Comments

  • Doubting personal experience
    What about mental arithmetic? or mental operations of any kind?Wayfarer

    That's why you need networks of neurons. To mark a state. When you had to learn your times tables, a whole lot of neural connections grew to fix the patterns in your head.

    And even if symbols are physical, the physical material they're made out of, is different to their meaning.Wayfarer

    Of course. That is how symbols get their power. They are as little physical (in an entropic sense) as it is possible for them to be.

    You could chisel your thoughts on stone. But soft and erasable wax is easier. Then pen and parchment. Then word processor.

    So symbols have to be material marks. But the more immaterial they can be, the more useful they actually are.

    But I do see anything like 'signification' in the inorganic domain.Wayfarer

    A river tells the water which way to go as a mark on the landscape. No need to over-think it.
  • Doubting personal experience
    But for me it really isn't about being faithful to anything. I'm not a Peircean historian.

    So I do see him making a foundational contribution to what I would generally call the organic, or systems, or holistic vein of metaphysical thought in the Western tradition. But I don't apologise for sticking to a naturalistic reading of Peirce.
  • Doubting personal experience
    What is the 'materiality of symbols'?Wayfarer

    Symbols have to be physical marks. So they have materiality in that sense. Something needs to be scratched on a surface for it to endure as a sign.

    And then the flipside is that semiosis - as acts of interpretance - must always be engaged in some world. There has to be an interaction going on - a modelling relation which is doing something physical in the end (like entropy production principally).

    'Sign relations' generally only operate in the the context of life and mind, don't they?Wayfarer

    Well they definitely apply there. And the speculative metaphysical project that most interests me is pan-semiosis, where semiosis is generalised to the non-living or physico-chemical sphere. So even the Universe is explained in terms of a sign relation.

    And that's not particularly mystical because it is all about regular self-organising condensed matter stuff - symmetry and symmetry breaking. Every symmetry breaking creates local information. Some kind of gradient or asymmetry is left to mark a direction in the world.

    But it does mean that we can talk about everything from the mind to the cosmos in terms of a single unifying metaphysics.

    This is a bit misleading. As you are no doubt well aware, although you have adopted and adapted many of Peirce's ideas in developing your version of physicalism, he explicitly rejected metaphysical materialism and characterized his own position as objective idealism.aletheist

    And you claim as your Peirce the non-scientist.

    So I'm not that bothered about a notion of "the consistent Peirce" as clearly he was pulled in several directions quite powerfully as a thinker prepared to just go for it. And I can't imagine Peirce in the end making much of an impact on theism with his particular version of it (maybe you can see something different?), while with biosemiotics in particular, a lot of scientists are getting that aspect of his work.
  • Doubting personal experience
    As I've read all the advanced, super-scientific, amazing scientific explanations - the ones people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to learn, and all it is is a sleight of hand.Rich

    Cool. They couldn't fool you, eh?
  • Doubting personal experience
    I know all about habituationRich

    Great. So tell me what you find so anthropomorphic about the neuronal machinery of habituation. The more usual criticism is that it is a tad mechanistic. But I'm really excited by this prospect of you pouncing. Here's the diagram you want.

    habituation.gif
  • Doubting personal experience
    So I posted that link to habituation. Pounce away. :)
  • Doubting personal experience
    Nope. Not in my class. Are we talking university or primary school?
  • Doubting personal experience
    Why? Do you have a reason to think that there is no brain doing something inside your skull?
  • Doubting personal experience
    Did I mention neurons?

    But yes. If we were talking of mindfulness down at the level of simple creatures like sea slugs, then the habituation of neurons does become a relevant and unmystical framing of the discussion - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habituation
  • Doubting personal experience
    The hand waving happens when science turns neurons into little humans.Rich

    What could that even mean?
  • Doubting personal experience
    See what I mean by hand-wavy? You didn't mention the basal ganglia once. Instead you capitalised consciousness to show that all that messy neuroscience that fills hundreds of textbooks is stuff "you don't need to know". You can go right on talking confidently about this Consciousness as some mystic substance or plane of a creative being that all those dumb scientists have no freaking clue about.
  • Doubting personal experience
    Well, yes, but you also have to acknowledge that there is a self-reinforcing tendency even amongst the intelligentsia.Wayfarer

    Sure. Scientists are human too. They have investments in belief systems. They have social boundaries to mark. They like fame and fortune as much as the next guy.

    So what makes a difference is the institution of science. If that is strong, that is what shines through in the long run.

    If psi exists and evidence for it is being suppressed, that would be bad news. But why shouldn't science as an institution suppress psuedo-science?

    There was, or is, a group called PSICOPS (I think the name was changed)Wayfarer

    Yep. Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Now called CSI - Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. http://www.csicop.org/

    So we're dealing with a consensus model of reality, of the kinds of things that respectable scientists ought to study, and the kinds of things they ought not to.Wayfarer

    And what's wrong with a consensus view? Isn't that the whole bleeding point of rational inquiry into nature?

    And when it comes to the careers of "respectable scientists", they don't have research careers unless they are at the fringe pushing for something new. The difference is that the existence of a consensus is what defines that fringe mostly. Scientists know where the next profitable place to dig is located.

    So what we see 'scepticism' nowadays doing, is the exact opposite of what scepticism set out to do, namely, it nowadays defends the consensus reality of scientific realism, which determines the bounds of what reasonable people are supposed to think in the way religion used to do. And that is precisely the point where it morphs into scientism.Wayfarer

    So what you are describing is first the scientific mindset being born and now it being able to look back in satisfaction with all that it has achieved. Yah, boo, sucks to all the mystics out there.

    Sure there is scientism - that excessive confidence in materialistic explanation. And yet it is within science that you find the best resources for also criticising that overly-reductionist viewpoint.

    Sheldrake had zero impact on the state of consensus within theoretical biology. Yet holism and semiosis are alive and well in those same circles, building up their mathematical muscle.
  • Doubting personal experience
    How are you defining habits exactly? Is that an actual theory with some mathematical structure or simply vague hand waving on your part?

    (A Peircean definition for example does focus on triadic or hierarchical organisation - the maths of thermodynamic complexity. And it is a physicalist metaphysics in that it extends causation to formal and final cause by embracing the materiality of symbols, or sign relations. So the notion of universal habits means something specific in natural philosophy.)
  • Doubting personal experience
    Although my view is that from the perspective of philosophy, the question ought to be treated hypothetically - i.e. if there is such a form of causation, then it is something not acknowledged by current science.Wayfarer

    But to talk about causes, first you have to be able to demonstrate the reliable existence of an effect (so something more than coincidences, accidents, randomness, etc).

    That hasn't been the case in parapsychology labs (or at least, only believing researchers are able to report significant results). And in the real world, casinos can set the odds on their slot machines with decimal precision.

    Though I guess morphic resonance is the kind of non-theory that could explain the non-existence of negative casino profits. The psychic memory of failed gambling must hang over these places in a way that ensures a steady statistical level of loss on their games of chance. The casino owners think they win because of the mechanical design of their pokies and roulette wheels. But in fact it is this alternative psychic force.

    You can see why science as an institution does roll its eyes when you have jokers that can't show there is some effect in want of a theory, then invent theories anyway that apply no matter how the world behaves. It might sound like science to the uninitiated, but it breaks the philosophy of science on at least those two basic counts.
  • Concepts in classical physics
    You have to consider all three laws of dynamics as a system to see how the second law scales local symmetry breaking.

    So the first law establishes energy conservation/symmetry at the local scale - the inertia of bodies. Then the third law does the same at the global scale - zeroing the baseline in terms of action and reaction so that all the causes of change are defined as being internal to the system. Then the second law describes the symmetry breakings which are the dynamical changes that can now be seen to take place against a generally unchanged, energy conserving, local~global backdrop.

    The impulse becomes the cause of change. The momentum becomes the resistance to change. We get that useful distinction between kinetic and potential energy. We can track the conserved quantity of change being moved back and forth across this line on the presumption that as observers we are also fixed by a common frame of reference.

    So the definition is not circular but embedded in a hierarchical relation. Change is being confined by the establishment of fixed coordinates both above and below. It takes three laws to describe a system.

    (Which is why at the next level, you had to have classical physics bookended by quantum mechanics and relativity. One to fix the local grain of action. The other to make spacetime now fully closed for the conservation of action. That is, both QM and GR open up the conservation issue, but then give you the tools by which to define a closure that makes the Universe safe for a broadly classical description.)
  • Doubting personal experience
    f PSI were shown to be true, it would 'overturn the basic facts of physics and chemistry'.Wayfarer

    Not to mention the profitability of the casino industry.
  • Doubting personal experience
    So do you believe Sheldrake's theory has been experimentally validated?
  • Doubting personal experience
    I dunno. I in fact had a close interest in parapsychology research in the early 1990s as an example of science in real world action. Even did a ganzfeld psi test (as a sceptic, of course it didn't work for me - the "experimenter effect" I guess. :) ).

    Same with research into meditation, OOBs, homeopathy and anything fringey. I talked with a lot of those researchers.

    So I agree that scientism is alive and well and not willing to listen. But on the ground, there are a lot of believers who actually hold down research positions and who get to publish what the heck they like in journals or at conferences.

    Frankly cranks abound in science. I've met a heap of them. And science - as a social institution - can afford to be pretty tolerant of "heresy" because it can trust in the overall rationality of its process. It is self-correcting in the long run and doesn't need to impose its authority on every idea.

    Of course when it comes to public funding, attitudes tighten up. But really I never saw any general attempt at suppressing way out ideas so long as they were in some way "science" in being in at least some sense prospectively testable.
  • Doubting personal experience
    And, you see, the reference to 'folk metaphysics' really does put you more towards the reductionist end of the spectrum, I'm afraid; after all, it is the elminativists that speak of the mind in terms of 'folk psychology'.Wayfarer

    But I would be a weak eliminativist in that I am only arguing that there are models that are better or worse in the light of some purpose.

    So folk models are those that may be actually good for what they are meant to do - produce a conformity of thought targeted at the creation of an enduring social system. While scientific models are meant to serve a different purpose - talk about the world at the level of abstract, globally invariant, "objective" formalisms.

    So my epistemology recognises the part that purposes play in the production of models or paradigms. A basic "subjectivity" in this regard is built into the pragmatic position. Whereas you are talking as if this is a competition between rival objective truths. That is why - in attacking scientism the way you do - you come off as championing the alternative objectivity of the occult.

    No, it's deeper than that. It's no coincidence that Dennett in addition to describing humans as 'moist robots', is also an evangalising atheist who sees himself locked in a battle of (rational) science vs (superstitious) religion.Wayfarer

    Or is he a blowhard that likes the thrill of public controversy and big publishing deals?

    I find it hard to think he actually takes himself that seriously. He actually seems smarter than that. But also his ego shines through. So its his way of having fun.

    And yes, it is also legitimate for rationality to be in a fight with religion. Immanent naturalism is up against transcendental discourses that want to leave the window open to creators, miracles, dualism and other kinds of supernatural goings-on. Naturalism's point of view is that it has gone around closing all those windows and so is creating a picture of nature which is self-organising or closed for causality. The idea of a unified Cosmos makes sense. So to now make a case for transcendent causes, you can't just talk about "the essential mystery of it all". To be playing the rational game, you have to come up with rather more concrete evidence of something that naturalism seems to have missed.

    So it is not that there isn't a subject matter. However where I personally part ways with the reductionists is in taking a systems or holistic point of view. And that in turn brings me back towards some fairly "religious" sounding metaphysics.

    It's complex. :)
  • Doubting personal experience
    That's similar to my response to Apokrisis (the paragraph about 'where science is in the hierarchy of understanding), although perhaps not so clearly stated.Wayfarer

    Are life and mind any more "mysterious" than matter? The problem with the idea of 'mystery', is that it suggests something hidden, something occult, that might be somehow uncovered, rather than just the simple fact that matter, life and mind are thinkable in their temporal, finite senses, but as ultimate, absolute, infinite and/or eternal, cannot be fully grasped by a finite mind.John

    As John points out, there is a difference between expecting the mystery to be cleared up in some radically different way (revelation? poetry?) and accepting that science - as the refined form of rational inquiry - is a finite exercise. (Or even, as I always argue, pragmatically myopic in that it seeks control over reality much more than it seeks any "truth" of reality.)

    Dennett, in particular, is desperate to 'de-mystify' the nature of mind and life - to say 'at last, science has unravelled the mystery'. You see, I think that is in some sense pathological - I think it's driven by the actual fear of the mysterious nature of life and mind. It is instructive that Dennett, Dawkins, and the like, are always obliged to deny or obfuscate the mysterious nature of life and mind. Robert Rosen, I suspect, would never do that.Wayfarer

    This was the bit where you had a go at scientific inquiry as refusing to acknowledge its epistemic limits when really, even these arch-reductionists would see themselves as being anti-occult explainers. So they don't pathologically fear "a mystery" - your suggestion of some personal foible. They quite sensibly oppose "unnecessary mystification" - and so express a communal standard that rationality seeks to apply to the scope of speculative hypothesis.

    If it ain't testable, it ain't in the game. And that is a deliberate choice that arises from accepting practical limits to making models of the world.

    Of course I then agree that Dennett, Dawkins, the usual candidates, play a part in the great dichotomising cultural war of Enlightenment monadic materialism against Romanticism's dualising transcendence. So outside of the formal boundaries of science, you have this other big show going on as a folk metaphysical battle.

    But I like to keep the two things separate.