The reason for this is quite simple: Rorty had a much deeper understanding of 20th-century philosophy than Dennett does. 200 years from now, people will still be reading Rorty. Dennett will be lucky to appear in the footnotes.

Darat
27th May 2009, 04:23 AM
I have no response to that apart from to say that you still don't understand Rorty. ...snip...

If the summary is bad then I agree I may be misunderstanding him. In what ways doesn't the summary present his views accurately?

Darat
27th May 2009, 04:30 AM
What else am I supposed to say?

It's not "I'm too smart for you." It's more a case of "I spent two decades thinking like you do and then I spent several years learning what that way of thinking looks like from the wider perspective of philosophy."

...snip...


Sorry but this isn't true, you have never thought like me - indeed I believe you have said many times that you used to be "materialist".

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 04:33 AM
Sorry but this isn't true, you have never thought like me - indeed I believe you have said many times that you used to be "materialist".

And what are you then?

paximperium
27th May 2009, 04:40 AM
How? By answering questions.

Depends whether or not you think science delivers truth. Many people around here do believe that. I know I believed it for many years.
I don;t think it does. It delivers the best, most reliable and consistent version of the truth.

Darat
27th May 2009, 04:48 AM
By answering questions.

I don;t think it does. It delivers the best, most reliable and consistent version of the truth.

I tend to add a proviso to that statement in that I would say:

To date science is the only method humans have invented that does what it says on the tin. In other words it is the only tool that is defined as being able to deliver reliable and consistent descriptions of the universe that actually does that.

Does that mean it "gets to The Truth™" - who knows and who cares? (Apart from theologians and those philosophers who don't understand Rorty that is, after all they need something keep them off the streets!)

PixyMisa
27th May 2009, 04:48 AM
What else am I supposed to say?
You are supposed to defend your argument.

At this, as has been explained to you in excruciating detail, your failure is abject.

It's not "I'm too smart for you." It's more a case of "I spent two decades thinking like you do and then I spent several years learning what that way of thinking looks like from the wider perspective of philosophy." i.e. "I'm better educated than you." Sorry if that sounds arrogant, but in the case of a PixyMisa or a Darat, it's true.
Perhaps. Certainly one would not guess this based on the content of your posts, which are simply teeming with logical fallacies.

Like, oh, the argument from authority.

Rorty spent much of his career trying to explain to people like Dennett that they'd missed something important.
Cite?

He failed.
Cite?

The penny never dropped for Dennett.
Cite?

He still doesn't understand why Rorty defended the position he defended.
Cite?

The reason for this is quite simple: Rorty had a much deeper understanding of 20th-century philosophy than Dennett does.
Perhaps so. How is this relevant to the point?

200 years from now, people will still be reading Rorty.
Argumentum ad populum, petitio principii.

Dennett will be lucky to appear in the footnotes.
Argumentum ad populum, petitio principii.

Darat
27th May 2009, 05:16 AM
...snip....
To date science is the only method humans have invented that does what it says on the tin. In other words it is the only tool that is defined as being able to deliver reliable and consistent descriptions of the universe that actually does that.

Does that mean it "gets to The Truth™" - who knows and who cares? (Apart from theologians and those philosophers who don't understand Rorty that is, after all they need something keep them off the streets!)


To get back to the opening post: when you consider science (as I do above) there is no reason nor requirement to wall-off areas where science cannot trespass since science will either (again) produce an answer that is reliable, consistent and that we can use, or it won't.

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 06:28 AM
By answering questions.


What sort of questions? Any sort?

Philosophy doesn't even ask the same sort of questions that science does. Philosophers who give answers to questions which science is capable of answering are almost certainly wasting their own time.


I don;t think it does. It delivers the best, most reliable and consistent version of the truth.

It only delivers certain sorts of "truth." It's no use asking a scientist what "justice" is.

PixyMisa
27th May 2009, 06:47 AM
What sort of questions? Any sort?

Philosophy doesn't even ask the same sort of questions that science does. Philosophers who give answers to questions which science is capable of answering are almost certainly wasting their own time.
Or doing science.

It only delivers certain sorts of "truth." It's no use asking a scientist what "justice" is.
There's an infinite number of anthropologists outside who'd like to have a word with you.

paximperium
27th May 2009, 06:51 AM
What sort of questions? Any sort? Just about. Many are limited by the technology, resources or just technique but for many I believe it is possible and I doubt any are truly beyond it's realm.

Care to name something philosophical that science can never answer?

It only delivers certain sorts of "truth." It's no use asking a scientist what "justice" is. Would you like to talk to anthropologists and even neuroscientists who have studied this question? Game Theory anyone?

Apathia
27th May 2009, 06:53 AM
Thanks for the feedback. I have quite a lot to think about here. This about my third attempt to reformulate NOMA so it works. It's getting better, but I clearly have more work to do.

I'll expand on what I've been groping toward in this regard when I have time to compose a decent post.
I do have my own little linguistic laundry rack upon which hang the different aims and content of Science and Spirituality, and it looks like it's time to haul it out and show where the unmentionables go.

fls
27th May 2009, 06:53 AM
Sorry, but with the greatest respect, if you think science can based on something non-observable or non-repeatable then I'm afraid it is you who have formed a poor definition of science.

I think that it is possible to form a definition of science which depends upon something observable and repeatable, but it requires that "observation" and "repeatable" are carefully defined, as well. I simply went with your examples of what you consider non-observable or non-repeatable. Personally, I would have considered your examples observable and repeatable, but what really matters is that you didn't.

You are trying to form an operational definition without paying attention to its validity. Whether or not one checks off M or F on a college application may serve as an operational definition of sex, but it's not a valid definition if you are wondering whether some females have penises.

You think the claim that we cannot approach a black hole is wishful-thinking on my part?

Black holes are a good example, where you have apparent and absolute event horizons, beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer, yet we still can make discoveries related to what is beyond that event horizon. We don't observe quarks yet we have discovered their existence and their properties.

You think the claim that the laws of physics break down before we get back to the big bang is wishful-thinking?

I'm not sure that it is useful to say that conclusions can be drawn from approaching the limits on current formulations of the laws of physics.

I don't know what to say apart from "you're wrong, Linda." You seem to think that science can tell us what is north of the north pole.

It requires precision to determine whether or not you are asking a non-question, is all.

All of the above were discovered as the result of repeatable observations. Why do you think my definition of science excludes them???

I'm going by the examples you have given of non-science. They are examples of discoveries made using qualitative methods, information not based on observations, and subjective impressions - things you have stated cannot be considered science. Special relativity uses the invariance of Lorentz transformations, rather than observation.

How can you research something you can't observe and/or repeat?

I would recommend Fearful Symmetry by A. Zee.

You think science can study conditions prior to the big bang???

Linda....I like you. You're not scientistic. I get the impression you're more of a Buddhist than a skeptic. But science really, truly CANNOT study conditions prior to the big bang. There isn't any "before the big bang." Claiming science can study such a thing is exactly the same as claiming science can tell us what conditions are like north of the north pole.

We are interested in four-dimensional spacetime in terms of when it is singular and not-singular. How's that? :)

"North of the North pole" simply requires an additional dimension and operational definition of "north" in that dimension.

Linda

Darat
27th May 2009, 06:58 AM
What sort of questions? Any sort?

Philosophy doesn't even ask the same sort of questions that science does.

...snip...

Science is about getting explanations not about asking questions, people ask questions.

Darat
27th May 2009, 07:06 AM
...snip...

I'm not sure that it is useful to say that conclusions can be drawn from approaching the limits on current formulations of the laws of physics.

...snip...

It's a type of "god of the gaps" argument in which "science hasn't got an answer for X" is equated to "science can't answer X"*. It's as if someone had come up with "classical aerodynamics", discovered that those laws cannot explain how the bumble bee can fly and then threw their arms up in the air and claimed "That's it science will never be able to explain how the bumble bee flies, so it's over to the meta-physicists!"

*Of course I am not claiming that science can.

...snip...

"North of the North pole" simply requires an additional dimension and operational definition of "north" in that
dimension.

...snip...

Or it could just be one of the many questions that although syntacticly correct actually isn't asking about anything in the real world.

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 07:07 AM
"North of the North pole" simply requires an additional dimension and operational definition of "north" in that dimension.

Linda

OK, I'm going to start another thread about this one.

fls
27th May 2009, 07:31 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_Churchland

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurophilosophy

Eliminative Materialism only exists because of modern neuroscience. Patricia Churchland is usually classed as a philosopher, but she is so heavily-influenced by neuroscience that most philosophers consider her to be more of a scientist than a philosopher.

I don't think that counts, in that she seems to be, at best, using neuroscience to inform the realm of philosophy, rather than performing neuroscience which is informed by philosophy.

What is missing for me, and what will be critical to your book/essay, if you are interested in holding the attention of scientists, is any sort of indication that philosophy informs science in this way. Your have demonstrated that philosophers or people operating within the field of philosophy limit their fields of inquiry a priori. But it seems very much as though scientists determine their own limits a posteriori (the Uncertainty Principle as an example) and do not use philosophy for this purpose. It may be as you say, that scientists do not understand Rorty, but that is only relevant if it could be demonstrated that having that understanding would change what scientists do in a way that is useful to science (not philosophy). I realize that there is some degree of back-and-forth when it comes to scientists making use of the philosophy of science - it can be said that Popper and Kuhn (as two obvious examples) influence the practice of science. But I think this depends upon the extent to which a scientist can recognize what it is that the philosopher is talking about as science.

The philosophy you have presented seems to be irrelevant. Now, it may be that it is as you claim - that once it is understood, it will be seen to be relevant. But I'm not going to accept that claim (and if I'm not, then I suspect that most other scientists will not, either) without a demonstration of this happening - past or present - on your part.

That is...

Evidence?

Linda

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 09:11 AM
I don't think that counts, in that she seems to be, at best, using neuroscience to inform the realm of philosophy, rather than performing neuroscience which is informed by philosophy.

What is missing for me, and what will be critical to your book/essay, if you are interested in holding the attention of scientists, is any sort of indication that philosophy informs science in this way.


Rorty's answer: Does scratching an itch count as progress?

If philosophy shows science that it is trying to answer an impossible question, is that progress?

In October 1998, Richard Dawkins was interviewed by Jeremy Stangroom of The Philosophers’ Magazine.

http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/Interviews/genes_and_determinsm.shtml


Stangroom: One final question about hard determinism. I think at the end of The Selfish Gene you said that one of the important things about human beings is that they are able to choose to act otherwise than perhaps their selfish genes would have them. Obviously, however, for a hard determinist the choices we make are themselves determined. In an interview with The Third Way (www.csis.org.uk/Articles/Intrview/interv1.htm) you indicated that you had some sympathy with Susan Blackmore’s view that "…The idea that there is a self in there that decides things, acts and is responsible…is a whopping great illusion. The self we construct is just an illusion because actually there’s only brains and chemicals…". Is your position then that statements about consciousness or selfhood will ultimately be reducible to statements about neurons and chemicals?

Dawkins: I suppose that philosophically I am committed to that view because I think that everything about life is a product of the evolutionary process and consciousness must be a manifestation of the evolutionary process, presumably via brains. So I think that has got to mean that consciousness is ultimately a material phenomenon. I mean that in the sense that there wasn’t any consciousness before there was evolved life. Consciousness is not the kind of thing that was hovering around waiting for living things to embrace it. There wasn’t anything remotely like consciousness before evolution had been going for the many millions of years it presumably takes to evolve the necessary nervous systems. Nervous systems may just be the way it works on our planet. I’m not saying that on Alpha Centauri there are not other kinds of consciousness that come from different sorts of mechanism. But they will come from mechanisms, and these I conjecture will be the product of an evolutionary process fundamentally similar to ours, and certainly similar in the sense that it will be by gradual evolution and not by any sudden leaping into action.


Dawkins’ second word already betrays some of the difficulty lurking in Stangroom’s question. “To suppose” means to speculate - to believe, especially on uncertain or tentative grounds. In fact Dawkins has openly admitted this difficulty, for example during an interview for Powells.com

http://www.powells.com/authors/dawkins.html


Doug: What are some big questions in science that would you like to see answered?

Dawkins: Consciousness, which I think is immensely difficult, and I think it's difficult to even formulate the question, and I don't know what the answer is.


At this point, Dawkins needs to read Rorty. Rorty would try to explain to Dawkins that in fact the question isn't just difficult to formulate, but strictly impossible. If Dawkins were to accept this conclusion, would it count as philosophy informing science? Or would it be philosophy informing scientists about philosophy, resulting in those scientists ceasing to try to find scientific answers to questions which are either non-scientific or non-questions?

There is a real question here, but it's not the one Dawkins is trying to ask. Dawkins' position reminds me of the people in The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy who build Deep Thought to try to figure out the answer to the Big Question but who didn't actually know what the question was supposed to be, and therefore ended up getting a non-sensical answer. "What is the answer to Consciousness?" Erm....43!!!

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 09:24 AM
Linda,

Another question.

Here is a summary of Rorty's tale of the Antipodeans:

http://mindsmeaningmorals.wordpress.com/2006/12/27/the-incorrigibility-of-the-phenomenal/


In chapter two of his book Rorty expands on his discussion of incorrigibility being a feature of the mental/immaterial. In order to do this, he asks us to imagine a community of aliens, the Antipodeans, which are exactly like humans in every respect save that they happened to learn all about their neurology before talk of phenomenal “raw feels” had become embedded in their language. Thus, rather than saying “I’m in pain” or “I have a pain” they would say “my C-fibers are firing” or rather “my C-fibers seem to be firing”. The same could be said for propositional attitudes: instead of saying “I remembered to bring my book” they would say “I was in a state of G-186” and so on. In other words, for every phenomenal event which we experience, the Antipodeans use a different placeholder to speak of it, namely a place holder which corresponds to the neural event which must accompany such a phenomenal event in our “minds”.

In an effort to find out whether the Antipodeans have minds complete with raw feels or not, a number of philosophers from Earth ask them a number of questions:

“How do you know your C-fibers are firing?”

We just know.

“Could you be mistaken about your C-fibers firing?”

Of course.

“Could you be mistaken about your C-fibers seeming to fire?”

Of course not.

“What neural event is that of C-fibers seeming to fire?”

Usually the firing of C-fibers, but occasionally other events seem like C-fibers firing as well.

This is the main point which Rorty wishes to make. The “seeming” is not an event which can be isolated from what it is a seeming of. There is no inner eye which does the sorting between the firings of C-fibers and non-firings of C-fibers based on how they “seem” to it. Such events simply happen and other neural events can be called upon to report such events, but between the actual events and the reports there is no intermediate “seeming”. In other words, “seemings” are not objects which can be isolated from the neural events themselves in question and the reporting of such events.

The Earth-philosophers go on to question the Antipodeans regarding such reports:

“Are there any neural states which are concomitant with C-fibers seeming to fire?”

Yes, T-435 (“My C-fibers seem to be stimulated”), T-497 (“It’s just as if my C-fibers were being stimulated”) and T-293 (“Stimulated C-fibers!”)

“Could you be mistaken about such “T-series” events?”

Of course, we can be mistaken about any and all events.

This now serves as a springboard in to a discussion of incorrigibility and the mental, for it seems as if there is no place for the incorrigible to hide. The appearance/reality distinction seems to be nothing more than the getting things wrong/right distinction. As we saw, “I am in pain” is spoken by the Antipodeans in two ways: “my C-fibers are firing” and “my C-fibers seem to be firing”. The difference between these two translations is epistemological in nature, not metaphysical. The first translation has actively asserted something which is either true or false, while the second differs only in hedging its bets a bit: “If I’m not mistaken, my C-fibers are firing,” but I can actually be mistaken.

“The fact that ‘seems to seem…’ is an expression without a use is a fact about the notion of ‘appearance,’ not a tip-off to the presence of ‘phenomenal properties.’ For the appearance-reality distinction is not based on a distinction between subjective representations and objective states of affairs; it is merely a matter of getting something wrong, having a false belief.” (Rorty, 77)

It may seem like Tuesday to me, but it cannot seem to seem like Tuesday. Sentences about the appearance of the appearance of reality can only make sense once one reifies “the appearance of reality”. Rorty sees pain-talk as being just such a reification, for pains, as we speak of them, simply are “C-fibers seeming to fire.” Of course it can seem to us that our C-fibers are firing when they actually are not, that is what it means “to seem”. It cannot, however, seem to seem like our C-fibers are firing when it actually does not seem like they are firing. This fact is due to the special semantic status of “seem” and “appearance”, not some special metaphysical status of such.

Thus, “the Antipodeans do not have the notion of entities known incorrigibly but only of reports which are incorrigible and which may be about any sort of entity,” be it neural states or the day of the week. (Rorty, 106) At this point, however, it is important that we do not confuse incorrigibility with infallibility. The above quote is true inasmuch as reports do not themselves amount to entities. If a report is taken as an entity or neural state, then they too are corrigible. Consequently, reports are only incorrigible in the sense of there being “no better way of finding out whether somebody is in pain than by asking him, and that nothing can overrule his own sincere report.” (Rorty, 109-110)


Here is Rorty’s explanation of what the tale of the Antipodeans is really about:


(Eliminative and Reductive Materialism) should both be abandoned, and with them the notion of ‘mind-body identity.’ The proper reaction to the Antipodean story is to adopt a materialism which is not an identity theory in any sense, and which thus avoids the artificial notion that we must wait upon ‘an adequate theory of meaning (or reference)’ before deciding issues in the philosophy of mind.

This amounts to saying, once again, that the materialist should stop reacting to stories such as that about the Antipodeans by saying metaphysical things, and confine himself to such claims as ‘No predictive or explanatory or descriptive power would be lost if we had spoken Antipodean all our lives.’ It is pointless to ask whether the fact that cerebroscopes correct Antipodean reports of inner states shows that they are not mental states, or shows rather that mental states are really neural states. It is pointless not just because nobody has any idea how to resolve the issue, but because nothing turns upon it…


Two questions:

1) Is Rorty correct to say that materialists/scientists should restrict themselves to making statements like the one in bold?

2) Is the bolded statement true?

PixyMisa
27th May 2009, 09:28 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patricia_Churchland

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurophilosophy

Eliminative Materialism only exists because of modern neuroscience. Patricia Churchland is usually classed as a philosopher, but she is so heavily-influenced by neuroscience that most philosophers consider her to be more of a scientist than a philosopher.
Doesn't this rather indicate that the non-overlapping magisteria... overlap?

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 09:29 AM
Doesn't this rather indicate that the non-overlapping magisteria... overlap?

I didn't say that science and philosophy don't overlap or that religion and philosophy don't overlap. I said that science and religion don't overlap.

PixyMisa
27th May 2009, 09:35 AM
If philosophy shows science that it is trying to answer an impossible question, is that progress?

In October 1998, Richard Dawkins was interviewed by Jeremy Stangroom of The Philosophers’ Magazine.

Dawkins’ second word already betrays some of the difficulty lurking in Stangroom’s question. “To suppose” means to speculate - to believe, especially on uncertain or tentative grounds.
Scientists do speculate, you know. Then they form their speculations into hypotheses and test them.

At this point, Dawkins needs to read Rorty. Rorty would try to explain to Dawkins that in fact the question isn't just difficult to formulate, but strictly impossible.
Cite? I'm not saying that Rorty doesn't say this; I know of him, but haven't read his work. I'd just like something specific to start with.

If Dawkins were to accept this conclusion, would it count as philosophy informing science?
More a case of philosophy disinforming science, I'd say.

Or would it be philosophy informing scientists about philosophy, resulting in those scientists ceasing to try to find scientific answers to questions which are either non-scientific or non-questions?
I think it would be a case of scientists telling the philosophers to bugger off and let them do their work.

There is a real question here, but it's not the one Dawkins is trying to ask.
What is the real question, why is it the real question, what is the question Dawkins is trying to ask, why is it not the real question, and how do you distinguish real questions from not-real questions?

Just for starters.

paximperium
27th May 2009, 09:38 AM
You can be right but without a way of confirming it, it doesn't mean much of anything.

PixyMisa
27th May 2009, 09:40 AM
I didn't say that science and philosophy don't overlap or that religion and philosophy don't overlap. I said that science and religion don't overlap.
Okay, that makes a lot more sense.

Soapy Sam
27th May 2009, 09:50 AM
As soon as you start making claims about what reality is and what overlaps with it then you are deep in the metaphysical doo-doo. Science makes justified claims about probable future observations. It doesn't tell us what reality is or what observers are.

Science and religion both make claims about reality. They just happen to be different sorts of claims which are justified in very different ways.

UE- The point is that I don't need to make claims about what reality is. Reality tells me what it is. Constantly. It tells me every time I put my hoof on the accelerator or the brake. If I stamp on the wrong one, reality boots me up the backside. This is not a matter of opinion.
If I drop a cat from my bedroom window, it will fall. This is , again, not a matter of opinion. Whether it will be a loss to anyone (including the cat) is a matter of opinion- but even there, the opinions will be real, in real brains, in real heads. There are no unreal opinions any more than unreal facts.

There are wrong opinions. One opinion ( my possibly wrong opinion) is that anyone who does not know the difference between reality and unreality is not a philosopher. He's just not paying attention.

tsig
27th May 2009, 12:29 PM
Not necessarily, no. Which is why I also don't believe that the "laws" which determine things like karma and synchronicity require a determiner either.

The problem of the origin of the laws of physics is directly connected to the discussion about NOMA because Paul Davies' has claimed that NOMA can't work because science depends on it's own faith-based belief system. This accusation is based on the fact that scientists have to have "faith" that the laws of physics are consistent, and because they have no way of explaining where those laws came from. I haven't yet decided how best to try to refute this claim.

The physical "laws" are simply describing how the world "is". They require no belief.

You seem to be asking "Why is fire hot?" or "Why is there air?".

tsig
27th May 2009, 12:39 PM
Why should anyone care if they understand the person they are debating with?

Because otherwise there is no point in talking.



That's not quite true. There is a range of responses. Some people agree with much of what I have to say. Others don't even understand it.




It has nothing to do with what I think is sacred and everything to do with the fact that I understand certain things about 20th-century philosophy that most of the people here do not understand.

How many people reading this thread understand Wittgenstein or Rorty?

Probably about the same number as those who roughly agree with what I'm saying.

Now...you might say "Rorty and Wittgenstein were philosophers, why should scientists care what they said?" The answer is that they were probably the most influential and important philosophers of the last 100 years and what they said has a direct bearing on what is being discussed in this thread.

I can't help it if the JREF is inhabited by people who aren't quite as well-educated as they think they are.



If they don't, then why are they bothering to respond to my posts?

Philosophy can't even define what it is much less define science.

Philosophers are the nay-sayers on the caboose of the train trying to explain why motion is impossible.

tsig
27th May 2009, 12:46 PM
I have no response to that apart from to say that you still don't understand Rorty.

But don't worry about it: neither does Dan Dennett.

Then it's good for us that Rorty isn't posting here. You are.

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 12:49 PM
The physical "laws" are simply describing how the world "is". They require no belief.

You seem to be asking "Why is fire hot?" or "Why is there air?".

No - it runs deeper than that. I'm asking "is there something making sure that reality behaves within the limits described by the laws of physics, or does it just always happen that way for no reason at all?"

tsig
27th May 2009, 12:59 PM
No - it runs deeper than that. I'm asking "is there something making sure that reality behaves within the limits described by the laws of physics, or does it just always happen that way for no reason at all?"

You ask:
"is there something making sure that reality behaves within the limits described by the laws of physics"

The answer is:

No.

And:
"or does it just always happen that way for no reason at all?"

The answer is:

No

UndercoverElephant
27th May 2009, 01:09 PM
You ask:
"is there something making sure that reality behaves within the limits described by the laws of physics"

The answer is:

No.

And:
"or does it just always happen that way for no reason at all?"

The answer is:

No

:)

paximperium
27th May 2009, 01:10 PM
No - it runs deeper than that. I'm asking "is there something making sure that reality behaves within the limits described by the laws of physics, or does it just always happen that way for no reason at all?"
The honest answer at present is "don't know" BUT physicists are actually looking into it. My issue is that you are claiming that this is a philosophical questions despite math and observations coming out of this question.

Soapy Sam
27th May 2009, 05:26 PM
I didn't say that science and philosophy don't overlap or that religion and philosophy don't overlap. I said that science and religion don't overlap.
Two exclusively human activities do not overlap?
How can that be?
Anthropologists study religion all the time.
Poes can get quite shirty about astronomy books, especially if they imply the pope is a bit simple.
This is not overlap?

If a biochemist, having analysed half a communion wafer then regurgitates the other half, analyses that and finds (allowing for the effects of saliva and digestive enzymes) no difference, has science overlapped with religion, or not?

Ron_Tomkins
27th May 2009, 06:09 PM
At the top of Mount Everest it boils at 69 degrees. At the bottom of Death Valley it will boil at more than 100 degrees, although only marginally.

My bad. Both you and Paximperium have pointed me how bad my example was. I was looking for an example of a physical phenomena that we know, both from experience and from scientific evidence, that it cannot happen in a specific kind of way

I made stupid mistake when in reality it was much easier, now that I read Soapy Sam's post:

If I drop a cat from my bedroom window, it will fall. This is , again, not a matter of opinion

My point was, Science and Materialism are based on reliable predictions that can be repeated anytime and that are independent of our beliefs. As Soapy Sam said: If I drop the cat, it will fall. This is not a matter of opinion

That's because it's not silly. The argument is caused by people who have various sorts of assumptions built into their use of language. I can't accept the claim "we have never observed anything non-material" because the claim involves assumptions about the meaning of the word "material" which themselves have metaphysical assumptions.

What are, according to you, the "metaphysical assumptions" about the meaning of the word "material"?



I'm not saying "one day we might observe something non-material". I am saying that depending on how one interprets your claim, it could mean all sorts of different things.

It's interesting that you call my statement a "claim", as if the Material world was a theory not fully proven to this day, when in fact we have nothing but evidence of material phenomena in the world
Again, what's this other interpretation of "The Material", that according to you exists?

Ron_Tomkins
27th May 2009, 06:18 PM
Rorty spent much of his career trying to explain to people like Dennett that they'd missed something important.

UE
Can you please, in a brief paragraph explain what is it that Dennett "missed"?
(And "missed" about what?)

Apathia
27th May 2009, 08:34 PM
Geoff,

To talk about how I see the relation between Science and Spirituality,
I should first give you some direction to what I mean by "spirituality."

I expect you'll get the drift right away, but for readers unfamiliar with the kind of discourse I'm about to quote, all should know of me that I'm a naturalistic empiricist who'd rather not posit and depend upon metaphysical and supernatural realms. And I'm an Atheist or Non-Theist.

I'm going to quote two different mystics from a wide temporal, cultural, and religious gap.

"Mystics?! We don't need no mystics! Please no mystics with visions of things unscientific!"

These are not that kind of mystic. Instead they are ones who see the very world you see as Vision.

First from the 20th Century, Jewish mystic, Martin Buber.

“We are told that man experiences his world. What does this mean?
Man goes over the surfaces of things and experiences them. He brings back from them some knowledge of their condition – an experience. He experiences what there is to things.
But it is not experiences alone that bring the world to man. For what they bring to him is only a world that consists of It and it and It, of He and He and She and She and It.”

“Those who experience do not participate in the world, for the experience is “in them” and not between them and the world.”

“Whoever says You does not have something for his object. For wherever there is something, there is also another something; every It borders on other Its; It is only by virtue of bordering on others. But where You is said, there is no something. You has no borders.
Whoever says You does not have something; he has nothing. But he stands in relation.”

“When I confront a human being as my You and speak the basic word
I-You to him, then he is no thing among things nor does he consist of things.
He is no longer He or She, limited by other Hes and Shes, a dot in the world grid of space and time, nor a condition that can be experienced and described, a loose bundle of named qualities. Neighborless and seamless, He is You and fills the firmament. Not as if there were nothing but He; but everything lives in his light.”
(From I And Thou as translated by Walter Kaufmann)

Secondly I cite Dogen Zenji of 13th Century Japan, the founder of the Soto Sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism. It’s doubtful Buber ever even heard of him.

“Delusion consists in your establishing the ego-subject and acting upon objects through it. Enlightenment on the contrary, consists in letting the things act upon you and letting them illumine yourself. In looking at a thing put the whole of your mind-body into the act; in listening to a sound, put the whole of your mind-body into the act. Then and only then will you be able to grasp reality in its original suchness.”

“To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is Awakening.”
(From Actualizing The Fundamental Point)

Both address a different kind of Seeing and a different sense of Knowing than that of the scentific investigation of objects (Which Buber catagorizes under the mode of "I-It")

Now this kind of spiritual apprehension is not meant to supplant objective observation or yield some kind of objective information invisible to the scientific eye. Buber is clear in I And Thou that it doesn't deny any objective information we know about an Other. It's not about information.
It's about Relation and Being.

There is nothing in this Vision that is antithetical (or can be antithetical) to objective empirical information.
It's not a separate source of such. It's the Being and Relating aspect of our humanity. It's the source of our values, our sympathy, and our empathy.

Various religions produce symbolic tools to help hold onto or bring us back to Vision.
But they also make a mistake of turning the elements of subjective encounter to objective teachings. For example the timeless Vision of You gets frozen into the concept of an immortal soul.

So what good is this Vision, if it's not giving us metaphysical information?
Well, if life and its companions are to someone who may read this post no more than objects of scientific or religious information, then how miserable!

It's not about two different realms that have nothing to bring to each other.
Science can speak of the biochemistry of Love.
And Love can motivate us to passionate understanding.

Two mistakes detrimental to humanity:
To smother subjective encounter with It, It, It.
To substitute the husks of religious dogma for the spirit of Encounter.

Robin
27th May 2009, 10:25 PM
I can see no non-circular way of defining them. Can you?
Nope.

Which means that "causality" is simpy a meaningless concept.

Robin
27th May 2009, 10:33 PM
Not sure how to answer the question because I don't know why you think consciousness has to follow different laws if it is non-physical.

I don't know how else you could define something as physical other than that it behaves according to the laws of physics. Do you have some other criteria for physicality
I believe there is only one underlying order. I just don't label it "physical."
The label is not important. If the underlying order is one which at least potentially has a mathematical isomorphism then it is what I call physical.

I would suggest at the very least that any verifiable statement about that underlying order would be a statement about physical processes.

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 03:52 AM
The honest answer at present is "don't know" BUT physicists are actually looking into it. My issue is that you are claiming that this is a philosophical questions despite math and observations coming out of this question.

THIS physicist is looking into it:

http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/04/19/160480.aspx

What Paul Davies is doing is not purely physics. His theories are a hybrid of physics and metaphysics. The difference between Davies and most physicists is that his metaphysics aren't materialistic. This, of course, has caused major controversy. That controversy isn't because of anything scientific that Davies has said about science, but because he's a non-materialist.

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 03:55 AM
Two exclusively human activities do not overlap?
How can that be?
Anthropologists study religion all the time.
Poes can get quite shirty about astronomy books, especially if they imply the pope is a bit simple.
This is not overlap?

If a biochemist, having analysed half a communion wafer then regurgitates the other half, analyses that and finds (allowing for the effects of saliva and digestive enzymes) no difference, has science overlapped with religion, or not?

Not according to my system, no. Literal belief that bits of wafer magically transform themselves into 2000-year-old flesh when consumed is the sort of the thing that religious people only believe if they are willing to abandon rationality. This is a perfect example of something that is supposed to be symbolic but which large chunks of the Christian church insist on taking literally. In order to accept my version of NOMA, a Christian would have to accept that the communion wafer is symbolic of Jesus, not literally Jesus.

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 04:04 AM
My bad. Both you and Paximperium have pointed me how bad my example was. I was looking for an example of a physical phenomena that we know, both from experience and from scientific evidence, that it cannot happen in a specific kind of way

I made stupid mistake when in reality it was much easier, now that I read Soapy Sam's post:

My point was, Science and Materialism are based on reliable predictions that can be repeated anytime and that are independent of our beliefs. As Soapy Sam said: If I drop the cat, it will fall. This is not a matter of opinion


Science is, materialism isn't. Or rather - science is in the business of making reliable predictions and materialism isn't. Materialism is a metaphysical claim which doesn't make any predictions at all: even if idealism is true, the cat will still fall. Idealists do not believe that if you throw a cat out of a window, it will hover in mid-air.


What are, according to you, the "metaphysical assumptions" about the meaning of the word "material"?


There's a whole thread dedicated to that.

http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=139009

See the opening post. The word "material" is used by materialists to mean different things, with different metaphysical connotations, at different times. "All we've ever observed is material" is an existential claim which is compatible with idealism and all sorts of other ontological positions. Here, "material" means "the material realm we directly experience/observe. "Consciousness is a material brain process" is a metaphysical claim where "material" means "the material realm which self-exists independently of anything we could ever experience." "Science makes accurate predictions about material things" is different again - see thread.



It's interesting that you call my statement a "claim", as if the Material world was a theory not fully proven to this day, when in fact we have nothing but evidence of material phenomena in the world

Again, what's this other interpretation of "The Material", that according to you exists?

see other thread. It's all in the opening post.

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 04:19 AM
UE
Can you please, in a brief paragraph explain what is it that Dennett "missed"?
(And "missed" about what?)

No. If I tried to explain it in a brief paragraph then almost nobody would understand it.

What Dennett has missed is the importance of Wittgenstein.

Like Dennett, Rorty was an outspoken atheist and a person who had a natural inclination to defend materialism. Unlike Dennett, Rorty came at the problem of consciousness from the point of view of somebody who had a deep understanding of the history of philosophy and the relevance of Ludwig Wittgenstein. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Wittgenstein was willing to talk about mysticism and Rorty wasn't, so in this respect my own position is closer to that of Wittgenstein than Rorty.

Rorty believed (correctly, IMO) that it is impossible to solve the sort of philosophical problems Dennett tries to solve in books like "Consciousness Explained." Instead, problems like this have to be dissolved. This POV is inherited directly from Wittgenstein, a person who Dennett openly admits he doesn't really understand.

The basic problem is that Dennett is trying to defend a form of metaphysical materialism that Rorty knows can't be defended. Because Dennett starts with this metaphysical assumption and then tries to defend it, he also ends up with a correspondence theory of truth and a representational theory of perception - he believes truth is about accurately "mirroring" what is outside of the mind. Rorty thinks this whole approach is doomed - that we have to get rid of the correspondence theory of truth and stop thinking about the mind as being like a mirror which reflects reality.

http://pirsigaffliction.blogspot.com/2007/02/map-of-rortys-philosophy-and-mirror-of.html


This is what I mean: I described PMN as a dialectical trail to emphasize the fact that he's leading you down a rabbit hole that it doesn't appear you have to follow him further in, though you have to contort yourself pretty good to not. Rorty happens to begin in the philosophy of mind, but he could have picked a particular problem in philosophy of science or moral philosophy just as well (though thematically, given the convergence of mirror metaphor in philosophy of mind and epistemology, philosophy of mind was the good choice). What Rorty wants to do is develop certain doubts about what is going on in the problem, doubts about the way the problem is treated. This leads him back a level, to epistemology, where he repeats the process to lead us back to philosophy in general, to part 3.

At a certain point, people can stop doubting. Take Dan Dennett. Dennett has said of Rorty's philosophy of mind that it is "near perfect." The difference I want to strike up between Dennett and Rorty is that Rorty would never say (or at least for the purposes of the distinction I'm going to make) that he has a philosophy of mind in the same way that Dennett does, because to do so would depend on antecedent demarcations of what kind of philosophy there is to do, demarcations that depend on a specific view of philosophy, the one he demolishes in part 3 (which isn't to say that the demarcations survive for pragmatic reasons, pigeon-holes for departments). In this context, saying that Rorty has a philosophy of mind is like saying that he has a theory of truth--both are misleading for precisely the same reasons.


In short, Rorty thinks Dennett is doing metaphysics (badly) and spent much of his time trying (and failing) to get Dennett to understand why it is impossible to defend any metaphysical version of materialism, however much we might like to.

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 04:28 AM
Geoff,

To talk about how I see the relation between Science and Spirituality,
I should first give you some direction to what I mean by "spirituality."

I expect you'll get the drift right away, but for readers unfamiliar with the kind of discourse I'm about to quote, all should know of me that I'm a naturalistic empiricist who'd rather not posit and depend upon metaphysical and supernatural realms. And I'm an Atheist or Non-Theist.

I'm going to quote two different mystics from a wide temporal, cultural, and religious gap.

"Mystics?! We don't need no mystics! Please no mystics with visions of things unscientific!"

These are not that kind of mystic. Instead they are ones who see the very world you see as Vision.

First from the 20th Century, Jewish mystic, Martin Buber.


(From I And Thou as translated by Walter Kaufmann)

Secondly I cite Dogen Zenji of 13th Century Japan, the founder of the Soto Sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism. It’s doubtful Buber ever even heard of him.


(From Actualizing The Fundamental Point)

Both address a different kind of Seeing and a different sense of Knowing than that of the scentific investigation of objects (Which Buber catagorizes under the mode of "I-It")

Now this kind of spiritual apprehension is not meant to supplant objective observation or yield some kind of objective information invisible to the scientific eye. Buber is clear in I And Thou that it doesn't deny any objective information we know about an Other. It's not about information.
It's about Relation and Being.

There is nothing in this Vision that is antithetical (or can be antithetical) to objective empirical information.
It's not a separate source of such. It's the Being and Relating aspect of our humanity. It's the source of our values, our sympathy, and our empathy.

Various religions produce symbolic tools to help hold onto or bring us back to Vision.
But they also make a mistake of turning the elements of subjective encounter to objective teachings. For example the timeless Vision of You gets frozen into the concept of an immortal soul.

So what good is this Vision, if it's not giving us metaphysical information?
Well, if life and its companions are to someone who may read this post no more than objects of scientific or religious information, then how miserable!

It's not about two different realms that have nothing to bring to each other.
Science can speak of the biochemistry of Love.
And Love can motivate us to passionate understanding.

Two mistakes detrimental to humanity:
To smother subjective encounter with It, It, It.
To substitute the husks of religious dogma for the spirit of Encounter.

If I understood that correctly, I think I agree with it.

PixyMisa
28th May 2009, 04:31 AM
No. If I tried to explain it in a brief paragraph then almost nobody would understand it.
If you can't explain it clearly, what makes you think that you understand it yourself?

As for the rest, third-party opinion is worthless here. Show us quotes from Rorty and Dennett themselves to illustrate what you are saying.

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 04:37 AM
If you can't explain it clearly, what makes you think that you understand it yourself?


I said I couldn't explain it in one brief paragraph, not that I couldn't explain it.

I can't explain it in one brief paragraph for the same reason I can't explain genetic drift in one brief paragraph to a board full of people who don't even know what DNA is. Except this is even harder. Rorty never succeeded in getting through to Dennett, and he had more than a brief paragraph to try.

BTW, PixyMisa, there is no point in me trying to explain anything at all to you because you are yet to accept that there is anything you could possibly learn from me. You're trying to "help" me think like you, right? If and when you are willing to take a step back and consider the possiblity that maybe I understand certain things which you do not, maybe we might make some progress.

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 04:49 AM
If you want to read what Rorty actually said about Dennett, and vice versa, it can be found here:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ls8y52IpkDkC&pg=PA91&lpg=PA91&dq=rorty+and+his+critics+%2Bdennett&source=bl&ots=RRdMIG2w0a&sig=ckQVsB2tMKkRh9a_9dUgjjVoY0U&hl=en&ei=HnkeSrGYPM_RjAe9kJS3DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#PPP1,M1

see pages 90-107

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 05:17 AM
Message to all:

I've just discovered that I've been accepted on a TESOL course (teaching English as a foreign language). It starts in two weeks and I have a reading list as long as my arm to get through. I'm not going to be able to waste hours on end talking about philosophy to the good people of the JREF.

I'll drop back in later, but you aren't going to be subjected to any more long, complicated posts.

PixyMisa
28th May 2009, 05:36 AM
I said I couldn't explain it in one brief paragraph, not that I couldn't explain it.
Then use two brief paragraphs.

I can't explain it in one brief paragraph for the same reason I can't explain genetic drift in one brief paragraph to a board full of people who don't even know what DNA is.
Funnily enough, everyone else here can do that. You don't need to know about DNA to have a general grasp of genetics. Mendel knew nothing of DNA, nor did Darwin or Wallace.

Except this is even harder. Rorty never succeeded in getting through to Dennett, and he had more than a brief paragraph to try.
Maybe he's just wrong then.

BTW, PixyMisa, there is no point in me trying to explain anything at all to you because you are yet to accept that there is anything you could possibly learn from me.
Ad hominem, strawman.

You're trying to "help" me think like you, right?
Wrong.

If and when you are willing to take a step back and consider the possiblity that maybe I understand certain things which you do not, maybe we might make some progress.
I am perfectly willing to entertain that possibility. As soon as you show me that you understand something that I do not, I'll admit to it. But you have to actually show this. You can't just claim that it is true and expect anyone to believe you.

Until then, I'll just keep pointing out that you are talking nonsense - or at best, failing to back up your assertions.

PixyMisa
28th May 2009, 05:43 AM
If you want to read what Rorty actually said about Dennett, and vice versa, it can be found here:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ls8y52IpkDkC&pg=PA91&lpg=PA91&dq=rorty+and+his+critics+%2Bdennett&source=bl&ots=RRdMIG2w0a&sig=ckQVsB2tMKkRh9a_9dUgjjVoY0U&hl=en&ei=HnkeSrGYPM_RjAe9kJS3DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#PPP1,M1

see pages 90-107
Okay, fair enough. I'll take a look.

...

Wow, what a load of drivel. I've rarely seen so much nonsense concentrated into such a small space.

PixyMisa
28th May 2009, 05:47 AM
Not only is Rorty dead wrong, he is incapable of writing clearly. The difference between Dennett and Rorty here is profound.

paximperium
28th May 2009, 05:58 AM
Not only is Rorty dead wrong, he is incapable of writing clearly. The difference between Dennett and Rorty here is profound.
Beats me, he is apparently very important.

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 06:08 AM
Beats me, he is apparently very important.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_and_the_Mirror_of_Nature


Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (1979) is a famous and controversial work by American philosopher Richard Rorty. In this book, Rorty attempts to dissolve so-called philosophical problems instead of solving them by showing that they are in fact pseudo-problems that only exist in the language-game of Analytic philosophy. In a pragmatist gesture, Rorty claims that philosophy must get past these pseudo-problems if it is to be productive.

Rorty's central thesis is that philosophy has unduly relied on a representational theory of perception and a correspondence theory of truth, hoping our experience or language might mirror the way reality actually is. In this he continues a certain controversial Anglophone tradition, continuing the work of philosophers like Quine, Sellars, and Davidson. Rorty opts out of the traditional objective/subjective dialogue in favor of a communal version of truth. For him, "true" is simply an honorific knowers bestow on claims, asserting them as what "we" want to say about a particular matter.

Rorty spends much of the book explaining how philosophical paradigm shifts and their associated philosophical "problems" can be considered the result of the new metaphors, vocabularies, and mistaken linguistic associations which are necessarily a part of those new paradigms.


Rorty was without doubt the most controversial (and important) philosopher since Wittgenstein.

PixyMisa
28th May 2009, 06:40 AM
I specifically read the exchange between Dennett and Rorty. Rorty comes off very badly there. It might not be a good example of his writing, but it's what UndercoverElephant directed me to.

Robin
28th May 2009, 06:58 AM
‘No predictive or explanatory or descriptive power would be lost if we had spoken Antipodean all our lives.’
Two questions:

1) Is Rorty correct to say that materialists/scientists should restrict themselves to making statements like the one in bold?
No, because the statement in bold is precisely the type of metaphysical statement he claims materialists should not say.
2) Is the bolded statement true?
If we could answer that question then it would imply that we had the answers to precisely the sort of questions you claim we cannot even formulate.

Secondly, if the bolded sentence was demonstrably true then identity materialism would be demonstrably true.

And finally, the whole argument appears to rely on terms which could have no precise meaning if the conclusion was true.

This argument is essentially self-refuting.

To generalise the problem - a statement "there are no metaphysical statements about X" is in itself a metaphysical statement about X.

fls
28th May 2009, 08:30 AM
Rorty's answer: Does scratching an itch count as progress?

If philosophy shows science that it is trying to answer an impossible question, is that progress?

In October 1998, Richard Dawkins was interviewed by Jeremy Stangroom of The Philosophers’ Magazine.

http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/Interviews/genes_and_determinsm.shtml

Dawkins’ second word already betrays some of the difficulty lurking in Stangroom’s question. “To suppose” means to speculate - to believe, especially on uncertain or tentative grounds. In fact Dawkins has openly admitted this difficulty, for example during an interview for Powells.com

http://www.powells.com/authors/dawkins.html

At this point, Dawkins needs to read Rorty. Rorty would try to explain to Dawkins that in fact the question isn't just difficult to formulate, but strictly impossible. If Dawkins were to accept this conclusion, would it count as philosophy informing science? Or would it be philosophy informing scientists about philosophy, resulting in those scientists ceasing to try to find scientific answers to questions which are either non-scientific or non-questions?

To demonstrate that philosophy informs science is to demonstrate that scientists will discontinue their inquiries based on philosophers' say so? In that case, I take back what I said. I don't want you to provide me with a demonstration and prefer that you disregard anything I have said that could be construed as advice. Your essay is fine as is.

Linda

fls
28th May 2009, 08:42 AM
Linda,

Another question.

Here is a summary of Rorty's tale of the Antipodeans:

http://mindsmeaningmorals.wordpress.com/2006/12/27/the-incorrigibility-of-the-phenomenal/

Here is Rorty’s explanation of what the tale of the Antipodeans is really about:

Two questions:

1) Is Rorty correct to say that materialists/scientists should restrict themselves to making statements like the one in bold?

I think that Rorty should continue to say that materialists or scientists should restrict their statements. I don't think he should say this because it is correct.

2) Is the bolded statement true?

How would I know?

Linda

Darat
28th May 2009, 08:45 AM
I think that Rorty should continue to say that materialists or scientists should restrict their statements. I don't think he should say this because it is correct.

...snip...

He's dead*.


*But only according to materialists and ill-informed scientists.

Ron_Tomkins
28th May 2009, 09:04 AM
I'm at work right now, so I couldn't read the entire thread you linked to me, but I read most. I have to say I must give it more than one read because there's something fuzzy IMO about this claim that there are different types of Material perception. I don't think that's always true for everyone


Rorty believed (correctly, IMO) that it is impossible to solve the sort of philosophical problems Dennett tries to solve in books like "Consciousness Explained." Instead, problems like this have to be dissolved. This POV is inherited directly from Wittgenstein, a person who Dennett openly admits he doesn't really understand.


Fair enough. Lets say that what you say is true

Lets say you have a Dennett reader, who is considering the possibility that you may be right, but he needs a clear example

Could you take one example from one of Dennett's experiments in "Consciousness Explained" and explain why/how is his example not a valid solution to understanding how consciousness works? And also, point out where exactly is Dennett making the mistake of taking a Metaphysical approach

And, what exactly do you mean by "problems like this have to be dissolved"? Sounds like the antithesis of "solving", by trying to solidify a problem through clearly outlining it in a scientific way, but I'll let you explain what you meant by that

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 10:18 AM
Fair enough. Lets say that what you say is true

Lets say you have a Dennett reader, who is considering the possibility that you may be right, but he needs a clear example

Could you take one example from one of Dennett's experiments in "Consciousness Explained" and explain why/how is his example not a valid solution to understanding how consciousness works? And also, point out where exactly is Dennett making the mistake of taking a Metaphysical approach

And, what exactly do you mean by "problems like this have to be dissolved"? Sounds like the antithesis of "solving", by trying to solidify a problem through clearly outlining it in a scientific way, but I'll let you explain what you meant by that

I wish I had the time to try to answer these questions properly, because they are good questions. If you want a detailed account of what I think is wrong with Dennett's approach, I can direct you to another thread:

https://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=20905&sid=a1dff00ae34064e8afa677ab908c3ba5

Your last question is trickiest of all.

This paper is as good an attempt at answer as I can find quickly:

http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=4&url=http%3A%2F%2Forg.elon.edu%2Fphilosophy%2Fptp2% 2FGitsoulis%2520paper%25202.doc&ei=xsYeSvrXBYShjAf6hq2ZDQ&usg=AFQjCNGr_jU5zFOVhmCcc3nCh030BeWzDA&sig2=F79W0xiQUCg9gRhVV65coA

fls
28th May 2009, 10:23 AM
He's dead*.

*But only according to materialists and ill-informed scientists.

Oops. :blush:

Linda

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 12:17 PM
Ron,

I could have given a better short answer about "dissolving" rather than solving philosophical problems. Dissolving a philosophical problem is the process of helping a person to become aware of how the language they are using created the problem in the first place. This enables them to think about things in a different way and thereby avoid creating the philosophical problem. That's why Rorty ends up claiming that materialists need to stop reacting to stories like that of the Antipodeans by saying something metaphysical and must say something non-metaphysical instead. Whether or not it actually works in this case is another matter. I tend to agree with Robin that in fact it does not - or rather than his means of dissolving the problem leads to other, more subtle problems. He's still implying something metaphysical, it's just that the metaphysical claim he is now implying is a more accurate representation of what materialism can legitimately claim to be. Compare that to Dennett, who frequently makes claims that leaves his readers scratching their heads and wondering what on Earth he is going on about (e.g. "consciousness is as real as a centre of gravity.")

I hope that made some sort of sense.

Geoff

UndercoverElephant
28th May 2009, 12:22 PM
Oops. :blush:

Linda

He died on the day I found out I'd passed my philosophy degree. I heard about it at the results party.

Ron_Tomkins
28th May 2009, 03:48 PM
I wish I had the time to try to answer these questions properly, because they are good questions. If you want a detailed account of what I think is wrong with Dennett's approach, I can direct you to another thread:

https://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=20905&sid=a1dff00ae34064e8afa677ab908c3ba5

Listen, I seriously tried to read that website but it is a real headache of a task trying to decipher what it reads. I don't know if you've checked it but there's some sort of coding error that turns some of the text into a nonsensical set of symbols "“dupeâ€Â"

At first you can kind of ignore it, but then it gets worse, such as in this paragraph:

"These mental subsystems are there to “assuage epistemic hunger----to satisfy ‘curiosity’ in all its forms. If the ‘victim’ is passive or incurious about topic x, if the victim doesn’t seek answers....."

I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous

Listen, just take your time. I'll be checking the thread daily. Whenever you find the time, I would really appreciate it if you did the work of taking one single example from one of Dennett's examples on consciousness and heterophenomenology, and point out where the "obvious" logical fault is. I'd rather have you do it anyway since you're the one posing the argument that Dennet is making a metaphysical claim.


Ron,

I could have given a better short answer about "dissolving" rather than solving philosophical problems. Dissolving a philosophical problem is the process of helping a person to become aware of how the language they are using created the problem in the first place......
..... Compare that to Dennett, who frequently makes claims that leaves his readers scratching their heads and wondering what on Earth he is going on about (e.g. "consciousness is as real as a centre of gravity.")

I do not know what readers you are referring to but Dennett does not leave me scratching my head. On the very contrary, I think he points to things in a very simple, clear and concise way without any sense of fuzziness (which is a remarkable thing to do especially when dealing with something so apparently complex and impossible to grasp as consciousness). And he always makes clear distinctions between the traps of language and the actual meaning of things. So again, I'm gonna need you to give examples of this you claim. Where does he makes these mistakes?

Soapy Sam
28th May 2009, 03:48 PM
He died on the day I found out I'd passed my philosophy degree. I heard about it at the results party.

You think there's a connection?

Robin
28th May 2009, 04:07 PM
I think that Rorty should continue to say that materialists or scientists should restrict their statements. I don't think he should say this because it is correct.

...

How would I know?

Linda
I am probably misunderstanding, but your second answer appears to contradict the first.

Robin
28th May 2009, 04:18 PM
At this point, Dawkins needs to read Rorty. Rorty would try to explain to Dawkins that in fact the question isn't just difficult to formulate, but strictly impossible.
I doubt it. Before you could make a verifiable statement "It is strictly impossible to formulate a scientific question about X" you would need to first prove the case for X=metascience. Which would involve an infinite regress.

Otherwise it can easily be shown that the statement "It is strictly impossible to formulate a scientific question about X" resolves to the statement: "This statement is strictly unverifiable"