• simeonz
    92
    A lot of modern thinking comes about because evolutionary biology occupies the place that was once occupied by religion. But whereas Western religion incorporated a sophisticated moral philosophy, derived from the Greeks as well as Biblical lore, evolutionary theory is really only a biological theory. So the attempt to shoehorn an explanation of all human nature into evolutionary theory is biological reductionism which is the default view of the secular-scientific culture. About which see this comment.Wayfarer
    I read the article, but I have to say, I disagree with a lot of it. I will present my critique.

    I have no beef with entomology or evolution, but I refuse to admit that they teach me much about ethics.Richard Polt
    The evolutionary hypothesis does not mean to guide the population in its choice of ethics, It tries to support an explanation of how ethical choices are formed in a large statistical sample. What ethical choices should receive one person's privileged consideration is beyond its scope.

    But since the human race has evolved to be capable of a wide range of both selfish and altruistic behavior, there is no reason to say that altruism is superior to selfishness in any biological sense.Richard Polt
    Considering only the biological level of the individual when interpreting natural selection is artificially limiting. There certainly are sustainable and unsustainable types of collective behaviors and group interactions. In that sense, choices are influenced by both biological and cultural speciation. I use the latter term in the sense that, for the purposes of natural selection, we don't inherit just our genes, we inherit our culture, our social context, even the state of the environment, which interact with the survival of the species in pretty much the same way. That is, selection of the fittest is capable of explaining what drove people to complex social order, cultural conservatism, and in the ethical plane (ontology of divine miracles set aside), religion as well.

    In fact, the very idea of an “ought” is foreign to evolutionary theory. It makes no sense for a biologist to say that some particular animal should be more cooperative, much less to claim that an entire species ought to aim for some degree of altruism.Richard Polt
    Natural selection recognizes that cooperative (but competitive) member contributes to the thriving of its group. Species that act in pure chaos, driven only by self-interest, are not likely to persevere. Of course, evolution doesn't prescribe the range of ethical choices, but recognizes that choices that resolve poorly for the group won't have continuing place in history, as their presence will be eliminated through social ostracization or general extinction.

    I prefer to conclude that ants are anything but human.Richard Polt
    The author frequently relates to some ant analogy, which apparently have been used to illustrate an evolutionary approach to social behaviors. Whoever used ants as an explanatory device, I am sure did not mean to assert that the human species are similar in their social dimension, but only that ants can be used to illustrate the formation of collective behavior or herd instinct from an evolutionary standpoint.

    Whether we’re talking about ants, wolves, or naked mole rats, cooperative animal behavior is not human virtue. Any understanding of human good and evil has to deal with phenomena that biology ignores or tries to explain away — such as decency, self-respect, integrity, honor, loyalty or justice.Richard Polt
    Human beings are at the top of the evolutionary scale for a reason. The formation of social attitudes, of cultural norms, of instructional ideologies and religions produce more coherent group behavior (albeit not in every single instance). We all know that homo sapiens defeated (and ate) the neanderthals, because the latter, being averse or inept to the formation of large social groups, were forced to defend themselves in isolation. (To think of it, I am more of a neanderthal.)

    Siri may find the nearest bar for you, but “she” neither approves nor disapproves of drinking. The word “bar” doesn’t actually mean anything to a computer: it’s a set of electrical impulses that represent nothing except to some human being who may interpret them.Richard Polt
    The author takes for granted that the structure of machines is incapable of sentience. This may or may not be true, but the author elaborates on the particulars of electrical circuitry, as if there is something inherently profane about them, which makes it unworthy of hosting sentient life. However, why electrical construction is fundamentally incompatible with life is not discussed.

    None of these devices can think, because none of them can care; as far as we know there is no program, no matter how complicated, that can make the world matter to a machine.Richard Polt
    I am not aware of any accepted test that determines the presence of those attitudes in a non-human. And if the fact that we cannot test those qualities in machines with certainty is cause to withdraw speculations of machine sentience, then what tests have we used to confirm the universality of human sentience? Shouldn't the author present, in the context of his contrasting comparison, balanced empirical criterion for people and machines, and illustrate its failed application to machine behavior. Or otherwise, what criteria were used here - instinct?

    Show me the computer that can feel the slightest twinge of pain or burst of pleasure; only then will I believe that our machines have started down the long road to thought.Richard Polt
    Again, essentially the same issue. The author is vague what type of demonstration would be sufficient. Admittedly machines today are still rather primitive, but in the hypothetical future when machines start to behave more elaborately, what test would satisfy the author or will he reject machine sentience purely definitionally? (On the other hand, machines may not be capable of sentience. But from my point of view, the author did not attempt to rationally prove this point.)

    Without a brain or DNA, I couldn’t write an essay, drive my daughter to school or go to the movies with my wife. But that doesn’t mean that my genes and brain structure can explain why I choose to do these things — why I affirm them as meaningful and valuable.Richard Polt
    I wouldn't limit the causes of natural selection to genetics and biological structures. The factors are all encompassing - sociology, ecology and even cosmology can ultimately play a role. But even if ethical choices are explained by natural selection, that still does doesn't necessarily compel an individual to alter them. If my affection for my loved ones is explained, I wont erase them from my phonebook, just because my feelings have been reduced to primitives.

    The author finishes by putting his views in historical context and then concludes that modern naturalism is an oversimplification of human life. Science indeed has the tendency to work in a narrow scope. It is abstract by design. But the author has not convinced me that science has chosen the wrong methodology to explain the emergence of ethical considerations, from an empirical standpoint. If the argument was non-empirical, then the essay should have established what logic would be used to validate it.
  • Mww
    1.2k
    Are you hinting that truth implies existence?simeonz

    Mmmmm..........no. Never crossed my mind. If it had, I would’ve had to say that which exists truly does exist, but that which is true does not exist necessarily. So, truth does not imply existence.

    Nahhhh.....I was just wondering if you held some unassailable truth. So as not to extend the concept of existence into the far reaches of dumb, an analytic proposition, which begins merely as something one thinks, would be true when its negation is impossible. The most famous one of all being cogito ergo sum.
    —————————

    Whose existence - the subject or the object - is a requirement for a statement to be true?simeonz

    I think the criteria for truth is the relation between subject and object, not always the existence of one or the other. The statement every effect has a cause is true, but neither cause nor effect exist. At least in the strictest sense. If we mean anything that is an object of thought exists just as objects of experience exist, such as concepts or ideas, then the answer to your question would have to be....both.
  • simeonz
    92
    Nahhhh.....I was just wondering if you held some unassailable truth. So as not to extend the concept of existence into the far reaches of dumb, an analytic proposition, which begins merely as something one thinks, would be true when its negation is impossible. The most famous one of all being cogito ergo sum.Mww
    Exactly my point. I would have said "necessitates the subject's existence", but the problem is - I am not sure that the subjective (in principle) is not an emergent, complex, partially distributed, potentially mutable property. I speculate that the subjective may depend on the relationship between constituents, as an expression of their organizational independence. Since I cannot be sure that the subjective is intrinsic indivisible immutable property, I cannot say "I think therefore I am", but rather "something thinks, therefore something is". For the latter, I can sort-of argue logically, using the necessity of logical models for the soundness of a statement, but still with many caveats.

    I think the criteria for truth is the relation between subject and object, not always the existence of one or the other. The statement every effect has a cause is true, but neither cause nor effect exist. At least in the strictest sense. If we mean anything that is an object of thought exists just as objects of experience exist, such as concepts or ideas, then the answer to your question would have to be....both.Mww
    My point is - the subject (speaking now in a more narrow conventional sense) need not even comprehend the correlation as it applies, for it to be true. But if the subject doesn't comprehend the statement, what is their relation to the statement. One might say, that they still will experience the truth as an effect, but this bounds truth to experience. I am not sure this is the case, as it seems to me that truth may exist in its realization, without requiring knowledge. For example, simple mechanisms form a correct expression of some reality. An electronic thermoregulator can be "correct", in the sense that its internal representation of the environment state is amorphous to the actual state. The two states can be observed, their correlation or mutual information measured. In contrast, an "incorrect" thermoregulator would have states that exhibit less correlation, which is independent of the notion of its utility. So, in some primitive sense, one can talk about truth, even without awareness, just based on state correlations. There still has to be some state space for those correlating states, Thus even in this primitive case, you need some realization or existence. I am not arguing here whether correctness has value without a sentient subject. Neither whether reality without sentient subject can be ever validated, even if the truth would hypothetically still have proper mathematical definition.
  • Mww
    1.2k
    but the problem is - I am not sure that the subjective (in principle) is not an emergent, complex, partially distributed, potentially mutable property.simeonz

    You along with every physicalist/materialist worth his lab coat, property herein meaning something that belongs to a real substance. Not that you gave any indication you are one, just that experience informs me they think along the same lines you just spoke. I sympathize; it’s pretty hard to posit as certain, a thing that has no quantifiable predicates. I rationalize the situation by coming at it from behind....I don’t have to prove subjectivity, but rather all I have to do is show how everything else becomes immediately unintelligible if there isn’t such a thing.
    ———————

    Since I cannot be sure that the subjective is intrinsic indivisible immutable property, I cannot say "I think therefore I am", but rather "something thinks, therefore something is".simeonz

    Exactly right!!! Well done, I must say. I take that “something thinks, therefore something exists” and turn it into “I” am that which exists as thinking subject. “I” taken to represent the spontaneity of all thought in general, also called “ego” in empirical psychology, and the thinking subject taken to represent consciousness itself, which is the totality of conscious thought in general.

    Hey....it’s a theory, for whatever that’s worth.
    ———————-
    the subject (...) need not even comprehend the correlation as it applies, for it to be true.simeonz

    Perhaps, but what good would a truth be if it wasn’t comprehended as such?
  • Wayfarer
    8.9k
    Considering only the biological level of the individual when interpreting natural selection is artificially limiting. ... selection of the fittest is [also] capable of explaining what drove people to complex social order, cultural conservatism, and in the ethical planesimeonz

    Right - just what I mean. That is an example of what I regard as the missapplication of biological principles to matters beyond its scope. True, these issues are not overtly 'biological', but this style of argument applies the guiding principle of evolutionary biology (paraphrased by Herbert Spencer as 'survival of the fittest' and later used by Darwin) to account for characteristics that are intrinsically beyond the scope of biology. But then, for us, nothing is beyond the scope of biology, as we're material beings, and so ultimately explicable in scientific terms.

    The author takes for granted that the structure of machines is incapable of sentience.simeonz

    As do I. Machines are devices, and devices are not beings. But again, you're explanatory framework may not permit the distinction.

    Whoever used ants as an explanatory device, I am sure did not mean to assert that the human species are similar in their social dimension.simeonz

    I believe it's a reference to E. O. Wilson, Of Ants and Man. The same Wilson who says 'the final decisive edge enjoyed by scientific naturalism will come from its capacity to explain traditional religion, its chief competition, as a wholly material phenomenon.' You don't seem aware of the relationship between evolutionary theory and modern materialist philosophy of mind that underpins this whole issue; I suggest you're not aware of it, because you're looking through it rather than at it.

    the author has not convinced me that science has chosen the wrong methodology to explain the emergence of ethical considerations, from an empirical standpoint. If the argument was non-empirical, then the essay should have established what logic would be used to validate it.simeonz

    That's a 'burden of proof' argument. If you start from the presumption that naturalism is the explanatory paradigm, then you will want an argument to show that this is not so. The problem is, naturalism tends to rule out the premisses of its critics. In other words, if you claim that empirical method is the arbiter in such issues, then you're basically want an empirical argument against empiricism.

    I am not sure that the subjective (in principle) is not an emergent, complex, partially distributed, potentially mutable property.simeonz

    A property of what? Perceived by whom?

    The point I'm making about your posts in particular, is that they seem to presume the mere existence of a counter-argument constitutes an argument in itself.Isaac

    That's because some ways, the perspective I'm advocating is incommensurable with that of the OP (and, by extension, with the perspective of a lot of secular, analytical philosophy.) I have had OP's on this forum that have run to hundreds of pages and occupied months, but ultimately what's at issue is fairly simple, so often I will just refer to some examples.

    But, if I wanted to mount a methodical criticism of biological reductionism, I think by far. The best arguments are those under the heading of 'the argument from reason'. This hinges on the argument that reason itself can't be equated with or reduced to any known physical laws or phenomena.
  • simeonz
    92
    You along with every physicalist/materialist worth his lab coat, property herein meaning something that belongs to a real substance. Not that you gave any indication you are one, just that experience informs me they think along the same lines you just spoke.Mww
    The less I try to postulate, the closer I become to the materialist view. Which is not to say, that I am against postulations that are undeniable by reason or nature. But the more I think about a statement, the more corrigible it seems. Hence, I drift towards materialism, as the most void philosophical position.
    I rationalize the situation by coming at it from behind....I don’t have to prove subjectivity, but rather all I have to do is show how everything else becomes immediately unintelligible if there isn’t such a thing.Mww
    Depending on our definition, the subjective might be possible to stretch (in ways that actually interest me), and still maintain the capacity for reason.
    I take that “something thinks, therefore something exists” and turn it into “I” am that which exists as thinking subject. “I” taken to represent the spontaneity of all thought in general, also called “ego” in empirical psychology, and the thinking subject taken to represent consciousness itself, which is the totality of conscious thought in general.Mww
    This certainly leans closer towards a definition of subject, that will resist attack, if awareness turned out to be potentially (or in some sense actually) impersonal.
    Perhaps, but what good would a truth be if it wasn’t comprehended as such?Mww
    Tautologically, without the subject, the truth has no value to that subject. The necessity or capacity to make distinctions is lost to a non-extant subject, but does that preclude the truth from being in its own right? One could say, that we don't have to make such judgement, assuming the nature of truth does not impact our use of it. I am not sure of that.
  • simeonz
    92
    But then, for us, nothing is beyond the scope of biology, as we're material beings, and so ultimately explicable in scientific terms.Wayfarer
    The way I understand it, the real backbone of evolution is natural selection, not biology. Natural selection is determined by some biological traits, but it also involves all the particulars of the speciation process, including sociological or ecological factors. For example, the pollution of the ocean by plastic contaminants is not a biological phenomenon. However, it emerges as a product of collective behaviors that interact with the species' continuing adaptation and fitness.

    Machines are devices, and devices are not beings. But again, you're explanatory framework may not permit the distinction.Wayfarer
    This is a very substantial postulate, that needs to have some rational grounds for me to accept it.

    In other words, if you claim that empirical method is the arbiter in such issues, then you're basically want an empirical argument against empiricism.Wayfarer
    What is the alternative methodology? The least of what I want is to conclude at my premises, but I will not be convinced through sentiment either.

    A property of what? Perceived by whom?Wayfarer
    As I said before, I am willing to allow that matter could be self-perceiving, under certain conditions. Our familiarity with matter is insufficient to make such judgement, but for me, it is a possibility. And I think that it requires the least amount of extraneous philosophical content. Considering the states of mind that an individual can experience, due to illness, or age, I can hypothesize a plethora of mental states. And since I am skeptical that our characteristic mental state is the only one that can sustain reason, I prefer to generalize philosophical arguments beyond the typical frame of mind.
  • Wayfarer
    8.9k
    The way I understand it, the real backbone of evolution is natural selection, not biology.simeonz

    But natural selection is a theory of the origin of species, and, as such, a biological theory. (Although it might be relevant to note that Alfred Russel Wallace, credited as co-discoverer of the principle, did not accept that it amounted to an in-principle explanation of the intellectual or rational faculties of h. sapiens. (Ask yourself - what is sapience?)).

    Machines are devices, and devices are not beings. But again, your explanatory framework may not permit the distinction.
    — Wayfarer
    This is a very substantial postulate, that needs to have some rational grounds for me to accept it.
    simeonz

    The dictionary should suffice. The definition of machines, devices, beings, and organisms, demonstrate that they are different in kind.

    I am willing to allow that matter could be self-perceiving, under certain conditionssimeonz

    As far as science knows, this is only ever evident in the case that it forms the physical aspect of sentient beings. Took several billions of years, and stellar explosions, to happen, however ;-)
  • simeonz
    92
    But natural selection is a theory of the origin of species, and, as such, a biological theory.Wayfarer
    Whatever the originally intended scope was, natural selection can justify the emergence of social order and ethical standards in the social groups. In the article you referred me to, the author was arguing that the emergence of ethical standards is independent of the process of natural selection, wasn't he?
    The dictionary should suffice. The definition of machines, devices, beings, and organisms, demonstrate that they are different in kind.Wayfarer
    You were arguing about the ontological content associated with different physical forms. You resolved this question by a dictionary lookup?
    As far as science knows, this is only ever evident in the case that it forms the physical aspect of sentient beings. Took several billions of years, and stellar explosions, to happen, however ;-)Wayfarer
    We have developed the skill of engineering and have the resolve to embody the material expression of our intelligence into an artificially produced vessel. This will change the time scale significantly. For better or for worse, it has become essentially unavoidable at this point.
  • Wayfarer
    8.9k
    You were arguing about the ontological content associated with different physical forms. You resolved this question by a dictionary lookup?simeonz

    It’s that simple.

    In other words, if you claim that empirical method is the arbiter in such issues, then you're basically want an empirical argument against empiricism.
    — Wayfarer
    What is the alternative methodology? The least of what I want is to conclude at my premises, but I will not be convinced through sentiment either.
    simeonz

    Is 'eliminative materialism' an empirical hypothesis? Is there any conceivable way of determining whether it's true by empirical means?
  • simeonz
    92
    Is 'eliminative materialism' an empirical hypothesis? Is there any conceivable way of determining whether it's true by empirical means?Wayfarer
    That is why I cannot argue that it is true. Only that it is self-consistent and plausible. Which you don't seem to agree to.
    Edit: What methodology do you use to justify your disagreement with elminativism's self-consistency and plausibility, or is it a matter of incompatible premises of your philosophical position?
    Edit 2: If you mean that empiricism cannot be validated externally by empiricism itself - this is true. But why do you think that it ought to be?
    Edit 3: I just thought of another quality of eliminativism, as a hypothesis, that appeals to me. Minimalism. It assumes the least amount of unobservable externalities. I am assuming the moderate form of eliminativism the Oxford encyclopedia of philosophy refers to - that the mind is real, but is directly embodied.
  • Mww
    1.2k
    I drift towards materialism, as the most void philosophical position.simeonz

    Yeah, that’s pretty much standard, isn’t it? The more one voids philosophical predicates the more he leaves room for empirical predicates, if he chooses to furnish the room at all. Still, “most void” is not empty, and as long as one reasons, the philosophical position can never be empty.
    ————————

    if awareness turned out to be potentially (or in some sense actually) impersonal.simeonz

    Awareness is impersonal, for it merely indicates an arbitrary condition of that which is in possession of it, but cannot define it. What a subject is aware of, serves as sufficient determination of what kind of subject it is, which does define the personal.
    ————————

    The necessity or capacity to make distinctions is lost to a non-extant subject, but does that preclude the truth from being in its own right?simeonz

    Truth is a distinction, insofar as it is a member of a complementary pair, and if the capacity to make distinctions, that is, recognize a complementary pair, becomes lost, doesn’t that make the complement itself moot? If there is no making or comprehending a distinction, how can it be said there is one?

    And, truth is already a being, the being of true. The loss of distinction of being true is exactly the same as the loss of distinction of truth. But is the truth precluded from being in its own right? So, no, I guess not. A truth will be true whether it is known or not, but that still gives us nothing. We still have to know what is true in order to know a truth.

    Semantic word games....BOOOO!!! Sound logical reductionism......YEA!!!!!
  • Wayfarer
    8.9k
    What methodology do you use to justify your disagreement with elminativism's self-consistency and plausibility, or is it a matter of incompatible premises of your philosophical position?simeonz

    I gave an argument, very early in this thread which is that there is no physical equivalent of the "=" sign. It can be extended to the argument that symbols, generally, which are the basis of language and abstract thought, can't be meaningfully reduced to physical laws (an observation which is the basis of the discipline of biosemiotics). So there's the 'hard problem' of how to understand the nature of experience, 'what it is like to be...', on the one hand, as articulated by David Chalmer's et al. But I think the much harder problem is, how to account for the nature of reason, language and abstract thought
    - which are foundational to all attempts to arrive at any theory whatever, be it materialist or other. Put another way, if the universe is, as materialism tells us, intrinsically meaningless, then how is meaning and reason grounded in it?

    Now I know the instinctive answer is that linguistic capability evolved and that, therefore, this problem can be addressed through the perspective of evolutionary biology. But as I've been arguing, I think this amounts to a kind of category error, as evolutionary biology is first and foremost a biological theory to account for the origin of species. To apply it to the questions of epistemology - a project called 'naturalised epistemology' - is to implicitly equate language and thought with biological adaptation, which I claim is intrinsically reductionist. To put it another way, yes, h. sapiens evolved, but at the point of becoming rational, language- and tool-using beings, crossed a threshold which is no longer with the scope of biological theory per se. 1

    Certainly, h. sapiens evolved, but the question is, can the elements of reason (such as logical laws, natural numbers and so on) be meaningfully viewed as the product of a process of biological evolution? Evolutionary materialism answers in the affirmative - but this is the very point at issue. And this attitude embodies many philosophical assumptions that I (and many others) consider unwarranted.

    This also is why evolutionary theory is bound up with that of eliminative materialism. Evolutionary theory is supposed to provide a de facto 'philosophy of mind', which many take for granted nowadays. This theory is that the exigencies of survival are such that our intellectual capacities have been shaped to entail truth-bearing perceptions and cognitions. But if you really think that through, there's no guarantee that such perceptions will be true in distinction from being merely well-adapted. And, as remarked by one of Dennett's critics, 'if reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection 2 ?' This is an argument that has been developed at great length by several philosophers of religion, specifically in Alvin Plantinga's 'evolutionary argument against naturalism 3'. Another version is 'the argument from reason', originally associated with C.S. Lewis. And there's also Thomas Nagel, whose work has the distinction of *not* being religiously motivated, but seeks to criticize the self-contradictory nature of neo-Darwinian materialism on its own terms 4.

    What it all comes down to, is that eliminative materialism doesn't succeed in eliminating the subjective reality of being; it basically ignores it, and then says 'what's the problem?' But the only reason it can ignore the subjective nature of being, is because it is fundamental to everything seen, said and done - so it can be, and is, taken for granted! (Which is precisely the blind spot of modern science.) In this way, eliminative materialism actually reverses or undoes the whole project of philosophy, which is to make explicit what is usually assumed, to expose our deep and taken-for-granted presuppositions about the nature of being.

    So, the methodology, or meta-methodology, that I am recommending is that of critical philosophy, which I believe exposes eliminativism's fatal shortcomings.
  • simeonz
    92
    I gave an argument, very early in this thread which is that there is no physical equivalent of the "=" sign. It can be extended to the argument that symbols, generally, which are the basis of language and abstract thought, can't be meaningfully reduced to physical laws (an observation which is the basis of the discipline of biosemiotics).Wayfarer
    The abstract notions, such as equivalence, causation, correspondence, etc, can be considered predicated by nature's reproducible conditions. For a naturalist, abstraction can be explained as emergence of generalizing faculties in the human cognitive apparatus, as optimal response to the exhaustible external varieties. If you imply that human sentience is irreducible to information processing, then you will not be satisfied with this answer.

    Put another way, if the universe is, as materialism tells us, intrinsically meaningless, then how is meaning and reason grounded in it?Wayfarer
    The implied premise of the question, however, is that the search for (universal and eternal) meaning is not a rational need for foundational permanence. If it were, then it would make the universe meaningful by definition for a naturalist, because it is permanent, and a foundation onto itself. Such hypothesis may be overreaching, but so is the idea that the universe was conceived by an omnipotent creator, that is permanent and a foundation onto itself. The constructions are so similar, they end up being different on what seems like a technical note.

    And, as remarked by one of Dennett's critics, 'if reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection ?'Wayfarer
    Human knowledge is fragile. You are correct, that any theory that supports that knowledge is corrigible attacks its own foundations. But given that human knowledge is indeed imperfect, shouldn't any sound epistemic theory have the obligation to model our understanding in such a way, as to seed reasonable doubt in its own validity, in consideration of its origin?

    What it all comes down to, is that eliminative materialism doesn't succeed in eliminating the subjective reality of being; it basically ignores it, and then says 'what's the problem?'Wayfarer
    I don't understand how reducing the subjective states (mind) to objective states (matter) attacks the existence of the mind. This is the same as believing that allowing your doctor to examine your cough will destroy your cough from existence. I think it merely attacks the mind-body distinction. Allowing the mind to be understood empirically, does not disregard it. It rather appears to me, that dualism has a notion of the human soul, which is being attacked. But this is not the same thing as attacking the mind, except for a dualist. I dare say, I am an existentialist. I believe that if your values depend on your irreducibility, your ethical choices rest on the wrong premises. This explains why I don't subscribe to the objections against the "meaninglessness" of the material world onto itself.
  • simeonz
    92
    Truth is a distinction, insofar as it is a member of a complementary pair, and if the capacity to make distinctions, that is, recognize a complementary pair, becomes lost, doesn’t that make the complement itself moot? If there is no making or comprehending a distinction, how can it be said there is one?Mww
    I am still thinking about it :) But I don't have the answers. Mutual information, correlation, isomorphism, etc, could help in defining mathematically a purely material concept of representation. Which I believe to be the objective component of the notion of fact awareness, which predicates understanding.

    But from there on, how the subject emerges, and what additional faculties are necessary for them to experience and evaluate this fact awareness, I don't know. We know that belief is not the same as truth. (I am adamant that the mentally ill, very immature, very elderly, etc, should be part in any meaningful epistemic discussion.) Also, we know that understanding requires awareness, but not self-awareness. To define the relationship of truth and subject, we have to decide what a subject is. By which I mean - determine what kinds of subjects are there (or could be), and how does the type of subject affect the aforementioned relationship.

    I don't want to examine my particulars. If I am going to talk about what a subject is, I would prefer a definition that doesn't rely on actual existence (, but rather just plausibility) of the subject, creating an epistemic reference context of some kind and a mapping to a material context.

    Edit: In summary. I believe that the distinction between fact awareness and fact obliviousness can be defined objectively, as representation through material symmetry of some kind, whether with an implied emerging subject or not. The assignment of truth values is a different matter, which requires something more, which if materially expressed, is very hard to define.
  • Wayfarer
    8.9k
    I don't understand how reducing the subjective states (mind) to objective states (matter) attacks the existence of the mindsimeonz

    Yes, I can see that. But thanks for your reply.
  • simeonz
    92
    Yes, I can see that. But thanks for your reply.Wayfarer
    That is fine. People cannot agree all the time.

    On the other hand. Courtesy is its own argument. Becoming personal can discredit your statements.
  • Wayfarer
    8.9k
    My thoughts also. I think you write very well and express your ideas clearly.
  • simeonz
    92
    Ok. Sorry if I overreacted or have been unintentionally inconsiderate myself.
  • Mww
    1.2k
    But from there on, how the subject emerges, and what additional faculties are necessary for them to experience and evaluate this fact awareness, I don't know.simeonz

    I’d be very surprised if anybody does. I certainly don’t. Could be just a natural result of the plurality of extant physical conditions that makes it seem like a subject emerges. Maybe the subject only emerges because of the human propensity to explain everything, and when the notion of “subject” first came about, there were no explanations related to brain even possible, never mind sufficient, so we invented one.

    No matter what, we cannot remove ourselves from the subjective condition, its reality or illusory appearance notwithstanding. That being the case, it doesn’t really matter where it comes from nor does it matter how it makes its presence felt. Thus, it would seem much the more productive to concentrate on what “subject” does, rather than what “subject” is.
    ———————-

    we know that understanding requires awareness, but not self-awareness.simeonz

    Ok, true enough, insofar as understanding works by means of integral synthesis, so doesn’t hold any consideration for the source of that which it synthesizes, that source being the thinking, conscious subject who by definition is certainly self-aware.
    ———————

    If I am going to talk about what a subject is, I would prefer a definition that doesn't rely on actual existence (, but rather just plausibility) of the subject, creating an epistemic reference context of some kind and a mapping to a material context.simeonz

    As well you should, because it’s highly doubtful the subject has an actual existence anyway. Rational existence, of course, because we can conceive it, conception being the standard-bearer for plausibility, but to call a rational existence an actual existence casts epistemic shadows on objective reality, and just sustains the notion that the primary defect in human reason is its proclivity for confusing itself.

    Can we agree there cannot even be talk, which implies communication, about what a subject is without the ubiquitous subject/copula/object process? I mean, that is the condition upon which our language is built and we are never going to understand each other if we don’t both use that very specific propositional construction, irrespective of its content. But before either of us speaks anything, we have to think it, and the thought which becomes intelligible communication absolutely must adhere to the same propositional construction. It follows that when I think about what a “subject” is, the “subject” immediately becomes the object in the propositional construction, re: for me, that which exists as the necessary condition for all rational enterprise exists as “subject”, and when I communicate the thought, the objective nature of “subject” holds.

    That being said, there is an intrinsic epistemic reference context, because what I think is known to me to be true, but for a concept that is itself immaterial, my talk about what a subject is, cannot have a material context. Objective context, certainly; material.....not so much.
    ————————

    The assignment of truth values is a different matter, which requires something more, which if materially expressed, is very hard to define.simeonz

    Truth values are relative to human intelligence alone, and the something more for its assignment is reducible to, “....the accordance of the cognition with its object...”. Because this is merely a logical representation of what truth is, a material expression of it cannot hold universally because it is absolutely impossible to cognize the manifold of all possible objects. Very hard to define indeed.
  • simeonz
    92

    I will need some time to answer coherently, but I think that the difference between our points of view, about the significance of the subjective, is not one of essence, but one of purpose. I am looking to "understand" (which given the lack of data is a strong word) what a subject is, how it becomes a subject, what kinds of subjects, with what kind of qualities are potentially possible. You are looking into the application of the subject, what they can do better or worse, what is the way to improve their performance.

    I am not looking into the discussion anthropocentrically. In a sense, I consider ignorance to be a disease, that experience (collective evolutionary as well as personal) cures with time. To understand the disease, I don't want to latch into the present condition of the existing species. I want to understand what drives the process, and arrogant as it may sound, where it means to converge. That is why I frequently make references to animal cognition, insanity, dementia, infant language-absent thought, etc, because those are the closest examples to the characteristic mental state of a human being, that are relatively well known, yet deviate enough to affect the capacity for rational thought.
  • Mww
    1.2k


    Ehhh.....I’m not really interested in subject qua subject, it being merely a necessary condition for the human cognitive process. And I’m not really interested in deviant human reason, for that merely tells me what it isn’t when I want to know what it is in its purest form.

    If you come up with something you think might be interesting......throw it at me.....see if it sticks.
  • simeonz
    92

    Cool.
    Regarding chiming in later, I am skeptical that I will make much progress, but I may look into semiotics (a good pointer by Wayfarer), and see what crystallizes out of it.
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