Intelligent Design

How to Engage in Argumentum ad Gannitum

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Today I coin a new Latin phrase in honor of our frequent interlocutor daveS.  Here it is:  Argumentum ad Gannitum – the argument from whining.  (“Gannitum” being Latin for “whining”).

The argument from whining takes this form:

Person A makes an argument supported by logic and evidence that he believes compels a conclusion.

Person B, instead of making a counter argument based on logic and evidence, says something like “Admit that you may be wrong” or “It’s not my job to show you how you are wrong.”

Here is an example from a recent combox discussion with daveS:

Barry makes the following argument:

Either there is a God or there is not. If there is a God, meaning is possible. If there is no God, meaning is not possible. Let us, therefore, assume for the sake of argument that an atheist such as yourself is correct. There is no God. Therefore, meaning is not possible.

daveS responds:

Barry, Is it possible that you are wrong?

No, really, that is his response.  Check it out here.

Uh, yeah dave, it is certainly possible that I am wrong.  But no one will ever know that I am wrong if all you do is whine about my argument instead of attempt to rebut it.

In fairness, dave later made a run at trying to show meaning in a meaningless universe.  It amounted to “I know there is no meaning, but I feel like there is, so there is.”

 

 

 

 

 

105 Replies to “How to Engage in Argumentum ad Gannitum

  1. 1
    daveS says:

    Uh, yeah dave, it is certainly possible that I am wrong.

    😮

    I commend this part, anyway. But didn’t you say it was not possible that you were wrong in the original thread? (See post #18)

  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    daveS

    didn’t you say it was not possible that you were wrong in the original thread?

    Not as a general matter dave. I did say it is impossible for me to be wrong when I say that two mutually exclusive propositions cannot both be true.

    See Law, Noncontradiction.

  3. 3
    StephenB says:

    Interesting. All around the globe, partisans for purposelessness know that they cannot win in a fair debate with design thinkers, so they resort to physical attacks, social condemnation, and professional persecution in order to shut down dissenting ideas.

    It has become so bad that the tech giants routinely snuff out design-related ideas, such as due process and inherent dignity, even before they have been allowed to surface. Yes, design thinkers need to watch out for their safety because their enemies will get in their face, run them out of restaurants, threaten their families, or beat them into a bloody pulp.

    And yet a few of these anti-design partisans, who have been pampered for generations and told that they are brilliant just for showing up, come here to UD and discover that they have been lied to and their ideas don’t hold up. For many of them, it is the first time they have ever been exposed to the idea of a rational universe and, as the movie line goes, they “can’t handle the truth.”

    To make matters worse, they become indignant when we don’t continue to pamper them in ways that they have come to expect, not realizing that it may well be their last chance to awaken from their intellectual slumber and join the community of rational people. So rather than learn from the experience they retire into their comfort zone thinking that they have been bullied. They don’t know the meaning of the word.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    daveS, If the accidental processes of Darwinian evolution programmed your brain to believe two mutually exclusive things at the same time then so be it. How can a mindless zombie, with no free will of his own, possibly believe otherwise ? (Of note, the question was rhetorical, please don’t answer since there is no ‘you’ to answer anyway)

  5. 5
    StephenB says:

    By the way, my comments @ 3 do not apply to DaveS. He has, indeed, been very polite, but I think he has been treated politely as well

  6. 6
    Seversky says:

    What is intriguing about this debate is how Christians believe their lives have “meaning” only if they were created to serve the inscrutable purposes of another being, in this case their God. Why is it that only God’s purpose counts?

    I realize that the appeal lies in the promise that humanity is the centerpiece of Creation and that, as long as you follow His commandments, you will be granted eternal life after the death of the body, free of all the sufferings of this mortal existence. It sounds great but I always have this suspicion that what sounds too good to be true probably is too good to be true. It could be just wish fulfillment.

    As a thought experiment, let’s try a slightly different approach. Suppose Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars were to arrive in orbit around Earth in one of his Death Stars accompanied by an escorting squadron of Star Destroyers. He announces that, billions of years ago, the Empire had sent probes out into the Universe. Their purpose was to seed life on suitable planets so that when the Empire’s expanding sphere of influence reached them they would supply a ready pool of labour and recruits for the Stormtrooper force. This is the purpose of humanity’s existence. If people obey Imperial law they will be well taken care of but if they resist in any way, the Death Star will turn its primary weapon on Earth and obliterate the entire planet. Would you find that the Emperor’s purpose gives your life meaning and, if not, why not?

  7. 7
    es58 says:

    Seversky@6: who created the emperor? ????

  8. 8
    Barry Arrington says:

    Sev,

    What is intriguing about this debate is how Christians believe their lives have “meaning” only if they were created to serve the inscrutable purposes of another being, in this case their God. Why is it that only God’s purpose counts?

    Strawman. Everyone, including atheists, believe there can be transcendent meaning only if there is transcendence. It is very simple logic. I don’t know why it is so hard for you Sev.

  9. 9
    Barry Arrington says:

    Sev,

    As a thought experiment . . .

    Red herring. Because the answer to the question would turn on facts not given. Is the universe in which your thought experiment occurs one in which nothing exists but particles bumping into each other? If so, there can be no transcendent meaning, no matter what other facts you give.

  10. 10
    john_a_designer says:

    Most of our regular interlocutors don’t know the difference between making a logically valid argument and just being argumentative. To make a valid argument you need to start with a propositions or premises which are either self-evidently true or you can establish are probably true by appealing to factual evidence.

    Just stating your opinions, beliefs or feelings doesn’t prove anything.

    While I agree that Barry is beginning his argument with a premise that is self-evidently true, I think it might be better if we started with a non-theistic premise:

    If the universe is all that exists there is no ultimate purpose and meaning to human existence.

    (I think that is enough that you can finish the syllogism on your own.)

    However, while that premise is self-evidently true it doesn’t follow that the universe is all that exists.

    Furthermore, it doesn’t explain why humans appear to be hardwired to seek purpose and meaning that goes beyond the immediate survival needs of an accidentally evolved species of hunter-gatherer apes. There is no good explanation for why this should be from a purely naturalistic evolutionary perspective.

    If our atheist interlocutors have an argument they need to either state their premises or refute ours. Mindless pretension and posturing are not arguments. They are a pointless waste of everyone’s time.

  11. 11
    News says:

    john_a_designer at 10: You write, “Most of our regular interlocutors don’t know the difference between making a logically valid argument and just being argumentative.”

    Indeed. It is a crowning achievement of the school systems in which they were educated, for which their parents were bled taxes. And it is everywhere evident today on campuses, with their “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.”

    The life of the intellect is a lost cause in such places, increasingly dominated by safe academic piffle, and must happen elsewhere.

    The way the change affects sciences is the earnest pursuit of nonsensical but approved themes like “Chimpanzees are almost people and can teach us something!”

    The reality, evident to a non-literate person, is that dogs are in some ways a lot like people and can teach us something (and vice versa). But chimpanzees are, to us, an alien life form.

    The internet atheist loses the good he would have if he knew nothing of science but was aware of the natural world. But he does not gain the good of the intellect that might follow from an education in science because his beliefs prevent it.

  12. 12
    daveS says:

    JAD,

    Suppose we alter your statement a bit by deleting the word “ultimate” and focusing it on the actions of a particular individual (me, for example):

    If the universe is all that exists there is no purpose and meaning to any of my actions.

    Is this statement still (self-evidently) true? I ask because that’s what I take the original post to imply.

  13. 13
    daveS says:

    A general comment: I haven’t noticed that anyone has trouble with logic here. I don’t recall any instances where someone has been unable to identify a valid argument; that’s relatively easy.

    The disputes I have observed center on identifying claimed self-evident propositions. That’s a different matter.

  14. 14
    lantog says:

    I’d say Barry’s term is worthy of catching on…although I doubt it will…and I dont think it applies to daves

  15. 15
    critical rationalist says:

    Barry,

    let me propose a more concrete example, so you don’t mistake it for whining…

    Is it possible that you made a mistake when applying logic to the question at hand?

    Is it possible that the field of logic as a whole is incomplete or contains mistakes, so that even if you applied it flawlessly, your conclusion regarding the question at hand could be mistaken?

    Is it possible that, through some inexplicable means, we ended up with the field of logic that was completely and utterly without error and cannot be improved, you somehow misinterpreted it when applying to the question at hand?

    (That, by the way is fallibilism)

  16. 16
    lantog says:

    Seversky @6

    I’ve had a similar idea: that the people who have the most meaningful lives are slaves because not only do they have meaning and purpose from God but from their masters as well.
    The counterargument to that is that Gods purpose and the masters purpose will likely contradict each other.
    The counter-counterargument to that is Pauls advice to slaves in Ephesians.

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    News, I’d swear some dogs are Christians or maybe angels in disguise. What lessons they have for us! KF

  18. 18
    Barry Arrington says:

    dave

    Suppose we alter your statement a bit by deleting the word “ultimate” and focusing it on the actions of a particular individual (me, for example)

    Of course dave. If you change what we are talking about, then we are no longer talking about the thing we are talking about. That is obvious. What is not obvious is why you think it matters.

    Proposition: If particles in motion are all that exist, there is no transcendent meaning to life.

    dave’s response: That is true, but mindless, purposeless evolutionary forces compel me to feel a sense of satisfaction on account of X. Therefore, X gives my life meaning.

    Well OK dave. Let’s fill in X with “eating chocolate ice cream.” Mindless, purposeless evolutionary forces compel dave to feel a sense of satisfaction when he eats chocolate ice cream. Therefore, eating chocolate ice cream gives dave’s life meaning.

    No dave. Eating chocolate ice cream does not give your life transcendent meaning. And neither does anything else you substitute for X. Nothing that mindless, purposeless evolutionary forces compel you to feel a sense of satisfaction on account of is meaningful in the sense under discussion.

    But as you have said many times, you FEEL like your life has meaning, and that is good enough for you. See News’ comment at 11.

  19. 19
    Barry Arrington says:

    KF,

    Cats on the other hand . . .

  20. 20
    Barry Arrington says:

    Wow CR. You’ve been in the moderation sandbox for months. And the next day after we let you out, you jump right back into a combox and start spewing your “we can’t really know anything” drivel.

    No, you are not whining. You are just irrational.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    CR,

    I could not but notice:

    Is it possible that the field of logic as a whole is incomplete or contains mistakes, so that even if you applied it flawlessly, your conclusion regarding the question at hand could be mistaken?

    Let’s be specific.

    The world, Broad sense, W is such that a distinct entity A is, so that:

    W = {A|~A}

    This is self-evident, we hold distinct identity and so do the symbols that make up the text of our comments.

    Now, let us examine:

    L1: A is itself, i/l/o its core characteristics that mark it out, e.g. a bright red ball on a table. LOI

    L2: No x in W is such that x can be both A and ~A; given distinct identity of A, thus the sharp dichotomy of distinction. LNC

    L3: Likewise, any x in W will be A or else [= X-OR] not A, not neither (or both as already seen). LEM

    These are an exposition, not a proof, attempted proofs must use these same first principles of right reason and frankly of the logic of being, too.

    Your attempt to cast doubt on same ends in the absurdity of building on what it would undermine.

    In short, self evident and undeniable, even doubters must implicitly rely on what they would undermine.

    Your attempt to cast a fog of doubt fails through patent self-referential absurdity.

    KF

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, ah, cats . . . love ’em, but boy are they something different. Reminds me of women! KF

  23. 23
    Barry Arrington says:

    lantog @ 16:

    I notice that you did not engage with the counterarguments to Sev’s comment. Telling that.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, ever heard of living to eat rather than eating to live? Chocolate ice cream and cheesecake fill that bill nicely. KF

  25. 25
    Barry Arrington says:

    KF

    [CR’s] attempt to cast a fog of doubt fails through patent self-referential absurdity.

    CR has proven many times that he is OK with that and utterly impervious to correction. I commend you in your patient efforts to continue to engage in a rational exchange with one who rejects rationality itself. Me, I just call BS on him and move on.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    BA, gotta go pay de billz just now, but perhaps we should view this as pointing out to others in a day and age where soundness is at a steep discount. KF

  27. 27
    daveS says:

    Barry,

    Of course dave. If you change what we are talking about, then we are no longer talking about the thing we are talking about. That is obvious. What is not obvious is why you think it matters.

    I think it matters because what’s important to me is the issue of (not necessarily ultimate) meaning and purpose of the actions I take in my own life. For example, holding a door for an elderly person. I don’t really care at all about “ultimate” meaning and purpose of human life in general. At least the issue doesn’t worry me in the slightest.

    Therefore I ask the question to clarify in my own mind what JAD (and others) are saying. I wasn’t sure at first exactly what he meant, and probably won’t be unless he answers directly. One reason I wasn’t sure at first is because you seemed to suggest in the original thread that this issue should be troubling to atheists. But I don’t find it troubling at all, which led me to suspect I didn’t understand JAD’s (and your) point completely.

  28. 28
    lantog says:

    BA @16 and @8

    I disagree that our lives only have meaning if its transcendent meaning- meaning that comes from God’s purpose for our lives.
    Imagine if God’s ultimate purpose involved the deaths of my 3 children. Thats not something I’d sign off on. You might say that if I could only see God’s purpose I’d see its for the greater good. But I cant see that; if I could I’d be God. As long as I am who I am I’d never think its a good idea. Its like saying that ants would be happy to have their colony bulldozed if they could only see the ultimate purpose of building a shopping mall. Well if they could see that purpose they wouldnt be ants, they’d be people. As long as they’re ants they should never be happy with that.

    Having said all this and despite the arguments of myself, Seversky, daves etc I think it is possible to have a coherent, internally consistent world-view based on the purpose-give-by-God idea. I’ve never seen it all laid out in one place by anyone but I think it could be done. The thing is, despite what you say, our idea is also coherent and internally consistent.
    The next question is which world-view lead to a better life. I think that varies from person to person but I’d grant you that yours probably has the edge.
    The final question is which one is most likely true. I think ours wins hand down. Yours is a set of ideas that clearly evolved over the last 3000 years.

  29. 29
    critical rationalist says:

    Is the universe in which your thought experiment occurs one in which nothing exists but particles bumping into each other? If so, there can be no transcendent meaning, no matter what other facts you give.

    Ohh.. I see. So the headline of the original post is misleading?

    Your entire argument hinges on the implied assumption that, in the universe in which your though experiment occurs, the only kind of meaning is “transcendent”. How does that work, exactly? Why should I care about what a supernatural being’s intentions were for me or anything it created?

    I’d also point out that evolution isn’t random in the sense you’re implying. Genes contain the non-explanatory knowledge of how to solve a problem. That’s not random as in the toss of a coin. The entire field of probability originally came about in the context of games of chance where you know all the possible outcome. We don’t know all the possible ways non-explanatory knowledge could have evolved to solve the same problem. So, the whole random atoms bumping into each is yet another though experiment that isn’t a universes that I recognize.

    Furthermore, the idea that meaning requests an ultimate foundation is another example of foundationalism, of which I’ve presented multiple criticisms of at length. Responses to this are basically argument by definition.

    One well known criticism of the foundationalist argument that “you have to stop somewhere” is that where you stop is arbitrary. Why does God’s meaning matter, if it has no foundation because he “just was”? How would this any better of an explanation that your thought experiment in which meaning “just appears”? (and no that’s not what I’m suggesting)

    I’d also ask, how have you separated your supposedly logical conclusion from a personal idea that the universe that has meaning to you is one created by God?

  30. 30
    Barry Arrington says:

    lantog,

    The thing is, despite what you say, our idea is also coherent and internally consistent.

    What idea is that lantog? The idea that everything came from nothing or else is the product of an infinite regress?

    Or the idea that only particles in motion governed by mechanical laws exist, and we therefore have no free will nor any reason to believe that the chemical reactions in our brain cause us to arrive at true conclusions?

    Or the idea that natural selection selects for survival not truth, and if believing an error increases fitness, natural selection will select for belief in the error?

    Or the idea that consciousness is an illusion fobbed off on us by evolution?

    Yeah, I can see how you would think all of those are coherent and internally consistent.

    The next question is which world-view lead to a better life.

    There you go again acting as if the word “better” has objective meaning when your premises preclude that conclusion. Is that another one of those coherent and internally consistent ideas you were going on about?

  31. 31
    john_a_designer says:

    News @ 11 (that sounds like my local news station)

    Yes, it appears that western civilization is about to go off the rails. Things appear to me to be a lot worse than they were 30 to 40 years ago. The intellectual dysfunction of the internet is exhibit A of that fact but maybe I need to get out more. Of course, it may be that the internet is the bottom of the drain where all the dregs collect. I actually find myself hoping that is true but I fear that is really just a rationalization.

    Back in the mid 1980’s (now I am dating myself) I was working as a campus minister on a large secular university campus. From time to time I would give lectures in the lounges some of the dormitories. Ironically, I had several lectures that were separately based the published works of Michael Denton, William Lane Craig and philosopher Alvin Plantinga, all of whom were relatively unknown at the time. (William Dembski, Michael Behe, Phillip Johnson and Stephen Meyer weren’t even on the scene back then.)

    Like a lot of people who give talks in a less than friendly environments I would open my lectures afterwards for questions. I would usually preface the Q and A session with the statement, “There are no stupid questions.” Of course, there were still a few stupid questions but for the most part I could trust the good will of even much younger people who disagreed with me. The internet has changed my view that there are no stupid questions. For example, most of the questions that I come across from our interlocutors on this site are not only inane and stupid, they are also intellectually dishonest. A “gotcha” question is not an honest question. All of this undermines my faith in the belief that most people (even very secular people) are people of goodwill. Unfortunately, it appears that society’s intellectual bankruptcy is not limited to the internet. (“Shout downs” of controversial lecturers on university campuses is not a good sign.) But again, I hope I am wrong.

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR @ 29.

    I actually posted a response to your comment. Then I slapped my forehead and realized that you reject rationality itself. Therefore, attempting to have a rational discussion with you is pointless. So I deleted it.

  33. 33
    Barry Arrington says:

    lantog,

    I disagree that our lives only have meaning if its transcendent meaning- meaning that comes from God’s purpose for our lives.

    Same straw man Seversky tried to erect. I will repeat what I said to him, because you apparently did not read it, or if you did, it did not sink in:

    Everyone, including atheists, believe there can be transcendent meaning only if there is transcendence. It is very simple logic. I don’t know why it is so hard for you Sev.

    lantog, if you insist transcendent meaning can exist in the absence of transcendence, I invite you to lay your case out. BTW, nonsense such as “what if God wants to kill my children” does not even address the question, much less answer it.

    To your point, you say we can have “meaning” even in the absence of transcendent meaning. Here you seem not to have read my response to daveS. I will repeat it:

    Proposition: If particles in motion are all that exist, there is no transcendent meaning to life.

    dave’s response: That is true, but mindless, purposeless evolutionary forces compel me to feel a sense of satisfaction on account of X. Therefore, X gives my life meaning.

    Well OK dave. Let’s fill in X with “eating chocolate ice cream.” Mindless, purposeless evolutionary forces compel dave to feel a sense of satisfaction when he eats chocolate ice cream. Therefore, eating chocolate ice cream gives dave’s life meaning.

    No dave. Eating chocolate ice cream does not give your life transcendent meaning. And neither does anything else you substitute for X. Nothing that mindless, purposeless evolutionary forces compel you to feel a sense of satisfaction on account of is meaningful in the sense under discussion.

    What about it lantog, are you one of those like daveS who who can stare contentedly into the abyss, because he feels OK so long as he doesn’t think about it too much?

  34. 34
    daveS says:

    Barry,

    What about it lantog, are you one of those like daveS who who can stare contentedly into the abyss, because he feels OK so long as he doesn’t think about it too much?

    Heh.

    Can you describe how I should feel about this apparent lack of transcendent meaning and purpose? Please put yourself in my shoes and tell me what would go through your mind.

  35. 35
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF

    You’re still assuming a dichotomy between beliefs and basic-beliefs.

    However, you still haven’t actually presented an example of a “self-evident” truth that doesn’t also meet the definition of an idea that we currently lack good criticism of.

    Why do you think that is?

  36. 36
    LoneCycler says:

    In #6 Seversky:

    “What is intriguing about this debate is how Christians believe their lives have meaning only if they were created to serve the inscrutable purposes of another being, in this case their God. Why is it that only God’s purpose counts?”

    The mind of God is not inscrutable. And who told you only God’s purpose counts?

    Humans can come to an understanding of what God has in mind. And humans do have purpose in this world that is meaningful in every sense of the word.

    Nobody can hand this knowledge to you. Every person has to come to their own discovery and sometimes this is not easy. In general life is not easy when it comes to many things. Get used to it.

    If you want to rely on memes from science fiction movies to build some argument to try and convince someone else you know the truth of our existence — good luck. (I used a little “t” on purpose there :). Many people have detailed knowledge of modern fictional movies and books they believe might apply to life and little real knowledge of things that do.

    #31 j_a_d

    There are no stupid questions but there are willfully stupid people who refuse to acknowledge the obvious.

  37. 37
    Ed George says:

    BA

    Cats on the other hand . . .

    I think that it is self-evidently true that cats have purpose and meaning. It is to keep their pet humans on their toes and to get them to perform silly tricks. 🙂

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, you will never have a good reason to reject frirst principles of reason as to object you must appeal to same. They are where reasoning starts, recognition of distinct identity. Game over. KF

  39. 39
    Barry Arrington says:

    dave

    Can you describe how I should feel about this apparent lack of transcendent meaning and purpose?

    If I truly believed what you say you believe, I would constantly think about Camus, who observed that the only interesting question in philosophy is whether to kill yourself in the face of the patent absurdity of life without meaning.

  40. 40
    daveS says:

    Barry,

    Not to be flip, but would you balance that by getting out in the world from time to time? Hike in the woods, go to a concert, have a plate of pad thai, for example?

  41. 41
    StephenB says:

    DaveS

    Suppose we alter your statement a bit by deleting the word “ultimate” and focusing it on the actions of a particular individual (me, for example)

    Let’s try it another way, Dave.

    Would you agree that when Barry refers to “the” universe, he means the whole universe, and not just most of it or parts of it?

    Would you agree that if the whole universe is without meaning, then all of its parts are also without meaning?

    Would you agree that as an atheist, you are a part of that same meaningless universe?

    Would you agree, then, that as a part of a meaningless universe, your life must also be without meaning?

    ————————————————————

    The good news is that the universe is not without meaning, so your life can have meaning if you choose to accept it.

  42. 42
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    I spoke above about whether my actions could have purpose or meaning. Are these part of the universe? It’s not clear to me that they are, since they would seem to be non-material. What do you think?

  43. 43
    StephenB says:

    kairosfocus:

    CR, you will never have a good reason to reject frirst principles of reason as to object you must appeal to same. They are where reasoning starts, recognition of distinct identity. Game over. KF

    KF – Precisely. It begins with the recognition of distinct identities (recognizing the “whatness” of a thing.)

    That is why I asked JDK, of happy memory, if he knew that a dog is a dog (and nothing else), if a cat is a cat (and nothing else), and it is, therefore, false to say that a dog is a cat. He could not answer the question.

  44. 44
    StephenB says:

    Dave

    I spoke above about whether my actions could have purpose or meaning. Are these part of the universe? It’s not clear to me that they are, since they would seem to be non-material. What do you think?

    You have crowded several ideas in one sentence.

    [a] Your actions proceed from your existence. If your existence has no meaning, then neither do your actions.

    [b] However, your instincts are sound insofar as you recognize the existence of non-material realities. That alone shows that you do not believe that the physical universe is all there is.

    [c] While your actions are neither material nor immaterial (actions are not things), the intentions behind those actions are, indeed, immaterial.

    In other words, you are a composite of spirit and matter (you have both a mind [an immaterial faculty] and a brain [a material organ]. Your intentions do have meaning because you exist in a meaningful universe that was designed in such a way that you could have immaterial thoughts, made possible by your immaterial faculties of mind and will. Matter (body, brain) cannot produce non-matter (thoughts).

  45. 45
    john_a_designer says:

    What is amazing is that our interlocutors can’t tolerate even the idea there is some transcendent meaning and purpose to human existence but they can’t logically refute it either.

    Let me restate the argument I gave @ #10.

    If the universe is all that exists there is no ultimate purpose and meaning to human existence.

    The universe is all that exists.

    Therefore, there is no ultimate purpose and meaning to human existence.

    The argument stands or falls on whether or not the second premise is true. If it’s true then prove it to me. If you can, then I accept that there is no ultimate purpose and meaning to our existence and that the only purpose and meaning that we can have is what we invent for ourselves.

    However, I don’t see how you can argue the other way. It doesn’t logically follow that if you don’t believe there is any ultimate purpose and meaning to life (or you can get along fine just believing that) that there is no ultimate purpose and meaning to life. If that’s what you think then what you are really saying is: ‘this is what I believe, therefore, it is true for everyone else.’

    Does that justify you showing up here so you can be intentionally obtuse and so you can obstruct and obfuscate.

  46. 46
    Barry Arrington says:

    SB

    He could not answer the question.

    Your ability to give charitable interpretations amazes.

    I would have said, he refused to answer the question because he knew the only truthful answer would not serve his purpose.

  47. 47
    Barry Arrington says:

    daveS @ 40

    Why didn’t I (or Camus for that matter) think of that? A helping of pad thai is all anyone needs to divert themselves from the absurdity of a universe without meaning.

    You probably already know my take on smiley-faced atheism. In case you don’t click here.

  48. 48
    daveS says:

    Barry,

    Why didn’t I (or Camus for that matter) think of that? A helping of pad thai is all anyone needs to divert themselves from the absurdity of a universe without meaning.

    Well, there is more to existence than fretting about meaninglessness, isn’t there? At least I find there is.

    Edit: For example, wouldn’t you observe that there are people in need and suffering, and that you might have the resources to help them?

  49. 49
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    (snip)

    While your actions are neither material nor immaterial (actions are not things), the intentions behind those actions are, indeed, immaterial.

    In other words, you are a composite of spirit and matter (you have both a mind [an immaterial faculty] and a brain [a material organ]. Your intentions do have meaning because you exist in a meaningful universe that was designed in such a way that you could have immaterial thoughts, made possible by your immaterial faculties of mind and will. Matter (body, brain) cannot produce non-matter (thoughts).

    While I don’t know about the existence of a designer, I do agree I have meaningful intentions and immaterial thoughts.

  50. 50
    StephenB says:

    Barry,

    Your ability to give charitable interpretations amazes.

    I would have said, he (JDK) refused to answer the question because he knew the only truthful answer would not serve his purpose.

    Yes, that’s true, and the number of evasions was astounding. That is why, in the end, I went ahead and provided the answers to my questions *in his name.” He didn’t challenge even one of them because he knew that doing so would force him to confront their substance. So I felt that he had given me tacit permission to put his signature on the responses.

    However, on the question of identities, I thought it would be even more revealing (and entertaining) for him to say “I am not sure that a cat is a cat” than to say “I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may tend to incriminate me.”

  51. 51
    StephenB says:

    DaveS

    While I don’t know about the existence of a designer, I do agree I have meaningful intentions and immaterial thoughts.

    Right you are. So now it is a question of drawing the right inference from those facts. Immaterial thoughts cannot come from a material organ, that is, the brain; therefore, they must come from an immaterial faculty, the mind.

    So let’s begin with the rational principle: A cause cannot give what it doesn’t have to give. Working back in the causal chain, we know that biological evolution (matter in motion) cannot produce a mind, so we must find some other explanation. Who or what could do that?

  52. 52
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    … we know that biological evolution (matter in motion) cannot produce a mind

    Well, I don’t know if that’s the case or not. I know next to nothing about evolution, matter, or minds. So I leave that question to those with more expertise and interest, frankly.

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    SB: … “we know that biological evolution (matter in motion) cannot produce a mind.”

    DaveS

    Well, I don’t know if that’s the case or not.

    Inasmuch as I explained that this must be the case (matter cannot produce spirit) and inasmuch as I explained why it must be the case (causes cannot give what they do not have), perhaps you can provide a good reason why you still don’t know.

  54. 54
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    Are you serious? You can explain why our physical brains cannot produce immaterial thoughts in just a few short sentences?

    As I understand it, your argument is:

    The brain is physical.

    The brain cannot interact with anything immaterial.

    Thoughts are immaterial.

    Therefore the brain cannot produce immaterial thoughts.

    Is that correct?

  55. 55
    critical rationalist says:

    Barry: Wow CR. You’ve been in the moderation sandbox for months. And the next day after we let you out, you jump right back into a combox and start spewing your “we can’t really know anything” drivel.

    Note that in the first post Barry responds to after I get out of moderation, not only does he not answer my questions, but he misrepresents my position! Some things never change?

    For example, he equates Fallibilism with a claim that we “can’t really know anything”, which isn’t my position and he knows it. That’s just towing the foundationalist line. which is exactly what I’m criticizing.

    Is it possible that you made a mistake when applying logic to the question at hand?

    Is it possible that the field of logic as a whole is incomplete or contains mistakes, so that even if you applied it flawlessly, your conclusion regarding the question at hand could be mistaken?

    Is it possible that, through some inexplicable means, we ended up with the field of logic that was completely and utterly without error and cannot be improved, you somehow misinterpreted it when applying to the question at hand?

    Perhaps Barry can humor us and explain how those questions imply that we cannot know anything?

    To rephrase the question, what is Barry’s explanation for how he managed to avoid the issues listed above? Let me guess, God wanted him to avoid them, so he did?

  56. 56
    critical rationalist says:

    Barry: I actually posted a response to your comment. Then I slapped my forehead and realized that you reject rationality itself. Therefore, attempting to have a rational discussion with you is pointless. So I deleted it.

    Even if we assume your portrayal of my position isn’t a gross misrepresentation (it is) you supposedly wrote and published an entire post before eventually deleting it. Apparently, that slipped by you. Are you suggesting that you eventually “remembering” was enviable? What if you had received a phone call or some other pressing issue arose and you forgot about it, etc? That’s exactly the sort fo thing I’m referring to. Yet, somehow you’ve equated this to “rejecting rationality itself”, which isn’t my position. Let me give you a hint. It’s not called Critical Rationalism for nothing.

    From this article

    Relativism, Dogmatism and Critical Preference

    In the light of Bartley’s ideas we can discern a number of possible attitudes towards positions, notably those of relativism, dogmatism (called “fideism” in the scholarly literature) and critical preference (or in Bartley’s unfortunately clumsy language, “pancritical rationalism”.) Relativists tend to be disappointed dogmatists who realise that positive confirmation cannot be achieved. From this correct premise they proceed to the false conclusion that all positions are pretty much the same and none can really claim to be better than any other. There is no such thing as the truth, no way to get nearer to the truth and there is no such thing as a rational position.

    Fideists are people who believe that knowledge is based on an act of faith. Consequently they embrace whatever they want to regard as the truth. If they stop to think about it they may accept that there is no logical way to establish a positive justification for their beliefs or any others, so they insist that we make our choice regardless of reason: ”Here I stand!”. Most forms of rationalism up to date have, at rock bottom, shared this attitude with the irrationalists and other fundamentalists because they share the same ‘true belief’ structure of thought.

    According to the stance of critical preference no position can be positively justified but it is quite likely that one, (or some) will turn out to be better than others are in the light of critical discussion and tests. This type of rationality holds all its positions and propositions open to criticism and a standard objection to this stance is that it is empty; just holding our positions open to criticism provides no guidance as to what position we should adopt in any particular situation. This criticism misses its mark for two reasons. First, the stance of critical preference is not a position, it is a metacontext and as such it is not directed at solving the kind of problems that are solved by adopting a position on some issue or other. It is concerned with the way that such positions are adopted, criticised, defended and relinquished. Second, Bartley does provide guidance on adopting positions; we may adopt the position that to this moment has stood up to criticism most effectively. Of course this is no help for dogmatists who seek stronger reasons for belief, but that is a problem for them, not for exponents of critical preference.

    Of course, I’ve posted this clarification for what must be at least a dozen times, yet you still continue to misrepresent me? What gives, Barry?

    Furthermore, in addition to misrepresenting my position, your comment assumes a source of criticism is somehow relevant (such as, “someone who believes in rationality”) However, as you pointed out earlier in your post “Reality: The Wall You Smack Into When You’re Wrong”, reality doesn’t believe in anything, let alone itself. Yet, you still think it’s a valid source of criticism. Again, what gives?

  57. 57
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF

    CR, you will never have a good reason to reject frirst principles of reason as to object you must appeal to same. They are where reasoning starts, recognition of distinct identity. Game over. KF

    Can you remind me of your responses to this article responding to Nicholas Dykes appeal to the law of identity?

    Oh, that’s right. You never provided one.

    For your convenience….

    [Dykes appeal to the law of identity] doesn’t solve the problem at all. The problem of induction as stated by Hume is that our expectations of the future don’t follow from what we have observed in the past. To see why let’s take Dykes’ example of the hawthorn, which he claims will not produce grapes. How does he know it won’t produce grapes? Perhaps some scientist will genetically engineer hawthorns to produce grapes. And even if he doesn’t the fact that it won’t produce grapes doesn’t follow merely from the fact that it hasn’t in the past.
    To put this in Dykes’ language, if we were to accept that existence implies identity that would not tell us the identity of any specific entity. And indeed characterising the issue as being about the identity of the object in question is a bad way to think about it. Whatever the thing in question is we need an explanation of how it works to say what it will do next and why. And we won’t be able to tell what we can predict about the entity in question without such an account. Why do hawthorn bushes not produce grapes? That has to do with a complicated set of circumstances in its evolutionary past that selected against hawthorns producing relatively large fleshy fruit and refers to lots of things that are not hawthorn bushes, like human beings who did not selectively breed hawthorn bushes to get them to grow grapes. Stating this theory in terms of definitions would make it less clear because the explanation involves tying together many different entities and so the whole explanation would have to be repeated many times in slightly different ways.

  58. 58
    StephenB says:

    DaveS

    Are you serious? You can explain why our physical brains cannot produce immaterial thoughts in just a few short sentences?

    I not only can, I did.

    As I understand it, your argument is:

    The brain is physical.

    The brain cannot interact with anything immaterial.

    Thoughts are immaterial.

    Therefore the brain cannot produce immaterial thoughts.

    Is that correct?

    That is not correct. It isn’t even close. Since I have already explained it twice, and since you ignored the explanation both times, I don’t think I should lay it out it a third time only to have it ignored yet again. Perhaps, like JDK, you prefer to remain uninformed. There is a lot of that going around.

  59. 59
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    Ok, then. Thanks for the discussion in any case.

  60. 60
    Barry Arrington says:

    daveS

    Well, there is more to existence than fretting about meaninglessness, isn’t there? At least I find there is.

    Edit: For example, wouldn’t you observe that there are people in need and suffering, and that you might have the resources to help them?

    You are truly a pitiful and foolish little man. You live every moment of your life as if your most fundamental metaphysical beliefs are false. But it feels OK because you don’t allow yourself to think about it too much. And that’s good enough for you. Go have some pad Thai dave.

  61. 61
    StephenB says:

    DaveS

    Ok, then. Thanks for the discussion in any case.

    Perhaps I didn’t give you a fair chance. Let me explain it another way. Matter cannot produce spirit for several reasons. Let’s begin with a few descriptions:

    Material entities, such as bodies, brains, and organs are physical entities and contain parts, which means that they can disintegrate, decay, die, or be transformed into some other kind of matter (or energy, perhaps); spiritual entities such as souls, minds and faculties, are non-physical entities and contain no parts, which means that they cannot disintegrate, die, or be changed into something else.

    Clearly, a material body (or brain), which will die and change into another kind of matter, cannot evolve into a spiritual soul (or mind), which is unchangeable, contains no parts, and will live forever.

    Matter cannot, therefore, through a series of evolutionary changes, make the leap from dust to immortality. Molecules cannot re-arrange themselves, or be arranged, into a spiritual soul that contains no molecules. There is nothing in the cause (matter) that could possibly produce the effect (spirit). A cause cannot give what it does not have to give.

    Does that help?

  62. 62
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, has it registered with you that just to post a t-e-x-t-u-a-l string in reply, you were forced to rely on distinct identity, not to mention that to argue you implicitly appeal to a self-evident known duty to truth, right reason, sound warrant, fairness and justice etc. Thus, at the outset, there is a patent, blatant self-referential incoherence involved in attempts to argue against the principle of distinct identity. Sadly, this is a day and age in which many cling to all sorts of absurdities, precisely because they are locked into the trap of agendas hostile to right reason. And BTW, the argument you link is mostly about debating Popper, critical rationalism and inductive reasoning; it is not focussed on the principle of identity and on its own subject it makes many errors. There are excellent reasons why inductive reasoning is widely acknowledged today as a significant dimension of our ability to attain reliable, responsible albeit provisional empirically rooted knowledge. Of course, all along the argument, you rely on distinct identity and its immediate corollaries, LNC and LEM. As is inevitable. KF

  63. 63
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Just for record for those who need it (as opposed to opening yet another side-track), SEP:

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-inductive/

    >>Inductive Logic
    First published Mon Sep 6, 2004; substantive revision Mon Mar 19, 2018

    An inductive logic is a logic of evidential support. In a deductive logic, the premises of a valid deductive argument logically entail the conclusion, where logical entailment means that every logically possible state of affairs that makes the premises true must make the conclusion truth as well. Thus, the premises of a valid deductive argument provide total support for the conclusion. An inductive logic extends this idea to weaker arguments. In a good inductive argument, the truth of the premises provides some degree of support for the truth of the conclusion, where this degree-of-support might be measured via some numerical scale. By analogy with the notion of deductive entailment, the notion of inductive degree-of-support might mean something like this: among the logically possible states of affairs that make the premises true, the conclusion must be true in (at least) proportion r of them—where r is some numerical measure of the support strength.

    If a logic of good inductive arguments is to be of any real value, the measure of support it articulates should be up to the task. Presumably, the logic should at least satisfy the following condition:

    Criterion of Adequacy (CoA):
    The logic should make it likely (as a matter of logic) that as evidence accumulates, the total body of true evidence claims will eventually come to indicate, via the logic’s measure of support, that false hypotheses are probably false and that true hypotheses are probably true.

    The CoA stated here may strike some readers as surprisingly strong. Given a specific logic of evidential support, how might it be shown to satisfy such a condition? Section 4 will show precisely how this condition is satisfied by the logic of evidential support articulated in Sections 1 through 3 of this article.

    This article will focus on the kind of the approach to inductive logic most widely studied by epistemologists and logicians in recent years. This approach employs conditional probability functions to represent measures of the degree to which evidence statements support hypotheses. Presumably, hypotheses should be empirically evaluated based on what they say (or imply) about the likelihood that evidence claims will be true. A straightforward theorem of probability theory, called Bayes’ Theorem, articulates the way in which what hypotheses say about the likelihoods of evidence claims influences the degree to which hypotheses are supported by those evidence claims. Thus, this approach to the logic of evidential support is often called a Bayesian Inductive Logic or a Bayesian Confirmation Theory . . . >>

    Of course Bayes is just part of the story.

  64. 64
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    Does that help?

    Yes it does, thank you. I’ll have to chew on it for a while.

    One comment on my post #54: I didn’t understand parts of your argument, so I attempted to “rephrase” it in terms I am more familiar with. Obviously that went off the rails at some point. Your follow-up post #61 is helping.

  65. 65
    ScuzzaMan says:

    will turn out to be better than others are in the light of critical discussion and tests.

    As KF pointed out, appealing to the notion of what is better implies things that derail the argument long before one is finished stating the premises, let alone reached the conclusion.

    “Critical discussion”? Is that anything like “peer review”?

    Tests.

    Who designs these tests?
    Who performs them?
    Who writes the articles?
    (Who does the statistical analyses?)
    Who peer reviews the published articles about the tests?

    Oy vey.

  66. 66
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    I’m pretty swamped at the moment, but I’ll try and respond when possible.

    Material entities, such as bodies, brains, and organs are physical entities and contain parts, which means that they can disintegrate, decay, die, or be transformed into some other kind of matter (or energy, perhaps); spiritual entities such as souls, minds and faculties, are non-physical entities and contain no parts, which means that they cannot disintegrate, die, or be changed into something else.

    I’ll have to ponder the issue of minds having parts further. But I do believe my mind and faculties will deteriorate and eventually die/cease to exist. Is there some way to verify that minds cannot disintegrate and die? I take it you believe that when someone’s physical body dies, their mind still exists elsewhere, in some other realm. But that realm is apparently not observable to us, so I don’t know how to proceed.

    Clearly, a material body (or brain), which will die and change into another kind of matter, cannot evolve into a spiritual soul (or mind), which is unchangeable, contains no parts, and will live forever.

    Matter cannot, therefore, through a series of evolutionary changes, make the leap from dust to immortality. Molecules cannot re-arrange themselves, or be arranged, into a spiritual soul that contains no molecules. There is nothing in the cause (matter) that could possibly produce the effect (spirit). A cause cannot give what it does not have to give.

    Yes, all that would seem quite impossible. Although I have never considered such a thing, I will immediately agree that populations of physical bodies cannot evolve into populations of immortal and immaterial spirits. (Assuming that accurately reflects what you are saying; please correct me if necessary).

  67. 67
    StephenB says:

    DaveS, Sorry for the delay. Yes, you understood my latter comments very well.

    On the earlier points, you write:

    But I do believe my mind and faculties will deteriorate and eventually die/cease to exist.

    By “faculties” I mean the immaterial mind and the immaterial will (thinking and willing faculties of an immaterial soul) – distinct from but related to the the material organ of the brain, which is a part of a material (physical) body. The soul lives forever because it has no parts that can disintegrate and die (as opposed to the brain, which is made of matter and will eventually become dust).

    I take it you believe that when someone’s physical body dies, their mind still exists elsewhere, in some other realm.

    Yes.

    But that realm is apparently not observable to us, so I don’t know how to proceed.

    Yes, the soul and its faculties (mind and will) will continue to exist in some place or some state since they cannot die.

    You are right. Such a realm is not observable since we can only observe matter. However, if the soul lives forever, by virtue of its immaterial nature, then it must exist in the realm of spirit. Even if we can’t observe it, reason tells us that the other realm exists since the soul lives on.

  68. 68
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    Starting at the end:

    However, if the soul lives forever, by virtue of its immaterial nature, then it must exist in the realm of spirit. Even if we can’t observe it, reason tells us that the other realm exists since the soul lives on.

    Yes, if souls exist and live forever, then they must exist in some nonphysical realm.

    By “faculties” I mean the immaterial mind and the immaterial will (thinking and willing faculties of an immaterial soul) – distinct from but related to the the material organ of the brain, which is a part of a material (physical) body. The soul lives forever because it has no parts that can disintegrate and die (as opposed to the brain, which is made of matter and will eventually become dust).

    If I understand correctly, that’s all self-consistent.

    My issue is that I don’t know of any compelling reason to believe that this immaterial, immortal, and unchanging soul exists.

    I do believe minds exist, but I have concluded that they do change over time. Our mental abilities develop in early childhood but begin to decline by middle age or even before. Maybe minds are immortal, but we have no way of observing them after the person dies. It looks to me like the evidence we have is consistent with the proposition that minds are mortal and do change over time.

  69. 69
    Ed George says:

    The problem I have struggled with for years is the concept of the immortal soul. Maybe StephenB can help me by answering the following questions. You will understand my struggle when you read the questions.

    1) by immortal, do you mean that they always existed, or are immortal once they form?

    3) if the former, is there a finite number of souls?

    I’m agnostic on the idea of the immortal soul. As with most people, I hope that it exists, but I am not going to live my life banking on it.

  70. 70
    StephenB says:

    Hello Ed, you write,

    … by immortal, do you mean that they always existed, or are immortal once they form?

    It is the latter. God, for example, is eternal (always existed), but human souls are immortal (were brought into existence, but will live forever from that point on). The number of souls is finite.

    I’m agnostic on the idea of the immortal soul. As with most people, I hope that it exists, but I am not going to live my life banking on it.

    I understand.

    We can explain chemical reactions and synapses in the brain by noting that the latter is a physical organ, which can be measured and is extended in space. A physical cause will produce a physical effect.

    However, we cannot explain the existence of immaterial phenomena, such as thoughts and willful decisions except by reference to some immaterial faculty, such as a mind or a will. Both are faculties (not parts) of an immortal soul.

  71. 71
    StephenB says:

    DaveS:

    My issue is that I don’t know of any compelling reason to believe that this immaterial, immortal, and unchanging soul exists.

    I would argue that an immaterial faculty of mind is required to explain the existence of an immaterial thought. I realize that for humans, as long as they remain in a body, they also require a physical brain to do the processing. However, the mind’s dependence on the brain is conditional and ends when the soul departs from the body at death.

    I do believe minds exist, but I have concluded that they do change over time.

    I am not clear on how you would distinguish the mind from the brain if you believe that both are physical, mortal, and changeable. Do you hold them to be one and the same thing? For me, the changes you allude to can be explained by the mind’s temporary dependence on the brain.

  72. 72
    Ed George says:

    StephenB@70, thank you for the response. I can accept the idea that souls are created, not eternal, but I have a harder time with the idea that there are a finite number of souls. Why would God set himself this restriction?

  73. 73
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    I would argue that an immaterial faculty of mind is required to explain the existence of an immaterial thought. I realize that for humans, as long as they remain in a body, they also require a physical brain to do the processing. However, the mind’s dependence on the brain is conditional and ends when the soul departs from the body at death.

    Perhaps another possibility is that minds are always dependent on a brain, and at death, the mind ceases to exist? That’s consistent with the evidence as far as I can tell.

    I am not clear on how you would distinguish the mind from the brain if you believe that both are physical, mortal, and changeable. Do you hold them to be one and the same thing? For me, the changes you allude to can be explained by the mind’s temporary dependence on the brain.

    I don’t know whether the mind is physical, but it appears to me to be mortal and changeable.

    Here’s a related question, which might shed some light: Do dogs have minds? My answer is a definite “yes”. Dogs clearly are conscious and understand the world to some extent. They can follow commands and communicate with humans on a basic level (for example dragging around its leash if it wants to take a walk).

    But their minds are not immortal, are they? They cease to exist at the point of physical death.

  74. 74
    StephenB says:

    Ed,

    I can accept the idea that souls are created, not eternal, but I have a harder time with the idea that there are a finite number of souls. Why would God set himself this restriction?

    I would not consider God’s decision to create a finite number of souls a restriction. Several billion human souls (not to mention billions of angels) is a lot of creating. On the practical side, I don’t think that infinity can be instantiated in nature anyway. It seems logically impossible to me.

  75. 75
    StephenB says:

    DaveS

    Perhaps another possibility is that minds are always dependent on a brain, and at death, the mind ceases to exist? That’s consistent with the evidence as far as I can tell.

    If the mind is immaterial, as I define it, then it cannot die. It isn’t a matter of evidence; it is a matter of logic. By definition, a non-material thing that doesn’t have any parts cannot die. Only physical things can die.

    I would hasten to add, though, there could be such a thing as a material soul (soul defined as the principle of life) such as what animals (and even plants) possess. However, I don’t think that dogs have a spiritual nature in the sense that they can grasp abstract concepts such as justice, or make logical deductions, or draw inferences, or make moral decisions, or set goals. All that is out of range for them.

    Here’s a related question, which might shed some light: Do dogs have minds? My answer is a definite “yes”. Dogs clearly are conscious and understand the world to some extent. They can follow commands and communicate with humans on a basic level (for example dragging around its leash if it wants to take a walk).

    I think dogs have instincts, since they can be trained, and feelings, since they seem to be able to show affection, but they they can’t reason in the abstract or make moral decisions.

    But their minds are not immortal, are they? They cease to exist at the point of physical death.

    My guess is that they cease to exist after death because they don’t have souls made in the image and likeness of God (conceptual minds and free will) like humans do. So there would seem to be nothing of substance that could live on. Indeed, it would seem that they are situated solely in the physical realm and that every element of their existence is subject to decay.

    However, there is nothing to prevent God from creating new dogs or other animals in the next life and keeping them in existence from that point on. But I don’t know how they would function in heaven, which requires the ability to know God and love him with a rational soul, which all animals lack.

  76. 76
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    If the mind is immaterial, as I define it, then it cannot die. It isn’t a matter of evidence; it is a matter of logic. By definition, a non-material thing that doesn’t have any parts cannot die. Only physical things can die.

    My hypothesis must therefore be that the mind is not immaterial in that sense, since I suspect they do cease to exist at some point.

    I think dogs have instincts, since they can be trained, and feelings, since they seem to be able to show affection, but they they can’t reason in the abstract or make moral decisions.

    Agreed.

    My guess is that they cease to exist after death because they don’t have souls made in the image and likeness of God (conceptual minds and free will) like humans do. So there would seem to be nothing of substance that could live on. Indeed, it would seem that they are situated solely in the physical realm and that every element of their existence is subject to decay.

    That’s actually pretty close to the situation I believe humans are in. That is, every element of our existence is subject to decay, and we don’t have immortal souls (or even minds).

  77. 77
    StephenB says:

    DaveS

    That’s actually pretty close to the situation I believe humans are in. That is, every element of our existence is subject to decay, and we don’t have immortal souls (or even minds).

    That prompts several questions:

    How do you explain the existence of immaterial thoughts if they are not produced by an immaterial mind?

    What is the difference between the mind and the brain, or do you think they are one and the same thing?

    If both minds and brains exist, is each made of matter?

    Or do you think that only the material organ of the brain exists?

  78. 78
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    Those are very good questions.

    I can’t answer the first one. For that matter, I don’t know how an immaterial mind would produce immaterial thoughts either.

    I will say I don’t think brains and minds are identical. At least I don’t use the terms as synonyms. The brain is an organ, while the mind is, according to Merriam-Webster, “the conscious mental events and capabilities in an organism”. So the brain contains neurons, for example, but neurons are not mental events or capabilities. Perhaps there is a 1-1 correspondence between mental events and brain processes, but I don’t have an informed opinion on that.

    The above would imply that while brains are made of matter, minds are not.

    I do not think that all that really exists (between mind and brain) is just the brain. I guess it could be that the mind is an effect of the brain in some way, and perhaps the mind can be completely explained in terms of the brain. But, as I said in a previous post, I know almost nothing about brains, minds, and so forth, as I haven’t studied those things.

  79. 79
    StephenB says:

    DaveS

    I can’t answer the first one. For that matter, I don’t know how an immaterial mind would produce immaterial thoughts either.

    You did not address the issue of immaterial thoughts. The point would be that a physical organ will produce physical events and a non-material faculty will produce non-material events.

    I will say I don’t think brains and minds are identical. At least I don’t use the terms as synonyms. The brain is an organ, while the mind is, according to Merriam-Webster, “the conscious mental events and capabilities in an organism”.

    Merriam-Webster provides more than one definition:

    a : the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons Keep your mind active as you grow older.

    b : the conscious mental events and capabilities in an organism

    You left out (a) which tells us what the mind is, and offered only definition (b) which tells us what the mind does.

    I am asking you what that element is, not what it does. I say that it is a non-material faculty because only a non-material faculty can produce a non-material thought. You say that it is not a physical organ, but you dismiss the prospect that it is a non-material mind. Why? It cannot be the minds mental events (thoughts, reasoning) because the mind is the cause of those mental events. So only the first dictionary definition is rational and only the concept of an immaterial faculty makes sense.

  80. 80
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    You did not address the issue of immaterial thoughts. The point would be that a physical organ will produce physical events and a non-material faculty will produce non-material events.

    For my edification, is it therefore impossible for physical organs to produce non-material events? And for non-material faculties to produce physical events?

    You say that it is not a physical organ, but you dismiss the prospect that it is a non-material mind. Why?

    Is non-material a synonym for immaterial? And are one or both synonyms for non-physical?

    I am not going to say the mind is immaterial, because you say that immaterial things are immortal and unchanging. I believe our minds are not immortal.

    Now I accept the possibility our minds are non-physical, while always being dependent on a physical brain. Hence they cannot survive the death of the brain.

    Regarding the dictionary definition, I’m happy to switch to definition (a).

  81. 81
    StephenB says:

    DaveS

    For my edification, is it therefore impossible for physical organs to produce non-material events? And for non-material faculties to produce physical events?

    Yes.

    Is non-material a synonym for immaterial? And are one or both synonyms for non-physical?

    Yes.

    I am not going to say the mind is immaterial, because you say that immaterial things are immortal and unchanging. I believe our minds are not immortal.

    A fair point that calls for more clarification on my part. What the mind is (a faculty for knowing) is unchangeable, but the conditions under which it operates can change as long as body and soul remain a composite unit – the material organ (brain) can influence immaterial faculty (mind) and vice versa.

    Regarding the dictionary definition, I’m happy to switch to definition (a).

    Excellent

  82. 82
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    I’ll reflect back to you my understanding thus far:

    1. The immaterial mind cannot cause any events to occur in the physical brain. The physical brain cannot cause any events to occur in the immaterial mind.

    2. The immaterial mind can influence the state of the physical brain. The physical brain can influence the state of the immaterial mind.

    Is that correct?

  83. 83
    StephenB says:

    DaveS

    I’ll reflect back to you my understanding thus far:

    The immaterial mind cannot cause any events to occur in the physical brain. The physical brain cannot cause any events to occur in the immaterial mind.

    That would not be my position. We know that the immaterial mind can influence the material brain and the material brain can influence the immaterial mind. Let’s go into more detail:

    What I am arguing is that the material brain cannot produce immaterial thoughts. It is the mind that generates thoughts using sensory input from the brain.

    So, for example, the brain allows you to experience this red, round, juicy something or other and the mind informs you that what you just came into contact with was an apple (the category that defines what all individual apples have in common).

    The brain cannot produce that immaterial concept of apple, but it can provide the input of sensory experience so that the mind can give meaning to that input (produce the thought).

    The sensory experience (contact with matter) comes first, processed by the brain and then the immaterial idea comes later, generated by the mind. The mind also generates all other immaterial concepts, such as love, justice, beauty, truth, etc. The brain simply cannot do that.

  84. 84
    OldAndrew says:

    the material brain cannot produce immaterial thoughts.

    That’s begging the question by using the assertion that thoughts are immaterial as evidence, when it’s exactly the subject of discussion.

    As far as anyone knows, thoughts are a function of the cells in our brains. That makes them material.

    They don’t feel material, but that’s subjective. When we attempt to perceive the material or immaterial nature of our thoughts, we’re doing so with more thoughts. Our perception of the thing we don’t understand using the same thing we don’t understand isn’t reliable.

    I’ve heard it suggested that we can arrive at the conclusion of an immaterial mind using logic, but I haven’t heard any sound logic to that effect.

    As a side thought: If my mind is a separate immaterial entity that continues experiencing some form of sentience after my brain dies, then why don’t I experience conscious thought when I’m asleep?

    It doesn’t make sense that the mind can exist without the brain, yet it’s impaired when the brain is impaired, like when under the influence of alcohol. If the mind can function without the brain then why doesn’t it?

    If a person can remember being alive after they’ve died then why do people with Alzheimer’s forget who they are? An immaterial mind can’t get Alzheimer’s. If it’s immaterial then dementia shouldn’t exist.

    I get that thoughts can represent abstractions like unicorns and imaginary numbers. That is not evidence that the medium in which those thoughts exist is immaterial.

  85. 85
    Barry Arrington says:

    Andrew:

    As far as anyone knows, thoughts are a function of the cells in our brains. That makes them material.

    What is the mass of your thoughts Andrew? What is their specific gravity? What are their height, length and width?

    What? You can’t answer any of these questions? You are the one who said thoughts are material things. Material things can be measured Andrew.

    Here’s a clue: Your statement that I quoted above is not even a gesture toward an argument backed by reasoning and evidence. It is just an assertion of your religious belief.

    Our perception of the thing we don’t understand . . .

    Oh wait. Didn’t you just say that you indisputably understand that thoughts are material? Now you are saying you don’t understand them at all. Which is it Andrew?

    why don’t I experience conscious thought when I’m asleep

    Are you saying you don’t dream? Or are you saying that dreams are not thoughts?

    If it’s immaterial then dementia shouldn’t exist.

    No one is saying the mind is not affected by the condition of the brain. Look at Stephen’s comment above. He said just the opposite.

    I get that thoughts can represent abstractions like unicorns and imaginary numbers. That is not evidence that the medium in which those thoughts exist is immaterial.

    How much does that unicorn you are thinking about weigh Andrew? What is its height, length and width? You are the one who is saying it is material. Surely you can answer simple questions.

  86. 86
    StephenB says:

    SB” “the material brain cannot produce immaterial thoughts.”

    Old Andrew:

    As far as anyone knows, thoughts are a function of the cells in our brains. That makes them material.

    Here are three reasons why thoughts must be immaterial: (there are more)

    [a] A particular material thing or things cannot also be a universal idea.

    [b] Changing matter cannot constitute an unchanging concept.

    [c] There is nothing in the cause (matter composed of molecules) that could possibly produce the effect (thoughts which contain no molecules).

    As a side thought: If my mind is a separate immaterial entity that continues experiencing some form of sentience after my brain dies, then why don’t I experience conscious thought when I’m asleep?

    Because you can’t experience conscious thought when you are unconscious.

    It doesn’t make sense that the mind can exist without the brain, yet it’s impaired when the brain is impaired, like when under the influence of alcohol. If the mind can function without the brain then why doesn’t it?

    Why do you put words in my mouth and then say that the words don't make sense. No one has suggested that the brain doesn't influence the mind. Anyway, that fact is irrelevant to the point that the brain cannot produce thoughts.

    The mind can certainly exist without a brain but it cannot function without one *so long as the composite of body and soul remain a single unit.* I have already made that point. I guess you didn't read what I wrote, except for one sentence, which you misinterpreted.

    If a person can remember being alive after they’ve died then why do people with Alzheimer’s forget who they are?

    Because the former is free from bodily encumbrances while the latter is not.

  87. 87
    kairosfocus says:

    SB, I think our age has been captivated by the apparent power of computational substrates. We have forgotten that these things we use to interact here are programmed and that they have no reflective awareness of the information stored in configurations [signals] that they process, equally blindly. The machines will process falsity or gibberish in much the same way as the most profoundly insightful truth, much as the flawed Pentiums would just as readily spew forth erroneous as accurate numerical results. It is we who draw the meanings, not the machines. A particular bit pattern is just a pattern, it has light and dark and an array of pixels, it in itself is neither inherently true or false. It is we who understand meaning and moral obligation to truth who then value the truth expressed in the glyph-strings, such as in this thread. KF

  88. 88
    daveS says:

    StephenB,

    Thanks for that correction.

  89. 89
    OldAndrew says:

    SB @86:

    A and B are simply meaningless hand-waving.
    C is a reassertion of your conclusion.

    We know how we perceive thoughts. We have absolutely no idea how they are generated. To say that they don’t “contain” molecules is irrelevant. How are they formed? Are molecules the medium in which they exist? I’m 100% certain that you don’t know the answer.

    The questions I posed offer strong evidence that the brain is the medium in which thoughts exist. Unless you have something persuasive to the contrary I don’t know why anyone should think otherwise.

  90. 90
    StephenB says:

    Old Andrew:

    A and B are simply meaningless hand-waving.

    [a] Apparently, you do not understand the difference between the existence of a *particular* apple, which is made of matter and the *universal* concept of apple, which is its meaning as a member of a class. A particular apple, which is made of matter, cannot also be the universal concept of apple, which is the thought. A particular cannot also be a universal. Thus, if we rule out matter (body, brain) as an explanation for the thought, then non-matter (mind, soul) is the only other option. That is basic logic.

    [b] You also do not seem to understand that all matter is in flux, which means that a material apple, which is always *changing* cannot also be the fixed or *unchanging* concept of an apple. Again, this is basic logic.

    What is it about the difference between particular/universal or changing/unchanging that you need help with?

    C is a reassertion of your conclusion.

    No, it is a statement about the fundamental nature of causality. A cause, in this case, matter containing molecules, cannot give to an effect what it does not have to give (non-matter or spirit that contains no molecules).

    We know how we perceive thoughts. We have absolutely no idea how they are generated.

    I didn’t say anything about *how* thoughts are generated (the process), but I provided logical reason why their source is the mind. There is a big difference between a process and a source.

    The questions I posed offer strong evidence that the brain is the medium in which thoughts exist. Unless you have something persuasive to the contrary I don’t know why anyone should think otherwise.

    Do you really believe that your questions constitute evidence? Anyway, if you don’t find my arguments persuasive, then it would seem that you do not yet comprehend them.

  91. 91
    OldAndrew says:

    Barry,

    What? You can’t answer any of these questions? You are the one who said thoughts are material things. Material things can be measured Andrew.

    You seem to be asserting that in order for me to argue that the brain is the physical medium for thoughts, that I must be able to specify exactly how the brain generates them. Is that correct?

    I’ll counter: tell me exactly how the immaterial mind stores thoughts. I’m 100% certain that you cannot.

    It’s amazing how similar this is to fallacious anti-ID arguments. For example, the anti-ID argument says that until you can explain exactly how a thing was designed and created, ID itself is invalid.

    Similarly, you’re arguing that unless I can specify exactly how the brain generates thoughts, which chemicals, which neurons, and their exact physical properties, then they can’t originate with the brain. (Meanwhile you have no idea how the “immaterial” mind does those things, but you’re okay with that.)

    You can spot the faulty logic when it’s used against something you believe, but then you turn around and employ the same faulty logic if it supports your beliefs.

    My assertion: I don’t have to know how the brain generates thoughts or what their chemical composition is to conclude, based on available evidence, that it does.

    How much does that unicorn you are thinking about weigh Andrew? What is its height, length and width? You are the one who is saying it is material. Surely you can answer simple questions.

    Your questions just don’t make any sense. How do you come to this bizarre conclusion that an abstract representation of something cannot exist materially? There’s just no evidence that you’re thinking this through.

    I can draw a picture of a unicorn. I can write the word “unicorn.” Both are material while the idea is abstract. How much does the unicorn weigh? It doesn’t have any weight. There is no unicorn.

    Obviously a thought about a unicorn is much more complex than a picture or a word. But if the abstract concept can exist in other physical forms, then it can exist in the chemicals and neurons of my brain. I don’t have to know how, any more than you know how they supposedly exist an immaterial mind.

    I don’t know why I bother with this. You’re just going to start deleting comments again. When you can’t win you take your ball and go home.

  92. 92
    OldAndrew says:

    SB

    A particular apple, which is made of matter, cannot also be the universal concept of apple, which is the thought.

    A thought about an apple isn’t an apple, and an apple isn’t a thought about an apple. I fully understood that when I said everything that I said. It’s not new information. It doesn’t add or change anything.

    You also do not seem to understand that all matter is in flux, which means that a material apple, which is always *changing* cannot also be the fixed or *unchanging* concept of an apple. Again, this is basic logic.

    I feel like I’m arguing with that little guy from The Princess Bride.

    You typed the word “apple.” It’s matter and energy. Ever-changing, fluxing, whatever. And yet it represents the abstract concept of an apple.

    But my physical brain can’t hold the abstract concept of an apple? Because… logic?

    The difference is that the brain can manage far more complex abstractions. You’re saying that it can’t. I guess I’m impressed with the human brain, and you appear to think it’s a sack of meat that can’t hold the concept of an apple.

    Anyway, if you don’t find my arguments persuasive, then it would seem that you do not yet comprehend them.

    That’s a delightful insight into how you view reality.

  93. 93
    StephenB says:

    SB: A particular apple, which is made of matter, cannot also be the universal concept of apple, which is the thought.

    Old Andrew:

    A thought about an apple isn’t an apple, and an apple isn’t a thought about an apple. I fully understood that when I said everything that I said. It’s not new information. It doesn’t add or change anything.

    Apparently, you don’t understand it. Otherwise, you would not continue to say that the thought of the apple is made out of the same stuff as the physical apple.

    SB: You also do not seem to understand that all matter is in flux, which means that a material apple, which is always *changing* cannot also be the fixed or *unchanging* concept of an apple. Again, this is basic logic.

    I feel like I’m arguing with that little guy from The Princess Bride.

    Non responsive: The fact remains that a changing physical thing cannot also be an unchanging concept.

    You typed the word “apple.” It’s matter and energy. Ever-changing, fluxing, whatever. And yet it represents the abstract concept of an apple.

    Bad logic: To represent an abstract concept is not to be an abstract concept.

    The difference is that the brain can manage far more complex abstractions. You’re saying that it can’t.

    The brain cannot grasp the meaning of justice, truth, beauty, or love, all of which are more complex than the idea of an apple, but the mind can. Justice, unlike matter, is not extended in space, nor does it weigh anything, or contain atoms and molecules, or anything else that can be physically measured. Even so, you have said that abstract concepts like justice are made of matter.

    So how much does justice weight? If person [a] understands justice and person [b] does not, does that mean that, all other things being equal, that a’s brain weighs more than b’s brain. What are the physical dimensions of truth? Does the brain become more crowded with each new piece of acquired wisdom? How many thoughts can the brain contain until the skull runs out of room? Does truth contain more molecules than opinions? Does love take up more space in the brain than hate? The whole idea is nonsensical in the extreme. Only those steeped in the irrational philosophy of materialism could believe it.

  94. 94
    StephenB says:

    Old Andrew, I am going to make this easy:

    [a] Concepts are intellectual formations about universals, classes, or kinds of things. They are not about particular or individual things.

    [b] Nothing that exists physically is a universal or a kind of thing. It is always a particular or this individual thing.

    If [a] and [b] are true, then it follows infallibly that concepts must be the product of an immaterial mind, and not a material organ, such as a brain.

    Case closed

  95. 95
    OldAndrew says:

    SB

    Old Andrew, I am going to make this easy:

    It was already easy.

    You’ve just said the same thing again (!) and inserted the word “infallibly” for Jedi mind-trick effect. You can keep repeating it, but the problem isn’t that I don’t understand it. I do. It’s not that complicated. It’s just awful logic that doesn’t hold up under the slightest scrutiny.

    [a] Concepts are intellectual formations about universals, classes, or kinds of things. They are not about particular or individual things.

    Really? Because I just imagined a unicorn. Then I imagined another unicorn. Then I thought about the first unicorn again. That’s how long it took to disprove your infallible assertion that a thought represents a universal kind of thing. (I do not think that word means what you think it means.)

    Think about your computer keyboard. Too late! Now you did it too. Thank you for participating.

    Nothing that exists physically is a universal or a kind of thing. It is always a particular or this individual thing.

    I think I see where you’re getting lost. You’re confusing a thought, which is a representation of an abstract concept (something that may or may not exist) with the abstract concept of a thought. In other words, you don’t understand the difference between a thought and what the thought is about.

    I know, it’s tricky, but I’ll try to slow it down for you. (Personally I like this better when we just exchange ideas instead of talking trash like children.)

    The unicorn doesn’t exist. It’s an immaterial abstraction.
    As far as anyone knows, the thought about the unicorn is generated and exists in the neurons of my brain. You see, the thought is not the same as the abstract concept which it is about.

    The word “unicorn” is material. It exists as a printed or spoken word, or as the thought of the word “unicorn” which is materially generated within my material mind. The word is an abstraction in a material medium. No unicorn required.

    A picture of a unicorn is material. It exists on paper. I can also generate a picture of a unicorn using my material mind.

    The process within my material brain which I perceive as a thought about a unicorn (and another unicorn) is material. It’s about an immaterial abstraction.

    Case blah blah blah.

  96. 96
    StephenB says:

    SB: [a] Concepts are intellectual formations about universals, classes, or kinds of things. They are not about particular or individual things.

    Old Andrew

    …. I just imagined a unicorn. Then I imagined another unicorn. Then I thought about the first unicorn again. That’s how long it took to disprove your infallible assertion that a thought represents a universal kind of thing. (I do not think that word means what you think it means.)

    A concept is a universal, by definition. Even if it is unreal, it is still a universal, not a particular. The issue is universal vs particular, not real vs unreal. There are millions of concepts about things that don’t exist, but the logic doesn’t change.

    Let’s use a syllogism using an imaginary (false) major and minor premise to make the point: Old Andrew is a unicorn; all unicorns are mortal, therefore, Old Andrew is mortal. That is a valid argument. It is not a sound argument because one of the premises is false. Old Andrew is not a unicorn. If Old Andrew was a unicorn, then it would be a valid argument and a sound argument.

    Think about your computer keyboard. Too late! Now you did it too. Thank you for participating.

    Irrelevant. A concept is a universal, not a particular. That is all that matters at this point. Now let’s go on to [b].

    [b] Nothing that exists physically is a universal or a kind of thing. It is always a particular or this individual thing.

    I think I see where you’re getting lost. You’re confusing a thought, which is a representation of an abstract concept (something that may or may not exist) with the abstract concept of a thought. In other words, you don’t understand the difference between a thought and what the thought is about.

    I said go on to [b], not rehash [a]. [b] is about things and particulars. I didn’t say anything here about thoughts or concepts at all.

    (Everything else you have written, most of it false, is irrelevant to the argument).

    So — If [a] and [b] are true, then it follows infallibly, yes infallibly, that [c] concepts must be the product of an immaterial mind, and not a material organ, such as a brain.

    Here, then is the argument:

    [a] Concepts are intellectual formations about universals, classes, or kinds of things. They are not about particular or individual things.

    [b] Nothing that exists physically is a universal or a kind of thing. It is always a particular or this individual thing.

    If [a] and [b] are true, then it follows infallibly that concepts must be the product of an immaterial mind, and not a material organ, such as a brain.

    Do you think you can refute it? I invite you to try.

  97. 97
    OldAndrew says:

    SB

    A concept is a universal, by definition.

    Now you’re saying the exact same things, yet again (!!) using different words, as if it changes something.

    I previously explained that you are confusing a thought with the abstract concept of a thought. Apparently you didn’t catch that.

    A thought is not a concept. A thought is my brain firing neurons. The thought is about a concept. It’s about justice. It’s about a unicorn. A concept is immaterial. A thought about a concept is not. It’s brain activity.

    A physical medium can contain a representation of abstract concepts. If it could not, communication of abstract concepts would be impossible unless our supposed immaterial minds communicated with one another via some immaterial medium.

    What you don’t seem to grasp is that A and B do not establish C – not infallibly (what a word) or otherwise.

    A concept is immaterial.
    A physical thing cannot be a concept.

    Those are both true statements. Here’s where you keep getting tripped up:

    A thought about justice is not justice. It is a material representation of the abstract concept of justice, formed in the neurons of a brain.

    If a thought had to actually be the thing that the thought was about, then a thought would have to be immaterial. But a thought is not the same as the concept the thought is about. It is a representation. A representation can be material.

    A thought is not the same thing as the concept the thought is about. If you disagree, why? If you agree, then why do you repeatedly insist that the logic by which you establish that the concept is immaterial applies to the thought?

  98. 98
    StephenB says:

    Old Andrew

    [a] A concept is immaterial.

    [b] A physical thing cannot be a concept

    Those are both true statements.

    At last, you confess the truth after all those distractions. Why do you do that?

    A thought is not the same thing as the concept the thought is about. If you disagree, why? If you agree, then why do you repeatedly insist that the logic by which you establish that the concept is immaterial applies to the thought?

    I was very careful not to use the word “thought” when I formed the argument @94. Please reread it to confirm that fact.

    In any case, I hope that you now understand that [c] follows infallibly from [a] and [b].

    Here again is the argument:

    [a] Concepts are intellectual formations about universals, classes, or kinds of things. They are not about particular or individual things.

    [b] Nothing that exists physically is a universal or a kind of thing. It is always a particular or this individual thing.

    [c] If [a] and [b] are true, then it follows infallibly that concepts must be the product of an immaterial mind, and not a material organ, such as a brain.

  99. 99
    OldAndrew says:

    SB,

    In any case, I hope that you now understand that [c] follows infallibly from [a] and [b].

    What reason would you have to hope that? Because you said it again and called your own reasoning ‘infallible’?

    I reasoned to show why your logic is faulty. You’re not offering anything new in response. You’ve just skipped over it and restated your conclusion. Why, just a few hours after pointing out the hole in your logic, would I suddenly accept the same faulty conclusion based on the same faulty logic?

    I was very careful not to use the word “thought” when I formed the argument @94. Please reread it to confirm that fact.

    You were very careful to make sure that your comment wasn’t about what we’re talking about? That’s advanced.

    At @51 you said,

    Immaterial thoughts cannot come from a material organ

    …but now you’re pointing out that your line of reasoning switched, and now it applies to concepts, not thoughts.

    That’s pointless because no one is saying that concepts are material. I’m not talking about concepts. We were talking about thoughts. I’m still talking about thoughts.

    Your logic still doesn’t hold up. The brain is material. Concepts are immaterial. It does not “follow” that a material brain cannot have thoughts about immaterial concepts. You’re not even attempting to explain why you think it follows. You’re just asserting, yet again, that it does, infallibly.

    You’ve also done nothing to explain why Alzheimer’s affects the memories of an immaterial mind. Something about the “encumbrances” of the physical body. (It sounds like a line from The Matrix.) Now your idea gets even more complicated. It’s like the epicycles that Cornelius Hunter writes about. When your conclusion is wrong you have to make up even more stuff to explain away the evidence. It’s like monkeys floating across oceans on tree limbs, but now it’s the immaterial mind forgetting stuff because its material brain-host has dementia (I’d love to hear you explain how that works) but once the brain stops being sick and starts being dead the mind is okay again.

    So on top of the faulty logic, there’s that too.

  100. 100
    StephenB says:

    Old Andrew

    What reason would you have to hope that? Because you said it again and called your own reasoning ‘infallible’?

    No. [c] follows infallibly from [a] and [b] because the conclusions of all valid arguments are infallibly true. If you don’t know that, then you are not familiar with logic.

    I reasoned to show why your logic is faulty.

    And you failed. If you had not falsely accused me of confusing the meaning of “concept” with the meaning of “thought” you might have recognized the validity of my argument long ago. When I pointed out that I didn’t use the word “thought,” you ignored the point. Not good.

    You’re not offering anything new in response. You’ve just skipped over it and restated your conclusion.

    I didn’t skip over anything. I pointed about the above error. With respect to my argument, there is nothing new to offer. It works and any rational person will recognize that point.

    SB: I was very careful not to use the word “thought” when I formed the argument @94. Please reread it to confirm that fact.

    You were very careful to make sure that your comment wasn’t about what we’re talking about? That’s advanced.

    We have been talking about my argument @94. Now that you understand that it works, you want to change the subject.
    Not good.

    At @51 you said, “Immaterial thoughts cannot come from a material organ.”

    Yes, and that is a true statement, which I defended several times. So what?

    —-“but now you’re pointing out that your line of reasoning switched, and now it applies to concepts, not thoughts.”

    I didn’t switch anything. I provided arguments for immaterial thoughts and I also provided arguments for immaterial concepts. However, I put the latter in an [a], [b], [c] format. Just because I didn’t put my arguments about the immateriality of thoughts in that same format doesn’t mean that I didn’t make those arguments I did.

    A material thought cannot produce an immaterial concept. Nor can it come from a material brain. I can argue that point all day long – and I have.

    That’s pointless because no one is saying that concepts are material. I’m not talking about concepts. We were talking about thoughts. I’m still talking about thoughts.

    A concept is simply the substance of what one is thinking about. So even though the two cannot be used interchangeably, both must be immaterial. I have explained why that is the case several times and in many different ways. During that clumsy time, you put several words in my mouth and argued against your own terms. I called your attention to the error, and you had no response. I couldn’t be sure if it was just a case of sloppy imprecise language or outright dishonesty.

    Your logic still doesn’t hold up. The brain is material. Concepts are immaterial. It does not “follow” that a material brain cannot have thoughts about immaterial concepts. You’re not even attempting to explain why you think it follows. You’re just asserting, yet again, that it does, infallibly.

    My logic holds up fine. A Material brain cannot *produce* (the word “have” will not suffice) an immaterial thought. I have already covered this ground. A material cause cannot produce an immaterial effect because a material cause cannot give what it doesn’t have to give – immateriality. It also cannot produce an immaterial effect because changeability is incompatible with unchangeability – and because movement is incompatible with non-movement. The problem is that you do not understand the meaning of proportionate cause.

    You’ve also done nothing to explain why Alzheimer’s affects the memories of an immaterial mind. Something about the “encumbrances” of the physical body. (It sounds like a line from The Matrix.)

    I covered that ground as well. Go back and read please.

    So on top of the faulty logic, there’s that too.

    No faulty logic. Only confusion on your part.

    Meanwhile, I need a specific response on the argument about concepts. Are you ready to acknowledge that [c] follows from [a] and [b]. You finally agreed with [a] and [b] kicking and screaming, but you said that [c] doesn’t follow because, by your mistaken claim, I conflated thoughts with concepts. Now that we both know that such is not the case, and since that seems to be your only excuse, do you now acknowledge that [c] follows from [a] and [b]?

  101. 101
    StephenB says:

    Old Andrew:

    A thought is not the same thing as the concept the thought is about. If you disagree, why?

    Yes, I do disagree. When you think about an apple or a table, you are thinking about the concept of apple or table. That is what it means to think – to form a concept in the mind – an abstract thing that corresponds to the physical thing that exists outside the mind, that is, the apple or table.

    Defined properly, a thought is an abstract thing in the same way that a concept is an abstract thing.

    You, on the other hand, define a thought as “neurons firing,” which is an imposition of materialistic ideology and a confusion between an abstract thing (a thought) and a physical process (neurons firing).

  102. 102
    OldAndrew says:

    SB,

    You don’t seem to have anything left to say except re-asserting that your logic is correct.

    No. [c] follows infallibly from [a] and [b] because the conclusions of all valid arguments are infallibly true. If you don’t know that, then you are not familiar with logic.

    The conclusions of all valid arguments are true. That is how logic works. [C] is not a conclusion from [a] and [b]. Your assertion of [c] is not logic.

    Your rhetorical style of arguing is just so tiresome, such as when you assert that a rejection of your illogical conclusion is a rejection of logic itself. I can’t respond to anything you say without having to sort through the empty rhetoric to try and find some substance. I’d ask you to stop, but I think it’s your hobby.

    A concept is simply the substance of what one is thinking about.

    Yes, a concept is what a thought is about.

    So even though the two cannot be used interchangeably, both must be immaterial.

    Yet again, “so,” as if one follows from the other. It doesn’t. Of course a concept can have representation in a physical medium. Your conclusion seems to depend on that not being true, even though it evidently is.

    There’s some law of noncontradiction for you. A concept can have representation in a physical medium. If your conclusion requires the opposite to be true then the logic which arrives at that conclusion is faulty.

    Referring to Alzheimer’s and dementia,

    I covered that ground as well. Go back and read please.

    If by covering it, you mean, “Because the former is free from bodily encumbrances while the latter is not,” then, no, you didn’t. My question is unanswered. Here’s another one (but don’t forget the first one):

    A schizophrenic person believes people are talking about him. That’s a thought. Does the thought originate with the immaterial mind or the material brain?

    Defined properly, a thought is an abstract thing in the same way that a concept is an abstract thing.

    That’s elaborate question-begging. In a discussion about whether thoughts are material or immaterial, you assert that they are immaterial because that’s the proper definition. How utterly circular. Did you think no one noticed? People are smarter than you think.

    Your logic appears to have run its course, while your rhetoric and self-congratulation is a bottomless pit.

  103. 103
    StephenB says:

    Old Andrew

    Yet again, “so,” as if one follows from the other. It doesn’t.

    Let’s make the “so’s” more obvious by using your own definitions. I will base them on your definition of a thought as physical process (“neurons firing”) and relate it to a concept, which we both agree is immaterial.

    *A material thought cannot produce an immaterial effect (concept) because matter, the cause, does not have non-matter to give. A cause cannot give what it does not have. Thus, a material thought cannot produce an immaterial concept.

    *A material thought, which is always changing by virtue of being matter in motion, cannot produce an unchanging concept.

    *A material thought made of of molecules in motion cannot produce an entity that contains no molecules. (non-matter).

    Although this would seem obvious to anyone and everyone, you seem to disagree. Why?

    Meanwhile, you have remained silent on the 800 pound elephant in the room, which I asked about in an earlier correspondence. If thoughts are made of matter, there are several issues you must deal with:

    So how much does justice weight? If person [a] understands justice and person [b] does not, does that mean that, all other things being equal, that a’s brain weighs more than b’s brain. What are the physical dimensions of truth? Does the brain become more crowded with each new piece of acquired wisdom? How many thoughts can the brain contain until the skull runs out of room? Does truth contain more molecules than opinions? Does love take up more space in the brain than hate? The whole idea is nonsensical in the extreme. Only those steeped in the irrational philosophy of materialism could believe it.

  104. 104
    OldAndrew says:

    SB,

    Does your hard drive weigh more when it’s got more files on it? The brain is not a hard drive but it’s obvious that a medium which contains material representations of abstractions doesn’t necessarily need to change dimensions or weight depending on what it stores.

    What are the physical dimensions of truth?

    Your rhetorical nonsense never ends. Why would the abstract concept of truth have dimensions? We’re talking about thoughts, which are representations of abstractions. Representations of abstractions can and do exist materially. I don’t know why you’re digging up what we’ve been over and pretending it’s new. Perhaps you’re hoping that people will only read the last post. Whatever makes you happy.

    Does the brain become more crowded with each new piece of acquired wisdom? How many thoughts can the brain contain until the skull runs out of room? Does truth contain more molecules than opinions?

    I was wondering how long it would take the argument from ignorance to come out. Congratulations on waiting this long. This amounts to saying that the brain can’t contain representations of abstractions because we don’t know how it does.

    Would you like me to explain to you exactly how the brain stored thoughts about abstract concepts? I’d be happy to, as soon as you tell me how the immaterial mind does so, and exactly how it’s impeded by dementia and schizophrenia within the material brain. And when a schizophrenic thinks that people are conspiring against him, does that originate with the brain or the supposed immaterial mind?

    I happen to believe that the human brain is designed. I also believe that its designer is smart enough to build something that can produce and maintain representations of abstract concepts. You’re in the rather odd position of claiming that the designer lacks such capability or is prevented from doing so by flimsy logic that falls apart under scrutiny.

    Not only does your bad logic force you to come up with complicated explanations for things like dementia and schizophrenia (although you haven’t, still a big open question) but it also forces you to place limitations on God. Check your math.

  105. 105
    StephenB says:

    SB,

    Your rhetorical nonsense never ends. Why would the abstract concept of truth have dimensions?

    I notice that you are using all the rhetoric while I am simply asking questions. We are not discussing abstract truths. We are discussing your claim that thoughts are made of matter and the ridiculous consequence of that belief, such that thoughts have weight, size, and are extended in space. Why did you change the subject?

    Also, you totally ignored my challenge: Here it is again:

    Based on your definition of a thoughts as “firing neurons, what is your response to the following. Remember, I am using your definitions to make my points, which are:

    *A material thought cannot produce an immaterial effect (concept) because matter, the cause, does not have non-matter to give. A cause cannot give what it does not have. Thus, a material thought cannot produce an immaterial concept.

    *A material thought, which is always changing by virtue of being matter in motion, cannot produce an unchanging concept.

    *A material thought made of of molecules in motion cannot produce an entity that contains no molecules. (non-matter).

    Although this would seem obvious to anyone and everyone, you seem to disagree. Why?

    Notice that I have no fear of answering your question:

    If a person can remember being alive after they’ve died then why do people with Alzheimer’s forget who they are?

    A diseased mind is one that has been seriously compromised by a compromised brain. Insofar as the brain does not do its job, the mind will be affected. However, this condition, this vulnerability, is a function of a mind that requires a brain to operate. That is because a human being is a single unit, a composite of body and soul, (matter and spirit), meaning that the mind and brain are one unit, though the former is an immaterial faculty for knowing, (forming concepts), and the latter is a material organ that processes, among other things, sensory elements, such as images, memory etc.

    However, the human mind is not, by any means, totally dependent on the brain since it also has the power to affect the brain. In this sense, the mind/body phenomenon is a bi-causal process whereby the faculty can affect the organ and vice versa. After death, the mind can call on those same powers, which are free from bodily encumbrances, The disembodied soul can think and will, perhaps even more freely than one that was tied to a body because no disease process can limit its application and no bodily appetites or passions can distract it by demanding to be fed or controlled. It will understand reality more profoundly than ever before. So a disembodied soul can remember having been alive because it has the intellectual power to do so and diseased mind is limited in that capacity– but not forever. The immaterial soul, unlike the body, does not have parts, so it cannot disintegrate, decay, or die. It will live forever.

    —————————————————————————————-

    So please gird up your loins and answer my questions.

    You’re in the rather odd position of claiming that the designer lacks such capability or is prevented from doing so by flimsy logic that falls apart under scrutiny.

    Another sterling example of how you shamelessly put words in my mouth and make up things in a rhetorical frenzy, while saying that I am using rhetoric. Just so readers will know, I do not believe any such thing nor have I said anything like that.
    Some people would call this lying, but its it Thanksgiving, so I will be generous.

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