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Thread: Are Thoughts Causal?

  1. #361
    tWebber MaxVel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leonhard View Post
    Oh yeah but that's scientism, and I won't blame that on materialists in general. That's just not fair.
    Tassman is a special kind of philosopher. Like someone who denies that he has unusually thick and long hair, while using a lawnmower twice a week for his haircuts.
    ...>>> Witty remark or snarky quote of another poster goes here <<<...

  2. #362
    tWebber Tassman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leonhard View Post
    Neurology doesn't have specific claims right now about the particular correlations between social constructions of thoughts and will, and whatever neural correlations there are. In these discussions you've been somewhat overplaying the state of sciences as they are right now.
    The state of the “sciences as they are right now” have nevertheless shown they are on the right track. The increasing availability of brain-scanning technologies, e.g. functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) etc., neuroscience has embarked on an increasingly successful search for the mechanisms in the brain associated with the conscious processing of information, feelings and thoughts.

    But is the kind of radical reductive materialism that you're talking about even a viable alternative?
    “Reductive materialism” is the only viable alternative if you are to avoid mere subjective (so-called 'common-sense') arguments based upon apparent “self-evident truths”, which have very often been shown to be wrong. More to the point, there is no means to show them to be correct.

    I've given you some challenges of things to account of. Intentionality, aboutness, qualia,
    You have given no “challenges” at all. All you have given are speculative hypotheses with no means to determine whether or not they are factually true.

    Those are all good questions. First of all we could begin with reasoning according to best explanation.
    How do you obtain the correct premise so as to “begin with reasoning according to best explanation”?

    Which of these views provide a better account of the reality that we experience.
    How do you validly conclude what is the “better account of the reality” that you experience, given that your experiences are purely subjective?

    And we can begin to exclude those views who fail to account for these realities.
    On what basis do you exclude “those views that fail to account for these” subjective “realities.” How do you know your subjective views are correct – gut instinct?
    “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

  3. #363
    Technology Staff Leonhard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tassman View Post
    The state of the “sciences as they are right now” have nevertheless shown they are on the right track. ... “Reductive materialism” is the only viable alternative if you are to avoid mere subjective (so-called 'common-sense') arguments based upon apparent “self-evident truths”, which have very often been shown to be wrong. ... You have given no “challenges” at all. All you have given are speculative hypotheses with no means to determine whether or not they are factually true. ... How do you obtain the correct premise so as to “begin with reasoning according to best explanation”? ... How do you validly conclude what is the “better account of the reality” that you experience, given that your experiences are purely subjective? ... On what basis do you exclude “those views that fail to account for these” subjective “realities.” How do you know your subjective views are correct – gut instinct?
    I'll try to respond to this atomized post of yours.

    I've asked you to begin to demonstrate an account of these subjective qualities: Thoughts, intention, aboutness. Come on, try it. Give an account of how an explanation that consists entirely of micromechanical motion becomes qualia? We've been asking you to do this for several pages now. For several years in fact! And all you've done is to allude to explanations that don't exist. It's not that the field of Neurology is on the path to finally give an account of qualia, they're not even on that road at all. No one is trying to explain intention. Or give an account of what it means for a thought to be 'about something'.

    I detect a general theme in your objection which goes something like this "Reductive materialists know how to answer the questions they ask. How do you answer your questions, give me a method." and "Since reductive materialism has a well defined way to answer all its questions, everything else is nonsense and reductive materialism is to be preferred"

    I'm trying here to be as fair to you as I can be because you almost never explain your viewpoint. You object to the use of inferences to best explanations, and yet you use the same logic yourself. You're doing that right here, you consider reductive materialism to be preferrable, on the basis of methodology. Now I'd gladly challenge you. Reductive materialism has no such methodology. Chemists use different methods than physicists, biologists use different methods than chemists, and so does history, geography, sociology, psychology, and so forth. There's no grand unified method of science within reductive materialism, there is only a grand story of how one field ultimately reduces to the other even if defacto such reductions or bridging laws don't exist, or are impossible to derive.

    Reductive materialism is just one of many popular metaphysics of the world. Its popularity stems from a particular school of philosophy called Logical Positivism which became popular in Europe. Their goal was to do away with as much metaphysics as possible and focus solely on supposedly objective science. They defined that only knowledge gained by science or analysis was to be considered knowledge, and all other statements were to be considered nonsense. This was for a time a popular metaphysics, but unfortunately, they ran into unsolvable coherency issues, because no matter how they defined that approach logical positivism, in the end, fell to the exact same analysis and became nonsense by definition - as it was neither something amenable to scientific study or something you could derive from the analysis.

    Further nails in the coffin of logical positivism were banged in by the post-structuralists who uncovered that completely objective science was an impossibility.

    I propose no method for arriving at truth different than what people have always used. When it comes to metaphysics there are transcendental arguments where we infer what must be true, in order for us to be even able to make an argument or reason at all; there are inferences to the best explanation, where we compare different metaphysics and look for deficiencies in them (you've used this yourself several times); there are even concrete analytical arguments, beginning with trivially true premises and drawing conclusions from it. If you're unfamiliar with any of this, why not read some of the philosophy I've suggested to you for several years now.

    Finally, you seem to object to "subjective realities"? I'm talking about what you experience. Yes, "pain" is a "subjective" experience. It's experienced by a subject. However, the existence of pain is an undeniable fact. We are more confident that pain exists, and is real than we are that quantum mechanics and general relativity is a better account of motion than Newtonian mechanics. Similarly, I point out experiences you undeniably have, such as the qualia of pain, or the fact that you've made thoughts about this page, or that you intend to make a witty response.

    The experience of those sensations are completely objective, and completely undeniably.

    But it's those fundamental, mundane things, that are the hardest to account of in the world to account for the materialist. Most of them bite the bullet and try to deny them. And here I've offered you names you seem perpetually unfamiliar with because I think if you wanna make the case, then you should at least be aware of their arguments. That would be a much more fruitful discussion at least.

  4. Amen Chrawnus, seer, Celebrian, MaxVel amen'd this post.
  5. #364
    tWebber Tassman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leonhard View Post

    I've asked you to begin to demonstrate an account of these subjective qualities: Thoughts, intention, aboutness.
    And I’ve asked you to explain your unevidenced speculations but all I’ve got in response is a multi-paragraph monologue wherein you avoid addressing my questions altogether and resort to lecturing. Seemingly on the basis that the more words you use the more convincing your argument must be. Might I suggest that the reverse is true and that you would do well to sharpen Occam's razor.

    So again:

    You say we can begin demonstrating subjective qualities such as “Thoughts, intention, aboutness” by “reasoning according to best explanation”. But you have yet to answer how you obtain the correct premise so as to begin this reasoning according to best explanation.

    Secondly you ask yourself “Which of these views provide a better account of the reality that we experience”. But you did not address my query as to how you can validly conclude what is the “better account of the reality” you experience, given that what you experience is purely subjective to you.

    Finally, you suggest that “we can begin to exclude those views that fail to account for these realities”. But you did not answer my question: on what basis do you exclude those views that fail to account for your personal subjective “realities.” How do you know your personal subjective views are correct?
    “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

  6. #365
    Technology Staff Leonhard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tassman View Post
    And IÂ’ve asked you to explain your unevidenced speculations but all IÂ’ve got in response is a multi-paragraph monologue wherein you avoid addressing my questions altogether and resort to lecturing. Seemingly on the basis that the more words you use the more convincing your argument must be. Might I suggest that the reverse is true and that you would do well to sharpen Occam's razor.
    Occam's razor has nothing to do with how long the response is; It is another example of a principle of inference to the best explanation, in this case where the "simpler" explanation is preferable when all else is equal. To Occam that meant the explanation that introduced as few novel "explanandum" as possible. I've introduced no novel explanandum, but only pointed out utterly mundane things that everyone experience, and I've asked you to deal with them.

    I spent many words because I think there's a lot to deal with. I did not, however, avoid addressing your points.

    • You claimed that reductive materialism is preferable - I pointed out areas where it has deficiencies.
    • I tried to highlight it's history to show how it's more of an accident that it became popular than anything based on reason.
    • Your arguments are based on arguing against any other method than natural science - yet you yourself use inferences to the best explanation, and other arguments common in metaphysics to justify this. I pointed out this contradiction, as I've done before.
    • I pointed out that it's a naive view of the philosophy of science to assume that there's always a clear and unambiguous method of doing science.
    • I argued that your position had coherency issues - as was demonstrated about logical positivism.
    • I challenged you to give an account of qualia, aboutness or intentionality and argued that their existence, like the existence of pain, is objective.


    All of those points are succient and specifically addresses your position.

    You say we can begin demonstrating subjective qualities such as “Thoughts, intention, aboutness” by “reasoning according to best explanation”.
    This is a very wrong reading of my argument. Thoughts, intention, aboutness, etc... are inescapable observations. We think we feel, we reason, we choose, etc... And it is those aspects of human experience that I challenge you to deal with. I'll allow you to invent out of whole cloth any science of the brain you want. I'd be satisfied with you being able to demonstrate 'aboutness' arising out of the motion of billiards. Even in principle, showing how it could be done. To show how mechanical motion can be 'about' something. That would be sufficient for me. Yet you haven't ever done this, and that's in years and years of these discussions.

    And the answer is that you haven't, because it is isn't possible to have any account of those things under reductive materialism.

    Secondly you ask yourself “Which of these views provide a better account of the reality that we experience”. But you did not address my query as to how you can validly conclude what is the “better account of the reality” you experience, given that what you experience is purely subjective to you.
    You disambiguate here between subjective experiences, and the existence of a subjective experience, where you seemingly consider both "subjective". It's true they involve a subject. But are you ready to claim that the existence of pain is not an objective fact? That would be ridiculous!

    We're more certain that pain is real, than we are of Feynmann and Gell Mann' Quantum Electrodynamics being a better explanation of the motion of electrons than the Semi-Classical approximation of Shroedinger and Bohr.

    Finally, you suggest that “we can begin to exclude those views that fail to account for these realities”. But you did not answer my question: on what basis do you exclude those views that fail to account for your personal subjective “realities.” How do you know your personal subjective views are correct?
    I exclude them on the basis that there's a feature of reality, that I, and others, can perceive to be real, which isn't accounted for in that metaphysics. Ergo it is incomplete, it is lacking something, and a richer metaphysics is needed. That's about it. Calling it a "personal subjective view" is ridiculous. You can disagree with the arguments, but then you to deal with the arguments. I haven't stated my personal opinion and asked you to buy it, I've stated premises that are not disputed by anyone in this discussion, and then drawn simple conclusions from them.

    It is up to you to argue why the premises can be disputed or to demonstrate why the arguments are fallacious. You haven't done any of that though.

    On the other hand I haven't noticed any arguments from you, other than you assuming reductive materialism to be true, and then claiming victory.
    Last edited by Leonhard; 05-28-2020 at 12:32 PM.

  7. Amen Chrawnus, MaxVel amen'd this post.
  8. #366
    tWebber Tassman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leonhard View Post
    Occam's razor has nothing to do with how long the response is;
    I was making reference to the principle of parsimony, whereby a theory should provide the simplest possible explanation for a phenomenon. This does not appear to be your strong suit.

    I spent many words because I think there's a lot to deal with. I did not, however, avoid addressing your points.

    [*]You claimed that reductive materialism is preferable - I pointed out areas where it has deficiencies.
    My primary argument, namely that there is a total lack of evidence for thoughts and consciousness other than the physical activity of the brain, has NOT been addressed by your wordy responses. Merely a hand-waving dismissal as “reductive materialism”.

    And the answer is that you haven't, because it is isn't possible to have any account of those things under reductive materialism.
    So, you say. But you have not shown that science cannot “account for those things” – i.e. “Thoughts, intention, aboutness, etc”. The cognitive sciences have many tools at their disposal - e.g. functional magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography et al. They are in a stronger position to arrive at factual knowledge than the mere speculative conclusions of metaphysics, which has no tools at its disposal other than competing academic arguments.

    You disambiguate here between subjective experiences, and the existence of a subjective experience, where you seemingly consider both "subjective". It's true they involve a subject. But are you ready to claim that the existence of pain is not an objective fact? That would be ridiculous!
    Yes. The existence of “pain” is an excellent example of the physical activity of the brain and its effect upon our subjective feelings. You can thank science for our analgesics. Similarly, with delusional thinking and any other subjective experiences of this nature.

    We're more certain that pain is real, than we are of Feynmann and Gell Mann' Quantum Electrodynamics being a better explanation of the motion of electrons than the Semi-Classical approximation of Shroedinger and Bohr.
    No-one is doubting the existence of pain. And established scientific formulae are always subject to review via predictions, testing and resolution. Similarly, when it comes to schizophrenic delusions or any other subjective beliefs and feelings. They are ALL ultimately physical in origin and therefore subject to scientific investigation.

    I exclude them on the basis that there's a feature of reality, that I, and others, can perceive to be real, which isn't accounted for in that metaphysics. Ergo it is incomplete, it is lacking something, and a richer metaphysics is needed.
    So, on what basis do you decide that what you perceive to be real isn’t accounted for? And how do you decide when a “richer metaphysics” will do the trick - how will you know when you’ve got it right?

    That's about it. Calling it a "personal subjective view" is ridiculous. You can disagree with the arguments, but then you to deal with the arguments.
    My disagreement isn’t with “the arguments” per se but the fact that you seem to think that arguments are all that’s required. This when you have no means for assessing their factual reliability other than making another, “richer” argument when “needed.” (to quote you above).
    “He felt that his whole life was a kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.” - Douglas Adams.

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