Physicalism or What?

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Physicalism or What?

#1  Postby Andrew4Handel » Oct 06, 2018 5:11 pm

People who defend physicalism or materialism what is the alternative that you are opposed to?

Are you opposed to things not being reducible to atoms or matter?

Are you opposed to things not having causes?

Or are you opposed to things being inexplicable or to or uninvestigatable by the scientific methodology?

Maybe there's something else?
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#2  Postby SafeAsMilk » Oct 06, 2018 5:54 pm

I'm not in principle tied to materialism or whatever, I just go wherever the evidence points. In the history of investigating the natural world, not once has humanity come to the final conclusion that ghosts or gods did it. It's never happened. There are, however, innumerable examples of people deciding that ghosts or gods were behind something, but turns out it was just atoms and forces all along. This has been going on for the entirety of recorded history. It seems unlikely to me that we're suddenly going to discover that ghosts and gods are behind things. Not opposed to it in principle, but as time goes on and we discover more and more, it seems vanishingly unlikely. And because of this, any evidence would need to be extraordinary, because the claim itself would be unlike anything we've discovered so far.
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#3  Postby Alan B » Oct 06, 2018 5:58 pm

Andrew4Handel wrote:People who defend physicalism or materialism what is the alternative that you are opposed to?
I give in. What is the alternative?

Are you opposed to things not being reducible to atoms or matter?
Very difficult to reduce energy (in all its forms) to atoms and matter.

Are you opposed to things not having causes?
No. It will encourage me to think and seek.

Or are you opposed to things being inexplicable or to or uninvestigatable by the scientific methodology?
No. Because it would suggest that present scientific methodology would need to be improved.

Maybe there's something else?

What on Earth could you be suggesting? :whistle:
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#4  Postby Rumraket » Oct 06, 2018 6:03 pm

Andrew4Handel wrote:People who defend physicalism or materialism what is the alternative that you are opposed to?

Lack of evidence.

Are you opposed to things not being reducible to atoms or matter?

Not at all.

Are you opposed to things not having causes?

Nope.

Or are you opposed to things being inexplicable or to or uninvestigatable by the scientific methodology?

Nope. But I'd need compelling arguments to show that they actually are uninvestigable by the scientific methodology, and even more so I'd need compelling arguments to show that they are investigatible by some other method.

I'm not opposed to those in principle, but mere claims that X can't be investigated by science, and X can be investigated by something else are also subject to a burden of proof. Any idiot can make such claims, but we need some way to assess the validity of the claims.

Maybe there's something else?

Yes. I'm opposed to claims that can't be supported with compelling rational arguments.

Take the example where someone claims that X is inexplicable. How are we to verify that this claim is true? Lots of smart people attack the X problem and fail to find a compelling explanation for it.

Does that entail the X problem is inexplicable? Well not really, and here's the problem.

There have been times in our lives when we simply didn't have the cognitive faculties required to make sense of some phenomenon. Early childhood. Could you learn the concept of negative numbers at 1½ years old? Could you learn to do integration at 2 years old? Could you run a political campaign when you were 3? No, you couldn't do any of those things. You weren't equipped to do it, you weren't smart enough, your brain had not developed enough that you would be able to make sense of the concepts involved. There have been many instances throughout our lives when some concept was unapproachable by us. It was rationally opaque and we were just not equipped to attack it.

How do we know we are not in a similar position now with respect to certain putatively intractable philosophical or scientific problems we face? That we just aren't smart enough?

Would it not make sense to say that even very intelligent adult human beings are still very far from the highest possible intelligence? The curse of stupidity is that you are often too stupid to even know how stupid you are. That could be true at all levels of intelligence, and even at the highest extremes of human intelligence, we could still be so "stupid" that we aren't even able to figure out that there are some problems so difficult that they appear unsolvable to us, but they could be solvable in principle, just not by us. But how are we even to discover that this is sow if we aren't smart enough?
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#5  Postby Thommo » Oct 06, 2018 6:09 pm

Andrew4Handel wrote:[1] People who defend physicalism or materialism what is the alternative that you are opposed to?

[2] Are you opposed to things not being reducible to atoms or matter?

[3] Are you opposed to things not having causes?

[4] Or are you opposed to things being inexplicable or to or uninvestigatable by the scientific methodology?

[5] Maybe there's something else?


I don't really defend physicalism or materialism. But just for the hell of it:

[1] Idealism is the alternative that's most often proposed, and on the whole it involves more assumptions than materialism does, which makes it even less appealing to commit to.
[2] It depends how you define matter. Obviously baryons or photons are not reducible to atoms. Nor are branes, but they seem perfectly sensible objects for theory and experiment. Nothing has ever been shown to reduce to the non-physical.
[3] It depends which things. Radioactive decay at a specific time seems to have no causal explanation.
[4] No. But I quite literally laugh at anyone who says something is inexplicable and uninvestigable and then proceeds to try and explain it. People have frequently been wrong before about things in both categories as well.
[5] Maybe!
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#6  Postby Andrew4Handel » Oct 06, 2018 6:43 pm

I think a problem with the physical is that it is tautologous. There is nothing to compare the physical with to differentiate it, if it is everything.

It is hard to illustrate this succinctly, however imagine this sequence a a a a z a a a You can see that "z" is not the same as "a" but you may not be able to describe why, but you can say "either a or z" or "either a or not a". Something is defined by not being identical to something else.

The only meaning for physical and material seems in opposition to an alternative which is the non physical.

Physical and materialism are not strict scientific causal terms . Science refer to entities and concepts like atoms, time and space.

I think the reason we have the physical is because we have the mental which is its opposition. Thoughts and concepts and feelings or experiences are not described in terms of space and time and magnitude but rather representations and the subjective, in the mind etc.

Through experience people differentiate between the non concrete abstract subjective mind and the perceived objective external reality.

I don't think the pain in my finger is publicly observable like The Eiffel Tower or has measurable dimensions extending into space like it.
This is immediate knowledge of the private subjective non material.

I think Descartes proved that experience is more real then its contents and science shows that immediate perception is not identical to proposed entities causing it.
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#7  Postby Andrew4Handel » Oct 06, 2018 6:45 pm

Thommo wrote:
[1] Idealism is the alternative that's most often proposed


Or dualism. Mind and matter
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#8  Postby Seabass » Oct 06, 2018 6:51 pm

Andrew4Handel wrote:Maybe there's something else?

Probably Sæhrímnir, the Norse god of bacon.
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#9  Postby Andrew4Handel » Oct 06, 2018 7:07 pm

SafeAsMilk wrote: There are, however, innumerable examples of people deciding that ghosts or gods were behind something, but turns out it was just atoms and forces all along.


What are these claims like though? Saying gods did something is not the same as saying how they did it.
I don't believe religion and superstition has ever really proposed competing explanations. It is easy to attack ancient explanations by people without the tools and ideas of modern science and grasping for reason and explanation. People still to this day grasp for explanations of their life circumstances.

Someone could claim truthfully that humans created the computer. That is not an explanation of how humans created the computer but is still an accurate claim.

A genuinely competing serious supernatural explanation would have to be rigorous to be critiqued as opposed to straw manned and mocked.

It is easy to dismiss the supernatural when its claims are very one dimensional but I don't think serious opposition to the physical and materialism are anything like that. A lot of serious Opposition to physicalism comes from the philosophy of mind and the gap between descriptions and concepts of mental and physical. That is where my objections to physicalism came form.

For example in what sense can the meaning of a word or any concept be physical? And what is the conceptual relationship between neurons and thought?
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#10  Postby Andrew4Handel » Oct 06, 2018 7:13 pm

I don't think accepting the non physical validates religion, if that is peoples fear. Unfortunately religious people can jump on any avenue to invalidate physicalism and endorse their own beliefs.

I think religion invalidates itself easily. For example the Bible is full of well documented contradictions.

But I think reductionism is an equal problem to religion that leads to denying important aspects of being human and dehumanizing us.
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#11  Postby Animavore » Oct 06, 2018 7:18 pm

What.
A most evolved electron.
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#12  Postby Thommo » Oct 06, 2018 7:37 pm

Andrew4Handel wrote:I think a problem with the physical is that it is tautologous. There is nothing to compare the physical with to differentiate it, if it is everything.

It is hard to illustrate this succinctly, however imagine this sequence a a a a z a a a You can see that "z" is not the same as "a" but you may not be able to describe why, but you can say "either a or z" or "either a or not a". Something is defined by not being identical to something else.

The only meaning for physical and material seems in opposition to an alternative which is the non physical.

Physical and materialism are not strict scientific causal terms . Science refer to entities and concepts like atoms, time and space.


Yes, that is potentially a problem for the physical. It's not dissimilar to the reason I said I don't really defend physicalism or materialism.

The problem comes when you then work your way around to this:

Andrew4Handel wrote:I think Descartes proved that experience is more real then its contents and science shows that immediate perception is not identical to proposed entities causing it.


You've not only implicitly solved your own problem (which I don't think you have at all) you've claimed that someone has proved that the physical is "less real" than the mental, which they clearly haven't.

We do not see mental interactions without corresponding physical interactions, according to your implicit resolution of the problem of describing the boundary of the physical by contrasting it with the mental.

Andrew4Handel wrote:I don't think accepting the non physical validates religion, if that is peoples fear.


It's not mine. I object to it because it involves multiplying entities beyond necessity. I see no evidence for it whatsoever.
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#13  Postby Thommo » Oct 06, 2018 7:40 pm

Animavore wrote:What.


Ok, but what about "cake or death"?
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#14  Postby SafeAsMilk » Oct 08, 2018 4:59 pm

Andrew4Handel wrote:I don't think accepting the non physical validates religion, if that is peoples fear.

Nope, it's really just as simple as there being no evidence for it, gods or ghosts.
Andrew4Handel wrote:But I think reductionism is an equal problem to religion that leads to denying important aspects of being human and dehumanizing us.

I don't find that acknowledging the lack of evidence for ghosts and gods leads to dehumanization, or that viewing the world in all its complexity without needing to add Special Sauce, for which there is no evidence, to be reductionism. You can't simply characterize your need to add Special Sauce as somehow the problem of people who don't need it.
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#15  Postby SafeAsMilk » Oct 08, 2018 5:27 pm

Andrew4Handel wrote:
SafeAsMilk wrote: There are, however, innumerable examples of people deciding that ghosts or gods were behind something, but turns out it was just atoms and forces all along.


What are these claims like though? Saying gods did something is not the same as saying how they did it.

It is if there is the same lack of evidence.

I don't believe religion and superstition has ever really proposed competing explanations. It is easy to attack ancient explanations by people without the tools and ideas of modern science and grasping for reason and explanation. People still to this day grasp for explanations of their life circumstances.

Someone could claim truthfully that humans created the computer. That is not an explanation of how humans created the computer but is still an accurate claim.

It's also a claim with evidence. Changing the claim from "goddidit" to "goddidit this way" doesn't change the lack of evidence. You can't just claim a supernatural process the same way you claim the existence of a supernatural entity, and pretend that changes anything.

A genuinely competing serious supernatural explanation would have to be rigorous to be critiqued as opposed to straw manned and mocked.

If you ever find a serious supernatural explanation for anything, let me know.

It is easy to dismiss the supernatural when its claims are very one dimensional but I don't think serious opposition to the physical and materialism are anything like that. A lot of serious Opposition to physicalism comes from the philosophy of mind and the gap between descriptions and concepts of mental and physical. That is where my objections to physicalism came form.

You claiming those to be serious opposition doesn't make it so. If you have a case to make, then make it. But be forewarned, you'll need to present evidence rather than just philosophical arguments with no testable basis. You might find the foundation for what you want to believe in those sorts of arguments, but they bore me to tears. I prefer something more substantial.

For example in what sense can the meaning of a word or any concept be physical? And what is the conceptual relationship between neurons and thought?

The meanings of words arise from physical brains relating to each other. No brains that have learned language and have a shared understanding of those words, no meaning. It doesn't just exist all by itself, but this doesn't make it magical. Its foundation is, observably, entirely physical. Just because you can't touch something doesn't make it not physical. You would never make the argument that running isn't physical, and yet it isn't something that you can touch. It is the motion of a body. Without the body, there's no motion, and therefore no running. The same is the case with neurons and thought, without functioning neurons, you have no thought. Thought is a process of the brain, not a momentary state. There is no evidence for thought in the absence of neurons and brains, so if you want to make the case that it's something else then you've got some work to do. But you've already tried, and failed, to make these arguments before, I think.
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Re: Physicalism or What?

#16  Postby Calilasseia » Oct 08, 2018 9:59 pm

Ah, it's in tray time again ...

Andrew4Handel wrote:People who defend physicalism or materialism what is the alternative that you are opposed to?


The question is irrelevant. Because I don't defend "isms" full stop. What I care about is whether or not an assertion is consonant with observed data. If an assertion, to the effect that a "non-material" entity is required for a given phenomenon, is supported by data, then I'll welcome an addition to the knowledge base of our species. Until then, I see no reason to treat such assertions in any manner other than the way I treat all assertions - namely, as having the status "truth value unknown" until tests of the assertions in question are conducted.

Andrew4Handel wrote:Are you opposed to things not being reducible to atoms or matter?


No. But I am opposed to this being blindly asserted. See above.

Andrew4Handel wrote:Are you opposed to things not having causes?


Bit difficult to take that position the moment one learns even elementary aspects of quantum physics.

Andrew4Handel wrote:Or are you opposed to things being inexplicable or to or uninvestigatable by the scientific methodology?


This presume that a properly constituted, rigorous alternative methodology exists. Provide one and I'll be interested.

Andrew4Handel wrote:Maybe there's something else?


Maybe there isn't? This itself is a question requiring diligent study. Prepared to engage therein?
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