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Cogito ergo sum

Here in the Philosophy forum we will talk about all the "why" questions. We'll have conversations about the way in which philosophy and theology and religion interact with each other. Metaphysics, ontology, origins, truth? They're all fair game so jump right in and have some fun! But remember...play nice!

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Are Thoughts Causal?

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  • Originally posted by Jim B. View Post
    It might help to learn about science beyond a single-sentence dictionary definition. But even within the open-ended parameters of this definition, one might discern that science is an intellectual as much as a practical endeavor, and that for a study to be systematic, there must be some theoretical underpinning to what is to be investigated. One has to have an idea of what one is studying and why, within a system of concepts. Humans are fundamentally linguistic animals; they do not and cannot observe the world as a tabula rasa.
    It seems to me, that without the tabula rasa, i.e the physical world, which of course includes the physical brain/mind itself, humans cannot observe anything. The tabula rasa comes first, it is the underpinning from which theory is derived.




    Even if that is true, that has no bearing on what I'm saying. I just don't think you're absorbing what I'm writing.
    It seems to be connected to what you are saying, Jim. Afaics thoughts don't exists without a material source. You seem to be suggesting that, like an immaterial spirit, they do.





    Again, not my point. If X can be embodied in various physical mediums, then X cannot be identical to any physical medium. X must be an abstract form. Think of a melody M; it can be realized on a piano, a trumpet, human voice, etc,. M cannot be a physical object because it's not identical to any of its physical realizations. M is an abstract form.
    If x is embodied in a physical medium, then x would have to be identical with the physical medium, no? Melodys, sound, is not non-physical.

    Comment


    • Originally posted by Tassman View Post
      Of course, science requires theoretical underpinning. But what distinguishes it from philosophy is its ability to systematically study the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
      Okay, you're changing the subject again. We've been over this countless times. Your comment directly above is a small philosophical argument in itself which purports to be "true." It purports to have truth conditions, and ways to assess whether or not it is to be believed, the criteria of which are not and cannot be strictly scientific. I hope we don't have to re-visit this topic again (?) (I'm sure we will.)

      My point was that a scientific investigation has to have a philosophical and conceptual underpinning, in terms of conceptual clarity. Investigators have to have a clear idea of what it is that they are trying to determine, and the concepts and terms within which the investigation will take place. This is precisely what has NOT happened in the field of conscious experience, as witnessed by your own comments. You have no idea what in the world I'm talking about. You'll just say that's because I'm talking about some obscure "academic" matter while you're at the front lines of "true empirical research." But the fact is you don't have a clue what kind of reduction you're seeking or what kind of phenomenon you're seeking to reduce or in what way.


      “X” (a thought) cannot be embodied in any physical medium (a physical brain) if it doesn’t exist. And “a thought” can only exist as a consequence of the “physical medium” of the material brain.
      This is goggledygook. The "it" in "if it doesn't exist" I assume refers to a physical medium? Again, we've been over this many many times. Even if that were true, it has no bearing on my point. I'm not making a substance dualist argument. Even if a thought is causally dependent on a material support, that doesn't mean it is identical to that support. Think of a Shakespearean Sonnet. It is an entity of some sort, would you not agree? Or do you think that cultural objects are not real? If you agree that it is an entity, it cannot be a material entity because it does not exist at any location. This does not mean it necessarily floats free of any material embodiment, but that it is not identical to any embodiment.



      A melody does not exist in and of itself as an abstract entity. It is the consequence of physical composition and performance. It is “music” only because the physical brain has evolved to perceive structure, logic, and patterns.
      Again, you're confusing the causal nature of the melody with its ontological nature. You would not exist if it were not for your parents and for countless other factors, but those factors don't mitigate your existence now.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by JimL View Post
        It seems to me, that without the tabula rasa, i.e the physical world, which of course includes the physical brain/mind itself, humans cannot observe anything. The tabula rasa comes first, it is the underpinning from which theory is derived.
        You're begging the question by assuming that the mind is 'physical.' You're assuming that the world is the way your metaphysics assumes it is. That's the point we're debating, remember?





        It seems to be connected to what you are saying, Jim. Afaics thoughts don't exists without a material source. You seem to be suggesting that, like an immaterial spirit, they do.
        That's substance dualism. I'm not saying that's definitely wrong but my argument doesn't hinge on it. I'm saying that thoughts (in their entirety) and conscious experiences aren't physical.






        If x is embodied in a physical medium, then x would have to be identical with the physical medium, no? Melodys, sound, is not non-physical.
        No, I disagree. A melody is a relationship between tones, so it can be transposed into different keys, can be played by various instruments, a choir, a synth, a computer, and isn't reducible to its parts, ie to any individual tone. It's an abstract form that can be embodied in many, maybe an infinite number of different physical mediums, so it cannot be identical to any one of its physical embodiments, even if it doesn't exist independently of all embodiments .

        Comment


        • Originally posted by Jim B. View Post
          You're begging the question by assuming that the mind is 'physical.' You're assuming that the world is the way your metaphysics assumes it is. That's the point we're debating,remember
          Well, lets leave the mind and what it is out of it then. Without the tabula rasa, including the physical brain, there is nothing to be thought, ergo no existence of thoughts. The physical world, through the physical brain is the source of thoughts without the which they don't exists. I think that you are arguing that thoughts exists as things in and of themselves apart from the physical world, yes?





          That's substance dualism. I'm not saying that's definitely wrong but my argument doesn't hinge on it. I'm saying that thoughts (in their entirety) and conscious experiences aren't physical.
          Right, and isn't that what you are arguing, i.e. that there are two substances, the material and the immaterial, the latter of which being the nature of thoughts and conscious experiences?







          No, I disagree. A melody is a relationship between tones, so it can be transposed into different keys, can be played by various instruments, a choir, a synth, a computer, and isn't reducible to its parts, ie to any individual tone. It's an abstract form that can be embodied in many, maybe an infinite number of different physical mediums, so it cannot be identical to any one of its physical embodiments, even if it doesn't exist independently of all embodiments .
          I'm not seeing why the fact that a melody can be embodied in many different physical mediums makes it any less embodied in the physical, any more than the thought/idea of it is embodied in the physical brain.

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          • Jim B: "I'm not arguing substance dualism."

            JimL: "So what you're saying is, you're arguing substance dualism?"


            ~Formerly known as Chrawnus~

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            • Originally posted by Chrawnus View Post
              Jim B: "I'm not arguing substance dualism."

              JimL: "So what you're saying is, you're arguing substance dualism?"


              If Jims argument is that thoughts are existing things, and that they are not material, then I think he must be arguing for substance dualism.

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              • Originally posted by JimL View Post
                If Jims argument is that thoughts are existing things, and that they are not material, then I think he must be arguing for substance dualism.
                Glad to see you back, Jim - I was asking about you.
                The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

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                • Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                  Glad to see you back, Jim - I was asking about you.
                  Thanks CP, good to be back, Hope you're staying safe there old man!

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by Jim B. View Post

                    My point was that a scientific investigation has to have a philosophical and conceptual underpinning, in terms of conceptual clarity.
                    I have acknowledged this several times. I repeat: “Philosophical concepts are the glue that holds the scientific structure together, ensure its self-consistency, and posit interesting ideas. But, unlike science, it is not equipped to test its conclusions. It can only expose and reformulate the truths contained in scientific models, theories and laws.

                    Investigators have to have a clear idea of what it is that they are trying to determine, and the concepts and terms within which the investigation will take place. This is precisely what has NOT happened in the field of conscious experience,
                    This is “precisely” what IS happening in the cognitive sciences. Physical brain activity directly connects with mental activity and changes from one state of mind to another. This suggests changes which correspond to the state of the brain and vice versa. This is currently a very active and productive field of scientific research.

                    I'm not making a substance dualist argument. Even if a thought is causally dependent on a material support, that doesn't mean it is identical to that support.
                    Well you are in fact making “a substance dualist argument” whether you acknowledge it or not. It underlies your every argument – namely that there is something “other” which is beyond the reach of scientific methodology.
                    “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by Tassman View Post
                      I have acknowledged this several times. I repeat: “Philosophical concepts are the glue that holds the scientific structure together, ensure its self-consistency, and posit interesting ideas. But, unlike science, it is not equipped to test its conclusions. It can only expose and reformulate the truths contained in scientific models, theories and laws.
                      Human knowledge is continuous, ie it lies along a continuum. There is not this magical thing called "science" which is separate and apart from other kinds of knowledge. There isn't even a single algorithm for any one activity that corresponds to "science." It is a loose family of activities continuous with all of human knowledge. "Scientific activity" relies on "philosophical activity" on a regular basis and vice versa. "Science" is inherently "philosophical" and vice versa. As I've said a number of times now, "philosophy" IS capable of discovering hitherto undiscovered truths, such as Frege's distinction between "meaning and reference," Max Black's answer to Smart's identity theory, definitive resolutions of logical positivism and logical behaviorism, etc, etc, and as our own comments on this forum are witness to.



                      This is “precisely” what IS happening in the cognitive sciences. Physical brain activity directly connects with mental activity and changes from one state of mind to another. This suggests changes which correspond to the state of the brain and vice versa. This is currently a very active and productive field of scientific research.
                      This is a perfect example of what I was referring to above when I said I didn't think you were following the discussion.
                      You're so thoroughly embedded in the positivistic worldview, I really don't think you can see things any other way. Not that this will have any effect on YOU, but perhaps there are others out there who are reading this who have open minds:

                      This issue is about how the scientific data is to be interpreted. It is not about the data itself. It is prior to the collection of data. It is about the interpretative scheme in which the data is to be placed, the context in which it is to make sense. There are a number of ways to understand the empirical data, all of which are roughly 'consistent' with the data. The question is: Which interpretation makes the most sense of ALL of the known facts? One interpretation, physicalism, cannot be consistent with ALL of the known facts, because physicalism rules out, definitionally, qualia, or how things feel. But how things feel is arguably the essential quality that constitutes conscious experiences. If qualia are to be reduced to lower-level facts, as physicalism requires, then that essential quality is lost. An accurate physical account is captured, but the essential quality of a conscious experience is thereby lost by being reduced to something other than what it is. If something loses what it essentially is, then it no longer retains its identity but becomes something else.




                      Well you are in fact making “a substance dualist argument” whether you acknowledge it or not. It underlies your every argument – namely that there is something “other” which is beyond the reach of scientific methodology.
                      The "something other" could be a property, not a substance, or an aspect of the same substance. And before you ask for the nth time where my empirical evidence is for such a thing, please read, or re-read my paragraph above, not that it will do any good...

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by JimL View Post
                        Well, lets leave the mind and what it is out of it then. Without the tabula rasa, including the physical brain, there is nothing to be thought, ergo no existence of thoughts. The physical world, through the physical brain is the source of thoughts without the which they don't exists. I think that you are arguing that thoughts exists as things in and of themselves apart from the physical world, yes?
                        It's the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Even if without my brain I couldn't think [1+1=2], my brain's physical existence would merely be the necessary, not the sufficient conditions for my thinking that thought. [1+1=2] cannot merely be my brain, because my brain cannot be shared instantaneously by you when you have the very same thought at the same time, and my brain cannot be "right" or "wrong," "justified" or "unjustified", and my brain cannot be realized in many other physical mediums -- it can only ever be this very piece of physical matter.

                        So I am saying that even if [1+1=2] can only ever be physically embodide, it can never be identical to any of its physical embodiments.






                        Right, and isn't that what you are arguing, i.e. that there are two substances, the material and the immaterial, the latter of which being the nature of thoughts and conscious experiences?
                        Not necessarily. Substance dualism mainly refers to souls, not to thoughts and ideas. The latter could be immaterial in some sense, either as substance or property or dual aspect. That's not my point. As with conscious experience, my point is NEGATIVE, talking about what conscious experience and thoughts are NOT, not speculating about what they ARE, as much as you and Tassman keep assuming, without evidence,that that's what I'm doing.








                        I'm not seeing why the fact that a melody can be embodied in many different physical mediums makes it any less embodied in the physical, any more than the thought/idea of it is embodied in the physical brain.
                        I'm saying it's not identical to its embodiments. It's an abstract form, not a material object. The thought 1+1=2 as a brain event is a physical event/object, but as content is not a physical event/object. As content, it is not true at any location or at any time. Physical events/objects are not 'true' or 'false.'
                        Last edited by Jim B.; 04-30-2020, 06:48 PM.

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                        • Originally posted by Jim B. View Post
                          It's the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. Even if without my brain I couldn't think [1+1=2], my brain's physical existence would merely be the necessary, not the sufficient conditions for my thinking that thought. [1+1=2] cannot merely be my brain, because my brain cannot be shared instantaneously by you when you have the very same thought at the same time, and my brain cannot be "right" or "wrong," "justified" or "unjustified", and my brain cannot be realized in many other physical mediums -- it can only ever be this very piece of physical matter.

                          So I am saying that even if [1+1=2] can only ever be physically embodide, it can never be identical to any of its physical embodiments.
                          I wouldn't argue that a thought is identical with its physical embodiment, because the thought itself, afaics, is not an existing thing. But a question if I may. What do you mean by "the sufficient conditions for thinking a thought?







                          Not necessarily. Substance dualism mainly refers to souls, not to thoughts and ideas. The latter could be immaterial in some sense, either as substance or property or dual aspect. That's not my point. As with conscious experience, my point is NEGATIVE, talking about what conscious experience and thoughts are NOT, not speculating about what they ARE, as much as you and Tassman keep assuming, without evidence,that that's what I'm doing.
                          Ah, but your argument is that thoughts are something, that they have some sort of existence in and of themselves, and being that they are not material, you have only one alternative and that is that thoughts, conscious experiences, are immaterially existing things. Do I have that right?









                          I'm saying it's not identical to its embodiments. It's an abstract form, not a material object. The thought 1+1=2 as a brain event is a physical event/object, but as content is not a physical event/object. As content, it is not true at any location or at any time. Physical events/objects are not 'true' or 'false.'
                          I think that I fully understand what you're saying, ie that thoughts, conscious experiences, are not identical to the physical brain states that give them rise, but I don't think that they are existing things in themselves either. For instance, if you, or anybody else, are not thinking the thought 1+1=2, do you believe that the thought 1+1=2 exists out there somewhere anyway? If so, in what sense, where does it reside?

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                          • Originally posted by Jim B. View Post

                            One interpretation, physicalism, cannot be consistent with ALL of the known facts, because physicalism rules out, definitionally, qualia, or how things feel. But how things feel is arguably the essential quality that constitutes conscious experiences. If qualia are to be reduced to lower-level facts, as physicalism requires, then that essential quality is lost. An accurate physical account is captured, but the essential quality of a conscious experience is thereby lost by being reduced to something other than what it is. If something loses what it essentially is, then it no longer retains its identity but becomes something else.

                            Physicalism does NOT rule out, definitionally, qualia, or how things feel. Nor can philosophy answer this question with anything other than speculative argument. The internal, subjective components of ALL sense-perceptions arise from the stimulation of the senses and can be examined via scientific methodology. The cogitative sciences are increasingly capable of understanding the processes of schizophrenic and epileptic frontal-lobe hallucinations and every other subjective experience of the mind – including thoughts. Philosophy is not capable of doing this.
                            “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by Tassman View Post
                              Physicalism does NOT rule out, definitionally, qualia, or how things feel. Nor can philosophy answer this question with anything other than speculative argument. The internal, subjective components of ALL sense-perceptions arise from the stimulation of the senses and can be examined via scientific methodology. The cogitative sciences are increasingly capable of understanding the processes of schizophrenic and epileptic frontal-lobe hallucinations and every other subjective experience of the mind – including thoughts. Philosophy is not capable of doing this.
                              Are you actually reading my posts? Once again, I've never claimed that philosophy ALONE can answer the hard problem. What philosophy can and must do in this case is provide conceptual clarity. Empirical research must have a clear understanding of what is to be investigated and an understanding of the concepts involved. Philosophy and empirical research are mutually informing. They inform and build on each other. Knowledge, once again, is far more complex and entangled than your simplistic two-tiered model suggests. And once again, philosophy CAN and DOES provide new knowledge, as per my examples and many many others. Human knowledge exists as a complex continuum. Virtually no knowledge, whether philosophically or scientifically derived, is immune from being later amended or even overturned.

                              Physicalism DOES definitionally rule out qualia as qualia (at least for your version of reductive physicalism). Appearances, for this kind of physicalist, are not real. They are to be reduced to the lower-level physical properties causing the appearance in question.
                              Last edited by Jim B.; 05-01-2020, 07:42 PM.

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                              • This is in response to the question of whether reductive physicalism can account for qualia. It's from "Blinded by Scientism" by Edward Feser.

                                Here's a link to the first part:

                                https://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/03/1174/




                                In his three-part essay “Scientism and the Study of Society” (reprinted in his book The Counter-Revolution of Science) and his book The Sensory Order, Hayek shows that the project of re-conceiving human nature in particular entirely in terms of the categories of natural science is impossible in principle.

                                The reason has to do with what Hayek calls the “objectivism” inherent in scientism. Modern science arose in large part out of a practical, political concern—to make men “masters and possessors of nature” (as Descartes put it), and enhance “human utility and power” through the “mechanical arts” or technology (in the words of Francis Bacon). This goal could be realized only by focusing on those aspects of the natural world susceptible of strict prediction and control, and this in turn required a quantitative methodology, so that mathematics would come to be regarded as the language in which the “book of nature” was written (in Galileo’s well-known phrase). And yet our ordinary, everyday experience of the world is qualitative through and through—we perceive colors, sounds, warmth and coolness, purposes and meanings.

                                How are we to reconcile this commonsense “manifest image” of the world with the quantitative “scientific image” (to borrow philosopher Wilfrid Sellars’ famous distinction)? The answer is that they cannot be reconciled. Thus the commonsense, qualitative “manifest image” came to be regarded as a world of mere “appearance,” with the new quantitative “scientific image” alone conveying “reality.” The former would be re-defined as “subjective” – color, sound, heat, cold, meaning, purpose, and the like, as common sense understands them, exist in the mind alone. “Objective” reality, revealed by science and described in the language of mathematics, was held to comprise a world of colorless, soundless, meaningless particles in motion. Or rather, if color, temperature, sound and the like are to be regarded as existing in objective reality, they must be redefined – heat and cold reconceived in terms of molecular motion, color in terms of the reflecting of photons at certain wavelengths, sound in terms of compression waves, and so forth. What common sense means by “heat,” “cold,” “red,” “green,” “loud,” etc. – the way things feel, look, sound, and so forth in conscious experience – drops out as a mere projection of the mind. The new method thus ensured that the natural world as studied by science would be quantifiable, predictable, and controllable – precisely by redefining “science” so that nothing that did not fit the method would be allowed to count as “physical,” “material,” or “natural.” All recalcitrant phenomena would simply be “swept under the rug” of the mind, reinterpreted as part of the mental lens through which we perceive external reality rather than part of external reality itself.

                                Hayek’s view was that the very nature of objectivism precludes its coherently being applied across –the board to the human mind itself. Since the mind just is the “subjective” realm of so-called “appearances”—the rug under which everything that does not fit the “objectivist” method has been swept—it cannot even in theory be assimilated via quantificational modeling to the material world, as that world has been characterized by physical science. The very nature of scientific understanding, at least as the moderns have defined it, thus entails what Hayek calls a “practical dualism” of mind and matter—a dualism that the objectivist method itself foists upon us, even if we want to deny (as Hayek himself did) that it reflects any genuine metaphysical cleavage between the mental and material worlds.

                                Any attempt to redefine the mind in “objectivist” terms, characterizing its elements in terms of quantifiable structural relations—an approach Hayek himself sketched out in The Sensory Order—would only open the same problem up again at a higher level, as whatever aspects of the mind that fail to fit this objectivist redefinition simply get kicked up to a second-order realm of mere “appearance” (and to further levels still if the method is applied to the second-order realm). Scientism’s attempt to apply the objectivistic method to the human mind itself thus entails in Hayek’s view a vicious regress, a methodological “chasing of one’s own tail” on to infinity. The result may provide certain insights—Hayek thought so—but it cannot hope to provide complete understanding.

                                The irony is that the very practice of science itself, which involves the formulation of hypotheses, the weighing of evidence, the invention of technical concepts and vocabularies, the construction of chains of reasoning, and so forth—all mental activities saturated with meaning and purpose—falls on the “subjective,” “manifest image” side of scientism’s divide rather than the “objective,” “scientific image” side. Human thought and action, including the thoughts and actions of scientists, is of its nature irreducible to the meaningless, purposeless motions of particles and the like. Some thinkers committed to scientism realize this, but conclude that the lesson to draw is not that scientism is mistaken, but that human thought and action are themselves fictions. According to this radical position—known as “eliminative materialism” since it entails eliminating the very concept of the mind altogether instead of trying to reduce mind to matter—what is true of human beings is only what can be put in the technical jargon of physics, chemistry, neuroscience and the like. There is no such thing as “thinking,” “believing,” “desiring,” “meaning,” etc.; there is only the firing of neurons, the secretion of hormones, the twitching of muscles, and other such physiological events. While this is definitely a minority position even among materialists, there are those who acknowledge it to be the inevitable consequence of a consistent scientism, and endorse it on that basis. But as Hayek would have predicted, the very attempt to state the position necessarily, but incoherently, makes use of concepts—“science,” “rationality,” “evidence,” “truth,” and so forth—that presuppose exactly what the position denies, viz. the reality of meaning and mind. (I have more to say about the incoherence of eliminative materialism here and here.)
                                Last edited by Jim B.; 05-01-2020, 08:15 PM.

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