• Wayfarer
    21.5k
    I don't get to talk about this with many people normally so its really great to get suggestions from well read people such as yourself.Restitutor

    Glad to be of help, and as I forgot to previously say, welcome to Philosophyforum.

    So you are not liking this information is brain state idea.Mark Nyquist

    It's not a matter of like or dislike. There's a distinction in play between the idea of 'brain states' and 'intentional content'.
  • Patterner
    710
    Smallism and reductionism are in decline. I would say they are more popular in the general lay conception of "how science says the world works," then "how physicists and philosophers of science tend to think the world works."Count Timothy von Icarus
    Many theories in fundamental physics aren't smallist either. These are very popular with eminent physicists, and have the benefit of giving us new ways of looking at the metaphysics of free will.Count Timothy von Icarus
    I suspect everything studied by physics other than individual primary particles, their properties (things like mass, charge, and spin), and the forces (things like gravity, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and electromagnetism) are the products of the interactions of the particles due to their properties and the forces. Are you saying there are physicists who say that is not the case? Who say there are things other than the individual particles, their properties, and the forces that are not products of them?
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    Recall that the original concept of the atom was ‘indivisible’. As such it represented ‘the absolute’ in material form; Democritus said ‘there are only atoms and the void’. But atomism in that sense has been completely discredited by quantum physics which now understands sub-atomic particles as ‘excitations of fields’. And the nucleus of the atom is far from being simple.
  • Mark Nyquist
    744

    Is your term 'intentional content' somehow different from what I call 'mental content'?
    I wound say they are the same thing.

    In the form of a true/false statement I could state my view as 'intentional content' is derived only from biological brain function. Do you claim that is false?

    I know I have an unusual position on this. I've come to think consciousness and how we deal with 'information' are one in the same but our language and culture have confused the issue.
    For example when I think of some specific item of information my brain is in the same functional mode as when I'm aware of my own consciousness.
  • Mark Nyquist
    744

    One issue with information is that multiple definitions have developed. I think the brain state definition is the best one scientifically because it's singular, universal and has a physical basis.

    The definitions of genetic information, Shannon information and physical information to me are mental projections we give to physical objects that don't have a physical basis. For example genetic information isn't anything functional in the structure of DNA. Its physical form alone is all that is required. Same with Shannon information...the physical signal is all that is required. And physical information, again, a mental projection. Not required for the physics to function.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    In the form of a true/false statement I could state my view as 'intentional content' is derived only from biological brain function. Do you claim that is false?Mark Nyquist

    So does a Swede have Swedish brain states?
  • Mark Nyquist
    744

    Ha... I'm Swedish descent. Don't know how to answer that. Hmmm. Don't speak swedish.
    Far removed from Sweden. Family visits so still some connection.
  • Patterner
    710
    For example when I think of some specific item of information my brain is in the same functional mode as when I'm aware of my own consciousness.Mark Nyquist
    Can you elaborate on this? I would think two very different things are happening when you're thinking of, say, the structure of language and when you're aware that you are conscious. But I don't know what you mean by functional mode.
  • Mark Nyquist
    744

    Well there may be variation from time to time in how active our brains are. For example sleeping you are less conscious than being awake.

    Mostly I'm saying that information is internal to our brains and not external. Can you flip from being aware of your consciousness to some specific item of information? That's what I mean by being based on the same mode.
  • Patterner
    710

    I see what you mean. I wonder what differences in brain activity brain scans would reveal in various situations. No, I cannot flip my awareness in your scenario. But I would say the same when comparing being aware of something on the desk, and choosing to pick it up. Have I flipped my awareness in that scenario? Not that I am, uh, aware of. But I have clearly done something different. Something brain scans would surely pick up. I wonder if brain scans would pick anything up in your scenario.
  • Restitutor
    47
    I almost agree, with this caveat: Descartes' principle error was in regarding res cogitans as an object, something that could be conceived of in an objective manner. Husserl's primary objection to Descartes lies in the latter's approach to consciousness. Descartes regards consciousness as 'res cogitans' (thinking substance) and the material world as 'res extensa' (extended substance). Husserl, a phenomenologist, argues that this perspective wrongly subsumes consciousness under the same category as physical objects - by treating it as objective - thereby neglecting the inherently first-person nature of conscious experience.

    Husserl contends that consciousness should not be treated as an object within the world but rather as the precondition for the appearance of any such objects, that through which everything objective is disclosed in the first place. He emphasizes the intentionality of consciousness — its inherent nature of being about or directed towards objects, and how it constitutes the meaning and essence of things rather than merely perceiving them as physical entities.

    This critique is fundamental to Husserl's phenomenological project, which aims to return to the 'things themselves' by examining the structures of experience as they present themselves to awareness, free from either preconceived theories or scientific assumptions. This is the 'phenomenological epoché' or reduction.
    Wayfarer



    I enjoyed reading this. I think Hershel and by extension you are making lots of good points that i agree with. I agree that what consciousness is made out of (in my opinion information) “should not be treated as an object within the world but rather as the precondition for the appearance of any such objects, that through which everything objective is disclosed in the first place”. I would say that information offers a better framework for this than res cogitans.

    The way i arrange the ideas discussed together is best talked about initially as an analogy. Imagine a “documentary movie” that blends some truth with some conspiracy theory.

    On one end of the spectrum, you can imagine somebody who is naïve and who very much believes the narrative of the movie, getting very emotionally invested in it. On the other end of the spectrum maybe you have a knowledgeable person who sees the claims made by the movie are inconsistent with observations and the knowledgeable person also has the ability to generate a narrative about how the producer of the movie is making money from people clicking on the internet link. Both of the movie watchers are watching the same movie that really does exist, it is equally real for both of them.

    Evidently the movie that blends “some truth with some conspiracy theory” analogies to what we conceive of as reality and the movie narrative analogies to the narrative we generate about reality. A naïve realist of a philosopher, like the naïve movie watcher will take their internally generated narrative as essentially true and as such they will tend not to like you casting doubt on its validity. It is impossible for the naïve movie watcher or philosopher to separate fact from fiction unless they are prepared to be skeptical about the narrative. It is impossible to be skeptical about your own internally generated narrative unless you are operating from an abstract perspective.

    It is my opinion that it is literally impossible to separate fact from fiction from a first-person perspective. From an abstract perspective we can see how, even when we are sitting still we are moving as we are on the surface of a ball (the earth) moving through space at hundreds of thousands of meters per second. This understanding would be impossible if we were not able to adopt an abstract, non-first-person narrative. Imagine explaining this to somebody non-neurotypical who literally couldn’t adopt anything but an embodied first-person perspective.

    To be clear I am using the word narrative deliberately. I would argue that people literally generate what I call a narrative model of the world which encompasses, explains and rationalizes all the other models of the world we generate, such as our visual model of the world. Our first-person narrative model seems likely to have evolved first as cognitive less complex animals have it. A first-person narrative model however only lets you see the world from your perspective and so is limited and works best for bottom-up control of behaver. In more cognitively complex animals with humans being the best example, narratives from other peoples, or from an abstract perspective can be generated which excels in creating a framework for top-down control. The first-person narrative we generate is about survival and it is best understood in the framework of evolutionary psychology, understanding our first person narrative of things like lust, fear anger and love in the context of a mechanistic abstract narrative.
    Looking at the world through a first-person perspective is only ever going to give you a self-portrait generated by our psychology which is itself is a product of the demands of evolution. If you use this perspective, you will see only what your psychology what you to see. By using an abstract scientific perspective based on predictive narratives (predictive narratives make provable predictions) we can generate a portrait of ourselves which is undistorted by our egos and psychologies. Michael Gazzaniga talks about narrative generation in split brain patients in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJKloz2vwlc&list=PL8AD2B712B1A0578F&index=3

    Getting back to Hershel and the think in its self. I would suggest there is an ineffable world which exists and is sometimes called fundamental reality, sometimes called the quantum foam. As the word ineffable suggests we do not have direct access to this world. All we and other organisms can do is represent this world using different models of varying complexity. Humans have several very complex conjoined representative models which together make up a very large portion of what we call consciousness. This is epitomized the fact that we have a retinotopic map of objects in the world in our brains. This video about retinotopic maps really speaks to what I am saying. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhFJIgeY-ZY

    I also like how Joscha Bach thinks about a lot of it. And these are my favorite videos of his.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRdJCFEqFTU&list=PL-zlSLDa0oJp1vAGAbhIaDwMz2Og4rzsg&index=4
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5nJ5l6dl2s&list=PL-zlSLDa0oJp1vAGAbhIaDwMz2Og4rzsg&index=5
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3K5UxWRRuY&list=PL-zlSLDa0oJp1vAGAbhIaDwMz2Og4rzsg&index=6
  • Joshs
    5.5k


    Getting back to Hershel and the think in its self. I would suggest there is an ineffable world which exists and is sometimes called fundamental reality, sometimes called the quantum foam. As the word ineffable suggests we do not have direct access to this world. All we and other organisms can do is represent this world using different models of varying complexity. Humans have several very complex conjoined representative models which together make up a very large portion of what we call consciousness. This is epitomized the fact that we have a retinotopic map of objects in the world in our brains.Restitutor

    An important difference between Husserl’s phenomenological approach ( which strongly influenced enactivist 4EA theories) and the videos you link to is that Husserl doesn’t presume an ineffable world beyond our experience of it. There is no veil between the world and our experience of it. We are always in direct context with the world via some mode of givenness ( recollection, perception, etc). There is no original territory our constructions model or map.

    Dan Zahavi connects the above thinking with a neo-Kantian metaphysics.

    As Frith puts it, “My Perception Is Not of the World, But of My Brain's Model of the World" (2007: 132). Whatever we see, hear, touch, smell, etc. is all contained
    in the brain, but projected outwards and externalized, such that we in normal life fail to recognize it as a
    construct and mistake it for reality itself (Metzinger 2009: 6-7).

    Given that we never have direct contact with external states of affairs – after all, the latter remains hidden behind the representational veil – we should reject all claims concerning the existence of a seamless tight coupling between mind and world. Hohwy speaks of the strict and absolute division between inner and outer and of the “evidentiary boundary” that secludes and separates the brain from everything beyond its boundary (Hohwy 2016)

    For Husserl, the world that can appear to us – be it in perception, in our daily concerns or in our scientific analyses – is the only real world. To claim that there in addition to this world exists a world-behind-the-scene, which transcends every appearance, and every experiential and theoretical evidence, and to identify this world with true reality is, for Husserl, an empty and countersensical proposition…

    For Husserl, physical nature makes itself known in what appears perceptually. The very idea of defining the really real reality as the unknown cause of our experience, and to suggest that the investigated object is a mere sign of a distinct hidden object whose real nature must remain unknown and which can never be apprehended according to its own determinations, is for Husserl nothing but a piece of mythologizing (Husserl 1982: 122). Rather than defining objective reality as what is there in itself, rather than distinguishing how things are for us from how they are simpliciter in order then to insist that the investigation of the latter is the truly important one, Husserl urges us to face up to the fact that our access to as well as the very nature of objectivity necessarily involves both subjectivity and intersubjectivity. Indeed, rather than being the antipode of objectivity, rather than constituting an obstacle and hindrance to scientific knowledge, (inter)subjectivity is for Husserl a necessary enabling condition. Husserl embraces a this-worldly conception of objectivity and reality and thereby dismisses the kind of skepticism that would argue that the way the world appears to us is compatible with the world really being completely different.
  • Restitutor
    47
    Husserl doesn’t presume an ineffable world beyond our experience of it. There is no veil between the world and our experience of it. We are always in direct context with the world via some mode of givenness ( recollection, perception, etc). Three is no original territory our constructions model or map.Joshs

    Husserl isn't sacred to me and i don't mind being at odds with him. This said i don't think what i think and what you highlight Husserl as thinking to be as dissimilar as you may be suggesting. Much of it may be reconciled by different ideas about the the word ineffable. In one sense the world is ineffable as we can not directly commune with it, by which i mean you can't bring the physicals external world into you brain or mind for that matter. The best we can do in terms of communing with the fundamental reality is to extract information from it and model that information it the physical structure of our brains and then commune with that representation. For me, the representation of fundamental reality can have as much "truth" to it as any representation of anything can. This would mean that we can commune with fundamental reality through extracting information and making models out of the information, it is just that can't directly. commune with fundamental reality in the absence of these models. The word directly being important.

    I do think it would be a mistake to make no distinction between the retinotopic map of an object our consciousness accesses and the physicals object its self in the world. I would argue that science demands it by virtue of how it says visual perception works.
  • Joshs
    5.5k
    I do think it would be a mistake to make no distinction between the retinotopic map of an object our consciousness accesses and the physicals object its self in the world. I would argue that science demands it by virtue of how it says visual perception worksRestitutor

    Not all science of perception makes this assumption.
    Francisco Varela contrasts the old representational realist model of perception with the enactivist approach, in which perceiving is not representing a pre-given world but guided action:

    “According to the enactive approach, however,
    the point of departure for understanding perception is the study of how the perceiver guides his actions in local situations. Since these local situations
    constantly change as a result of the perceiver’s activity, the reference point for understanding perception is no longer a pre-given, perceiver-independent world,
    but rather the sensorimotor structure of the cognitive agent, the way in which the nervous system links sensory and motor surfaces. It is this structure – the
    manner in which the perceiver is embodied – and not some pre-given world, that determines how the perceiver can act and be modulated by environmental events. Thus
    the overall concern of an enactive approach to perception is not to determine how some perceiver-independent world is to be recovered; it is, rather, to determine
    the common principles or lawful linkages between sensory and motor systems that explain how action can be perceptually guided in a perceiver-dependent world.
    In the enactive approach reality is not a given: it is perceiver­ dependent, not because the perceiver “constructs” it as he or she pleases, but because what counts as a relevant world is inseparable from the structure of the perceiver.”
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    You’ve moved quite a long way from

    What is the fundamental difference between information processed by a mechanical computer and a brain? How can there be a fundamental difference in what is happening if all we are is mechanistic?Restitutor

    The reason I reacted against the OP in the way I did, was because I took this as an expression of the kind of scientific materialism which I'll always argue against for the reasons I've given.

    Once you begin to take into account the way in which ‘mind constructs world’, you’ve already moved some way from that, you're reflecting philosophically on the nature of knowledge.

    But:

    The best we can do in terms of communing with the fundamental reality is to extract information from it and model that information it the physical structure of our brains and then commune with that representation. For me, the representation of fundamental reality can have as much "truth" to it as any representation of anything can. This would mean that we can commune with fundamental reality through extracting information and making models out of the information, it is just that can't directly commune with fundamental reality in the absence of these models.Restitutor

    'Communing with fundamental reality' brings to mind something very different from 'representation'. It brings to mind Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's 'flow state' - where you are completely absorbed in what you are doing, to the extent you loose all sense of time and place. It might also bring to mind states of absorption that are encountered in yogic meditation, which is related to the 'flow state'. It is a felt and lived reality, a state of being, rather than a representation.

    Besides, once you subject the idea of representation of reality to analysis it opens up many cans of worms - like, how do you compare the representation with the reality? To compare it, you would have to know what the reality is, so you wouldn't need a representation, but if you don't know what the reality is, then you can't compare it. (Also notice the excerpt from physicist Wheeler in this post about the 'observer problem' in quantum physics.)

    I've run across Joscha Bach mainly in references from other sources - obviously a very smart guy but I don't have time at the moment to go through the lectures (seems to be a useful summary here. He does seem to throw shade on 'physicalist realism' i.e. here). Another of similar ilk is James B Glattfelder's Information, Consciousness and Reality, although I think he's less materialist in overall outlook.

    There's a huge ferment of philosophical, scientific and spiritual ideas welling up on the Internet. My current listening includes Bernardo Kastrup, who's a computer scientist and idealist philosopher. He's a very effective critic of philosophical materialism in my view. I've put the case for a type of phenomenological idealism in the thread The Mind Created World..
  • Restitutor
    47
    I do think it would be a mistake to make no distinction between the retinotopic map of an object our consciousness accesses and the physicals object its self in the world. I would argue that science demands it by virtue of how it says visual perception works
    — Restitutor

    Not all science of perception makes this assumption.
    Francisco Varela contrasts the old representational realist model of perception with the enactivist approach, in which perceiving is not representing but guided action:
    Joshs

    I Just watched a bit of a video of enactivist and Francisco Varela which means i understand the last sentence. I just don't understand how the quote relates to it. I don't understand how it can be argued that retinotopic maps and objects that reflect light are two different things.

    inactivist argument is "Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing else: you lay down a pay in walking" (Antonio Machado, borrowed by Varela). Honestly, sounds a little mushy. The didn't seem to be saying no information captured by any sense organs is in any way representative of anything using the common meaning of represent, and retinotopic maps aren't a thing.

    I am down with the idea we create the frameworks that our reality is built out of. Everything is a construction of the mine, models within models and it is all contextual and there is likely to be all sorts of environmental feedback, giving rise to evolutionary psychology. Taking that to sense organs do no present the brain with any information that could in any way be said to be representational seems plainly wrong.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    I think I get it. You’re saying there must be an objective reality over and above whatever models or representations the mind creates, right?
  • Joshs
    5.5k


    I do think it would be a mistake to make no distinction between the retinotopic map of an object our consciousness accesses and the physicals object its self in the world. I would argue that science demands it by virtue of how it says visual perception worksJoshs

    Evan Thompson deals with this issue in depth in his book ‘Mind in Life’. I believe the correspondence you are referring to above between a retinotopic map and perceived objects is what he calls ‘analytical isomorphism’,
    “ the problematic assumption that the content of imageiy experience corresponds to the format of the under-lying representation. This type of assumption has been called analytical isomorphism (Pessoa, Thompson, and Noe 1998; Thompson, Noe, and Pessoa 1999). Analytical isomorphism is the idea that successful explanation requires there be an isomorphism (one-to-one correspondence) between the phenomenal content of subjective experience and the structure or format of the underlying neural representations. This idea involves conflating properties of what is represented (representational contents) with properties of the representings (representational vehicles).
  • Gnomon
    3.7k
    You've seen the range of information definitions that show up here. Two that seem to be scientific but are not are Shannon information and what physicists call physical information. Both of these reduce to abstract concepts that must be supported by brain state. — Mark Nyquist
    So, do you think in the absence of any mind that basic logical principles such as the law of the excluded middle would not hold? My view would be that the law of the excluded middle and other such simple principles are discovered by rational sentient beings who have the wits to discern them. That such principles are discerned by intelligence, not 'supported by brain state'. The unique thing about them is that they're independent of any particular mind, but only discernable to reason. That is what gives them the status as foundational to rational thought (nous).
    Wayfarer

    I may be opening a new can of worms neurons here. But, I wonder if AI mechanisms --- emulating brain states --- can reason*1 (infer novel ideas), or do they just compute (add & subtract via parallel processing)? Some people seem to assume that self-programming computers (non-biological machines) are reasoning*2. Does reasoning require some non-mechanical non-linear (1+1+1+ ~ +1 = X) feature, in order to discover X the unknown?*3

    For example, Quantum physics has determined that the matter a machine is made of is fundamentally non-deterministic*4. Do the non-local & indeterminate properties of sub-atomic matter provide lower-level-loopholes to allow our biological machines (brains) to make unpredictable-illogical-paradoxical quantum leaps of reasoning? Does Rational Inference require some emotional commitment?*5

    Does the human brain have some non-mechanical feature/quality (e.g. Holism ; multi-level integration of sub-systems) that overcomes the physical limitations of a deterministic mechanical system? Does that freedom from material & linear-logical bondage allow the feedback loops that we call "Consciousness"? Not sayin', just askin'. Hmmm. :chin:

    *1. To Reason vs To Compute :
    Reason and calculate are semantically related. In some cases you can use "Reason" instead a verb "Calculate".
    Calculate verb - To decide the size, amount, number, or distance of (something) without actual measurement.
    Reason verb - To form an opinion or reach a conclusion through reasoning and information.

    https://thesaurus.plus/related/calculate/reason

    *2. Reasoning in AI :
    In fact, for centuries, it was the ability to reason that set humans apart from other animals and machines. But now, with the reasoning in AI, that distinction has been breached.
    https://emeritus.org/in/learn/what-is-reasoning-in-ai/

    *3. What Artificial Intelligence Still Can’t Do :
    1) Use “common sense.”
    2) Learn continuously and adapt on the fly.
    3) Understand cause and effect.
    4) Reason ethically.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/brandonkochkodin/2023/11/19/a-trove-of-precious-gemstones-was-appraised-at-32-billion-the-mischief-around-it-is-priceless/?sh=6414bc541186

    *4. Why is quantum physics not deterministic? :
    Quantum mechanics is non-deterministic because it has to incorporate two incompatible properties into one whole.
    https://www.quora.com/Why-is-quantum-physics-not-deterministic

    *5. Emotions as Inferences :
    This chapter reviews emotions as inferences. The process of understanding principles is tractable, whereas the work of following them is not. It also suggests a solution as to why emotions are puzzling. In addition, it illustrates how emotions and reasoning influence one another
    https://academic.oup.com/book/11984/chapter-abstract/161227867?redirectedFrom=fulltext
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    I may be opening a new can of worms neurons here. But, I wonder if AI mechanisms --- emulating brain states --- can reason*1 (infer novel ideas), or do they just compute (add & subtract via parallel processing)Gnomon

    I would say the latter. Reasoning requires something else - like motive, for a start. Curiosity would be one. Distress might be another, or seeking advantage. Note the connection between reason and purpose, which was implicit in earlier philosophy, now called into question in everything, hence the nihilism of much of modern thought.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    Note the connection between reason and purpose, which was implicit in earlier philosophy, now called into question in everything, hence the nihilism of much of modern thought.Wayfarer
    So in your estimation, "much of modern thought" lacks purpose? Maybe if you clarify what you mean in this context by "purpose", Wayf, I'll grok this statement better.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    I seem to remember that Nietszche had quite a lot to say about nihilism, which he ascribed to the dominance of scientific rationalism and the empty promisses of enlightenment rationalism among other things. And nihilism is precisely the sense of there being no purpose, no meaning, no raison d'etre. And then the New Left also had something to say about the instrumentalisation of reason - that reason, instead of being understood as a kind of animating principle or logos, was now simply means to ends, the discovery of effective causality, the prerogative of individual subjects, and so on. And on a popular level, the upsurge of mindless entertainment, drug addiction and many other social ills can be ascribed in part to the absence of a sense of purpose.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    None of that addresses the question I raised with you, sir. I want clarity on
    what you mean in this context by "purpose"...180 Proof
    in your comment to Gnomon.
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    So in your estimation, "much of modern thought" lacks purpose?180 Proof

    I notice a connection between reason and purpose. That the reason for something being, or happening, also implies its purpose. That is what is implicit in Aristotle's 'telos', and conversely the rejection of telos or teleological principles, implies 'purposelessness'.
  • Gnomon
    3.7k
    ↪180 Proof
    I seem to remember that Nietszche had quite a lot to say about nihilism, which he ascribed to the dominance of scientific rationalism and the empty promisses of enlightenment rationalism among other things. And nihilism is precisely the sense of there being no purpose, no meaning, no raison d'etre. And then the New Left also had something to say about the instrumentalisation of reason - that reason, instead of being understood as a kind of animating principle or logos, was now simply means to ends, the discovery of effective causality, the prerogative of individual subjects, and so on. And on a popular level, the upsurge of mindless entertainment, drug addiction and many other social ills can be ascribed in part to the absence of a sense of purpose.
    Wayfarer
    Other than Zarathustra, I'm not familiar with Nietzsche's opinions on Reason & Purpose. But one definition of Nihilism may shed some light*1. It seems to equate the emotional "emptiness" of an apathetic-materialistic-mechanistic worldview with a lack of values*1 (Ethics ; Axiology). Yet, maybe our post-enlightenment pragmatic values are appropriately Instrumental (means), and only lack the feeling of idealistic Intrinsic values (ultimate ends). Can't we have both Kirk's Feeling and Spock's Reasoning?

    Your response to 's challenge to define "purpose" is spot-on ; but then he may not share your philosophical purposes/values. The pre-enlightenment epitome of "Good" was God. So, what ultimate value could fill that role today? Perhaps you can address the question of "higher" values/purposes, in the context of a modern materialistic-mechanistic worldview. :cool:


    *1. Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.
    https://iep.utm.edu/nihilism/
    Note --- I'm guessing that he was rejecting only "higher" values, not base values.

    *2. Value Theory :
    Traditionally, philosophical investigations in value theory have sought to understand the concept of "the good". . . . . It is useful to distinguish between instrumental and intrinsic values.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_theory

    *3. Nihilism :
    It has been over a century now since Nietzsche explored nihilism and its implications for civilization. As he predicted, nihilism’s impact on the culture and values of the 20th century has been pervasive, its apocalyptic tenor spawning a mood of gloom and a good deal of anxiety, anger, and terror. Interestingly, Nietzsche himself, a radical skeptic preoccupied with language, knowledge, and truth, anticipated many of the themes of postmodernity. It’s helpful to note, then, that he believed we could – at a terrible price – eventually work through nihilism. If we survived the process of destroying all interpretations of the world, we could then perhaps discover the correct course for humankind.
    https://iep.utm.edu/nihilism/
    Note --- Apparently, the post-modern reaction merely meekly accepted the meandering uncharted course resulting from the rejection of Imperial Religion. Could there be a new star to steer by, that avoids the extremes of divine Theocracy and despotic Autocracy? Ironically, Tr*mpism may combine the worst of both paths.
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    That is what is implicit in Aristotle's 'telos', and conversely the rejection of telos or teleological principles, implies 'purposelessness'.Wayfarer
    Okay, clearer, though this observation concerns modern science and not, as you have said, "much of modern thought", and does not entail "nihilism" either (pace Nietzsche; vide Spinoza & vide Peirce). Apparently, you prefer pre-modern science ... :mask:
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k



    It seems to me like "purpose" is all over the modern sciences. Functional explanations in biology are filled with references to the purpose of organelles, organs, etc. All of the social sciences have purpose deeply bound up with their explanations of phenomena.

    When I teach introductory economics courses, I am constantly talking about the goals of individuals and organizations. It would be impossible to teach introductory college classes in a whole host of fields without references to paradigm grounding theories based around purpose. E.g., in social psychology, "cognitive dissonance," and "the fundemental attribution error," make no sense without reference to purpose.

    To be sure, you have some biologists who run around telling everyone that appeals to function "can only ever be short hand for describing truly purposeless events," but not everyone buys what they are selling. In any event, such arguments always seem to be more grounded in philosophy, than empirical evidence. I don't see how it could be otherwise. We observe our own purposes all the time. Arguments that they are illusory tend to go back to "elemental building blocks," — i.e. making ontological claims about what essentially "is," and then use ontological claims to radically reinterpret empirical data.

    "Purposelessness," as some sort of "bedrock idea" seems to me to be more a historical - philosophical moment, starting with the decline of idealism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and letting up more recently. What's the rock solid argument for purposelessness that doesn't rest on the idea that all phenomena can be explained in terms of (apparently) purposeless smaller parts?

    It seems to me like the most common scientific response to largely philosophical claims about the essential and apparent meaningless and purposelessness of "the world" has been to shrug, say "well that's just philosophy," and to go right on assuming purpose exists in theories. Only is biology does this become a flash point. Physics and chemistry don't deal with things that seem to have purposes and the social sciences don't seem to take the "no purpose" claim seriously (how could they?)
  • 180 Proof
    14.7k
    "Purposelessness," as some sort of "bedrock idea" seems to me to be more a historical - philosophical moment, starting with the decline of idealism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries...

    It seems to me like the most common scientific response to largely philosophical claims about the essential and apparent meaningless and purposelessness of "the world" has been to shrug, say "well that's just philosophy," and to go right on assuming purpose exists in theories. Only is biology does this become a flash point. Physics and chemistry don't deal with things that seem to have purposes and the social sciences don't seem to take the "no purpose" claim seriously (how could they?)
    Count Timothy von Icarus
    :up: :up:

    It's not that modern science dispenses with "purpose" categorically, only that telos in almost ever case of natural phenomena does not explain anything (like g/G). Anachronists like @Wayfarer usually forget that Aristotle's teleology (i.e. finalism) falsely "predicts" that the vacuum is impossible – horror vacui – because one "purpose" of matter is to fill space whenever possible; and that one of the brain's "purposes" is to be a radiator that cools the heart and blood. "Geocentrism" (later exemplified by Ptolemy's model and its epicycles) is also a consequence of this sort of occult storytelling (e.g. because the "purpose" of heavier matter is to fall to the center of things and lighter things like stars to stay far from the center). :roll:
  • Gnomon
    3.7k
    It seems to me like the most common scientific response to largely philosophical claims about the essential and apparent meaningless and purposelessness of "the world" has been to shrug, say "well that's just philosophy," and to go right on assuming purpose exists in theories.Count Timothy von Icarus
    "corrected" 's observation that "much of modern thought" is Nihilistic*1. But I think he missed the point. Way didn't say that "modern science" is nihilistic, but "modern thought". Which I'm guessing is a reference to academic Philosophy, or the philosophy of science, or more generally Post-Modern philosophy*2 --- not a denigration of pragmatic Science per se. Maybe Way will clarify his referent, but I doubt he was concerned about the lack of ethical values in practical scientific endeavors.

    Like you, I have seen multiple uses of the term "Purpose" in scientific papers. But they are usually referring to the apparent objectives of local organs or organisms, not the universal purpose of a divine creator*3. However, it seems strange that scientists infer purposeful behavior in creatures, but don't attempt to trace that teleological trail back to its original impulse. Perhaps, due to professional concern about the controversial implications of what they might find.

    When astronomers tracked cosmic cause & effect back to a point-of-origin, they found evidence for an (ex nihilo???) "creation" event --- which could be interpreted in terms of one's religious myths. But such circumstantial evidence could also be interpreted in terms of non-religious philosophical concepts, such as a logically necessary First Cause or Prime Mover --- or even a Multiverse. Unfortunately, such abstract hypothetical concepts, in themselves, can't provide much motivation for personal Purpose, to find the best way to live in an "apparently" mechanical world.

    But if we interpret the obvious step-by-step progression of evolution as-if it's something like a computer program, at least we may be able to infer, hypothetically, where Nature came from and where it's going. Moreover, since we have learned that the foundations of physics are not rigidly determinate or mechanical*4, we may see a role for human Will --- guided by philosophical principles --- in reaching our own little goals. :nerd:



    *1. Quote from post in this thread :
    Okay, clearer, though this observation concerns modern science and not, as you have said, "much of modern thought", and does not entail "nihilism" either (pace Nietzsche; vide Spinoza & vide Peirce). Apparently, you prefer pre-modern science ..

    *2. Does postmodernism entail nihilism? :
    Postmodernism is the stance that meaning isn't universal and outside ourselves. Nihilism is the stance that meaning is essentially a fiction.
    https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/49588/does-postmodernism-entail-nihilism

    *3. Darwin’s Greatest Discovery: Design Without Designer :
    Darwin accepted that organisms are “designed” for certain purposes, that is, they are functionally organized.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK254313/

    *4. Quantum Non-Mechanics :
    The Quantum Universe in which we live, whether we want to accept it or not, may seem on the surface to be mechanical and linear but it is not.
    https://larrygmaguire.medium.com/quantum-theory-proves-that-time-does-not-exist-5d0357a2a47b
  • Wayfarer
    21.5k
    "Purposelessness," as some sort of "bedrock idea" seems to me to be more a historical - philosophical moment, starting with the decline of idealism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and letting up more recently. What's the rock solid argument for purposelessness that doesn't rest on the idea that all phenomena can be explained in terms of (apparently) purposeless smaller parts?Count Timothy von Icarus

    I locate it earlier, with the division of the world into mind and matter, the Cartesian-Galilean paradigm that characterises early modern science. I already cited this quote but will continue to refer to it as it succinctly describes the issue:

    The modern mind-body problem arose out of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, as a direct result of the concept of objective physical reality that drove that revolution. Galileo and Descartes made the crucial conceptual division by proposing that physical science should provide a mathematically precise quantitative description of an external reality extended in space and time, a description limited to spatiotemporal primary qualities such as shape, size, and motion, and to laws governing the relations among them. Subjective appearances, on the other hand -- how this physical world appears to human perception -- were assigned to the mind, and the secondary qualities like color, sound, and smell were to be analyzed relationally, in terms of the power of physical things, acting on the senses, to produce those appearances in the minds of observers. It was essential to leave out or subtract subjective appearances and the human mind -- as well as human intentions and purposes -- from the physical world in order to permit this powerful but austere spatiotemporal conception of objective physical reality to develop. — Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, Pp35-36

    Recall that in the heady days of early modernity the new sciences, initiated chiefly by Newton, were thought to be universal in scope, to apply to every kind of phenomenon without exception. Modern scientific materialism, still being carried forward by Daniel Dennett and other materialist philosophers. I daresay the original poster, who seems to have gone dark, holds to some version of it.

    It seems to me like the most common scientific response to largely philosophical claims about the essential and apparent meaningless and purposelessness of "the world" has been to shrug, say "well that's just philosophy," and to go right on assuming purpose exists in theories. Only is biology does this become a flash point. Physics and chemistry don't deal with things that seem to have purposes and the social sciences don't seem to take the "no purpose" claim seriously (how could they?)Count Timothy von Icarus

    Biology is the science of life and as we ourselves are living beings, it encompasses the study of h. sapiens. But it too easily becomes reductionist, not by eschewing purpose, but by bringing it under the headings understood by biology - chiefly concerned with survival and propogation, the 'four f's' of evolutionary biology. After all, biology is hardly concerned with the reasons for existence in any sense other than the functional. That's what biologists were trying to differentiate with the invention of 'teleonomy' to describe 'apparent purpose' and differentiate it from 'actual purposes'.

    There's a philosopher of biology, Steve Talbott, who's essays I encountered in The New Atlantis. He's an elegant writer on reductionism in biology, one example being What do Organisms Mean? He provides an account of the different kinds of reason - the reason of physical causation, and the reasons that underlie human motivation ('the "because" of reasons'). He then argues that the latter kind of reasoning - purposive reasoning - underlies biological processes from the very outset. That the whole metaphor of mechanism and mechanistic cause and effect when applied to biology, fails to do justice to what organisms are (hence the title!)
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