Comments

  • Issues with karma
    Someone told me Steely Dan's 'Only a Fool would Say That' was written in response to John Lennon's Imagine.

    Figures.
  • Do drugs produce insight? Enlightenment?
    'Unleashing the drugs of war' conjures up a vivid image. Kind of what the Vikings used to do with amanita mushrooms, I imagine.
  • Basic Questions for any Kantians
    :up: In that case, you do get it. I just thought I might have distracted you from the main point of my review with that remark about the constitution of reason which is really outside the purview of Pinter's book (though obviously not of Kant!)
  • Issues with karma
    You’ve made your view clear, but I don’t share it. It’s true that the Hindu caste system exploited the idea of karma for its purposes. As I already said, there was a large-scale social movement in India to convert the Dalits to Buddhism in large part because Buddhism doesn’t recognise the caste system. See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalit_Buddhist_movement
  • Basic Questions for any Kantians
    I’ve only read the Hoffman article I linked to, though probably should invest some time in the book. At first I was sceptical about Hoffman but I’m beginning to see the sense in what he’s saying.

    In my post about Pinter’s book above, I specifically mention where in his account he says the noumenal enters the picture. It’s not at all as I would have thought - not some ghostly backstage thingimy, but the purely quantitative attributes of the ‘simples’ of scientific analysis.

    My philosophical interpretation is close to what Pinter hints at: that sentient beings bring meaning into a meaningless universe, they open up an experiential dimension to existence which is otherwise absent. (That's why we're called 'beings'!) The fundamental problem with modern philosophy and science is in regarding beings as objects, rather than recognising that their nature as beings will always elude objective analysis, and the concommitant belief that the universe depicted by science is the only real universe, thereby forgetting the role of the observing mind in bringing meaning to it. (I think this is what Heidegger means by the 'forgetfulness of being'.)

    It’s also close to what Nagel says:

    We ourselves, as physical organisms, are part of [the] universe, composed of the same basic elements as everything else, and recent advances in molecular biology have greatly increased our understanding of the physical and chemical basis of life. Since our mental lives evidently depend on our existence as physical organisms, especially on the functioning of our central nervous systems, it seems natural to think that the physical sciences can in principle provide the basis for an explanation of the mental aspects of reality as well — that physics can aspire finally to be a theory of everything.

    However, I believe this possibility is ruled out by the conditions that have defined the physical sciences from the beginning. The physical sciences can describe organisms like ourselves as parts of the objective spatio-temporal order – our structure and behavior in space and time – but they cannot describe the subjective experiences of such organisms or how the world appears to their different particular points of view. There can be a purely physical description of the neurophysiological processes that give rise to an experience, and also of the physical behavior that is typically associated with it, but such a description, however complete, will leave out the subjective essence of the experience – how it is from the point of view of its subject — without which it would not be a conscious experience at all.
    Thomas Nagel, Core of Mind and Cosmos
  • Basic Questions for any Kantians
    I can see how this is all compatible with phenomenology.Tom Storm

    Don't miss the main point.

    No, Pinter does not try and explain the origin of mind. Wise choice, I think.
  • US politics
    we will see Hagel’s dielectric at work.Paulm12

    You mean Chuck Hagel?

    Sorry, flippant remark, I'm sure you meant Hegel.

    Anyway - my view is that while there is a great deal of systematic rot in the entire American and for that matter Western political system, that the so-called 'right' - in the form of the rabid right, of the Tea Party and Trump Cult type, are the principle villians in the piece. Some of the ideological extremism of the left is also infuriating but overall, if I was American, which I'm not, although with American relatives, I would have to support the Democratic Party.
  • Basic Questions for any Kantians
    Does Pinter account for what generates the structure and properties of (the) mind(s) which generates the structure and properties of the world / cosmos?180 Proof

    He does say that 'the animal sensorium' is present in even the most simple of sentient creatures - the example he gives is an insect type called fairyflies, which are tiny, 0.13 and 0.25 mm, but which have organs for digestion, reproduction etc. His view is that from the earliest species, animals form gestalts of their environment in order to negotiate it, so that what is meaningful to a species are the gestalts that are shaped by their purposes, which in turn are shaped by the exigencies of survival. He discusses Donald Hoffman for several pages.

    What Hoffman  claims is that the way objects appear to us is dictated by considerations of fitness and not realism. What an animal experiences seeing may be unlike a high-fidelity reproduction of reality, with all its complexity and inscrutability—yet it may be far more helpful when the animal needs to size up the current situation correctly and act appropriately. The claim is that so long as all the experiences a creature has with objects are consistent with one another—with no discrepancies of any kind—the creature is far better off interacting in mind with usefully simplified and schematized replicas.

    Pinter, Charles. Mind and the Cosmic Order (pp. 12-13). Springer International Publishing. Kindle Edition.

    More on Hoffman's theories can be found here.
  • Basic Questions for any Kantians
    Re-visiting this thread because the book I've just read, Mind and the Cosmic Order, has provided a new interpretive model for 'the noumenal'.

    This is the first paragraph in the introduction:

    Let’s begin with a thought-experiment: Imagine that all life has vanished from the universe, but everything else is undisturbed. Matter is scattered about in space in the same way as it is now, there is sunlight, there are stars, planets and galaxies—but all of it is unseen. There is no human or animal eye to cast a glance at objects, hence nothing is discerned, recognized or even noticed. Objects in the unobserved universe have no shape, color or individual appearance, because shape and appearance are created by minds. Nor do they have features, because features correspond to categories of animal sensation. This is the way the early universe was before the emergence of life—and the way the present universe is outside the view of any observer. — Pinter, Charles. Mind and the Cosmic Order (p. 1)

    What the observer brings is the picture:

    When we open our eyes and observe the world around us, we don’t see a smooth, evenly distributed continuum, but a scene that is sharply and unambiguously divided into separate objects. Each of these objects is familiar to us, we know their identities, and we are able to name them. To the animal [i.e. sensory] mind, the world is subdivided into separate, discrete things. Without a separation into independent parts, nothing would be comprehensible, there could be no understanding, and thought would not be possible.

    ...Common sense has us believe that the world really does consist of separate objects exactly as we see it, for we suppose that nature comes to us ready-carved. But in fact, the animal visual system does such a thorough job of partitioning the visual array into familiar objects, that it is impossible for us to look at a scene and not perceive it as composed of separate things.
    — (p. 67)

    He makes the point that the scientific 'view from nowhere' comprises nothing more than, or apart from, the formal relationships of objects and forces without any features:

    with no color, appearance, feel, weight or any other discernible features. In fact, every feature which might impact the senses—hence produce an impression of some kind—is absent because in this hypothetical universe there is no life and there are no senses. Everything material may be there, but not the senses. As Kant said about the noumenal world (which is the same as the mind-independent world), nothing can be said about its objects except that they exist. — p.118

    So in this usage 'the noumenal' actually conforms with its dictionary definition, that being a 'pure object of thought' (with the caveat that 'thought' here means 'quantitative expression'.) He points out that the formal objects of science do not comprise any kind of image:

    When you speak of a straight line in science, you must suppress the image of the taut string in mind. You must force yourself to forgo any mental picture of what a straight line looks like, and instead, think of it as nothing but an empty word. When you use that word, you may hold the image of the taut string in mind, but that’s for your own benefit: It may guide your intuition but should not participate in your reasoning. ...If that were permitted, then the laws of science would depend on the meanings we attach to concepts—on the mental images we hold in mind. — Pp118-120

    He says that science proceeds by the 'addition of simples' meaning the discovery of the simplest quantitative elements which can combine to produce complexity. But the structure of complex phenomena are brought to them by the perceiver:

    Newton’s equations, which apply to pairs of bodies in space, determine the trajectories of planets around the sun. However, these trajectories are meaningful only to beings who see and conceive in Gestalts. The shape of an orbit, though it exists only in the eyes of a Gestalt observer, is a direct consequence of Newton’s laws, and no further principle is needed to account for it. Although the shapes of orbits are fully determined by the underlying physics (that is, by addition of simples), orbits exist only in the scheme of reality of Gestalt observers. The reality which a Gestalt observer perceives is quite different from that of the underlying physical world. In the Gestalt whole, the observer sees patterns—and these patterns do not exist in the ground reality because patterns emerge only in spread-out wholes and exist only in Gestalt perception. — p124

    However, thoughts are real, but in a different sense to the formal objects of scientific analysis:

    Sensations, beliefs, imaginings and feelings are often referred to as figments, that is, creations of the mind. A mental image is taken to be something less than real: For one thing, it has no material substance and is impossible to detect except in the mind of the perceiver. It is true that sensations are caused by electrochemical events in a brain, but when experienced by a living mind, sensations are decisively different in kind from electrons in motion. They are indeed “figments” because they exist nowhere except in awareness. As a matter of fact, they exist only as claims made by sentient beings, with no material evidence to back up those claims. Indeed, brain scans reveal electrical activity, but do not display sensations or inner experience. — (p. 52).

    Pinter advocates for a form of dualism but it's exceptionally clear and quite simple. And it does dovetail quite well with Kant's transcendental idealism except that he doesn't go into the nature and structure of reason, as such - although that would have made it a completely different book. One of the main advantages of this book is its clarity and focus. It has really helped me to understand the sense in which the world is 'mind-generated' - not the world in its entirety, not the whole vast universe of space and time, but 'world' as, and insofar as it is, a meaningful whole - which is the meaning of 'cosmos' - and in which the mind plays a fundamental part.

    the meaningful connectedness between things — the hierarchical organization of all we perceive — is the result of the Gestalt nature of perception and thought, and exists only as a property of mind. These insights give the first glimmerings of a new way of seeing the cosmos: not as a mineral wasteland but a place inhabited by creatures.
  • Issues with karma
    Interesting comment in the Brittanica entry:

    The connection between the ritual and moral dimensions of karma is especially evident in the notion of karma as a causal law, popularly known as the “law of karma.” Many religious traditions —notably the Abrahamic religions that emerged in the Middle East (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam)—place reward and punishment for human actions in the hands of a divine lawgiver. In contrast, the classical traditions of India—Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, much like the Vedic sacrificial theology that preceded them—view karma as operating according to an autonomous causal law. No divine will or external agent intervenes in the relationship of the moral act to its inevitable result. The law of karma thus represents a markedly nontheistic theodicy, or explanation of why there is evil in the world.

    That is the reason why many 19th and 20th century Buddhist advocates would claim that Buddhism is 'scientific', where karma is portrayed as a causal law on a par with Newton's laws of motion - which of course it can't be, as there's no way of measuring it. But I still believe the idea provides a naturalistic basis for ethics.
  • Issues with karma
    It's amazing how twisted up you can get over the concept that all intentional actions have consequences.
  • Bannings
    I'm sympathetic to both sides here, if not every specific argument. I hope you all don't unnecessariiy make enemies of each other over this.Baden

    One of the important lessons I’ve learned here is when to walk away from an argument without having to have the final word.
  • Issues with karma
    . I am not the expert, but my suspicion is that the doctrine does not come from Buddha himself, but is an accretion that probably predates him.unenlightened

    Incorrect. In the Buddha's day, meritorious karma was accrued by performing the appropriate ritual sacrifices, and for the laity by supporting the Brahmin priesthood. The Buddha kept the basic principle but attached it wholly and solely to the qualities of intentional actions and their results. For him, a brahmin is not an hereditary privilege but the mark of true virtue. It's a bedrock principle of Buddhism from the beginning, although I agree that when it is used to rationalise fatalism it has been misappopriated. Again see what Bhikhu Thanisarro has to say on it (he's an American monk alive and practicing today) https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/NobleStrategy/Section0005.html

    instead of promoting resigned powerlessness, the early Buddhist notion of karma focused on the liberating potential of what the mind is doing at every moment. Who you are—what you come from—is not anywhere near as important as the mind’s motives for what it’s doing right now. Even though the past may account for many of the inequalities we see in life, our measure as human beings is not the hand we’ve been dealt, for that hand can change at any moment. We take our own measure by how well we play the hand we’ve got. If you’re suffering, you try not to continue the unskillful mental habits that would keep that particular karmic feedback going. If you see that other people are suffering, and you’re in a position to help, you focus not on their karmic past but your karmic opportunity in the present: Someday you may find yourself in the same predicament they’re in now, so here’s your opportunity to act in the way you’d like them to act toward you when that day comes.

    ('The first will one day be last' - some famous religious teacher.)


    It fits right in with the caste system, and helps to sustain it along with rampant toxic sexismunenlightened

    Not the way the Buddha taught it. It's one of the main reasons Buddhism did not survive in India. There's been a political movement towards Buddhism amongst the Dalits (outcastes) in the 20th Century because it's outside of the caste system.
  • Issues with karma
    Myanmar. Plenty of instances of violence there openly encouraged by buddhist monks.I like sushi

    Yes indeed, Burmese buddhist nationalism has been a pretty horrible stain on the religion. So to the involvement of Japanese Zen Buddhists in World War 2. Although none of that invalidates the basic idea of karma, which in my view is a logical and consistent basis for ethics.

    I think viewing misfortune in this life as some kind of penance for misgiving in some imagined previous life is an abhorrent idea that essentially has some people categorised as ‘deserving their fate’ by simply being born with some form of disability or other.I like sushi

    Totally agree, but I think as soon as it's used for justification of the suffering of others, it's a misreading of the principle. Also the rationalisation of disability or illness as 'bad karma' is, I think, pretty abhorent all around. When understood as a regulative principle for one's own actions it's a very different story.
  • Logical Necessity and Physical Causation
    I don't think that Aristotle's metaphysics is consistent with what is today referred to as platonic realism.Metaphysician Undercover

    There is a difference but broadly speaking Aristotle is part of the platonist tradition. (That's why Gerson wrote a book called Aristotle and Other Platonists.) I do understand the distinction between Platonic and Aristotelian realism. But that is beside the point that I was trying to make, so if you could set that particular issue aside, you might consider it on its merits. The metaphysical/ontological issue I'm interested in, is the sense in which numbers, universals, and the like exist.

    The (traditional) realist believes that universals are real; nominalists assert that only particulars are real; conceptualists that they exist as concepts in the mind. The latter sounds like a satisfactory compromise, except that it subjectivizes them, makes them the property of the mind. Whereas according to Augustine

    Intelligible objects must be independent of particular minds because they are common to all who think. In coming to grasp them, an individual mind does not alter them in any way; it cannot convert them into its exclusive possessions or transform them into parts of itself. Moreover, the mind discovers them rather than forming or constructing them, and its grasp of them can be more or less adequate. Augustine concludes from these observations that intelligible objects cannot be part of reason's own nature or be produced by reason out of itself. They must exist independently of individual human minds.

    Compare what Frege says of arithmetical primitives such as number:

    Frege believed that number is real in the sense that it is quite independent of thought: 'thought content exists independently of thinking "in the same way", he says "that a pencil exists independently of grasping it. Thought contents are true and bear their relations to one another (and presumably to what they are about) independently of anyone's thinking these thought contents - "just as a planet, even before anyone saw it, was in interaction with other planets." '

    I've been quoting both these passages on here for years but I still think they make a fundamental point regarding the reality of intelligibles. So after completing Pinter's book Mind and the Cosmic Order which is solidly grounded in empirical argument, I think I've found a way to commensurate such ideas with current science. And it's because such basic elements of rational thought are literally structures in our conscious experience and our rational grasp of the world. They're neither 'in' the world nor 'in' the (individual) mind, which is the apparent dichotomy on which every explanation seems to founder, in my view.

    Consider what Einstein says here:

    I believe, for instance, that the Pythagorean theorem in geometry states something that is approximately true, independent of the existence of man. — Albert Einstein

    Which I agree with. But it can only be grasped by a human, or at any rate by a rational intelligence. That is the sense in which the Pythagorean theorem is a formal structure within reason. But that doesn't make it subjective, because it is the same for any mind.
  • Bannings
    evidently an ole timer, and not a word was spoken about it by anyone.skyblack

    I think - not sure - he voluntarily requested account deletion. He banned the forum, not vice versa. As far as I know.
  • Immortality - what would it be like?
    Immortality and or eternal youth to me seems like my personal hell.Benj96

    Careful what you wish for!
  • Bannings
    Too much vituperative speech. Shame but there it is.
  • Can we turn Heidegger’s criticism of objectivity into a strong basis for subjectivity?
    I agree with the some elements of your post, but you could detach it from Heidegger and it would work just as well.

    There's also a distinction that can be made between 'subjectivity' and 'subject-hood'. The latter is a rather awkward neologism, but it's supposed to get at the state of being a subject, rather than the more narrowly-defined 'defined by one's own interests'. The subject in that sense is simply the pre-condition of all experience.

    In other words, something similar to the Buddhist idea that we, or our destiny, are just an element of the whole universe, so that separated subjectivities are just our mental creation. This way, there is not me, you, they, but just the whole, with some kind of apparent distinctions not very important.Angelo Cannata

    I don't know if that is 'the Buddhist idea'. The teaching of non-self, anatta, is always given adjectively, as a description of the attributes of phenomenal experience which are anatta, anicca (impermanent) and dukkha. The Buddha however does not deny personal agency, contrary to millenia of misconceptions about this point - see for instance this sutta.

    The key point is that 'the subject' is unknowable - not that 'it' exists or doesn't exist - both the idea that self exists, or doesn't exist, are faulty, according to Buddhism, being the so-called 'extreme views' of eternalism and nihilism, respectively.

    In Hinduism, which the Buddha differentiated his teaching from, the subject is conceived as ātman which is usually translated as something like 'transcendental ego' or 'self of all beings'. Buddhists don't recognise that idea, except in the sense that all beings have the potential capacity for enlightenment.

    Have a look at It Is Not Known but it is the Knower, (pdf) Michel Bitbol. He's a philosopher of science, historian of Schrodinger's writings, and is well versed in Indian philosophy. Might be closer to what you're looking for than Heidegger.
  • Is there an external material world ?
    What you seem to be missing is the advancements which Aristotle and Aquinas have madeMetaphysician Undercover

    We've discussed that a lot, and no, I haven't missed it. As I just said, which you seem to have missed, I am quite persuaded by platonic realism - by which I also mean Aristotelian's take on it. We discussed this blog post on it a long time ago. I also frequently refer to Maritain's criticism of empiricism.
  • Reductionism and holism
    When I read that reductionism can be "the sum can be explained by its parts" I was a bit confused. That can't be what it really means. Is that just a bad definition?musicpianoaccordion

    No, it’s a fair definition. Reductionism definitely has its uses. It is used to break down complex systems into their simplest components and understand how they work together. It has many uses in all kinds of engineering and scientific disciplines. But when it’s applied to philosophy it is often inappropriate as it is a very engineering or science-based attitude. The way I would put it is that reductionism is the consequence of trying to apply scientific method to philosophical problems. That’s definitely a problem.
  • Issues with karma
    Karma is not determinism. It generates tendencies and likely outcomes. There’s lots of mythology about it.

    Karma in this sense doesn’t permit the ability to change for the better or for the worse.Benj96

    It should also be pointed out that Buddhism has always accepted the reality of karma - that all volitional consequences have actions - but not that any person, or anything, has a fixed essence or unchanging self. Here’s a primer https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/karma.html
  • Is there an external material world ?
    Putnam is yet another gap in my philosophical education, but found a paper with this abstract:

    The Harvard philosopher Hilary Putnam criticizes philosophers who advocate scientism: the view that science offers the only true and correctdescription of the world. Scientism, for Putnam, undermines the finite and contextual nature of human perception. Putnam is also critical with the plurality of worlds espoused by Nelson Goodman in which different and incompatible ways of seeing things are actually valid. The problem with this idea for Putnam is that it undermines the fact that we interact with the same piece of reality and so there can be an interface despite diversity and incompatibility of description. ...Putnam points out that conceptual relativity or the different ways of seeing the same state of affairs internal to a conceptual scheme steers a middle course between the excess of scientism and relativism. The paper argues that conceptual relativity rejects scientism and relativism while still affirming science and plurality of views.

    which seems a good approach and one I would agree with (although I note on page 3 a ref to 'the philosopher Richard Dawkins' :rage: )

    As far as Platonism is concerned as I've often said, I find platonic realism persuasive. I've now come around to the point of view that the 'objects' of platonic realism, such as universals and natural numbers, are real and invariant structures of reason. And as 'the world' is actually 'our experience of the world', then these are not simply 'in the mind' as conceptualism argues. They're as real as tools or utensils or anything else we use, but they're not physical.

    //have to say, reading that essay, I'm an instant Putnam fan.//
  • Reductionism and holism
    Am I correct in my thinking?musicpianoaccordion

    Have a glance at this article about one of the originators of the idea of holism in philosophy.

    1. What do you think about how people use "holistic approach"? Used in the wrong way?musicpianoaccordion

    Not really. Holistic is mostly encountered in the field of medicine, i.e. holistic health practices.

    2. Are "reductionism vs holism" really that helpful?musicpianoaccordion

    Reductionism is one of the pernicious tendencies of modern philosophy. It's criticized by its antagonists as 'nothing but-ism' - examples being, humans are nothing but collections of atoms (or cells or molecules or whatever), the mind is nothing but the brain, the universe is nothing but matter.

    3. Aristotle issupposed to have said that "The whole is more than the sum of its parts.". Does it make him a supporter of holism and an antireductionist?musicpianoaccordion

    His philosophy was later called hylomorphism, where hyle is matter (literally, 'timber') and morphe is form. The forms of Aristotle are descended from Plato's ideas (eidos), different in some important respects but with an underlying similarity. Generally, Plato and Aristotle were opposed to reductionism

    4. For me as a musicianmusicpianoaccordion

    Music can obviously be very complex but at the same time it expresses simple principles albeit in a highly dynamic and textured way.
  • Is there an external material world ?
    Is that what I'm doing if I look at a fMRI of someone looking at a cup? Modelling the model?Isaac

    To have a model of a cup necessarily implies there's a cup.Isaac

    The discussion of 'the real cup' - that, if the perception of the cup is neural activity, then what is the 'real cup'? - is premissed on a misunderstanding. When you turn your attention to the 'nature of consciousness' then it's a qualitatively different type of act to 'turning your attention to the cup'. Why? Because the cup is by definition an object ('cup' being a token for any external object).

    But understanding the sense in which the mind constructs reality, as idealism posits, requires a different kind of attention to examination of 'the cup', because that is not an objective process, it's not concerned with objects, but with the actual process of knowing. It requires a kind of stopping (epoché) or 'cessation' which is more characteristic of contemplative than discursive reasoning.

    All the machinery of modern science is basically geared towards the object as an external phenomenon - you see this very clearly in the attempts to model consciousness scientifically. (There, you're trying to 'objectify' the process of knowing by understanding the mind or brain as another objective process.) The endeavour of objective understanding has no limits - I was just reading yesterday that it is now thought that there are literally trillions of galaxies, and at the other end of the scale that the Large Hadron Collider is getting started up again (New! Improved!) But understanding the nature of knowing is not necessarily amenable to that extraordinary scientific power that we now have access to.

    The cardinal difficulty is that this requires a shift in perspective, or a different mode of understanding.

    Common to Schopenhauer on the one hand and Buddhism on the other is the notion that the world of experience is something in the construction of which the observer is actively involved; that it is of its nature permanently shifting and, this being so, evanescent and insubstantial, a world of appearances only. — Bryan Magee, Schopenhaur's Philosophy

    You can see that also in Platonist philosophies with their focus on universals or ideas as the sub-structure of judgement; whilst the individual cup is an ephemeral instance, the idea of the cup is a universal, and so not something that can be broken or lost. Furthermore 'the idea of the cup' is neither objective nor subjective, but straddles the object-subject divide.

    From Spirituality and Philosophy in Kant's Critique of Pure Reason:

    I think we could call “spirituality” the search, practice, and experience through which the subject carries out the necessary transformations on himself in order to have access to the truth. We will call ‘spirituality’ then the set of these researches, practices, and experiences, which may be purifications, ascetic exercises, renunciations, conversions of looking, modifications of existence, etc., which are, not for knowledge but for the subject, for the subject’s very being, the price to be paid for access to the truth ~ Michel Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject

    The decisive distinguishing feature of Western philosophical spirituality is that it does not regard the truth as something to which the subject has access by right, universally, simply by virtue of the kind of cognitive being that the human subject is. Rather, it views the truth as something to which the subject may accede only through some act of inner self-transformation, some act of attending to the self with a view to determining its present incapacity, thence to transform it into the kind of self that is spiritually qualified to accede to a truth that is by definition not open to the unqualified subject.

    That, I claim, is precisely what has been lost in analytic philosophy, although still alive in contintental and perhaps phenomenological philosophy.
  • Donald Trump (All General Trump Conversations Here)
    He’s really f***ed this time. I know, I know, it’s been said before, but there’s no coming back from this.
  • How do you deal with the pointlessness of existence?
    Cheer up Tate. At least we have the Internet. :party:
  • Is there an external material world ?
    These ways of 'modeling the real world' are inherently misguided because they start with the assumption that what is in the mind represent what is outside the mind.Metaphysician Undercover

    I blame John Locke. :grimace:
  • Is there an external material world ?
    Then you come across Tom Storm's problem of explaining the consistency between us. If there's no intrinsic property which causes us to treat an object a certain way, then why do we so consistently do so?Isaac

    Because we’re all part of the same species/culture/language group etc. - as Janus put it. But you can find many counter-examples. One of those I remember from undergrad years was the anecdote of a African forest tribesman taken to a mountain lookout by anthropologists. There were clear views across a sweeping plain in the distance with herds of animals on them. He knelt down and started reaching in front of him and after some conversation with the translator, it was established he was trying to pick up these animals, as he had no sense of this kind of scale, having always dwelt in thickly forested areas.

    If you think about it, there are countless examples of this - different people interpreting the same scenario differently due to their background beliefs. Which is the ‘one right way’?

    There is no one “correct” way of carving up a scene. What is important for us may be of no interest in the life of a tiger or a fly, so every species has its own scheme for carving up the world according to its interests. In technical language, we say that every animal has its species-specific segmentation of reality, linked to its world-model. We are hard-wired to believe that our scheme for dividing the world into objects is the real one, because such a belief is necessary for existence. Though our segmentation of reality is partly bound to physical facts, much of it is arbitrary. However, there is one aspect of any segmentation which is non-negotiable: It must be self-consistent. What this means is that regardless of how information is received from the environment—whether visually, by sound or by touch—there can be no conflict: All the items of information must support one another. Also, when the organism undertakes actions, its plan of action must be fully aligned with its scheme of segmentation, so no discrepancy is ever encountered. So long as its segmentation is self-consistent, the animal cannot ever become aware of a difference between its world-model and reality.

    Pinter, Charles. Mind and the Cosmic Order (p. 14). Springer International Publishing. Kindle Edition.

    Although here is where I detect a shortcoming in Pinter's argument - which is that h. sapiens, being a rationally-aware sentient being, is able to become reflexively aware of the sense in which existence is a mental construct - as we're doing. In fact, arguably, this is what philosophy comprises. Although in his defense, he doesn't claim his book is philosophy as such.

    So there are attributes...Isaac

    Of course. I'm not saying that ‘the world is all in the mind’ - that the physical world is literally in your or my head.

    Pinter again:

    One of the most important insights of contemporary brain science is that the visual world is a constructed reality. When we look, what we hold in awareness is not an optical array but a mental construct, built from information in the array, which presents us with all that is of value to us in a scene.

    Pinter, Charles. Mind and the Cosmic Order (p. 17). Springer International Publishing. Kindle Edition.

    We're not dreaming it up, but the sense in which it exists 'outside of' or 'apart from' that constructed reality is unknown to us. We can't 'compare' the proverbial 'cup' with 'the real cup' because the real cup is just an temporary collection of atoms.

    for the second option we're having to invoke a whole load of speculated realms and mechanisms, just to avoid there being intrinsic properties and I can't see why.Isaac

    Because we're talking philosophy. Despite Banno's best efforts, not crockery.

    There is an intuition in philosophy that there is a lack, absence or deficiency in normal perception - the sense that things are not what they seem, or that the reality which most of us take for granted is not the whole story.
  • Is there an external material world ?
    You do not put the VR-generated forebrain fantasy back in the cupboard.Banno

    No fantasy involved. And the cupboard is just the same.
  • Is there an external material world ?
    The point is, the 'physical cup' exists - but it is not what we see. Our seeing of it is the overlay generated by our fantastically powerful VR-generating forebrain. What is physically real, then, does not exist in a meaningful sense - it only exists when it is seen to exist by an observer.

    This actually makes sense out of dualism. The constructive activities of the brain are invisible to science itself, as science only deals in what can be measured and quantified. But the things that we see are generated by the brain on the basis of those bare-bones objects. So the reality we actually inhabit is not what physically exists.

    That's why I keep going back to the distinction based on truth, and maintaining that there are unknown truths.Banno

    The assertion that there are 'unknown truths' is obviously only a surmise, because by definition you can never verify that until they're known. It's rather like the barber fallacy or any of those other set fallacies from Russell etc.
  • Is there an external material world ?
    It must be understood that nature does not aim to deceive us, but the very opposite: We imagine objects to be in surrounding space because that’s where they’re supposed to be—that’s where we reach out for them. Likewise, we experience visual objects as “holographic” images because that is the most informative and practical way of getting the information about them into our mind. Surely, however, the physical world consists of solid three-dimensional objects, so it seems that we must be seeing them correctly. Again, we are mistaken: The appearance of a three-dimensional object such as a teacup is a product of the visual brain. The “cup in itself”, the real teacup in the unobserved physical world, consists of atoms and charged particles, and “appearance” is not a force of physics.

    Pinter, Charles. Mind and the Cosmic Order (p. 81). Springer International Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  • Is there an external material world ?
    They are indeed “figments” because they exist nowhere except in awareness. As a matter of fact, they exist only as claims made by sentient beings, with no material evidence to back up those claims. Indeed, brain scans reveal electrical activity, but do not display sensations or inner experience.

    You see! This is why eliminativism claims that consciousness can't be real. Capiche? Those 'sensations and inner experiences' actually comprise the world of perception - but they can't be detected by scientific instruments.
  • Is there an external material world ?
    So the possibilities are that either real existents, including the objects perceived, the environmental conditions and the constitutions of the perceives all work together to determine the forms of perceptions. or else there is a universal or collective mind which determines the perceptions and their commonality.Janus

    Neither. There is an external reality, according to Pinter, but the way (or the sense) in which it exists is incomprehensible to us. It can be modelled scientifically, because scientific measurement only takes into account the measurable attributes. But the modelling of all those measurable attributes still does not comprise an object - it's not an object until it is designated as such by the observer. And you can see how that has an exact parallel in physics - that prior to the act of measurement the object has no real existence other than as a distribution of possibilities. This is why Pinter mentions QBism, which I've already mentioned several times.

    The point of Pinter's analysis is that objects do not exist as such outside the gestalts of perceivers. When we look at the world, what we are seeing is the product of the evolved brain which is like a fantastically sophisticated VR display superimposed over a domain that otherwise lacks inherent features or structure.

    Sensations, beliefs, imaginings and feelings are often referred to as figments, that is, creations of the mind. A mental image is taken to be something less than real: For one thing, it has no material substance and is impossible to detect except in the mind of the perceiver. It is true that sensations are caused by electrochemical events in a brain, but when experienced by a living mind, sensations are decisively different in kind from electrons in motion. They are indeed “figments” because they exist nowhere except in awareness. As a matter of fact, they exist only as claims made by sentient beings, with no material evidence to back up those claims. Indeed, brain scans reveal electrical activity, but do not display sensations or inner experience.

    An animal’s Sensorium is the repository of all its sensations and sensory experience. The Sensorium does not correspond to a specific area of the brain, but is a widely distributed collection of innate sensibilities and capacities. One of the central tasks of the brain is to code all sensory input so it gives rise in the organism to specific impressions and sensations. Everything that comes into the field of our awareness, every shading and nuance of feeling, is coded so as to have its unique, highly specific effect on consciousness.

    Pinter, Charles. Mind and the Cosmic Order (p. 52). Springer International Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  • Is there an external material world ?
    You're only approving that because the subject of the discussion has returned to cups. If we now introduce cupboards, you will feel that all is complete. :-)
  • Is there an external material world ?
    To have a model of a cup necessarily implies there's a cup. Otherwise it's a model of what?Isaac

    It should be recalled that here 'the cup' is a token for 'the object of perception'. It is supposed to represent a generic 'thing', anything that can be an object of perception. But we're not really talking about any such things as the proverbial cup. The subject of the discussion is the processes of cognition and comprehension, taking 'the cup' as an example. When you're modelling a specific process of cognition, then it helps to narrow it down to a token item such as the proverbial cup. But that is not strictly the case here; the 'modelling' we're discussing is not of a specific thing but the general process of cognition and comprehension.

    So I don't think you have made the case that:

    in our shared world, we do have reason to believe those atoms are constituted that way intrinsically.Isaac

    or

    . But... they still do genuinely form the shape of a hunter with his bow.Isaac

    These are basically assumptions - but that is the very point at issue! Do constructed artifacts have an intrinstic or inherent nature - or is that imposed on them by their makers, in line with a specific purpose?

    (What I find interesting about Pinter's book is his proposal that the 'bare bones' of material or physically-measurable objects don't have any intrinsic identity, but that identity is imposed upon them in the form of gestalts, meaningful wholes, which are the basic primitives of animal and human cognition.)

    Ken Gergen mentions some of the affinities he sees between buddhism and his model of relational being.Joshs

    Buddhist Abhidharma and 'mindfulness' was a major influence on The Embodied Mind, and has generally become part of the enactivist/embodied cognition milieu.

    This blog post on the Zen Koan 'First there is a Mountain' has some interesting things to say about imputed identity.
  • Is there an external material world ?
    Admirable effort and I can see what you're getting at. My response would be to notice that your approach is indeed instrumentalist - that it takes an instrumental view of reason. This is that there is the possibility of faulty cognition, which is able to be corrected through various rational means, so as to arrive a correct perception. But the underlying assumption is realist, specifically that there is a real [X] which exists even if we might have mistaken views about. And that is in keeping with the overall orientation of cognitive science and scientific realism.

    But again, this is a different kind of analysis to the philosophical issue of 'the nature of the external world' and the way it might be constituted. That operates on a different level. (And I don't want to come off as some self-described expert in saying that. I don't consider myself expert, but as a self-directed student who is following a thread of insight, which in my view has generally been neglected in much modern philosophy.)

    There's a comment on teacups on the book I keep referring to, Pinter's Mind and the Cosmic Order. As I've said, this too is not a philosophy book as such, although it has many philosophical implications. But the point that he makes is that:

    Common sense leads us to assume that we see in Gestalts because the world itself is constituted of whole objects and scenes, but this is incorrect. The reason events of the world appear holistic to animals is that animals perceive them in Gestalts. The atoms of a teacup do not collude together to form a teacup: The object is a teacup because it is constituted that way from a perspective outside of itself. — Pinter, Charles. Mind and the Cosmic Order (p. 3).

    This is in line with his overall thesis that the identity of things is generated by perceptual gestalts in the mind of the observing subject - that the object in itself is not inherently 'a teacup'.

    But I'm not saying that Pinter has it right, and you have it wrong. Your analysis is sound on the level at which it is made, but his analysis is from a different perspective.

    As a general remark, the awareness that the Universe as it is in itself really is an ineffable mystery, but one that our evolved cognitive systems interpret in a particular way for our own purposes, strikes me as being a salutory and modest philosophical attitude. The alternative seems to be an unwarranted confidence in our taken-for-granted realism. It is closer to what philosophical scepticism really is - more so than scientific realism, in most cases.
  • Is there an external material world ?
    All philosophy is about sentences to you. It's just language-games.
    — Wayfarer

    Pretty much. Unlike life.
    Banno

    I should've stopped there. :wink: