• tom
    1.5k
    the conceptual difference between the mind and the brain is just too big for humans to usefully span.Pattern-chaser

    So, you think pretending an arbitrary epistemological barrier exists, constitutes what? An analogy or an argument?

    Let's try another analogy, to illustrate the point. I could accurately refer to your car as a collection of quarks.Pattern-chaser

    No you can't.

    If you think you can, then be my guest.
  • Pattern-chaser
    52
    No you can't.tom

    I regret that the conceptual gap between your understanding and mine is too large to bridge.

    Shame.

    Oh well.
  • tom
    1.5k
    I regret that the conceptual gap between your understanding and mine is too large to bridge.Pattern-chaser

    You had the opportunity to be true to your word, but you declined. In reality what else could you do?

    Anyway, keep erecting fantasy epistemological barriers based on nothing but ignorance and prejudice, if that is all you have.
  • Janus
    5.2k

    So, the vague, or the virtual, or whatever you want to call it, can be thought only in terms of everything the determinate is not, it would seem. It's a kind of 'apophasis all the way down'.

    Not even to Geist? Is my memory that bad?apokrisis

    Geist is such a versatile, polyvalent idea; it could be adapted to almost any metaphysic; will, will to power, elan vital, natura naturans, God, apeiron...Or it could be taken just to represent the collective spirit of humankind; the totality of zeitgeists, so to speak.

    I have toyed with entertaining the more religious notions of geist, but I am never able to convince myself one way or the other. it seems as though, beyond the shear religious or mystical affect, and the paradoxical, poetic language that may evoke it, there is nothing but dogma. I've never been much good at having faith in dogma.
  • apokrisis
    3.8k
    So, the vague, or the virtual, or whatever you want to call it, can be thought only in terms of everything the determinate is not, it would seem.Janus

    That would seem to be what I said. Internalism would take advantage of the resource that is apophatic reasoning.

    Geist is such a versatile, polyvalent idea;Janus

    So vague then? It absorbs all contradictions like a thirsty sponge.

    it could be adapted to almost any metaphysic; will, will to power, elan vital, natura naturans, God, apeiron...Or it could be taken just to represent the collective spirit of humankind; the totality of zeitgeists, so to speak.Janus

    But Hegel at least would have wanted it to anchor his general metaphysical scheme in some definite fashion. So it has to be granted some kind of particular meaning in that historical context.

    Like it or not, we can't use the term as if it is actually completely vague and without concrete referential intent. It has to be opposed to some "other" when you employ it, not conveniently change its meaning whenever it encounters an objection on how you seem to be using it.

    You are treating Geist like a Joker or blank card - something you can lay it down on the table and claim it completes the winning hand, without needing to reveal which proper card it is meant to represent in the game this time around.

    Is there anything at all of philosophical merit at the back of all this?

    I think what you want to point to is a generalised and diffuse sense of meaningfulness and intentionality - that oceanic feeling which can come over us at the top of the mountain when all feels right about the world spread out below us. Reality as a whole has a ... spirit. Our self, with its purposes, feels less bounded, less demarcated, and becomes one with ... everything.

    But to bring this back to psychological reality, I would point out the "other" that is involved. This kind of emotional reaction - this sense of fit, of rightness, of salience, of intentional direction - is a natural cognitive dichotomy. We can feel it both generally - the flow experience - and also particularly, as the aha! experience. When we realise that 2+2 must equal 4, or we find the last bit that must complete the jigsaw, we have that sharp sense of psychic conviction. We have an intense jolt of belief.

    We know that this sense of focused rightness - an emotional response to the salient - is basic to neurocognition as we can see what happens when it goes wrong. When it goes wrong, we get the many cases studies along the lines of Oliver Sacks' man who mistook his wife for a hat. Or just the blind certainty that we left the keys on the shelf as usual, so they must have been stolen, when in fact we left them in the front door.

    So a logical philosophising frame of mind still relies on a well functioning deep sense of conviction that knows when an argument is actually true ... because it feels true at the level of blind conviction.

    And because we can laugh at that view of knowable truth, so we must also laugh at its "other" in the form of Geist - if Geist cashes out as some generalised conviction about a world being experienced in terms of an all-pervading salience, a holistic guiding spirit, lacking any particular structure or definable feature.

    Feeling things is not enough. We have to construct the intellectual frameworks that minimise the degree of helpless blind conviction that is involved. That is what a scientific or logico-mathematical level of semiosis is all about.

    That is why I hold Peirce above all others involved in this little game. He did not deny feeling. He wrapped it around with a strong enough structure to test it as well as it could be tested. He set things out as the dichotomy of the particular and the general (secondness and thirdness) - acting in concert to separate the vague (or firstness) into a state of hierarchically poised order. Habits of interpretance.

    So that is why I say if you want to talk about Geist - even if you mean to refer to the primacy of the purely vague - you have to get back to that having secured your general and particular notions of Geist. You do need a theory of Geist, coupled to a measurement of Geist, that then says something about Geist - even if apophatically as the ground from which Geist is understood in terms of that which it is not. That "other" now being the crisp conceptual framework which is particular Geist and general Geist as the limits of how Geist could be conceived.

    A tricky business as usual. But that is internalism and its apophatic manoeuvre by which it catches a glimpse of its own self-origination.
  • Wayfarer
    6k
    I think what you want to point to is a generalised and diffuse sense of meaningfulness and intentionality - that oceanic feeling which can come over us at the top of the mountain when all feels right about the world spread out below us. Reality as a whole has a ... spirit. Our self, with its purposes, feels less bounded, less demarcated, and becomes one with ... everything.apokrisis

    I think at issue is indeed the notion of 'intentionality'. I mean, it is an accepted dogma that evolution itself is not 'intentional' - to say that it is, is to fall into the error of 'orthogenesis':

    Orthogenesis, also known as orthogenetic evolution, progressive evolution, evolutionary progress, or progressionism, is the biological hypothesis that organisms have an innate tendency to evolve in a definite direction towards some goal (teleology) due to some internal mechanism or "driving force".[2][3][4] According to the theory, the largest-scale trends in evolution have an absolute goal such as increasing biological complexity. Prominent historical figures who have championed some form of evolutionary progress include Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Henri Bergson.

    (Which is taboo according to the current orthodoxy; Lamarck, De Chardin and Bergson are all bywords for discarded theories about life I would think.)

    But Hegel himself was arguably of a similar ilk, insofar as he said that the world was 'geist manifesting itself' (the main argument of the Phenomenology of Spirit) through the dialectical processes of history (which Marx then appropriated, or purloined, and then incorporated into historical materialism).

    But this is another sense in which the argument for the anthropic principle comes into play: that if indeed the Universe is such that it give rise to matter and then living beings, then we're no longer simply detached observers who have come along as part of some random process, watching the Universe wend its way towards the heat death, but are ourselves a vital aspect of it:

    As a result of a thousand million years of evolution, the universe is becoming conscious of itself, able to understand something of its past history and its possible future. This cosmic self-awareness is being realized in one tiny fragment of the universe — in a few of us human beings. Perhaps it has been realized elsewhere too, through the evolution of conscious living creatures on the planets of other stars. But on this our planet, it has never happened before. — Julian Huxley

    A physicist is just an atom's way of looking at itself — Neils Bohr

    Each of our lives is a part of the lengthy process of the universe gradually waking up and becoming aware of itself. — Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos

    I think most scientists consider themselves in the business of making testable theories.Pseudonym

    The discussion is more about the contention that 'everything knowable is knowable by means of science' - which is not itself a testable theory.

    So what is it about suggesting that a thing simply exists without (for now) a determinable cause, that you think precludes it from the set of 'hypotheses' or 'metaphysical principles'. why are you placing constraints on what is allowed as a metaphysical proposition?Pseudonym

    The fact that metaphysical or at least philosophical conclusions are so often drawn from the purported non-intentionality of the Cosmos. Whereas, the causal chain that gave rise to matter and living beings, seems intrinsic to the whole process of cosmic evolution, rather than Russell's principle of 'accidental collocation'.
  • apokrisis
    3.8k
    I mean, it is an accepted dogma that evolution itself is not 'intentional'Wayfarer

    All I can do is shrug and think of all the theoretical biologists who don't accept this dogma.

    They might not accept your theistic dogma either - the claim that evolution might be driven by a divine or transcendent purpose.

    But that is also OK by me.
  • Wayfarer
    6k
    All I can do is shrug and think of all the theoretical biologists who don't accept this dogma.apokrisis

    Which included Alfred Russel Wallace.

    incidentally the remainder of the review of Nagel's book, in a Buddhist journal that I copied that quote from, from has this to say:

    Nagel’s surrounding argument is something of a sketch, but is entirely compatible with a Buddhist vision of reality as naturalism, including the possibility of insight into reality (under the topic of reason or cognition) and the possibility of apprehension of objective good (under the topic of value). His naturalism does this while fully conceding the explanatory power of physics, Darwinian evolution and neuroscience. Most Buddhists are what one might describe as intuitive non-materialists, but they have no way to integrate their intuition into the predominantly materialistic scientific world view. I see the value of Nagel’s philosophy in Mind and Cosmos as sketching an imaginative vision of reality that integrates the scientific world view into a larger one that includes reason, value and purpose, and simultaneously casts philosophical doubt on the completeness of the predominant materialism of the age.

    Which is pretty well how I see things also.
  • Read Parfit
    13
    “Non-physical things we have discovered so far, are objects that only exist in symbolic form, such as the objects and necessary truths of mathematics.

    As for the mathematical truths not yet discovered, then I am forced to conclude, by my preferred epistemology, that they already exist.”


    My view is that math and logical truths originated (at least on earth) as physical constructs in our ancestors minds because we both possessed the mental capacity, and the generalizing of recurring patterns in nature gave our soft selves survival advantages.

    It is true that the number 1 does not directly describe something else that is physical, but directly describing something physical is not the purpose of generic thinking aids like math and logic truths.

    I don't see how or why these thinking aids would exist without sentient hosts.
  • apokrisis
    3.8k
    Which is pretty well how I see things also.Wayfarer

    We sort of agree except I talk about sign rather than mind.

    What I object to is the lingering dualism of treating consciousness as a substance, an immaterial soul-stuff or transcendent spirit.

    But still, the other side of that traditional dualism - the one that speaks about matter as a material substance with all its own spooky actions and tendencies - has to be dissolved too.

    And that is what I see semiotics doing. It dissolves both mind and matter as species of substantial being. They both become emergent states of semiotic organisation.
  • apokrisis
    3.8k
    It is true that the number 1 does not directly describe something else that is physical, but directly describing something physical is not the purpose of generic thinking aids like math and logic truths.Read Parfit

    But 1 exists as the identity element. It is the name we give an actual universal symmetry. And can nature escape being a story of symmetries and their breaking?

    Between Platonism and constructionism there is the middle path that realises maths is doing its level best to directly describe something that is actual and fundamental about reality.

    Tom's universal computation is clearly not in that class. It is the mechanistic caricature of how the world really is. One of the convenient fictions.

    But when you get down to the maths of symmetry and symmetry breaking, now you are closing your hand around something fundamentally true - true because its truth is simply inescapable as a necessary fact of existence in any sense.

    That doesn't mean we have the whole story of mathematical symmetry either finished or correct. But there is a reason why we are not merely inventing happy fictions to pretend we exist in a reality of intelligible structure.

    Some maths is just a game of patterns. But the core maths is a science of patterns.
  • Wayfarer
    6k
    We sort of agree except I talk about sign rather than mind.

    What I object to is the lingering dualism of treating consciousness as a substance, an immaterial soul-stuff or transcendent spirit.
    apokrisis

    There's many points we do agree on. I don't agree with that form of dualism either, but it is very much part of the background of the debate. But anyway, it's good that we do have some common ground.

    there is a reason why we are not merely inventing happy fictions to pretend we exist in a reality of intelligible structure.apokrisis

    :up:



    I have to tear myself away for a couple of days again for work. I am highly distractable. :groan:
  • Read Parfit
    13
    “But 1 exists as the identity element. It is the name we give an actual universal symmetry. And can nature escape being a story of symmetries and their breaking?”


    Right, math and logic rules have been shown to be compatible with how nature work, which separates these concepts from other creations of the human mind (like Pegasus).

    Forces of nature do not rely on our stories of symmetries and their breaking. We create these stories in through thinking in an attempt to make sense of these forces.
  • apokrisis
    3.8k
    We create these stories in through thinking in an attempt to make sense of these forces.Read Parfit

    But the forces are also a "just a story". So what makes sense of what here?

    Sure, that means we are in an epistemic bind. We only ever "talk about" reality. But what I'm picking you up on is the idea that one part of this talk is pure constructionism, the other might be talk about something concretely actual.

    You are going with the usual reductionist division of epistemology that says our perception of abstracts or universals are just ideas, free inventions of the human mind, while our knowledge of the concrete particulars is something else - proper physical fact. And that framing is what I would question.

    So yes, generally epistemology is a social construction of reality. That applies to the universal and the particular, the abstract and the concrete. It is all modelling.

    But then modelling - if tied to the world in proper fashion - says the abstract and the concrete have a persisting reality. They are the forms and the actions that keep emerging as we hold our gaze. Symmetry is somehow just as real as the force which is the result of its breaking.

    So the story is trickier. Platonism isn't just flat wrong. Symmetries are elements of reality, part of the ontic furniture of existence. Everything is a model. But also, we are seeing something true when it comes to the kind of abstract objects that force themselves upon physicalist theory.
  • Pseudonym
    890
    The fact that metaphysical or at least philosophical conclusions are so often drawn from the purported non-intentionality of the Cosmos.Wayfarer

    Still not seeing how this is a problem. Surely it's just one of the available options. Aren't metaphysical conclusions drawn from the purported intentionality of the cosmos too?

    the causal chain that gave rise to matter and living beings, seems intrinsic to the whole process of cosmic evolution, rather than Russell's principle of 'accidental collocation'.Wayfarer

    How does it seem intrinsic, rather than incidental? All we know is that it is there. The constraints on physical processes are such that life eventually evolved. That's all we know. We've no reason to think that this was particularly unlikely, because we don't have any other universes to compare it to. We've no reason to think that it was particularly necessary or intrinsic, because, again, we have no other universes to compare ours to. For all we know there might be a billion other universes exactly the same as ours except without life (proving life is unnecessary but unlikely), or there could be a billion other universes exactly like ours except one which is without life (proving that it is likely but not necessary) or there might be a billion other universes exactly like ours without exception (proving life is both necessary and likely).

    At the moment though, we only have the one to go on, so cannot drawn any conclusions about necessity or likelihood. At the moment, all we can say with any certainty is that it just is.
  • Wayfarer
    6k
    Aren't metaphysical conclusions drawn from the purported intentionality of the cosmos too?Pseudonym

    The broader question is the nature of intention or intentionality, altogether. When the 'accidental' nature of the universe was first mooted, which really didn't occur until modern times, it was felt to be profoundly shocking; prior to that time, such a possibility was not even considered.

    But this particular ideas is well beyond the scope of this thread - for which I will accept responsibility, by the way, as I introduced it! But to go further would really warrant a separate discussion, I think.

    We create these stories in through thinking in an attempt to make sense of these forces.Read Parfit

    However, they're predictive - you can discover genuinely new facts about the actual universe through mathematics that you otherwise would have no way of knowing. The whole history of mathematical physics is testimony to that. So it doesn't work to say that maths are simply 'in the mind' or simply a 'human story' - it's clearly more intertwined with the nature of things. But quite how, or why, is indeed a thorny epistemological problem; after all, Einstein himself, whose theories are an enduring testimony to the predictive power of modern mathematical physics, mused that 'the most incomprehensible thing about the Universe is that it is comprehensible'.
  • Pattern-chaser
    52
    You had the opportunity to be true to your word, but you declined.tom

    I declined nothing. You own a car that isn't made of quarks, it seems. What do I deny? :roll:
  • Read Parfit
    13


    Parfit defends a narrow and wide ontological sense in relation to abstract concepts like math, truths and possibilities. Take the statement:

    “(R) if it had been true that nothing ever existed, there would have been this truth.”

    ... and his conclusion...

    “(S) though there would have been this truth, this truth would have existed only in the wide sense and the non-ontological sense.”

    I am fine with this. I also think when we ‘discover’ these truths, these abstract concepts assume a new, if ephemeral, ontological status in the narrow sense, as physical patterns in our minds. These truths derive their power from accurately modeling how nature works, and help our minds ‘discover’ new possibilities. We sometimes take action to actualize these possibilities and thereby create other ontological entities, like an airplane. I believe this particular ontological transformation of abstract truths requires a conscious host.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    3.9k
    I believe this particular ontological transformation of abstract truths requires a conscious host.Read Parfit

    That is the issue which apokrisis doesn't seem to understand. Apokrisis wants to reduce everything to semiotics, not apprehending the logical conclusion that this requires something (an agent) who is practising semiosis

    What I object to is the lingering dualism of treating consciousness as a substance, an immaterial soul-stuff or transcendent spirit.

    ....

    And that is what I see semiotics doing. It dissolves both mind and matter as species of substantial being. They both become emergent states of semiotic organisation.
    apokrisis

    See, apokrisis places the cart before the horse, claiming that mind, and matter (which is necessary for the existence of the signs which are interpreted by minds), emerge from semiotic organisation, when actually it is very clear that mind and matter are the required elements of semiotic organisation.

    So at least one or the other, mind or matter, must be prior to semiotic organization. In the Neo-Platonist tradition, consequent to Aristotle's cosmological argument, we conclude that mind, being the active agent in this process, is prior, creating the signs, and matter itself which constitutes the existence of physical information, as all matter can be interpreted as containing information.
  • Galuchat
    422
    That is the issue which apokrisis doesn't seem to understand. Apokrisis wants to reduce everything to semiotics, not apprehending the logical conclusion that this requires something (an agent) who is practising semiosis. — Metaphysician Undercover

    Biosemioticians would say that only life (not conscious agency) is required for semiotic relationships to obtain.

    In the case of gene expression, is it the complementarity of message source (sign) and destination (interpreter), or the purpose of a conscious agent, which effects the construction of an organism?

    While I can appreciate the role of semiosis in the empirical domain (as above), is its role with reference to the pure domain limited to the purposes of conscious agents?
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