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On The Warrior Prophet posted 11 Feb 2004, 09:02 by Priest, Candidate

Scott, is there anything you can tell us about the book? Obviously you've already stated your dislike for spoilers, but still, any thoughts on the focus of the book? Any hints as to what we'll be seeing? If I may ask one specific question, any chance of seeing that ancient Nonman city that you mentioned? view post


posted 11 Feb 2004, 12:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I just submitted the revised manuscript yesterday, so I still feel too close to the work to offer anything resembling a reliable opinion of the quality of the work. It's wonderfully demented, I can tell you that much, and may very well be banned in public schools in the US - but then that's not necessarily saying much. My girlfriend contemplated making me sleep on the coach after she read it... 'Who thinks these things!' My gut tells me people will be blown away, but then my gut told me that people would despise TDTCB! How's that for a wishy-washy non-answer! Sorry, Priest. view post


posted 11 Feb 2004, 13:02 by Priest, Candidate

Lol by the way, if you just submitted the revised manuscript, that doesn't that mean the release will be later than third week of May? About what you said about it being banned, it makes it sound a bit as if we're talking about horror, like the book will gross people out. Is that correctly interpreted? view post


posted 11 Feb 2004, 16:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I AM late on delivering the book, there's no doubt about that (my submission deadline was September 30th!). I had 15 years to write TDTCB, and I simply had no clue as to how long it took to write a book when I signed subsequent multi-book contracts. Book writin' learned me real good this year I tell you (I've literally only taken one day off since mid-July!). At the same time, I absolutely refused to compromise on the quality of the book (I'd never forgive myself otherwise). I'm just lucky that the people at Penguin, particularly my editor, Barbara Berson, are as flexible and forgiving as they are. In publishing parlance, they're 'crashing' the book, which is to say, reshuffling the deck to make sure my cards come out on top. I feel very fortunate. I can't understate how crucial I think this is. I pretty much have no 'power media' support for either the UK or the US releases, so I needed TWP to come out as early as possible - largely because I'm hoping/thinking it'll generate some web buzz. We'll see... I'm only half-joking about the banned thing. First, there's the way I've sexualized the old good/evil dichotomy. But secondly, TWP is where the religious themes really come the fore. Don't worry, I steer clear of preaching - one needs to know just WHAT they believe to do that, and I assuredly don't. But I pick away at the big mysteries, and some people are so insecure about their beliefs that they need to continually attack others just to prove the depth of their conviction. As though believing things really, really hard, ever made anything true. view post


posted 11 Feb 2004, 17:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I couldn't agree more with that statement. Just out of curiosity, what is your religious bent? I get the feel from the books that you would be an atheist, maybe agnostic. I'm personally an atheist, but at the same time I love reading about religions and religious conflict. I think its because at their deepest everyone [i:b5e8j5i4]wants[/i:b5e8j5i4] to believe. It seems to me that having the certainty, or true belief in a god would be one of the most blissful sensations in the world. You are safe and taken care of. I think that is where religion stems from: human fear. view post


posted 11 Feb 2004, 18:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I'm an agnostic myself, and I tend to believe that most atheists would jump ship if they saw how far down the rabbit-hole goes. Part of the reason I was late with TWP was that I took the spring of 2003 out to write a short sci-fi psychothriller that had been gnawing at me for several years, the idea being to follow the hole all the way down - to horrify people intellectually as well as emotionally. Science implies far more than the non-existence of God (and it does imply that, though it doesn't 'prove' it). People like to think that science chased religious notions of purpose and agency out of the world, leaving us as the sole preserves of meaning and choice, but the fact is that we're PART of that world, and now that science is making the neuroscientific inroads it is (mark me, in ten years time neuroscience will eclipse genetics as the social 'hot-button' issue), it's looking more and more obvious that we are no exception, that we're the last remnants of the fantasy world inhabited by our ancestors. As far as I know, I actually have an article on this topic coming out in The Journal of Consciousness Studies some time this year. Creepy, creepy stuff. All I can say is that there's simply HAS to be something more (without being able to say what that 'something' is) if we're to be anything other than complex biomechanisms deluded into thinking purpose, morality, love, and so on, are anything but delusions. There's a lot more than belief in God on the line. view post


posted 11 Feb 2004, 18:02 by Mithfânion, Didact

[i:3qie4rpx]Part of the reason I was late with TWP was that I took the spring of 2003 out to write a short sci-fi psychothriller that had been gnawing at me for several years, the idea being to follow the hole all the way down - to horrify people intellectually as well as emotionally.[/i:3qie4rpx] You have a penchant for going off on tangents ;) What happened to the story? Will it come out? [i:3qie4rpx]now that science is making the neuroscientific inroads it is (mark me, in ten years time neuroscience will eclipse genetics as the social 'hot-button' issue), it's looking more and more obvious that we are no exception, that we're the last remnants of the fantasy world inhabited by our ancestors[/i:3qie4rpx] Could you elaborate a bit? I'm not really up to date with this stuff though I want to be, but what neuroscientific inroads do you refer to and why do you think it will become a major issue, topping even genetics? [i:3qie4rpx]All I can say is that there's simply HAS to be something more (without being able to say what that 'something' is) if we're to be anything other than complex biomechanisms deluded into thinking purpose, morality, love, and so on, are anything but delusions. [/i:3qie4rpx] I can't follow the phrase, I do apologize. If there is no God or something else higher than us, what do you think that means? That love and morality are delusions? If so, why do these emotions require the presence of a higher being? view post


posted 11 Feb 2004, 20:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Tangents? What tangents? You know, that reminds me of the time that... What can I say? I'M DONE THE BLOODY BOOK, and yet I simply can't stop writing! I know it might not seem like this, but I'm usually NOT the guy who empties rooms at parties... The book is called Neuropath, and I have an 'almost complete' (this is where editors roll their eyes!) draft. I simply don't have the time to rework it. I have to complete TTT by this September 30th and I'm hellbent to do so... Neuroscientific inroads? Where to start. There's the prospect of low-field MRI's, (think brain-scanning tricorders) which will allow anyone from governments to corporations to read our basic emotional states, and far more, as the mapping of brain-responses to various events continues apace. Their's the already troubling capacities of TMS - trans-cranial magnetic stimulation - which in the hands of people like Pirsinger at Laurentian university can induce any number of mystical experiences, from out of body to revelations from God. And that's just the beginning. Think truth-compelling machines and the like... The list goes on: for instance, what happens to free will when researchers can determine from brainscans what your choice will be BEFORE you even make it? For us, it feels like we just freely exercise our will, but neuroscience is revealing the neurophysiological precursors (which we have absolutely no awareness of), which determine that 'free exercise.' It gets creepier and creepier. Regarding God. It's not so much that God makes things like purpose and morality possible, rather it's that he possesses the same general structure of these things, a structure (which philosophers call 'intentional') which scientific explanation dispells whereever it goes. It just happens that with neuroscience scientific explanation is now delving deep into us. Consider ADHD. Just a few years ago, we attributed the inability to concentrate to CHARACTER - we blamed the kid for not paying attention. Now that we know the neurophysiology of the inability to concentrate, its been removed from the realm of character and been placed in the realm of disability - the kid can't help himself. Responsibility evaporates; it's not a matter of right or wrong anymore. The rub, however, is that EVERYTHING that we attribute to character is determined by our neurophysiology. In short order we'll start seeing things like 'Motivational Disorder' with its attendent neurophysiology, and we'll no longer be able to attribute laziness to character anymore. To put the dilemma succinctly: Science, which is hands down the greatest instrument of discovery the human race has ever known, is telling us that character and agency are illusory. I don't know about you, but it scares the hell out of me. There simply has to be more; the question is how do you argue for that more... view post


posted 11 Feb 2004, 21:02 by Wil, Head Moderator

Wow view post


posted 11 Feb 2004, 22:02 by Mithfânion, Didact

[i:nfpixtea] I have to complete TTT by this September 30th and I'm hellbent to do so... [/i:nfpixtea] Yes, let that one have first priority :!: Thanks for the elucidation on Neuroscience, I find that very interesting. Funny how one can be so drawn to mythical Fantasy worlds that inspire otherness and escapism yet at the same time be so interested in the future developments of this world. Perhaps there's an obvious connection ( a desire to be anything but here? But that would be too harsh). I see what you mean now on the issue of science unravelling character. But what did you mean earlier about atheists jumping ship if they knew how deep the rabbit-hole goes? view post


posted 12 Feb 2004, 01:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

>But what did you mean earlier about atheists jumping ship if they knew how deep the rabbit-hole goes? In my experience, most atheists arrive at their position through some kind of commitment to scientific methodology and its implications. Those commitments entail far more than the likely non-existence of God; it just depends on how far you follow them. view post


posted 12 Feb 2004, 18:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

My personal atheism arises from an inability to believ in anything higher. To me some kind of supernatural existence is illogical and makes no sense, and I think to believe in it because of the resulting implications if you don't is not really a belief, but a fearful claim to belief. I cannot make mayself believe without some kind of evidence showing it to be so.l view post


posted 12 Feb 2004, 23:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

And I (almost) completely agree with you Jack. As Johnny Cochrane might say, truths that flatter rarely matter. People regularly choose the simplistic over the complex, the certain over the uncertain, and the flattering over the troubling. The problem arises when you realize just what the 'evidence' you speak of implies. For instance, the are you willing to surrender your belief in free will (which grounds responsibility which grounds morality)? If so, then you're a nihilist. If not, then you're a 'there's-gotta-be-morist' like me. Free will, I'm afraid to say, is every bit as spooky as God from a thoroughgoing scientific perspective. When it comes to the production of reliable truth-claims I'll be the first to admit that science is the only game in town. But that doesn't make it any less pernicious to all those things we cherish as 'human.' As a species, we really find ourselves in a pickle, knowledge-wise. Get a load of this: the more we come to know, the more it seems that knowledge (which depends on 'right and wrong') is an illusion. I think this is why fantasy is as compelling as it is: it gives us worlds that intrinsically MEAN something at a time when it's becoming more and more apparent that our world is meaningless. People will argue against this, of course, but who are you going to bet on, traditionalists with their grandiose flatteries, philosophers with their endless circles of reason, or the guys whose methodology has made things like thermonuclear explosions and computers possible? Seems like a no-brainer to me... view post


posted 12 Feb 2004, 23:02 by Wil, Head Moderator

I must admit that this is all a new concept to me. You've mentioned things off-handedly that I've never even considered. I've never considered science as an "unraveling character". Personally I am agnostic. It doesn’t make sense that there is nothing out there, but I just haven’t figured out what it is yet. It seems to me that if God really did want all of us to believe him and join his True Church (Whatever it may be) the skies would open and a loud, thundering voice would say "HELLO, HERE I AM". I was raised LDS (Latter-Day Saint AKA Mormon), but many of the beliefs that were given to me were contradictory and just seemed wrong. Anyway, I love reading all this new information on a subject I've never carefully considered, and I encourage you to get all of your "writing need" out right here on the board. It's fascinating. view post


posted 13 Feb 2004, 00:02 by Shael, Commoner

Let me join in the fun. I think this topic is really interesting. Let me throw something out there. I am a Christian, but i'd like to talk about atheism, because it is an interesting concept. If God does not exist then that means that science is the only thing that governs the universe. Because we live in the universe, our lives must be a product of science. If you've ever taken science in school, you'll realize that biology is really just a form of chemistry, which is a form of physics, which is math, which is all a bunch of numbers and variables. That would mean life is really just a bunch of numbers. The interesting thing about this is that if we knew exactly how the universe began, then we would have all of the variables for how the universe works, and could predict the future exactly. Obviously this is impossible for us to do, but its just a fun little theory. view post


posted 13 Feb 2004, 04:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Hi, Shael! Welcome to the mess! There's probably as many interpretations of what science is as there is of Christianity, but they pretty much all agree that science simply DESCRIBES the physical laws that govern the universe. Many of these descriptions, such as General Relativity, the Standard Model of Particle Physics, Evolution, are immensely successful, and have provided the foundation for whole sciences. The type of deterministic prediction of the future that you describe is most famously associated with Laplace, and has long since been abandoned - ever since the successes of quantum mechanics made it plain that randomness is essential to whatever it is that reality is. But something to think about is that God, by definition, DOES know all the variables (quantum or otherwise), and as such possesses complete knowledge of the future. At the same time, God is also the creator of all those variables, a collection of which happen to constitute me. I've always taken heart in the fact that if there is a God, then he must have known exactly where I'd end up when he created me, so that by doubting his existence I'm just doing the very thing he created me to do! :wink: view post


posted 13 Feb 2004, 14:02 by Fade, Commoner

[quote="Wil":2yhtji26]It seems to me that if God really did want all of us to believe him and join his True Church (Whatever it may be) the skies would open and a loud, thundering voice would say "HELLO, HERE I AM".[/quote:2yhtji26] That may seem the solution, but even if God would do that, there would still be people who would refuse to believe in him, writing it off as a anomaly, or something else. And even if they believed he was God, some may still reject the God concept, or anything attached to it. I personal don't think it would be that easy. Carry on the discussion. It's a relief it is not a flame war about religion. view post


posted 13 Feb 2004, 15:02 by Anonymous, Subdidact

Yes, that is very similar to what is prophied in Revelation. Some people believe that when the Rapture occurs and all of the Christians are taken up to be with Christ that everyone left on Earth will still not believe, or they won't be able to. Also, at some point the Lamb (Christ) is supposed to return in His full glory. I'm at work, so I don't have m Bible with me at the moment. I haven't been through Revelation in a while, so i'm a little rusty. view post


posted 13 Feb 2004, 18:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I agree with Scott that numbers provide a model of reality, but they do not make up reality. He said it very well. Scott, I don't think I see what you were saying about relinquising free will. I assume you mean that if science can predict neurologically what we are going to do then we actually make no choices but just follow through on action-reaction type behavior. That may be, but each of is genetically/biologically/raised in a way different enough to provide differing action-reaction chains. This is then what free will would be reduced to, and I think it quite possible. You were also talking about responsibility and morality. You as an entity are responsible for your behavior, whether you can help it or not. We already see this in psychopaths, who are deranged and relaly cannot control themselves. However, that does not keep them out of jail. Morality also does not have to be based on a supernatural power. The Natural Rights philosophists came up with a model of rights, admittedly based on their western cultural and therefore religious beliefs. Morality can be described as the mean (as in average) behavior of a society. We have different moral standards than did ages, even decades past. I think it is possible to have a cohesive society with sound moral footing without any kind of supernatural power involved. (by the way, I am LOVING this discussion!) view post


posted 13 Feb 2004, 18:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I'm loving it as well (though I have this damn synopsis of TDTCB to finish)! The tactic you're taking is a tried and true one in the free-will/determinism debate: simply redefining 'free will' so that it accords with the mechanistic descriptions of science. 'Compatibilism,' they call it. I have a number of problems with this strategy. It's clever because it forces the determinist (which I'm not, BTW, I just don't see any convincing arguments against them) into a classification debate, which are notoriously treacherous, and make the issue unresolvable. Given the regresses of endless argumentation that lurk about every corner in this debate, I simply opt for a commonsense approach and ask the question, How can your position make sense of choice, given that the brain is simply a vastly complicated mechanism, without at the same time glossing over or erasing the obvious, commonsense antagonism between these two concepts (choice and mechanism)? Anyone can redefine; the challenge is to redefine in a manner that either perserves or explains the force of the original (if troubling) insight, which is in this case is the incompatibility of mechanism and choice. Think of ADHD and the problem of character dilemma again. In practice, we no longer hold kids with ADHD responsible for their inattention, because now we know they have no choice - they're victims of their neurophysiology. We deal with them in an entirely different way. If we redefine choice to be compatible with neurophysiological determination, then the suggestion is we shouldn't treat them any differently at all, and once again hold them accountable for their inattention. And why not, when they 'choose' (in the redefined sense) not to pay attention. Obviously, this is absurd. Do you see the pickle? Kellhus stands astride this problem. Once again, I DO believe we have choice, I just have no bloody idea as to how we can honestly argue for it. All I have is faith. Against all odds, it sometimes seems... view post


posted 13 Feb 2004, 19:02 by Shael, Commoner

[quote:vw0n4ah7]Think of ADHD and the problem of character dilemma again. In practice, we no longer hold kids with ADHD responsible for their inattention, because now we know they have no choice - they're victims of their neurophysiology.[/quote:vw0n4ah7] I think there is an issue with how far can take this idea. I think humans are made up of both mechanism and choice. If humans acted on instinct and mechanics alone then we couldn't hold anyone responsible for anything, since everyone's action are predefined and we have no control over our lives. We can't be made up of just choice either. I think everyone acts instinctively in many ways. If we were an organism without mechanism then our choices would be infinite. Our minds would be forced to think about every thing we do, questioning every motion our body makes. view post


posted 13 Feb 2004, 19:02 by banditski, Candidate

[quote="Cu'jara Cinmoi":259wscf6]Once again, I DO believe we have choice, I just have no bloody idea as to how we can honestly argue for it. All I have is faith. Against all odds, it sometimes seems...[/quote:259wscf6] this may seem (and indeed it is) the backdoor cop-out of someone long away from scholastic debates, but i think you hit the nail on the head here, scott. i heard an argument a while ago - concerning physics, in this case, but i can extrapolate it to this discussion. it was simply that the human brain is not 'powerful' enough to understand the answers to the questions we are asking, if indeed we are asking the correct questions. consider a duck. in this case a duck smarter than average, who wishes to understand how he can fly. he can debate (to himself, in his little bird-brain) about how flight works, and can come up with some theories. but he is (i think we would all agree) incapable of understanding the fluid dynamics associated with flight. not to mention all the levels of physics that fluid dynamics is based on. not that i could understand them either if i was left to my own devices from a baby, so let's assume that we can try to explain it to him. you could sit him down in front of a chalk board for hours, talking in the universal language of mathematics, and he still wouldn't get it. where i might eventually. but my point is that i think it's rather arrogant (and also a huge cop-out, as i've already stated) to think that the human brain is capable of understanding everything, even if it was spelled out for us in a language we could understand. so scott's statement "I DO believe we have choice, I just have no bloody idea as to how we can honestly argue for it," makes perfect sense to me. view post


posted 13 Feb 2004, 19:02 by Fade, Commoner

Guest (Shael?) if you want to look into Revelations, you can use a online Bible also, if you want to look something up. Tip/reminder :) [quote="banditski":1pkjsfwr]but my point is that i think it's rather arrogant (and also a huge cop-out, as i've already stated) to think that the human brain is capable of understanding everything, even if it was spelled out for us in a language we could understand.[/quote:1pkjsfwr] banditski for president! [img:1pkjsfwr]http://www.hardwaregeeks.com/board/images/smilies/7.gif[/img:1pkjsfwr] view post


posted 13 Feb 2004, 20:02 by banditski, Candidate

[quote="Fade":2t8k2kb3] banditski for president! [img:2t8k2kb3]http://www.hardwaregeeks.com/board/images/smilies/7.gif[/img:2t8k2kb3][/quote:2t8k2kb3] prime minister okay with everyone?? 8) view post


posted 13 Feb 2004, 20:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

PM? Fine by me, so long as I get to be Pope! And I agree with you Banditski. It's one of the reasons I'm so terrified of AI. Think of the ease with which Kellhus manipulates people. In a matter of a few decades we'll have CPU's with far, far more transistors than we have neurons, and working at the speed of light no less! We're already 'evolving' programs in artificial environments that produce better results than any human design, and with structures no one can understand... We live in a creepy world. Which might be why I spend so much time in Earwa. view post


posted 16 Feb 2004, 21:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I still believe that evrything can be rationalized without the requirement of faith, however. Even the duch should theoretically be able to understand that there ARE principles behind flight, even if he himself is incapable of following the math. view post


posted 16 Feb 2004, 22:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

How about scientific rationalization? Don't you have to have FAITH in reason and observation (since grounding these in reason and observation would just be begging the question)? But this question is rhetorical. There really seems to no way to escape some minimal form of faith: philosophy is littered with failed attempts to absolutely ground knowledge in first principles. I guess the hard question (the one that torments me at night, anyway) would be this: What are your grounds for believing in morality and purpose? Whatever those grounds are, they can't be scientific (which is why I bite the bullet and opt for faith). You might have faith that science will someday account for them, but from what we know so far, it seems more and more likely that science will simply explain them away. view post


posted 16 Feb 2004, 23:02 by LooseCannon, Peralogue

Back to the AI discussion (Sorry, I am a terrible philosopher): One of my teachers last semester gave us an interesting final lecture on the state of computer technology and where it is headed in the next hundred years. According to Moore's law integrated circuits will continue to double in efficiency every year. While some argue that this theory is no longer valid the fact of the matter is that when you think about how fast a computer processor is now and you start doubling that capability and then doubling it again and again and again you are talking about incredible advancements. By the end of the 21st century some of the things we've seen in movies like the Matrix and other cheesy sci-fi movies will be reality. Also, with all the advancements in nanotechnology processors will finally have the ability to transfer data at speeds that compliment them. I think it is also going to reduce prices on many technological devices by a considerable margin. view post


posted 17 Feb 2004, 02:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I remember rooting around on the web trying to find a crossword answer and stumbling across this crazy religion where the member(s) thought the sacred purpose of mankind wasn't to worship God but to MAKE him. He called it the 'Artilect' (I ended up writing a short story of the same name). Anyway, the argument he used was almost identical to yours, LC. The upshot seemed to be that we were doomed to make God, whether we wanted to or not. Reminds me of Herbert's 'Ship' books... There's a growing literature out there on something called the 'singularity,' which, if I remember correctly, has to do with the point at which our technological advances are so radical we simply cannot predict that anything we're presently familiar with (such as our humanity) will abide in any recognizable form. Supposedly it's just around the corner... view post


posted 17 Feb 2004, 18:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I think morality is as simple as looking around and saying what do I want out of life? When a collective group of people, or animals (which is all we really are) asks themselves this question, the average response is what determines morality. Honestly, that is all we do now, and theoretically that should be all that is needed. If a majority of people feel a certain way, then they will set a moral standard. There may not be a rational definition of morality because morality is a construct of humanity. But simultaneously, no faith in anything other than the logic of common desire is required for this model to work. The technology thing is actually quite frightening when you really think about it. view post


posted 17 Feb 2004, 19:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I see what you're saying, and very many people hold this view, but I'm not sure they're comfortable with the consequences. For instance, when the Nazi's looked around, and decided they wanted to exterminate all the Jews, cripples, Gypsies, and homosexuals they found, were they right? If right and wrong are just what everyone within a society takes them to be, then it would seem the Nazi's, given their society, were quite right to murder those millions of people. view post


posted 17 Feb 2004, 21:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

Yes, within their smaller society they were right, and historically many peoples have been enslaved and abused due to a society's standards. However, just as we now have equal rights for blacks and other racial groups, as world culture expands the standards of morality will broaden to include and ever larger sphere of peoples. We now must look at the entire world when we think about a majority of human desires. view post


posted 17 Feb 2004, 21:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

And if the entire world goes Nazi? view post


posted 17 Feb 2004, 22:02 by LooseCannon, Peralogue

The problem here is that the Nazis, as a society, didn't possess what most societies do have and that is a shred of honour or respect for your enemy. They systematically killed men, women and children in brutal gas chambers. I can't understand how they could look past this and still say "We are doing the right thing, the rest of the world is wrong in this". view post


posted 18 Feb 2004, 20:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

But that really doesn't matter in terms of Scott illustrating his point. He is saying that if the entire world believes one way, that way can still be deemed wrong by us. This comes back to a majority dominating a minority. Just because a minority is a minority does not mean they have no rights. I know I just argued against myself, but I feel the point here is finding an answer, not "winning." Back to my side: do you think the entire world would ever be subject to such a shift? Maybe the varying factions will always ensure that on a global scale we have an acceptable standard of morality. view post


posted 18 Feb 2004, 21:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

The thing is that on your account it doesn't matter one whit which way the world goes: no matter what, it'll be the 'right way,' whether we ban the harm and consumption of animals, or start dicing our children up for our salads. There's no society-independent (which is to say, objective) yardstick. And this, I think, is just another way of saying there's no such thing as right or wrong. I can argue against you, Jack, because I think you're not willing to accept the consequences of your initial commitments, but I couldn't argue against him because he WAS. Since I sincerely wanted, as you do, the BEST answer rather than MY answer, I was forced to concede. The reason was all on his side. Nevertheless, I REFUSE to accept his conclusions. So all I have left is my crummy minimalist faith in 'something more.' It can be depressing. view post


posted 18 Feb 2004, 22:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I understand what you're saying... I simply can't make myself believe, or 'let go' and believe... I can't believe. It is sort of depressing. view post


posted 19 Feb 2004, 17:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

So you're a nihilist, then? view post


posted 19 Feb 2004, 17:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I did some research on nihilism. I don't necessarily agree with everything I found, but I would have to say that in general yes, I am. I have been thinking about this and I would have to say that I believe there is no higher law or moral code. However, I simultaneously believe in a personal set of moral codes, and believe that as a society we require morals. My personal morals are (of course) based on my parents morals, which were based on their parents' which were based on church. So I therefore indeirectly derive my moral codes from a western christian source. But, I don't believe in God and I don't follow my morals based on any fear of retribution, but more out of what feels right to me to do to other humans. That leaves the moral system of the world in a scary postion, because it assumes that all morals really are are the current opinion of a group of people. I have to say that I agree. [quote:n088p88f]In objective terms, the only difference between killing an ant and killing a human, is that other humans could cause you grief for doing the latter. For him, there were literally no crimes where there were no witnesses.[/quote:n088p88f] I agree that objectively they are the same thing, but as a human I take offense to the one and not the other. In this way they are made different, and I consider it a crime because it does not follow my own moral code. I do not consider murder excusable, witnesses or no. _____ Out of curiosity, do you believe a moral code exists for animals? If yes, does it stem from the same source as ours? Or is it the exact same code? view post


posted 19 Feb 2004, 23:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

A moral code for animals? I having a hard enough time clinging to one for humans! There certainly doesn't seem to be any code animals recognize. view post


posted 20 Feb 2004, 03:02 by banditski, Candidate

and i'm sure animals would say the same about us. not that i'm knocking human morals, but pointing out that it's a matter of perspective. just because you can't see something, doesn't mean it's not there. it doesn't mean that it is there either. just that "there's nothing that i can see" is not an argument. view post


posted 20 Feb 2004, 18:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I guess what I'm asking is if there is a higher moral code for humans, shouldn't there be one for all animals? Animals kill each other competing for mates in some species and certainly kill and eat each other, so it doesn't seem logical that we as humans are so special we have a special moral code. view post


posted 20 Feb 2004, 18:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Not really. It's not clear, for instance, that animals enjoy anything remotely resembling choice. Without choice, there's no responisibility, and without responsibility, there's no morality. view post


posted 20 Feb 2004, 21:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

So why is it then that humans are the only species capable of choice? Do you think this is part of the relationship with a 'higher power' of some kind? view post


posted 21 Feb 2004, 16:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

That's the million dollar question, and as you might suspect, there's a million different answers to it. The simplest, most forceful answer, is that we DON'T have any - we're just another animal species like any other, distinguished by the peculiar nature of our delusions. And though I accept this as the strongest argument, I refuse to believe it's true. Others would say we have choice because we have souls, or because we have reason, or because of quantum tunnelling deep in our brain, or because choice REALLY is (substitute elaborate redefinition here), and so on, and so on. view post


posted 23 Feb 2004, 22:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

But I mean, what do YOU think? view post


posted 24 Feb 2004, 04:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Like I said, I'm an agnostic. 8) view post


posted 25 Feb 2004, 18:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I mean about the animal/human choice issue. Do you think we both have choice, neither, or one and not the other? Personally, I think you are probably right that we technically don't really choose, except that choosing is simply the act of everyone's differing physiologies(sp?). view post


posted 27 Feb 2004, 01:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I think it's pretty obvious that animals don't have choice, at least not in any sense that entails responsibility. We human beings, on the other hand, simply HAVE to have choice, if anything is to make any sense whatsoever... view post


posted 27 Feb 2004, 21:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

But it seems pretty damn arrogant to say that humans are the only beings with choice, and it doesn't really make sense in the context of evolution. view post


posted 27 Feb 2004, 21:02 by Wil, Head Moderator

Except for the fact that the Human brain is more developed then most other animals (except primates, dolphins etc.) So from an evolutionary stand point, it makes perfect sense. The human brain is capable of choice, we are able to overcome our most natural instincts. We are able to think about and change the world we live in. Most other animals cannot to the extent we can. I feel that it is the fact that we have the consequences of our decisions that put us where we are. An ant doesn't feel the consequences of it's decision to build the mound here or there, but we as humans (and the higher animals) do. This to me is what proves that evolution is true, because you can look at the different parts of the Human brain and see all past brains. view post


posted 27 Feb 2004, 22:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

Ok, I see your point about evolutionary choice, but I don't think that choice was given to us by a higher power, and the argument about choice is that if there is no higher power then we cannot have choice. I think on a fundamental level this may be true, and we therefore have no choice, just a very, very complex cause effect reaction system. view post


posted 27 Feb 2004, 22:02 by Wil, Head Moderator

Then how can you argue right and wrong? If we have no choice, and everything is "a very complex cause-effect reaction system" then how can anything be wrong? Why should I be blamed if I choose to kill someone? It wasn't my choice. I had to do it, my neurons made me! That is the hole in the argument, in my opinion. How can there be moral codes? How can a person be expected to do something, when they have no control? view post


posted 28 Feb 2004, 03:02 by Skyfell, Commoner

Let's drag in another science and get back to the books at once. Memetics is the study and theory of the spread of ideas and behaviors between people. One of the basic concepts is to view memes (units of transferable information (pronounced like 'genes' which inspired the term)) as entities which are subject to evoltionary pressures. Which means that the ideas you're most likely to find in a random person's head are those that are best able to spread from person to person. Also, obviously, what ideas are already established in a person's brain affects the spread of other ideas. The idea that Kellhus was more than human was able to spread through the Holy War because the Men of the Tusk believed that gods sometimes walk the world as men. In sf I've read, memetics is weaponized/made terrible by presenting it as some sort of alien sound or image that completely takes over the mind of anyone that encounters it. I don't think that's probable because everyone has a slightly different mind by nature, before nuture steps in. More realistic and more worrisome is that if that underlying state and the noosphere (idea-space) of a person can be quantified, then a computer could be programed to do just what the Dunyain do to the world-born: come up with a flawed/directed idea-chain that someone [b:3f8s8uu5]will[/b:3f8s8uu5] believe. (Actually, I've read sf that take that approach too, but it was writen before memetics became cool.) So, since it does seem to be possible, let's consider: How responsible should Cnaiur be held for his part in the murder of his father, Skiotha? Without outside influence, he would never have done it. People choose (assuming they do) based on what they believe. Right? Insanity and temporary insanity are accepted by most legal systems as reason for not being responsible. Truly believing bizarre things, against evidence, is often classified as insanity. But when your beliefs can be altered..? Jonathan view post


posted 28 Feb 2004, 21:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I am saying that you can be held responsible for your actions because everyone else has agreed that thre are things you shouldn't do. We already have this around the world, where different countries have different ideas about what is right and wrong and acceptable or not. Most of them happen to be based on religions, but I believe religions are simply ways of assuaging fears as a group, ane are therefore total human constructs to begin with. view post


posted 28 Feb 2004, 23:02 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Actually, you're saying quite a bit more, aren't you Jack? You're saying that all morality (as opposed to just religion) is a social construct. At least that's what I understood. It's coincidental that you should mention memes, Jonathan, since it was reading about memes back in the mid 80's (in Hofstadter's Metamagical Themas, if I remember aright) that the idea for Kellhus started germinating. It was the first time I ever encountered the notion of ideas behaving as 'mechanisms,' as things which make people DO things, as opposed to little windows on the world. I really have no clue as to how responsibility could fit into a thoroughgoing memetic account, though. Don't the memes make all the choices? view post


posted 29 Feb 2004, 23:02 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I would have to say yes, all morality is just a social construct. However, that doesn't demean it in any way, to my thinking. view post


posted 03 Mar 2004, 00:03 by Norsirai, Commoner

Well, my first foray into this board and I must say, I've never seen this kind of author participation before. That said, second, yet foremost, I am deeply obliged to impart my respect for Mr. Bakker, for his work. So thanks man, I'm surreally digging what you've done so far. Somewhat on topic, if I may enjoin, it was [i:e7clv3v9]Hobbes[/i:e7clv3v9] who wrote something along the lines of this (not an exact quote, but close): 'Before the names of Just and Unjust can have a place, there must be some coercive power... ' For, 'where no Covenant hath preceded, every man has a right to everything; and consequently, no action can be Unjust.' The gist essentially being, that an act is only immoral if it is punishable. In context to an individual such as Kellhus, it seems that he is not so much astride this moral/immoral 'nothingness,' but a perpetrator of a process which cannot yet be punished. In this work thus far, there is no agency that can judge him or the ways of the Dunyain. No Leviathan, as it were. … Regarding the story, what I'm curious about at this point is if Kellhus will eventually recognize what comes before, as it pertains to himself. How can he be cognizant of the line of causality and thus possibility, when the Dunyain burnt all the scrolls at Ishual and effectively wiped out the remaining, recorded history of the Kuniuric High Kings (presumably, and not counting the knowledge of Achamian's Order). So, would Kellhus be dismayed that his heritage was not in origin or original tradition (for some time, anyway) actually Dunyain? 'What comes before determines what comes after,' so true, yet despite his vast intellect, Kellhus is quite ignorant of the ‘Historie’ of Earwe, and how his lineage factors into that. Will this shake him, or will he grasp the import immediately... Anasurimbor Kellhus is an utterly fascinating character, but I suppose what I'm asking, is how much will he be developing. view post


posted 06 Mar 2004, 15:03 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Hi Norsirai! In answer to your general question: The Dunyain are engaged in something similar to a Husserlian epoche, an attempt to bracket the untoward influences of history. Kellhus would likely cite some version of the genetic fallacy: so long as the destination is true, the point of origin is irrelevant. view post


posted 18 Mar 2004, 15:03 by Replay, Auditor

[quote:284cpxn6]I would have to say yes, all morality is just a social construct. However, that doesn't demean it in any way, to my thinking.[/quote:284cpxn6] I think this is quite a common argument made by many these days, and it is very easy to see how people come to such a conclusion. The problem comes when you try to lump all of morality (or value which morality is an extension of), into one group. Whereas in reality is does not really work like that. By looking at morality from only a social point of view, you miss the morality/value of the intellect. And if you look at it from only an intellectual point a view, you can miss the social (and then theres the biological and inorganic etc). For instance, theres been talk of whether animals have morality/value. Well, from an intellectual--and to a smaller extent, social--it may seem that they dont. But from a biological? Well thats another matter. Does not an animal do all it can to survive? And are not those who do survive those of biological higher value? I guess you could say that is what the whole survival of the fittest is about (though perhaps a better name would be survival of the best, or even survival of the highest value). From this i guess you could say that evolution is just a movement to higher forms of value. Which brings up and interesting point, and that is that value is not a fixed thing (well, in the relative world anyway). I suppose this is the cause of most of the problems when you try to define it (i certainly had a lot of problems just typing out this small post on the subject). view post


posted 18 Mar 2004, 16:03 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

Welcome to the board, Replay. Yes, morality and value would be a changing concept. I am arguing that from where morality is derived is irrelevant. We must acknowledge it as a necessary facet of life. It smooths out human interaction and gives members of a society a common frame of reference. But, by acknowledging that morality is not a concrete system, we can liberate ourselves from the who's right/wrong argument and acknowledge differing moral beliefs as personal problems and not religious. view post


posted 18 Mar 2004, 17:03 by Replay, Auditor

Yes, the i-am-right-you-are-wrong attitude is one of biggest causes of problems in the world today. But people love to set ideas and truths in concrete and cling on to them. I guess its a way to try and fend off the uncertainty of the world. The thing is though, its in that uncertainty that true learning comes. Knowing that you can never have all the facts and that logic is not infallible, you can easily accept that what you hold true now, may not be so. You are not only open to any new information that comes along, but also open to the wonder of the world as it unfolds, instead of trying to force it into something else (which in the end never works). p.s. I dont really agree with you that this is not a religious issue. This topic is at the very heart of religion. But then yours and my idea of what religion is probably differs quite a bit. view post


posted 18 Mar 2004, 22:03 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

What I mean by not a religious issue is that by accepting that we don't have the absolute truth we can allow other religions or lack of religion to exist peacefully without the need to "make them see the truth." I am not saying that these are not religious beliefs, but I see how that was unclear in my last post, sorry. view post


posted 18 Mar 2004, 23:03 by Replay, Auditor

Ah i see what you mean. Yes, that has been a problem with alot of religions over the years (not all though), and it is probably one of the major causes for people turning away from it. It certainly turned me away from Christianty, what with all the dogma and asking you to accept their word as law just on faith. Funny thing is, it was that turning away and looking at other religions that finally allow me to understand Christianity alot better. It's not all that bad a religion once you cut away most of the crap (if your interested, you might want to check out some of stuff by the Christian mystics on the web). Plus from speaking to a couple of Christians lately, i think things are changing. They didnt seem so interested following the dogma layed out for them, and instead were investigating reality for themselves (or getting in contact with face of god as they like to call it). Guess that's that evolution at work again. view post


posted 27 Mar 2004, 21:03 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I think the most important factor is to accept that your religion is personal and ensure that it is really personal. You must believe what you believe because it is how you feel and not for any other reasons, such as societal pressures, or because thats how you were raised. To many people don´t know why they believe what they claim to believe. view post


posted 05 Apr 2004, 10:04 by Iceman, Candidate

[quote="Replay":2atrdf2f]I guess you could say that is what the whole survival of the fittest is about (though perhaps a better name would be survival of the best, or even survival of the highest value).[/quote:2atrdf2f] This is a common mistake. The survival of the fittest is just that, survival of the fittest not survival of the “best”. It does not assign a value to those that survives or doesn’t survive. Survival is a consequence of the shifting environment. What was best in one environment might be lethal in another environment. This is my first post in this forum, and I didn’t expect it to be on this subject, but… Personally, I’m an atheist. I don’t think there is a God or a Supreme Being out there, not because I haven’t seen any evidence on that, but because, based on our current knowledge of science, I fail to see the reason why there should be. I don’t have any problem with the fact that something is moral to some people are morally wrong to others. To me there is no ultimate right or wrong, but there are things that I consider being right or wrong based on my own moral concept. Morality is relative. The morality of a society is the average of the individual morality of the members of that society, and will shift over time. It’s not that long ago that ‘racial hygiene’ and measures to improve that were considered as morally right. I’m not talking about just the Nazis, but the entire western world. In my country forced sterilisation of people with ‘undesired genetics’ (usually people belonging to the travelling people) continued for decades after WWII. Some of the strongest supporters of this policy were also among the most ardent adversaries of Nazism. view post


posted 05 Apr 2004, 11:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

So if you're right, and rightness and wrongness is just 'personal,' you're only right because... you personally choose to be? Isn't that incoherent? I've always loved the following quote: "Guilt? It's this mechanism we use to control people. It's a kind of social control mechanism - and it's VERY unhealthy." --Ted Bundy view post


posted 05 Apr 2004, 13:04 by Anonymous, Subdidact

Morality is a social construct. It’s a necessity for the continued survival of that society. The morality of an individual is usually based on the ‘inherited’ morality of the society, adjusted for personal experience. If your individual morality is too far from the moral of the society, like with Ted Bundy, you end up in conflict with that society. Sometimes you manage to convince everybody (or enough) that you are right and they are wrong (i.e. the US Civil Rights Movement) but mostly you end up dead, in jail or excluded from that society. So ‘rightness’ and ‘wrongness’ is not just personal, but influenced by the rest of society. When you judge that something is right or wrong, whether it’s something done by yourself or your neighbour, or someone in another time/place/culture, you do that based on your personal moral which in turn is influenced by the morality of your society. If you personally believe that killing someone because they irritate you is acceptable, it would be hypocritical of you to say that that doing so is wrong just because everyone else thinks so. You might choose not to kill people irritating you because you know that otherwise you’ll end up punished by the society. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t do it because it’s ‘wrong’, but because it’s ‘inconvenient’ to do so. view post


posted 05 Apr 2004, 13:04 by Iceman, Candidate

That was my reply above. Didn't realise I was logged out. view post


posted 05 Apr 2004, 14:04 by Replay, Auditor

What is the fittest if not the best able to survive? As for morals/value being a social contsruct, well your free to believe that if you want-- i doubt anything i say will change your way of thinking. All i would ask is for you to have an open mind and try an experiment: put your hand in a fire, and then keep repeating that there is no value. Of course, youll probably come up with an answer to that that fits into your world view, the logical mind is clever like that (and also why it should never be relied on). view post


posted 05 Apr 2004, 15:04 by Iceman, Candidate

It’s true that what is fittest is best able to survive, but only in any given environment. If the environment changes so does the ability to survive, and the environment is constantly changing. What has the fire experiment to do with morals/value? Doesn’t seem like it comes from someone with an open mind. I believe that morals are a social construct, and can’t see anything wrong with that. You can’t reject something just because it’s a social construct. view post


posted 05 Apr 2004, 19:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

"Morality is a social construct. It’s a necessity for the continued survival of that society." In other words, morality is (as Bundy says) just a control mechanism, an illusion society uses to conserve its inherited structures of power. It's not that murder is wrong, it's just that - given the murder-averse society we happen to live in - it's pretty stupid, unless your goal happens to be incarceration or execution. In other words, morality is just window-dressing for power - which is to say, a version of nihilism. Kellhus would approve! :wink: But there's a more difficult question: What makes YOUR argument right or wrong, Iceman? In order for you to be right, it seems to me that rightness and wrongness must be absolutes of some kind. But that simply contradicts your initial thesis, doesn't it? view post


posted 05 Apr 2004, 20:04 by Replay, Auditor

First off, want to apologize for my comment about the logical mind. I wanted to make a point about logic but it came out totally wrong, and in the end turned out to be more an attack than anything (which it shouldnt be, as i know i am just as susceptible to falling into its traps). Secondly, you asked what does that experiment have to do with value? Well, i would have thought it has everything to do with it. If there was no value, you could keep your hand there and let it burn. Of course, that would not happen--you would remove your hand without even thinking about it. Why? Because your hand is more useful (more valuable) if is able to operate properly (which it couldnt if it was burnt to a crisp). The pain sensors in your body were developed for this, so that the body would know when it is being damaged and be able to do something about it; so that it could continue to operate better (value again) than it could if injured. In a way though, your right--morality is kind of a social construct (well a certain type of morality anyway). It is a way of behaving that makes a society better. But it is not the individual rules made up by society that are so important (though they are in a way), as these are sometimes open to change. It is the "makes a society better" part that is important. Because if there is no value, why bother making a society better? Because if there is no value, [b:qe8vjm6d]how[/b:qe8vjm6d] is it even possible to make a society better? (especially since better just about equals value). I could say alot more but im not sure if it would be good to do so. Its a very hard topic to discuss (you can get too caught up arguing over the individual manifestations of it, and end up ingnoring the source) and im certainly no expert on it. It might be worth you reading Zen and the Art of Motocycle Maintenance, as the author of that has a good outlook on value and morality (though i often felt there was something he was missing) and he explains it really well. If you dont want to buy the book, theres a link to an online version of it in another thread on this board. view post


posted 06 Apr 2004, 06:04 by Iceman, Candidate

I think there might be some misunderstanding here. I never claimed that there were no values; of course there are values out there. I only said that there were no intrinsic values in evolution. You can’t say that a lion is better than a Tyrannosaurus Rex just because the lion exist today while the T Rex is extinct. They were adapted to completely different environments. But to go from “there are no values in evolution” to “there’s no values period” is a bit of a stretch. Are you confusing ‘social construct’ with ‘social constrain’. That would make your apparent disgust about morality being a social construct meaning. But in case you don’t and actually think that the idea of morality as a social construct is repulsing, let me ask you a few questions. Do you consider culture to be repulsive? I don’t mean a specific culture, but the concept of cultures. Cultures are clearly a social construct. (If you don’t agree with this statement please feel free to explain how you believe cultures came around.) True, there are cultures out there that we might find wrong or repulsive. Cannibalism or human sacrifice has been part of several cultures. I think we can all agree that these practices are wrong, and that cultures with these traits are ‘bad’ as long as they continue with these practices. (I’m here excluding cannibalism as a last resort for survival in extreme cases, since this is open for discussion.) But the concept of cultures can’t be wrong; otherwise we would never have this discussion. If cultures as a social construct are OK, why is morality as a social construct so bad? I have a few more points to argue, but this post is long enough as it is so I better get back to those later. view post


posted 06 Apr 2004, 12:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Is the latter part of this a reply to me, Iceman? The question of constraints makes me think so, but the 'apparent disgust' comment makes me unsure. Maybe it was the Bundy example? Bringing that up was a bad teacher habit, I'm afraid: I like collecting outrageous and interesting examples to shock my students. When it comes to questions in moral philosophy, I take the old bumper sticker as my slogan: 'I used to be disgusted, now I'm just amused.' Otherwise, before answering your questions, I'd ask that you answer my question from before first (here quoted): "What makes YOUR argument right or wrong, Iceman? In order for you to be right, it seems to me that rightness and wrongness must be absolutes of some kind. But that simply contradicts your initial thesis, doesn't it?" Quid pro quo! :D view post


posted 06 Apr 2004, 13:04 by Iceman, Candidate

I’m just stating how I see things. I don’t make any claims that I’m the one with the right answer, and that all others are wrong. I consider ‘rightness’ and ‘wrongness’ when it comes to morality to be relative. There are, as I mentioned in my previous post, some things that most agree on, but I’m not sure that makes it an absolute right. And to repeat what I previously said about ‘values’, just because I consider it to be no absolute ‘rightness’ and ‘wrongness’ when it comes to morality, doesn’t mean that there are no ‘rightness’ and ‘wrongness’ on other issues. Or, for that matter, that I can’t have an opinion on what is right on wrong in moral questions. All of my reply in my previous post was directed at Replay. Even if Ted Bundy consider ‘social construct’ as a ‘prison’, there was nothing in your post to indicate that you necessary did so. view post


posted 06 Apr 2004, 15:04 by Replay, Auditor

[quote="Iceman":rcxtz54u]I never claimed that there were no values; of course there are values out there. I only said that there were no intrinsic values in evolution. You can’t say that a lion is better than a Tyrannosaurus Rex just because the lion exist today while the T Rex is extinct. They were adapted to completely different environments. But to go from “there are no values in evolution” to “there’s no values period” is a bit of a stretch.[/quote:rcxtz54u] This is why i said value is such a hard topic to discuss. You get caught up in individual manifestations of value, and if you try and compare them you always run into problems. Is a t-rex better than a lion? I've no idea about that. What i was trying to get at is that if you look at just the T-rex iteself, you can see how it evolved to become a better killing machine. Again, it is this 'better' that is important. Being better means its of a higher value than an earlier version of whatever the T-rex was doesnt it? Basically, what i am saying is that nothing can evolve if there is no value. What is evolution except moving towards something better than it was? [quote="Iceman":rcxtz54u]Are you confusing ‘social construct’ with ‘social constrain’. That would make your apparent disgust about morality being a social construct meaning. But in case you don’t and actually think that the idea of morality as a social construct is repulsing, let me ask you a few questions. Do you consider culture to be repulsive? I don’t mean a specific culture, but the concept of cultures. Cultures are clearly a social construct.[/quote:rcxtz54u] Im not really sure what you mean by this. I have no disgust about morality being a social construct, and certainly dont find cultures replusive (nor the concept of them). Perhaps the problem is that we both have different meanings for the word morality? If you mean the laws, and what people would call the 'acceptable way of behaving' , then yeah, i can agree with you that they are social constructs. But the thing is, what is this morality except an extension of value? What are these laws and ways of behaving except an attempt to make the society better (of higher value)? Of course, you can run into problems again at this point by looking at the individual manifestations. For example, a hundred years ago, the height of morality was acting like a snob, not having sex before marriage and adding flowery words to your speach. So you could say that since moral rules seem to be changing, they are therefor an illusion and worth nothing. The thing is though, these moral rules are just as subject to evolving into something better as anything else is. It is that underlying value at work again. view post


posted 06 Apr 2004, 15:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Just to clarify, Iceman: So you don't think all normativity is a social construct, that the rightness and wrongness pertaining to argument transcends social contexts, while the rightness and wrongness pertaining to morality does not? view post


posted 06 Apr 2004, 18:04 by Iceman, Candidate

[quote:k65nz279]Perhaps the problem is that we both have different meanings for the word morality? If you mean the laws, and what people would call the 'acceptable way of behaving' , then yeah, i can agree with you that they are social constructs. But the thing is, what is this morality except an extension of value? What are these laws and ways of behaving except an attempt to make the society better (of higher value)?[/quote:k65nz279] If you leave out the ‘laws’ part, then that is an apt definition on what I mean by ‘morality’. What I don’t agree with is that there are some fundamental values behind. These ‘values’ are also just social constructs. If these values were universal, then every society would move towards the same goal. They are not. I also disagree with your statement that the society is evolving towards something better. That’s not always the case. Sometimes a society evolves into something worse. It’s now ten years since the Rwanda Genocide. If a society always moves towards something better, this would never have happened. To go back to evolution of animals. Those traits in among an animal species that makes it best capable of surviving and reproducing, are what is going to be most common in the next generation of that species. Say that those trait are more common in the new generation than the previous generation, does that makes the new generation ‘better’ than the previous? Only if the environment are exactly the same. If there have been drastic changes in the environment, that trait might actually be a bad trait causing large portion of that generation to succumb before they are able to reproduce. Evolution only evolves towards something better as long as the environment stays the same. As soon as the environment changes, which it does constantly, what have been gained by evolution could be lost in a heartbeat. [quote:k65nz279]So you don't think all normativity is a social construct, that the rightness and wrongness pertaining to argument transcends social contexts, while the rightness and wrongness pertaining to morality does not?[/quote:k65nz279] I’m afraid you lost me somewhat there, Scott. I’m not a native English speaker, nor have I studied philosophy. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘normativity’. To me there are no rightness or wrongness pertaining arguments on issues that can’t be proved. The statement ‘the sable-toothed tiger is extinct’ is ‘right’ in the sense that the tiger is actually extinct. The statement ‘boys wearing long hair’ cannot be proven to be right or wrong in the same sense. view post


posted 06 Apr 2004, 19:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Sorry Iceman. Normativity is a technical term - I'm probably giving native speakers headaches too! It refers to the general category of rightness and wrongness that includes both the rightness and wrongness of argument and claims as well as the rightness and wrongness of morality as well. The reason I'm pressing you on this issue is that you seem to be staking out a roughly 'social constructivist' position, and before I can really give any arguments, I just need to know where you draw the lines. If you were a thoroughgoing social constructivist, then you would have to explain how your own arguments simply don't get swept up into the relativism you describe. If you're not, then you have explain how it is moral value can be a social construct (and therefore relative), when truth value is not. Believe it or not, most theorists grab the first horn of the dilemma (made famous by Plato) - but then only after doing away with the 'constructivist' side of their position, and opting for what's called 'contextualism.' The idea here is that there is no 'context independent' value (be it moral or otherwise). The rightness or wrongness of acts and claims is simply a function of all the contexts, social, historical, economic, personal, evolutionary, physical, and so on, that inform it. Though I don't subscribe to it myself, in my opinion it's a far superior position to social constructivism - and what I think you're tending toward in your replies to Replay, who's trying to bedevil you (as he should) with non-social contexts! The two MAJOR weaknesses of the position, however, have to do with accounting for the apparent objectivity of statements like those you made regarding sabre-tooth tigers, and the difficulty of making cross contextual judgements that seem otherwise obvious, like 'No matter what your point of view, the Holocaust was wrong.' It seems pretty clear that Hitler was off his rocker, no matter how many likeminded people he surrounded himself with. That said, contextualism remains one of the more powerful positions out there. I would never have guessed you weren't a native speaker, BTW. But then you guys have quite an education system in Norway - or so I'm told. view post


posted 06 Apr 2004, 19:04 by Iceman, Candidate

If I understood your post correct, Scot, then you believe that I tend more towards ‘contextualism’. That might be. Since my argumentation is not based on any formal education, I’m only trying to explain my position. I might not use the ‘correct’ terms all the time. [quote:3d1k2mso]The two MAJOR weaknesses of the position, however, have to do with accounting for the apparent objectivity of statements like those you made regarding sabre-tooth tigers, and the difficulty of making cross contextual judgements that seem otherwise obvious, like 'No matter what your point of view, the Holocaust was wrong.' It seems pretty clear that Hitler was off his rocker, no matter how many likeminded people he surrounded himself with.[/quote:3d1k2mso] Ah, but the Holocaust is only wrong based on the morals of the societies of today (in most societies going back at least to the turn of the previous century). You might claim that Hitler was ‘off his rocker’. But you have to remember that only a few decades before, the Turks got away with another genocide. Hitler knew this and expected to get away with this, just like the Turks did. In fact the worldwide moral outcry didn’t start until after the German defeat. In the years before the war, and during the war, the voices decrying this were a meagre minority. At best it was just another point of the long list turning Hitler into a ‘devil’. His warfare and occupations were much higher on that list. Throughout history, the group of people that were considered among ‘us’ as opposed to ‘them’ have steadily increased. Bad thing happening to ‘them’ was not as bad as bad thing happening to some of ‘us’, in fact it could be a good thing. Canada and the US were founded on a Genocide that ended less than 150 years ago. Disclaimer: I by no means condone the Holocaust, or any other Genocide throughout history. view post


posted 06 Apr 2004, 20:04 by Replay, Auditor

[quote="iceman":2zqkw7bi]If you leave out the ‘laws’ part, then that is an apt definition on what I mean by ‘morality’. What I don’t agree with is that there are some fundamental values behind. These ‘values’ are also just social constructs. If these values were universal, then every society would move towards the same goal. [/quote:2zqkw7bi] Theres the problem i was talking about before, if you try and compare values or morals against others, then you find that they are not universal. The thing is, i agree that their not universal. People and societies are for the most part always acting out of conditoning, so as conditions differ, so will what people feel is better. Again though, this still does not negate that there is something there called Value at work. Perhaps the problem is, is that it is very parodixical in nature, so very hard to grasp/explain. And who knows, perhaps most societys are moving towards the same goal (if that goal is just to impove; to make life better for its citizens). As the saying goes, there are many roads that lead to Rome. This does not mean that those roads have to look alike though. Perhaps some roads even take two or three times as long to get to same point. [quote="iceman":2zqkw7bi]I also disagree with your statement that the society is evolving towards something better. That’s not always the case. Sometimes a society evolves into something worse. It’s now ten years since the Rwanda Genocide. If a society always moves towards something better, this would never have happened. [/quote:2zqkw7bi] Your right its not always the case, sometimes it happens that dangerous people get ahold of power and then abuse it. But i bet over time this has, and will continue to, get harder and harder to do. When people realise they dont have to stand for it, and that there are better ways that they can adopt. A great example of this is what has happened in China over the past 50 or so years. Theres alot more i could add to this, such as how their are differing viewpoints etc, but i think its best to stop here. I think that this is a subject where if you think to much about it, you could end up going mad :) view post


posted 06 Apr 2004, 20:04 by Iceman, Candidate

I think where we might differ, Replay, is that I consider both Value and Morale as something that differs from society to society based on their spesific cultural history, environment, etc. [i:g715mukq]Edit:[/i:g715mukq] [quote:g715mukq]I would never have guessed you weren't a native speaker, BTW. But then you guys have quite an education system in Norway - or so I'm told.[/quote:g715mukq] Yeah, definitely the worst education system in Northern Europe. :wink: [i:g715mukq]Edit2:[/i:g715mukq] Just read this from the author profile at www.princeofnothing.com: [quote:g715mukq]In the winter of 2000, he moved back to London, Ontario, to complete his dissertation, which is entitled [b:g715mukq]Truth and Context[/b:g715mukq]. [/quote:g715mukq] Should have known better than to start this kind of discussion with this guy... :lol: view post


posted 06 Apr 2004, 22:04 by Replay, Auditor

[quote="iceman":35hlf9to]I think where we might differ, Replay, is that I consider both Value and Morale as something that differs from society to society based on their spesific cultural history, environment, etc. [/quote:35hlf9to] No i dont think we really differ on that point all that much. All i was trying to do was point to the source of those values/morals, though im not sure how well i succeeded with that. I think perhaps its best we end this particular discussion here though. Its been nice talking about the subject, but i don't really think either of us will really end up agreeing. Besides, i try not to be too attached to any belief or outlook--they tend to get in the way of learning and cause more problems than they are worth--and this particular one is one that i have been trying to drop for a while now (though i did enjoy exploring it whilst posting here). Better that i don't continue to feed it :) view post


posted 07 Apr 2004, 18:04 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

Sorry, but if you don't mind I would like to step into the ring and say something here, having missed most of this discussion until today. I think that what Replay is talking about with the intrinsic nature of values is halfway right, but needs to be combined with what Iceman is saying. Value derives its meaning (or value) from what we percieve to suit the environment best. They are related, but I believe one is the human perception of suitability. Thus we value strong physiques because historically they were valued (the social value) because prehistorically they were best suited (hunting and gathering). They form a related chain. On the other hand, I do believe, as I have stated before, that morals have no grounding save in the common whim of man, which does have a basis in values which has a basis in suitability. In this way everyone is morally "right," just different. Just how much difference the mean (average) morality is willing to tolerate determines at what point laws are made or wars waged. The interesting point Scott made was (if I am interpreting this correctly, Scott) that if the person stating that there is "one right morality and it is mine" is actually right, then everyone else is wrong. I feel that this is closely related to religion. We have multiple conflicting religions all claiming to be correct. This cannot be true. They must all be semi-correct or one must be correct and the rest utter rot. Sorry about continuing, but I find it quite fascinating. What do you think about opening a philossphy section? view post


posted 07 Apr 2004, 19:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

A philosophy section would be a good idea - people expecting a long and fruitful discussion about TWP on this thread are in for a surprise! Without sounding too presumptuous, let me put my teaching cap on for a moment, if only so that we can pin down our views and see where each of us stands. The crucial difference at stake here is the question of where rightness/wrongness (normativity) comes from - a question of 'what comes before,' in fact. The big split is between those who think rightness/wrongness follows from human action and those who think rightness/wrongness precedes human action. Do we 'take' things to be right or wrong, or do we 'recognize' them as such. Both of these general positions are widely held and fiercely fought within philosophical circles. The primary problem with the former is moral relativism: if right or wrong are simply the result of individuals or communities taking certain things 'as' right or wrong, then it becomes (seemingly) impossible to make cross individual or communal moral judgments that are anything other than expressions of bias. In fact, ALL moral judgments start seeming arbitrary and entirely unjustified - expressions of power, in effect. Morality starts looking suspiciously amoral. Consider the Holocaust. If the most you can say is "Well, I find it repugnant NOW, but it was obviously the right thing to do when you consider the context back THEN," there's a sense in which you're not making any moral judgment at all. There's a powerful sense in which moral relativism doesn't so much explain morality as it explains it away... And how can it be otherwise, if the rightness or wrongness of genocide becomes a matter of timing? This cuts against some deep seated intuitions. The primary problem with the latter is 'spookiness': if right or wrong are external to individuals or communities, if they are something judgments must be brought into accord with, then just where do they reside? There's many, many possible answers on this side of the question. Some say nature, others say transcendental categories, still others say consequences - and one can't forget divine revelation. After thousands of years of bickering, all philosophers have been able to do is clarify the shape of the disagreements. No one has come even close to providing a knockdown answer one way or another. It starts looking as though we're searching for something - absolute yardsticks of right and wrong - that simply doesn't exist. Things are in quite a muddle. view post


posted 07 Apr 2004, 21:04 by Replay, Auditor

I think things will always be in a muddle as well. I dont really think the logical mind can ever come close to grasping "it" (or whatever you want to call it: god, nature, the source, the unknown, or even that which comes before - though i think "it" serves better). Sure it can paint some pretty pictures, but that is all they are and not reality itself. That is not to say it cannot be experienced though, especially if we are "it" made manifest. In a way, that is what most religions are about at their core (though some have strayed from it): reconnecting with reality/the universe through practice. Even the word religion basically means this in its anceint Latin form. Philosophy can have its uses though--it can often point to the truth, even if it cannot grasp it--and i think it would be good to have a philosphy section on this site. Plus i think man has a natural love of wisdom and likes to discuss it. view post


posted 09 Apr 2004, 16:04 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I do believe that Morality is a total human construct. However, I also think it has deep seated roots in our evolutionary past. The do unto others as you would have others do unto you sort of mentality. If you kill your neighbor, your other neighbor will kill you before you kill him. The fundamentals of morality have a grounding in basic logic, which is why we have certain seeming 'global' standards. I'm going to do that section. view post


posted 12 Apr 2004, 18:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Since we've thrown evolution into the salad, let's pursue it, since it offers some interesting analogies, I think, to what's at stake in our moral debate. Consider 'sexual pleasure.' We engage in sexual behaviour for its own sake, because it's pleasurable. From an evolutionary perspective, however, sexual pleasure is simply SUBREPTIVE - which is just a fancy way of saying we think we do it because it's pleasurable, when in fact we do it to facilitate the reproduction of our genes. The same, evolutionary psychologists would say, is true of love. What we call 'love' simply facilitates the long-term pair-bonding required to successfully rear human offspring to the age of reproduction. In other words, love is just a SUBREPTION, an illusion that commits us to behaviours that (in this case) are evolutionarily effective. And the same, many would argue, goes for morality as well. Morality is simply something that generates the social cohesion necessary to produce the stable communities required to successfuly rear human offspring to reproductive age. Another subreption. Can this be right? Smacks of nihilism to me... view post


posted 13 Apr 2004, 15:04 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

That sounds quite right to me, nihilism or what have you. The big thing that I feel most people don't understand when discussing this is that just because Morality has no absolute grounding [i:b4lctlkj]does not demean it in any way[/i:b4lctlkj]. People say that without god anyone can do anything and feel fine about it, but I disagree. Arguably, those that behave in a "moral" fashion but don't believe in a god are more moral than those who do, because most of the god inspired morality stems from a fear of retribution, whereas those individuals who are moral to be moral do it because they feel it to be right or the will of society. That was a long sentence. view post


posted 13 Apr 2004, 17:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

From an evolutionary standpoint, morality is an illusion that tricks us to behave in ways that maximize reproductive success. Save this deception, there's no point, no purpose... The problem isn't that this 'demeans morality,' it's that it renders it MEANINGLESS. Does your life, or any life for that matter, have any meaning? And remember, to say something like 'It has the meaning I give it' simply begs the question, which is simply whether there's any such thing to give at all... From an evolutionary standpoint, we've simply fooled ourselves into thinking our lives have value and purpose. view post


posted 13 Apr 2004, 17:04 by Replay, Auditor

Cu'jara, from a few of your other posts i figured you didn't agree with nihilism, yet wasn't what you described in your last post exactly that? Or am I missing something? view post


posted 13 Apr 2004, 18:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I'm just trying to tease out the implications of affirming an evolutionary account of morals. view post


posted 13 Apr 2004, 19:04 by Replay, Auditor

So do you believe that morality is an illusion and meaningless then or not? view post


Hmn posted 14 Apr 2004, 05:04 by Norsirai, Commoner

Loathe as I am to speak for Cu'jara, I think one thing he's trying to tease out is that morality is [i:2ko3mrmv]not[/i:2ko3mrmv] an illusion, nor meaningless. The reductionist stances he posed out for us a few posts earlier, indeed, are [i:2ko3mrmv]ripe[/i:2ko3mrmv] with implications. Of which, the first and foremost to my mind is that they lack logical follow-through. It's easy to think, and perhaps it may even be right (though I do not agree with this) that the pleasure of sex is an illusion merely wrought to heighten fecundity-- that love, might very well be nothing more than the proverbial weaving of straw into gold, to deepen the luster and hue of successful child rearing. The thoughts of evolutionary psychology that he's briefly related seem to shortsightedly ignore something, as if the [i:2ko3mrmv]purpose[/i:2ko3mrmv] behind the drive to propagate is merely to sow the seed, rather than an ordered latticework that frames up the forms of life itself. The two might seem the same, but they only seem that way. It appears to me, that such stoppered streams of thought only observe that the clothes are being mended by the fact that we must wear them, that the dishes and floors are being washed simply because they must be cleansed... while ultimately failing to note the diligent and beautiful stepsister behind all the work, if you will. That being, that whether the joy of sex is real or a red herring of the psyche, whether love is a fancy bred in the heart or in the head, what seems to be overlooked is that beneath the reality or the unreality, there is an implication of underlying purpose, irregardless of either. I believe it is this, which he is alluding to, however I'm sure he'll speak on it shortly. Whether I'm right, or wrong. :wink: view post


posted 15 Apr 2004, 12:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I was trying to wait out Jack for a response - but no such luck! :lol: I think evolutionary (like social constructivist) accounts of morality simply come to nihilism in the end. And nihilism, I think, is the scourge of our day, something that's gnawing at our culture from the inside. That said, I absolutely refuse to paper over the problem. This is one demon that must be stared in the eye. view post


posted 15 Apr 2004, 13:04 by Replay, Auditor

Ok, thanks for making that clear. There was some confusion over the way you actually wrote that recent post--it seemed more like you were arguing for nihilism. I can agree with you that nihilism is a scourge of our day, but am not sure why you would say that evolutionary accounts of morality come down to that. Would you mind explaining a bit more? Perhaps the problem is we both have different views on what evolution is, or are perhaps looking at it from different angles. That is always the problem with the discussions such as these--especially on a internet forum--it is always hard to know where the other is coming from. p.s. Norsirai: Nice analogy with the stepsister. view post


posted 15 Apr 2004, 14:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

The evolutionary side is easy: no matter how much we 'affirm' our moral intuitions, the fact remains they're simply arbitrary, subreptive artifacts of an arbitrary evolutionary history. The social context side is somewhat more tricky. But in the end, I would argue, it all comes down to games of power and control. Rightness and wrongness become the determination of dominant groups and their memes - nothing more. For me, the big thing is that once you reflect on either of these approaches, it becomes unclear why morality should have any hold on you. 'That's just evolution screwing with you.' 'That's just what society says.' If statements like this are TRUE, why shouldn't we ALL say them? One could argue that you should act in this or that way to avoid incarceration or psychological dissonance, but it all comes down to self-interest - feeding the animal. Right or wrong collapse into desire (as the emotivists would say is the case). At issue here is the question of whether self-sacrifice, like dying to save your child (or your country, faith, etc.), has any meaning. I'm not interested in knowing whether I'm acting in accordance with my evolutionary design or my social conditioning; what I want to KNOW (as opposed to merely believe) is whether this act is RIGHT. view post


posted 15 Apr 2004, 19:04 by Replay, Auditor

[quote="Cu'jara Cinmoi":3j3oo7ux]The evolutionary side is easy: no matter how much we 'affirm' our moral intuitions, the fact remains they're simply arbitrary, subreptive artifacts of an arbitrary evolutionary history. The social context side is somewhat more tricky. But in the end, I would argue, it all comes down to games of power and control. Rightness and wrongness become the determination of dominant groups and their memes - nothing more.[/quote:3j3oo7ux] I can kind of see what you are saying, especially from the social context side. For instance, just because someone in power says something is moral, it does not have to mean that it is. The problem i have though is that these points seem too much like blanket statements that leave out more than they include. At a basic level i think morality is not really about power or control, but more about a way of living that benifits not only yourself, but others also. Deep down everyone wants peace, happiness, and to suffer as little as possible, and because we recognise that others are really no different from ourselves, we know that they also want these same things. So we have these guidelines which we call morality; guidelines that help make everyones lives better. For instance, you would not like to be robbed, killed or abused in any other way, so you do not do these things to others. Im not saying that these guidelines are set in stone though, in fact i think they are as open to change as anything. We are always having new experiences and gaining new information that we did not have before, so can continue to refine what it means to act morally. Again, on the evolutionary side i can kind of see where your coming from e.g. Just because evolution has made us act a certain way to help propagate the species, it does not mean we have to continue acting that way. But then is that not evolution in itself? Once, all we cared about was surviving and did whatever was necassary, whereas today we care abit more about how our actions affect others (though there is still some conditioning left over from earlier times). So even though you could say evolution tells us to have offspring, is this really true? If it is, would it not also be true to say that evolution has made us see that perhaps having offspring wouldnt be the best thing? That our views have evolved and we can see that adding more to this already overcrowded planet might not be quite so good? This is what i trying to get at earlier when i was talking about evolution. I think the problem is though that when you mention the word, most people tend to think of it in just a biological sense. But really, it is hard to see that there is anything that evolution does not touch. view post


posted 15 Apr 2004, 20:04 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

I'll start by saying that I read down to cu'jara's post about waiting for me, and then made this post. So I have not read anything after that, and I hope that this post will make sense in context. The question does life have any meaning? No, I don't think it does. Meaning is an illusion we create to be happier and better motivated to procreate. In many ways it is like the matrix's idea, that what we experience is just to keep us happy. That is what I think, but i believe in that illusion because it makes me happier. But, honestly, I don't think that there really is any meaning or purpose save self perpetuation. That is scary. view post


posted 15 Apr 2004, 20:04 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

After reading the rest of the posts, I mus say I agree with you, RePlay. Cu'Jara, I don't think that is or ever will be a way to KNOW because there is nothing to KNOW. It all comes down to belief. view post


posted 15 Apr 2004, 21:04 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

You bite your bullets, Jack. Hard not to respect that. "At a basic level i think morality is not really about power or control, but more about a way of living that benifits not only yourself, but others also." This is what I was driving at with the self-sacrifice bit. But as far as non-biological evolution, I'm not sure I know what you're referring to. People often use the word 'evolution' as a synonym for 'progress' - is that what you mean? view post


posted 15 Apr 2004, 22:04 by Replay, Auditor

Yeh, i guess you could call it progress (though to me something does not seem right about that). It is like if you have a view on something and then someone comes along with information that you did not have before. When you include this new information, your view evolves into something better than it was before. Science is a good example of this. A while ago, what Newton said about gravity was the truth, but then along came Einstein who looked at it with a different view and gained more information. He then added this to the already established truth, and made a stronger truth about gravity. And then of course along came the modern physicists who have even more information about the world than Einstien, and are working to make an even stronger truth. The same goes for societies: There is some kind of change, and if that change works out to be better, then it is adopted. It is perhaps alot more complicated than that, but at its core, i dont think it is really all that different from the evolution that takes place in biology. view post


posted 16 Apr 2004, 15:04 by Replay, Auditor

[quote="Sovin Nai":3ruo2xyt]After reading the rest of the posts, I mus say I agree with you, RePlay. Cu'Jara, I don't think that is or ever will be a way to KNOW because there is nothing to KNOW. It all comes down to belief.[/quote:3ruo2xyt] I can agree that in the ultimate sense, there is nothing to know (not that there is nothing there, just that it is unknowable--if that makes sense :)) Im not sure it comes down to belief though. Perhaps what it really comes down to is experience/action. The problem is that it is nigh on impossible to accurately describe any experience. Even if you take something simple such as a nice cold and refreshing drink on a hot sunny day, can you really explain that experience to anyone? Can words really grasp the fullness of what that drink was like? Sure, the logical mind can cut the experience to pieces; can perhaps start talking about how tastebuds work, or how the temperature of the drink lowered your own, but does any of this ever get close to how the drink actuallly refreshed you? how the drink actually tasted? And what if that drink was lemon flavoured, and the person you were explaining it to had never even tasted lemon? How do you explain that? Of course you could bring up some similarities; some frame of reference from other tastes, but does that really tell you what lemon tastes like? The only real way for someone to understand what that drink was like is to drink it for themselves. Years of debating over what it is really like is never going to compare with that actual simple experience. All you would really have is, as you said, a belief over what it is really like. Now try and imagine what it must be like to try and describe something that has very little frame of reference. Something that doesnt really fit into our normal way of thinking/looking at the world. And just how do you go about explaining it to someone who has not had anything close to the same experience? view post


posted 18 Apr 2004, 19:04 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

But experience/action is all belief really is. In [i:3pseo5j4]your experience[/i:3pseo5j4] this is true, or [i:3pseo5j4]I took this action and[/i:3pseo5j4], that is belief. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by your drinking analogy. What exactly are you comparing it to? Divine existence? Morality? view post


posted 18 Apr 2004, 22:04 by Replay, Auditor

Hmm not really. If the sun is shining and your arms are warming up, is that a belief? Or is it just a simple experience? Simple experience/action always comes before any kind of intellectualization or any kind of belief. Its when you try and intellectualize/grasp the experince with words that you run into problems. If you try and it explain it to someone who hasnt experienced it before, they could of course say its just a belief (and perhaps theyd be right to doubt you instead of blindly believing what you say), but if you place them in the sun and let them experience if for themselves they will say "oh, your right its not a belief, thats just the way it is". I was not trying to compare the drinking analogy with anything, just trying to point to this very thing. view post


posted 19 Apr 2004, 15:04 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

OK, I see now. The problem is that there is no control over perceptions of ideas. You can't make someone experience one, only attmpt to guide them. That is belief, I think, although I must admit that I feel very unsure of the ground on this particular facet of our debate. view post


posted 20 Apr 2004, 18:04 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

Actually, almost this exact topic came up in my government class yesterday. A girl in the glass had an interesting idea: what if morals stem from evolution? We talked about similar ideas, but not this. That there is a higher moral law we all must obey, but it is dictated not by a higher being but by our evolutionary history. I found it an interesting thought and thought (no pun intended) I'd share it. view post


posted 20 Apr 2004, 18:04 by Replay, Auditor

[quote="Sovin Nai":1c70q29z]OK, I see now. The problem is that there is no control over perceptions of ideas. You can't make someone experience one, only attmpt to guide them. That is belief, I think, although I must admit that I feel very unsure of the ground on this particular facet of our debate.[/quote:1c70q29z] Yeah you can never really explain an experience to anyone, only point to it and let them experience it for themselves. It is also possible that two people can experience the same thing and different interpretations of it. Then belief can come into it--each thinking their view of what happened is right. But this is only because of the intellect trying to grasp something that it cannot grasp. Its quite likely that before intellectualization the experience was exactly the same for both. Also don't worry about being unsure of the ground on this subject, as you would not be the only one. After all we are talking about something which cannot be really talked about (not that we shouldnt try tho). From our normal way of looking at the world this doesn't make much sense, yet when we pay close attention we can get a hint of the truth of it. [quote="Sovin Nai":1c70q29z]Actually, almost this exact topic came up in my government class yesterday. A girl in the glass had an interesting idea: what if morals stem from evolution? We talked about similar ideas, but not this. That there is a higher moral law we all must obey, but it is dictated not by a higher being but by our evolutionary history. I found it an interesting thought and thought (no pun intended) I'd share it.[/quote:1c70q29z] I would say evolution has some to do with it, though not sure about it being dictated. Also as i said before, from a certain point of view you could say that morals [i:1c70q29z]are[/i:1c70q29z] evolution itself. But i think we have said enough on this subject and if we were to carry on we would most likely end up going around in circles. Perhaps time for a new subject for discussion? view post


posted 22 Jun 2004, 07:06 by TakLoufer, Candidate

Hello, I'm a semi-regular/lurker at the ASOIAF forum and just recently bought a copy of TDTCB. I'm currently a third of the way through and so far I really like it. It's on par with Martin, IMO, though the style is much different. Anyway, I just came across this thread and it touches on a topic that I am greatly interested in (the mind-body problem and ontology in general) and I feel the need to put in my $0.02. I used to be a hard-core materialist atheist (no doubt as a result of years spent in an oppressive Christian environment) though I never really considered the full implications of this metaphysic. My interest in the mind-body problem began when I began some personal research into the nature of consciousness. I've read Dennett, Searle, Chalmers, Penrose, and others . . . and I felt even more confused than before I started my research. While neuroscience has explored many of the correlates of conscious experience (such as: when a this part of the brain does this, we feel pain), but this doesn't even remotely explain how or why this occurs. The correlation is arbitrary because the brain states don't contain "pain" or "the taste of peanut butter" . . . they are subjective, while brain states are objective. John Searle argues that the brain generates consciousness the same way the stomach digests food. Consciousness is what brains do. Or that consciousness emerges from insentient matter the same way water emerges from H2O. This satisfied me for a while, but as I read more, I realized that this analogy was erroneous. Digestions occurring in a stomach or water emerging from molecules are constitutive (to borrow a term used by David Ray Griffin)emergent phenomena and can (exhaustingly) be reduced down to mechanical interactions. Consciousness, OTOH, can only be a correlative emergent phenomena because brain states do not intrinsically contain the sensation of seeing red or the sensation of having a nail driven through ones foot; but are merely correlated with each other. This problem became an obsession. My worldview was at stake and I was annoyed that an answer eludes me. Hell, an answer still eludes me, though I know more than I did before. Also, in the course of my research, I came across studies in psi-phenomena. It started when I read Dean Radin's Conscious Universe and I was surprised that the evidence is, well, to me, scary. I always thought concepts such as telepathy, precognition, and psychokinesis was nonsense that only crackpots believed, but the evidence has been repeated over and over again in experiements by "believers" and "skeptics" alike. Type "ganzfeld" or "autoganzfeld" into google for some papers on telepathy experiments. I'm not saying these phenomena exist (though the evidence suggest as much), but the evidence is much stronger that I previously believed. Though beware of the new age crap. If psi does exist . . . well, I don't know. It would seem consciousness extends beyond the brain (as psi is the mind transcending space and time) and not the epiphenomenal side-effect of deterministic neural activity. As for an answer to the mind-body problem, I think a few theories hold water better than others: 1) The Penrose-Hameroff Orch-OR theory. This theory argues that the microtubules in neurons interact with the fabric of space-time itself (the Plank scale) to produce experience. Consciousness is the foundation of reality. For more information, read The Emperor's New Mind and Shadows of the Mind by Roger Penrose; or just go to Stuart Hameroff's site at http://www.consciousness.arizona.edu/hameroff/ 2) Whiteheadian Panexperientalism: This is similar to Penrose and Hameroff's theory, except it's more general. The universe is composed of experience. All matter contains basic awareness (though not consciousness). For more information, read David Ray Griffin's Unsnarling the World Knot and Alfred North Whitehead's Process and Reality. I've been told that Whitehead's philosophy is similar to Heidigger's (they were contemporaries), though I have yet to read him. 3) Mental Monism: In some ways this is similar to panexperientalism, except that mental monism says that the entire objective world is nothing but a fiction attached to sensory experience. Basically, reality is a very coherent dream with rules (ex. gravity) and is maintained by some larger mind (a metamind). The universe has all the "substance" of a really vivid dream: none at all. I realize this seems insane, but computer programmer Peter B. Lloyd makes a good argument for it. His website is http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~ursa/. He has also written a book called Consciousness and Berkeley's Metaphysics If I were a betting man, I'd bet up to $100 that this theory is the closest to the truth. It sounds insane at first, but his arguments are the strongest I've come across. Some would say this opens the back door for God and an afterlife, though personally I feel that any "God" (metamind?) is not even remotely anthropomorphic in nature and that personalities are, by their very nature, limited and temporary(*). My guess is that at death our personalities "defocus" into the universal consciousness or whatever, like a drop in a ocean losing it's individuality. That's not really that bad. It sure beats being an epiphenomenal side effect. (*) - Though there is some good evidence suggesting personalities can sometimes survive death (Immortal Remains by Stephen Braude is a evenhanded apprasal of the evidence), I'm undecided on the issue. view post


posted 23 Jun 2004, 13:06 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Welcome to the board, Takloufer. Just a note (as much a question as anything else), I thought Michael Shermer and the Skeptical Inquirer people did a real number on Radin and the psi stuff. I wouldn't argue the correlation between neurophysiologies and experiences is so much arbitrary, as you say, as it's simply inexplicable. I'm troubled by the ontological extravagance of approaches like Chalmers, flummoxed by Dennett-like eliminativism, skeptical of Searle's 'levels of description,' and very amused by the quantum approachs taken by Penrose. The bottom-line is that nobody knows what the hell is going on, which is why, like you, I'm inclined to think there could be room for the 'extra-material' (or, more pragmatically, 'something beyond the ability of science to explain'). The question is one of making meaningful inferences beyond this point, which leaves me stalled in my agnosticism. What do you think of Nagel's 'double-vision' approach to the problem? view post


posted 23 Jun 2004, 21:06 by TakLoufer, Candidate

[quote:1rn75qyu]Welcome to the board, Takloufer. Just a note (as much a question as anything else), I thought Michael Shermer and the Skeptical Inquirer people did a real number on Radin and the psi stuff.[/quote:1rn75qyu] I'm not aware of any article by Michael Shermer that attacks specifically Radin's book, but I take most of what Shermer says with a pinch of salt. The problem with skeptical publications and organizations such as [i:1rn75qyu]Skeptic[/i:1rn75qyu] and CSICOP and others is that, like many of their pro-psi opponents, they have a strong ideological position to defend. Still, their articles are useful in seeing alternate explanations. Some of the arguments against Radin's position that I've seen are the file-drawer effect and bungled statistics. The file-drawer effect is unlikely simply because the number of unreported experiments required to create a null effect is staggering. In the case of the ESP card tests (which are by no means the best evidence), for every reported experiment, 3,300 unreported experiments would have to have been done to bring the positive results down to null. In the case of the ganzfeld and autoganzfeld experiments (where cheating would be almost impossible), if I remember correctly (someone borrowed my copy and hasn't returned it), the required file drawer would have to be 400 or so unreported experiments for every reported experiment. Given the funding and equipment necessary to run a ganzfeld experiment, it's absurdly unlikely that so many experiments were carried out. Radin has also been accused of making mistakes in his statistics. This started with a book review by I.J. Good for the journal, [i:1rn75qyu]Nature[/i:1rn75qyu]. The review can be found here: [url:1rn75qyu]http://members.cruzio.com/~quanta/review.html[/url:1rn75qyu]. The problem is that Good misunderstood Radin's use of "[i:1rn75qyu]more than[/i:1rn75qyu] a billion trillion to one" when calculating the probability that the card test results from 1882-1939 could be attributed to chance. By "more than a billion trillion", Radin meant something on the order of 10>2000 to one against. Most of the blame for this misunderstanding can largely be laid at Radin's feet. Since the intended audience of [i:1rn75qyu]Conscious Universe[/i:1rn75qyu] was the layperson, Radin felt it necessary to make the 10>2000 a more easily understandable number. Radin's explanation can be found here [url:1rn75qyu]http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~bdj10/psi/doubtsregood.html#correct[/url:1rn75qyu]. Regrettably, even after this misunderstanding, CSICOP still opted to use this review against Radin in Viktor J. Stenger's article "Reality Check: Meta-Analysis and the File drawer Effect". [url:1rn75qyu]http://www.csicop.org/sb/2002-12/reality-check.html[/url:1rn75qyu]. In any case, the usefulness of Radin's book is that it's a good starting point for better research and it brings to attention some very suggestive experiments. However, while his professional integrity is not as questionable as, say, Targ's or Putoff's (who are both very probably quacks IMO - they fell for [i:1rn75qyu]Uri Geller's[/i:1rn75qyu] tricks, for Christ's sake!), he does tend to indulge in some minor tweaking of quotes. The skeptical book review at [url:1rn75qyu]http://www.skepticreport.com/psychics/radinbook.htm[/url:1rn75qyu] is most useful in this showing this, though I feel many skeptical publications are guilty of the same misrepresentations. If one looks though this buttressing, though, one can see that the ganzfeld experiments are the gem in the rough. The ganzfeld and autoganzfeld experiments are, IMO, the best evidence of psi. Even though skeptics like Ray Hyman maintain that the ganzfeld does not prove the existence of psi, he hasn't given a suitable alternative explanation. Fraud and error have been ruled out, so now Hyman is focusing on statistical slips or sensory leakage (given that both the "sender" and "receiver" are both in separate, soundproof, electromagnetically sealed rooms, this seems unlikely). For more information, do a google on ganzfeld, Hyman, Utts, Bem, Honorton, Wiseman, and Milton. The controversy and debates over the last decade are really interesting, not to mention amusing as well. The point is that it's hard to say what's a real effect and what's not, though I feel somewhat justified in thinking that at least the ganzfeld is a legitament phenomena. [quote:1rn75qyu]I wouldn't argue the correlation between neurophysiologies and experiences is so much arbitrary, as you say, as it's simply inexplicable.[/quote:1rn75qyu] Well, it's arbitrary to us, as we have no explanation as for why "the smell of the ocean" should be felt when a certain neural configuration occurs. That in and of itself discredits elimnativism and shows that, if materialism is true, it is by necessity dualistic, split into an objective world of blind, dead matter and a subjective world that attaches qualia to certain configurations of this matter (brain states). [quote:1rn75qyu]I'm troubled by the ontological extravagance of approaches like Chalmers, flummoxed by Dennett-like eliminativism, skeptical of Searle's 'levels of description,' and very amused by the quantum approachs taken by Penrose. The bottom-line is that nobody knows what the hell is going on, which is why, like you, I'm inclined to think there could be room for the 'extra-material' (or, more pragmatically, 'something beyond the ability of science to explain'). The question is one of making meaningful inferences beyond this point, which leaves me stalled in my agnosticism.[/quote:1rn75qyu] Well, my agnosticism is now leaning towards mental monism, since the "subjective world" obviously exist and everything we know about the objective world are, basically, useful fictions gleamed from our sensory perception. The world could very well be a coherent dream, and this would allow for consciousness to exist. Mental monism makes the "hard problem" easy. The one thing I can say with certainty is that there is "something" missing from the current materialist paradigm. [quote:1rn75qyu]What do you think of Nagel's 'double-vision' approach to the problem?[/quote:1rn75qyu] If you are referring to the subjective-objective duality of all objects (I haven't read Nagel yet, though he seems to be a sort of panpsychist), then I agree. As I'm not all that familiar with Nagel (though others refer to him often), I'll wait until I've read his work before I venture an opinion. -Tak view post


posted 27 Jun 2004, 19:06 by Anonymous, Subdidact

I can't remember the specifics of the SI critiques, but on the basis of your description of the debate, I'll definitely keep the door open on psi. Given the success of the etiological picture of the world that science has sketched for us, and the tendentiousness that seems to invariably dog research into the paranormal, I have to say I'm pessemistic. At the very least, the burden of proof lies with the psi realists. Backwards causality at the level of dried goods? Claims that big require exhaustive experimentation and review. A couple quick questions regarding your idealism: 1) What do you make of the intentionality or aboutness of experience? and 2) Given that we all have perspectives, just what would you say our perspective is [i:7xu3l020]on[/i:7xu3l020]? view post


posted 28 Jun 2004, 05:06 by TakLoufer, Candidate

[quote:bdruey8a]I can't remember the specifics of the SI critiques, but on the basis of your description of the debate, I'll definitely keep the door open on psi. Given the success of the etiological picture of the world that science has sketched for us, and the tendentiousness that seems to invariably dog research into the paranormal, I have to say I'm pessemistic.[/quote:bdruey8a] Despite over a century of investigations and gathered evidence (much of it strong) parapsychology is still largely seen as a collection of incompetents, kooks, crackpots, and outright frauds. Regrettably this (mis)conception is, to at least some extent, somewhat deserved. However, I suppose this is to be expected, given the nature of the field. The very fact that it is not commonly accepted into mainstream science makes it more vulnerable to snake oil salesmen, new age gurus, and scientists who are less than stalwart in their science. :( OTOH, this doesn't discredit the field in and of itself . . . it just makes it that much harder to sift through the nonsense to find the quality research. [quote:bdruey8a]At the very least, the burden of proof lies with the psi realists. Backwards causality at the level of dried goods? Claims that big require exhaustive experimentation and review.[/quote:bdruey8a] If you are referring to retrokinesis when you mention backwards causality, then I agree; unlike the ganzfeld, RK has not been replicated any number of times, as far as I know. RK may be a real phenomena; but that remains to be seen. [quote:bdruey8a]A couple quick questions regarding your idealism: 1) What do you make of the intentionality or aboutness of experience?[/quote:bdruey8a] 1) Well, I feel we almost certainly have intentionality and volition. The "aboutness" of conscious experience is, IMO, one of the most important characteristics of consciousness, next to the qualia itself. Searle puts forward good argument for the non-computability of semantics (and, by extension, intentionality) in his book [i:bdruey8a]Rediscovery of the Mind[/i:bdruey8a]. Ironically, Searle's arguments against computable semantics and even syntax also work against his own theory of "biological naturalism" (David Ray Griffin explains this when he speaks of [i:bdruey8a]constitutive [/i:bdruey8a] vs. [i:bdruey8a]correlative [/i:bdruey8a] emergent phenomena). The "aboutness" (and syntax and semantics) of conscious thought has to come from [i:bdruey8a]something[/i:bdruey8a] other than insentient matter. The reason why I think we have volition is, for the most part, a personal one. Epiphenomenalism flys in the face of hard core common sense; not just the common sense of "the earth is flat" variety that can be easily conceived otherwise, but, as Whitehead put it, volition (along with consciousness itself) is: [quote:bdruey8a]"the metaphysical rule of evidence: that we must bow to those presumptions, which, in despite of criticism, we still employ for the regulation of our lives.”[/quote:bdruey8a] No one can live their day to day life denying they have volition any more than they can live their lives denying they exist. Also, there is the (not logically water tight, admittingly) argument that if we had no volition, then all qualia and experience would be nothing but a vestigial organ, a useless appendage, a cruel side effect. This, I feel, is absurd. When I feel hungry, I get up, walk to the kitchen, and make myself a sandwich. If I had no volition, then me feeling hungry would serve absolutely no purpose. "I" (whatever that is) could experience the sensation of [i:bdruey8a]anything[/i:bdruey8a] - the feeling of being full, of being on fire, whatever - and my deterministic physical body would still amble towards the kitchen to mechanically make a sandwich as sure as rocks roll downhill. Why should my experience correlate with what my body does (or at least what I experience my body doing) unless my experience and appearent volition has an effect? Idealism makes sense of this by allowing consciousness, as the foundation of reality, the intentionality and volition that we experience in everyday life. Our brains (which, according to Lloyd's mental monism, are objects maintained in the meta-mind) contain neural correlates of at least some (and conceivably all), of our mental states. Brains are sort of like the mind/meta-mind interface in which we use when we interact in the "metaverse" where minds interact. I use the word "we" loosely, as I suspect that the concept of individuals goes away when the structure of the brain ceases. I may be wrong, of course. [quote:bdruey8a] 2) Given that we all have perspectives, just what would you say our perspective is on? [/quote:bdruey8a] 2) Do you mean what our perspective is based on? Well, in a mental monistic metaphysic; the metamind. As to the nature of the metamind, who knows? I tend to think the metamind as a sort of Brahman-like godhead without/with attributes (and so does Peter B. Lloyd). Not so much an anthropomorphic being as just "The infinite". Personally, I tend to think that our perspectives originate from this. That's who's really looking back at us when we look in the mirror. In other words, I'm not sure. -Sorry for the length, I have a tendency to ramble. -Tak view post


posted 28 Jun 2004, 14:06 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

I should have said 'anomolous' causality. (Backward causality has to do with the precognitive stuff, doesn't it?) Either way, the sheer chutzpah of these claims makes Ockam's razor an enemy of parapsycologists (bigger even than the Amazing Randi!). All things being equal, the simplest most mundane explanation wins (pending further data, of course) - which in this case, is some version of experimental error. I too believe there simply HAS to be intentionality, I'm just not sure there's any convincing way to silence the meaning skeptic. But this actually wasn't the thrust of my question. I actually have a hard time understanding how idealism can make sense of intentionality. What are our experiences ABOUT? Other 'meta-experiences'? Or nothing at all? For instance, I believe I have a perspective IN the world ON the world. I'm not sure where to fit your metamind. Are you saying our perspectives are perspectives ON some kind of perspective? I'm not sure its possible to salvage an intelligible concept of perspective from this. A perspective, to be a perspective on something, must be one of many possible perspectives on something that transcends it - doesn't it? But if you acknowledge that our perspectives are on something that transcends them, my question would be: Then why not simply say 'world' like the rest of us? Are you willing to trust philosophical discourse (with its lack of regress enders) so far as to give such an extraordinary ontological content to what we experience? view post


posted 29 Jun 2004, 06:06 by Anonymous, Subdidact

[quote:1x1o0or2]I should have said 'anomolous' causality. (Backward causality has to do with the precognitive stuff, doesn't it?) Either way, the sheer chutzpah of these claims makes Ockam's razor an enemy of parapsycologists (bigger even than the Amazing Randi!). [/quote:1x1o0or2] Heh, Randi is as much a threat to parapsychologists as Uri Geller is a threat to CSICOP. ;) [quote:1x1o0or2]All things being equal, the simplest most mundane explanation wins (pending further data, of course) - which in this case, is some version of experimental error. [/quote:1x1o0or2] In the case of the ganzfeld, though, even Ray Hyman admits that the results are unlikely to be the result of chance or error. He claims it's due to some design flaw, such as an inadequate randomization of the targets. This claim has been argued against adequately, IMO. [url:1x1o0or2]http://comp9.psych.cornell.edu/dbem/response_to_hyman.html[/url:1x1o0or2] Scroll to the bottom of this page for more articles (pro and con) on the ganzfeld. [url:1x1o0or2]http://www.parapsych.org/full_papers.html[/url:1x1o0or2] [quote:1x1o0or2]I too believe there simply HAS to be intentionality, I'm just not sure there's any convincing way to silence the meaning skeptic.[/quote:1x1o0or2] The argument for intentionality is similar to the argument against solipsism. While we cannot completely justify these positions, people will live their lives as if they have intention and as if other minds exist; regardless whether or not philosophers and scientists choose to recognize these characteristics. These notions are hard core common sense - a theory that does not take these into account lacks explanatory value and is inadequate, IMO. [quote:1x1o0or2]But this actually wasn't the thrust of my question. I actually have a hard time understanding how idealism can make sense of intentionality. What are our experiences ABOUT? Other 'meta-experiences'? Or nothing at all?[/quote:1x1o0or2] As to what our experiences are [i:1x1o0or2]on[/i:1x1o0or2], well, physically . . . nothing. Imagine you are in an extremely vivid dream where you are in a room with a table with an apple on it. When you look at the table, what is the experience of the table "about"? What is it on? The space of the room, the feel of wood floor boards on bare feet, the taste of the apple . . . all of these are mental constructs. These experiences, in the dream, supervene entirely upon your mind (*). The objects in your dream can be said to be mental objects. While people don't usually think about it, even in waking life all qualia, sense of space, even the sense of the passage of time, are mental constructs as well. The only discernable differences between dreams and reality can be measured in degrees of intensity, coherence, and consistency. People assume that a physical world underlies their everyday experience and that all experiences supervene upon this world. People believe this, even though they can never directly observe this physical world, primary because of an argument from orderliness. If I were to leave the room I am in now, take a walk around the block, and come back, my computer would (hopefully) still be sitting on my desk. If I were in a dream, this would not necessarily be so. People maintain the existence of a physical world to explain the consistency of their everyday experiences. However, to use this consistency to conclude that there must be an ontologically distinct, ultimately unknowable physical world in which all of our experiences subsist on is a [i:1x1o0or2]non-sequitor[/i:1x1o0or2]. As a working model, it unnecessarily splits the world in two and begs the question: [i:1x1o0or2]How can this unknowable, ontologically different, and insentient world produce qualia?[/i:1x1o0or2]. We [i:1x1o0or2]know[/i:1x1o0or2] qualia exists, but this physical world can only forever be an unobservable abstraction. And anyone who is familiar with the brain-in-a-vat thought experiment would realize that what we experience doesn't necessarily entail [i:1x1o0or2]anything[/i:1x1o0or2] about the nature of what the experiences subsist on. While it is unreasonable to assume we are brains hooked up to electrodes, there is no real reason to assume our experiences are based upon an ontologically distinct physical world either. Idealism has an advantage on realism in that idealism allows for consciousness to exist as we know it without any of the mind/body problems that materialism faces. As to what our experiences are "about", well, just as an object in a dream is an mental object (with, admittingly, "unreal" and inconsistent characteristics) that has no physical substance behind it, an object in waking life can be described as a "metamental object", or an object generated and maintained within the metamind. To use Berkeley's terminology, we are in "God's mind". A modern analogy would be to say we are in a Matrix-like virtual reality world (that is not supervening on a computer). [quote:1x1o0or2]For instance, I believe I have a perspective IN the world ON the world. I'm not sure where to fit your metamind. Are you saying our perspectives are perspectives ON some kind of perspective? I'm not sure it’s possible to salvage an intelligible concept of perspective from this. A perspective, to be a perspective on something, must be one of many possible perspectives on something that transcends it - doesn't it?[/quote:1x1o0or2] Well, back to the dream analogy: When we dream, the objects in our dreams are not necessarily on any real objects - the dreamworld is "internal", so to speak. Conceivably, with much dedication and patience, a lucid dreamer could create a dreamworld with at least a somewhat coherent consistency. This self-created, consistent world would contain objects, an extension in space, and (possibly) a flow of time that would be "about" nothing other than the dreamers own mind. The universe (metaverse?) is the "dreamworld" of the metamind. Objects, extension in space, passage of time . . . it's a consistent dream. Our perceptions are [i:1x1o0or2]within[/i:1x1o0or2] the metamind. One possible argument against mental monism is that when we dream, all of the objects that we dream about originate from our perceptions in waking life. Even unreal objects, such as monsters or unicorns or other impossibilities, are constructed from objects perceived in the real world. If this is true, then where does the metamind get all of its ideas? One answer would be to postulate the existence of platonic "archetypes" or Whiteheadian "eternal objects" (the color red, the sound of a dull hum, the taste of sweetness, etc.). All metamental objects are combinations of these eternal objects or archetypes. I suppose the "rock bottom" foundation of reality could be said to be the eternal objects themselves. [quote:1x1o0or2]But if you acknowledge that our perspectives are on something that transcends them, my question would be: Then why not simply say 'world' like the rest of us? Are you willing to trust philosophical discourse (with its lack of regress enders) so far as to give such an extraordinary ontological content to what we experience?[/quote:1x1o0or2] I would, if the physical world (or at least the variant put forward by mainstream materialists) could allow for the "hard core" common sense notions of consciousness and volition. Science has made remarkable progress in many fields over the last four hundred years, but consciousness is as mysterious now as it was in the time of Descartes. Sure, we've discovered many of the correlates of mind in the form of brain states, but these contain no explanatory value as to [i:1x1o0or2]how[/i:1x1o0or2] or [i:1x1o0or2]why[/i:1x1o0or2] qualia should be connected to neural structures. I like how Lloyd put it when he wrote: [quote:1x1o0or2]They [mental states] are inherently incapable of being predicted within physics, as the terms that denote mental experiences simply do not occur in physics and are not derivable from physical terms - [i:1x1o0or2]Consciousness and Berkely's metaphysics[/i:1x1o0or2][/quote:1x1o0or2] Consciousness (and, possibly, psi) is a huge right in the center of modern science's worldview. And I don't think we're going to find the answer by discovering more neural correlates. Or by trying to eliminate it away either. Whether or not mental monism is true or not (panexperientalism is appealing as well), I have no idea. But I feel confident in stating that consciousness (or at least experience, or awareness) must be a foundation of reality, much the way gravity is - a law of nature, irreducible and undeniable. I must say I am enjoying this discussion immensely. It's been a while since I've talked with someone interested in this subject. *-Some would say they supervene on neural correlates, but there is nothing about the structure of the brain that would explain the qualia. Not to mention that the objective existence of neural activity is inferred entirely from our conscious experiences. A mental monist would say that the perceptions of brain activity (and the experiences of mental correlatives between the two) are metamental objects maintained in the metamind view post


posted 29 Jun 2004, 15:06 by Anonymous, Subdidact

I'm enjoying this as well! Just a few more questions: You say its the recalcitrance of intentionality thats the chicken bone in the throat of materialism - you'll get no argument from me there (though I more interested in talking naturalism than materialism)! But I have to admit, I no longer have any clue just what you mean by intentionality. You acknowledge that aboutness is a decisive characteristic of experience, and yet you seem to alternately suggest that our experiences are 1) about nothing at all, and 2) about 'mental constructs.' If (1) is the case, then you're arguing that intentionality (understood as aboutness) is in fact illusory. In other words, you seem to kill intentionality in the name of saving it. (2) just strikes me as incoherent. 'Mental constructs' are presumeably things constructed by my mind, and as such exist only within my mind. So precisely WHERE is my mind? It can't be in my head, because 'head' is just a mental construct existing in my mind. It can't be in your head for the same reason - in fact, if I take what you're saying right, you're nothing more than a mental construct in my nowhere-dwelling mind. You make an appeal to common sense in rejecting materialism - once again I'm sympathetic - but I'm not sure where the rubber of your appeal hits the road. I have to admit my cynicism here, and I should explain so that you can see the much different tack I take to this debate. Any position can be rationalized given enough time and ingenuity: there really are no regress enders for philosophical discourse (and I take the fact that we can argue this point infinitely without arriving at a compelling conclusion to be a demonstration of this). Add the intrinsic need humans seem to have for things like meaning, morality, and purpose, and all these arguments start sounding more like apologia than anything else. The only theoretical truth-claims that really impress me anymore are 1) scientific, 2) those that cut against the grain of our conceits, 3) those that are intuitively forceful prior to philosophical training (like determinism, for instance). None of this means that philosophy doesn't have interesting and worthwhile things to say - what it means is that philosophy lacks the institutional, conceptual, and methodological resources to offer anything resembling a compelling, regress-ending, answer. This just seem obvious to me. And this, by the way, is why I see modernity as a time of profound crisis: in our society only scientific institutions have the ability to make truth-claims stick - so successfully that they've utterly transformed the world - and yet they seem fundamentally antagonistic to meaning and value, to the way we humans understand ourselves in the first instance. When the most powerful instrument of discovery in the history of the human race insinuates the meaningless of existence - well, that strikes me as cause for concern. So when I approach arguments at the metaphysical level of monisms, dualisms, and whatnot, there's a sense in which I'm muckraking more than anything else. I can see the interest of such debates, but I can't understand the [i:kdkn8dfb]commitment[/i:kdkn8dfb]. Such commitment, it seems to me, stems from an unwarranted optimism in the capacity of philosophical argument. view post


posted 29 Jun 2004, 15:06 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

That was me, BTW. For some reason, I'm being logged out whenever I pause to make a cup of tea during a longish post. view post


posted 29 Jun 2004, 21:06 by TakLoufer, Candidate

[quote:3n88rv2i]I'm enjoying this as well! Just a few more questions: You say its the recalcitrance of intentionality thats the chicken bone in the throat of materialism - you'll get no argument from me there (though I more interested in talking naturalism than materialism)! But I have to admit, I no longer have any clue just what you mean by intentionality. You acknowledge that aboutness is a decisive characteristic of experience, and yet you seem to alternately suggest that our experiences are 1) about nothing at all,[/quote:3n88rv2i] Nothing physical. A mental monist denies the ontologically separate existence of physical material, energy, space, and time. The physical concepts exist only as coherent qualia (or "ideas", as Berkeley would put it). The notion of a separate world of blind, dead, deterministic "billiard balls" is a useful fiction - they exist in the sense that we think of them as existing in an everyday sense, but they don't exist outside the presence of the metamind any more than dreamworlds exist outside a dream. [quote:3n88rv2i]and 2) about 'mental constructs.' If (1) is the case, then you're arguing that intentionality (understood as aboutness) is in fact illusory. In other words, you seem to kill intentionality in the name of saving it. (2) just strikes me as incoherent. 'Mental constructs' are presumeably things constructed by my mind, and as such exist only within my mind. So precisely WHERE is my mind?[/quote:3n88rv2i] A mental monist would say the mind is nonphysical. Your mind is not "in" your head, though there are physical correlates to it in the form of brain states. But these brain states do not, in and of themselves, contain the qualia necessary for consciousness. Minds are simply not objects in the three dimensional space of our universe, though the brain is the object in which mental states are correlated. Some examples of other nonphysical objects are numbers and algorithms. Numbers and algorithms can be manifested in physical objects, in the way I can say "I have three pencils in my hand" or an algorithm can be written in a computer programs code, but it would be inaccurate to say that the number "three" is actually contained within my hand or that the physical location of an algorithm is located in a computer's circuitry. Minds, like mathematical constructs, are outside the physical world. Likewise, the metamind is also "outside" the physical world (which is its "dream"). I know this is hard to fathom, but this is because we are used to thinking in terms of spatial coordinance (such as: "the ball is under the table" or "my sister is at school"), and the idea of something being "outside" this 3-d grid is hard to imagine. Your mind is located in the same place the quadratic equation and the color pink are: nowhere (or the "Platonic Realm" - which sounds more romantic). [quote:3n88rv2i]It can't be in my head, because 'head' is just a mental construct existing in my mind. It can't be in your head for the same reason - [/quote:3n88rv2i] No, your head isn't "generated" by your own mind, I doubt our minds are "powerful" (whatever that means) enough to maintain a coherent world for any length of time. A mental monist will say that your head, your body, etc, are "within" (a meaningless term, as minds are outside space) the metamind. Your mind can perceive it when you look in a mirror or touch yourself. If you are knocked unconscious and no one else is around you, you don't cease to exist. Your body is maintained by the metamind just like all other objects. The only time when objects are created by our own mind is when we are either dreaming, imagining, or hallucinating. When I say that our waking life is composed entirely "within" (again, the limits the language :( ) our minds, I mean that they are "about" the contents of the metamind. We are "within" the metamind, as if we were in someone else’s dream. Our mental construct of the world is determined by a number of factors, including sensory organs, cognitive ability, etc. I can see what you are getting at though when we ask what intention is "about". We are forever trapped "within" our own minds, and we only have access to our own mental constructs (save for telepathy, if it exists). We can never see the "thing in itself" (the metamental object), only how our minds can precieve it. The only time we do see the thing in itself is within our own dreams, because we created the dream-objects. The only mind that sees the "things in themselves" that exist in waking life is the metamind, and that is because all the objects are its mental constructs. I also assume, I suppose, that the metamind can see "within" our own minds, since, I assume, we ourselves must be the metamind's mental constructs (maybe in the same way we create characters in fiction, though that's a stretch). [quote:3n88rv2i]in fact, if I take what you're saying right, you're nothing more than a mental construct in my nowhere-dwelling mind.[/quote:3n88rv2i] Well, a mental monist would say I exist outside of [i:3n88rv2i]your[/i:3n88rv2i] mind. We are both "within" the metamind. And saying our minds are "nowhere" means that they are not within the 3-d space of the physical universe. The space itself is a product of mind (metamind in regards to the universe, our minds when it comes to our dreams) If we were to meet, you would see my body and I your body. When you look at me, your mind would be sending a "volitional signal" (to use a phrase coined by Peter B. Lloyd) to the metamind and the metamind would send back a "signal" (this is probably a poor word to use, as there is not a "signal" in the sense of something traveling through space) to your mind with an image of my body, taking into account factors such as distance, objects between us, vision clarity, etc. Of course, that's a crude example; the "signals" would be a lot more complex than that; they would control all sensory input. I suppose a good analogy would be to say it would be like us meeting in a virtual reality game. The space and objects in the VR world would not "literally" exist, but would be constructs built from a combination of the computer and our imagination. When we look at our respective VR bodies, what we see are not ontologically distinct, independently existing objects, but rather a creation of the VR machine. In the game, our intentionality are about objects that don't exist outside of the machine, even though we may perceive vast extensions in space and any sort of object while playing. The metamind is sort of like this VR machine, except the mind is not supervened on a physical machine. If the metamind is composed of anything, it would be eternal objects and archetypes. [quote:3n88rv2i]You make an appeal to common sense in rejecting materialism - once again I'm sympathetic - but I'm not sure where the rubber of your appeal hits the road.[/quote:3n88rv2i] I'm aware of the apparent absurdity of the mental monistic stance, but I maintain that it's more coherent than materialism. Perhaps I should justify not only mental monism, but [i:3n88rv2i]why[/i:3n88rv2i] I'm bothering with it in the first place. In materialism, we have: {Objective World} --->---creates--->--- {Subjectivity} (epiphenomenal?) The problem (that is so obvious that many philosophers miss it) is that the objective world, by being denied experience, lacks the tools necessary to "create" subjectivity. No matter how many insentient bits of matter bang into each other and no matter what structures they form, no sentience can come from insentience. Thomas Nagel said as much (I read this quote in Griffin's [i:3n88rv2i]Unsnarling the World Knot[/i:3n88rv2i]) in "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?" when he wrote: [quote:3n88rv2i]. . . This gap is logically unbridgeable. If a bodiless god wanted to create a conscious being, he could not expect to do it by combining together in organic form a bunch of particles with none but physical properties.[/quote:3n88rv2i] For materialism to be coherent, it would require that either that 1) the material world intrinsically contains experience (panexperientalism) or some outside agency "bridges the gap" between brain states and subjectivity (dualism). In this way of thinking, we start with the assumption of an objective, ontologically independent world, and then we are stuck trying to explain how (or even [i:3n88rv2i]if![/i:3n88rv2i]) we are conscious. Mental monism is the exact opposite: {Subjective world}(Volition?)--->---creates--->---{Physical World} This allows for consciousness to exist without having to force an independent material world into the picture. The problem is that it seems so counter-intuitive (though I don't think it violates our "hard core" common sense notions), just like it would be counter-intuitive for someone in the Matrix to be told that their world is not "literally" there. [quote:3n88rv2i]I have to admit my cynicism here, and I should explain so that you can see the much different tack I take to this debate. Any position can be rationalized given enough time and ingenuity: there really are no regress enders for philosophical discourse (and I take the fact that we can argue this point infinitely without arriving at a compelling conclusion to be a demonstration of this).[/quote:3n88rv2i] True, but one can rule out different metaphysics and philosophically probe a model to see if it has weaknesses. [quote:3n88rv2i]Add the intrinsic need humans seem to have for things like meaning, morality, and purpose, and all these arguments start sounding more like apologia than anything else.[/quote:3n88rv2i] Well, I'm under no illusion that I'm going to find out the truth, or at least "know" it whether it is the truth or not. Many philosophical and scientific explorations are fueled by an outside agenda such as a search for meaning, or to defend a metaphysic, etc. Griffin calls this [i:3n88rv2i]paradigmatic[/i:3n88rv2i] or [i:3n88rv2i]wishful and fearful thinking[/i:3n88rv2i]. I hope I'm not falling into that trap, though I expect everyone suffers from this to one degree or another. [quote:3n88rv2i]The only theoretical truth-claims that really impress me anymore are 1) scientific,[/quote:3n88rv2i] Well, science has its limitations. Science has been wondrously successful in regard to predicting and measuring the laws of nature and utilizing these laws for our benefit, but science is utterly impotent when it comes to explaining [i:3n88rv2i]why[/i:3n88rv2i] or [i:3n88rv2i]how[/i:3n88rv2i] these laws exist. Some scientists will state that "why are there natural laws?" and "why is there something instead of nothing?" are meaningless questions, but this shows the extent of their blindness in the matter. Science has done a wonderful job of describing and predicting the movements of shadows on Plato's cave wall, but they are as ignorant now of their origins as they were four hundred years ago. [quote:3n88rv2i]2) those that cut against the grain of our conceits, 3) those that are intuitively forceful prior to philosophical training (like determinism, for instance).[/quote:3n88rv2i] Determinism is intuitively forceful only in regard to insentient objects. In the matter of people, it's not intuitive at all, and rightly so. Even if someone believes in determinism, they cannot live their lives as if they did. [quote:3n88rv2i]None of this means that philosophy doesn't have interesting and worthwhile things to say - what it means is that philosophy lacks the institutional, conceptual, and methodological resources to offer anything resembling a compelling, regress-ending, answer.[/quote:3n88rv2i] Well, that's science's job. The success of science is, oddly enough, due to its own limitations. Science does not even try to answer "why" and this allows for it to move on and utilize the unexplained natural laws. In science, the regress ends with description, prediction, and utilization. Lloyd made this clear when he wrote: [quote:3n88rv2i]People had for a long time been puzzled by what makes the world tick. For instance, why does an apple fall out of a tree? To say that it is due to "gravity", is to only label it, without explaining it. On its own, that is no better than Aristotle's supposition that it was the spirit of the apple that wanted to move towards the earth. Newton's master stroke was to realise that we do not really need to answer that question ([i:3n88rv2i]Consciousness and Berkeley's Metaphysics[/i:3n88rv2i])[/quote:3n88rv2i] [quote:3n88rv2i]This just seem obvious to me. And this, by the way, is why I see modernity as a time of profound crisis: in our society only scientific institutions have the ability to make truth-claims stick - so successfully that they've utterly transformed the world - and yet they seem fundamentally antagonistic to meaning and value, to the way we humans understand ourselves in the first instance. When the most powerful instrument of discovery in the history of the human race insinuates the meaningless of existence - well, that strikes me as cause for concern.[/quote:3n88rv2i] Though I am certainly no enemy to science, I feel that this crisis is a case of science "getting too big for its britches". Science doesn't have the tools to allow it to make value judgments or determine meaning. It's like the folks in Plato's cave dogmatically asserting that the shadows are all there is because they can't observe anything else. The fact that consciousness has eluded science for the past four centuries illustrates the inherent limitations of science. I'm concerned as well, though. Hopefully, parapsychology will come forward to bridge the gap, or at least make the gap smaller. Yes, I'm aware parapsychology is not respected in science, but it's been receiving more and more attention in the last decade (or at least scientific attention), and with the better controls in the experiments (and the fact that the effect remains) makes me think that its credibility will only increase. Parapsychology has come a long way since poorly controlled séances and card tests. [quote:3n88rv2i]So when I approach arguments at the metaphysical level of monisms, dualisms, and whatnot, there's a sense in which I'm muckraking more than anything else. I can see the interest of such debates, but I can't understand the commitment. Such commitment, it seems to me, stems from an unwarranted optimism in the capacity of philosophical argument.[/quote:3n88rv2i] Well, if one believes that there [i:3n88rv2i]is[/i:3n88rv2i] truth, then one knows that there must be a right answer. The right answer may forever elude us, but we can still narrow down the suspects. I feel I've eliminated materialism as a coherent metaphysic; dualism is logically possible, though the interaction in the brain between objective and subjective worlds remains problematic. (Though Penrose's quantum solution may help solve this) I feel I've narrowed it down to two likely candidates: panexperientalism and mental monism. In any case, I feel certain that experience is a "rock bottom" characteristic of reality. If you can find it, you should read David Ray Griffin's [i:3n88rv2i]Unsnarling the World Knot[/i:3n88rv2i], it's pretty expensive ($50.00 on amazon) but it should available at the a university library (or an interlibrary exchange). IMO it's one of the most useful books on the subject, whether or not you agree with his metaphysic. Yesterday I checked out Nagel's [i:3n88rv2i]View from Nowhere[/i:3n88rv2i], and hopefully I'll start reading that soon. -Tak view post


posted 29 Jun 2004, 23:06 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Very interesting response! Though I'm not sure you addressed my worries, Tak. You never actually addressed my intentionality question (which is simply a version of the perspective question). What are out experiences of? You seem to agree with that the 'nothing response' is unpalatable (because it simply does away with the very intentionality you're trying to save). You admit the mental construct response is unpalatable to common sense (which you seem to need), but you never actually say what our experiences are about. The metamind? You have to admit that prima facie, this smacks far more of 'fiction' and 'unexplained explainer' than good old fashioned matter. Moreover, there's a sense in which saying our experiences are on 'meta-experiences' seems a horribly ad hoc way of saving intentionality, particularly when you want to say that intentionality is not only the fundamental feature of experience, but your primary basis for abandoning materialism! Just think of all the questions: So if experiences are about meta-experiences, then what are those 'meta-experiences' about? After-all, they are EXPERIENCES, aren't they? Or are we talking about 'intentionless experiences' at this level? If this is the case, and intentionality is an essential characteristic of experience, then it no longer seems like we're talking about experiences, but rather about something more inert... more, matter like? I really think that idealism renders intentionality unintelligible. You have to show me where I'm wrong. Another point: the 'limits of science' (which I take as a given) comes up all the time in debates like this, and I can't help but think it simply misses the point. No one I know of argues the completeness or infallibility of science. They only argue that when it comes to the generation of reliable theoretical truth-claims, it really seems to be the only game in town. I'm open to considering competitors, but the field looks pretty bleak. There are ways, BTW, of materially explaining why science can't crack intentionality - they just seem to lead to unpalatable conclusions. Colin McGinn has an interesting take on this. I have my own 'blind brain hypothesis.' And lastly, I'm not sure how giving up on metaphysical commitments (and after over two thousands years, no less!) bears in any way on truth... Such resignation comes, I would argue, when you recognize the truth of metaphysical commitments! :wink: view post


posted 30 Jun 2004, 05:06 by TakLoufer, Candidate

[quote:28v2dp9f]Very interesting response! Though I'm not sure you addressed my worries, Tak. You never actually addressed my intentionality question (which is simply a version of the perspective question). What are out experiences of?[/quote:28v2dp9f] Perhaps I'm not understanding by what you mean by "intentionality", so let me explain what I think you are referring to. Here is what I think you mean: In the materialist metaphysic, when one looks at an object, their experience is "about" an ontologically distinct substance composed of matter. So, to a materialist, intentionality is the mental representation of something in the objective world composed of matter. Right? To a mental monist, when one looks at an object, their experience is of a metamental object within a metamind. So to a mental monist, intentionality is the mental construction of a metamental object within a metamind (and the metamental object is in turn "intended" or "about" a combination of eternal objects/archetypes) If I strip off all of the odd jargon and concepts, and really compare materialism and mental monism, I think the main difference between the two ontologies is this: 1) The basic units or "building blocks" in materialism: Atoms, electrons, mass, "spin", forces, etc. These objects intrinsically contain no experience and have no "internal" existence. They exist, to use a term used by Griffin, as [i:28v2dp9f]en soi[/i:28v2dp9f], or [i:28v2dp9f]in[/i:28v2dp9f] themselves, but not [i:28v2dp9f]for[/i:28v2dp9f] themselves. They only have an "outside" This is what Whitehead called a "vacuous entity" 2) The basic units or "building blocks" of mental monism are eternal objects and archetypes. This includes the experience of seeing red, blue, the smell of fish, the concept of extensions in space, time, pain, etc . . . . even, I would assume, the laws of mathematics and abstractions such as love, hate, freedom (I may be getting ahead of myself now). Unlike the "vacuous entities," that make up reality in the materialist metaphysic, these objects are what experiences are composed of. Given these two different types of building blocks, only the second is intrinsically capable of subjectivity. The first kind can only allow for subjectivity provided some outside agency "bridges the gap" and attaches experience to the insentient units. With the second type, there is no gap to bridge. [quote:28v2dp9f]You seem to agree with that the 'nothing response' is unpalatable (because it simply does away with the very intentionality you're trying to save).[/quote:28v2dp9f] Well, by nothing, I mean nothing physically. Nonphysical does not necessarily entail nonexistence. Numbers, algorithms, eternal objects, minds, etc. are all nonphysical. They are "outside" space. They have no "where". If you mean that the objects of the intention [i:28v2dp9f]do not exist[/i:28v2dp9f] (physically or otherwise), then I would agree that that premise is unpalatable. Irrealism is in the same boat as solipsism. [quote:28v2dp9f]You admit the mental construct response is unpalatable to common sense (which you seem to need), but you never actually say what our experiences are about.[/quote:28v2dp9f] Mental monism conflicts with "soft core" common sense, much in the way that a person from ancient times could conceive that the world is, in fact, not resting on the back of a tortoise, or that leeches are bad for you, or lightning does not come from the gods . . . even though these beliefs are part of the worldview he has raised with. OTOH, this same person could [i:28v2dp9f]not[/i:28v2dp9f] conceive that he does not exist, or that his is not conscious, or that he does not have volition. Mental monism conflicts with the current world view, but it does not violate the hard-core notions that all people employ by necessity. [quote:28v2dp9f]The metamind? You have to admit that prima facie, this smacks far more of 'fiction' and 'unexplained explainer' than good old fashioned matter.[/quote:28v2dp9f] Well, it depends on how one was raised. In a different culture (Hindu, perhaps), the idea of independent and ontologically distinct and insentient matter may strike some as absurd.. [quote:28v2dp9f]Moreover, there's a sense in which saying our experiences are on 'meta-experiences' seems a horribly ad hoc way of saving intentionality, particularly when you want to say that intentionality is not only the fundamental feature of experience, but your primary basis for abandoning materialism![/quote:28v2dp9f] Well, it wasn't my primary reason. Intentionality aside, the very existence of experience is enough to cripple mainstream materialism. In order for materialism to account for consciousness, it would have to either 1) allow matter to intrinsically have experience or 2) allow an outside agent to bridge the gap. [quote:28v2dp9f]Just think of all the questions: So if experiences are about meta-experiences, then what are those 'meta-experiences' about? After-all, they are EXPERIENCES, aren't they? Or are we talking about 'intentionless experiences' at this level? If this is the case, and intentionality is an essential characteristic of experience, then it no longer seems like we're talking about experiences, but rather about something more inert... more, matter like?[/quote:28v2dp9f] But matter just makes the problem even more complicated; or at least the matter of mainstream materialism. This matter is devoid of experience, and yet we have experience. Given the limited and insentient nature of this materialistic matter, the best one could hope for is an [i:28v2dp9f]en soi[/i:28v2dp9f] automation. Experience from insentience requires "something extra" to bridge the gap. [quote:28v2dp9f]I really think that idealism renders intentionality unintelligible. You have to show me where I'm wrong.[/quote:28v2dp9f] Okay, I see what you are getting at. Allow me to explain. Let me start from the beginning - or at the rock bottom of reality - and work my way up, justifying each "level": Level 1: The Platonic Realm - This is where is all starts. It is at this "level" (a poor choose of words - this is not an actual "place") that eternal objects and archetypes "reside" (another meaningless word). The existence of these objects, unlike the existence of matter, is irrefutable. The experience of colors, sounds, smells, sensations, tastes, extensions in space, time, mathematics, abstractions - these exist, and are irreducible. They have no spatial location, but are objects "outside" the universe; though they can be manifested in various forms. These eternal objects are what consciousness is made of. Bear in mind that when I refer to the color red, I refer to the [i:28v2dp9f]experience[/i:28v2dp9f] of the color red; a non-experienced red has no color. Even in a materialist metaphysic, these objects must be accounted for; and in order to make materialism coherent, one must find a way for these qualia to exist in world where they don't intrinsically exist. The existence of this "Realm" (once again, not a place, but a catch all term for all of the eternal objects) is, IMO, as indisputable as consciousness itself. Level 2: The Metamind - The metamind is, in effect, the buffer that rest between our minds and the eternal objects. The necessity of the metamind is that something is required to explain how the paint of eternal objects could produce the portrait of our universe. The metamind is a sort of organizer of all of the eternal objects. It is from the metamind in which the natural laws are maintained, objects remain stable, and experiences remain where they should. As to what the metamind's experiences are about, well, they are about the eternal objects (and the eternal objects don't have intentionality, as they [i:28v2dp9f]are[/i:28v2dp9f] "the experience of _____"). This has more explanatory value than materialism because it doesn't have the "unbridgeable gap" that comes with insentient matter. As to the metamind's nature . . . ? I doubt it has an anthropomorphic personality, or characteristics as we know it. The metamind may be our "higher selves" or whatever. I don't know. Peter B. Lloyd has a number of theories. Level 3: Our minds - Our minds are "within" the metamind and all of our intentionality and perceptions are "about" meta-mental objects in the metamind, which in turn are "about" combinations of eternal objects. A way to simplify this (as I realize the "metamind" sounds a bit silly) is to say that our intentionality is of structures of eternal objects (which is all the metamind really is: a collection and structure of archetypes and eternal objects) So there you have it. Material intentionality = "about" material objects. Immaterial intentionality = "about" constructs of eternal objects. ("Actual Entities" according to Whitehead) For example: An apple has color, taste, mass, volume. It has duration and it will change with time. If one were to take a piece of it and put it under a microscope, they will see more of its structure: cells, molecules, etc. All of these will be experiences (or Berkeley's "Ideas") and will be composed of manifested eternal objects. The metamind maintains the apple's archetypes, much the same way we maintain an object in a dream. The same applies with materialism, except that materialism has to concede the existence of an ontologically different, insentient world for the experiences of the apple to supervene on and then has to explain how this experience can be come from the dead matter. By necessity they have to use an (sometimes unspoken) outside agency or allow matter to posses experience. Basically, materialism just adds an unnecessary step. [quote:28v2dp9f]Another point: the 'limits of science' (which I take as a given) comes up all the time in debates like this, and I can't help but think it simply misses the point. No one I know of argues the completeness or infallibility of science. They only argue that when it comes to the generation of reliable theoretical truth-claims, it really seems to be the only game in town. I'm open to considering competitors, but the field looks pretty bleak.[/quote:28v2dp9f] Well, science can produce reliable truth-claims within its limitations, but outside of this it is useless. The shadows have been described, predicted, and utilized - what's casting them eludes us. [quote:28v2dp9f]There are ways, BTW, of materially explaining why science can't crack intentionality - they just seem to lead to unpalatable conclusions. Colin McGinn has an interesting take on this. I have my own 'blind brain hypothesis.'[/quote:28v2dp9f] IIRC, McGinn's position is that we simply cannot know (though he maintains that the solution [i:28v2dp9f]must[/i:28v2dp9f] be within a materialistic metaphysic). I'll get back to his argument later. I've read of your "blind brain hypothesis" and I agree with it to a large extent (we are simply cognitively limited in self-reflection), but I feel that this metaphysical blind spot can be, while not exposed entirely, be partially circumvented and we can at least have a good idea of what the unknown metaphysic should involve. Your hypothesis (along with many other theories) seems to work with the unspoken assumption of an "observer" somehow reading data from within the brain (unless you are maintaining the foundational reality of experience). I say this based on how you say the brain is adept at tracking changes in the outside world. Who's reading the data? If the brain is "just another object in the world" (and I'm sure it is) then, according to the limitations of the materialist metaphysic, the brain should be nothing more than an automation - bouncing deterministic billiard balls. For the brain to even be able to [i:28v2dp9f]think[/i:28v2dp9f] that it is separate, it requires some aspect beyond what materialism can offer. This "unspoken observer" found in so many theories may be the "nothing" Replay mentioned in that thread. We may intrinsically see ourselves as separate from the rest of the world (and I don't think we are, we are part of it as much as anything else), and I no doubt believe that we are limited in our cognitive abilities to really understand what's going on (our main limitation is the reliance on spatial coordiences to understand something - "nonphysical" just confuses us), but that doesn't mean we can make a good educated guess. We know we have consciousness. We know eternal objects exist. We know we have intentionality and volition. While we may be blind to the whole picture, we know that an adequate metaphysic should account for these phenomena. Mainstream materialism relies on either emergentism (which is only correlative and has no explanatory value) or an unspoken homunculus observing neural activity in the brain. So, despite McGinn's despair on the issue, we know what the metaphysic should account for, which allows for educated guesses. And taking into account the fallacies of mainstream materialism, I feel it's a safe bet that experience (not necessarily consciousness) is a fundamental part of reality. In fact, the whole materialist paradigm really got started when Descartes split the world into "mind" and "matter". Over the centuries, scientist have slowly excised themselves from “mind” until they left themselves with an ontology with lacked the tools to account for their own experience. [quote:28v2dp9f]And lastly, I'm not sure how giving up on metaphysical commitments (and after over two thousands years, no less!) bears in any way on truth... Such resignation comes, I would argue, when you recognize the truth of metaphysical commitments![/quote:28v2dp9f] Well, when I find out the truth, I'll let you know. :) view post


posted 30 Jun 2004, 06:06 by Sovin Nai, Site Administrator

My god, you guys are windy! I think I'm giving up on this thread... view post


posted 30 Jun 2004, 12:06 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Holy moly, Tak! All I can say is QED... :wink: Welcome to the wonderful world of philosophy, Jack! view post


posted 30 Jun 2004, 13:06 by Aldarion, Sorcerer-of-Rank

[quote="Sovin Nai":1i0uilsn]My god, you guys are windy! I think I'm giving up on this thread...[/quote:1i0uilsn] I have to agree, even though I didn't post here until now ;) And to think I [i:1i0uilsn]thought[/i:1i0uilsn] I had a basic grounding in philosophy, only to realize that I just received a brief runthrough of the medieval Mysticists before heading straight to the Philosophes and out the door! But a very interesting series of replies so far. I'm surprised that I can almost comprehend all this. Did grad school stuff actually stick? :o So keep up the good work, fellas, and I'll just continue to lurk and learn. view post


posted 30 Jun 2004, 17:06 by TakLoufer, Candidate

[quote:2ka1beip]Did grad school stuff actually stick? [/quote:2ka1beip] Actually, I've haven't taken any classes in philosophy - yet. I'm currently studying to become an English high-school teacher, though my long-term goal is to become a professor of philosophy and/or parapsychology. Writing out my argument above has made me think that perhaps the concept of the metamind will be more sensible (not to mention more palatable) if it were an evolving process, rather than the "unexplained explainer" god that it currently comes across as. Basically, the universe is an evolving process where the primary units of existence are experienced archetypes/eternal objects instead of the unobservable, insentient matter of materialism. We, as conscious beings, are aggregated societies of archetypes that have evolved from less complex aggregations. In a way, this means that our thoughts are really not our thoughts at all, but rather combinations of different eternal concepts. I find this, oddly enough, rather awe inspiring. :? view post


posted 30 Jun 2004, 18:06 by Cu'jara Cinmoi, Author of Prince of Nothing

Finally some time for a more proper reply, though nothing, I'm afraid, that would justice to all the points you raise. I'm not sure how you could get around the 'unexplained explainer' problem - certainly not with philosophy anyway. As it stands, you and I both agree 'there must be more,' but for me that 'more' must remain a blank posit. I don't share your optimism regarding philosophy's ability to make anything stick. Regarding the Blind Brain hypothesis, I think I understand why you might raise the old 'Cartesian Theatre' objection, but it really doesn't apply. I pursued the argument, in fact, to TROUBLE my 'there must be more' stance, which means that you're quite right to point out the automaton model of consciousness it seems to entail. What it does is provide a naturalistic explanation of the why and how of intentional phenomena - explaining them away in effect. But that's another story. If you want to explore it, we should probably start a different thread - one with a big warning sign! view post


posted 01 Jul 2004, 13:07 by Aldarion, Sorcerer-of-Rank

TakLoufer: Very cool to hear. My mom is an English teacher and I'm considering heading back to school part-time in the near future to work on getting English teaching certification (to go with my endorsements in history, political science, geography, and psychology). I'm beginning to think I'm a glutton for punishment, considering how checkered my teaching career was ;) Best of luck and I must say that I'll continue to read these type of threads, as they make me think in a good way about Life, Universe, and Everything. Sorry, just had to make that Adams reference! :P view post


posted 11 Aug 2004, 02:08 by JustifiedHeretic, Peralogue

sooo much reading, so let me get this straight, TTT is slated to be done (complete or rough/first run through) by September 30th? view post


posted 17 Aug 2004, 22:08 by drosdelnoch, Subdidact

At last a reply I can comprehend and follow the full thought of. lol view post


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