• Manuel
    2.6k
    This was inspired by another thread, where the subject came up. We can think of ontology in a few ways. We can phrase it as Quine did, which I thought was quite good, simply by asking "what is there?"
    There are many, many ways to answer this question. Borrowing the idea from Haack, we can say through Lewis Carroll:

    "The time has come,' the Walrus said,
    To talk of many things:
    Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
    Of cabbages — and kings —"

    Or we can simply say "everything", as Quine did. Nevertheless, I'm not interested in the topic of reference, I'm interested in things not words per se. My own view, which I've been working out is to use Sellar's distinction between the "manifest image" and the "scientific image" as a good provisional distinction, or at least a useful heuristic.

    I'd say I have a manifest ontology which includes "everything" and a scientific ontology which tends to be agnostic. What there is in the mind-independent world may well be what physics says there is, but physics is incomplete and is subject to revisions that may make any previous ontology obsolete.

    The reason for including a "manifest ontology" is because I think our common-sense world is worth talking about, I want to talk about kings and ships and gods and everything else. Otherwise we would have very little to say.

    But that's my approximation. So, on to the easy question: what is there?
  • 180 Proof
    8.7k
    So, on to the easy question: what is there?Manuel
    Very good OP, but I prefer the not so easy question: what necessarily is not there? (re: members of the empty set)
  • fdrake
    5k
    But that's my approximation. So, on to the easy question: what is there?Manuel

    My own answer: systems.

    But it's funny isn't it, everyone is compelled to agree with the Quine quote, but it leaves so much out. Two philosophers could presumably agree on every aspect of how the mind, say, works in practice, but disagree on whether it exists. The question leaves out all the interesting bits; the speculative/conjectural/provisional how answers, and the frames of interpretation of how things are.

    It seems to me "What is there?" is an extremely limited question, it leaves out why someone would assent to one thing existing and not another; the "quibbling over cases" constitutive of the quote's construal of ontology is actually driven by a different subject matter; the hows, the frames. The latter, IMO, is the appropriate level of discourse for ontology.

    Bascially, who cares whether we say it exists or not, how it works is the important thing. EG, does someone who believes God exists as a social construct and myth disagree with a hardline atheist on the appropriate ontology for God?

    Doctrinally, "What is there?" is answered by "How we imagine what there is".
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    ...is actually driven by a different subject matter; the hows, the frames. The latter, IMO, is the appropriate level of discourse for ontology.fdrake

    That's fair. But would a framework of yours try to do away with certain postulates, or would you try to keep as many things as possible?

    Bascially, who cares whether we say it exists or not, how it works is the important thing. EG, does someone who believes God exists as a social construct and myth disagree with a hardline atheist on the appropriate ontology for God?

    Doctrinally, "What is there?" is answered by "How we imagine what there is".
    fdrake

    Well, we can speak of God, but he needn't exist: he'd be a fictitious entity for an atheist and the Supreme Being for a believer. Thus we could retain God in a manifest ontology, i.e. at least a mental construction.

    Your answer is true, on a person by person basis. My initial reaction would be that of being careful not to do away with things, unless we can show such things to be of no use, which is admittedly a very broad goal. It would be nice to reach some agreement on this area, but it's extremely difficult, given how different we all are.
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    Very good OP, but I prefer the not so easy question: what is necessarily not there? (re: members of the empty set)180 Proof

    Could you expand on that?

    Like listing some examples, or describing how such an approach works, more or less.
  • fdrake
    5k
    That's fair. But would a framework of yours try to do away with certain postulates, or would you try to keep as many things as possible?Manuel

    I don't think it's possible to answer that question generically? If you're doing ontology, and how you frame things / your conceptual approach is a driver of the answers you get to ontological questions, there's no higher court to evaluate it in. If you stake yourself on a claim, you're already going to start interpreting things one way rather than another. EG, what could possibly decide whether it's better to say:

    Well, we can speak of God, but he needn't exist: he'd be a fictitious entity for an atheist and the Supreme Being for a believer. Thus we could retain God in a manifest ontology, i.e. at least a mental construction.Manuel

    God doesn't exist vs God does exist but only as a social construct vs God does exist but only as an idea?

    That's the kind of thing that depends on the weather and starting point, right? Questioning the question is utmost importance with ontology.

    Your answer is true, on a person by person basis. My initial reaction would be that of being careful not to do away with things, unless we can show such things to be of no use, which is admittedly a very broad goal. It would be nice to reach some agreement on this area, but it's extremely difficult, given how different we all are.Manuel

    Yes. I'm not trying to come at this from a place of radical relativism regarding what there is; the "things themselves" are suggestive. And you can't fiat reality away. It's more than the things themselves strongly underdetermine how they are interpreted; so a large part of ontology is finding an appropriate angle of attack on what you're making an ontology of.

    EG, imagine these parody paper titles:

    Mereological nihilism and the impossibility of community action
    The Rhizomatic Ontology Of Tuber Roots (this one's actually got real seminars on it, fuck)
    Kant and the Impossibility of Experimental Science
    The Irrelevance of Belief to Human Decision Making: propositional content from Aristotle to Gadamer.

    The angle of attack on "what is there" strongly influences what is concluded about it. And that doesn't stop there being wrong answers, better answers, worse answers, irrelevant questions...

    I don't know if my general metaphysical tastes matter so much; systems (assemblage theory stuff), how questions, frameworks around how questions, questioning the question, emphasis on locality rather than architectonics...
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    God doesn't exist vs God does exist but only as a social construct vs God does exist but only as an idea?

    That's the kind of thing that depends on the weather and starting point, right? Questioning the question is utmost importance with ontology.
    fdrake

    It does. I'm far from confident in what I'm saying, I'm just trying things out. So let me pose to you the following question, given that all of this depends on the "starting point", what would you leave out in your
    system? As an example that could frame the conversation, how would you deal with fictitious entities like Frodo or Santa Claus?

    It's more than the things themselves strongly underdetermine how they are interpreted; so a large part of ontology is finding an appropriate angle of attack on what you're making an ontology of.

    EG, imagine these parody paper titles:

    Mereological nihilism and the impossibility of community action
    The Rhizomatic Ontology Of Tuber Roots (this one's actually got real seminars on it, fuck)
    Kant and the Impossibility of Experimental Science
    The Irrelevance of Belief to Human Decision Making: propositional content from Aristotle to Gadamer.

    The angle of attack on "what is there" strongly influences what is concluded about it. And that doesn't stop there being wrong answers, better answers, worse answers, irrelevant questions...
    fdrake

    I'm assuming The Ontology of Tuber Roots was discussed by some Deleuzian? :lol: One has to keep one's eye's open for the Paris Postmodernists, they come up with the fanciest of ideas.

    Let's take that excellent classic, underrated Kant and the Impossibility of Experimental Science. Here things get tricky: how would the phrase after "Kant" form an entity in the world? "and the" don't seem to be entities, "impossibility" can be thought of obscurely such as a squared-circle or the like. "Experimental Science" on the other hand, seems to me to be a concept which we can apply by pointing to instances of it.

    I get the point, that "impossibility of experimental science" doesn't make sense. But would the things discussed in such titles eventually lead to mental entities, concepts or what? Taken as titles, only one word in the title speaks of entities "tuber roots", as I understand them. Well, "Kant", "Aristotle" and "Gadamer" were persons, which I suppose are concepts (?) as well.

    And apologies if this type of talk sounds totally crazy, confused or unintelligible, I want to see how other think these things out, if at all.
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    A taxonomy of being. These kinds of things, thems kinds of things, those kinds of things. A reasonable sort function, and, subject to correction and refinement, one no longer finds oneself in the embarrassing position of not being able to distinguish a pig from a unicorn.

    I like your phrase "mind-independent world," although not as simple as it sounds. I include in that all the things that have earned that right of membership. These the things that "are," the furniture of reality.

    That leaves mind-dependent. Is X a member? If no mind then no X, then X is a member. A great trouble with many of the Xs is general confusion as to what they are. Truth, justice, God, seven, The America Way are very often considered, treated, discussed, even claimed to be, in the mind-independent category. Which is pigs and unicorns.

    No doubt the membership of some things is tricky, but most of that difficulty resolved through the careful work of definition, meaning figuring out just what it is exactly one's thoughts are. Those, of course, subject to criticism.
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    That leaves mind-dependent. Is X a member? If no mind then no X, then X is a member. A great trouble with many of the Xs is general confusion as to what they are. Truth, justice, God, seven, The America Way are very often considered, treated, discussed, even claimed to be, in the mind-independent category. Which is pigs and unicorns.tim wood

    I'm not following the "If no mind then no X, then X is a member".

    I believe this could apply to say particles or cells. God, for those who believe in him. Seven seems to be mind-independent, somehow.

    Not so much with "The American Way", that seems to me to belong to persons and their ideas. Absent all people, "The American Way" doesn't seem to have any meaning to me. Sure, you could say the same thing about atoms, and that's a hard problem, but a bit less obscure.

    No doubt the membership of some things is tricky, but most of that difficulty resolved through the careful work of definition, meaning figuring out just what it is exactly one's thoughts are. Those, of course, subject to criticism.tim wood

    Which is quite paradoxical. We think we know what many of these terms and ideas mean, but as soon as we subject them to scrutiny, we find out we have much more to say than what we initially thought.
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    I believe this could apply to say particles or cells.Manuel
    This simply a matter of direct v. indirect perception. You cannot see an atom, but whether thereby atoms are mind-independent or mind-dependent is just not an argument worth any time or trouble. They seem to have "earned" their place. One may have to take some care with what is then said of atoms as mind-independent entities, but care in all cases is necessary.

    But everything is mind-dependent some may say. Or alternatively, mind-independent. To me at least this division seems fundamental. And it implies some constraints on possible claims. That is, it may be viewed as a reasonable game with reasonable rules. And people can play any game they like, but they just have to remember they're playing their own game and it may have nothing whatever to do with any reasonable game.
  • fdrake
    5k
    I'm assuming The Ontology of Tuber Roots was discussed by some Deleuzian? :lol: One has to keep one's eye's open for the Paris Postmodernists, they come up with the fanciest of ideas.Manuel

    Yes! And I found it ridiculous even though I love Deleuze. I find shitting on Deleuze from afar distasteful, what I found distasteful about the seminar - though it is wonderfully Deleuzian in form - was that Deleuze's metaphysics was being taken as simultaneously a metaphor and an explicans for tuber root branching processes.

    It does. I'm far from confident in what I'm saying, I'm just trying things out. So let me pose to you the following question, given that all of this depends on the "starting point", what would you leave out in your system? As an example that could frame the conversation, how would you deal with fictitious entities like Frodo or Santa Claus?Manuel

    I wouldn't want to say Frodo doesn't exist, because we're speaking about them. I think Frodo exists as a fictitious entity. I think that works because people believe in Frodo, and don't seem confused over whether the Lord of the Rings is real etc. I like Austin's analysis here (the pragmatic distinction between existence and reality). As a rule of thumb I don't like "exists" I prefer "exists as", specifying the mode in which something exists.

    I also wouldn't want to say "Frodo exists" in most contexts. Because then it sounds like "Frodo is real", and that's just delusional.

    I think Santa Claus is quite different from Frodo, Santa Claus is embedded in the rituals of social custom in a way Frodo just isn't. Parents invest in convincing their children that Santa Claus exists, they don't with Frodo. They exist quite differently.

    But they both seem to be part of social customs, and they're both not real... So perhaps in some umbrella term way they both exist as social constructs!

    I get the point, that "impossibility of experimental science" doesn't make sense. But would the things discussed in such titles eventually lead to mental entities, concepts or what? Taken as titles, only one word in the title speaks of entities "tuber roots", as I understand them.Manuel

    I think perhaps you're focussing on the paper title statements and what entities they quantify over and whether the nouns in them have referents
    *
    (for some sense of "have" furnished by a conception of "exists")
    . That's one way of interpreting existential commitment (a Quinean way), and you can find what someone's committed to from what statements they make ("to be is to be the value of a bound variable"). Another way is to imagine what must be the case for someone to act how they do, believe what they do, irrespective of the propositional form of the statement. Like when someone says "I do" in a wedding, that entails a host of things exist in a myriad of ways - like a partner, wedding as a social custom, romantic relationships, courtship, contracts, rituals... But none of those are quantified over in the text of the speech act.
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    They seem to have "earned" their place. One may have to take some care with what is then said of atoms as mind-independent entities, but care in all cases is necessary.

    But everything is mind-dependent some may say. Or alternatively, mind-independent. To me at least this division seems fundamental. And it implies some constraints on possible claims. That is, it may be viewed as a reasonable game with reasonable rules. And people can play any game they like, but they just have to remember they're playing their own game and it may have nothing whatever to do with any reasonable game.
    tim wood

    I agree, this distinction is fundamental and it can help constrain us in some manner. If something is mind dependent, it seems to me that one is less constrained: one can add or subtract to an entity anything you deem reasonable, which other people may disagree with. Mind-independence, on the other hand, seems to follow from the evidence, we can't assign any arbitrary equations to particle physics.

    And yes, what constitutes a reasonable game is very elastic. Someone like Rosenberg would play a game that only like three people follow, for example.
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    If something is mind dependent, it seems to me that one is less constrained: one can add or subtract to an entity anything you deem reasonable, which other people may disagree with. Mind-independence, on the other hand, seems to follow from the evidence, we can't assign any arbitrary equation to particle physics.Manuel

    You seem to have a natural grasp for expressing these things in a simple and direct way that I envy. Interesting: if one can add or subtract at will from mind-dependent entities - which seems reasonable - is that same ability proof or evidence that the entity is mind-dependent. It would seem to be the case.
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    I find shitting on Deleuze from afar distasteful, what I found distasteful about the seminar - though it is wonderfully Deleuzian in form - was that Deleuze's metaphysics was being taken as simultaneously a metaphor and an explicans for tuber root branching processes.fdrake

    To be clear, I think Foucault is fine and Deleuze is quite creative, though I still think that some of the observations made by Sokal and Bricmont merit a reply. Deleuze is instrumental, for example, in the novels of Michael Cisco, who is totally unique and mind expanding. But I can't extend being charitable to Derrida or Lacan. I know others will strongly disagree, but it's just not for me.

    But they both seem to be part of social customs, and they're both not real... So perhaps in some umbrella term way they both exist as social constructs!fdrake

    I think that is reasonable. I'd maybe switch around "real" and "existent", we could say Frodo is a real fictional entity, that is, you find him in Lord of the Rings as a character. But he is not an existent entity, not a person you could signal out as being Frodo from Lord of the Rings. I don't know enough about Santa Claus to say much about him, in terms of his origin story. But saying they are social constructs makes sense to me.

    I think perhaps you're focussing on the statement and what entities it quantifies over and whether the nouns in it have referents. That's one way of interpreting existential commitment (a Quinean way), and you can find what someone's committed to from what statements they make ("to be is to be the value of a bound variable"). Another way is to imagine what must be the case for someone to believe what they do irrespective of the propositional form of the statement. Like when someone says "I do" in a wedding, that entails a host of things exist in a myriad of ways - like a partner, wedding as a social custom, romantic relationships, courtship, contracts, rituals... But none of those are quantified over in the text of the speech act.fdrake

    Yeah, I'd like to avoid commitment ontologies actually. What I think there is may change as I learn new things or change.

    I'm more sympathetic to thinking that beliefs need not be propositional, although we need to speak about these things to get a better idea about them. At any one moment, we have a myriad of "dormant" beliefs, some which are possibly impossible to put adequately into words.

    Are entities only the ones we can name, like river, phoenix or bed? What happens with such things like "and", "despite", "furthermore", "but" and such words. They don't imply entities. Yet I said I wanted to talk about things and not words.... Oh well...
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    You seem to have a natural grasp for expressing these things in a simple and direct way that I envy.tim wood
    Thank you. It's the product of constantly being embarrassed by talking to people much smarter than me. And much conceptual anguish. All the time. :)
  • fdrake
    5k
    Yeah, I'd like to avoid commitment ontologies actually. What I think there is may change as I learn new things or change.Manuel

    :up:

    Inferring what exists from what we do seems backwards to me. Like "If you wanna know what exists, look at what people do!". But like... I wanna change what I do based on what I think. I'm sure the two can be reciprocally interrogated - what people do, what there is. And perhaps that inference, from practice to commitment, is a very sophisticated move in such a reciprocally determining game, but it doesn't tell you anything the original practice doesn't.

    You made some comments about the manifest and scientific image, in those terms commitment ontologies feed the manifest image into an ontology, whereas it seems philosophy when it's working well can be a bridge between the scientific and manifest image as well as a handmaiden in both domains.

    To be clear, I think Foucault is fine and Deleuze is quite creative, though I still think that some of the observations made by Sokal and Bricmont merit a reply. Deleuze is instrumental, for example, in the novels of Michael Cisco, who is totally unique and mind expanding. But I can't extend being charitable to Derrida or Lacan. I know others will strongly disagree, but it's just not for me.Manuel

    :up:

    I know the feel. I feel that way about Lacan too!
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    What happens with such things like "and", "despite", "furthermore", "but" and such words. They don't imply entities.Manuel

    Perhaps this way. First one separates, and settles if possible, mind-independent and mind-dependent. Then one looks at each separately. And that "separately" matters! Two different realms. And it takes some discipline of mind to keep them separate. And a hazard is that the same words can be used in the understandings in and of the realms, but they do not necessarily mean the same things across realms!

    Words of course are mind-dependent. But I wonder if, in wondering about words, you have let your thoughts get over the wall. Were words independent, then as you say it would be our business to let them tell us what they are. As mind-dependent, it seems rather it is our business to tell them what they are. (Which implies radically different abilities and purposes for language, depending on which is true!) But here, if following our own methodology, we're obliged to construct a taxonomy of words. For the moment the traditional model will do. Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, even prepositions we are too familiar with to properly question. So your choices are significant as being none of these.

    Without further consulting the grammarian, what can be said of them? That they serve as linguistic lubricant, as function, process, structure, and without being part of the substantive meaning of the sentence. Part of the machinery.

    More interesting, it seems, is the differences in the "rules" for understanding the two realms of mind-dependence and -independence. Existence itself of course a major pitfall and trap for many.
  • T Clark
    9.3k
    So, on to the easy question: what is there?Manuel

    I think of ontologies as metaphysical tools. I envision my trusty tool box. I have a problem, I open it up and pull out the one that's most useful in that particular situation. Example - I'm an engineer, so in my work life; knowing things, knowing what I know, and knowing how well I know them is important. A scientific world view often works well for that. On the other hand, a scientific world view has significant weaknesses. It focuses our attention tightly and things tend to be left out. See the ongoing discussion of mysticism.
  • T Clark
    9.3k
    Doctrinally, "What is there?" is answered by "How we imagine what there is".fdrake

    This is an ontological judgement and, as such, it's already working within a defined ontological framework. Not to be all meta and all. That's the problem with, one of the problems with, ontology. Where do you stand?
  • fdrake
    5k
    This is an ontological judgement and, as such, it's already working within a defined ontological framework.T Clark

    I agree!

    Not to be all meta and all. That's the problem with, one of the problems with, ontology. Where do you stand?

    I don't think it's a problem, it's a cost of doing business.
  • T Clark
    9.3k
    I don't think it's a problem, it's a cost of doing business.fdrake

    Agreed. But then the problem is that people don't recognize that. They think that the right place to stand is self-evident.
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    Inferring what exists from what we do seems backwards to me. Like "If you wanna know what exists, look at what people do!". But like... I wanna change what I do based on what I think.fdrake
    If we were to stick to that standard, we'd probably still be living in animism, or something along those lines. It's somewhat akin to that saying "you only see what you know." From that, it simply follows that if we don't know, we won't see.

    You made some comments about the manifest and scientific image, in those terms commitment ontologies feed the manifest image into an ontology, whereas it seems philosophy when it's working well can be a bridge between the scientific and manifest image as well as a handmaiden in both domains.fdrake

    Yes, that's a noble goal. We still can't get rid of our common sense, like seeing the sun rising and falling, or thinking we are the the center of the universe, but now we know better. What's frustrating is when despite the enormous progress in physics, specifically in the quantum domain, we learn almost nothing about manifest reality. It's better than nothing though.
  • fdrake
    5k
    What's frustrating is when despite the enormous progress in physics, specifically in the quantum domain, we learn almost nothing about manifest reality. It's better than nothing though.Manuel

    Aye! I think much of "manifest reality" isn't physical strictly speaking; as in you don't gain too much knowledge about a social institution from the thought that its office buildings are made of atoms. Much comes from the arrangement and interaction of things. I think there's more stuff in the scientific image than physics, eg the social sciences, neuroscience, genetics, engineering, anthropology. The widespread focus on physics as the discipline of knowledge that deals with fundamental reality seems pretty weird to me!
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    I think of ontologies as metaphysical tools. I envision my trusty tool box. I have a problem, I open it up and pull out the one that's most useful in that particular situation. Example - I'm an engineer, so in my work life; knowing things, knowing what I know, and knowing how well I know them is important. A scientific world view often works well for that. On the other hand, a scientific world view has significant weaknesses. It focuses our attention tightly and things tend to be left out. See the ongoing discussion of mysticism.T Clark

    That sounds very much like pragmatism, along the lines of William James.

    The issue is what to do with entities that initially may appear to be of little use, such as speaking about Pegasus or Alchemy. Of course, one can reply by saying those are useful in certain contexts such as mythology and history, respectively. Then I'd only add, that while that makes sense, I'm skeptical of believing in innumerable contexts for every term, perhaps finding out how we organize such talk can help us see how we think a bit better. Or perhaps it's a waste of time.

    Yes, we are often left to speaking about many areas of life in terms of mysticism. Alternatively we can read novels. Which is fine and nourishing and reassuring. I suppose my interests at the moment is giving visibility to knowledge or the manifest image, in a manner that is roughly intuitive. This often leads to discussions of phenomenology, clarifying a bit how different aspects of our consciousness interact with the world.
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    Aye! I think much of "manifest reality" isn't physical strictly speaking; as in you don't gain too much knowledge about a social institution from the thought that its office buildings are made of atoms. Much comes from the arrangement and interaction of things. I think there's more stuff in the scientific image than physics, eg the social sciences, neuroscience, genetics, engineering, anthropology.fdrake

    100,000%.

    Sometimes in other forums, philosophy of mind sections are literally only about neuroscience. It should then be called brain philosophy, which is fine. But so far as I can see, current brain science says very, very, very little about the mind. Which is strange, admittedly. Still, if we "reduce" mind to brain, we lose out on almost everything.

    I sometimes ask, in all sincerity: give me one example of how a brain state produces a qualitative state, such as seeing the sky or a tree. Nothing fancy. I'm not asking them to tell me how I'm able to see the universe through a telescope. They can't give one example. How is this philosophy of mind?
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    For the moment the traditional model will do. Nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, even prepositions we are too familiar with to properly question. So your choices are significant as being none of these.

    Without further consulting the grammarian, what can be said of them? That they serve as linguistic lubricant, as function, process, structure, and without being part of the substantive meaning of the sentence. Part of the machinery.

    More interesting, it seems, is the differences in the "rules" for understanding the two realms of mind-dependence and -independence. Existence itself of course a major pitfall and trap for many.
    tim wood

    I suspect something along these lines are correct in relation to entities, meaning such words "and", "but", don't tell things us about the world. Which is interesting and should highlight what you said, the mind-dependent character of words. They're important for sentence structure but of course, sentences and the world are two quite different things, or so it seems to me.

    Existence is a major problem. The only property I can't think away from the world is extension. Everything else is very much subject to our mental architecture, specifically manifest, experiential qualities.
  • counterpunch
    1.6k
    I think knowledge starts at the fingertips - not at the far end of the universe, so I'm working toward a valid ontology. I have no idea what may or may not ultimately exist. To my mind, it's a wrong end of the microscope question! Provisionally; causality, evolution, intellect - but ultimately, who knows?
  • Isaac
    7.4k
    give me one example of how a brain state produces a qualitative state, such as seeing the sky or a tree.Manuel

    What would an answer to that request be like? I mean how would you know you've had such an answer. I could say - your occipital cortex starts a chain of neural firings which, on average, lead to reports consistent with what we describe as 'seeing a tree'. Why isn't that an answer, what's missing?
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    What would an answer to that request be like? I mean how would you know you've had such an answer. I could say - your occipital cortex starts a chain of neural firings which, on average, lead to reports consistent with what we describe as 'seeing a tree'. Why isn't that an answer, what's missing?Isaac

    The general idea would be, that by your reporting that neural firings in the occipital cortex are consistent with me seeing a tree, you haven't said how is it possible that neurons could possibly resemble or explain being in a state such as "seeing a tree".

    Simply put: a neuron looks nothing like green or brown, it doesn't smell anything and by itself, it sees nothing. So there is a gap between quantity like number of neurons involved and location of brain module and experience.

    I'm not denying that consciousness arises from the brain, it clearly must. I just don't think we know how it could be possible that it does, as is the case.

    The difference is between experience and non-mental matter.

    Though, to be fair, effects do things that go way beyond there cause. Water being the effect of interacting molecules goes beyond out theoretical descriptions of it, in terms of what we can do with water, how we interact with it, etc.
  • Isaac
    7.4k
    Simply put: a neuron looks nothing like green or brown, it doesn't smell anything and by itself, it sees nothing. So there is a gap between quantity like number of neurons involved and location of brain module and experience.Manuel

    But that would be sensing the neuron, not the tree. You're asking how sensing the tree produces the feelings you have. The answer is that the external effects from the tree fire nerve endings of various sorts which trigger other neurons, the collection of which, coupled with the feedback you get from your further interaction with it and your social environment, is what it is for you to experience seeing a tree.

    What I'm not getting is why that isn't a satisfactory answer. Oddly though it seems as if were I to say "light hits the neurons on your occipital cortex and they turn brown", that would somehow satisfy you. But then who looks at the brown neurons and how?
  • Manuel
    2.6k
    You're asking how sensing the tree produces the feelings you have. The answer is that the external effects from the tree fire nerve endings of various sorts which trigger other neurons, the collection of which, coupled with the feedback you get from your further interaction with it and your social environment, is what it is for you to experience seeing a tree.

    What I'm not getting is why that isn't a satisfactory answer. Oddly though it seems as if were I to say "light hits the neurons on your occipital cortex and they turn brown", that would somehow satisfy you. But then who looks at the brown neurons and how?
    Isaac

    I mean, first off, in manifest reality, you need intentionality, you need to be in front of a tree for those effects to come into play. If you had no intentionality or "aboutness", there would be nothing to produce the effects, or being more accurate, there would be too many factors coming in to distinguish anything from anything else.

    No, neurons turning brown or looking like trees wouldn't explain how the brain does what it does, you are correct. But I'm speaking of the mental, what you are seeing right now, as you read these letters and whatever examples come to mind as you think of a reply. You are saying that this is caused by neurons, I don't deny they play a crucial part. Ok, when someone loses functionality in Brocas area, they can't speak. So Broca's area causes speech or is intimately involved. But there's much more to speech than what can be accounted for by looking at Broca's area, or vision for that matter in the occipital cortex.

    The issue would be how rich the reply is, given how little we understand about brains. There is much more complexity in manifest reality than what can be said by appealing to causes in the brain. There seems to be a massive gap in our knowledge when we go from the brain to our picture of the world.

    Also "knowing a tree", "speaking of trees", "classifying trees" aren't explained by anything in current brain science. I can't be much clearer than this.
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