• Janus
    7.7k
    You do realize that is the very point I have been making, right?
  • Janus
    7.7k
    Please try to hone those reading and/or attention skills then. It will hopefully make conversing with you less frustrating.
  • Wayfarer
    7.7k
    Turns out the atomists were basically correct, at least regarding ordinary matter. So the discussion was meaningful. Even the part about atoms "swerving" randomly has its parallel in quantum indeterminism.Marchesk

    As it happens, I did a term paper on Lucretius, and got an HD for it (from Keith Campbell.)

    But it's often forgotten what problem the atomists set out to solve. This was the relationship of the many and the One. The One (from Parmenides) was the Real; but mutable nature was illusory. But how could this be? Well, the atomist solution was that the indivisible atom - 'atom' means literally 'uncuttable' - preserved the immutability and changelessness of the One while also manifesting as the multitudinous forms that we see around us. It was an ingenious solution, and was revived in the French Enlightenment, due to the influence of materialist philosophers such as Baron D'Holbach ('all I see are bodies in motion'). Combined with Galileo's new mathematical physics and Cartesian geometry, it seemed to promise a universal theory, which the materialists to this day still advocate. However, Heisenberg came out in favour of Plato over Democritus and materialism generally is subject to the basic criticism that the nature of the 'fundamental units of matter' turns out to be highly ambiguous (among many other things).

    Regarding certainty - I could add that the things we do know with certainty are logical and arithmetical truths, e.g. that A=A. The "=" sign in that expression is, if you like, the most completely accurate statement of what "is". When the Greek rationalists began to explore these subjects, they recognised on this basis mathematical, rational, and formal truths to possess a higher degree of certainty than the testimony of senses. Ultimately that gave rise to Aristotelian 'form-matter dualism'. So the 'form' of the thing was related to what made it truly what it was; the ability of the intellect/nous to perceive the form was analogous to the way that the mind grasps mathematical proofs. The material substance, however, was grasped by the senses, and then the two combined by the 'active intellect' so that we know what 'type' a thing is. This is very much at the basis of science itself, with the caveat that hylomorphic dualism is not materialist in orientation. (But then, I am of the view that materialism has hijacked the mainstream of Western philosophy which is not in itself materialist.)
  • Marchesk
    2.7k
    So given all that, what is your response to the Wittgenstein approach that metaphysics is an abuse of language? That the Greeks used nouns for everything and we have a tendency to view concepts as things?
  • Marchesk
    2.7k
    More on really's role in language.

    He seems like he cares. But does he really? Maybe he's just pretending and only cares about himself.

    The stick looks bent in water, but is it really? Maybe the water does bend sticks. Or maybe the light is bent by the water.

    You say that humans couldn't have built the pyramids, but did ancient aliens really build stone structures on Earth? Or are you underestimating human ingenuity?

    Really's role is to question the potential difference between how something appears to be, or is said to be, and how it is.

    The temptation here might be to say there is no "how it is", only how things appear to be. But that raises problems. For one, it means we can't say whether the stick is bent by the water or the light is refracted. For another, we can't explain why there are discrepancies in appearance.

    If there is no "how it is", then there should never have been a question of appearance versus reality.
  • Marchesk
    2.7k
    We cannot say what the wave function "really is" any more than we can say what a tree "really is" above and beyond our experience of, and thoughts about, it.Janus

    But people do guess at what it is. Thus the different interpretations of QM, and someday a clever experiment might provide evidence in favor of one of them.

    Are we really going to say for example that Bohm's pilot wave theory or the Many Worlds Interpretation are meaningless just because nobody has figured out a way to test them?

    I would suggest that at the border of accepted physics were new theories are being churned out before they can be put to the test, you will find metaphysics.
  • Wayfarer
    7.7k
    So given all that, what is your response to the Wittgenstein approach that metaphysics is an abuse of language? That the Greeks used nouns for everything and we have a tendency to view concepts as things?Marchesk

    I was mainly trying to situate the discussion historically - how metaphysics was traditionally understood, and why it fell from favour. Looking at your OP again, I think Paragraph Three asks important questions. That's why I brought up the notion that universals have a role in anchoring meaning, in particular. (I don't know if you've ever come across Kelly Ross' article Meaning and the Problem of Universals but might be worth a look in this regard.)

    On the other hand, I kind of understand Wittgenstein's point about sense and nonsense, about what can't be spoken. But I don't know if he really grasps the sense of Platonist metaphysics either. I find some forms of traditional philosophical metaphysics - mainly the Christian mystics - lucid and meaningful.
  • Janus
    7.7k
    I'm not sure about the "Pilot Wave" theory, but the "many World's Interpretation" would seem to be untestable in principle. And the further point is that even if Quantum theories are testable, they are still theories that are embedded in the context of the world as experienced by humans.

    So, I think what Kant seems to have been the first to make a significant issue of; that everything we know is relative to the empirical context, and that metaphysics cannot ever be anything more than what seems to us to be true a priori, if even that, and that it is thus forever enclosed in the phenomenological arena, is irrefutable.
  • fresco
    281
    Rule 1
    When dealing with 'language' concepts about 'concepts are all we've got !

    And 'existence of life elsewhere' still a functional question relative to human 'expectancies' like the utility of abiogenetic speculation. . That is why large amounts of money are spent in trying to answer it.
    As for 'reality', pragmatists might argue that this is a word which denotes the concept of 'universal consenus as to what is the case', which is to be expected due to the concept of 'our common physiology'. Kant and later phenomenologists point out that 'things-in-themselves' are either inaccessible, or even a useless concept.
    (I acknowledge agreement with the post above which I only read after writing this reply).
  • Janus
    7.7k
    The temptation here might be to say there is no "how it is", only how things appear to be. But that raises problems. For one, it means we can't say whether the stick is bent by the water or the light is refracted. For another, we can't explain why there are discrepancies in appearance.

    If there is no "how it is", then there should never have been a question of appearance versus reality.
    Marchesk

    I don't think this is right. We know the stick that appears bent in water is not "really" bent because when we pull it out of the water it instantly appears straight. We know that its bent appearance is due to light refraction because we observe that phenomenon in other contexts. We know it is not bent by the water because there is no known or conceivable mechanism which could cause this to happen.

    The closest would be bending of furniture timbers by steaming, but that process requires heat and the bent stick does not actually get bent by the steam but softened so that it may then be bent into curves or s-shapes, then clamped until dry, when it will remain in the desired shape.

    So the idea of "how it is" comes from comparing conflicting appearances, and explaining them not by comparing appearances with an actuality that is beyond appearances; which is impossible.
  • fresco
    281
    I suggest there are no conflicting 'appearances' ... only conflicting 'potential contextual expectancies'.
    The depth signs round a swimming pool are warnings in that respect for those swimmers unaware of 'the apparent depth' issue.
    In short, I am saying 'is-ness' is always related to human expectancies.
    (Frogs 'expect food to be moving'. They starve when experimentally surrounded by what humans call 'dead flies'. For frogs there is no food source.)
  • Wayfarer
    7.7k
    Actually, I have found a quote from Dennett, which I think exemplifies the kind of approach you want to take. It is in a discussion of the nature of intentionality, which Dennett notes is an important theme in philosophy. But, he says, 'The relation... between a state of mind...and its intentional object or objects is a peculiar relation in three ways.' He details those, and then says:

    For these reasons the normal logic of relations cannot accommodate the presumed relation between an intentional state and its intentional object or objects, but it has also not proven comfortable for theorists to deny, on these grounds, that there are such things as intentional relations--to hold that mental states, for instance, are only apparently relational. This, then, is the unsolved problem of intentionality.

    Faced with this problem, the Anglo-American tradition, characteristically, has tended to favor a tactical retreat, to a logical analysis of the language we use to talk about intentional states, events and other items. This move, from the direct analysis of the phenomena to the analysis of our ways of talking about the phenomena, has been aptly called "semantic ascent" by Quine, and its immediate advantages are twofold. First, we set aside epistemological and metaphysical distractions such as: "How can we ever know another person's mental state anyway?" and "Are mental states a variety of physical state, or are they somehow immaterial or spiritual?" The things people say about mental states are in any event out in the public world where we can get at them and study them directly. Second, switching to language puts at our disposal a number of sophisticated techniques and theories developed by philosophers, logicians, and linguists. Semantic ascent is not guaranteed to solve any problems, of course, but it may permit them to be reformulated in ways more accessible to ultimate solution.
    — Daniel Dennett

    From here

    The bolded passage seems to encapsulate the kind of approach modern analytical philosophy takes to many topics in philosophy, and certainly metaphysics. (I mean, metaphysics is kind of embarrassing to discuss in the context of analytic philosophy, as it seems to have religious undertones, and is generally opaque to scientific analysis.) But it's just this kind of attitude which gives rise to the 'language on holiday' kind of talk.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.1k
    Is any thing some way independently of any view? The category error seems to consist in thinking that it could be. I think the best that can be said about this would be that a thing is such as to appear such and such a way to such and such a viewer.Janus

    What about an entity with multiple senses like us? You only see one side of the coffe cup but can feel the other. Which sense is informing you how the coffee cup is? Or are you getting information about two different coffee cups - one you feel and the one you see?

    Does your mind exist independently of some external view, or is the Cartesian theatre view what is necessary for your mind to exist?

    If there are no independent things then categorizing the world would be a grave error and there would be no such things as category errors. If there is no independent thing of me, then I am the solipsist and you are not independent of me.

    To say that there are no independent things is to say there are no distinctions, then why is my mind full of distinctions?

    Does the mind make the world more complicated or less complicated? Is the world simpler than we think, or more complex than we could think?
  • Marchesk
    2.7k
    To say that there are no independent things is to say there are no distinctions, then why is my mind full of distinctions?Harry Hindu

    Exactly. A mind-independent world makes sense of the variety of experiences we have, including having a body moving about in a world with many other things, people and animals in it. Also, it accords with science which doesn't put human beings at the center of everything.

    We've only been around for a short while, and we only occupy a small space. The world is much bigger and older than us.
  • Harry Hindu
    2.1k
    Not all shapes and sounds are words, but all words are some shape or some sound. So it seems that shapes and sounds are more fumdamental than words, as words are just particular shapes and sounds weve learned how to categorize and interpret in a particular way.

    So what does it mean to say that I used a particular shape/color or sound in some way that I have learned? How does one use shapes and sounds (sensory impressions)?
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