• Harry Hindu
    1.4k
    Per some discussions going on, some people seem to think that this is a meaningful distinction to be made. What I don't get is the distinction being made. Some people seem to refer to the mind as non-physical, and everything else and physical, but that doesn't get at what the distinction really is as it is just begging the question.

    There are some that say that everything is mental/non-physical (idealists) and others that say everything is physical (Materialists). So these groups seem to agree that there isn't a distinction either, as everything is either one or the other. Is it just dualists that believe in this distinction, and if so, then that makes them non-idealists and non-materialists, no?
  • JupiterJess
    122
    I think Physicalists generally believe everything is matter and motion or describable ultimately by the standard model/ particle physics. They are not necessarily epistemic reductionists as in psychological events always reduce to biological vocab (pain = c-fiber firing), but they (including system-scientists) generally agree that there is ontological reduction. Sean Carroll's blog is probably the best example of this,

    Idealists argue that everything is ultimately composed of ideas. This is a vastly different ontological commitment. For example, ideas might act on each other from the top down. The stuff you find in Hegel is very different from the stuff you will find in Dennett/Dawkins/Krauss.
  • ff0
    120

    To me the problem is in what we ask of distinctions like physical and non-physical. We have vague but functional idea of the meaning of this distinction. But the tendency is to push it too far, ask too much of it. My heartbreak is 'non-physical,' at least compared to the kitchen cabinet door that I don't want to hit my head on. Whatever the hell 'meaning' is is non-physical compared to the ink on the page of the book. But it's not clear what the various -isms are really up to when they feature this or that concept or pair of concepts as a sort of safely static entity on which to build some dry picture of reality.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    There are some that say that everything is mental/non-physical (idealists) and others that say everything is physical (Materialists). So these groups seem to agree that there isn't a distinction either, as everything is either one or the other.Harry Hindu

    This is very confused. Physicalists believe that all that exists is the fundamental entities disclosed by physics, whatever they turn out to be - it used to be ‘atoms’ but atoms themselves are now rather spooky kinds of things.

    But ‘idealists’ may not be saying that the mind is a kind of fundamental substance in the sense that materialists use the world. Their argument might not be about what the world is ‘made of’ at all, but be based on the argument that everything we know, we know by way of the mind - including material or physical objects.

    But in any case, the two broad types of philosophers don’t agree at all, in fact they generally define themselves in opposition to their opponents.
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    There are several ways to think about the distinction.

    I think Locke's primary/secondary qualities captures it nicely.

    One can also think of it in terms of the difficulty in reducing qualia, intentionality and indexicality to physical terms, while at the same time finding the idealist explanation for space, time, particles, etc to be unbelievable.

    Or one can just say that the physical is mathemitizeable, while the mental is not. Meillassoux's version of speculative realism might fall into this, although he talks in terms of transcending Kant's correlationism to get at the mathematical reality.

    On a more meta level, there is Nagel's subjective/objective split, with science being the view from nowhere, which is objective, and subjectivity being a view from somewhere.
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    Physicalists believe that all that exists is the fundamental entities disclosed by physics, whatever they turn out to be - it used to be ‘atoms’ but atoms themselves are now rather spooky kinds of things.Wayfarer

    That's not an entirely fair description. It's too reductionist, and commits physicalists to mereological nihilism. Chalmers defines physicalism as the fundamental entities plus whatever logically supervenes on those.

    He just doesn't think that mind (qualia at least) logically supervenes, therefore he's a dualist.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.4k
    I think Physicalists generally believe everything is matter and motion or describable ultimately by the standard model/ particle physics. They are not necessarily epistemic reductionists as in psychological events always reduce to biological vocab (pain = c-fiber firing), but they (including system-scientists) generally agree that there is ontological reduction. Sean Carroll's blog is probably the best example of this,

    Idealists argue that everything is ultimately composed of ideas. This is a vastly different ontological commitment. For example, ideas might act on each other from the top down. The stuff you find in Hegel is very different from the stuff you will find in Dennett/Dawkins/Krauss.
    JupiterJess
    I think this is kind of what I'm trying to get at - this ontological reduction to one "substance". What do we mean by the word, "substance"? It seems to me that we should define that word, to then go on an understand what it is the two camps are trying to make a distinction of, if any.

    Are ideas physical or non-physical, and why? Do ideas have "substance"?

    What does it mean for ideas to act on each other from the "top down"? Does it mean that there are large ideas, like a galaxy, that can act on it's constituent ideas, like stars, gases, and planets? To "act on each other" implies causation where there doesn't seem to be a top (cause?) down (effects?), rather a present (cause) and future (effect), or a past (cause) and present (effect). What kind of ideas are these ones at the "top", and where and when are they in relation to those that are "down"?
  • Harry Hindu
    1.4k
    To me the problem is in what we ask of distinctions like physical and non-physical. We have vague but functional idea of the meaning of this distinction. But the tendency is to push it too far, ask too much of it. My heartbreak is 'non-physical,' at least compared to the kitchen cabinet door that I don't want to hit my head on. Whatever the hell 'meaning' is is non-physical compared to the ink on the page of the book. But it's not clear what the various -isms are really up to when they feature this or that concept or pair of concepts as a sort of safely static entity on which to build some dry picture of reality.ff0
    Isn't a "heartbreak" physical? Why do we call it a "heartbreak" if not for the feeling in the chest we get when we contemplate a negative event? Is a "heartbreak" a feeling that you get as a result of some state of your body (it occurs after some state of your body and the feeling is a representation of some state of your body), or is the feeling and the state of your body the same thing that occurs in the same space and at the same moment?

    Isn't (most of) the meaning of the words on this forum the writer's ideas and intent to convey them? Isn't that causation?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Why do we call it a "heartbreak" if not for the feelingHarry Hindu

    Yes, it is a feeling. There are no instruments that can measure feelings or the nature of any experience for that matter. Feelings are an internal experiences which often confound the experiencers themselves.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.4k
    This is very confused. Physicalists believe that all that exists is the fundamental entities disclosed by physics, whatever they turn out to be - it used to be ‘atoms’ but atoms themselves are now rather spooky kinds of things.Wayfarer
    I don't think so, as most (if not all) physicalists are realists, so there things that physics hasn't currently disclosed, that are real, and "physical", just not explained by any scientific theory at the moment. And physicists know that their current theories could be wrong, but would that make their new theories about "non-physical" things, or "physical" things? If not, then what is it about "non-physical" stuff that scientists will never be able to explain? Why can scientists explain "physical" stuff, but not a certain stuff (the "non-physical") if they both interact with each other? Why can we measure the effects of "physical" on "physical" events, but not measure the "non-physical" by it's effect on the "physical", and vice versa?

    But ‘idealists’ may not be saying that the mind is a kind of fundamental substance in the sense that materialists use the world. Their argument might not be about what the world is ‘made of’ at all, but be based on the argument that everything we know, we know by way of the mind - including material or physical objects.Wayfarer
    I don't get that last part. Are you saying that idealist believe that the world, and what we know are the same thing? So, knowledge isn't about anything, but is anything? Isn't that solipsism? If not, what's the difference?

    But in any case, the two broad types of philosophers don’t agree at all, in fact they generally define themselves in opposition to their opponents.Wayfarer
    But why?! That is the point I'm trying to make! They seem to me to be arguing over nothing.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.4k
    There are several ways to think about the distinction.

    I think Locke's primary/secondary qualities captures it nicely.

    One can also think of it in terms of the difficulty in reducing qualia, intentionality and indexicality to physical terms, while at the same time finding the idealist explanation for space, time, particles, etc to be unbelievable.

    Or one can just say that the physical is mathemitizeable, while the mental is not. Meillassoux's version of speculative realism might fall into this, although he talks in terms of transcending Kant's correlationism to get at the mathematical reality.

    On a more meta level, there is Nagel's subjective/objective split, with science being the view from nowhere, which is objective, and subjectivity being a view from somewhere.
    Marchesk
    Do they mean that the non-physical is forever and always unmeasureable? Are there things that are physical that haven't been measured?

    I don't know what a view from nowhere is other than no view at all. It makes more sense to say that an objective view is a view from everywhere, not nowhere.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.4k
    Yes, it is a feeling. There are no instruments that can measure feelings or the nature of any experience for that matter. Feelings are an internal experiences which often confound the experiencers themselves.Rich
    I asked several questions in that post that can't be answered by simply repeating what it is I'm questioning.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.5k
    Why can we measure the effects of "physical" on "physical" events, but not measure the "non-physical" by it's effect on the "physical", and vice versa?Harry Hindu

    We cannot measure a physical thing by measuring its effects on another physical thing. That is, as it says, measuring the thing's effect, not measuring the thing itself. From that effect we can make some inferences about the physical thing which is causing the effect. Likewise, we cannot measure a non-physical thing by measuring its effect on a physical thing. But we can draw some inferences about the non-physical thing by measuring its effect on the physical thing
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    I don't know what a view from nowhere is other than no view at all. It makes more sense to say that an objective view is a view from everywhere, not nowhere.Harry Hindu

    It's considered "nowhere" because it has been stripped of all subjective qualities. The world portrayed by science doesn't look, sound, taste, smell or feel like anything. And It's not from a particular vantage point.
  • Joshs
    199


    There is an entirely other category of philosophy besides physicalists, idealists and dualists. This category is not well known among Americans because anglo-american analytic philosophy is dominant here.
    Here is a summary by Jack Reynolds of the difference between recent continental philosophy and analytic philosophy of the issue of mind vs world:

    "Having suggested that epistemology is central to the way that the problem of other
    minds is traditionally formulated in analytic philosophy and to the background
    concern to integrate (or cohere) with the knowledge claims from the various brain
    sciences, we might note that both of these foci are comparatively absent from
    continental reflections upon inter-subjectivity. Instead, philosophers like Hegel,
    Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre, sought to establish a new outlook on
    the world and our (social) place within it, precisely through overturning the modern
    conception of knowledge and the various paradoxes bound up with it, with the
    problem of other minds being envisaged as an exemplary case. The problem for the
    above philosophers is the focus on epistemology and the particular paradoxical
    understanding of epistemology that we have inherited, which is roughly the
    bifurcating one that Foucault in The Order of Things describes as the “empirico-transcendental
    doublet of modern thought” (xiv) and that Merleau-Ponty calls
    empiricism and intellectualism.

    The worry seems to be that the modern conception of
    knowledge might serve to disguise from the fly a way out of the bottle, and, in a
    related vein, Richard Rorty’s Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature suggests that
    epistemic scepticism about the external world or other minds depends upon the mirror
    of nature conception of the mind, in which the mind is assumed to be ontologically
    distinct from its environment. And based on the foregoing account of other minds
    (which resembles the thing-in-itself), it seems fair to suggest that analytic
    philosophy’s epistemic and justificatory focus concedes something to the sceptical
    problematic. Things are very different in continental philosophy, however, where the
    task is more to explicate our place in the world and there is an abiding attempt to
    establish that the other is of a different ontological order to things. This is evinced in
    the various discussion of intersubjectivity, alterity, the other, being-with (Mitsein),
    etc., that have been central to continental philosophy, occurring in virtually all of the
    canonical texts. The important question about the problem of other minds vis-à-vis
    the ‘divide’ hence becomes the following: is it an epistemological problem that might
    be solved (even if only probabilistically), or is it an ontological one that needs to be
    dissolved and/or shown to be untenable via phenomenological descriptions and
    transcendental arguments?

    An aversion to epistemologically inflected accounts of the existence of the
    other is manifest internally within continental philosophy. Heidegger criticises Kant
    for suggesting that it is a scandal that the problem of other minds has not been solved,
    and he instead insists that that scandal is actually the attempt to solve it (Heidegger,
    Section 43)." Jack Reynolds
  • ff0
    120
    The important question about the problem of other minds vis-à-vis
    the ‘divide’ hence becomes the following: is it an epistemological problem that might
    be solved (even if only probabilistically), or is it an ontological one that needs to be
    dissolved and/or shown to be untenable via phenomenological descriptions and
    transcendental arguments?
    Joshs

    Good point. I vote that it's an ontological one that 'needs to be dissolved.' Or rather it's dissolved as soon as a thinker differently understands his goal as thinker. The 'problem' is pretty artificial to begin. The game is not questioned from a high and wide enough angle. It's as if there was a passionate argument about some basketball game on TV. Engrossed in the contest, we don't think the possibility of changing the channel. The method or theme is taken as a given. But that 'first wrong step' is perhaps precisely where we should be looking. That method is 'how' that hides from us in the 'what' that it conceals as much as it reveals.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    I don't get that last part.Harry Hindu

    Not only ‘the last part’. Honestly, you don't seem to understand the issue - then you ask for clarification about it, then argue against the suggestions that are made, without understanding them. You really need to do some homework on the whole subject.
  • praxis
    881
    But ‘idealists’ may not be saying that the mind is a kind of fundamental substance in the sense that materialists use the world. Their argument might not be about what the world is ‘made of’ at all, but be based on the argument that everything we know, we know by way of the mind - including material or physical objects.Wayfarer

    How is this contrary to a materialist view, that everything we know, we know by way of the mind - including material or physical objects?
  • ff0
    120
    Isn't a "heartbreak" physical? Why do we call it a "heartbreak" if not for the feeling in the chest we get when we contemplate a negative event? Is a "heartbreak" a feeling that you get as a result of some state of your body (it occurs after some state of your body and the feeling is a representation of some state of your body), or is the feeling and the state of your body the same thing that occurs in the same space and at the same moment?Harry Hindu

    I hear you. But do you yourself consider the first-person experience of heartbreak to be physical in the same way that an electron is physical? For me the whole situation is far messier than we might want it to be. I think there's something like a continuum. But even this is a tidying up of the mess of ordinary language. We don't hold these categories fixed. We just learn how to interact with others. We feel ourselves into a language and a way of moving and acting in a shared world. And this separation of language and action already does violence to the situation.

    This isn't to say that we never should do so. I just find it illuminating to go back and look again at non-theoretical life. Joyce tried to catch this steam-of-consciousness in Ulysses. I suggest the situation is loaded with a dim know-how, with foggy half-meanings. Metaphysicians want to play a game of chess, so they are motivated to shut out this dark know-how and these half-meanings. They need fixed, strict categories like chess players need 64 squares and pieces with eternally fixed moves.

    But I don't think experience is like that.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    How is this contrary to a materialist view, that everything we know, we know by way of the mind - including material or physical objects?praxis

    Can you cite any examples of materialists who advocate such a view?
  • Joshs
    199
    I wonder if it's a wrong step or merely a necessary preliminary step. After all, in order to think outside of the box, you have to first define a box, then once you have done that you can recognize it as a whole, and redefine the enterprise as a process of moving from box to box. Isnt that what the history of Western philosophy has been about, starting with the first attempts to define philosophy via stable forms, then to a wax tablet Cartesian model of physical objects imprinting themselves on the mind, to a Kantian epistemology of mind as a constructive activity, via the synthesizing and analytic processing of concepts, and on to the Hegelian transformation of Kant's idea of world as single gestalt into one of the dialectical evolution of cultural gestalts, and the Nietzschean shattering of the Hegelian faith in a totalizing progress, and the showing as incoherent any teleological model of progress. And finally, with Derrida and the other postmoderns, the notion of worldview, gestalt, schema, is deconstructed. Derrida says groupings do not have an identity which survives as itself moment to moment, a persisting conceptual center that would control, define or regulate its particular instantiations. On the contrary, the experiencing of each heterogeneous particular re-invents the sense of a group. A thematics

    is at every moment in the process of undoing itself, expropriating itself, falling to pieces without ever collecting itself together in a signature... its consistency would be the repetition of not-collecting itself, its being the same differently or otherwise...Perhaps you will say that there is a way of not collecting oneself that is consistently recognizable, what used to be called a `style'(PT354).
  • praxis
    881


    I don't believe that I need to support the question with an example, for the simple reason that we require a mind to know anything. Material or physical objects are represented in the mind. These representation are not the objects themselves. This doesn't address the nature of the objects.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    I don't believe that I need to support the question with an example, for the simple reason that we require a mind to know anything.praxis

    I am in complete agreement, but you said that materialists make that argument, whereas I don't believe they do.
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    Material or physical objects are represented in the mind. These representation are not the objects themselves. This doesn't address the nature of the objects.praxis

    This assumes the nature of the objects cannot be known via representations in the mind.

    Here's a question. Why does the mind represent objects the way it does?
  • praxis
    881


    A materialist would argue that a mind isn't required to know things? How does that even begin to make sense?
  • praxis
    881
    Here's a question. Why does the mind represent objects the way it does?Marchesk

    Most basically, so that it can accomplish goals.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    A materialist would argue that a mind isn't required to know things? How does that even begin to make sense?praxis

    Heaven's sake. When I studied undergrad philosophy, the Professor was Armstrong, who is a leading exponent of materialist theory of mind. And he said nothing like

    How is this contrary to a materialist view, that everything we know, we know by way of the mind - including material or physical objects?praxis

    Neither does Daniel Dennett, who is the best-known materialist philosopher around. So what I'm criticizing, is *not* the fact that 'the mind' is required to know anything - which is perfectly true - but what you say that materialists say. They don't say anything like that. The kinds of philosophers that say that, are either idealists in the Berkeleyan mode, or some positivists. But materialists say that what we take to be 'the mind' is really just the activities of neural networks or whatever.
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    Most basically, so that it can accomplish goals.praxis

    The pragmatic answer. Do you think the mind can accomplish goals without somewhat faithfully representing objects?

    When I see a cliff and feel vertigo, is my mind representing accurately the danger to my body? Or is that just an illusion?
  • praxis
    881
    materialists say that what we take to be 'the mind' is really just the activities of neural networks or whatever.Wayfarer

    So to a materialist view, that everything we know, we know by way of the mind (activities of neural networks) - including material or physical objects.

    You're saying this is somehow inconsistent?
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    i’m saying it’s NOT ‘the materialist view’.
  • praxis
    881
    Do you think the mind can accomplish goals without somewhat faithfully representing objects?Marchesk

    It's an odd question because physical objects are represented in accordance with goals. The representations need to be faithful to the goals. Without goals or purposes there's no way to determine how faithfully objects are represented.

    When I see a cliff and feel vertigo, is my mind representing accurately the danger to my body? Or is that just an illusion?Marchesk

    Sounds like you're describing a maladaptive response to stimuli.
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