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Thanks for taking the time to explain your position on the issue to me. I promise this to be the last question as I think you have been more than patient. You seem to be suggesting that the problem of qualia and mind/body interaction can be dismissed as logically fallacious thinking, primarily as the result of the fallacy of division. I would be interested in reading more formally on this solution as I have not encountered that argument in the literature I have had time to review on the topic. I would be especially interested if there are any atheist philosophers that advance such argument. Can you direct me to what you would consider the best academic or lay text / article for the proposition that qualia and the mind/body problem as they are currently understood in the philosophical and scientific realms are a result of a fallacy of division?
I have no academic sources (other than just sources on the fallacy of division). When presented with a collection of objects, the collection can have attributes the objects themselves do not have (friction example). So when you said:
That is the fallacy of division because it is insisting that the collection of objects can't have a property that is missing in its component parts. If you replace the "must" with "may" then I wouldn't have a problem with it; of course that kind of lets the air of out the tires of the argument.
Again, I'm not demanding that something magical can't happen between the mind and brain. What I'm saying is that demanding the mind is more than the sum of its parts because of the properties of the parts is the fallacy of division. You can't be sure that is true (without much more knowledge that we don't have). And the same goes for friction. We don't know if friction on an object is just the sum of it parts (and their collisions). We assume that it is, until we know otherwise; instead of appealing to magic. And as far as I'm concerned, the mind body "problem" is nothing more than an appeal to magic. An appeal to make humans special, to separate humans from the rest of the universe. It is the same old religious claim, disguised by fancy words; so people can maintain that religious view (that humans are special) without embarrassing themselves.
Thank you. I sincerely appreciate your willingness to educate me on your views.
"It is the silly product of people who want to believe humans have souls, but are unwilling to use that discredited word."
When it comes to religious matters the idea that people have souls makes everything possible. The idea that people have souls or spirits that will continue after the die has always been an universal belief. people have images of their souls or reconstituted bodies cavorting in the happy hunting grounds or beer halls.
So with the idea of souls it was easy for con men to come up with a list of rules or taboos to control the sheep and make them behave so that the obedient sheep would gain entrance into eternal life. In the Bible Moses used that to gain power and wealth for himself, his family, and his thugs. Con men use the same proven techniques today.
Since the average person wants eternal life more than anything else he will put up with all sorts of BS in order to stay in the good graces of some god character who will give it to him. And if he gets out of line the con men might kill him because he represents a loss of revenue for their clothing lines, trinkets, and theme parts (churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, Mecca, the Vatican, etc).
People who don't care about eternal life are not controlled by that particular superstition. So they have no reason to believe in any deity. After all, that's the main deity's claim to fame. Other deities might manage lesser issues, such as war, health, love, etc.
My friends and I call it HeavenGreed™. It is the ultimate form of greed. They want everything, forever.
"My friends and I call it HeavenGreed™."
That's a new expression I haven't seen before.
According the the biblical fairy tale in Genesis 5:27 Methuselah lived 969 years, the most of anyone. But all the fairy tale says that he did was have a bunch of kids. There's not supposed to be any sex in the biblical heaven so what will he do with himself?
Apologies, I posted this below by accident. For ease of tracking, the link I would suggest is:
I appreciate your thoughtful reply. (We are so used to total morons blowing into this forum that it takes us a little time to re-calibrate! Maybe a martini or some good scotch would help!)
Keep in mind, sir, that everywhere on the frontier of knowledge scientists are wrestling with unsolved problems. This is where the sciences meet the unknown, not where the laws of nature are failing. That scientists might never solve a problem does not, in itself, imply a failure of natural principles. For example, if biologists and paleontologists concluded that it was impossible to explain how life actually arose on earth, that would not, in itself, imply a failure of natural principles. (We might be looking at an inability to recover lost history.)
Why must the sciences be restricted to reductionist thinking? The study of ecology, for instance, must integrate numerous factors to explain the big picture. It is a misconception to think that the sciences are wholly reductionist. The fact that life might be reducible to nothing but atoms is no more significant than saying that Shakespeare's greatest plays can be reduced to letters. Surely, no one would explain Shakespeare's plays by a statistical breakdown of letters used! An adequate explanation must use concepts that have no meaning at the lower, reductionist level of letters. This takes us into the subject of emergent properties, properties that don't exist below a certain level of complexity.
Temperature, viewed as an intrinsic property measured by a thermometer, is replaced by molecular velocities at the molecular level. A molecule has velocity and various modes of vibration, but if we overlooked those factors there would be nothing left that would correspond to temperature.
Hardness of rocks is another property that has no meaning at the molecular level. It only emerges when enough atoms or molecules are present to allow such a measurement. The physical properties of gold are another set of emergent properties that have no meaning at the level of one atom of gold. Color, softness, malleability, density, and melting point are meaningless properties until enough gold atoms have been collected.
A digital photograph is not a photograph at all at small scales. You see dots (or their equivalent) in several basic colors, not tiny pieces of a photo involving curved lines, subtle colors, etc. At what point do we get a picture? It all depends on how you define a picture.
The organization of a large ant colony is yet another emergent property. It is a meaningless concept at the level of individual ants. Ditto for national governments, which have no meaning at the level of individual people. If you looked at any one person, you would scarcely see an identifiable, tiny piece of national government.
There are many kinds of emergent properties. The one thing they have in common is that they have no meaning at some level of complexity. You can't explain Shakespeare by studying words! (But you can't have Shakespeare without words!) You need higher concepts that don't exist at the word level.
We can break the study of an ant colony down to individual ants, down to their anatomical parts, down to the cellular systems of those parts, down to the mechanisms within cells, down to organic chemistry, down to the atomic basis of chemistry, and down to the basic laws of nature applying to atomic physics. The thing you need to understand is that while this reductionist approach explains a great deal, and ultimately serves as a theoretical foundation, it is not the tool to use in studying emergent properties. It's not that the reductionist approach is false, but rather that it is a horrible and impractical way to study emergent properties. We need concepts that have no meaning at the lower levels of complexity.
The next big point is that emergent properties require neither a special creator nor special forces. They do not violate the reductionist foundation. The magnificent organization of an ant colony is consistent with the usual forces of physics discovered by reductionist analysis. A digital photo is consistent with the properties of ink and paper. It does not magically arise from a non-photo foundation!
My interpretation of the mind/body problem is that it mistakenly views an emergent property (consciousness, thought) as requiring a fundamental break with the "materialistic" natural principles. Based on a growing body of evidence, I just don't see the need to make such an extreme leap. Yes, we have a mystery, but so what? The fun of science is digging into these mysteries and, based on its track record, science has been spectacularly successful! Therefore, we shouldn't sell it short. An unsolved mystery (and this is a very complex area) does not mean that science has collapsed! I don't see any fundamental roadblock that requires us to bail out and start looking for some new, weird force. From my perspective, the mind-body problem doesn't exist!
Slight digression here. It can be skipped if it is 2am and you are in a hurry to get to bed!
Strictly speaking, natural principles (natural laws) are purely descriptive. We carefully observe how reality works and summarize our results mathematically as various principles. Unfortunately, mathematics can act as a shoehorn to falsely suggest that infinite precision is involved. Just because we have the formula F = ma, derived from studies of, say, 9 decimal places, doesn't mean that we can safely push it to 100 decimal places!
A principle derived from careful and consistent observation doesn't depend on understanding, so it cannot fall due to misunderstanding. Even though Newtonian mechanics have been succeeded by Einstein's relativity, Newton's formulas (within appropriate ranges) are still valid and still used to build great bridges and aircraft carriers. They still apply to space flight.
It's just that Einstein's better understanding of reality allows us to formulate those principles a bit more accurately. That means we can apply them over a greater range of situations, such as building a GPS system.
Two mistakes need to be avoided. First, we must dispense with the idea that future breakthroughs in science will invalidate our natural laws. (Barring some fundamental change in the universe, they would still be valid within their appropriate ranges and conditions.) Secondly, we should keep in mind that each principle was plucked from observations made under certain conditions and within specific ranges of accuracy. One cannot simply assume that those principles will apply beyond those boundaries.
@Greensnake Re: "Reductionist explanation"
Holy cow, Green! That was awesome. And I actually understood it all. You just helped me learn some cool stuff today. Thanks!
Such encouragement! (I can see a big, fat philosophical post clogging some thread in the near future, with angry voices rising all around. "Who encouraged that idiot?" And, Tin-Man quietly slips out the rear door.)
@Green Re: "And, Tin-Man quietly slips out the rear door."
Me? Leave quietly? Hah! Not a chance. Then I would miss all the fun. What I WILL do, however, is start pointing at Old Man and shouting, "HE did it!" The best part is that he likely will be so sloshed with his wine that he would stand up (unsteadily, of course), raise his glass in the air, and shout/slur, "Dat's right, ye fekkin' arses! Twas I!" Then he would plop back down in his chair, pass out, and start snoring loudly. Best meeting EVER!
If you have the time, I would enjoy continuing our discussion, especially related to you position on worship. I find that a very interesting line of thought.
Either way, I’m out for tonight. Kids, wife and life.
Just posted a couple of replies to you, good sir. Didn't forget about it. Just been dang busy the past couple of days. The discussions with you have been a nice breath of fresh air, by the way. Just so you know...
Edit to add: Oh, and enjoy your night out. Life should always come first.
This reply must be shorter than I would like because my work schedule during the week is hectic. I am typing this between my last meeting of the day and my commute so apologies if it is not as thorough as it should be or if I, entirely accidentally I assure you, misstate or misunderstand your position.
First, may I say, respectfully, that you appear to be awesome. I love these types of discussions and appreciate you taking me seriously enough to put time and effort into such a detailed response. I owe you that scotch.
Also, I will stick to my promise in this thread not to argue any points with you and instead ask only clarifying questions to advance my own understanding of your position. Perhaps after I have taken the time to learn sufficiently your position and its foundations, a more (politely) adversarial discussion might be interesting. If others find it boring, we can each have a few fingers beforehand and see if that spices things up.
I agree wholeheartedly that the possibility that science, or any other form of rational inquiry, may never solve a problem does not, in itself, imply a failure of natural principles. In fact, I would say that such a failure says little other than that there may not be, for whatever reason, sufficient data or tools to resolve the issue.
In your response, you asked “Why must the sciences be restricted to reductionist thinking?”. This is, to me, a brilliant question but one that I have found many people are resistant to asking and/or answering because of the potential implications. Have I understood your position correctly that you would entertain non-reductionist explanations for natural phenomenon?
I am very glad you touched on the subject of emergent properties. As I very briefly mentioned in my discussion with LogicForTW, I find the entire area both highly interesting and complicated enough to get (enjoyably) lost in. With the limited time I have, I want to try and take the discussion to the next level, namely breaking emergent properties into reductive and non-reductive.
I understand your position to be that mind is ultimately a reductive emergent property as opposed to a non-reductive one. If that is true, I think you are correct that the mind/body problem doesn’t exist. However, most of the literature I have reviewed seems to suggest that mind is, at least based on the current understanding we have of the material constituents of the world lacking any experimentally verifiable mental properties in their individual states, more properly understand as a non-reductive emergent property. If mind is a non-reductive emergent property, it would appear to be the sole instance of such a property in the entirety of the natural world and this opens up the entire can of worms associated with the mind/body problem. What are your thoughts on the possibility of mind being a non-reductive emergent property? Are there particular arguments that lead you to believe mind is more properly seen as reductive than non-reductive?
Again, thanks for taking the time to type such a detailed response. I think there is great potential for me to advance my own understanding in this discussion.
My view of the mind is that it will eventually be shown to operate within nature's laws, that no new forces will be required beyond the four we already know of. Whether knowledge limited to the molecular level can explain our minds is another question. What if a perfect knowledge at the molecular level was consistent with several types of mind models, and that to arrive at ours required additional knowledge only available at a higher level? In that case, it would seem that a complete explanation of our minds could not be wholly reductive. Yet, there would be no conflict with natural principles.
The nature of consciousness is not presently understood so, in keeping with science's splendid record we should not throw in the towel at such an early stage. This is analogous to an earlier problem of the earth's age based on cooling calculations. It vexed Darwin greatly because rigorous mathematical calculations led to an earth far too young for his evolution. Eventually, the discovery of radioactivity provided the key that proved Darwin right. At one time there was also the vexing problem of the sun's energy source. Eventually that was resolved with a knowledge of nuclear physics. The wise course seems to be that of the optimist. Stick with what works and if a seemingly impossible roadblock arises, sit on it for a time.
I'm having a problem understanding why parts should have all of the properties of the whole. I certainly agree with you that atoms and their simple groupings don't have mental properties. Suppose a tire was made out of little, rubber cubes all glued together, each cube being no larger than an ant's head. The tire has the property of rolling downhill on a gentle slope, a property not shared by the individual cubes.
Even if "mind" were a substance, it would not follow that the substance had to be part of all its components. Water, for example, can't be found in oxygen or hydrogen atoms. But it's worse than that. Perhaps "mind" should be viewed as a process. In that case, it's almost a foregone conclusion that its components do not have its distinguishing property.
Think of a computer playing a game of chess against you. It anticipates your moves and thinks about how the game will proceed. It may lay subtle traps or shore up some weakness of its own position. For the life of you, it appears to be a thinking machine! So, let's say that this computer has a mind. It would be a different kind of mind than a human's, obviously, but the use of "mind" is in many ways justified. Whether consciousness arises in that mind is a point we don't need to explore. Perhaps, more complicated computer minds, build around a different architecture, might have consciousness for all we know, but for our discussion that is academic.
The point of the above is that none of the capacitors, resisters, coils, transistors, or bits of wire have this "mind." Yet, our chess-playing computer does. There is nothing about our computer's mind that requires adding a non-materialistic "something." Even though the individual parts don't have a mind, they have properties that make a mind possible under certain arrangements. And, we could break those computer parts all the way down to atoms. Although the computer's mind ultimately rests on atoms, it would be ludicrous to say that its mind was nothing more than atoms in motion! No contradiction is involve in that we could view the computers mind as atoms in motion, but that would hardly tell the whole story. An engineer or a programmer would find such a description to be totally useless. At their levels new concepts become the fundamental building blocks, and new laws arise governing those building blocks, and the consideration of atoms is not where their story is told.
Reductionist data doesn't seem to cover all the bases. In trying to figure out how humans arose on earth, there seems to be no place within cellular or molecular data to come up with a meteorite that wipes out the dinosaurs and makes mammalian evolution possible. It seems that one must use information at higher levels to get a complete explanation. However, there is no conflict requiring the abandonment of basic principles.
A fascinating post. As previously promised, I intended only to ask clarifying questions. I freely admit however that my section below re: division, properties, and reduction borders on breaking my promise. For what it may be worth, I am just trying to clarify the manner in which I am using terms so as to avoid confusion because of my own failure to be clear. Also, I beg any reader’s indulgence and a little leeway. This is a very difficult topic to write about clearly and I am not trying to be intentionally vague or misleading.
Reading your first paragraph, the phrase that caught my eye was:
“In that case, it would seem that a complete explanation of our minds could not be wholly reductive. Yet, there would be no conflict with natural principles.”
Are you proposing that it might be possible to have a correct theory of mind that is (1) entirely consistent with known physical laws at a certain lower level of complexity but that (2) requires an additional non-reductive component to emerge at a higher level in order to account for all of the relevant properties minds may ultimately possess?
Have I fairly understood your position? As you have said, this is a fairly complex area so if I have inadvertently stated your position incorrectly, please accept my apologies.
You also mentioned that “I'm having a problem understanding why parts should have all of the properties of the whole.” If this is the position I communicated previously, I apologize. I did not do a good job of explaining my question and anyone calling me on a fallacy of division/composition was correct. I think this miscommunication may have arisen because of a failure on my part to clearly articulate what I meant when I used the term “non-reductive emergent property”. Like I said in my summary of the problem to LogicforTW, these arguments on emergence go far beyond the scope of a simple overview. However, because I think it has become relevant to avoid miscommunication, I am taking a moment to summarize my understanding of the traditional philosophical use of the term.
What I was trying to suggest was that, if reductive materialism and/or physicalism is correct, the emergent properties of the whole, while not present in the individual constituent parts, must be entirely (and this is a key word) explicable in terms of the interaction of properties that the constituent parts do possess. I think this is a subtle but very important distinction and it has always been my understanding that this is what distinguishes non-reductive from reductive emergent properties in philosophy of mind.
By way of example, let’s use your tire made of cubes. The “property” of rolling down hill is certainly not present in the hypothetical cubes. However, the emergent “rolling down hill” property is entirely explicable in terms of properties the cubes do possess, namely their solidity, weight, and the physical interaction of the compositional structure of the whole with the surroundings, among many other things. The same is true for water. Neither hydrogen or oxygen is water so, in a sense, water “emerges” as a new substance once those molecules are combined. However, all of the “new” properties that water possesses are entirely explicable by reference to the interactions of the properties of the constituent parts. In this way, although a whole may certainly have properties that are not possessed by the parts (or vice-versa), this is very different from suggesting that a whole might possess a property that is not explicable entirely in terms of the interactions of the properties possessed by the parts.
As I understand the mind/body problem, this subtle distinction becomes critical once the term “mental properties” is fleshed out, i.e. once we start attempting to account for qualia, subjective experience, consciousness and intentionality. To short-circuit a massively complex argument and get closer to ending my ramblings because I am in serious doubt as to whether anyone cares, my understanding is that, once these details are accounted for, all current materialist theories of emergence as a solution to the mind/body problem end up requiring non-reductive emergence in order to be logically consistent. More importantly, and to make it clear why this has nothing to do with an appeal to ignorance, it has been seriously proposed, even by atheist philosophers, that it may be logically impossible (I mean strict, formal logical impossibility) for even any potential materialist theory of mind to avoid this problem. If this logical impossibility is true, then the mind/body problem demonstrates that reductive materialism must be false.
I freely admit that my understanding articulate above may be in error or that perhaps I have made a distinction without a difference. If so, the error is inadvertent.
And, of course, even if everything I just said is true, it is also entirely irrelevant as to whether a non-reductive materialist explanation can solve the mind/body problem.
Finally, I am not ignoring the example of the “minded” computer. Instead, I am sidestepping that discussion because, as you pointed out, I think it raises some hugely interesting and diverting issues, such as when an artificially intelligent machine would be minded. Given some of the excellent conversations I have had with other forum members already, I think an entirely separate thread exploring the opinions of forum members on the intersection of mind, consciousness, emergence, artificial intelligence and ethics might be a fascinating discussion. I may try to work up an interesting thought experiment over the weekend on such topic and see if it sparks any discussions.
Thank you for taking such a significant amount of time to discuss with me and for the respect you have shown me in taking my questions seriously.
I meant what I said by the way. I owe you a scotch. If you bothered to read all of that, I owe you two.
Please forgive errors. Due to length, I gave up on proofing.
Sorry I'm a little late to the party here, as I have away for the weekend visiting family.
Firstly the word "opposition" doesn't seem right to me. Atheism is not in opposition to theism. It simply means the lack or absence of it. Of course there are things theists may believe I would oppose, but that is different. Atheism makes no claims or assertions, though atheists of course may. I don't believe any deities exist, or anything supernatural because sufficient objective evidence has not been demonstrated for the claim, and it is an objective fact that human beings create fictional deities. Beyond that it seems plain to me that humans create deities in their own image, rather than the other way around, and it is the only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance, and fits all the objective evidence.
1) On it's own nothing, it is the simple lack of a single belief.
2) The term deity will vary according to who is claiming they exist, as an atheist I wouldn't attempt to define deities any more than I try to define different types of mermaids. I have seen no evidence demonstrate for anything supernatural, so again I'm not sure why I would attempt to define what I don;t believe exists. In all cases I remain an agnostic about any claims that are unfalsifiable, as of course I must as the only rational position, but I don't believe the claims until proper evidence can be demonstrated, and so am also an atheist.
Sat, 04/28/2018 - 07:14 Permalink
1. Atheism is simply a statement that a person does not believe in God, without taking the next step of affirmatively stating that it can be proven that God does not exist.
2. Anti-theism (“Strong Atheism”) is the stronger affirmative claim that it can be specifically proven that God does not exist.
Furthermore, based on my understanding of Cognostic’s post, a person cannot assert whether they are an atheist or anti-theist as to a particular “god” without a precise definition of what is meant by the term “God”.
Have I understood correctly?
1) I'm not sure I'd use the word proven, rather evidenced, but it's true that all atheism means is the absence or lack of a single belief, which is not a contrary claim to theism and itself therefore carries no "burden of proof". However to go farther and claim no deities exist, would entail a burden of proof, but in epistemological terms isn't necessary.
2) Again I'm not sure I'd use the word proven as it implies an absolute, but yes strong atheism is the position that evidence can be demonstrated that no deities exist. Whilst I think some deities and the claims made for them are falsifiable and can therefore be demonstrated as false if they are untrue, as some of them quite obviously are. To assert that no deities exist to me is a step too far, not because I remotely believe any are real, but because the term is so generic it would necessarily encompass things like deism, where a deity is claimed to exist that is entirely unfalsifiable, and therefore indiscernible from a non-existent deity. I don't see how anyone could falsify such a claim, or evidence the contrary claim they don't exist, or of course why they'd care to bother since it's irrational to believe unfalsifiable claims as they can't be remotely evidenced anyway.
I would be more than happy to have a discussion about it with you in the future but right now, as I’m sure you understand from our previous discussions, I’m actually watching two of my children and it makes it a little bit difficult to get into the intricacies of the topic. Here’s a good link though. Of course, this link is discussing the problem in the context of dualism but it would be equally true from the other perspectives as well. I myself am not a dualist.
Nagel’s “Mind and Cosmos” provides a short book length and highly controversial intro as to its relevance to this discussion from the atheist perspective.
I will check it out.
1 - I would consider myself a naturalist but happy to be considered an atheist,
And therefore I hold the viewpoint that everything we experience within this reality can be described by natural explanations and with no need for a 'god' to be required.
Furthermore, Everything within the cosmos has a natural cause and natural effect, there is nothing proven to have a deistic cause and/or effect.
So if we was to remove religion hypothetically, naturalism explains everything perfectly fine.
2 - I would claim with a very strong degree of certainty that no 'god' exists, As stated above, there is nothing within the universe that has evidence of being created or caused by a 'god'.
To slip it in where there may be a small/current/ lack of knowledge is to simply apply the 'god of the gaps' argument.
Everything can however, be explained via a naturalistic viewpoint and that I would propose is the accurate world view.
@Oppy’s, “The Best Argument against God“
All Oppy does is tell you the same thing we have said over and over and over. "God is a nonfalsifiable proposition." That alone is enough to not believe. It's the overall cumulative case for non-belief and naturalism that wins out. Science has put a man on the moon, come up with the medical model, cured diseases, and more. What advancements has religion made? (Not religious people using science. Religion.) If religion ruled the world we would all be creationists living in the dark ages.
I agree that God is a non-falsifiable proposition. I agree that science has created vastly more net positive progress for humanity than religion. Respectfully, I suspect our disagreement would would arise as to the relevance of those facts to the applicable arguments I find persuasive. And, as I have indicated numerous times, I have too much respect for others to show up and pronounce my personal arguments for my personal beliefs at the request of exactly no one. If you, or anyone else, really cares, that’s a discussion for another day. For now, I just want to understand oher lines of thought and argument.
With regards to the arument as a whole put forth in Oppy’s short work, I think the gist is somewhat more subtle than your summary above and, if you are interested some other time, would happily respectfully discuss the text with you.
Ok, now I’m out for the night for real.
Richard Dawkins definition of atheism:
"We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further"
1. I care about what's true.
2. Believing in gods is equivalent believing in fairies, leprechauns, giants, or the flying spaghetti monster.
Welcome Mr. Taikonaut!
I couldn't agree more!