• Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    You appear to have a third category; the essence(?) of which you have yet to make clear.tim wood

    What do you mean i haven't made clear the essence of this third category. I've stated it over and over, it is the relations between things, what one thing has to do with another. Like ideas, relations are immaterial, unlike ideas, relations are independent of human minds.

    So its up to you to make clear how they exist, as non-material, non-mind-based what-evers.tim wood

    There's a lot of unknowns in the world, and this is one of them.

    To keep it simple, you say they're related, I say they are not, on two causes, 1) that relations are ideas and things don't have ideas, and 2) the "relationship" of earth and moon is a convenient fiction and artifact of ideas, and that the two have actually nothing to do with each other.tim wood

    Ok, that's what you think. I think you are in denial. You've already told me how you think that the moon and earth have something to do with each other, here:
    What the moon and earth actually do in terms of these descriptions is that both revolve around a common moving center as they cork-screw their way along curved geodesics in space-time - or at least I think that's the most recent and accurate description.tim wood
    So now you are just contradicting yourself, to uphold your denial. Why are you afraid to admit that the reality of the immaterial extends far beyond the reality of human ideas.
  • tim wood
    9k
    Why are you afraid to admit that the reality of the immaterial extends far beyond the reality of human ideas.Metaphysician Undercover
    Because I only have evidence that some people think and believe so, and that it can be useful to think so. Neither of which establishes the kind of existence it seems to me you're insisting on. The nature of which you characterize as
    There's a lot of unknowns in the world, and this is one of them.Metaphysician Undercover

    I mentioned the "corkscrewing through spacetime" only as against your idea/relation/model of the moon "orbiting" the earth. Now, take a moment and try to think through exactly what the earth is doing and what the moon is doing. I think you will see that any "relation" between them is an idea that comes from you.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    I mentioned the "corkscrewing through spacetime" only as against your idea/relation/model of the moon "orbiting" the earth. Now, take a moment and try to think through exactly what the earth is doing and what the moon is doing. I think you will see that any "relation" between them is an idea that comes from you.tim wood

    No, I recognize that the earth and the moon are doing things, and that their activities are related. You apparently recognize this to, by describing it as a 'corkscrewing" activity. You, however refuse to separate the description "corkscrewing", which is an idea, from the reality of what the relation actually is, which is not an idea. So you keep insisting that the map, (model, or description, which is an idea) is the territory, (the relation itself). Then you contradict yourself by claiming that the earth and the moon which are engaged in this interrelated activity exist independently of human ideas, yet the interrelated activity which locks them together as an essential aspect of the existence which they have, is just a human idea.
  • creativesoul
    11.6k
    It’s often said – not in so many words – that there exists an X such that 1) X provides purpose in the world, and 2) if there be no X, then there is no purpose, that the world is without purpose. By purpose I tentatively mean, subject to adjustment, that which gives ultimate underlying meaning and significance.tim wood

    "X provides purpose" is about X, where all subsequent qualification of "X" is bound by/limited to that which is capable of providing purpose. If X provides purpose, it must be the sort of thing that it makes sense to say is capable of doing so(providing purpose). For example, we could not substitute "potato chips" for 'X' and make any sense at all. Potato chips are not the sort of thing capable of providing purpose. They could help provide a feeling of satisfaction/contentment. Even then without eating them, that purported 'purpose' is left empty, unfilled, unmet, unsatisfied, unrealized. So, potato chips alone are not enough, nor are potato chips the sort of thing capable of providing purpose.

    What thing(s) is(are)?

    Seems to me that purpose presupposes agency. All things purposeful are so in strict relation to one's(the presupposed agents') aim, goal, prediction, and/or expectations.


    The last claim in the quote at the top of the post asks the reader's acceptance of the author's potential future equivocation of the term "purpose". It also invokes "meaning" and "significance". All three presuppose agency.

    Meaning and significance are not limited to providing purpose. They provide (mis)understanding. They provide a worldview. They provide the necessary preconditions for agency and hence help lay the groundwork needed for purposes to emerge. Purpose is nonexistent is complete absence of meaning and significance. Seems to me that meaning/significance is necessary but insufficient for purpose.

    Thinking processes 'give' meaning and significance. The scare-quotes are intentional. By my lights, meaning and significance are not the sorts of things that can be given to another like a physical object. We could be said to 'give away' meaning and significance to another by virtue of helping them to draw correlations between the same sorts of things that we are/do.

    Teaching a child how to use "tree" is a prima facie example. Teaching a child how pick oranges helps them to draw many of their own correlations between oranges and other things.

    While both meaning and significance play a role in the child's mind/thought/worldview prior to learning how to pick oranges and/or call trees by name, there's no argumentative ground for attributing much along the lines of purpose to the child, as if they have one, or they've found other things useful.

    Let X be at least one(although there are countless ones) creature capable of drawing correlations between different things, where at least one of those things is want/desire/aims/goals of the agent and another is a means to that end.

    Without that, there is no purpose.
  • tim wood
    9k
    No, I recognize that the earth and the moon are doing things, and that their activities are related. You apparently recognize this to, by describing it as a 'corkscrewing" activity. You, however refuse to separate the description "corkscrewing", which is an idea, from the reality of what the relation actually is,Metaphysician Undercover
    Great, what is relation? I keep asking and you keep not answering. I ask what they do, and you answer that they do things and their activities are related. All you're telling me is that your not very good - or no good at all - at reflectively questioning your own thinking. This the state of a naive thinker who has taken certain things for granted and having done so, is incapable of further testing them or thinking about them. If relations are real in your sense please provide an example, which of course cannot be an idea.
  • tim wood
    9k
    Let X be at least one(although there are countless ones) creature capable of drawing correlations between different things, where at least one of those things is want/desire/aims/goals of the agent and another is a means to that end.

    Without that, there is no purpose.
    creativesoul

    Purpose then emergent, requiring person, desire, goal, means? In this your "agent," the person, necessary, desire as catalyst. It looks to me like ends and means are unnecessary. As with a person said to be ambitious, that is, a person with purpose but not (yet, presumably) with a goal or means to achieve it.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    Great, what is relation?tim wood

    I told you numerous times, "relation" is what one thing has to do with another. Please quit accusing me of not answering.

    Great, what is relation? I keep asking and you keep not answering. I ask what they do, and you answer that they do things and their activities are related. All you're telling me is that your not very good - or no good at all - at reflectively questioning your own thinking. This the state of a naive thinker who has taken certain things for granted and having done so, is incapable of further testing them or thinking about them. If relations are real in your sense please provide an example, which of course cannot be an idea.tim wood


    I don't see any reason for this assessment. Each relation between individual things is distinct and unique. You asked me for the general, "what is relation" and I answered. I also gave you an example of a distinct and particular relation, that between the earth and the moon, and you criticized me for not describing this relation properly. That does not mean that I did not give you a particular example, it only means that I did not describe the relation, which served as my example, to your satisfaction. And, as much as the earth and moon are not ideas, neither is the relation between them an idea.

    We're corkscrewing around each other in circles, because you have a mental block which prevents you from understanding the meaning of "relation". You force an unwarranted restriction on the meaning of this word, 'a relation is necessarily an idea'. This is the mental disability of a closed mind, a disorder which you willfully inflict upon yourself.
  • tim wood
    9k
    We agree the E and the M are things. "Relation" being an abstract term is nothing other than an idea. What is it, then, that the relation refers to that might be real. Well, the E and M are describable in themselves, these descriptions ideas more or less corresponding to what they are describing - the thing described real, the description the expression of an idea. The E and M also in apparent motion in and through spacetime. E, a thing, moving through spacetime, also a thing. and the M likewise. And the E and the M apparently alter spacetime. The alterations apparently effecting the exact path of both through spacetime. All of this a description, and no mention of relation or the existence or causative efficacy of any relation. It all apears to be things thinging with things, that we do our best to describe in terms meaningful to us.

    But who talks this way? No one, unless they're trying be careful about what they say and what they mean. That is, it can be useful to talk as if relations were real, independently-existing thing, but as you can see, they're not.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    What is it, then, that the relation refers to that might be real.tim wood

    "Relation" refers to what the one has to do with the other, what I described as orbiting and you described as corkscrewing. If the things (E&M) are real, don't you think that their motions are also real? And since their motions involve each other, isn't this a real relation?

    And the E and the M apparently alter spacetime. The alterations apparently effecting the exact path of both through spacetime.tim wood

    That looks like a relation (what one has to do with the other) to me. Why deny that it's real?

    All of this a description, and no mention of relation or the existence or causative efficacy of any relation.tim wood

    Of course we can describe a relation without mention of the word "relation". But don't you recognize that when you say the E and M alter spacetime, and this effects the path of both, that you are speaking of "causative efficacy"?

    Anyway, that's an unnecessary point because "relation" does not necessarily imply causative efficacy. When two things are doing something together (as in your description of the E and M) there is a relation, regardless of causation.

    Why are you so hellbent on denial, that you describe the relation between the earth and moon in such an extraordinarily strange way, trying to be careful about what you say, and what you mean, intent on hiding the fact that you actually believe there is a real relation between the earth and moon?
  • tim wood
    9k
    intent on hiding the fact that you actually believe there is a real relation between the earth and moon?Metaphysician Undercover
    ^sigh* That is exactly what I do not do. The question is the nature of the existence of that relationship. You as an independent-of-mind separately existing you-don't-know-what, and me as an idea. And of course if relations exist in your way, there are an uncountably infinite number of them. They wouldn't fit in the universe - on the assumption they take up space, however small!
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    The question is the nature of the existence of that relationship.tim wood

    See, you actually do believe in the reality of such relations, you just do not understand the nature of the existence of that relationship. As I said, it is one of the many things which are unknown. Here is the mother of all such relationships, the relation between space and time. You seem to like describing relations in terms of spacetime, and within those descriptions is assumed a relation between space and time. But in reality the nature of the existence of that specific relationship itself, is the biggest of all the unknowns.

    They wouldn't fit in the universe - on the assumption they take up space, however small!tim wood

    Like ideas, they are immaterial. Why would they take up space? Then again, maybe what we call "matter" is simply the manifestation of a particular type of relations, which do take up space. Since the nature of the existence of relations is unknown, we really cannot exclude anything, can we?
  • tim wood
    9k
    Like ideas, they are immaterial.Metaphysician Undercover
    You win. And the queen is a biscuit.
  • creativesoul
    11.6k
    Let X be at least one(although there are countless ones) creature capable of drawing correlations between different things, where at least one of those things is want/desire/aims/goals of the agent and another is a means to that end.

    Without that, there is no purpose.
    — creativesoul

    Purpose then emergent, requiring person, desire, goal, means? In this your "agent," the person, necessary, desire as catalyst. It looks to me like ends and means are unnecessary. As with a person said to be ambitious, that is, a person with purpose but not (yet, presumably) with a goal or means to achieve it.
    tim wood

    Means are purposeful. The purpose of means is to reach, attain, and/or acquire a goal/end.

    Ambition without goals? What's that consist of?

    However, I do agree that one can be ambitious without yet having, arriving at, and/or being capable of articulating a means to the desired end. Good call, but I can make no sense whatsoever out of ambition absent any goal, and/or desired outcome. General ones suffice. Being a good person, for example. One can be ambitious about life in general as well. So, there is little need for specificity, however there is most certainly a need for some sort of desired outcome/expectation. There's always something that one is ambitious about regardless of the complexity of the desired outcome.



    I do feel compelled to admit/note that I wrote something earlier that I have come to disagree with in recent years. I misspoke. While I do hold that purpose presupposes agency, I do not hold that meaning and significance do as well. That is not my position, despite stating otherwise. Mea culpa.

    X has purpose in strict relation to a creature capable of intentionally, deliberately, and/or knowingly putting things to use. Whereas all things meaningful and/or significant are meaningful/significant to a creature capable of drawing correlations between different things. Purpose requires that and more. A simple/rudimentary thinking creature is all that's needed to attribute meaning and/or for things to become significant to them by virtue of drawing correlations between different things. However, "agency/agent" imply deliberate contemplation, abstract thinking, moral culpability, volition, a creature that 'cares', etc.

    All that to say that I retract the claim that meaning and significance presuppose agency. Best to do that now, so as to avoid any confusion it will certainly cause otherwise, should this discussion continue.
  • tim wood
    9k
    There's always something that one is ambitious about regardless of the complexity of the desired outcome.creativesoul
    I accept the correction. A person can be hungry without knowing what he wants, but at least he's hungry.

    X has purpose in strict relation to a creaturecreativesoul
    Imho best to limit this to people because, so far as I know, there is no adequate language for making clear just what exactly animals are doing. As to your distinction between purpose on one side and meaning and significance on the other, l don't quite get it. But I have no reason to think I would disagree with you. I assume you mean that a dim bulb can illuminate meaning and significance, but that it takes something brighter to execute purpose. In any case I think none of it exists absent an agent in which it is thought/supposed.
  • creativesoul
    11.6k
    A person can be hungry without knowing what he wants, but at least he's hungry.tim wood

    Sure, but being hungry without knowing what one wants to eat is more akin to being ambitious without knowing how to achieve the desired outcome. That is ambition without clear means. It is not ambition without desired outcome/goal.



    X has purpose in strict relation to a creature capable of intentionally, deliberately, and/or knowingly putting things to use...
    — creativesoul

    Imho best to limit this to people because, so far as I know, there is no adequate language for making clear just what exactly animals are doing.
    tim wood

    Hmmm. People are not the only creatures capable of intentionally, deliberately, and/or knowingly putting things to use. If a creature learns to use a stick to fetch termites out from deep inside of a nest, we can rest quite easy in claiming that the creature uses that stick for a specific purpose. The stick is a tool. The stick has purpose in strict relation to the creature intentionally, deliberately, and/or knowingly putting it to use. The purpose is 'given' to the stick by the creature under consideration.

    Is that not adequate enough?



    As to your distinction between purpose on one side and meaning and significance on the other, l don't quite get it.

    All purpose is meaningful/significant to a creature capable of 'giving' purposes to things. All purpose presupposes meaning and/or significance. Not all meaning and/or significance presupposes purpose.
  • creativesoul
    11.6k
    But I have no reason to think I would disagree with you. I assume you mean that a dim bulb can illuminate meaning and significance, but that it takes something brighter to execute purpose. In any case I think none of it exists absent an agent in which it is thought/supposed.tim wood

    You may be getting hung up on my distinction between a capable creature and an agent. I think "agency" is fraught with historical baggage. The more I think about it, I'm not so sure I agree that all purpose presupposes agency either. Chimps. Crows. I'm hesitate to attribute agency to them, but I've no issue clearly explaining how they give purpose to rudimentary tools; how those tools become meaningful/significant to them.

    I'm actively working this out as well. :blush: I'm not well rehearsed in the subject matter of purpose/teleology. I'm more seeing where my prior commitments leave/lead me on the matter.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    You win.tim wood
    Hooray! I'm going to go celebrate. Care to join me for a glass of champagne? Fuck the queen, or the biscuit, or whatever you're talking about, let's just celebrate!
  • tim wood
    9k
    we can rest quite easy in claimingcreativesoul
    We can always rest easy claiming - but that all the more reason to remember it's just a claim. And good claims work - but none of that makes them true. It's not easy to describe any animal action in terms that do not tend either to anthropomorphize or make hasty assumptions. My cat meows at the door; obviously it wants to go out. The evidence being that it goes out - except when it doesn't. Cat owners all share the experience of their cat, once the door opens, standing in the doorway, or lying down in the doorway, for an extended sampling of the day, no matter the weather. So what is the cat about? Who knows? All we get is the probability/possibility of certain behaviours.
  • creativesoul
    11.6k
    We can always rest easy claiming - but that all the more reason to remember it's just a claim. And good claims work - but none of that makes them true.tim wood

    That is the case with all good claims.



    It's not easy to describe any animal action in terms that do not tend either to anthropomorphize or make hasty assumptions.tim wood

    I agree. It is not easy to avoid anthropomorphism. We'll keep an eye out for it.



    My cat meows at the door; obviously it wants to go out. The evidence being that it goes out - except when it doesn't. Cat owners all share the experience of their cat, once the door opens, standing in the doorway, or lying down in the doorway, for an extended sampling of the day, no matter the weather. So what is the cat about? Who knows? All we get is the probability/possibility of certain behaviours.tim wood

    I do not see the relevance of your mistake to what I wrote.

    The cat didn't want to go out. That cat meows at the door for more than one reason. You're the one saying it's obvious that the cat wanted to do something that he did not do. Not I.

    What's the problem with what I wrote? I don't have that problem. By all means, if I ever attribute thought/belief/reason that only humans are capable of forming, having, and/or holding to a non human, let me know.

    Problems with your account are being held up as an example used against my account. Does that move count as a valid objection these days? My oh my, what is the world coming to?

    When one creature that has never done so watches another creature that is well rehearsed in doing so gather termites from a mound using a stick, it learns how to use a stick for the purpose of gathering resources. They want to eat termites. They know how to use a stick in order to do so. The one will break a small limb from branch, strip it of all external leaves and twigs, poke holes into a termite nest, and then poke the limb deep into the nest allowing the termites to climb upon the stick.

    That creature does that on purpose. The stick becomes significant to the watcher. The stick is already significant to the user.

    Does any of that count as anthropomorphism to you?
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k

    The substance of our disagreement seems to be the following. I think that if physical objects are real (not simply ideas), then the relations between them must also be real (not just ideas). You seem to believe that physical objects are real, but the relations between them are not real (the relations are simply ideas).

    I've tried to explain how I understand your belief to be inconsistent. If objects like the earth and moon are real, then their movements must be real as well, and their relations reals too.

    There is another possible resolution which we have not explored, and that is that neither objects nor their relations are real, they are all ideas. That is known as idealism, and I think it is well supported by modern physics. If we follow the principles of quantum physics we will find that all objects are composed of particles, which are features of fields. The fields are constructed from ideas about relations.

    Would you consider this as a possible way of understanding "reality"? My point has been, that we cannot make a separation between a physical object and its relations with other objects, to say that one is real and the other ideal, without separating the object from its activities, one real, the other ideal, and this necessarily produces an inconsistency in our representation of "reality". Since you appear to be dead set against allowing the proposition that both, objects and their relations are real, would you be more inclined toward the other option, the one which is well supported by the science of physics, that both, objects and their relations, are ideal?
  • tim wood
    9k
    Thank you for the offer and the thought.
    Let's - or let me - try to take a closer look at relation. I think it must be pretty clear that any expression of the relation is just the expression of an idea. Because 1) the expression is not the relation, 2) and any such idea is at best an approximation, because not itself exactly and precisely corresponding to any relation.

    I think language provides a clue into the nature of relations. We say of things that they are. This is that; these are those. Relations, one the other hand, are dynamic; something is happening.

    With our E(arth) and M(oon) in mind, let's imagine a snapshot of our local space - no time passing. There are the E and M. Where is, what is, the relation between them? It does not exist - it does not exist in the moment. Relation appears to be a happening as a function of time. But not of time itself, because of its claim of independent existence - which claim itself does not survive its dependence on time.

    If relation does not exist in the moment, it is hard to see how it can come into independent, immaterial existence in any sequence of moments. Easy-peezy as an idea, but not the independent immaterial existence.

    Your claim, then, seems to be nothing more than a claim - a belief on your part. And I give beliefs as beliefs a pass. If you want more, you shall have to make clear how it can be more.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    I think it must be pretty clear that any expression of the relation is just the expression of an idea.tim wood

    Any expression whatsoever is an expression of an idea. "Moon", "earth", are expressions of ideas. Even if we use a name to refer 'directly' to an object, we are expressing an idea such as 'I am talking about that thing'.

    With our E(arth) and M(oon) in mind, let's imagine a snapshot of our local space - no time passing.tim wood

    The earth and moon with no time passing is completely fictional, therefore nothing other than an idea. How is imagining such a scenario going to be helpful in distinguishing between what is real and what is ideal? You've just given us a purely ideal scenario.

    Your claim, then, seems to be nothing more than a claim - a belief on your part. And I give beliefs as beliefs a pass. If you want more, you shall have to make clear how it can be more.tim wood

    You haven't addressed my latest proposition, "neither objects nor relations are real, they are all ideas". Can we agree on this? As indicated above, everything in your post supports this, the proposition that earth and moon might be independent of passing time, etc..
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    For me, nature does not count as intentional unless it is either a cognitive agent or is directed by a cognitive agent.Janus

    Apropos the debate about purpose in nature and the lack thereof. From John Vervaeke's lecture series, Awakening from the Meaning Crisis. In lecture 6, Aristotle, Kant and Darwin, Vervaeke brings in Alice Juarrero, a systems theorist and philosopher of biology who's mentioned quite a few times on this forum. Her books include Dynamics in Action and Context Changes Everything.

    Where this comes in, is Vervaeke's discussion of Aristotle's hylomorphism, and how Aristotle accounts for change through time. You can review this section of the lecture <here> and also review an excerpt from the transcript below. For context, he's discussing the aftermath of Newton's discovery of the principles of motion (by A>B>C he's referring to mechanical causation), and Kant's attempt to reconcile that with the phenonenon of organic growth.

    Suffice it to say that this (A->B->C) became a predominant way of trying to explain how things work (after Newton). But then Kant encountered a very significant problem. And it's not a coincidence that it has to do with the kinds of things we were talking about with Aristotle. The kinds of things that can grow. Living things. Because Kant went out and he saw a tree! And this was very problematic for him because trees don't follow this model readily. Because... He was looking at it and he was saying "okay, well what's making the tree?" Well it's the sunlight! "Well how does the sunlight get in?" Through the leaves! "So... what's making the leaves?". Well, the tree! "So, the tree makes the leaves and the leaves make the tree! So the tree is making the tree!" And he coined the term "Self-Organizing". The tree is Self-Organizing. Now the problem with that is living things make use of "Feedback Cycles". In a feedback cycle the output from the system feeds back into the system. The tree makes the leaves, that gathers energy that goes into the processes that makes the leaves. Living things are self organizing. They use feedback cycles but when I try and give an explanation of a feedback cycle, I fall into a circular explanation....So Kant came to a rather startling conclusion. He came to the conclusion that there could not be a science of living things! That biology was impossible.

    This is where Juarrero's work is brought in:

    This is what Alicia Juarrero takes up and she said "actually for a very long time we had no way of solving this problem". And so there was a huge gap between our biology and our physics. Now again, why are we caring about this? Because we need to... If we're going to understand Aristotle, if we're going to deeply understand what we mean when we talk about that we are living things that grow and develop and that growth and development is (also) integral to our meaning and our sense of who and what we are - our 'personal identity' - that if we cannot give an answer to this problem (points to issues / question on the board), we cannot understand, fundamentally, who and what 'we' are and what the hell we are talking about when we talk about how important growth and development are to us... Because that language will forever be separate from any kind of scientific understanding! So where's this going wrong?

    ...So Juarrero first of all makes a distinction between "causes" and "constraints". So to get at that distinction, let's go back to what seems so obvious. OK.... Here's the marker... I push it! Why did it move? And immediately the Newtonian grammar just comes into place: "It moved because you pushed it!" And then you might step outside of physics and say "well, I wanted to push it!", but that's not what I'm asking! Because it could also just be that some other object bumped into this and it moved! Why else did it move? Okay, so think about what has to also be true in order for this to move. There has to be empty space. Relatively empty space in front of the marker. This (the surface - table) has to have a particular shape to it. This (the pen) has to have a particular shape to it. Those aren't events. Those are conditions. Causes are events that make things happen. Constraints aren't events, they're conditions! They don't make things happen, they make things possible. There's a big difference between a condition and an event. The Newtonian way of thinking has us so fixated on this (causes -> event -> happen), so fore-grounded on this that we're not seeing this (constraints -> conditions -> possible) anymore! But Aristotle, because of his Platonic view, actually considers this (Constraints flow) more important. Why? Because when I talk about a Structural, Functional Organization, when I talk about a pattern, I'm talking about this (Constraints flow). This is where you will find form. It is sometimes called the "Formal Cause".

    This ties in with Terrence Deacon's ideas in Incomplete Nature (and in fact, there was an investigation as to whether Deacon plagiarized Juarrero when he published his book after hers, but he was absolved by an academic committee), and also (I think) with a lot of what @apokrisis says about biosemiosis. I introduce it here only because I think it helps to grasp the formative role of constraints and conditions in understanding the nature of purpose - not in the sense of mechanical causation, but in the sense of 'why things are the way they are'. This is where I think it makes sense to look for the original sense of Plato's eidos, the forms - not in some fanciful ethereal 'Platonic heaven' but in the underlying patterns of causal constraint which imposes order on possibility.

    I'll leave it at that, as there's a limit to what can be meaningfully conveyed in a forum post. Suffice to say, I think it's pointing in a fruitful direction.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    This ties in with Terrence Deacon's ideas in Incomplete Nature (and in fact, there was an investigation as to whether Deacon plagiarized Juarrero when he published his book after hers, but he was absolved by an academic committee), and also (I think) with a lot of what apokrisis says about biosemiosis.Wayfarer

    Or indeed, exactly what I've always said.

    As it happens Deacon is a serial offender when it comes to picking up good ideas and recycling them in his own jargon so that this arguments seem more original than they actually are. I was pissed off when he did the same with Vygotsky, for instance. His first book. Yet still, he is a good populariser.

    Juarrero is more interesting as she had to recapitulate the biosemiotic case as an academic outsider whereas Deacon had all the benefits of being an insider.

    She told the story really well with an outsider's clarity, but was ignored as she was outside the general swim of systems science. He told the story craftily in a way that built his status in the wider world of ideas, but created a sour taste within the systems science community.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Maybe, but it's all grist to the mill from a layman's point of view. I've gotten halfway through Deacon this year and it is one book I really must finish (although I do say that a lot.)
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    12.8k
    This is where I think it makes sense to look for the original sense of Plato's eidos, the forms - not in some fanciful ethereal 'Platonic heaven' but in the underlying patterns of causal constraint which imposes order on possibility.Wayfarer

    It's still very important to understand the difference between formal cause (as the existing conditions of constraint), and the final cause, that for the sake of which, the good or intent of the agent who acts, under those conditions. The purpose of the act is directly related to the final cause. And in Juarrero's distinction between causes and constraints, final cause must be a proper cause, while formal cause is the conditions of constraint. A scientific understanding of the formal cause, constraints, will never reveal the final cause, therefore not the purpose either.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Notice the difference between ‘Every thing has a purpose’ and ‘Everything has a purpose’. A space that actually makes a big difference! Might be an example of one of Deacon’s absentials ;-)
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    It's still very important to understand the difference between formal cause (as the existing conditions of constraint), and the final cause,Metaphysician Undercover

    The reason why the hylomorphic dichotomy of matter and form splits into four causes is because the further distinction of particular-general or local-global gets added.

    So material cause has both its particular sense of some critical event - an efficient cause - and then the material cause which is a matter in the general sense of substantial being. Stuff you can work with.

    Likewise formal cause divides into the immediacy of some actualising structure and then the generality that is an overriding purpose or constraining end.

    At least this is how a natural philosopher would look at it. :smile:
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Thanks, but nothing there is unfamiliar or controversial to my way of thinking. I amend my statement to make it clearer:

    For me, nature as a whole would not count as intentional unless it were either a cognitive agent or created and directed by a cognitive agent.Janus

    Of course, I don't deny that some organisms and humans are purposeful, I just don't believe that the universe as a whole has any purpose in mind or was created with some purpose in mind. So, it's still not really clear just what you are arguing for.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    I sometimes think it might be that the ancients simply assumed there was a reason for existence and that the universe was animated by purpose. The meaning of ‘cosmos’ was ‘a unified whole’ and was presumed to be ordered by reason, which is why reason could get a purchase on it in the first place; it was the task of the philosopher to discern that purpose. That is one of the many meanings of ‘logos’, isn’t it? It took many centuries for the idea to emerge that that Universe might be purposeless, it is one of the realisations (if it is a realisation) that is born out of the mechanical philosophy of Galileo and Newton. I suppose the idea that the Universe is animated by reason is a thread that is common to nearly all traditional philosophy. It’s only with the advent of modernity that this is called into question.

    This is not the specifically the subject of the lecture I mentioned, but it is one of the themes explored in the series Awakening from the Meaning Crisis. In that lecture, he traces the development of dynamic systems and evolutionary theory (hence Darwin in the title) but then at the end goes back to discussion of the ethical import of Aristotle’s philosophy:

    So let's now take it back to Aristotle because Aristotle was interested... now, he doesn't use this (points out both diagrams on the board), he doesn't use the dynamical systems language. That's our language. But this language was directly inspired by… Aristotle so using it backwards to try and connect Aristotle to our current understanding, I do not think is anachronistic. So Aristotle is interested in our development. He's going to add something that was missing from the Socratic notion of wisdom. Remember the Socratic notion was trying to overcome self-deception. And then Plato adds a whole structural theory of the psyche to explain how we overcome self-deception - how we become wise and achieve wisdom. But what's missing, in the account of wisdom and meaning, according to Aristotle - if I can use this (board) language - is what's missing is an account of growth and development. How does wisdom develop? How does meaning develop? Well this is where we get something that we talk about and we use in our language, but we don't, I think, get the depth of what Aristotle is talking about...


    https://www.meaningcrisis.co/episode-6-aristotle-kant-and-evolution/

    I think maybe one interpretation is not to try and discern the meaning of ‘the entire cosmos’, as that seems a rather grandiose idea (although I think it is certainly an idea that Aristotle was prepared to entertain.) But I would hope that as we’re a part of that unfolding process, that insofar as we capable of living meaningfully, then we’re playing a part in it, and it is purposeful - which is the overall orientation of the talks he’s giving.
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