• GLEN willows
    323
    I'm a fan of Philosophy of Mind and pretty comfortable with it. Not at the level of most of you here, but I "get" it and have expressed my views in an (I think) intelligent manner. Even though being an Eliminative Materialist didn't make me many friends.

    I had a much rougher time with Philosophy of science, and had to constantly remind myself that someone said "if you don't understand something, it could be because it's complicated, or because it's just wrong."

    Without going into too many specific thinkers (though I could) ...is the prevailing attitude of Phil. of Sci. still Empiricist, to an absurd degree (IMO)? I have verbatim quotes from people like Van Fraasen to the affect that if we can't DIRECTLY experience objects, they are not "real" but just "convenient to use" including such pretty large non-real objects like planets. Or smaller stuff like atoms, electrons, quarks, etc. Because microscopes and telescopes only show us an image of the object, but nothing that can be deemed "real."

    I also got a whiff of hardcore social constructionism of the "if we don't name things they don't exist" or "we create reality to match our theories" type. Meanwhile the notion that some of these theories seem a tiny bit skeptical, if not dismissive, of science met with firm denials.

    Meanwhile, as usual, these theorists still have no problem using the results of the "not-real" theories of science everyday in a thousand ways. This doesn't bother me that much, Hume and Berkeley did it etc.

    Isn't the result a different meaning of real that...is essentially meaningless?

    Any help would be appreciated.
  • Gnomon
    2.6k
    Even though being an Eliminative Materialist didn't make me many friends.GLEN willows
    I have no formal philosophical training, and I read mostly the works of philosophical scientists, instead of professional philosophers. So I had to look-up the term "eliminative materialist". I think you should get a positive reception from many Materialist posters on TPF. And, although I am not a Materialist of any prefix, I can agree with Churchland's assertion (stating the obvious) that "beliefs are not ontologically real" Such mental states are, however, ontologically Ideal, in the sense that they exist as metaphysical*1 concepts not physical objects. I don't understand how anyone posting on a philosophy forum could deny the importance of immaterial*2 ideas to humans, and perhaps to some animals.

    Homo Sapiens is differentiated from other mammals in its use of imagination to "feel" things that are not real (e.g. Love), and to "see" things that are not yet real (e.g. Possibilities & Probabilities), and to "know" things they have never personally experienced. Such non-physical subjects are not studied by Chemists & Physicists, but by Psychologists & Philosophers. Ironically, there is a segment of posters on TPF that seem to be embarrassed to engage in such trivial pursuits, that cannot be verified or falsified, but only reasoned & argued. It would seem to be a paradoxical waste of time for an Eliminative Materialist to engage in the exchange of unreal Ideas & Opinions on a disembodied Forum that does not exist in any particular place & time. :smile:

    PS__Maybe there's more to EM, than the Wiki article indicates. I assume it's a reaction to some specific ideas & opinions, that I'm not aware of.

    *1. Metaphysical :
    Literally, not physical, hence not subject to the laws of physics.
    I'm not referring to religious Theology, but to secular Philosophy.

    *2. Immaterial : literally, not made of matter.
    But ideas, & feelings & opinions & beliefs are important to their holders, even if they can't see & touch them. So, why denigrate them with a dismissive "eliminative" philosophical attitude? Such "attitudes" are also un-real & immaterial & ascientific (outside the purview of physical science).
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    Isn't the result a different meaning of real that...is essentially meaningless?GLEN willows
    Yes.

    An old sko0 l scientific realist (via methodological naturalism), model-dependent realism seems to me more grounded (i.e. adaptive) than "social constructionism" or any other flavor of fashionable "anti-realism".
  • Joshs
    3.9k
    I'm curious if you made your way through Popper, Kuhn or Feyerabend and if so, if you though any of them were compatible with your eliminative materialism.
  • GLEN willows
    323
    Yes I did, and I understand the issues they raised, though Feyerbend is probably most famous for declaring science to be no better a method than astrology. Popper was anti-astrology of course, but he seemed to waiver on the effectiveness of science. My takeaway was "yes there are paradigms, but when they change it doesn't mean everything previous needs to be thrown out." The quantum world negates a lot of traditional physics - but apples still fall downwards off trees, so to speak.
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    LoveGnomon

    The mundane, to survive, must create an illusion of the sublime. I remain ever so grateful mundane! Fool me, fool me all you want for a time will come when a false friend becomes a true friend.

    The non-materialist's impossible burden is to explain ... the difference betwixt the immaterial and nothing. Mayhaps that is what non-materialism is all about - a study of nothing!
  • GLEN willows
    323
    I kinda made that point in discussions. Sure, the blur we see on the microscope or an f-MRI isn't the thing itself, but it also isn't a "nothing." There is no shadow without something making it.

    If I heard a deep growling behind a tree, in a forest, and can't directly see whatever animal it is, my belief that it has large teeth and can kill me seems quite real. Even if it was a prank using an audio speaker and no animal - there was a something there, not a nothing. That was my point.
  • L'éléphant
    851
    Without going into too many specific thinkers (though I could) ...is the prevailing attitude of Phil. of Sci. still Empiricist, to an absurd degree (IMO)? I have verbatim quotes from people like Van Fraasen to the affect that if we can't DIRECTLY experience objects, they are not "real" but just "convenient to use" including such pretty large non-real objects like planets. Or smaller stuff like atoms, electrons, quarks, etc. Because microscopes and telescopes only show us an image of the object, but nothing that can be deemed "real."GLEN willows
    I think your understanding of what was said is incorrect. Direct experience doesn't just mean "seeing". We experience in all five senses. I can't see Mars from here, but the evidence produced by man on Mars should suffice to say, there have been experience of the planets.

    Of course, the fallacy of the absurd is a frequent part of interlocutors' conversation. I can't see that there's a brain inside my friend's head, I can't even see my own brain, does that mean brain isn't real?
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    @GLEN willows

    :up:

    You missed the point mon ami! Perhaps if you can think of an example of something that is immaterial and try to distinguish that from nothing, you'll see what I'm driving at.

    However, the oculus menti is its own kinda eye. I consider it the 3rd eye of Shiva the destroyer - it's what in the Occident is known as sixth sense which is synonymous in my universe with logos (reason).
  • GLEN willows
    323
    I got your point but twisted it for my own selfish reasons.

    As for the rest - I'll take your word for it. Too many words to Google and I have a good true crime series going on Netflix - MY world
    .
  • GLEN willows
    323
    Of course I meant all the senses...telescopes and microscopes use eyesight, right? I suppose an anti-realist would admit they have seen A brain, directly so they'll admit they're real. But anything that can only be seen through a device they would suggest hasn't been proven to be real. And I suppose gravity isn't real either. They definitely believe electrons aren't provably real. Except Hacking.

    I struggle with explaining this because - at the moment - I do think it's nonsense. I'm hoping someone can explain it to me better than it has been in the past.
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    The non-materialist's impossible burden is to explain ... the difference betwixt the immaterial and nothing. Mayhaps that is what non-materialism is all about - a study of nothing!
    3hReplyOptions
    Agent Smith
    :fire:

    Fool me, fool me all you want for a time will come when a false friend becomes a true friend.
    "Whatever you want ..." :cool:
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    I got your point but twisted it for my own selfish reasons.

    As for the rest - I'll take your word for it. Too many words to Google and I have a good true crime series going on Netflix - MY world
    GLEN willows

    No problemo! It's just that I'd like that question answered; thought you might've studied the matter in more detail than I could.
  • Yohan
    670

    I have the opposite dilemma. I can't differentiate between matter and nothing.

    Matter is elusive. Some mysterious whatever somewhere outside of personal experience, causing the experience.
    Trying to define matter is infinite regress?

    I don't see how matter triggering subjective experience is any different than a computer simulating subjective experience.

    Both matter or simulator are unfindable in experience, by definition, since they are defined as being independent of and the cause of the experience.

    But I don't expect we will get anywhere debating the topic.
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k


    Interesting! Quite obviously you're using a different definition for nothing. We're allowed to do that. Create worlds of our own, with unique rules & objects, and whatnot. I wish I had the time to explore Yohan's universe, but looks like I'll have to do it on another day. Hope you don't mind.
  • GLEN willows
    323
    Do you mean literally the difference between an immaterial thing and nothing? I thought it was rhetorical because as an eliminative materialist of course I'm going to say there's no difference, right? Of course it's a belief, I have no proof and either do non-materialists - pan-psychists et al.
  • Yohan
    670
    Interesting! Quite obviously you're using a different definition for nothing. We're allowed to do that. Create worlds of our own, with unique rules & objects, and whatnot. I wish I had the time to explore Yohan's universe, but looks like I'll have to do it on another day. Hope you don't mind.Agent Smith
    "But I don't expect we will get anywhere debating the topic." :smile: Don't mind at all.
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k


    I'm uncertain how good my analysis is, but here it is for what it's worth. I'll present the short version of the argument.

    1. Apophatic theology: neti neti (not this, not that). Is God a potato? No! Is God Justin Beiber? No! This exercise in denying every question of the form "is God x?" continues until all possibilities are exhausted.

    2. Look up the definition of nothing. Not any thing.

    That's how I grok God & nothing - I can't tell 'em apart.
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    "But I don't expect we will get anywhere debating the topic." :smile: Don't mind at all.Yohan

    I see. That's fine by me. Good day.
  • GLEN willows
    323
    I appreciate you have a sense of humour, very light and gentle. But that's why I'm having trouble seeing where you're going.

    Is the God comment humour? And I guess the "nothing" definition depends on what you mean by the word. Is a Unicorn "nothing?" No it's a mythical figure....I've seem pictures of them. But there's no actual Unicorns, so they're immaterial. Is Justice or Love "Nothing." I don't think so....but they're immaterial.

    Consciousness is considered immaterial, but I think science will find the brain process that produces it. Ok that's all I've got
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    Well, if it comes off as a joke, I'm most pleased with myself. Have a laugh, share it if you want to; you know, spread the joy.

    [...]Without laughter there is no Tao. — Laozi
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    "Whatever you want ..." :cool:180 Proof

    Superb!

    That's me line monsieur!

    Cintamani (wish-fulfilling jewel).
  • GLEN willows
    323
    Well "is God a Potato" made me laugh, plus the Justin Bieber reference. I find all religions a bit funny too - you may think I'm being too harsh.

    Any comment on your real question - about immaterial vs nothing? If I missed the point, can you clarify....sans the cryptic humour? If not let's get back to science of philosophy maybe?
  • GLEN willows
    323
    Am I being pushy? Sorry...
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    is God a Potato"GLEN willows

    :lol: Did I write that? :snicker: It is a humorous question given the contrast between a vegetable and what we believe is a supreme intelligence.

    It's stupid to be smart. — David H. Wolpert

    science of philosophyGLEN willows

    Most interesting. — Ms. Marple

    What meanest thou by this, kind sir/madam?
  • Joshs
    3.9k
    I also got a whiff of hardcore social constructionism of the "if we don't name things they don't exist" or "we create reality to match our theories" type.GLEN willows

    I’m not aware of anyone who makes either of these claims. The social constructionists I’m familiar with assert the following:

    "Realism is the view that science (often successfully) aims to provide theories that truthfully represent how the world is--independent of human categories, capacities, and interventions. Social constructionists typically reject realism on two counts: first, the world that science describes is itself socially constituted; and second, its aims in describing that world are socially specifiable (satisfying interests, sustaining institutions and practices, etc.).(Joseph Rouse).

    Social constructionists don’t say nothing outside of language exists, they say that language is our only access to what exists. And they dont claim that any theory we construct is as good as any other. The theories we create have to work according to criteria based on our goals and purposes. There are reasons to accept or reject a theory. We don’t create reality to match our theories, we create theories to match our goal-driven social realities, and they can succeed or fail in this aim.
  • PhilosophyRunner
    70
    We don’t create reality to match our theories, we create theories to match our goal-driven social realities, and they can succeed or fail in this aim.Joshs

    I think this is spot on.

    I would say that science at its purest is a method we use, to the best of our current ability, to create theories that match the physical reality we can interact with. However as you point out, we are a social species and everyone including scientists have goals, hence I agree with you when you say that in actual fact "we create theories to match our goal-driven social realities."
  • Gnomon
    2.6k
    The non-materialist's impossible burden is to explain ... the difference betwixt the immaterial and nothing. Mayhaps that is what non-materialism is all about - a study of nothing!Agent Smith
    Yes. Non-materialists are aware that such mundane non-sense as Love & other abstractions are physically nothing. But unlike cold-hearted materialists, they feel that immaterial non-things are meta-physically important. Sometimes more dear than Life itself, another nothing. :wink:

    PS__The vacuum of space is literally nothing, but it has been found, from studies of the nothing between material things, to have enormous Potential for energy, including the power to push space itself to expand & accelerate into the emptiness beyond the material universe.
  • Xtrix
    4.1k


    I think the term “real” is the problem here.

    If we want to define what’s real as what’s understood by science, or by empirical observations, that’s a choice. I wouldn’t do so myself.

    It does well to keep in mind where science comes from and what its ontological underpinnings are. There’s a lot we can learn by remembering “natural philosophy” was once the name for what we now would call science.

    Science assumes a naturalistic, if not a materialistic, worldview. So we might enquire about the word “nature” (and “material”) and go from there. That’s normally the line I take when having these discussions. We can get into that if it’s of interest to you. I’ve written about it elsewhere.
  • Alkis Piskas
    1.3k
    "if you don't understand something, it could be because it's complicated, or because it's just wrong."GLEN willows
    There are more reasons. And, in most cases, the major reason for not undesranding a subject is that one does not undestand or misunderstands and ignores (omits to clear up) one or more words --esp. key ones-- used in the subject.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.