Intelligent Design

Materialist Ideology: Is It Patent Nonsense?

Spread the love

As we know, atheists and agnostics have been smuggling metaphysical truth claims into the study of nature for a long time. Materialism is their God and Darwin is their prophet. Accordingly, they distort the evidence so they can lead it in the direction of the desired outcome—and when it resists—they drag it in kicking and screaming. There can be no question that this is an ethical breach. Injecting world-view commitments into the investigative process violates the integrity of science, just as prohibiting alternative world views violates the dignity of the human person.

The two points are connected. If Materialistic Darwinism was a sensible idea, Western institutions wouldn’t place a politically-correct shield around it to protect it from rational scrutiny. In the final analysis, materialist ideologues are religious fanatics. Those who say “Comply with my ideology or I will ‘expel’ you” are reminiscent of those who say “convert to my religion or I will kill you.” It is a difference only in degree, not in kind.

Still, to indicate that a given world view is nonscientific or inhumane does not necessarily prove that it is patent nonsense. To be sure, ID science has made its mark and the evidence does show that materialism is wildly implausible and highly improbable. This is a good start, but we must keep one thing in mind: In large measure, we are dealing with the so-called mind/body “problem.” Materialistic ideology is a metaphysical dragon. We may snare it with a scientific net, but we must slay it with a metaphysical sword. I submit that the following argument can serve as the final coup de gras:

Conceptual thought is possible only if an immaterial faculty of mind is involved. Under the circumstances, materialism cannot possibly be true. We can show why this must be the case by using a few concrete examples:

When I refer to an animal as a “dog,” I am conceptualizing or abstracting “what” it is, namely, an animal that has traits (and a nature) in common with all other members of its class. It is the universality or the sameness of those traits that defines the concept. I may experience this spotted terrier or that white poodle through my senses, but I can only conceptualize the what (the sameness) of each dog.  So it is with the concept of a human being, or pyramid, or any other concept.

Conversely, nothing that exists as matter can be a universal (or a concept); it is always a particular, a singular thing in a class of many (a fact of human experience). I can, for example, perceive (sense, imagine, or remember) a particular triangle as a percussive musical instrument, and I can, in the same way, perceive another particular triangle as a yield traffic sign, but I cannot conceive either of them or their individual proportions. I can only conceive or understand “triangularity” or the universal

Our concepts, because they are universals, cannot be material. If they came from a material brain, they would have to be material, which means that they could not be concepts. Since we do, indeed, have the power of conceptual thought, it is clear that this power must be immaterial, which means that it cannot originate from a bodily organ. The act of the brain, therefore, though it may be necessary for producing conceptual thought, is not sufficient.

If concepts were material, they would also have to be subjective or peculiar to each individual. They could not be shared or generalized because each concept would be embodied in the matter of the person who held it and could not, therefore, also be embodied in another person’s matter. Yet we all share the concept of what a dog is. Thus, conceptual knowledge is, and must be, immaterial, objective, generalizable, and shared.

When we grasp the nature of a thing, that is, when we conceptualize it, the form that exists in our mind is exactly the same form that exists in the thing itself. (We conceptualize “dogness” as we observe Fido [the particular], and Fido really is a dog [the universal]. We are, in fact, thinking about that thing and what it is. If the intellect was my brain or part of my brain, and if the concept in the intellect was also a material thing, then that every time I conceptualize “dog,” my brain would become a dog.

So, we return to the opening question. Materialist ideology: Is it patent nonsense? Clearly, the answer is yes. Conceptual thought is possible only if an immaterial faculty of mind is involved. Atheists and agnostics need to face the facts. They must also guard against “chronological snobbery.” The latest is not always the best. As one philosopher put it, “There is really no mind-body problem. There’s a bad philosophy problem, self-inflicted.”

62 Replies to “Materialist Ideology: Is It Patent Nonsense?

  1. 1
    nightlight says:

    Depends on what one means by matter. If you see it only as matter-energy of present physics, than it is incomplete since it is lacking the mind stuff. But if you consider a matter to be the general lawful (hence knowable) substance, such matter is infused with the mind-stuff attribute from ground level. This is a monistic perspective usually labeled as panpsychism or neutral monism. I find it more coherent than either dualism (that includes a narrow concept of matter you propose) or naive/eliminative materialism that denies existence of mind-stuff altogether.

    PS: can you edit the article to remove the huge trailing blank space?

  2. 2
    Neil Rickert says:

    You seem to be making some dubious generalizations.

    Conceptual thought is possible only if an immaterial faculty of mind is involved.

    I’m not sure what that even means. It is one of those statements that we might describe as “not even wrong.”

    It seems analogous to saying that computation is possible, only if an immaterial computer is used. But I manage to use a very material physical computer for my computation.

    Our concepts, because they are universals, cannot be material.

    I’ll tentatively grant that.

    If they came from a material brain, they would have to be material, which means that they could not be concepts.

    I cannot find any basis for that. You have given no argument that would have such a conclusion. It is not even clear what you mean by “came from a material brain”. If that merely means that a concept is not made of neural tissue, then it is a trivial and uninteresting point. So what is that all about?

    So, we return to the opening question. Materialist ideology: Is it patent nonsense?

    I guess we could contact the patent office, and see if there is a patent for it.

    Joking aside, what is this so-called “materialist ideology”. It is something that is criticized a lot, but nobody seems to be clear what it is. When the critics of materialist ideology get specific enough that one can attempt to work out what they are criticizing, it usually turns out that they are attacking a strawman. And I guess that works the other ways, too. Some of the atheist critics of religion seem to be attacking a strawman.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    I think Berlinski captured the dilemma for materialists, who think mind is an ’emergent property’ of the physical order, very well:

    An Interview with David Berlinski – Jonathan Witt
    Berlinski: There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. Mathematicians are capable of grasping a world of objects that lies beyond space and time ….
    Interviewer:… Come again(?) …
    Berlinski: No need to come again: I got to where I was going the first time. The number four, after all, did not come into existence at a particular time, and it is not going to go out of existence at another time. It is neither here nor there. Nonetheless we are in some sense able to grasp the number by a faculty of our minds. Mathematical intuition is utterly mysterious. So for that matter is the fact that mathematical objects such as a Lie Group or a differentiable manifold have the power to interact with elementary particles or accelerating forces. But these are precisely the claims that theologians have always made as well – that human beings are capable by an exercise of their devotional abilities to come to some understanding of the deity; and the deity, although beyond space and time, is capable of interacting with material objects.
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/20.....-here.html

    “Geometry is unique and eternal, a reflection from the mind of God. That mankind shares in it is because man is an image of God.”
    – Johannes Kepler

    In fact, in order to practice science rationally, it is necessary to presuppose that ‘consequent reasoning’ is not constrained by anything within the physical order:

    Sam Harris’s Free Will: The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex Did It – Martin Cothran – November 9, 2012
    Excerpt: There is something ironic about the position of thinkers like Harris on issues like this: they claim that their position is the result of the irresistible necessity of logic (in fact, they pride themselves on their logic). Their belief is the consequent, in a ground/consequent relation between their evidence and their conclusion. But their very stated position is that any mental state — including their position on this issue — is the effect of a physical, not logical cause.
    By their own logic, it isn’t logic that demands their assent to the claim that free will is an illusion, but the prior chemical state of their brains. The only condition under which we could possibly find their argument convincing is if they are not true. The claim that free will is an illusion requires the possibility that minds have the freedom to assent to a logical argument, a freedom denied by the claim itself. It is an assent that must, in order to remain logical and not physiological, presume a perspective outside the physical order.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....66221.html

    Physicalism and Reason – May 2013
    Summary: So we find ourselves affirming two contradictory propositions:
    1. Everything is governed by cause-and-effect.
    2. Our brains can process and be changed by ground-consequent logical relationships.
    To achieve consistency, we must either deny that everything is governed by cause-and-effect, and open our worldviews to something beyond physicalism, or we must deny that our brains are influenced by ground-consequence reasoning, and abandon the idea that we are rational creatures.
    Ask yourself: are humans like falling dominoes, entirely subject to natural law, or may we stand up and walk in the direction that reason shows us?
    http://www.reasonsforgod.org/2.....nd-reason/

    I think William Murray captured this very well too:

    “If you do not assume the law of non-contradiction, you have nothing to argue about. If you do not assume the principles of sound reason, you have nothing to argue with. If you do not assume libertarian free will, you have no one to argue against. If you do not assume morality to be an objective commodity, you have no reason to argue in the first place.”
    – William J Murray

    “In any philosophy of reality that is not ultimately self-defeating or internally contradictory, mind – unlabeled as anything else, matter or spiritual – must be primary. What is “matter” and what is “conceptual” and what is “spiritual” can only be organized from mind. Mind controls what is perceived, how it is perceived, and how those percepts are labeled and organized. Mind must be postulated as the unobserved observer, the uncaused cause simply to avoid a self-negating, self-conflicting worldview. It is the necessary postulate of all necessary postulates, because nothing else can come first. To say anything else comes first requires mind to consider and argue that case and then believe it to be true, demonstrating that without mind, you could not believe that mind is not primary in the first place.”
    – William J. Murray

    Even a atheists philosopher realizes the unbridgeable gap

    “I have argued patiently against the prevailing form of naturalism, a reductive materialism that purports to capture life and mind through its neo-Darwinian extension.” “…, I find this view antecedently unbelievable—a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense”.
    Thomas Nagel – “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False” – pg.128

    And, as Plantinga has also shown, trying to account for ‘mind’ in evolutionary terms leads to the failure of naturalism itself:

    Scientific Peer Review is in Trouble: From Medical Science to Darwinism – Mike Keas – October 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Survival is all that matters on evolutionary naturalism. Our evolving brains are more likely to give us useful fictions that promote survival rather than the truth about reality. Thus evolutionary naturalism undermines all rationality (including confidence in science itself). Renown philosopher Alvin Plantinga has argued against naturalism in this way (summary of that argument is linked on the site:).
    Or, if your short on time and patience to grasp Plantinga’s nuanced argument, see if you can digest this thought from evolutionary cognitive psychologist Steve Pinker, who baldly states:
    “Our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth; sometimes the truth is adaptive, sometimes it is not.”
    Steven Pinker, evolutionary cognitive psychologist, How the Mind Works (W.W. Norton, 1997), p. 305.
    http://blogs.christianpost.com.....ism-12421/

    Self-refutation and the New Atheists: The Case of Jerry Coyne – Michael Egnor – September 12, 2013
    Excerpt: Their (the New Atheists) ideology is a morass of bizarre self-refuting claim. They assert that science is the only way to truth, yet take no note that scientism itself isn’t a scientific assertion. They assert a “skeptical” view that thoughts are only constructed artifacts of our neurological processing and have no sure contact with truth, ignoring the obvious inference that their skeptical assertion is thereby reduced to a constructed artifact with no sure contact with truth. They assert that Christianity has brought much immorality to the world, yet they deny the existence of objective morality. They assert that intelligent design is not testable, and (yet claim the counter proposition, that life is not designed, is testable).
    And they assert that we are determined entirely by our natural history and physical law and thereby have no free will, yet they assert this freely, claiming truth and personal exemption from determinism.,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....76541.html

    Frankly I believe anyone applying for science and engineering classes at a top university, who denied the existence on their own mind, should be denied entrance into the program. Science simply dissolves into absurdity when it completely ‘loses its mind’.

    But Who Needs Reality-Based Thinking Anyway? Not the New Cosmologists – Denyse O’Leary January 2, 2014
    Excerpt: Logic and reason are likewise irrelevant. Consider the multiverse claim that there are “infinite copies of you and your loved ones leading lives, up until this moment, that are absolutely identical to yours.” Mathematician George F. R. Ellis notes that, if so, the deep mysteries of nature are too absurd to be explicable and that the proposed nine types of multiverse in one scheme are “mutually exclusive.” True, but in a multiverse, “inexplicable” is okay. “Absurd” and “mutually exclusive” are meaningless concepts. It is equally meaningless to assert that one event is more probable than another. As David Berlinski puts it, “Why is Newton’s universal law of gravitation true? No need to ask. In another universe, it is not”(Devil’s Delusion, p. 124).,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....80281.html

    Quotes of Note:

    “It will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the scientific conclusion that the content of the consciousness is the ultimate universal reality” –
    Eugene Wigner – (Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, Eugene Wigner, in Wheeler and Zurek, p.169) 1961 – received Nobel Prize in 1963 for ‘Quantum Symmetries’

    “No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
    Max Planck (1858–1947), the originator of quantum theory, The Observer, London, January 25, 1931

    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
    (Schroedinger, Erwin. 1984. “General Scientific and Popular Papers,” in Collected Papers, Vol. 4. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden. p. 334.)

    Twenty-one more famous Nobel Prize winners who rejected Darwinism as an account of consciousness – Dr. VJ Torley – April 2012
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ciousness/

    “Of all the things I’ve lost, I think I miss my mind the most”
    – Anonymous

    Verse, Quote and Poem/Music:

    Matthew 22:37
    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
    William Shakespeare – Hamlet

    Wake Me O Lord! – Inspirational Poem/Music
    https://vimeo.com/38692431

  4. 4

    While I agree with StephenB that materialism fails logically, I also don’t think physical matter itself has turned out to be what it needed to be in order for materialism to be seriously considered by rational, intellectually honest people.

    I think materialism has been scientifically discredited for decades (as BA77 has repeatedly pointed out with numerous resources wrt local realism and quantum-eraser experiments).

    Darwinism, materialism and naturalism are embraced not because they make philosophical sense or are scientifically supported, but rather to rationalize and satisfy the psychological needs of anti-theism.

  5. 5
    Upright BiPed says:

    Neil,

    Conceptual thought is possible only if an immaterial faculty of mind is involved.

    I’m not sure what that even means. It is one of those statements that we might describe as “not even wrong.”

    If that isn’t material ideology on display, then what is? But why use so many words – just say “I don’t understand. You’re wrong”.

    It seems analogous to saying that computation is possible, only if an immaterial computer is used. But I manage to use a very material physical computer for my computation.

    To compute what, Neil?

    If you have a three in your computer, then get it out and show it to us.

    If they came from a material brain, they would have to be material, which means that they could not be concepts.

    I cannot find any basis for that. You have given no argument that would have such a conclusion. It is not even clear what you mean by “came from a material brain”. If that merely means that a concept is not made of neural tissue, then it is a trivial and uninteresting point.

    lol

    Neil, if not matter, what are concepts made of?

    Or is that question not even wrong?

  6. 6
    Upright BiPed says:

    I see that Dr Alexander has revisited the forum. Since this thread is dead center of semiotic reality, perhaps she’ll join the conversation. Welcome aboard, we are pleased to have you along.

  7. 7

    Stephen, is it your thesis that no physical system, regardless of its complexity, regardless of its capacity to recognize and represent individual instances and regardless of its origins, can become capable of even rudimentary abstraction, absent the immaterial component you identify?

    That is to say, would you agree that it follows from your position that no intelligent designer, regardless of its powers, can originate a strictly physical system (say, a brain) capable of even rudimentary conceptual abstraction (exemplified by the abstraction” dog” versus particular “dogs”), regardless of the level of physical CSI, irreducible complexity (etc.) with which that physical system is endowed?

  8. 8
    Upright BiPed says:

    Frankly I believe anyone applying for science and engineering classes at a top university, who denied the existence on their own mind, should be denied entrance into the program.

    I hope you don’t really hold to this BA; it would make you no different than Larry Moran or Eugenie Scott.

    It’s much better to stand for intellectual freedom.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Upright BiPed, not that anybody ever really listens to any of my ‘blog rants’ anyway, but I find science (and society) to be severely hampered, even severely misled and harmed, by materialistic presuppositions. Thus, like a SAT score of a certain level would have to be achieved to attend certain university programs, I do not think it overly burdensome to also require to also check to be sure that students ‘have not lost their mind’ before they enroll into elite science and engineering programs. 🙂 i.e. Call it a minimum sanity check for psychopathic tendencies. 🙂
    Of course none of this will ever happen, as materialism practices the exact opposite, expelling anyone who is an outspoken Theist, but in an idea world, it would be nice to weed out the unfruitful branches from science.

    Existential Argument against Atheism – November 1, 2013 by Jason Petersen
    1. If a worldview is true then you should be able to live consistently with that worldview.
    2. Atheists are unable to live consistently with their worldview.
    3. If you can’t live consistently with an atheist worldview then the worldview does not reflect reality.
    4. If a worldview does not reflect reality then that worldview is a delusion.
    5. If atheism is a delusion then atheism cannot be true.
    Conclusion: Atheism is false.
    http://answersforhope.com/exis.....t-atheism/

    The Heretic – Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? – March 25, 2013
    Excerpt:,,,Fortunately, materialism is never translated into life as it’s lived. As colleagues and friends, husbands and mothers, wives and fathers, sons and daughters, materialists never put their money where their mouth is. Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....tml?page=3

    Moreover, this psychopathic characteristic inherent to the atheistic philosophy is born out empirically, in that people who do not believe in a soul tend to be more psychopathic than the majority of normal people in America who do believe in a soul. You can pick that psychopathic study of atheists around the 14:30 minute mark of this following video:

    Anthony Jack, Why Don’t Psychopaths Believe in Dualism? – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?l.....zOk#t=862s

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Streaming live now (Central Standard Time):

    9:00 a.m. Tim Maudlin, ”Cosmology, Theology and Meaning”

    10:00 a.m. Robin Collins, “God and the Fine-tuning of the Universe for Discovery”

    11:00 a.m. Lunch (New Orleans Style Red Beans & Rice) Cafeteria

    12:30 p.m. Alex Rosenberg, “How Physics Fakes Design, and Makes Things Difficult for Theism”

    1:30 p.m. James Sinclair, “Cosmology and Cosmologists Within the ‘Does God Exist’ Question”

    2:30 p.m. Concluding Comments from Sean Carroll and William Lane Craig

    For Eastern times, add an hour.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwcm74aOw8Q

  11. 11
  12. 12
    NetResearchGuy says:

    “It seems analogous to saying that computation is possible, only if an immaterial computer is used. But I manage to use a very material physical computer for my computation.”

    There is a difference between executing a computation and understanding what a computation means. Let’s say a computer is running an algorithm that generates the digits of Pi. The computer doesn’t know what it’s calculating, it’s merely electrical impulses changing state in a deterministic way.

    Let’s say we add a text file on the PC which indicates that “This algorithm calculates Pi”. Have we improved the inanimate computer’s semantic understanding in any way? No! The new information we’ve added is just more electrical impulses devoid of semantic meaning in a material sense. We could load the computer with a text file treatise explaining the history of Pi and algorithms that use it in a variety if ways, and we’ve still made no progress. In the limit, no matter how much materially encoded information you add to a purely material computation device, it will never be able to attach semantic meaning to anything it stores, period.

    This is why I think our minds must have a non-material component and can’t strictly be deterministic meat computers. The mind clearly understands semantic meaning, and no material computer can. Unless you think semantic concepts are an emergent property of some underlying computation or material representation, and don’t actually exist. If so, can you give me any examples? Or if not, even begin to describe in principle how the semantic gap could be crossed by adding material components to a material device?

  13. 13
    Neil Rickert says:

    NetResearchGuy:

    There is a difference between executing a computation and understanding what a computation means.

    Agreed. But I don’t think that affects the point.

    We describe computers as doing things to numbers. But numbers are abstract. They are not material objects. Our computer science text books mostly explain computers on what they do to binary digits. And again, binary digits are abstractions.

    Perhaps you prefer to say that computers really deal only with electrical currents, and that there are no numbers and no binary digits inside the computer. It’s just that we find it more convenient to describe our computers as if they were dealing with abstract numbers and binary digits.

    I actually agree with that, too. But then, isn’t it just as possible that people are not really using abstract concepts. They are just using material neural signaling and reporting it with air vibrations. It’s just that we find it more convenient to describe what people do, as if they were dealing with abstract entities.

    My point is only that StephenB’s argument does not come close to showing what it claims to show.

    And, by the way, I do not consider myself to be a materialist. But I don’t believe there is any persuasive argument either for or against materialism. I’m inclined to say that materialism is neither true nor false. It is more of a stance that some people adopt, a way that they approach questions.

  14. 14
    Axel says:

    ‘It seems analogous to saying that computation is possible, only if an immaterial computer is used. But I manage to use a very material physical computer for my computation.’

    As NetReasearchGuy indicates, Neil Rickert, indeed, you may so use it, but without your input, your interpretation of the data produced by that very material physical computer, it would remain in the realm of Dawkins’ Nothingness philosophical school.

  15. 15
    StephenB says:

    Hi nightlight
    Thanks for your contribution

    Depends on what one means by matter. If you see it only as matter-energy of present physics, than it is incomplete since it is lacking the mind stuff. But if you consider a matter to be the general lawful (hence knowable) substance, such matter is infused with the mind-stuff attribute from ground level. This is a monistic perspective usually labeled as panpsychism or neutral monism. I find it more coherent than either dualism (that includes a narrow concept of matter you propose) or naive/eliminative materialism that denies existence of mind-stuff altogether.

    I guess I am not clear on what you mean by “mind stuff.” How would panpsychism or neutral monism explain our ability to grasps concepts? (i.e., How would one know “what” a dog is?) Also, how can matter (which can move, change, and disintegrate) be infused with non matter (which has none of those qualities).

    We have to explain how we get the “whatness” (dog) inside our mind without getting the dog itself inside our mind. I am arguing that this is possible only if the thing in our mind (form of the dog) represents perfectly the real form of the dog.

  16. 16
    StephenB says:

    Hi Neil

    Thanks for your contribution

    My point is only that StephenB’s argument does not come close to showing what it claims to show.

    My main argument depends on my sub arguments. I am not clear on which of my sub arguments that you do not find persuasive:

    [a] Nothing that exists as matter can be a universal (or a concept); it is always a particular, a singular thing in a class of many (a fact of human experience).

    [b] I can only understand (conceptualize) universals

    [c] Concepts cannot be material

    [d] If concepts came from a material brain, they would have to be material, which means that they could not be concepts.

    [e] The act of the brain, therefore, though it may be necessary for producing conceptual thought, is not sufficient.

    [f] If concepts were material, they would also have to be subjective or peculiar to each individual. They could not be shared or generalized because each concept would be embodied in the matter of the person who held it and could not, therefore, also be embodied in another person’s matter.

    [g] We all share the concept of what a dog is.

    [h] Conceptual knowledge is, and must be, generalizable and shared.

    [i] When we grasp the nature of a thing, that is, when we conceptualize it, the form that exists in our mind is exactly the same form that exists in the thing itself.

  17. 17
    StephenB says:

    Hi Neil

    Joking aside, what is this so-called “materialist ideology”. It is something that is criticized a lot, but nobody seems to be clear what it is. When the critics of materialist ideology get specific enough that one can attempt to work out what they are criticizing, it usually turns out that they are attacking a strawman. And I guess that works the other ways, too. Some of the atheist critics of religion seem to be attacking a strawman.

    By materialist ideology, I mean, first, the apriori, non-negotiable, faith-based commitment to the notion that nature is all there is and, second, the decision to use institutional and person power to force acceptance of the idea and silence dissenters.

  18. 18
    Barry Arrington says:

    “unde intellectus est qui facit universalitatem in rebus” Thomas Aquinas. Stephen, they’ve been fighting against the idea advanced in the OP since the 1200’s. Is there any reason to believe they will accede to it now?

  19. 19
    Neil Rickert says:

    StephenB:

    [a] Nothing that exists as matter can be a universal (or a concept); it is always a particular, a singular thing in a class of many (a fact of human experience).

    What does “exist as matter” even mean?

    I wrote post on my blog, several days ago, on Individuals and categories. There, I argued that we only perceive by categories. We do not perceive individuals. That’s due to how a perceptual system works. So, in our experience, everything that we see as existing in the real world, we perceive as a category (roughly what you are calling a universal), rather than as a singular thing. Only in the world of abstract immaterial objects (numbers, in mathematics, for example), do we deal with singular things. So I think your argument goes wrong at the beginning.

    Take the great Mississippi river. Most people would say that it is a material thing. Yet the material (the water) flows out into the gulf of mexico, to be replaced by different material (different water). So should we conclude that the Mississippi river does not exist as a material thing?

  20. 20
    Barry Arrington says:

    William of Occam (Neil) and Thomas Acquinas (Stephen) going at it hammer and tongs. Fascinating.

    The Teacher was right. There is nothing new under the sun.

    Perhaps the problem of universals is insoluble because the conflicting positions rest on conflicting a priori commitments. I don’t know this to be true. Just thinking out loud.

  21. 21
    Joe says:

    And what is the reason for insulting William of Occam? 🙂

  22. 22
    StephenB says:

    Hi Reciprocating Bill. Thanks for your contribution

    Stephen, is it your thesis that no physical system, regardless of its complexity, regardless of its capacity to recognize and represent individual instances and regardless of its origins, can become capable of even rudimentary abstraction, absent the immaterial component you identify?

    That was well put. Thank you. Yes, I would argue that abstraction (the ability to apprehend a form from a material object, that is, the ability to understand “what” a thing is) requires an immaterial component.

    That is to say, would you agree that it follows from your position that no intelligent designer, regardless of its powers, can originate a strictly physical system (say, a brain) capable of even rudimentary conceptual abstraction (exemplified by the abstraction” dog” versus particular “dogs”), regardless of the level of physical CSI, irreducible complexity (etc.) with which that physical system is endowed?

    I don’t think it is logically possible for something material (brain, body, matter) to generate something that is immaterial (mind, soul, spirit). Keep in mind that matter (in any way it is generally defined) can disintegrate, and die; spirit, by definition, is unchanging and can never die. An immaterial mind, as I am defining it, is a faculty of soul; it is spiritual. So, the real question is this: Can a designer fashion matter (which can die) to morph into spirit (which cannot die)? It would be a contradiction. That is like saying, can the designer make something that can die into something that cannot die?

  23. 23
    StephenB says:

    BarryA

    “unde intellectus est qui facit universalitatem in rebus” Thomas Aquinas. Stephen, they’ve been fighting against the idea advanced in the OP since the 1200?s. Is there any reason to believe they will accede to it now?

    Barry, you have definitely got your history right. Alas, the Angelic Doctor was not around to correct the rascals that followed him.

    With Ockham, we get subjectivism, Descartes, Hume, Kant and the insane enogenic epistemology that wonders if that cat you just observed might not really be just a green ball of slime.

    Should we grant the point in the name of modernity and hope that ID science will fill the gap? If we do, our adversaries will respond as they always do and say “that pattern in nature that you think you observe was really manufactured in your own mind.”

    We have to promote rationality right along side of ID science. If that means returning to the scene of the crime, then return we must.

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    of note: Law Of Identity and proof for the Mind/Soul:

    Alvin Plantinga and the Modal Argument (for the existence of the soul) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOTn_wRwDE0

    Here are six properties of the mind that are not properties of the brain. Thus, in keeping with the law of identity, the mind is not same thing as the brain:

    The Mind and Materialist Superstition – Six “conditions of mind” that are irreconcilable with materialism: Michael Egnor, professor of neurosurgery at SUNY, Stony Brook
    Excerpt: Intentionality,,, Qualia,,, Persistence of Self-Identity,,, Restricted Access,,, Incorrigibility,,, Free Will,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....super.html

    Six reasons why you should believe in non-physical minds – podcast and summary (Law of Identity: 6 properties of mind that are not identical to properties of the brain, thus the mind is not the brain)
    http://winteryknight.wordpress.....cal-minds/

  25. 25
    StephenB says:

    Neil, thanks for your contribution.

    You wrote,

    There, I argued that we only perceive by categories. We do not perceive individuals.

    At this point, I will need a definition. I have defined conception as an act of mind by which we grasp “what” a thing is, that is, its category, and I have defined perception as an act of sense by which we experience one thing in a category. Are you saying that both acts (perception and conception) are the same?

    That’s due to how a perceptual system works.
    So, in our experience, everything that we see as existing in the real world, we perceive as a category (roughly what you are calling a universal), rather than as a singular thing.

    We perceive particulars through sense, which is a function of our physical organs, but we conceive universals through intelligence, which is a function of our immaterial faculty of mind.

    I am not clear on what you are arguing. Are you saying that sensing and conceptualizing are the same thing? Are you saying that concepts can be material? If so, why do you think so?

    Only in the world of abstract immaterial objects (numbers, in mathematics, for example), do we deal with singular things. So I think your argument goes wrong at the beginning.

    How can a particular or singular thing be shared as a concept? I am arguing that only a shared universal can be be a concept. Are you saying that an unshared particular can be a concept?

    Take the great Mississippi river.

    OK.

    Most people would say that it is a material thing.

    Yes

    Yet the material (the water) flows out into the gulf of mexico, to be replaced by different material (different water).

    The material has changed, but the whatness (the class of things that constitute a river) has not changed. The Mississippi river is a particular; the category of river is a universal. The universal doesn’t change. That is why it can be understood and conceptualzed. Thus, we perceive this particular river, but we conceptualize riverness or what it means to be a river. Our perception of the river will change (water gets dirtier or changes color etc). Are you saying that our perception of the Mississipi River doesn’t change? If so, why?

    So should we conclude that the Mississippi river does not exist as a material thing?

    The Mississippi River does exist as a material thing. However, the category of river does not exist as a material thing. That is the point. Are you saying that a category can exist as a material thing?

  26. 26
    Neil Rickert says:

    StephenB

    I have defined conception as an act of mind by which we grasp “what” a thing is, that is, its category, and I have defined perception as an act of sense by which we experience one thing in a category.

    I’m glad you mention “act of sense”. I do see sensing as behavior, rather than as something that just happens to us. As I see it, the way we sense depends on categorizing, where I take categorizing to be the dividing of the world according to some criteria. I take concepts to be terms is something like a theory of how we categorize. The concepts idealize the categories.

    We perceive particulars through sense, which is a function of our physical organs, but we conceive universals through intelligence, which is a function of our immaterial faculty of mind.

    That is something that I doubt. It seems to me that we cannot perceive particulars. We can only perceive categories. We may believe that we perceive particulars, but it does not seem possible, without magic. What we might think of as particulars are just narrow categories.

    Are you saying that concepts can be material?

    No. I am saying that what you are calling a particular is really a category, and categories cannot be material either, unless we mean “material” is some broad metaphoric sense.

    Moving on:

    The Mississippi river is a particular; the category of river is a universal.

    The river at 3 pm is a particular. The river at 3:05 pm is a different particular. But both are part of the common category which is what we actually perceive.

    Are you saying that our perception of the Mississipi River doesn’t change?

    It does not change as rapidly as the material constituents of the river change. So we cannot be perceiving the material.

    Let me illustrate with a computer chip. We talk of its input being a binary zero. At the material level, its input might be 0.972 volts, which we could say is a particular. Or it might be 1.043 volts, which would be a different particular. The computer chip cannot distinguish between those. It can only tell that its input is in some range that it is designed to treat as a binary 0. Perception has similar limitations. We are sensitive to ranges (i.e. categories), not to particulars. There are many people who declare themselves to be materialists, who understand that computers work this way. So it cannot be a problem for their materialism.

    Back to the Mississippi. Suppose that we are both standing by the river. You look at the river, and say something about it. In reaction, I look at the river. The river was a different particular when you looked, than when I looked. We can communicate with one another about it, only because we perceive categories, rather than particulars.

  27. 27
    selvaRajan says:

    If concepts were material, they would also have to be subjective or peculiar to each individual. They could not be shared or generalized because each concept would be embodied in the matter of the person who held it and could not, therefore, also be embodied in another person’s matter. Yet we all share the concept of what a dog is. Thus, conceptual knowledge is, and must be, immaterial, objective, generalizable, and shared.

    The word ‘dog’ is the shared knowledge, it is not the concept that is shared. If you talk to a person who doesn’t know English, he can’t conceptualize ‘dog’.
    Mind and perceptions created by mind can be influenced by drugs, hallucinogens or- to relate to dogs in the post- Rabies virus. Rabies infection leads to fundamental behavior change- the person becomes hydrophobic. So a material cause can lead to ‘spiritual’ change.

  28. 28
    franklin says:

    Neil’s points are well made and his example of the Mississippi River is quite good.

    for example when StephenB says :

    The Mississippi river is a particular; the category of river is a universal.

    it is an assertion that cannot be supported. What is ‘riverness’ that makes it a universal? How can we determine that ‘riverness’ is different from ‘streamnes’, ‘brookness’, or’ creekness’?

    The use of those descriptives are abstractions that we generally, but not universally, accept as various categories that we use as a reference frame for communication as Neil has pointed out. We cannot go along a watershed and draw a ‘universally’ accepted line where a river starts and a stream ends. Nor does it always hold that brooks flow into creeks and creeks flow into streams ad streams flow into rivers and rivers flow into lakes (or oceans). There are also numerous examples where rivers flow into creeks which would need to be explained under the ‘universal’ categorization that StephenB has asserted.

  29. 29
    StephenB says:

    Hi Neil.

    Thanks for your contribution:

    No. I am saying that what you are calling a particular is really a category, and categories cannot be material either, unless we mean “material” is some broad metaphoric sense.

    If you agree that concepts are immaterial, then why do disagree with my argument that an immaterial mind is necessary to grasp them? Are you saying that a material brain can apprehend an immaterial form?

    It does not change [the category] as rapidly as the material constituents of the river change. So we cannot be perceiving the material.

    You think that the category changes? You have already agreed that the category is immaterial. How can something that is immaterial change? Only something material can change because only material things have constituent parts that can be re-arranged.

    For that matter how can we share a common category if it is always changing? Everyone knows the concept of a dog precisely because the universal category of dog doesn’t change. That is why we can say that it is not a cat.

    On the other hand, the particular dog itself is always changing. That is the point: The particular, the dog, is always changing. All things made of matter change. The concept or category of dog does not change. Our senses pick up on the particular; our intellect picks up on the universal.

    Or, do you think that category of dog is always changing as well. In which case, I must ask: Do you think we can even know that a dog is a dog? If so, how do we know?

  30. 30
    StephenB says:

    selvarajan

    The word ‘dog’ is the shared knowledge, it is not the concept that is shared.

    No. We understand and share the concept and use words to describe them.

    If you talk to a person who doesn’t know English, he can’t conceptualize ‘dog’.

    First, you said that it is not the concept that is shared and understood. Now, you say that it is the word that is not shared and understood.

  31. 31
    StephenB says:

    [The Mississippi river is a particular; the category of river is a universal.]

    franklin:

    it is an assertion that cannot be supported.

    It isn’t an assertion. It is a definition. A particular is one of many in a class. The Mississippi River is one particular river in a class called river.

  32. 32
    StephenB says:

    franklin:

    We cannot go along a watershed and draw a ‘universally’ accepted line where a river starts and a stream ends.

    Irrelevant to the definition of river as a category. Where the river starts and the shore ends doesn’t change the definition of river and shore. If that was the case, the definition of each would change each time the tide rolls in. By your account, there is no such thing as a shore–or a beach–or a creek–or a stream etc.

  33. 33
    franklin says:

    By your account, there is no such thing as a shore–or a beach–or a creek–or a stream etc.

    It’s not that the ‘thing’ doesn’t exist it is that the ‘thing’ is not defined. The concept of brook, stream, and river are totally artificial and are not in any way, shape, or form universal.

    To test that hypothesis can you tell me what delineates a stream versus a creek versus a river?

    A particular is one of many in a class. The Mississippi River is one particular river in a class called river.

    OK. let’s test this. What is a river? Please, give me as complete a definition of this entity that you consider as being ‘universal’.

    I’m expecting that now you will tell me that the definition of a river is irrelevant to the definition of a ‘river as a category’ or some other such contortion.

    Where the river starts and the shore ends doesn’t change the definition of river and shore

    Really? What makes a river a river and not some other descriptor…like stream?

    By your account, there is no such thing as a shore–or a beach–or a creek–or a stream etc.

    Again, StephenB, it isn’t that ‘they’ don’t exist it is that they are loosely defined and are only abstract constructs that we use to communicate with other folks about. Equally, the designation of river versus stream versus creek are arbitrary.

    The only thing you have is that the ‘category called rivers’ consists solely of things ‘we’ have arbitrarily named as being rivers. There is no universality within the concept of ‘river’.

  34. 34
    StephenB says:

    Hi franklin.
    Thank you for your contribution

    It’s not that the ‘thing’ doesn’t exist it is that the ‘thing’ is not defined. The concept of brook, stream, and river are totally artificial and are not in any way, shape, or form universal.

    The concept doesn’t come from the definition; the definition comes from the concept. That is why a small body of water can be defined several ways. The issue is about one vs. many. Obviously, there are many instances [particular] of small bodies of water [universal], just as there are many instances [particular] of large bodies of water [universal].
    There is some dispute, for example, over whether there are four or five [particular] oceans [universal]. It hardly matters which number is correct or whether we call them seas or oceans or whether one is larger than the other or whether their boundaries with tributaries are perfectly established. What matters is that we understand the universal concept of ocean and that we abstract if from the many particular instances.

    To test that hypothesis can you tell me what delineates a stream versus a creek versus a river?

    People often use the terms interchangeably. What matters is the concept, which is a small body of water. It doesn’t matter if there is no agreement about which word is used to describe it. The issue is how we know things—not how perfectly or precisely we know them. We know things by general concepts, not by particular instances. If it can’t be generalized, then it can’t be known.
    If it can only be generalized in a vague way, then it can only be known in a vague way. Most things can be known clearly because their class can easily be distinguished from other classes That is why no one disagrees about the meaning of a dog or a cat. In keeping with that point, it doesn’t matter that some people call a rock a stone. Everyone knows what it is, just as everyone knows what a stream is, even if they call it a brook.

    I’m expecting that now you will tell me that the definition of a river is irrelevant to the definition of a ‘river as a category’ or some other such contortion.

    If the category is vaguely defined, then our knowledge is vague. If the definition of a river overlaps with the definition of a lake, then our knowledge about small or medium bodies of water is imprecise to that extent. That doesn’t mean that there is no particular lake or no category of lakes or that people cannot give them names..

    What makes a river a river and not some other descriptor…like stream?

    Size. Do you have any doubts that the Missouri River is not an ocean or a stream or a brook? Of course, you don’t.

    The only thing you have is that the ‘category called rivers’ consists solely of things ‘we’ have arbitrarily named as being rivers. There is no universality within the concept of ‘river’.

    Actually, you have it backwards. We wouldn’t give them a name if they didn’t already have something in common with other things in their class. That is where names come from—and definitions—and concepts—and categories.

  35. 35
    Neil Rickert says:

    StephenB:

    If you agree that concepts are immaterial, then why do disagree with my argument that an immaterial mind is necessary to grasp them?

    Your “argument” contains no persuasive reasoning. I see no more problem with an immaterial concept, than with an immaterial Sherlock Holmes. Both are parts of stories that we tell to help us navigate our way through the world.

    I’ll agree that a simplistic physical device, such as the kind of robot that might be built today, is unlikely to have immaterial concepts. However, we are likely to describe it as having immaterial concepts, just as we describe ourselves as having immaterial concepts.

    Are you saying that a material brain can apprehend an immaterial form?

    I doubt that a brain apprehends anything. Apprehending is an activity of the whole person, not of the brain alone.

    You think that the category changes?

    You inserted “[the category]” in your quote of what I wrote. That completely changes the meaning to something not intended. And then you ask me to explain what I never said?

    Sorry, I can’t do that.

  36. 36
    JGuy says:

    Your “argument” contains no persuasive reasoning. I see no more problem with an immaterial concept, than with an immaterial Sherlock Holmes. Both are parts of stories that we tell to help us navigate our way through the world.

    Isn’t it worth something that an immaterial mind has intention and can project an affect into the world while an immaterial Sherlock Holmes can not? There seems a clear distinction, and that’s even disregarding the fact that the mind is where the concept of made-up Sherlock Holmes that has no effect on the world originated in the first place.

  37. 37
    seventrees says:

    Greetings.

    StephenB, I would not lie and say that I really followed in general what you were saying. I think this is due to the fact that I have not taken any philosophy course. It will take me days to get it. But this is what caught me:

    Our concepts, because they are universals, cannot be material. If they came from a material brain, they would have to be material, which means that they could not be concepts.

    As far as I remember from physics and chemistry, anything which proceeds from matter-energy interactions can be characterized in thermodynamic terms. Trivial examples:

    1) Some chemical reactions, apart from producing new compounds, produce sound, and in some cases, changes in color.

    2) Flow of electricity in general can produce heat and magnetic fields depending on the situation.

    But somehow, our concepts (which cannot exist without our consciousness), if produced by matter-energy interactions, cannot be characterized fundamentally in thermodynamic terms.

    I wonder why an exception on this issue exists to some people. At least, I will give it that the determinists are consistent.

  38. 38
    StephenB says:

    Neil, thanks for your contribution. You wrote,

    Your “argument” contains no persuasive reasoning. I see no more problem with an immaterial concept, than with an immaterial Sherlock Holmes. Both are parts of stories that we tell to help us navigate our way through the world.

    Well, the real question is how a material mind could generate an immaterial concept. That is the main challenge of the post. It has never been addressed.

    I’ll agree that a simplistic physical device, such as the kind of robot that might be built today, is unlikely to have immaterial concepts. However, we are likely to describe it as having immaterial concepts, just as we describe ourselves as having immaterial concepts.

    Earlier, I thought you agreed that a concept is non-material. Did I misunderstand you?

    I doubt that a brain apprehends anything. Apprehending is an activity of the whole person, not of the brain alone.

    Surely, you don’t think that our ability to understand concepts could come from any other source than either our mind or our brain.

    You inserted “[the category]” in your quote of what I wrote. That completely changes the meaning to something not intended. And then you ask me to explain what I never said?

    I am sorry if I misunderstood you. Let me simply ask the question, then, from scratch. Do you think a universal category (“what a thing is”)can change.

    Also, I am still not clear on your perceived difference between a category and a concept. When we come to understand that a dog is a dog (I assume you agree that this is possible) what is it that we understand?

    Is it the concept or the category? As you know, I argue that they are the same thing and that when we grasp the meaning of dog, we do so by means of the concept or the category.

  39. 39
    StephenB says:

    seventrees

    Greetings.

    StephenB, I would not lie and say that I really followed in general what you were saying. I think this is due to the fact that I have not taken any philosophy course. It will take me days to get it. But this is what caught me:

    Seventrees, welcome to the discussion.

    [Our concepts, because they are universals, cannot be material. If they came from a material brain, they would have to be material, which means that they could not be concepts.]

    As far as I remember from physics and chemistry, anything which proceeds from matter-energy interactions can be characterized in thermodynamic terms. Trivial examples:

    1) Some chemical reactions, apart from producing new compounds, produce sound, and in some cases, changes in color.

    2) Flow of electricity in general can produce heat and magnetic fields depending on the situation.

    So far, this makes perfect sense to me. Physical causes produce physical effects.

    But somehow, our concepts (which cannot exist without our consciousness), if produced by matter-energy interactions, cannot be characterized fundamentally in thermodynamic terms.

    Well, as you have, no doubt, observed, I am arguing that matter-energy, being physical, cannot produce non-physical concepts. I am arguing that you cannot get non-matter (or spirit) from matter. Matter-energy, because it is made up of things that change, disintegrate, and die, cannot produce spirit, which cannot change, disintegrate, and die.

    I wonder why an exception on this issue exists to some people. At least, I will give it that the determinists are consistent.

    In my judgment, the problem goes all the way back to Descartes [or perhaps Ockham] and the method of beginning the search for knowledge in one’s own mind (enogenic epistemology) as opposed to the correct method of searching for it in the outside world (exogenic epistemology). If you begin with your own mind, a problem further perpetuated by Hume and Kant, you will be forever trapped in that same space. It is a great mistake to believe that knowledge is a product of the processing agent. We must begin with self-evident truths about the real world.

  40. 40
    seventrees says:

    Thank you for your reply, StephenB.

    I just hope you did not misunderstand me somewhere when I typed:

    “I wonder why an exception on this issue exists to some people. At least, I will give it that the determinists are consistent.”

    When stating my wonderment, I was assuming that there are some people who believe our minds and the concepts generated from them are immaterial, even though they believe that they are emergent properties of matter-energy interactions.

    Concerning your last paragraph, I will divide knowledge into two: Knowledge of our surrounding and knowledge of our being. Just to understand you clearly, are you saying that in principle, we cannot know about our minds if we start from our minds?

  41. 41
    Neil Rickert says:

    StephenB:

    Well, the real question is how a material mind could generate an immaterial concept.

    Personally, I take mind to be a metaphor, so the question never arises.

    My current view is that we interact intensely with the world. And we perceive ourselves interacting with the world. So when we describe the world, we are really describing our own interactions. And there is something of story telling in that, because story telling makes for better communication than “just the facts”.

    That our stories involve immaterial entities is no more of a problem than that we can have a story of a Sherlock Holmes.

  42. 42
    Joe says:

    Neil Rickert:

    Personally, I take mind to be a metaphor, so the question never arises.

    Deceiving onself is always the way to go through life- Not.

  43. 43
    Neil Rickert says:

    StephenB:

    Do you think a universal category (“what a thing is”)can change.

    It’s a bit hard to know what is being asked.

    I see categories as human pragmatic constructs. I see them as unavoidably varying between people. And I see people modifying their categories in accordance with pragmatic considerations.

    The idea that categories are universal is something of a platonic stance. It might be useful for theorizing. But it’s an idealization. Whether ideal platonic categories can change is presumably a question to be answered by the theoreticians of that platonic stance.

  44. 44
    StephenB says:

    seventrees, thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    When stating my wonderment, I was assuming that there are some people who believe our minds and the concepts generated from them are immaterial, even though they believe that they are emergent properties of matter-energy interactions.

    From what I have read of epiphenominalsits, they do, indeed, think that mind emerges from matter, but, ultimately, they define “mind” to mean something grounded in matter, which is really just matter in a different formulation.

    In effect, they are cheating with words by using a term that has traditionally meant something immaterial and spiritual when they don’t really mean that at all. I know of no epiphenominalist who believes in an immaterial faculty of mind.

    will divide knowledge into two: Knowledge of our surrounding and knowledge of our being. Just to understand you clearly, are you saying that in principle, we cannot know about our minds if we start from our minds?

    I think we are on the same page. Clearly, if we want to know ourselves and our minds, we can legitimately begin with our minds. What I object to is not the study of psychology, but a philosophy of mind that denies our ability to know anything about the external realm of existence outside of our mind (as in Descartes, Hume, and Kant) and tries to make it appear that we manufacture reality by creating artificial categories (as opposed to apprehending real categories). In other words, I object to a philosophy of mind which claims that we cannot know that a dog is a dog.

  45. 45
    Upright BiPed says:

    immaterial entities is no more of a problem than that we can have a story of a Sherlock Holmes

    Neil you’ve made it clear that you see the rise of an immaterial thing to be no problem for material systems. I’m sure you’ve conducted a thorough analysis in reaching your conclusion. Can you tell us how you defined an immaterial thing so that it can be identified as being distinct from a material thing, and what was required for such a thing to become established in a material system. It would seem that these things would be pertinent to the conclusion that they present “no problem”.

  46. 46
    StephenB says:

    Neil, thank you for contributing. You wrote,

    Personally, I take mind to be a metaphor, so the question never arises.

    Well, of course, I raised the question when I wrote my post, and my question persists. You seem to agree that concepts (such as dog) are immaterial. Yet you also hold that no immaterial mind exists to generate it. So my question has been this: If not an immaterial mind, what is the source of that immaterial concept.

    My current view is that we interact intensely with the world. And we perceive ourselves interacting with the world. So when we describe the world, we are really describing our own interactions.

    Does that mean that when we “perceive” (I would say apprehend or conceptualize) a dog, we are, in fact, simply describing our own interactions and that we are not really recognizing the dog as a dog.

    I see categories as human pragmatic constructs. I see them as unavoidably varying between people. And I see people modifying their categories in accordance with pragmatic considerations

    So, if I observe a dog and you observe dog, we will vary in our account of what it is that we observed and one of us may say that it was something other than a dog?

    The idea that categories are universal is something of a platonic stance. It might be useful for theorizing. But it’s an idealization. Whether ideal platonic categories can change is presumably a question to be answered by the theoreticians of that platonic stance.

    The notion that categories are universal is not unique to Plato. By definition it is something public that can be shared.
    Category: n. “a class or division of people or things regarded as having particular shared characteristics.”

    .

  47. 47
    StephenB says:

    Upright Biped:

    Neil you’ve made it clear that you see the rise of an immaterial thing to be no problem for material systems.

    UB, it appears that you have picked up on something that I missed. Did Neil really indicate that matter can produce a non-material entity? Even the epiphenominalists would not go that far. I hope Neil will clarify the point.

  48. 48
    Neil Rickert says:

    StephenB:

    So my question has been this: If not an immaterial mind, what is the source of that immaterial concept.

    Human inventiveness. The inventiveness of our perceptual systems.

    My view is something like J.J. Gibson’s direct perception. According to Gibson, we have neural devices that act as recognizers. He calls them transducers. They are tuned to the kind of things that we recognize. So the dog transducer is entirely material. The dog concept amounts to that which the dog transducer recognizes. That’s an abstraction, so immaterial.

    Does that mean that when we “perceive” (I would say apprehend or conceptualize) a dog, we are, in fact, simply describing our own interactions and that we are not really recognizing the dog as a dog.

    You are reading that too literally. By “our own interactions”, I did not intend to imply that I was referring only to conscious interactions. I’m thinking of the kind of interactions that go on in the perceptual system, such as the Gibsonian dog transducer recognizing the dog. And then the perceptual system presents us with a visual description of that interaction, which will include recognized features.

    So, if I observe a dog and you observe dog, we will vary in our account of what it is that we observed and one of us may say that it was something other than a dog?

    You will probably see that with young children. However, it is to the advantage of the child to align his categories with those of the larger society, so that such discrepancies become rare as the child matures.

    The notion that categories are universal is not unique to Plato. By definition it is something public that can be shared.

    So the young child studies up in encylopedias, and learns all of the characteristics of a dog before he ever sees one? It could not work that way.

    The child has to be able to categorize before he can perceive anything. And how to categorize is underdetermined by the way the world is. So there are unavoidably going to be differences. As the child matures, and begins to be able to observe how others categorize, he can attempt to align his categorization with that of others. It’s unlikely that the alignment will ever be perfect. This is an example of the kind of problem that Wittgenstein described as “the impossibility of learning a rule.”

  49. 49

    There is a category error afoot.

    Concepts are neither material things nor immaterial things. To conceptualize is to engage in a cognitive activity, not the in the creation of “things,” whether material things or “things in my mind.”

    Neural nets are quite capable of abstracting generalities from instances of particulars, and then of recognizing the presence of a class member from small fragments of a particular – a facility comparable to abstracting “dog” from individual dogs. Yet there is no immaterial component to a neural net, nor are immaterial “things” created as it acquires facility with a particular abstraction. There are changes in connection strengths within a network. There is nothing “immaterial” about that activity in the sense of “spiritual.”

  50. 50
    Joe says:

    So concepts are like photons, except our eyes cannot detect them?

    Neural nets are quite capable of abstracting generalities from instances of particulars, and then of recognizing the presence of a class member from small fragments of a particular

    The material neural nets were designed to aid the immaterial mind. BTW information is neither matter nor energy.

  51. 51
    seventrees says:

    Thank you for your clarification, StephenB.

  52. 52
    StephenB says:

    Neil, thank you for your input.

    My view is something like J.J. Gibson’s direct perception. According to Gibson, we have neural devices that act as recognizers. He calls them transducers. They are tuned to the kind of things that we recognize. So the dog transducer is entirely material. The dog concept amounts to that which the dog transducer recognizes. That’s an abstraction, so immaterial.

    In at least one sense, this position is not radically different from mine in the sense that we both recognize perceive (I call it conceptualize) a dog as a dog. On other words, we are in contact with reality. That is all to the good, but it doesn’t explain how a material brain (or transducer, if you like) produces an immaterial abstraction.

    Here is the difficulty. Matter-energy is made of parts and changes through time. Every material thing dies in the sense that it will disintegrate and eventually become another thing. A human body disintegrates and turns to dust. An immaterial mind (or soul, or spirit) has no parts, which means that it cannot disintegrate and will not die. Something that can die (matter) cannot produce something that cannot die (spirit). Thus, only an immaterial mind can produce an immaterial concept. You have not addressed the argument.
    [So, if I observe a dog and you observe dog, we will vary in our account of what it is that we observed and one of us may say that it was something other than a dog?]

    You will probably see that with young children.However, it is to the advantage of the child to align his categories with those of the larger society, so that such discrepancies become rare as the child matures.

    I think it would be more profitable to discuss only those who are capable of processing the world around them. If I observe a dog and you observe a dog (or any other adult observes a dog) will one of us vary in our account and say that it is something other than a dog? If the answer is yes, you need to explain. If the answer is no, then apprehended categories are, as I said, unchangeable. You are arguing that they are changeable and that they are not universal, which means that they are not shared by everyone (who is capable of doing so).

  53. 53
    Neil Rickert says:

    StephenB:

    Something that can die (matter) cannot produce something that cannot die (spirit).

    That’s surely nonsense. Conan Doyle died long ago. But the Sherlock Holmes that he produced does not appear to be dying. There’s lots of actively used mathematics that came from already dead mathematicians.

    If I observe a dog and you observe a dog (or any other adult observes a dog) will one of us vary in our account and say that it is something other than a dog? If the answer is yes, you need to explain. If the answer is no, then apprehended categories are, as I said, unchangeable.

    This misses the point entirely. Categories are not sets or classes.

    We form a set by assembling individuals. We form a category by taking the totality of everything, and dividing it in accordance with our criteria.

    Perhaps your criteria for a vertebrate are that it is any organism with kidneys, while my criteria are that it is any organism with vertebrae. We might both identify the same existing organisms as vertebrates, but we are using quite different categories. We can conceive of logically possible organisms that are in only one of those categories.

  54. 54
    StephenB says:

    [Something that can die (matter) cannot produce something that cannot die (spirit)].

    Neil

    That’s surely nonsense.

    It’s logical fact. Matter has nothing in it that can produce immateriality or spirit. Something that is temporal cannot morph into something that is immortal. Something that has parts cannot morph into something that has no parts. It’s logically impossible. Only non-matter can produce non-matter.

    Conan Doyle died long ago. But the Sherlock Holmes that he produced does not appear to be dying.

    Conan Doyle’s material body did not produce the immaterial story of Sherlock Holmes. Only an immaterial mind can produce a story. Matter cannot produce non-matter, not even in theory. There is no logical pathway from matter to non-matter.

    There’s lots of actively used mathematics that came from already dead mathematicians.

    Again, there is no logical pathway from brain to non-matter.

    Thanks for your contribution.

  55. 55
    StephenB says:

    Joe

    BTW information is neither matter nor energy.

    Absolutely right.

  56. 56
    Neil Rickert says:

    StephenB:

    It’s logical fact.

    That, it cannot be. Logic is solipsistic. It has no world. Logic facts are necessarily abstract facts. To reference material or death in a logic argument, there would need to be premises that make material or death available to the logic.

    Conan Doyle’s material body did not produce the immaterial story of Sherlock Holmes.

    This is a completely unevidenced religious apologetics claim. Or perhaps its an appeal to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

  57. 57
    StephenB says:

    Neil,

    thanks for your participation.

    [It’s logical fact (matter cannot produce non-matter)]] .

    That, it cannot be. Logic is solipsistic. It has no world. Logic facts are necessarily abstract facts. To reference material or death in a logic argument, there would need to be premises that make material or death available to the logic.

    Actually, Logic does apply to the real world. It is not just a mental exercise. The statement, if it rains, the streets will get wet applies both to both the mental aspect of logic and the real world aspect of logic. If logic didn’t apply to the real world, there would be no such thing as a sound argument.

    By definition, a material being has parts and can disintegrate. By definition, a non-material being has no parts and cannot die. If follows, therefore, that a material being cannot give rise to an immaterial being.

    [Conan Doyle’s material body did not produce the immaterial story of Sherlock Holmes.]

    This is a completely unevidenced religious apologetics claim. Or perhaps its an appeal to the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

    I have said nothing about religion at all. I simply pointed out that there is no logical pathway from matter to non-matter. You may say that logic does not apply to the real world, but that statement is easily refuted. I could prove unlimited examples to show that the rules of logic apply to existent beings.

    Logic is based on the law of non-contradiction (psychological, logical) AND the law of identity (ontological). The law of identify applies to the real world.

  58. 58
    Joe says:

    Earth to Neil Rickert:

    Our mind and consciousness emerging from our matter and energy interactions is a completely unevidenced religious apologetics claim. 😛

    Have a nice day

  59. 59
    seventrees says:

    StepehenB

    By definition, a material being has parts and can disintegrate. By definition, a non-material being has no parts and cannot die.

    Or,

    “By definition, a material being has parts and can undergo entropy. By definition, a non-material being has no parts and cannot undergo entropy“.

    Thus, this was not an unevidenced religious apologetics claim.

  60. 60
    StephenB says:

    seventrees

    Or,

    “By definition, a material being has parts and can undergo entropy. By definition, a non-material being has no parts and cannot undergo entropy“.

    Thus, this was not an unevidenced religious apologetics claim.

    Excellent.

  61. 61
    Neil Rickert says:

    StephenB:

    Actually, Logic does apply to the real world. It is not just a mental exercise.

    As a mathematician, I might know a thing or two about logic.

    I’ll repeat. Logic is solipsistic. It has no world.

    We apply logic to questions about the world. We take a world problem, and form premises. Then we use the logic to reach conclusions. And, finally, we interpret the conclusions in the world. The logic is the inference part, taking you from the premises to the conclusion. It is action on propositions (the premises) to infer another proposition (the conclusion). What the propositions say about the world plays no role in the logic.

    If logic didn’t apply to the real world, there would be no such thing as a sound argument.

    That’s confused.

    Logic is valid or invalid. Soundness applies to an argument, rather than to logic. The argument, as a whole, can apply to the world. But the logic part of the argument is an abstract operation on propositions.

    In typical use of logic, the premises are ordinary facts (assuming that they are true). They are not logical facts. The expression “logical fact” should apply to facts of the logic itself, such as rules of inference, and perhaps to tautologies. When analyzing logic within logic, such as Gödel has done, the premises might be logical facts. But, in ordinary arguments, the premises are ordinary facts.

  62. 62
    StephenB says:

    [Actually, Logic does apply to the real world. It is not just a mental exercise.]
    Neil Rickert

    I’ll repeat. Logic is solipsistic. It has no world.

    Logic is not solipsistic in the sense that it can be applied to the real world. That is why it has a logical/psychological component (mental) and an ontological component (real world). I have already provided an example: If it rains, the streets will get wet. If logic was solipsistic, it could not be applied to real world situations and problems. I can provide more examples if you like.

    That is what the Law of Identity is all about. It is the foundational law for statements about the real world. A thing cannot be what it is (not just how we perceive it) and also be something else at the same time in the same way. That is a statement about the real world. Jupiter cannot exist and not exist at the same time. Jupiter is the name a planet in the real world. The law of identity applies to it, just as it applies to the existence of anything.

    However, we are getting pretty far afield. My earlier statement, which is the subject of this thread and one which you did not address, is still in force:
    If a thing has parts (matter), it can disintegrate and die; if a thing doesn’t have parts (non-matter) it cannot disintegrate and die—therefore, matter cannot produce or be changed into non matter. You have not yet addressed the main issue.

Leave a Reply