Intelligent Design

Driving a Stake Through the Heart of Rationality Itself

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I had an epiphany today. I think, after all this time, I finally get it. I had the epiphany when I read this comment by eigenstate to my prior post:

Materialists are quite clear about the illusory nature of, say, folk psychology, . . . materialism is the vehicle for making the case that these intuitions *are* illusory. Just so it’s clear, I encourage any and all to accept the illusory nature of what a scientifically-informed materialism would identify as illusions.

Let us be clear about that phrase “folk psychology.” Here eigenstate is using a buzzword of eliminative materialism that refers to the following four general concepts:

1. ‘Belief,’ ‘desire’ and other familiar intentional state expressions are among the theoretical terms of a commonsense theory of the mind. This theory is often called ‘folk psychology’.

2. Folk psychology is a seriously mistaken theory. Many of the claims it makes about the states and processes that give rise to behavior, and many of the presuppositions of those claims, are false.

3. A mature science that explains how the mind / brain works and how it produces the behavior we observe will not refer to the commonsense intentional states and processes invoked by folk psychology. Beliefs, desires and the rest will not be part of the ontology of a mature scientific psychology.

4. The intentional states of commonsense psychology do not exist.

What is Folk Psychology? Stephen Stich, Ian Ravenscroft

In summary:

Eigenstate intends for us to believe that intentional states do not exist.

Eigenstate desires for us to believe that desires do not exist.

Eigenstate believes (and asks us to believe) that beliefs do not exist.

Eigenstate wants us to know that the word “I” in the sentence he just wrote (i.e. “I encourage any and all . . .”) maps to an illusion – i.e., his illusory perception that he has subjective self-awareness.

All of this is, of course, monstrously idiotic and logically incoherent. If it were true it would undermine rationality itself, and no sane person believes any of it is true, including eigenstate himself. Yet he says it anyway.

WHY?

Here is where I had my epiphany. Eigenstate says it not because he believes it (it is not possible for a sane person to believe it). He says it because he must say it, because he is dedicated to eliminative materialism despite the patent absurdity of its entailments.

Before my epiphany I had always labored under a false assumption about human nature. I assumed that if anyone asserted a proposition they later learned was logically incoherent, they would choose logic and abandon the proposition. I was wrong. With true believers like eigenstate – fundamentalist materialist if you like – the materialism comes first. Reason and logic be damned. They are willing – even eager it seems – to drive a stake through the heart of rationality itself in order to cling to their religious beliefs (i.e., eliminative materialism). I won’t make that mistake anymore.

Here’s the irony of it all. I am all but certain that eigenstate has mocked what he calls “irrational religious fundies.”

48 Replies to “Driving a Stake Through the Heart of Rationality Itself

  1. 1
    Neil Rickert says:

    I’m guessing that you might be jumping to conclusions about Eigenstate. But I don’t read minds, so Eigenstate will have to argue that one himself.

    Instead, I’ll talk about my own views.

    I mostly agree with those 4 statements that you quote from Stephen Stich. However, I am not a materialist.

    I don’t deny that people can have religious beliefs. I had those myself at one time. But when philosophers talk about beliefs as in folk psychology, they mean something different. I’ve never quite been able to work out what they do mean.

    I first heard of folk psychology at around age 50. It seemed like a ridiculous “just so” story at that time. And it still does. I seem to have managed to get through life quite well, without having heard of folk psychology.

    A few thousand years ago, people mostly accepted a flat earth theory. And they would have argued that to believe otherwise would be insane. They might be using the same style of arguing that you are using. Yet here we are, with the flat earth theory rejected by most..

    There isn’t one single way of looking at how things work. You should not be surprised that people disagree over that. We have seen the transition from Aristotle’s science to Newton’s science, to Einstein’s science, and to quantum science.

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    Neil Rickert:

    I don’t deny that people can have religious beliefs. I had those myself at one time.

    What are the various categories of beliefs you believe people can have, and how is a ‘religious belief’ distinguished from other beliefs?

    Please explain how what you believe about other people’s beliefs is not itself a religious belief.

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    Neil:

    I don’t deny that people can have religious beliefs.

    Neil, you misunderstand. Eliminative materialism says that beliefs of any kind — not just particular beliefs, such as religions beliefs — are an illusion.

  4. 4
    Neil Rickert says:

    What are the various categories of beliefs you believe people can have, and how is a ‘religious belief’ distinguished from other beliefs?

    I take a religious belief to be an emotional commitment to a statement. Such a belief need not be religious, of course.

    I really don’t know of other kinds of beliefs. I’m not sure what philosophers are talking about when they say that knowledge is justified true belief. As best I can tell, those beliefs are mythological creatures in the epistmologist’s imaginary zoo.

  5. 5
    Neil Rickert says:

    Neil, you misunderstand. Eliminative materialism says that beliefs of any kind — not just particular beliefs, such as religions beliefs — are an illusion.

    As far as I know, there are a variety of eliminativists, and they don’t all want to eliminate the same thing. Some want to eliminate beliefs. Others are mainly concerned with eliminating intentionality. And some just want to eliminate the “folk pschology” story.

    What do you make of John Searle. I’ll have to paraphrase from memory since I don’t have the book. He says that beliefs are not part of any theory, yet people have beliefs. So he would presumably agree with at least part of what you quote from Stich, but he is not usually considered to be an eliminative materialist. (I don’t know whether he is a materialist).

  6. 6

    There is a huge literature on the status of folk psychology dating from the 1980s, with many different viewpoints offered on it’s status vis philosophy of mind and particularly an evolutionary view of theory of mind. Radical eliminitavism is just one viewpoint. Indeed, in his 1996 book “Deconstructing the Mind,” in which the essay quoted above is reproduced, Stich himself repudiated the radically eliminatavist view of folk psychology described in the 1993 article you quote.

    “This book is about the unraveling of a philosophical position. In some of the chapters, including this one, I’ll tell the tale in the first person, since the position that came unraveled was my position, or at least one I was seriously tempted to endorse…the doctrine is called eliminative materialism, though more often it’s just called eliminativism…” (from the Introduction, page 3).

    My take is that there is a sense in which the fundamental elements of folk psychology are neither true nor false. That’s because folk psychology is not a theory of human functioning at all, but rather a fundamental human social-cognitive adaptation essential to human functioning. It use is both a cognitive and a social praxis, not a prototheory, a praxis with deep roots in human evolution, and as such is no more due for replacement by an updated theoretical account (say, a Churchlandesque neuroscientific account) than a theory of respiration will replace our lungs.

    So, it’s not going anywhere.

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    Neil Rickert:

    I take a religious belief to be an emotional commitment to a statement. Such a belief need not be religious, of course.

    Well Neil, I have to tip my hat to you for that bit of honesty.

    Religious beliefs are not necessarily religious beliefs.

    Can you perhaps come up with a different term for these non-religious religious beliefs?

    Neil Rickert:

    I really don’t know of other kinds of beliefs.

    All beliefs are religious beliefs. Is that what you’re saying?

    Neil Rickert:

    I don’t deny that people can have religious beliefs. I had those myself at one time.

    You once had beliefs, emotional commitments to a statement, but no longer. All your beliefs now are unemotional? Or what?

    How would you know?

  8. 8
    Barry Arrington says:

    RB, if you comment at 6 has a point I was not able to suss it out. Thanks for dropping by though.

  9. 9
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mung and Neil, you have derailed the thread. Cease.

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    Barry,

    The title of the OP is “Driving a Stake Through the Heart of Rationality Itself.”

    I’ve just provided a case in point. A rather blatant one, I thought.

    But as you wish. My participation in this thread is ended.

  11. 11
    bpragmatic says:

    “Mung and Neil, you have derailed the thread. Cease.”

    What do you suppose they really know and can verify or even “significantly substantiate” how it is the biochemical configurations comprising themselves came to be in order to respond or even as you suggest to “you have derailed the thread”?

    Why waste time by confusing these simpletons with fuzzy philosophical and non relevant bantering instead of focusing on more fundamental issues related to life’s origins and the historical development of living ecosystems?

  12. 12
    Graham2 says:

    Can I take it that this blog is no longer about ID ?

  13. 13
    News says:

    Eliminative materialists of any variety are people who want power without the need for any justification. If we keep that in mind, their scheme works. Their best bet is to get it enforced through the school system. They are doing quite well.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    G2: Reason is foundational to argument and intelligence; thence, to intelligently directed configuration, aka design. If we are dealing with an ideology that is perfectly willing to burn down the temple of reason itself rather than yield the point that it is manifestly self-referentially incoherent, self-falsifying and self-refuting on its own declarations [I think I am going to headline this] . . . see how hard I have to work to hammer home the point . . . them we need to show it. And so, your current talking point line on how UD is irrelevant to design issues collapses yet again. Not that — per long track record — that will make much of a difference to the rhetorical games afoot. KF

    PS: If you are interested in a current technical thread, try this one, which parallels things elsewhere: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....obability/

  15. 15
    awstar says:

    I am all but certain that eigenstate has mocked irrational religious fundies.

    This irrational religious fundy thinks Eigenstate is just an illusion brought about by the desires, beliefs and desires of the one who deceives, the one who was already around soon after man was first created.

  16. 16

    IMO, there is a distinction between mind and soul (though others may use the terms differently than I, where universal mind holds both); the soul is our well of acausal, demiurgic intent and the mind is a great immaterial machine that, properly used, does the bidding of the soul. It is perhaps an infinite reservoir of data, computation and creative information. The soul intends, and the mind computes, finds, and presents the result of that intention.

    (IMO, this describes the process of, say, writing a post here; I intend to write a post about a thing or a response to a thing, and the mind begins computing a response automatically, leaving me to intentionally sort through what it, as a good servant, has brought to my attention.)

    If our intent is to preserve something we wish to be true, such as there being no god, then our mind mechanically sets to that task. It is capable of wondrous feats of illusion, delusion and self-deception. It can preserve any belief regardless of how utterly absurd.

    When materialists are presented with argument that is problematic in a certain way, their mind scrambles to find a way to defeat it or cover it up; lacking that, it can simply be ignored and covered up with a satisfied, smug sense of “in any event, they cannot be right, whether I’m clever enough to textually defeat their argument or not”.

    It’s not a battle any argument can win because the mind, set on its course by the individual’s intent, can defeat any argument and evidence, no matter how necessary or compelling, simply by altering how incoming information is perceived, processed, interpreted and presented to the individual observer. The mind is their servant; they do not, under any circumstances, want to think that there is any kind of god; the mind obediently obliges in the task of deceiving the self.

    Until they freely choose at least to send the mind on a course not of defending their atheism or materialism, but on discovering what is true – or, at least, what is logically consistent and justifiable – there is no penetrating the machinations of their minds.

    However, this is true of all of us; we all have the capacity to set our minds to defend a particular idea instead of finding the truth. So, let their posts here serve as an eye-opening example of what can happen if one insists on defending an idea instead of being honestly self-critical about our own views.

    Debates such as these are opportunities to examine our own views, even if they are rather pointless in terms of relieving others of their self-inflicted madness.

  17. 17

    WJM:

    IMO, there is a distinction between mind and soul (though others may use the terms differently than I, where universal mind holds both)…

    You omitted spirit, and heart, which some distinguish from soul:

    For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12

    Heart being the a repository for thoughts, yet being distinct from mind:

    Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. Luke 10:27

    Of course, some argue that soul encompasses mind, or that soul encompasses heart; some thoughts repose in the heart while judgment is accomplished by the spirit, which itself is never judged. Somewhere in there is self. Some posit Atman, as distinct from Brahman, while maintaining that that Atman is Brahman. The anthropologist Clifford Gertz observed that while all cultures have some conception of what a human “self” is, as opposed to a rock, an animal, a rainstorm, or a god, those notions may sound a bit strange to our ears:

    They may be conceived to dart about nervously at night shaped like fireflies. Essential elements of their psyches, like hatred, may be thought to be lodged in granular black bodies within their livers, discoverable upon an autopsy. They may share their fates with doppelganger beasts, so that when the beast sickens or dies they sicken or die too.” – Local Knowledge

    So we have body and brain, and immaterial mind, and soul, and spirit, and heart, and intent, and probably a self in there (with an inner child?), or maybe atman, which is brahman, or maybe selves flitting like fireflies, with fragments of psyche lodged in our livers, or residing in doppleganger beasts.

    All of which is very powerful, and enables us to construct sound psychological explanations for others’ statements and behavior.

  18. 18
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Dr Frank Turek interviews Eric Metaxas (Wall Street Journal Article on fine tuning is discussed).
    http://streamer1.afa.net/afr-a.....150411.mp3

  19. 19
    WALTO says:

    I think RB forgot to mention chi and the tao. To me those might be the second and third biggest ones.

  20. 20
    JDH says:

    Neil Rickert wrote

    A few thousand years ago, people mostly accepted a flat earth theory. And they would have argued that to believe otherwise would be insane. They might be using the same style of arguing that you are using. Yet here we are, with the flat earth theory rejected by most..

    Thank you Neil for your category error. You allow me to illustrate the difference between the statements

    1. “it is not possible for a sane person to believe the earth is a round.”
    2. “it is not possible for a sane person to believe in eliminative materialism.”

    These arguments are not in the same category, thus the category error.

    Argument 1 is about a purely phenomenological effect in nature. The earth is such a big sphere it looks flat to a local observer. When pressed, however, an honest “flat earther” would have to concede that it would be possible for the earth to be just a really big sphere. i.e. It is not logically impossible for the earth to appear flat and actually be round.

    Argument 2 is about a logical impossibility. The eliminative materialist severely limits the number of possible worlds under his basic assumptions. There can exist nothing which does not follow from purely mechanical principles. Thus an eliminative materialist can make the statement, “I believe that ‘I’ and ‘belief’ are illusory concepts. The problem is he must attribute that statement of belief to the combined actions of unintelligent particles. Once he makes a truth claim that there is an I who has taken a stand on an abstract concept – he is making a claim that some outside observer, which is not made up of the actions of unintelligent particles, is assessing the evidence for an immaterial proposition and choosing a position based on the evidence. Since under his initial assumptions, no such intelligent observer can exist, this is what is called a self-contraditory position. No amount of obfuscation by using terms such as “emergent” or “secondary” can cut through the fact that this statement is illogical and thus incoherent. i.e It is logically impossible for ‘I’ to make choices, but be unable to really choose.

    I hope this is clear to you. Maybe you to will have an epiphany.

  21. 21
    Barry Arrington says:

    RB @ 16 and WAKTO @ 19:

    Typical materialist dodge. How tiresome. I am going to provide you guys a service and start numbering your dodges. Then, instead of having to type them out every time you can just cite “MD1” (for “Materialist Dodge 1”). Here we go:

    Materialist Dodge 1:

    I have no answer for why materialism is not logically incoherent. Instead, I will poke fun at caricatures of dualism.

  22. 22
    Barry Arrington says:

    RB @ 6 uses MD 2:

    Materialist Dodge 2:

    A lot of people have written a lot of books kind of generally about this subject. I hope you don’t notice that my reference to those books has absolutely no bearing on the topic we are discussing.

  23. 23
    Barry Arrington says:

    Neil @ 5 uses MD 3

    Materialist Dodge 3:

    Well, you say “materialist” as if that has a single meaning. There are lots of materialists, and they don’t all believe the same thing. Therefore, I don’t have to answer your objections to “materialism.”

  24. 24
    Barry Arrington says:

    Neil @ 1 uses MD 4:

    Materialist Dodge 4:

    I have no response to why materialism is logically incoherent. But, you know, a long time ago people thought that propositions we take for granted now were false (flat earth anyone?). So I hope you will accept my materialist promissory note. I’ve got no intellectual currency now, but I am confident someone, somewhere, sometime in the future (next year, next century, next millennium) will be able to pay the note in full (with interest!).

  25. 25
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry,

    Eigenstate intends for us to believe that intentional states do not exist.

    False. Intentional state are real phenomena.

    Eigenstate desires for us to believe that desires do not exist.

    False. Desires are real, physical, mental phenomena.

    Eigenstate believes (and asks us to believe) that beliefs do not exist.

    False again. Beliefs are real.

    Eigenstate wants us to know that the word “I” in the sentence he just wrote (i.e. “I encourage any and all . . .”) maps to an illusion – i.e., his illusory perception that he has subjective self-awareness.

    False. The referent of “I” is real and actual.

    A good example to look at is “folk physics”. Aristotle, for example, articulated the concept of “impetus”. As it turns out, as Newton and later modern science would come to demonstrate, the “impetus” concept was wrong. There is no “impetus” as Aristotle imagined it.

    That is not to say, though, that “motion” has somehow been invalidated as a concept by concept, or “force”, or “acceleration”. Quite the opposite. Science has provided much deeper and broader insight into the concept of motion and motive force.

    Something similar is at work with “folk psychology”. There is no “disembodied I”, in the dualist/supernatural/superstitious sense. But such a conclusion based on scientific analysis does not “remove the ‘I'”. Our understanding is just upgraded to something that is consonant with the data and knowledge available about how brains operate. Just like there’s no “impetus”, but motion, acceleration, and gravity remain (and are more clearly and fully understood), there’s no “dualist ‘I'” that is needed or adds any value to our understanding of consciousness, perception, meta-representation, etc.

    All of which is to say, Barry, that your “sky-is-falling” dramatics are much too broad in their concerns. The science available is deeply problematic for many of your particular intuitions, but what’s at stake is just a refinement and re-organizing of the models we may use to understand brains and their activities. Beliefs as “disembodied top-down convictions of a ghost-like homunculus” are judged to be misconceptions, or “illusions” for you, if you suppose this is a kind of fundamental perception you have. But beliefs as physical phenomena, discrete characteristics of the brain that map to very complex, but nevertheless concrete states and patterns of brain activity, remain, and not only remain, but are illuminated by the science.

    All of this is, of course, monstrously idiotic and logically incoherent. If it were true it would undermine rationality itself, and no sane person believes any of it is true, including eigenstate himself. Yet he says it anyway.

    Maybe it would be a good idea to quote me. Given your embarrassing blunders in the four claims above, providing the quote you are basing your claims about me on seems prudent.

    I believe you’ve conflated “Barry’s intuitions” with ‘rationality’. It’s quite clear — there’s too much from you on this blog to be able to run away from this — that a great many ‘truths’ are true for you because, well, uh, it’s just obvious. I understand that if many of your “obvious truths” are threatened, it’s a bit of an apocalypse for you.

    Your gut feelings that you understand as cosmic axioms are not “rationality”, though, Barry. Reasoning and disciplined thinking and knowledge building can and will continue apace, if you embrace the fallibility of your intuitions (or if you do not).

    One of my younger kids recently suspected that if optical illusions exist, that we can’t trust our eyes. It’s counter-intuitive on some level, but our understanding of optical illusions underwrites the trust we can have in our visual capabilities. Not everything is what it may appear to be at first, but we only know this because of the powerful perceptive abilities we have, and our ability to reason about them.

    The fact that many of your intuitions about the word, your most basic and visceral intuitions, are
    mistaken superstitions is NOT an indictment of reason or rationality, but the opposite. The judgment of your superstitions *as* superstitions is the demonstration of the power and efficacy of reasoning and critical thinking.

    WHY?

    Here is where I had my epiphany. Eigenstate says it not because he believes it (it is not possible for a sane person to believe it). He says it because he must say it, because he is dedicated to eliminative materialism despite the patent absurdity of its entailments.

    You’ll have to introduce me to this other “Eigenstate” character. I’m not familiar with the guy.

    Before my epiphany I had always labored under a false assumption about human nature. I assumed that if anyone asserted a proposition they later learned was logically incoherent, they would choose logic and abandon the proposition. I was wrong.

    Barry, your conceits are hanging out and embarrassing you. “Rationality” is not a synonym for “Barry’s intuitions” and “coherent” is not the same as “Barry agrees”. Aristotle’s misunderstandings did not result in “incoherence” or “madness” when “impetus” had to be discarded from folk physics. It’s just how knowledge progresses. In your case, I understand it’s deeply threatening, as you are supremely invested in your “impetuses”, but consider what happens if scientific insights into how the brain really works prevail in the culture.

    What madness ensues if the dualistic superstition is widely recognized as such? Logic is now no longer available? What?

    With true believers like eigenstate – fundamentalist materialist if you like – the materialism comes first. Reason and logic be damned. They are willing – even eager it seems – to drive a stake through the heart of rationality itself in order to cling to their religious beliefs (i.e., eliminative materialism). I won’t make that mistake anymore.

    Here’s the irony of it all. I am all but certain that eigenstate has mocked what he calls “irrational religious fundies.”

    Inigo Montoya would like a word with you, Barry: “Rationality.” You keep using that word…. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    It’d be helpful for the thread and your arguments to either summarize or point to a summary you endorse of what you mean when you use the term “rationality”.

  26. 26
    JDH says:

    Eigenstate –

    Why do you keep missing the point. It is sure that all of these illusions could exist in the materialistic world. It is just NOT true that you could make any claim that you were believing this stuff based on the evidence. The second you make a truth claim, you are violating your core assumptions. It really is that simple. Self-contradictory systems of belief are wrong.

  27. 27
    eigenstate says:

    @JDH,

    The second you make a truth claim, you are violating your core assumptions.

    Which core assumptions are being violated by my making a truth claim?

  28. 28
    WALTO says:

    Good to have names like “materialist dodge ___” I think. Much easier to type numbers than actually think or make sensible responses to objections.

    Again, you, like your buddies at SZ, are into team sports and political “winning”, and I guess group selection benefits childishness. That’s why guys like Kerensky never stood much of a chance sticking his nose in there with the Reds and the Whites. So go Bolsheviks! (or whichever idiotic side you’re on).

    W

  29. 29
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry,

    Neil, you misunderstand. Eliminative materialism says that beliefs of any kind — not just particular beliefs, such as religions beliefs — are an illusion.

    A cursory Google search on terms like “folk psychology” isn’t going to give you a good understanding of these things, Barry. Eliminativism with respect to beliefs asserts the “folk psychology” or “common sense” understanding of what a “belief” is in incorrect. There are no “beliefs” in the way folk psychology conceives of them.

    That is not to say there are no beliefs, beliefs as distributed brain states that realize a proposition or a concept.

    The “eliminate” in “eliminativism” refers to “folk concepts”, not to the actual phenomena. You are clearly under the impression that “eliminativists” do not want to replace “folk psychology” understandings about “beliefs” with an improved (in empirical terms) scientific understanding about “beliefs” as a feature of brain function.

    If you ask, say, Patricia Churchland, if “beliefs” exist, she’d of course confirm that “belief” is a real phenomena, a functional activity of the brain. That’s part of what she studies, IIRC, how beliefs and intentionality actually are realized in the brain. What her “eliminativism” is aimed at is just your folk sense of what beliefs are and how they work. That may not comport with what we understand from science (depending on your endorsement of “folk psychology” concepts of beliefs). In the sense that you do endorse such, *those* concepts are mistaken, illusory.

    But beliefs as a general concept remain.

    You keep making this mistake. Eliminitavism doesn’t deny the phenomenon, it “eliminates” the correctness of “folk psychology” understandings of the phenomenon.

  30. 30
    Barry Arrington says:

    Instead of one long comment, I will break my response to eigenstate’s comment at 25 into a series of comments

    Item 1: eigenstate Insists that Illusions Are Real

    eigenstate:

    Intentional states are real phenomena.

    Desires are real, physical, mental phenomena.

    Beliefs are real.

    The referent of “I” is real and actual.

    In response, I will quote eigenstate from a prior thread:

    Again, it’s “illusory” with respect to dualist intuitions about mind. On a scientific understanding, qualia may be understood as concrete phenomenon, the kind of phenomenon you could observe and measure with an fMRI, or some more advanced instrument yet to be developed.

    I take it you mean the same thing here and we can simply substitute “intentional states,” “desires,” “beliefs” and “subjective self-awareness” (i.e., the “I” that I perceive) for “qualia” in that statement.

    WJM’s response is unanswerable:

    This is the problem; you are using what you call “higher levels of description” to mask the fundamental difference between an illusion of X and an actual X by claiming that what X means under materialism is “the illusion of X”. Under materialism, the sense of actual top-down prescriptive control of mind-over-matter (body) is an illusion in the same way that a mirage of an oasis is an illusion of an oasis. It’s not actual top-down, ghost-in-the-machine, prescriptive control; it’s an illusion of such generated by bottom-up, non-teleological happenstance interactions of matter.

    Unless top-down, prescriptive mind-over-body control actually exists, the sense of it is an illusion by definition. You don’t get to equivocate between X and the illusion of X by saying that “illusion of X” is what “X” means under materialism.

    We can substitute “intentional states,” “desires,” “beliefs” and “subjective self-awareness” (i.e., the “I” that I perceive) in WJM’s rebuttal with the same effect.

    Summary: eigenstate’s position absolutely and utterly depends on us giving him a pass on his equivocations. We don’t give you a pass. Therefore, eigenstate’s position collapses under the weight of its contradictions.

  31. 31
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry,

    I’d be equivocating if I was mixing different senses of the terms I use as I use them. I’m not doing that, but rather claiming that *your* definitions and understandings are not compatible with what we know from science and need to be replaced, if the goal is to have our understanding more closely match how the world actually works.

    For example, if you use “choose” in such a way as to implicate a supernatural soul or mind doing the choosing in some rendering of theistic libertarian free will, I would say that is a misgiven and superstitious definition of “choose”. I would point to a materialist and scientific understanding of the term “choose” and recommend that. That is how I understand “choose”, and how I understand choices to operate in the real world, given the scientific knowledge we have available.

    There’s no equivocation on “choose” there, it’s just a straight conflict between concepts. I suggest yours is misconceived, and has no attachment to reality. You disagree with my understanding of how “choose” operates in humans.

    Same with “I”, or “desire” or any number of other concepts we might consider in theory of mind, consciousness, morality, etc. There can only be equivocation if there is some plenary power you exercise over concepts and language. It’s clear that’s an appealing circumstance for you, but it ain’t the case. Materialist definitions are broadly at odds with theistic and dualistic definitions and concepts, but don’t mistake disagreement and competing concepts and definitions for equivocation.

    As per WJM’s comment:

    You don’t get to equivocate between X and the illusion of X by saying that “illusion of X” is what “X” means under materialism.

    . Using “choose” again as the example, if WJM supposes he can “choose” in some dualistic, disembodied, non-deterministic sense, I claim that sense is illusory to the extent he has that sense. That does not mean that when I use “choose”, I am also endorsing the illusion as one I entertain myself. I can understand the impulse, but I understand “choose” to be a verb that occurs without any dualistic superstitions, a phenomenon that proceeds from natural processes.

    WJM operates under his illusions, as I understand his views, but I’m not beholden to such superstitions, at least any more (was raised with these kinds of superstitions, so had them as a child). I don’t need to think of “choose” as “a disembodied, immaterial homonculus in my head” selecting an option from many available.

    There’s a basic problem at work here, in that you (and WJM) and others are either unable or unwilling to consider alternative concepts and frameworks on their own terms. You think about materialist arguments and statements, but force your own definitions and assumptions into the language (WJM’s complaints are exemplary of this). If one wants to understand or intelligently discuss matters like this, one needs to consider the framework in its own terms. Of course materialism is incoherent if you read it with dualistic and/or theistic definitions and concepts, rather than its own.

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    I will demolish eigenstate’s argument at 31 in 4 steps:

    Step 1: Define equivocation.

    I’d be equivocating if I was mixing different senses of the terms I use as I use them.

    Here we agree.

    Step 2: Isolate the word at issue:

    Let’s look at eigenstate’s statements:

    Intentional states are real phenomena.
    Desires are real, physical, mental phenomena.
    Beliefs are real.
    The referent of “I” is real and actual.

    One word appears on all four statements: “real.”

    Step 3: Determine the meaning of the word “real.”

    What does “real” mean? To answer that question we have to answer a more basic question: “What does it mean to “mean”? I am sure eigenstate will agree with Wittgenstein on this point. In Philosophical Investigations he wrote that the meaning of a word is its use in the language.

    So far so good. eigenstate is correct about another thing. I do not get to assign private or esoteric meanings to words. And neither does he. If our intention is to communicate rather than obscure our meaning, we must both use words according to their use in the English language.

    How do we determine the use of a word in the English language? That is an easy question. We have these big books called “dictionaries” that tell us what the use of a word is in the English language.

    My dictionary defines “real” as (1) “true; not merely ostensible, nominal, or apparent;” (2) “existing or occurring as fact; actual rather than imaginary.”

    “Real” does not mean the same thing as “illusory.” In fact, “real” and “illusory” are antonyms.

    Step 4: Demonstrate eigenstate’s equivocation

    Eigenstate writes:

    Using “choose” again as the example, if WJM supposes he can “choose” in some dualistic, disembodied, non-deterministic sense, I claim that sense is illusory to the extent he has that sense. That does not mean that when I use “choose”, I am also endorsing the illusion as one I entertain myself. I can understand the impulse, but I understand “choose” to be a verb that occurs without any dualistic superstitions, a phenomenon that proceeds from natural processes.

    [Note, earlier eigenstate wrote that his discussion of “choose” applies that same with “I”, or “desire” or any number of other concepts we might consider in theory of mind, consciousness, morality, etc.”]

    Under everyday usage as demonstrated above, “real” means “not illusory.”

    At first eigenstate says intentional states, desires, beliefs and the sense of “I” are “real.” Then he turns right around and says that what everyone understands by the words intentional states, desires, beliefs and the sense of “I” is an illusion.

    He justifies this by saying that he gets to ignore the everyday usage of words and assign his own esoteric materialist meaning to them. Take the word “belief” for example. The everyday understanding of the word “belief” is infused with “intentionality,” which is a fancy way of saying that “belief” is a mental state that is “about” or “directed at” something. Intentionality is inherently agent-object oriented. Therefore, the common everyday meaning of “belief” (again from the dictionary) is “a principle, proposition, idea, etc, accepted as true.” The word “accepted” is key. A “belief” describes an agent’s choice to accept something as true.

    But eigenstate insists that “choosing” in just that sense is an illusion. Therefore, he is saying that belief in the everyday sense of the word (which he and his fellow materialists would dismiss as “folk psychology”) is an illusion.

    Yet still he flat out says: Beliefs are real.

    Well, which is it? Are beliefs an illusion or are they real?

    For eigenstate the answer is both. “Beliefs” are illusions if by “belief” one means what everyone but eigenstate means by that word. But beliefs are real if one assigns to the word some esoteric materialist meaning to the word. eigenstate has obscured his meaning. If he wanted to be clear he would say “belief” is an illusion in sense X (which he has done), but it is “real” in sense Y, which he has not done. He has said only that there beliefs are real in the sense of “distributed brain states that realize a proposition or a concept,” a phrase that is all but meaningless and maps to nothing that science has actually demonstrated.

    Thus, eigenstate is equivocating between the esoteric sense of words and the everyday sense of words.

    Here is the irony. Eigenstate insists that I am the one who insists on forcing my personal meaning of words onto the discussion. But as I have just demonstrated, exactly the opposite is true. I want to communicate based on the everyday meaning of words. In other words, I am the one playing fair by Wittgenstein’s standards. To play the language game fairly, the burden in on the one who is using a word in an non-everyday sense to always make that clear. Eigenstate has not played fair. He obscures his meaning by using words in an esoteric sense (such as his statement “Beliefs are real”) without explaining that is what he is doing.

  33. 33
    WALTO says:

    I think I’d enjoy this thread more if there were more chest-thumping in it. You know destroying, stake-through-the-heart, devastation, demolishing in three steps, that sort of thing.

    I don’t know, it just seems kind of tepid.

    W

  34. 34
    WALTO says:

    I did very much enjoy this, though:

    I take a religious belief to be an emotional commitment to a statement. Such a belief need not be religious, of course.

    A belief which is a religious belief need not itself be religious. I take it that it would then be a religious belief which is not a belief which is religious (i.e., not a religious belief).

    I see why Neil doesn’t like analytic philosophy, with all its fondness for the principle of non-contradiction. Anyhow, that’s great stuff right there, even if it doesn’t include sufficient chest thumping for my taste.

    W

  35. 35
    Barry Arrington says:

    WALTO, In Neil’s defense when I read that I understood him to mean by the second statement that not all “emotional commitments to a statement” need be religious. I am dedicated to the law of non-contradiction, but I am also dedicated to the principle of charity.

    I just checked your stats. In the short time you’ve been here, you’ve posted 14 comments. Five have added to the discussion; 9 have been snipes at others. That is not a very good ratio. Do better.

  36. 36
    Barry Arrington says:

    Eigenstate @ 25:

    There is no “disembodied I”, in the dualist/supernatural/superstitious sense. But such a conclusion based on scientific analysis does not “remove the ‘I’”. Our understanding is just upgraded to something that is consonant with the data and knowledge available about how brains operate. Just like there’s no “impetus”, but motion, acceleration, and gravity remain (and are more clearly and fully understood), there’s no “dualist ‘I’” that is needed or adds any value to our understanding of consciousness, perception, meta-representation, etc.

    Your argument is based on the premise that science has demonstrated that subjective self-awareness is an illusion. It has not. You can point to no scientific experiment that has made such a showing. To be sure, you can point to numerous scientific experiments that materialist scientists – assuming materialism must be true in the first place – have interpreted to be consistent with their metaphysical prejudices. But they have not proved what you say they’ve proved. The hard problem of consciousness remains a hard problem. Hey, E, that’s why they all it a hard problem. Glib, evidence free, assertions like yours do not make it an easy problem.

    Therefore, since the basic premise of your argument is false, your conclusion is false.

  37. 37
    Barry Arrington says:

    E @ 25:

    All of which is to say, Barry, that your “sky-is-falling” dramatics are much too broad in their concerns. The science available is deeply problematic for many of your particular intuitions, . . .

    Repeating a false claim about what science has shown does not make either the first claim or the second claim true. You cannot back your claims about science up. I have called your bluff and your argument has collapsed.

  38. 38
    Barry Arrington says:

    E @ 25:

    Beliefs as “disembodied top-down convictions of a ghost-like homunculus” are judged to be misconceptions, or “illusions” for you, if you suppose this is a kind of fundamental perception you have.

    I have used this comment as the basis of another MD entry:

    Materialist Dodge 9: Attack a straw man caricature of dualist thought

    If you reject materialism that must mean you believe in a homunculus in your head pulling levers just like that little guy in the autopsy scene in Men in Black. If not that, you probably believe a ghost resides in the pineal gland. Never mind that dualism entails neither of these things; I’ve got to make my rhetorical hay while the sun is shining. I certainly can’t let the conversation come back around to the logical incoherence of materialism.

    Who has judged dualism to be false? Why the very persons who take materialism for granted in the very teeth of its logical incoherence. You’ll understand if I am not terribly impressed by that judgment.

    But beliefs as physical phenomena, discrete characteristics of the brain that map to very complex, but nevertheless concrete states and patterns of brain activity, remain, and not only remain, but are illuminated by the science.

    I call you bluff. Show me one – just one – scientific experiment that has mapped a particular belief to brain activity. You can’t of course. And you know you can’t. That makes your statement a lie. Do materialists have an esoteric definition of lie that means “not a lie”?

  39. 39
    Barry Arrington says:

    E @ 25:

    I understand that if many of your “obvious truths” are threatened, it’s a bit of an apocalypse for you.

    Materialist Dodge 10: You Want The Truth! You Can’t Handle the Truth!

    You are unable to process the fact that science has proven materialism to be true, because an ignorant, benighted fundamentalist with aspirations of imposing a theocracy can’t handle the truth. Like a bug running away when the rock is turned over, you wiggle and squirm under the unrelenting glare of Science. Don’t ask me to show you the scientific experiment that demonstrated the truth of materialism. I have better things to do with my time than educate invincibly ignorant fundies.

  40. 40
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry,

    Well, which is it? Are beliefs an illusion or are they real?

    The folk concept of beliefs, to the extent they are held to be the product of “supernatural” or “dualist” choices, choices external to natural processes, are illusory. Beliefs as brain states that represent a part of one’s mental model of the world are as real as the chair you are sitting on.

    The map is not the territory, Barry. Your map is faulty, but the territory is perfectly real. If you insist on using your definitions, you are committing yourself to continued blunders and mistakes. That’s your prerogative, but better maps avail, and terms and concepts that go with those better maps are available as well.

    If you think this is equivocation, you are confused on the concept of equivocation. If you propose a definition of “belief” that implicates some form of supernatural or superstitious “choosing”, something external to and foreign to natural processes, that definition won’t express the phenomenon I want to point to in human brains that reifies a relation between objects and subjects in the world, all via natural, material processes.

    Your term doesn’t point to the phenomenon my term points to, so it would be confusing, deceptive and counter-productive to use your “folk belief” definition, as opposed to a “neurological belief” definition.

    As for using everyday terms, no lawyer can expect to get away with the “everyday words” schtick you’re trying here. We use terms of art for good reason — they are crucially superior as communication tools in technical and complex subjects. Furthermore, a basic requirement for any kind of comparative analysis, debate or ideological competition is to keep the terms straight and internally consistent. You’re demanding, it seems, to dumb down the terminology, AND overloading it so that the terms ARE equivocal. There will be no way to differentiate your “folk belief” concept from my “neurological belief” concept.

    Consider engaging the substance here, Barry! You’re hiding from the interplay of ideas and concepts, trying to control the language. It’s understandable, but it’s boring, and can’t go anywhere but in petty, descending circles.

    There are (at least) two competing frameworks here to consider: the “folk psychology” model of belief, and the “eliminativist” model of belief. They both envision very different dynamics inside and outside the brain. They cannot both be (even roughly) correct, although they might both be incorrect.

    Insisting on my using your terms for my concept will prevent any substantial discussion and consideration of the competing concepts. I can understand why that might be appealing from a lawyerly perspective, but as above, any lawyer also knows that clarity and precision on terms is crucial in examining difficult and contentious issues.

    Your reply here, perversely, invites me to begin equivocating, to use definitions and senses for the terms I use that are not consistent or compatible with my intended meaning.

  41. 41
    Barry Arrington says:

    E @ 25:

    It’s counter-intuitive on some level, but our understanding of optical illusions underwrites the trust we can have in our visual capabilities. Not everything is what it may appear to be at first, but we only know this because of the powerful perceptive abilities we have, and our ability to reason about them.

    Materialist Dodge 10: False analogy

    Your sense of subjective self-awareness is like an optical illusion. [I hope no one points out that the fact that one perception is an illusion does absolutely nothing to demonstrate that a completely different perception is an illusion and that this this analogy assumed that which was to be demonstrated.]

  42. 42
    Barry Arrington says:

    E @ 25:

    The fact that many of your intuitions about the word, your most basic and visceral intuitions, are mistaken superstitions is NOT an indictment of reason or rationality, but the opposite. The judgment of your superstitions *as* superstitions is the demonstration of the power and efficacy of reasoning and critical thinking.

    Materialist Dodge 11: Drop the “superstition” bomb

    All of your beliefs are superstitious nonsense.

    Why, yes, that assertion is my argument. It makes no difference that I have not demonstrated your belief to be false (much less superstitious) and it makes no difference that my materialist beliefs are logically incoherent. My mere assertion that a belief is superstitious settles the matter.

  43. 43
    Barry Arrington says:

    E @ 40:

    Insisting on my using your terms for my concept will prevent any substantial discussion and consideration of the competing concepts.

    No I insist that you use English words to mean what English speakers mean when those words are used. If you think abiding by the rules of language is unfair, that is just another self-refuting irrationality I will add to the list of self-refuting irrationalities that you have espoused on these pages

  44. 44
    JDH says:

    Eigenstate asks

    Which core assumptions are being violated by my making a truth claim?

    First of all, thanks for asking a question.

    Eliminative materialism makes the assumption that all actions are the result of the interaction of unintelligent particles which do not have any choice how they move. This is violated by making a truth claim.

    When you make a truth claim — e.g. The evidence shows that A is true — you are asserting that there exists at least one objective outside observer who evaluates the evidence. None can exist in eliminative materialism.

    Now if eliminative materialists stuck with their assumptions, and always said something like … ” I believe that the particles that make up my brain are taking a configuration for some unknowable reason that leads me to think that A is true.” .. they would at least be internally consistent.

    But such bland statements are never made by them. They tend to say things like, “There is no credible evidence for ID.” or “The evidence for evolution is overwhelming.” Both of which are statements which claim things that can not be known, and can not be consistently posited by someone who believes that “I” and “believe” are illusions.

    Now why is it not internally consistent for a theist to make a truth claim. Because we believe there is a God who made us in His image. He is an intelligent being that can synthesize data and come to a conclusion based on what His intelligence tells him. In the same manner, He gave to us the ability to synthesize data and make a choice.

    The fact that you reject Him and choose to
    1… Not only believe in eliminative materialism,
    2… But also believe the untenable position that it is internally consistent for you to think that you believe this based on the evidence,
    is why He will be perfectly just in letting you live the rest of your eternity separated from Him.

  45. 45
    Jim Smith says:

    JDH @ 44 “He will be perfectly just in letting you live the rest of your eternity separated from Him.”

    This seems reasonable as far as it goes but the implications raise questions. Do you think someone, after he dies, will still be a materialist? And at that point, if he changes his attitude, would God keep him separate? If you want to be separate, God isn’t going to force contact on you. But if you don’t want to be separate wouldn’t God forgive you for your error (if it needs forgiveness)? Or, would death be a “deadline” for accepting Him or for obtaining forgiveness? If death is a deadline, why?

  46. 46
    eigenstate says:

    First of all, thanks for asking a question.

    Eliminative materialism makes the assumption that all actions are the result of the interaction of unintelligent particles which do not have any choice how they move. This is violated by making a truth claim.

    I can’t see how that would be the case. Atoms don’t walk, but humans walks, and humans are comprised of atoms. Unintelligent particles don’t make claims, but humans do, and humans are made of up unintelligent particles. You are demonstrating the Composition Fallacy where you confuses what is true about parts of a whole with what is true of the whole.

    When you make a truth claim — e.g. The evidence shows that A is true — you are asserting that there exists at least one objective outside observer who evaluates the evidence. None can exist in eliminative materialism.

    No such observer is needed. The meaning of A, assuming it is a factual claim, here, is that A obtains objectively. A is true independent of any mind or will. There doesn’t need to be any observer to ratify that position, and on materialism, there cannot be, as that would just another subject in the system, who at most could contribute to an intersubjective consensus (or not).

    Now if eliminative materialists stuck with their assumptions, and always said something like … ” I believe that the particles that make up my brain are taking a configuration for some unknowable reason that leads me to think that A is true.” .. they would at least be internally consistent.

    Setting aside whether the neurological basis for belief in A is knowable, any materialist’s truth claim is understood on materialist semantics. So, it’s understood that there is no “God” in the picture or “ghost in the machine”, as these are confused and misconceived concepts on materialism. Having to repeat that for every proposition would exceedingly tedious and tiresome, for speaker and listener alike. It’s understood.

    But such bland statements are never made by them. They tend to say things like, “There is no credible evidence for ID.” or “The evidence for evolution is overwhelming.” Both of which are statements which claim things that can not be known, and can not be consistently posited by someone who believes that “I” and “believe” are illusions.

    Both of these can be known, and there is no problem with materialist making claims. Reductive materialists would say that beliefs and concepts of “I” are in reality similar enough to folk notions of belief and “I” that we “reduced” to natural processes applies. An eliminitavist would say that those folk notions are so far from the reality of human neurology that the just need to be replaced.

    In both cases, though, the human mental activities you are pointing to with “believe’ and “I” are not denied or ignored. They are understood in light of scientific knowledge. They remain useful, consistent and rich terms in the materialist lexicon.

    Now why is it not internally consistent for a theist to make a truth claim. Because we believe there is a God who made us in His image. He is an intelligent being that can synthesize data and come to a conclusion based on what His intelligence tells him. In the same manner, He gave to us the ability to synthesize data and make a choice.

    I don’t doubt you believe that, but your basis making a truth claim is that your mind holds A to be true and you have reason to announce such, no? What’s required for making a truth claim, as far as I can see is a) capacity to hold some propositional content in mind about the state of the world, and b) the ability to communicate it. That’s all, so far as I can see.

    The fact that you reject Him and choose to
    1… Not only believe in eliminative materialism,
    2… But also believe the untenable position that it is internally consistent for you to think that you believe this based on the evidence,
    is why He will be perfectly just in letting you live the rest of your eternity separated from Him.

    If YHWH exists, it’s a pretty dark and bleak reality, I’ll grant. I understand you believe that, but consider for a moment how worried you are about Odin being real, and you’ll understand my perspective on your comment.

  47. 47
    eigenstate says:

    No I insist that you use English words to mean what English speakers mean when those words are used. If you think abiding by the rules of language is unfair, that is just another self-refuting irrationality I will add to the list of self-refuting irrationalities that you have espoused on these pages

    Barry, you are speaking like a child. English speakers use different definitions for the same word all the time, and successfully communicate and understand based on those different definitions as an everyday, ho-hum, matter-of-course feature of discussion.

    There is no “received” and singular definition for any word. Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. As you’ve granted above, no one owns the definition or controls rights to their usage; they mean what we agree they mean. So in philosophy discussions about mind, “intentional” doesn’t mean “have plans to do”, it means “having aboutness”, or “directed”. It gets used to good communicative effect all the time.

    You can be the emperor of this little blog Barry, and control who gets to speak, etc. to suit your desires, but you can’t control language itself, or dictate the terms others find best suited to accurately convey their intended meaning.

  48. 48
    JDH says:

    Eignestate –

    I still insist that you for some reason aren’t able to understand the incoherence of your position. Let me try one more time. Please be patient with me, I really can only see this as utter confusion on your part. Since it appears to me that you just make a whole lot of philosophical errors in your post I will just try to make you see one.

    You make the statement.

    Atoms don’t walk, but humans walks, and humans are comprised of atoms. Unintelligent particles don’t make claims, but humans do, and humans are made of up unintelligent particles. You are demonstrating the Composition Fallacy where you confuses what is true about parts of a whole with what is true of the whole.

    Because you can label something a Composition Fallacy, does not mean it is one. There are some properties that no amount of aggregation of particles into a whole can produce. One of these properties is the ability to objectively know anything about itself. An object produced by an aggregation of unthinking particles can not possibly KNOW how it was produced, why it was produced or for what purpose it was produced. It CANNOT trust its own perceptions, because these very perceptions can only be the result of a series of unthinking processes. Aggregating a series of unthinking, unguided choices, can never produce a thought out designed object.

    That is why a truth claim can not rationally be made by an entity living in an eliminative materialist world. Notice it does not say that no hypothetical human in an eliminative materialist world human can be stupid enough to make a truth claim. It just says that those humans who

    1. Make truth claims.
    2. Include in the truth claims that they live in a eliminative materialist universe.

    are making self contradictory arguments which can not possibly be correct.

    I don’t believe that you can’t see this. I believe you are using the freedom of choice given to you by the intelligent creator to deny this truth. You are free to do so, but don’t expect me to respect your irrational arguments.

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