• Janus
    15.9k
    You may be right—that is it may be possible to bridge the gap between explanations in the conceptual paradigm of physical causes and conditions, and explanations in the conceptual paradigm of cognitions, reasons, aspirations, inspirations, insights and desires.

    Unfortunately, I lack the background in the kinds of disciplines you mentioned that would enable me to assess whether there has been or is likely to be any success in this enterprise.

    So, I look to a simpler way of dissolving a conundrum which I see as arising our of what is for anyone lacking the fluency in the afore-mentioned disciples, an insoluble conceptual incompatibility.

    So. I am not arguing that the physical is nothing but the mental or that the mental is nothing but the physical, but that these are two paradigmatic ways of describing and explaining the one thing, and that they are conceptually incommensurable (for most of us if not all of us).
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Yes, but the explanation is partly "why do some things experience and not others?" So is the dual aspect supposed to hold for everything? For instance, there would be some sort of phenomena awareness for orange juice in a blender, a corpse, or water in a river?

    If everything has this dual aspect, then there is still a question of why certain interactions give rise to certain experiences. There would be the question of why we have a phenomenal horizon at all, since everything experiences and there is constant interaction and a constant exchange of information, matter, energy, and causation across any boundary drawn up to demarcate a person. Presumably anesthetic would work by splitting the unified mind into a jumble of isolated minds? It doesn't seem like it can be turning off the universal dual aspect.

    Whereas if everything doesn't have experiences then the gap is still there — there is still the question: why does the living body have this dual aspect but not the corpse?
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    For instance, there would be some sort of phenomena awareness for orange juice in a blender, a corpse, or water in a river?Count Timothy von Icarus

    But we know what living organisms have that these things lack. An active semiotic modelling relation with world based on an encoding mechanism like, principally, a hierarchy of genes, neurons, words and numbers in the case of us socially-constructed humans.

    This is the central fact you fail to engage with – the way that life and mind are indeed mechanistic. A system of informational switches regulating entropic flows in the way anyone can recognise as being alive and mindful. Or in other words, constituting an organism.

    But continue to talk past the epistemic cut that is what bridges the so-called explanatory gap...

    but that these are two paradigmatic ways of describing and explaining the one thing, and that they are conceptually incommensurableJanus

    Describing vs explaining is a good way of putting it. The would-be phenomenologist says I can describe, and you can't explain.

    But my first psychophysics lecture flipped that one on its head. The professor explained Mach bands as a neural contrast enhancing and boundary making mechanism in the visual pathway. I walked out into the bright sunlight and looked up at the sharp edges of the tall buildings against the sky and for the first time noticed that these illusory contours were indeed right there.

    So explanation led to the description – the phenomenal experience. It showed that the causal gap had its proper bridge.

    You just have to stick with it and bring the whole general show across with you. Arrive at a general explanation that grounds all such specific explanations. Develop a model of biosemiosis, the modelling relation, epistemic cut, Bayesian mechanics, or whatever it gets called.
  • bert1
    1.9k
    This is the central fact you fail to engage with – the way that life and mind are indeed mechanistic. A system of informational switches regulating entropic flows in the way anyone can recognise as being alive and mindful. Or in other words, constituting an organism zombie.apokrisis
  • Outlander
    2k
    But we know what living organisms have that these things lack. An active semiotic modelling relation with world based on an encoding mechanism like, principally, a hierarchy of genes, neurons, words and numbers in the case of us socially-constructed humans.apokrisis

    These particular things do in fact make up the end result of "consciousness" but do not define themselves as the bare minimums to achieve such. Granted, based on that which is currently evidenced or "observable" with our consciousness would suggest ours is unique. But this, though reasonable and socially-acceptable, is not any argument-ending contention when it comes to philosophical inquiry.
  • Joshs
    5.4k
    I don't even think most anti-realists believe the position themselves, even if they think they do, since they generally end up pointing to some standards as the benchmark of the good. Even pronouncements about how such anti-realism can enhance freedom or "fight fascism," presume that freedom is good and fascism is not. And indeed, they often make this the standard that justifies everything else. So, I don't even see myself as that far from them in the end. I too put a premium on freedom, I just think they badly misunderstand its essence by only considering it terms of potency/power.Count Timothy von Icarus

    There are positions that purport to go beyond the realism-anti-realism binary. I’m thinking of poststructuralists
    like Deleuze, Focault, Derrida and Heidegger. They argue that of course there are standards of right and wrong, true and false. These are like the banks of the river , which maintain their stable shape against the changing flow of the river. But they point out that the bank eventually erodes and changes, just like the river itself, but much more gradually. Perhaps the changes in the bank are so incremental that we don’t notice them, ignoring the drift of sense over time of our formulations of moral goodness. What allows societies to function is not an unchanging foundational basis of the good, but shared intelligibilities and values within a contingent culture. One could say that mutual intelligibility is a foundational good , but the substantive content on which that intelligibility is based is contingent and relative.

    Todd May is among those who claim that such thinking sneaks in ethical grounds through the back door:

    What I would like to argue here is that despite themselves, Deleuze, Foucault, and Lyotard predicate much of their political work on several intertwined and not very controversial ethical principles. The mistake, made by Deleuze and Foucault in avoiding ethical principles altogether and by Lyotard in trying to avoid universalizing them, is that their avoidance is itself an ethically
    motivated one. In the conversation cited above, where Deleuze praises Foucault for being the one “to teach us something absolutely fundamental: the indignity of speaking for others,” he is laying out a principle of behavior that it would be unimaginable to assume he does not think ought to bind the behavior of others. In resisting an essentialism about human nature, there may
    have been a resistance to telling people not only what they want but also what they ought to want.

    Where they must form an ethical commitment, and this is a commitment in keeping with poststructuralist political theory, is at the level of practice. Some practices are acceptable, some unacceptable.” “…claims to ethical truth can be seen as no more problematic than factual claims to truth, claims made in the cognitive genre.” Ethical claims also possess a universal character. Claims that one ought to perform action X in circumstances C, or that killing is wrong, or that it is ethically praiseworthy to help those who are oppressed by one’s own government are not made relative to a cultural context… It is precisely because ethical claims mean what they seem to mean that they are universal; and if they are true, they are binding upon everyone.” The difficulty attaching to ethical discourse derives from the difficulty, given the possibility both of competing values and principles and competing descriptions of the circumstances one finds oneself in, of articulating a correct ethical position. Were ethics to be situation-specific, there would be no such thing as ethics,
    because there would be no generalization.”

    What May and other critics don’t appreciate is that criteria of acceptability are contingent products of differential relations within a community. The challenge for Deleuze and Foucault isn’t to determine what constitutes an acceptable ethical content but to avoid getting trapped by any qualitatively contentful ethical principle.
    “…what is at issue here is not how to promote the correct arrangements but how to assess whether an arrangement or practice, once promoted, is indeed active or reactive. In other words, the question is not one of how to achieve a goal, but one of deciding which goals are to be achieved.”

    The ethical question for poststructutalistsm is not whether and how we achieve just relations but whether and how we deal with the struggle between competing goods, how we manage to think beyond justice understood as singular traditions of the good, so that we can focus on enriching our traditions with alternative intelligibilities, thereby expanding the inclusiveness of our relational structures.
  • javra
    2.5k
    I don't think that will help, because I can't see how saying the Universe has an overarching purpose makes any sense at all without positing a purposer. I will go further; I think saying that anything has a purpose presupposes either that it has been designed for some purpose or that it is in some sense and to some degree a self-governing agent.Janus

    Hey, I'll be maybe a little blunt.

    As often happens in this place, lots of opining on what is the case which purports itself as rational demonstration of what is affirmed. All fine and dandy. But I notice that nothing in your reply evidences the logical impossibility you so far assert – and logical impossibility is not a matter of mere opinion last I checked. At least not in realms of philosophy.

    To help things out, for your claim to hold any water, either demonstrate how any of the premises I’ve provided are necessarily false and hence not feasible to use or else rationally demonstrate how the premises I’ve provided can only result in the logical impossibility you so far yet claim. Without this, no logical impossibility is evidenced – and you remain wrong in your affirmation by default.

    Also, so we don't equivocate on the matter of what "purpose" means, purpose here is intended as "The end for which something is done, is made or exists." (reference) Do you hold something else in mind by the word?

    In something like Neo-Platonism, then, the universe can be said to exists both because of and for the Good, where the Good / the One is the ultimate end, the ultimate end for which the universe exists - and, here, the universe is thereby purposeful, i.e. serves a purpose/end (note that the One is nevertheless not a purposer, not even an agent). And, tmk, no one has been able to evidence Neo-Platonism logically impossible to date.

    You’ve made a rather strong claim in saying that purpose sans purposer is logically impossible. So the impetus is now on you to rationally substantiate this claim by evidencing the logic necessary for obtaining this conclusion.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    The explanatory gap is a problem for contemporary science and the way it has defined what a proper explanations must look like. I do not think it's a particularly important thing to solve in order to buy into (or reject) Hegel's philosophy of history, politics, concept development, etc. Ultimately, his project is to wrap the subjective and objective in a third category that includes both, since both must be real in some important respect. This project is accomplished (or fails) upstream of considerations of some objective explanation of the emergence of Giest in Nature, at least at the level of scientific modeling.

    Hegel certainly has something to say about mechanistic accounts along the lines of Newton's, which only result in predictive models and cannot explain their own necessity— so in some ways he is offering a critique of some types of scientific explanation that could be relevant to the "explanatory gap." I think changes in the philosophy of physics have perhaps made Hegel's critique a bit less relevant, although it certainly holds for some sorts of explanation.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    — Apokrisis
    As with a tornado, half the job of being alive and mindful is done.

    :chin: Is there half of an intentional act? Tornadoes have no internal means of continuing to exist, which organisms do.

    Actually, there’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask you (in particular). I was exploring the idea that a characteristic of classical physics was that it is indifferent to context. It concentrates on ideal objects - objects which have precisely measurable attributes, without taking into account environmental disturbances or other circumstances which are ‘less than ideal’. Because of this abstraction, it’s reckonings are universal - they apply to any ideal object anywhere in the universe. But, the point which forced itself on science with the advent of quantum physics, was that context actually meant something. Why? Because the outcome of the experiement depends on the way it is set up - set it up one way, the result is a wave, set it up another way, the result is a particle. So context begins to matter. And this becomes evident also in environmental science and systems science generally, because ‘the environment’ is a context. And it seems to me that is a major shift that has occured in 20th century science.

    That’s all I wanted to ask.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    I was talking to Baars back in the 90s at the same time I was talking to Fristonapokrisis

    Interview with Friston on Curt Jaimungul's Theories of Everything.
  • apokrisis
    6.9k
    Is there half of an intentional act?Wayfarer

    My point was that the basic issue is self-organisation. Reductionist science had the metaphysics that order is random accident. Religion said order was in the mind of God. Thermodynamics became the basis for a new metaphysics of nature as self-organising.

    So a tornado is an example of nature being rather lively in this self-organising fashion – the "intentionality" that we can grant a dissipative structure. Aspects of the physical world can organise themselves so as to run down entropic gradients. A tornado has in its "body" – its localised vortex – the information needed to persist and take its next self-reconstructing step across some pressure/temperature gradient.

    So we don't have to start life and mind from the reductionist position of a physical world which has zero self-organisation. There is self-organisation in a vortex in the sense that there is information – a memory – that constrains the dynamics. There is the beginning of the semiotic distinction – the epistemic cut – which bridges our reductionist notion of "the naked physics" and an organism with a purposeful informational model of its world.

    In that sense of the physics already being self-organising, we are half-way there with the physical potentials that a modelling organism then harnesses for it ends.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    In that sense of the physics already being self-organising, we are half-way there with the physical potentials that a modelling organism then harnesses for it ends.apokrisis

    Yes, I suppose I can see that.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    But I notice that nothing in your reply evidences the logical impossibility you so far assert – and logical impossibility is not a matter of mere opinion last I checked. At least not in realms of philosophy.javra

    Explain to me how the notion, not to mention the imputation, of purpose makes sense in the absence of an agent that purposes. The issue here is coherence not possibility. In other words, you need to be able to say what you mean by ascribing purpose to the cosmos as a whole before worrying about whether or not you can find an argument or evidence to support your ascription.
  • javra
    2.5k
    Explain to me how the notion, not to mention the imputation, of purpose makes sense in the absence of an agent that purposes.Janus

    There is a post on another thread which you've so far not addressed. Still, as to explanation: if there is an un-created and imperishable ultimate end for the sake of which X does this and that, then there will be purpose that was not created by a purposer. BTW, this ultimate end can be a grand "heat death" just as much as it can be "the Good". If all things mover toward their end, then purpose occurs.

    I'll in turn ask, how can a purposer bring about a purpose A in the absence of an end/purpose Z by which the purposer is teleologically determined in so bringing about purpose A. Would not any such act be instead utterly devoid of purpose, hence intent/end-pursued and, hence, in no way intentional/purposive?
  • javra
    2.5k
    Janus, my bad. In haste, I mistook what thread I'm on. Still, the logical issues I've so far addressed remain.

    At any rate, I'll sign off for now.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    It seems easy to talk about ends, "biological function," constraints, or equilibrium in a way that doesn't require an agent. This is how a teleology of sorts if often still included in the natural sciences.

    However, I think you raise an excellent point. Are these sort of "ends" univocally related to the "ends" or "purposes" of agents? I'm inclined to say the similarity is only analogous. It isn't completely equivocal, but it certainly isn't univocal either.
  • javra
    2.5k


    Going back on my word to myself and taking the time to post:

    Hmm, I was under the impression that @Janus was strictly concerned with how it might be coherent for global purpose to occur without a purposer’s imposition, to not say creation, of a global purpose in the world. Very much akin the Watchmaker argument as concerns “God making a purposeful world (which would not be purposeful in any way sans a purposive God)”. In an attempt to further address my best current understandings of this:

    In here assuming the reality of the Good in a strictly Neoplatonic framework, as example, is the Good/the One the (purposeful) creation of some creator (which thereby holds an altogether different end in mind in so creating the Good) or, else, an uncreated and imperishable, else metaphysically immovable, end that applies to all at least corporeal beings—this just as much as it would apply to all incorporeal beings (from ghosts/apparitions to gods) were the latter to in any way occur?

    Furthermore, is not the Good within this framework expressed as that which either directly or indirectly determines all that does and can exist? Hence not only all of life’s evolutionary transformations and behaviors but all that is deemed to be purely physical as well?

    In a Neoplatonic framework, that a rock might here have purpose (an ultimate end toward which it moves, however incrementally) does not then either entail that the rock has any form of intention or that its purpose (hence, end toward which it progresses) in the grand scheme of things was intended by anyone—be such someone either corporeal (human) or incorporeal (god).

    Human agents have historically held onto myriad types of final ends for their own being: e.g., from the nihility which corporeal death is supposed to bring, this as the final end pursued by those who seek to free themselves of their suffering via suicide; to the notion of immortality in the form of a literally perfect (and hence eternal) self-preservation as that end to be striven for (with some transhumanist ideals as one modern example of this); to the yearning to become the uncontested top-dog, so to speak, of all that is and surrounds; or, as one here last given example, the eternal paradise of a Christian Heaven wherein one eternally dwells as unperishing ego devoid of any and all suffering, maybe with a harp in hand, under the omnipotent guidance of a superlative ego as creator of everything that is. But then, these many human-devised concepts of a final end to be yearned for and pursued—this together with that Neoplatonic notion of an absolute unity/henosis with the One—are most often logically contradictory. Such that, logically at least, not all of them can be true, else real, else correct, and hence right (not at least at the same time and in the same respect).

    Of note, it is human’s evolved intellect which facilitates humans abilities to envision the many such disparate final ends of personal being. Frogs don’t do this too well (or rather at all). So it seems that the greater the intelligence/sapience, the greater too the ability to either align to or else deviate from that which is—in a Neoplatonic framework—a fixed final end and an absolute good (to one's personal being included). In parallel, frogs can’t willfully deceive others and their own selves anywhere near as much as humans can—but then, neither can they apprehend as many truths regarding reality.

    So, to my best current understanding, in a modern and more analytically cogent model yet upholding the Neoplatonic understanding of the Good as final end, the Good would then need to account in one way another for all these discordant various final ends which human agencies can, and at times have, aimed toward. This while also holding a cogent explanation for why these various other conceivable ultimate ends are in fact untrue, else unreal, else incorrect, and hence wrong—and, so, are in fact bad ends to pursue or else progress toward. This while furthermore likewise making sense of why the physical world as we empirically know it occurs. Hence, the Good—just as ancient Neoplatonism maintains (and as was at the very least linguistically echoed in Aristotelian metaphysics—must then be the unmoved (undetermined and, hence, unlimited) mover (determiner; else, in Aristotelian terms, final cause) of all that in any way is and can existentially be. Itself, as the final end yet to be obtained, being beyond both existence and nonexistence.

    And yet the Good in this Neoplatonic framework (as in so many others) cannot be a purposer (at least not as I take the term to have been so far implied by Janus: an ego which purposefully creates and thereby endows purpose): it hence is in no way an ego that can be disappointed or happy in its attempts to bring anything about by striving to itself obtain some end. The Good as final end is of itself not purposeful, but instead merely is. And, in so being, it reputedly endows purpose to everything else both sentient and insentient via any number of means. Via at least some of these means, this will then logially need to include all false final ends that intelligent enough sentience might seek to actualize.

    It seems that this is where one starts philosophically questioning what in fact is the genuine and good final end that one ought to do one’s best to pursue/intend/remain aligned to (for one's own benefit of minimizing one's overall suffering). This just as one deliberates between going leftward or rightward at a given crossroads – but, here, regarding metaphysical notions of final ends to one’s existence that maximally, if not fully, satisfy all of one’s wants (and, hence, all of one’s intents).

    While I don’t in this post want to write a thesis on my best current understandings regarding a Neoplatonic notion of the One/the Good, in short, there obviously are different final ends which people can both envision and actively choose to pursue – this as a guiding factor to our more immediate (needless to add, intentional) decisions. But, logically at least, this array of contradicting final ends we can envision as a humanity then necessarily consists of at least some erroneous conceptualizations of where our being ends. And in assuming there being the Neoplatonic the Good as fixed final end, the Good, aka the One, then necessarily needs to account for all end/purposes that can in any way existentially occur—both those pertaining to sentient beings (deities included where they to occur) and to insentient physicality, both those aligned with the actualization of the One/the Good and those which deviate from this.

    Of course, deny the very possibility of the Good/the One being real and all this goes down the toilet. Obviously. But where the possibility is entertained, there will then necessarily and coherently be a global purpose which occurs in the absence of anyone or anything producing and hence creating this global, or else cosmic, purpose - but instead being in one way or another, consciously or unconsciously, bound to it.

    My current best two cents worth regarding this issue of a possible global purpose sans global purposer.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Good and cogent post in my opinion. At risk of some crossover from Tim Wood’s post on the nature of purpose, which seems to have some convergence with this one, I would add the following question.

    I’ve noted in Richard Dawkins’ polemics the distinction between ‘real’ and ‘apparent’ design. This is crucial to him, of course, because purposelessness is central to his books such as Unweaving the Rainbow and The Blind Watchmaker. According to this view, what appears to us as marvellously designed in nature, really is due to the accretion of many incremental changes that occur over immense time-scales giving rise to what he calls ‘the appearance of design’. I wonder if that is also analogous to the discussion here about the nature of purpose, and whether there is any real purpose sans an intentional agent to enact it, as the same considerations will apply here also.

    Now the question I have for Dawkins (and feel free to answer on his behalf if so inclined) is that, does his view entail that the only real designs are those created by humans, as humans are, to our knowledge, the only ‘intentional designers’ that we know of? That does appear a consequence of his view.

    Given that Dawkins is a committed naturalist, it seems there might be a fundamental discontinuity in positing that human intentionality, a product of natural evolution, creates 'real' design, while natural processes can only produce 'apparent' design. How do we reconcile this distinction with a naturalistic view that sees humans and their capabilities as entirely natural phenomena, while at the same time denying that nature herself displays or generates designs as such?

    It might be argued that human intentionality and the ability to design are emergent properties of complex natural systems. In this sense, human design is an advanced form of the same natural processes that create the appearance of design in nature. But in that case, it is contradictory to declare that design in nature is only apparent, as it is the basis of the human ability to design, which is made manifest in us, but is at least real as a potential in many natural forms.

    This is why I keep going back to the question - does the assertion of the existence of purpose (or design or intention) in nature, necessarily imply that there must be a purposeful agency other than human agency? Because it seems the inevitable entailment of such a claim. Likewise, the requirement that Dawkins has to deny the intentionality of design in nature stems from his atheist philosophy.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    How do we reconcile this distinction with a naturalistic view that sees humans and their capabilities as entirely natural phenomena, while at the same time denying that nature herself displays or generates designs as such?Wayfarer

    It's easy: we understand ourselves self-reflectively to be capable of planning and deliberately designing things, and under the normal usage for there to be design implies an agent, such as ourselves, capable of planning and deliberately designing.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Doesn’t address my question. Is everything designed of human origin?
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Doesn’t address my question.Wayfarer

    I think it does: you seem to presume that under the assumption of naturalism we could never have become the kinds of self-reflective agents who can deliberately plan and design things for a purpose. If that is your objection, then what is your argument against that being impossible under the assumption of naturalism? If that is not your objection, then what is?
  • goremand
    69
    Obviously when a guy like Dawkins denies "design in nature" (if he ever did), he is talking specifically about biological lifeforms, even if technically he does believe everything is natural (including a human crafting a clay pot). From that perspective "the ability to design" is just another funny little trick cooked up by natural selection, alongside the ability to walk on two feet and the ability to digest food.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    If that is not your objection, then what is?Janus

    So you would agree with the statement ‘all design is artificial’?
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Yes, all design is artifice. It doesn't follow that all purpose is artifice—I'm not claiming that design and purpose are one and the same, but of course they are closely connected.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    A number of your core points agree with my understanding. The Good is ultimately that towards which all rational natures strive, so there aren't so much "multiple final ends," as there are "multiple conceptions on how best to achieve the Good." E.g., the person who advances towards what they think will bring annihilation does so because they think annihilation will be "good" in a sense.

    Aristotle has it that the Prime Mover must be an intellectual nature. Where Neoplatonism saw its most expansive development was in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition, and there the One was always a person (or three persons of one substance). But these developments (which predate, and to some degree influenced Plotinus via folks like Philo, Clement, and Origen—"Middle Platonists") throw in another sort of difficulty in the form of the Analogia Entis. Here, all predication involving infinite being and the Divine Nature threatens another sort of consuming equivocity; at best we can hope for analogy.

    But if we consider the Platonic vision of Calcidius, the harmoniously ordered cosmos of Dante, or the "symphony of the spheres," heard by Cicero's Scipio, we seem to be led back to the ends pursued by mindless entities in that these are ultimately ordered to a greater end by the "super intellect," of the super intelligible (e.g. Pseudo Dionysus). The ultimate ordering of finite ends turns on a single point, God "boiling over in love," (Meister Eckhart) and producing a "moving image of eternity," in which the creature can become free and freely pursue the Good.

    Of course, the "free creatures" are part of this cosmic ordering, and themselves strive towards the same Good. And to the extent they are free, they pursue this Good as opposed to some merely relative or counterfeit good. So while we have three apparent "levels" here: mindless thing's finite ends, the ends of finite agents, and the Good itself to which all existence is orderer and in which it "moves and has its being" (Book of Acts), they all end up being deeply related.

    But I was thinking of the question more in terms of the modern "naturalistic" conception. Perhaps this is a bad frame from which to approach this question precisely because it seems to make the "ends" of "physical systems" and the "purposes" of agents either entirely equivocal, or else too univocal, the latter just collapsing into the former, agents themselves being mere "mechanism all the way down."
  • javra
    2.5k
    This is why I keep going back to the question - does the assertion of the existence of purpose (or design or intention) in nature, necessarily imply that there must be a purposeful agency other than human agency? Because it seems the inevitable entailment of such a claim. Likewise, the requirement that Dawkins has to deny the intentionality of design in nature stems from his atheist philosophy.Wayfarer

    Again, my best current appraisals:

    I honestly felt no need to read much of Dawkins beyond a thorough reading of The Selfish Gene, in which it is clear to me that he values the immortality of existent being as an end-state above all else, for he equates that which is most immortal existentially (in his interpretation, this being genes) with that which is most quintessential to existence … hence, in at least a metaphorical sense, the very selfishness of existents by which this immortality is deemed obtainable (obviously, in his writing, this by genes alone; which, in his perspectives, serve to determine all aspects of life).

    He notoriously concluded this same thesis by affirming that, “We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”

    Also stipulating things such as: "We can even discuss ways of cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism, something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world." … Wherein one can quite clearly find an implicit affirmation of an ontological dualism between “nature” and “us”, this even though “us” is deemed fully determined by the underlying “nature”.

    And all this, on a logical and hence rational level, is utter rubbish. Our innate nature in totality is X as determined in full by our set of “selfish/immortal” genes, but we must then “rebel” against this very innate nature which materialistically determines all that we do and hold the possibility to do so as to be or else become ethical. How so? Rationally speaking. What one ought do or become cannot be logically obtained in any way whatsoever if it is not in any way allowed as a logically possibility in the very metaphysical principles one endorses.

    So far, upon first reading, it seems to me that the issue of intentionality (here only addressing intentioning) you bring up regarding Dawkins' views directly parallels this same type of erroneous reasoning that he makes in the Selfish Gene, resulting in what to me is an absurd worldview.

    -------

    I'd also like to point out that there can often occur much equivocation between “design”, “intention”, and “purpose”, this among so called experts (such as Dawkins) and layperson alike. May I be corrected on any of this if need be:

    Design, in one way or another, always pivots around the notions of “de-” (in the sense of “from” or “of”) and “sign”. As one example, a designed table will de-sign-ate the intention(s) of that which designed it – at least to those others capable of understanding these intentions. And, so, designs are always intentional. (Hence, a non-intentional design so far to me makes no sense.)

    Intention, on the other hand, will always imply a straining, augmentation, and/or effort of some given X to actualize an as of yet unactualized future intent/end—hence, X’s effort to make real something that is not yet real as the end pursued in the given intentioning.

    Lastly, purpose is of itself merely the end toward which something moves in an Aristotelian notion of “movement”. As one Aristotelian example, the seed’s end is that of fully developing into a mature adult.

    Hence, while all designs will be intentional and all intentions will be purposeful, this in no way entails that purpose must consist of intentions or, else, that intentions must result in designs. E.g., the purpose of a heart is to pump blood, but this in no way then implies that nature intentionally brought about the occurrence of a heart—and, hence, one cannot then validly affirm that “nature (necessarily, intentionally) designed a heart” for the purpose of pumping blood. Moreover, say that one’s intension (hence motive; hence reason) in moving leftward at a crossroad was to most effortlessly arrive at the market one wants to make purchases at—but this in no way implies that one thereby necessarily designed anything in so intending to move leftward.

    So, that all design necessarily stems from some intentioning psyche (that thereby holds some intent in mind and, hence, some purpose/end/intent in so designing) will in no way then entail that all possible forms of purpose are necessarily designed (this by an intentioning X, where X is almost always understood to be a mind-endowed-agency).

    Therefore, at least when logically appraised, nature can well be globally purposeful without this purpose having been in any way designed by anyone or anything.

    --------

    I’d also be grateful for clarity as to what precisely differentiates modern metaphysical naturalism (as compared to, say, natural-ism as intepreted by ancient Stoics via their notion of Logos, to which even the polytheistic gods, were they to occur, are necessarily bound—this, for example, as expressed by Cicero in his The Nature of the Gods, which I deem far more accurate than any modern day rendition of what Stoicism used to be and uphold) with modern metaphysical materialism.

    More to the point, from what I so far gather, modern metaphysical naturalism rejects the very notion of ontologically occurring purpose—this just as materialism/physicalism does. E.g.:

    Further, this sense of naturalism holds that spirits, deities, and ghosts are not real and that there is no "purpose" in nature.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naturalism_(philosophy)

    (But to be forthright, I so far find that “naturalism is to nature” as “objectivism is to objectivity”. Meaning that, so far to me, it is as wrongheaded to assume that nature ought to be defined by the tenets of (modern metaphysical) naturalism as it is to assume that objectivity is in any way adequately defined by the tenets of (the obviously modern notions of) objectivism.)
  • javra
    2.5k
    Aristotle has it that the Prime Mover must be an intellectual nature. Where Neoplatonism saw its most expansive development was in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition, and there the One was always a person (or three persons of one substance).Count Timothy von Icarus

    As an apropos to this:

    Although maybe not with as much detail as you might be, I’m of course aware of the historical evolution of concepts in relation to Plotinus’ the One and the Abrahamic (in many a way, biblical) notion of God—whereby the two otherwise quite disparate concepts were converged, tmk not by the Neoplatonists but by Abrahamic philosophers.

    Tying this in with parts of my previous post, while I’ve so far upheld the possibility of global purpose sans a global creator of such purpose, I’ll now do my best to make the far more stringent argument that the ancient Neoplatonic notion of the One is logically incompatible with the Abrahamic notion of God as an omni-this-and-that “I-ness”, hence “ego”, hence “psyche”, hence (given the incorporeality and absolute supremacy of the aforementioned attribute(s)) “deity”.

    For the sake of brevity, I’ll here simply address all these differently termed attributes mandatory to an (I should add, non-mystical) understanding of the Abrahamic God as “the supreme deity” or “SD” for short.

    This will be contrasted with the bona fide Neoplatoic notion of the Good which was also termed the One in Neoplatonism, which I’ll here address as “TD” for short.

    (Not that I hold the acronyms "SD" and "TD" in high regard, but maybe their use will dispel some of the connotative baggage that might, for some at large, cloud the intended logic with emotive overtones.)

    All this will assume reasoning via logic, and thereby dispel any notion of SD being this way and that way in manners that are beyond, and hence unconstrained, by basic laws of thought. In other words, the affirmation that SD is beyond all human comprehension but is nevertheless the way that such and such interprets (obviously, human written) biblical scripture, even when these interpretations of the bible are blatantly contradictory logically (e.g., that SD is literally omnipotent but was however not in control of the not-yet-slithering serpent’s doings in the garden of Eden; else, that SD is omnipresent but was nevertheless limited to bipedal form separated from the earth upon which he walked when walking through the garden of Eden; etc.) will here be fully eschewed in favor of upholding a stringent logical consistency.

    1) Either SD behaves (does things) in a) fully purposeless manners or else in b) at least partly purposeful manners. (There can be no “in-between” state of affairs relative to these two options.)

    2) If (1.a.), then SD is in no way governed by any telos which SD pursues in anything that SD does. Because here there is never any intent (this being one possible form of a telos) actively held onto and pursued, this further entails that SD never does anything intentionally. Because SD then does not engage in any intentional behaviors whatsoever, SD cannot then design anything whatsoever. Here, then, SD cannot impart any type of purpose to anything.

    3) If (1.b.), then SD is governed by at least one telos which SD deems worthy of fulfilling (i.e., deems beneficial and thereby good). Because it is a telos (which SD understands as good), this strived for end cannot be yet actualized by SD while SD holds it as intent and thereby purposefully behaves. Moreover, and more importantly, this intent via which SD behaves purposefully cannot have logically been created by SD for, in so purposefully creating, SD will necessarily have yet been striving toward some telos (a yet unactualized future state of being) which SD deemed to be good. A purposeful SD will hence, logically, at all times be moving toward that which is (deemed to be) good without yet having actualized it as SD’s intent/end—a moved toward intent/end which is logically requite for SD to create anything purposively (very much the creation of so termed “everything”) and, hence, which cannot be the (purposeful) creation of SD. Hence, in (1.b.) one then logically obtains the following necessary consequence: SD is forever subject to (and constrained by, hence limited by, hence determined by) an intent which SD deems good which SD nevertheless in no way created.

    Here assuming (1.b.) for SD, contrast this to TD as defined by genuine Neoplatonism:

    TD is that end which, directly or indirectly, ultimately determines all things (including all psyches, with this terminology yet grounded in process theory understandings of “things” and “psyches”, and, as reminder, with all deities being by definition incorporeal psyches, very much including SD) without being in itself in any way limited, hence without being in any way determined by something other—such as, for example, some telos which it itself approaches.

    This, in and of itself, I so far take to logically demonstrate the incongruity of the two notions: that of the Neoplatonic TD and the Abrahamic SD.

    -----

    Somewhat related to this, TD is take to of itself be the metaphysical pinnacle of intellect—this only in so far as intellect is addressed in the sense of “understanding”, but is in no way an intellect in the sense of that which understands, or else holds any capacity to understand, other. The latter notion of intellect can only pertain to an I-ness/ego/psyche, something that can only occur in a duality to otherness—and something which by entailment applies to SD in variant (1.b.), for, here, SD holds of an understanding of the intent which SD deems good which SD seeks to eventually actualize, and end whish is thereby logically other relative to the creating/designing SD. Whereas TD as the absolute pinnacle of understanding is utterly devoid of any and all otherness—i.e., is completely and perfectly non-dualistic—and so cannot logically be a psyche/ego/I-ness.

    ----

    All this was written in relative haste. But I wanted to post this now, just in case it might be replied to. In short, as far as I so far find, the distinction between the Good and the (non-mystical) Monotheistic God (for mystical notions often enough do not assume God to be a psyche, i.e. personhood) is amply clear—and this in manners that make the two notions logically inconsistent with each other. Unless, maybe, one would like to assume some form of a Demiurge as SD which is itself yet bound by TD, i.e. to the (uncreated) Good.

    If logical inconsistencies in what I’ve just written are found, I’d be grateful for being shown where these logical fallacies might occur.

    p.s., as to the issue of natural ends of naturalism, I’m again unclear on what “nature” and “natural” are here expected to signify outside of s straightforward materialism/physicalism—which I, as always, disagree with.
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    Aristotle has it that the Prime Mover must be an intellectual nature.Count Timothy von Icarus

    As an aside, ‘intellectual’ is a very poor translation for what I take to be the intended meaning. ‘Intellectuals’ are stuffy fellows - they’re nearly always fellows - discussing arcane conceptions. It conveys none of the dynamism (a philosophical term that has its origin in Aristotle) that the word is really meant to convey. It’s more like the ‘pleroma’, a endless and timeless fount and source, the source of intelligibility which gives rise to everything and which reason is able to grasp (hence the ‘divinity of the intellect’ in Aristotelian philosophy.)

    More to the point, from what I so far gather, modern metaphysical naturalism rejects the very notion of ontologically occurring purpose—this just as materialism/physicalism does.javra

    Because it seeks explanations in terms of physics, in which the notion of reason in the sense of ‘the reason for’ is excluded. Even the physicalist’s sense of ‘spirit’ is like that - it seeks to understand it as some kind of ethereal thing, rather than as being, which is what we are, not an object of analysis. ‘Too near for us to grasp’.
  • javra
    2.5k
    Because it seeks explanations in terms of physics, in which the notion of reason in the sense of ‘the reason for’ is excluded.Wayfarer

    Very much so. And it likewise also fails to account for the basic principles/laws of thought upon which all formal systems of logic and the supposed coherency of modern day naturalism (here being a full synonym for physicalism(s)) are necessarily founded - this as though these very principles/laws of thought ubiquitous to all sentience (consciously so or otherwise) were to themselves be in some way utterly unnatural (but instead strictly artificial, as in being a human artifice) due to not being themselves accountable for in terms of modern day physics.

    And this un-naturalism of basic principles/laws of thought will equally apply to traditional materialism and to all modern-day variants (e.g. those making due with information theory, thermodynamics, and the like).

    This logically derived un-naturalism of laws of thought can in turn be found to undermine the very reasoning by which this derivation is obtained as being a factual state of affairs - at the very least in so far as this very derivation (necessarily, via laws of thought) makes all reasoning perfectly, or else radically, relativistic.

    And it likewise stands in stark contrast with interpretations of natural-ism such as those I've previously alluded to here:

    [...] natural-ism as intepreted by ancient Stoics via their notion of Logos, to which even the polytheistic gods, were they to occur, are necessarily bound—this, for example, as expressed by Cicero in his The Nature of the Gods, which I deem far more accurate than any modern day rendition of what Stoicism used to be and uphold [...]javra

    For, in this just quoted example, the laws of thought are part and parcel of the very Logos from which the world is both built and construed - and, hence, are an integral part of what is deemed "natural" (aka, in-born, hence innate, and this relative to the cosmos itself) in the fullest sense of the term. (But, as noted, this latter ancient Stoic notion of natural-ism fully accommodates the possible reality of, for example, polytheistic deities as being aspects of Nature at large, to not here get into the notion of "spirit", as in its place relative to the anima mundi (aka, the "world soul").)
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Although maybe not with as much detail as you might be, I’m of course aware of the historical evolution of concepts in relation to Plotinus’ the One and the Abrahamic (in many a way, biblical) notion of God—whereby the two otherwise quite disparate concepts were converged, tmk not by the Neoplatonists but by Abrahamic philosophers.

    There more back and forth than is commonly realized. Jewish and Christian Platonism was already well established in Alexandria generations before Plotinus (e.g. Philo). The great early Christian scholar Origen was an older contemporary of Plotinus and it's not implausible that they were in the same circles since there were only so many educated people, even in a larger city like Alexandria.

    A lot of Plotinus also seems quite similar to Gnostic Christian theology that was popular in Alexandria both prior to and during his lifetime. Unfortunately, we don't have much exact history to go on here so it's unclear if these ideas were just "in the air," or if Plotinus specifically borrowed them and then attempted to reify them and remove the specific Christian and Jewish context. Certainly though, the different strains of Platonism being discussed in the city had to influence each other over the years. In many ways the triumph of orthodox Christianity was also a triumph of a certain brand of neoplatonism over competing gnostic and "pagan" forms.

    If (1.b.), then SD is governed by at least one telos which SD deems worthy of fulfilling (i.e., deems beneficial and thereby good). Because it is a telos (which SD understands as good), this strived for end cannot be yet actualized by SD while SD holds it as intent and thereby purposefully behaves. Moreover, and more importantly, this intent via which SD behaves purposefully cannot have logically been created by SD for, in so purposefully creating, SD will necessarily have yet been striving toward some telos (a yet unactualized future state of being) which SD deemed to be good. A purposeful SD will hence, logically, at all times be moving toward that which is (deemed to be) good without yet having actualized it as SD’s intent/end—a moved toward intent/end which is logically requite for SD to create anything purposively (very much the creation of so termed “everything”) and, hence, which cannot be the (purposeful) creation of SD. Hence, in (1.b.) one then logically obtains the following necessary consequence: SD is forever subject to (and constrained by, hence limited by, hence determined by) an intent which SD deems good which SD nevertheless in no way created.

    Unfortunately, I think this is really misunderstanding the Christian tradition. It's premised on violations of God's eternal nature, divine simplicity, the Doctrine of Transcendentals, and really the Analogia Entis as well.

    God can't be striving towards things "before and after." God is absolutely simple, not stretched out time. The whole of God is always present to God's self (divine simplicity implies eternal existence, "without begining or end," not simply "everlasting.")

    Goodness is a transcendental property of being along with Truth, Beauty, and Unity. But God is being itself— Deus est ens—and in God (and only in God) is existence part of essence—Ipsum Esse Subsistens. God is goodness itself.

    You're proposing a sort of voluntarism that I think will only make sense in a sort of post-Reformation frame where the Neoplatonic assumptions of the Patristics are intentionally stripped out, the univocity of being is asserted, etc. I think they would be more than happy to agree with you that their God is not "the God of the philosophers," but this itself is a radical break from the Patristics tradition.

    Moreover, they would would deny the existence of TD since the Good is defined purely in terms of God's unfathomable will. But such conceptions are decidedly modern.
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