The Hate-Monger of the Gaps

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[From a colleague:]

The problem is that methodological naturalism prevents us from detecting a “hate” crime, since “hate” is an immaterial property had by agents that can only be inferred from behavior, speech, etc. Other minds cannot be observed, just inferred by analogy, like the traditional argument from design.

Because it is always possible that what appears to be “hate” may very well be the result of non-agent causes that merely manifest themselves in a way that appear to be agent caused, attributing “hate” to a cluster of cells we call a “human being” is just “hate-monger of the gaps.” It is an argument from ignorance because we have not yet discovered the non-agent causes that made the hate come into being.

71 Replies to “The Hate-Monger of the Gaps

  1. 1
    tragicmishap says:


  2. 2
    taciturnus says:

    It’s always fun to make a similar argument against the SETI folks and accuse them of postulating an “alien-of-the-gaps”.

  3. 3
    Mark Nutter says:

    Not surprisingly, Mr. Colleague fails to provide an alternative to methodological naturalism which would provide superior results in accurately detecting hate crimes. 😉

  4. 4
    mentok says:

    Our minds design things all of the time but the only mind we have experience of as being real is our own since we cannot see, touch, taste, weigh, etc, a mind and intellect. Essentially a mind and intellect are supernatural phenomena in the sense that the mind and intellect are not made up of matter/energy. We take it for granted that our minds are intelligent designers yet find it impossible for an intelliegent designer to exist with powers greater then our own because calling upon a supernatural designer is irrational?

  5. 5
    WormHerder says:

    I Love it !! Can I say that?… is it objective ?
    Of course I cannot be Objective because as an apparently (?) evolved being I cannot have Objectivity.
    Everything I do,think,feel,monitor and decide to collect data on, is conditioned by evoultion so there are no objective facts at all-including the fact that there are no objective facts.
    Even my inferences-drives yer mad dunnit?
    WormHerder out

  6. 6
    DaysofNoah says:

    Perfect. Yes. It’s amazing how simple the logic gets when you get to the exactly where the conceptual hoodwinking begins with de facto, committed people proclaiming the absence of de facto commitments. Keep it up. Who knows, if Carl Jung was on to something, maybe this’ll spread in many more ways than can be “seen”…ya know…like those lovely tree-scents in your car, after you’ve hung one from the rear-view mirror, and then don’t realize until dinner that you have an inescapable nimbus of French Vanilla all around yourself. 🙂

  7. 7
    Bombadill says:

    Cutting to the core dilemna of materialism and it’s notion of an “emergent” illusion of consciousness and unique self.

  8. 8
    DaveScot says:

    “Essentially a mind and intellect are supernatural phenomena in the sense that the mind and intellect are not made up of matter/energy.”

    Certainly they are made of matter/energy. If you destroy someone’s leg the mind and intellect remain. If you destroy their eyes and ears, the mind and intellect remain. If you destroy the brain the mind and intellect are destroyed with it.

  9. 9
    russ says:

    DaveScott wrote: “If you destroy the brain the mind and intellect are destroyed with it.”

    If someone burns down Dave’s house while Dave is in it, Dave is destroyed. Does that mean that Dave is made of wood, drywall and nails?

  10. 10
    keiths says:

    DaveScot writes:
    “If you destroy someone’s leg the mind and intellect remain. If you destroy their eyes and ears, the mind and intellect remain. If you destroy the brain the mind and intellect are destroyed with it.”

    This is perhaps the first time I’ve found myself in whole-hearted agreement with a post of yours. It’s such a milestone that I have to ask: You weren’t being ironic, were you? 🙂

    As Dave says, the mind depends on the brain. The medical and scientific evidence for this is overwhelming, and it applies to emotions, behavior, and morality as well as cognition. The weight of this evidence has convinced me that there cannot be an immaterial soul that acts as the body’s puppeteer and departs it at death.

    I’d be interested in learning, from those of you who believe in an immaterial soul (if any of you do), how you reconcile your belief with the evidence presented by modern neuroscience. Given all of the functions carried out by the brain, all of which appear to be disruptible by injury or disease or intoxication or even transcranial magnetic stimulation, what functions are left for the soul to furnish?

  11. 11
    keiths says:

    russ writes:
    “If someone burns down Dave’s house while Dave is in it, Dave is destroyed. Does that mean that Dave is made of wood, drywall and nails?”

    Russ, your analogy implies that Dave’s mind is separate from, but housed in, Dave’s brain.

    If so:
    1. Why are Dave’s memory and judgment impaired when he goes on a bender? (Sorry, Dave, this is purely hypothetical!)
    2. Why can a stroke impair Dave’s ability to understand speech, when his hearing and his ability to recognize sounds remain unimpaired?
    3. Why can damage to Dave’s brain change his personality and even his morality?

  12. 12
    JS says:

    then these are things that we should explore rather than ridicule at the beginning!

  13. 13
    taciturnus says:


    That physical changes to the body can have mental affects is not a new insight. Classical philosophers like Aristotle and Aquinas knew it (sick men can’t think straight), although not in the detail we know now. But our increased knowledge of the details of physical effects on mental processes has not changed the character of the mind/body question from what it was 2000 years ago.

    The reasons guys like Aristotle and Aquinas believed in a non-material aspect of the soul had nothing do with emotions, memory or morality. They were based on the rational nature of the soul, that is, the soul’s ability to understand and to know.
    For materialism to establish itself, it has to demonstrate a purely material account of the nature of knowledge and human understanding. Modern science has not done this and, as far as I know, has not even attempted it. It’s not enough to show that the brain exhibits electrical activity when we think, or that our thinking is impaired when the brain is damaged. It must be shown how rational thought itself can be accounted for in purely material terms.

    For instance, one reason Aquinas did not think the soul could be purely material is because of the infinite nature of our thoughts, and no material body is infinite. I think “2+2=4”. Is this nothing but matter in motion? Then it must be some particular matter in some particular motion. Now I think “3+2=5”. This is a different configuration of matter in motion. I can also think “3+3=6”, “4+4=8”, and in fact, an infinite variety of such thoughts, since there is no largest number of which I can think. Therefore there must be an infinite variety of possible configurations of matter in motion in my brain, which is impossible, because the brain is a finite body. Ergo, the rational part of the soul cannot be merely material. There are many other arguments along this line, and others as well, all based on the rational nature of the soul.

    The point is that it is not emotions and memory that pose a problem for the materialist mind. No one ever thought they did. Aquinas granted that animals have emotions and memory but not that they have a substantial soul, because they do not have the capacity for rational knowledge that we do. Showing that emotions and memory have a material foundation proves nothing. What is needed is a philosophical account of how rational thought can be purely material. (This includes scientific thought, by the way. What the materialist needs to show is not scientists viewing brain activity in the lab, but how scientific thought itself can be explained on a purely material basis.)

    Dave T.

  14. 14
    Bombadill says:

    Extremely well put, taciturnus.

    I have cited experiments here in other threads, by neuroscientists, which demonstrate how parts of the brain controlling motor reflexes have been stimulated while the subject is instructed to resist. They have conlcuded that there is a “will” which transcends the physical apparatus as it tries to do something directly against what the physical apparatus is being stimulated to do.

  15. 15
    taciturnus says:


    You are right that besides the intellect, the rational will is something materialists have a hard time accounting for. For the materialist case to get off the ground, they need to show that the rational will itself can be determined through material means. (That the will can be overpowered through material means, e.g. drugs, is of course a commonplace that has long been known. That’s not the same as determining the will itself through material means.)

    Dave T.

  16. 16
    taciturnus says:


    I’m a fan of Tolkien as well…

    You are right that besides the intellect, the rational will is another thing that materialists have a hard time accounting for. That the will can be overpowered by material means (e.g. drugs) is something that has been known for centuries and proves nothing. Can the rational will itself be determined by merely material means? That’s a much tougher nut to crack.

    Dave T.

  17. 17

    […] UPDATE: Hate-Monger-of-the-Gaps. […]

  18. 18
    taciturnus says:


    You are right that the rational will is a problem for the materialist. It’s been known for centuries that the will can be overpowered by material means (e.g. drugs,) but determining the rational will itself through matter is a much tougher nut to crack.

    I’m a Tolkien fan as well.

    Dave T.

  19. 19
    BK says:

    Right on taciturnus. I would only add that materialism in the philosophy of mind also has not been able to explain consciousness or rationality in materialist terms. The materialists are left hoping for some future revolution in understanding that will allow us to describe these things in completely material terms. In other words, there is no philosophical evidence for materialism, it is a faith-based position. The explanatory gap is an infinite one.

    Neuroscience only establishes a sort of dependency of rationality on the brain, but it does not warrant the reduction of rationality to the brain. On the other hand, even if mind can be reduced to matter, why should this bother us? Could not matter itself be reducable to a spiritual principle? Shouldn’t we move past cartesian dualism where it is thought that the spiritual can only be preserved by not contaminating it with matter, and on the other side matter is thought of as some spiritual-free, god-free, autonomous substance?

  20. 20
    DaveScot says:


    “The weight of this evidence has convinced me that there cannot be an immaterial soul that acts as the body’s puppeteer and departs it at death.”

    That’s not necessarily so but all the scientific evidence points that way. One cannot disprove the notion that the brain functions something like a radio receiver for “soul waves”. However, the supposed soul waves can’t be energy of any known form else the original claim that mind is neither matter nor energy is false as it would be energy in that case. There’s still a lot to learn in physics. Current theory fails to account for about 95% of the stuff that makes up the universe as evidenced by the motion of observable masses. About 75% of the “stuff” of the universe is some uncharacterized thing called “dark energy” and another 20% is some unobserved but better characterized “dark matter. Either that or our understanding of gravity is deeply flawed. What’s hidden in the 95% we know little to nothing about? Possibly a whole helluva lot!

    I agree the house burning down analogy was lame for all the reasons you gave.

    And traditionally we talk of “Joe’s Brain” not “Dave’s Brain”. The choice of name makes me mildly uncomfortable. 🙂 The Reader’s Digest started that tradition oh must be at least 40 years ago. I remember reading RD articles that long ago entitled “Joe’s Brain”, “Joe’s Liver”, “Joe’s Pancreas”, “Joe’s Heart”, “Joe’s Lung”, etc. etc. They eventually covered the entire human anatomy in that series.

  21. 21
    taciturnus says:


    Rather than moving past Descartes, we could back up before him. The “mind/body problem” became a problem when Cartesian dualism swept the philosophical world in the 17th century. For the older scholastic tradition, which was not dualist,it wasn’t a problem. Aquinas never mentions it in his Summa.

    And if you think about it, no one ever encounters mere “matter.” We encounter trees, houses, men, dirt, electrons, etc., in other words, matter under intelligible form. What exists are beings, which have both a material and ideal aspect. You can make an argument that, if anything, the ideal aspect is the more fundamental, since it is only through ideas that matter has any existential form at all.

    The scholastic view is helpful to ID, by the way, because it shows why ID is not a mystical or esoteric project. ID is merely a way of quantifying the ideal aspect of being that everything has by nature. That ideal aspect is not something made up by ID… it’s always been there, just lately forgotten.

    Dave T.

  22. 22
    rabbite_uk says:

    One analogy would be music and tapes. The composer creates the music (the eternal art) and stores it on a tape.

    Similarly, one could hypothesize that God created each of us specially and that each soul is stored to a medium (i.e. human mind and body).

    If the tape becomes damaged, either part or all of the music is lost or distorted. The music is the special aspect here and so even though it can not now be heard (or is greatly distorted), that doesn’t mean the music wasn’t special all along.

    Similarly if the human brain is diseased or damaged, the person will act or behave in a less conscious or abnormal way. Hence people who are healthy are much closer to the original “blueprint” (and will be more sentient and in control of their thoughts and actions).

    The trick is not to conflate the art (music/soul) with the storage medium (tape/mind) even though damage to the latter can adversely affect the former.

    Yes, one can assume that when the body dies, that is the end of it. One could also assume that we are here for a purpose and that when the physical body dies, the soul (which might not be detected in the physical realm) can be retained and repaired where necessary. There is also the possibility that our souls exist elsewhere and we have human manifestations for the purpose of learning things in the material world which can be fed back to the spiritual world. All very speculative of course!

  23. 23
    keiths says:

    Bombadill, taciturnus, BK and DaveScot — thanks for your thought-provoking responses. There’s a lot to respond to, so I think I’ll have to do it in several separate posts. Let me start with Bombadill’s evidence for a non-physical will:

    Bombadill writes:
    “They have concluded that there is a “will” which transcends the physical apparatus…”

    As you describe them, the experimental results do not necessarily support the idea of a non-physical will. Brain functions are typically quite localized. The intent to move your arm and the subconscious planning of the necessary muscle contraction sequence are generated in areas of the brain which are distinct from the areas which actually carry out the motion. In the experiment you cite, it sounds like they are stimulating the latter. If so, then it makes sense that the subjects could be consciously resisting the motion while at the same time the stimulus forces them to carry it out, since the intent to resist arises in a portion of the brain which is not being stimulated. On this view, there is no need to posit a transcendental will originating outside of the brain.

    If the stimulus intensity were gradually decreased, you would expect at some point that the subject’s conscious resistance would be able to overpower the stimulus and prevent the motion. It would be an interesting experiment to see if it takes a stronger stimulus to elicit movement when the subject is consciously resisting the motion versus when the subject is totally relaxed and passive. Did the researchers address this?

    I’d be quite interested in reading the paper. Do you have the lead researcher’s name or a journal reference?

    Further evidence that the will is embodied is an article entitled “Drowning Mr. M”, from the spring 2005 issue of Scientific American Mind magazine, Volume 16, Number 1. It’s available online at, but unfortunately you have to pay for it (I subscribe to the print version).

    The article begins:
    “The summer heat is oppressive. Mr. M, seated beside his pool, looks at the cold water. “What could be better than a refreshing dip?” he thinks. He dives headfirst into the water and takes a couple of powerful strokes. Then, suddenly, he stops. He exhales, sinks to the bottom and simply stares straight ahead. “I’m drowning,” he realizes, strangely unperturbed. He knows that a few strong kicks would bring him back to the surface. But he can’t quite bring himself to do so.”

    “As luck would have it, his daughter has been watching from inside the house. She runs out and dives in the pool to save him. The sight of his daughter shakes Mr. M from his apathy, and just as she reaches him he propels himself upward, breaking the surface and gasping for air. Later he tells his family, ‘I don’t know what was wrong with me. I just didn’t want to swim anymore.'”

    “What was happening in Mr. M’s brain as he came within seconds of drowning? How could he so abruptly lose all desire to act, even to save his own life?”

    The article goes on to say that Mr. M suffers from PAP syndrome, with the French acronym translating to “loss of psychic autoactivation”. PAP syndrome involves damage to the brain’s limbic loop.

    More from the article:
    “Within only a few weeks after the pool incident, Mr. M’s personality underwent a drastic change. The normally active and energetic man became increasingly passive and apathetic. He spent entire days in bed yet felt neither boredom nor impatience. His family had to remind him constantly to carry out the most basic activities: ‘Come to dinner! Get dressed! Take a shower!’… Mr. M’s wife said her husband would have starved to death had she not intervened. Yet he never complained of hunger… Incredibly, PAP patients do experience hunger and pain. They simply lack the will to react.”

    You might ask: If their will is impaired, how can PAP patients respond when prompted? It turns out that the will to respond to a verbal command involves other brain pathways which bypass the damaged area.

    So not only does the will appear to be a physical phenomenon; its unity also appears to be illusory.

  24. 24
    keiths says:

    DaveScot writes:
    “And traditionally we talk of ‘Joe’s Brain’, not ‘Dave’s Brain’. The choice of name makes me mildly uncomfortable. :-)”

    Good point. Henceforth we shall speak of “Joe’s Brain”, “Joe’s Soul”, “Joe’s Transcendent Will”, “Joe’s Embodied Will”, and either “Joe’s Indefensible Dogmatic Darwinian Belief System” or “Joe’s Hubristic Quasi-scientific Neocreationist Worldview”, depending on whether we are talking about Joseph K. Miller or Joseph W. Dembski.

    ‘Joe’ continues:
    “The Reader’s Digest started that tradition oh must be at least 40 years ago. I remember reading RD articles that long ago entitled “Joe’s Brain”, “Joe’s Liver”, “Joe’s Pancreas”, “Joe’s Heart”, “Joe’s Lung”, etc. etc. They eventually covered the entire human anatomy in that series.”

    I remember those articles! My mom kept a shelf full of Reader’s Digests as bathroom reading material. The articles were entitled “I am Joe’s “, with Joe replaced by Jane when necessary (and only when necessary– the editors were still pretty sexist at the time). I smuggled the juicy ones out of the house (“I am Jane’s Breast”, “I am Joe’s Testicle”, etc.), which is how my best friend Kent and I learned about sex and reproduction.

    DaveScot writes:
    “One cannot disprove the notion that the brain functions something like a radio receiver for “soul waves”. However, the supposed soul waves can’t be energy of any known form else the original claim that mind is neither matter nor energy is false as it would be energy in that case.”

    True, although you could still argue that the soul/transmitter itself was incorporeal, which is really what matters for people like Bombadill. If the soul/transmitter makes the decisions while the brain/receiver merely acts upon them, then it can be imagined that the soul will continue thinking and willing once separated from the body.

    The problems with this model become evident when you consider physical changes to the brain. Russell Swerdlow and Jeffrey Burns tell of a man who suddenly became a pedophile due to the growth of a brain tumor (follow link below for the full story). The pedophilia disappeared when the tumor was removed, but returned when the tumor partially regrew. The tumor was removed again, and the man’s urges subsided for a second time.

    Under the “immaterial soul as transmitter” model, this man’s soul is the seat of his will (including his sexual morality). If so, why should he oscillate between pedophilia and normalcy as the tumor waxes and wanes? The integrity of his transcendent soul ought to remain untouched by the brain tumor.

    To salvage the model, you could argue that the soul itself remains virtuous, but that the brain-cum-soulwave-receiver garbles the signal, so that the body ends up acting against the soul’s will. But in that case the soul would experience great distress at losing control of the body, and would express that distress (assuming it retained control of the speech organs). This did not happen in the case of Swerdlow’s patient.

    If the soul completely lost control over the body, including the organs of speech, then the soul would be unable to communicate its distress to anyone else. The body would just continue on its unguided path like a zombie, with the helpless soul along for the ride.

    Without visibility into the soul, we would never know that this was happening. Perhaps we’re suspecting something vaguely like this when we say of someone, “She hasn’t been herself lately.”

    Two problems with this model: A garbled message from the soul/transmitter would be unlikely to result in behavior as purposive and coordinated as pedophilia; I’d expect something more akin to an epileptic seizure. Secondly, most of us have had the experience of intoxication, which certainly alters our will and may cause behavior inconsistent with our “true” character. Yet in the moment we feel no conflict between our will and our actions. Our will has been affected by the alcohol. But why should the soul, which is the seat of the will in our model, be affected by alcohol, a purely material substance affecting the material brain?

    I can’t think of any other options for salvaging the idea of a transcendental soul. I gave up the idea a long time ago, and you know what? It’s not so bad. Life is still meaningful, morality still has its force, and I don’t have to worry about being bored in heaven (singing God’s praises eternally never sounded like much fun to me as a kid).

    A link to the tumor/pedophilia story:

  25. 25
    rabbite_uk says:


    I’d be interested to know what you think about the following article:

  26. 26
    pmob1 says:


    You wrote:
    –And if you think about it, no one ever encounters mere “matter.” We encounter trees, houses, men, dirt, electrons, etc., in other words, matter under intelligible form.–

    But we do sometimes see “raw matter,” if you will, when we are momentarily unable to recognize an object in context, to place it intelligibly. This can happen during fast, shocking experiences of events when something blasts into view but you can’t immediately place it. Nevertheless, you sense it. Later, when you have rendered it intelligible, you may even be able to recall a bit of its initial inchoate quality, although this is difficult. This raw apprehension also occurs under poor lighting conditions or directly upon waking. I think it is an aspect of some optical illusions. It can happen with the other senses as well, sometimes with amusing effects.

  27. 27
    taciturnus says:


    If a New Guinea tribesman sees an airplane fly over head, he won’t be able to understand it if he has never seen one before. Nonetheless, it is still an airplane and not “raw matter” flying overhead, he just doesn’t know it. An airplane is matter existing in a particular form. It has that form whether an observer appreciates it or not. I think you are confusing the psychology of perception with metaphysics.

    Dave T.

  28. 28
    taciturnus says:


    I notice that your arguments from medical science are always pathological. Trauma occurs to someone’s brain and some aspect of a man’s behavior or perception becomes “broken.”

    These arguments remind of the manner in which Darwinists argue that loss of function through natural selection is evidence for evolution. Fish at the bottom of the sea don’t need eyes so they gradually lose them, and this proves evolution. The problem with these arguments is that evolution claims to be a positive force that develops function, not simply destroys it (which no one doubts), and proving that natural selection can destroy function goes nowhere in proving that it can add function as well.

    Similarly, cases of brain injury impairing mental function make the negative case that the brain can disturb thought, but don’t add to a positive case demonstrating that thought can be understood as a purely material process in the brain. Like the Darwinist’s need to show that eyes and flagella can be constructed out of natural selection, materialists need to demonstrate that thoughts can be constructed out of matter to prove their case.

    Dave T.

  29. 29
    taciturnus says:

    Typos in my last: In the second paragraph, there should be a “me” after “remind” and “supposedly proves evolution” instead of “proves evolution.”

    Dave T.

  30. 30
    pmob1 says:

    Keiths, regarding your msg # 10

    I am with you on this one. Good points. Devastating points.

    Life is specialized physics. Mind is a feedback loop that temporarily manages a series of other loops. It does have some reactive connections to the “objective” world. (Otherwise it would not exist. It could not have survived and reproduced!) Emotions are already understood! We have mapped them in the labs and textbooks!. The “will” occurs within a discrete neural matrix. We will locate it soon and know its laws.

    “Morality” remains a problem only because of the persistent “emotion-interference” that plagues less-developed units. I think this can be dealt with; is already being dealt with. These units have work functions or even econo-consumer functions that are valuable to all of us. Even “will” can be tamed, if only we dare. Actually, we modulate “will” already through television, depression drugs, pornography, class-action suits, taxes and so forth. The mechanisms are there.

    The amazing thing is, Keith, these mechanisms are but the most primitive of controls. We have cloning and stem cells now, and even these will seem laughably primitive a generation from now.

    Existing life-units remain a problem but their life spans delimit the end of that problem. Future life-units are within the grasp of enlightened modification. Violence, hate, hurtful comments: these things shall be engineered out of existence.

    And how shall we decide all this in the absence of traditional “morality?’ Why through the democratic process, that’s how. As with Darwinism, we should ask (nay demand):

    “Where is the better theory?”

  31. 31
    Ekstasis says:


    I wonder if you are familiar with the writings of Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D. in biochem from Cambridge In his The Sense of Being Stared At and Other Aspects of the Extended Mind, he compiles a vast quantity of scientific studies, etc supporting the idea that thoughts have what we currently consider an immaterial existence. There is not space here to

    As alluded to in earlier comments, thoughts are then played by our brains much as software is played by computer hardware or televisions play radio waves. We could manipulate television hardware to override the wave patterns, but that does not eliminate the existence of such information patterns.

    If thoughts have an immaterial existence, then the idea that the mind has an immaterial aspect, and then that the soul exists, is not such a big leap. So, are you or others aware of any info that would contradict the evidence that Sheldrake presents?

    One last set of evidence — Near Death Experiences (NDE). Yes, many natural explanations have been presented for this phenomenon, the brain is oxygen starved, etc. However, a significant number of these incidents involve the accident victim or patient returning and testifying to sights, sounds, or conversations they could not have possibly perceived by natural means, in some cases when their brain activity was totally absent. Of course, many will always try to explain this away, but the sheer numbers makes it difficult to simply dismiss.

  32. 32
    pmob1 says:


    I like the analogy of Soul Wave receivers and I appreciate the mind/matter problems so posed. But couldn’t Mind or Soul (etc.) be nothing but a constellation of Fock spaces held in decaying equilibrium by a Weller determinant? In that case, energy constants are unnecessary. Selection between eigenstates of matrices in typical quantum “moments” of consciousness may appear to exclude a continuous, binding “I” or Self, but the Weller determinant would provide for this.

  33. 33
    Josh Bozeman says:

    If you think free will doesn’t exist, I don’t see how you can even accept that morality itself exists. You can’t expect humans to act in any certain manner if free will doesn’t really exist. Morality depends on free will- for if there is no free will, then one can only act out in a manner prescribed by his physical brain (brain chemicals), in which case morality becomes obsolete.

    I say if you deny free will exists, you have to deny morality truly exists. If humans aren’t really running their own lives, and it’s merely brain chemicals with no purpose, then morality itself is out the door. I can’t possibly expect a person to act a certain way when their brain demands they act differently…nor can I even make a moral judgement, because how can you label something wrong morally if free will is gone and humans are merely acting out the demands of their brain chemicals? If we follow this logic, to be fair- we’d surely have to label ALL human behavior merely the result of brain chemicals, therefore, it wouldn’t be fair to punish (via imprisonment) people who act in what most us would label “immoral” ways. If they can’t control their brain chemicals, they can’t control their actions- thus, they can’t reasonably be punished for their actions (which really aren’t even THEIR actions in that sense to begin with.)

  34. 34
    keiths says:


    Good one (especially the “decaying equilibrium” part).

    But you neglected the nomothetic implications of the Planck-Euler diffeomorphism for the renormalization of pleiodesic SU(3) subspaces.

  35. 35
    mentok says:

    For those who say that the mind is matter/energy:

    If you destroy the brain and by doing so the mind ceases to function that doesn’t mean that the mind is comprised of matter/energy anymore then destroying eyes means that sight is comprised of matter/energy. The brain is needed in order for the mind to function in a body just like eyes are needed for sight to be functional in a body.But in either case there is a difference between the host and the hosted.

    Matter/energy is comprised of quantifiable particle/waves. Are thoughts comprised of matter/energy? What is the mind? It is thought led by memory observed by consciousness. Memory is the key to unlocking the mystery of the mind. How does memory work? Let’s try a memory experiment: What did you eat for dinner 10 nights ago?…………………….What did you do to try and “get” that memory? Let’s face facts; you can’t really do anything, you may try and look inside your mind but that proves to be fruitless because there is nothing to see. Let’s try another experiement. Before I aks you this question be ready to observe or listen to your mind when the question is asked and make an effort to not think anything, just listen to that voice in your head….ready?…Try and remember your first name.

    What happened? That voice immediately said your name to you didn’t it? That is how one type of memory is made available to your awareness. The inner voice speaks the information to your awareness. How did that inner voice access the memory? Does it know where to look? Do you? So the mystery here is…how does my experience of whatever I experience become stored as memory and then how is that memory accessed and presented to my awareness without any actual effort on my part? By effort I don’t mean trying to memorize something by reading it over and over, I mean effort in the sense of actual storage and retreival of data, like you have to do on a computer.

    The standard answer is …the brain does it. How does the brain do it you may ask… no one knows. Can someone tell me how a biological machine can perceive what my awareness is experiencing? And then take that experience and store it in some kind of code. And then access that experience based on my desire for it? How does a machine read your thoughts and experiences and then store, sort, search, access, and give those thoughts back to your mind? All without your effort?

    Can a biological machine or any machine do that? Can a machine perceive thought or desire? Are there cells in your brain which can store thought information? No one has found cells that do that trick. So the search now is in the area of neural nets by many scientists. But neural nets are just like wires in a brain. There may be some type of wiring but there is no database, no means to transform information into a code and then store that coded information in a database in a logical and intelligent manner, no means to search for that coded information, no means to know when to search for that coded information, and no means to decode that coded information and turn into a language you can understand and “speak” it into your awareness. Yet amazingly all of these things are going on all of the time.

    The wires may be there for some reason to do with the functioning of the brain/body/mind interplay, but where is the information stored? And how does the experience of your awareness become transformed into a code of some type and then stored somewhere and then searched for and accessed and presented to your awareness by your desire? It’s like expecting the wires in your computer to do all the work of your computer for people to speculate that neural nets are the answer to memory and mind.

    Can a machine interact with your thoughts and desires? Can a machine do that in any human language that exists or ever will exist? It would have to be a thinking machine because it would have to figure out what you are doing at all times and be able to respond qucikly to your thoughts. The machine would have to be conscious of your thoughts. Can machines do that?

    You don’t have control over the access of memory. You don’t know where memory is so even if you knew how to access it you wouldn’t know where to look, also you wouldn’t know how to look.

    For those who say neuroscience has answered all these questions…uh uh. Not even close. If you thought there were many gaps in knowledge in other fields of science, you aint seen nothing yet. The mind brain relationship is the biggest mystery there is and any honest researcher will agree.

    Neurons are not thinking mechanisms, they are mechanical mechanisms. Biological chemical reactions are incapable of interfacing with your thought process, they are not programmed to do that. In fact it is impossbile for cells to be aware of anything because they have no conscious awareness. They work by chemical reaction. There is not a single cell in your body which is aware of anything. They are robots. They cannot be aware of your thoughts and experiences. They cannot capture, store, nor process any aspect of the memory system. That requires awareness of your thoughts and experiences and desires. Processing desire and thought demands a desire/thought receptor/transmitter. Technology that is sufficiently advanced will apear to be magic to those unaware of it’s intricacies. We do not have full access to all of the dimensions involved in our world. We only see the tip of the iceberg. There must be an unknown technology which operates in other dimensions and which can affect our own. Our memory system cannot function as it does without some unseen control.

    Can a chemical reaction based machine be constantly aware of your thoughts, experiences, and mental imagery? Can a machine based on chemical reactions then store those thoughts, experiences, and images? Can those machines then make them available to your awareness simply by your desire? Can any type of cell in your body read your mind? Can any type of cell search out and present data to your mind? The answer is no. Cells are machines that do what they are programmed to do. They are robotic. They cannot read your mind and then copy that information and then store it and then access it later based on your desire. They do not have the ability to store memory. They are machines that work unconsciously. By looking for a physical process to explain how memory works we come to an impasse. There are no cells that have ever been discovered that have the ability to do what is necessary to enable them to interact with our thoughts and experiences, and then store and access that information.

    A person suggested to me that my idea that memories of people are completely beyond our control is quite wrong. He said that if that were true then no memory improvement techniques would ever work. But some do. The idea that memory improvement “techniques” prove that we control memory is not something I can agree with. What is a memory improvement technique? What do they actually enhance? Lets look at a memory impairment technique, say a lobotomy or drinking a lot of alcohol.

    Memory in all cases, with or without impairment or enhancement, remains beyond our control. We may be able to enhance or impair our ability to receive a memory, but we do not actually control the retrieval nor the storage of any memory. This is simple to prove. Try and remember what you were doing this time 1 week ago. What do you do to try and access that memory? You sit or stand, and you may close your eyes or not, and you wait for a memory to appear, either a direct memory of 1 week ago or another memory which you may think can point you in the right direction. You do not do anything else, you can’t. There is nothing else you can do. You do not have access directly to your memories, they simply appear or not without you doing any data search in any data bank.

    That is how all memory appears to your consciousness. Your mind, or that voice in your head, either informs you of a memory without you doing any data searching, or it doesn’t retrieve the memory. Either way you do no actual data search, you have no capacity and no knowledge of where to look if you did have the capacity. So you do not control memory but you can affect your ability to perceive memory. By doing things to your body you can affect how your consciousness is able to perceive the mind and how well the mind functions, the mind is what memory is given to you through, the inner voice is what gives you the memory. But you do not actually control the access of memory itself. If you eat healthy foods or take a drug of some type which enhances your alertness and awareness then your ability to perceive a memory can he heightened, conversely it can be impaired the same way.

    Memory is provided to us via the little voice in our head. We call that voice the mind. What is that voice? How do we “hear” it? Not with our ears, it makes no audible sound. Yet we “hear” it. How do we hear it and what kind of “sound” is it? It isn’t a sound at all, yet we “hear” it speaking. This is all very mysterious. As you read these words the inner voice is reciting these words in your head. We think that we can control this inner voice. But try and read these words while not allowing this inner voice to recite these words in your head as you read these words. You will find it to be impossible. You cannot control this voice in your head as you read because this voice in your head is not under your control.

    Here is an alternative theory about the mind. Imagine a dimension of consciousness/mind. For arguments sake let’s suppose the universe is infinite. Within the infinite space of the universe we can observe 3 dimensional substances, both gross and subtle. Our mind and consciousness exist, yet they are not comprised of 3 dimensional elements. Our mind, thoughts, and consciousness cannot be examined and weighed and shown to be made up of particles/waves of matter/energy. Our consciousness and mind exist yet they are comprised of a substance which is not 3 dimensional. Dreams or thought images are not comprised of matter, they are comprised of a different substance. They exist in a different dimension or dimensions. They exist and are comprised of a substance or substances which exists in it’s own dimension. What if that dimension was a single unified field? Imagine the universe being pervaded by a unified field of something existing in it’s own dimension or dimensions beyond our material perception. That unified field could be comprised of mind and consciousness.
    What if our brains are machines which allow our bodies and awareness to interact with that field? What if our minds were all connected because there is really only a single unified field of mind energy which we are all a part of? That mind is speaking to us and giving us memory which we need in order to be able to function as intelligent beings. Our memory is stored and given to us by that mind via the voice in our head. Obviously that universal mind would have to be self aware and functioning on a level beyond our understanding. It would be something like a cosmic computer which exists in a dimension that we are only perceiving to a slight degree.

  36. 36
    DaveScot says:


    There’s one inescapable fact you seemingly failed to consider in abandoning any notion of self continuance after death – you became conscious of yourself from an unconscious beginning. It then follows that what can happen once can happen again. And again, and again, and again. In an infinite universe what happens once MUST happen again, and in an infinite variety of subtly different ways too. Now that’s a scary thought.

  37. 37
    DaveScot says:


    “I like the analogy of Soul Wave receivers and I appreciate the mind/matter problems so posed. But couldn’t Mind or Soul (etc.) be nothing but a constellation of Fock spaces held in decaying equilibrium by a Weller determinant? In that case, energy constants are unnecessary. Selection between eigenstates of matrices in typical quantum “moments” of consciousness may appear to exclude a continuous, binding “I” or Self, but the Weller determinant would provide for this.”

    I’m going to have to drink about that for a while and get back to you. Cheers!

  38. 38
    DaveScot says:


    Your agruments might have been valid decades ago but thoughts can be mapped to changes in electrical and chemical activity in the brain. Electrical and chemical activity are not immaterial.

    There is NO, repeat NO scientific evidence pointing to any other source of mind than the brain and there is MUCH, repeat MUCH scientific evidence in support of mind being the product of material brain function.

  39. 39
    Josh Bozeman says:

    I don’t mentok’s arguments hinge on a belief that the mind doesn’t in any way act on the material brain. Of course it has to act on some aspect of the physical in a physical realm. No reasonable scientist is going to claim to know what consciousness is let alone how it came to be and what it all means…which is a fairly wide gap in our knowledge, and it seems that purely material processes cannot account for various aspects of mind such as qualia (besides the theory that qualia don’t really exist and it’s all an illusion.)

    Thoughts themselves cannot be mapped in the brain- chemical reactions and electrical charges can be mapped, but you can’t think of something and watch the brain light up and then have a machine read the thought. You can’t, with the evidence, just reduce thoughts to chemicals and electrical currents- these could easily be the thoughts and such working within a physical space and acting on brain matter. As I said, an immaterial thought would have to express itself in the physical world thru a physical body such as the brain. Because the mind would have to interact with brain that’s far from saying the mind IS brain.

    In the end, you’re still left with qualia and other properties that can’t yet be understood as merely the work of chemicals and energy.

  40. 40
    keiths says:


    It’s a beautiful day here in northern California and my motorcycle beckons, so I’m going to postpone the replies I owe to several of you.

    Motorcycling is good for the soul — er, brain.


  41. 41
    mentok says:

    Your are right josh.

    A lie detector and and other machines can perceive changes in your body and brain caused by thought even up to the point of having your thoughts control some mechanical device through that devices ability to react to the change in your brain to your thought, but no machine either man made or biological can actually read your mind or thoughts. A machine like that would have to perceive what you are thinking and be able to distinguish it as some kind of intelligable material, and then be able to understand the language you think in and then understand grammar, lexicons, i.e what it is you’re thinking. It would need at the least a thought receiver, a storage device, a search device, a database, and a processor of some type to accomplish those tasks.

  42. 42
    Josh Bozeman says:

    A lie detector that could read thoughts would be useful, but of course it doesn’t exist. No one is privy to my own personal thoughts but me…if you look at my brain under a microscope of some sort while I think (a person is ALWAYS thinking), you could see various parts of my brain firing and chemicals sending signals to various neurons, but you couldn’t see the thoughts themselves. My brain will look identical to the next person’s brain when it’s full of thoughts that are clearly totally different than the thoughts anyone else has or ever will have.

    I don’t think many would deny that the mind works thru the brain and the body- this is a physical world we live in, so we’d need a physical apparatus to experience it and express the mind…but the thoughts themselves can hardly be reduced to material.

    I can sit in a room for the rest of my life and do mathematical calculations, and in theory if I could live forever physically I would have no limit to how many calculations I could do…but the brain is clearly finite and wouldn’t be able to hold all these thoughts. Eventually your brain, if thoughts were material, would read “full”, but there’s no evidence to suggest any limits to how many thoughts the brain can hold. The brain of someone who has 10 graduate degrees doesn’t weigh more than someone with no high school education, and you’d assume a much smaller number of information data sets and thoughts.

    Brain cells themselves aren’t thinking entities, nor are the chemicals within your brain- these materials merely act on your brain to process thoughts and information. Information isn’t physical, yet you can call up an almost neverending amounts of information you have stored over many many years.

    I can recall memories (which are, themselves pieces of information, and information isn’t physical, so memories musn’t be physical either) from 20 years ago, yet how would a brain cell and some chemicals make sense of the memory? The shapes, the smells, the visions, the sounds that are all stored in a bundle the memory is tied up in? No evidence exists to suggest that chemicals and or cells can interpret let alone create such things (memories, thoughts, desires, etc) themselves.

  43. 43
    pmob1 says:


    Perhaps I misunderstood. I was responding to your dualism in Post #17 where you said: What exists are beings, which have both a material and ideal aspect.

    Obviously I was interested in the former.

    What then is the difference (if any) between what you called mere “matter” and what you called the material aspect of things?

  44. 44
    pmob1 says:


    Actually, re-reading your message, perhaps you misunderstood me. I was not referring to incidents (such as the tribesmen) where one has a different view of the ideal aspect. Your example was a good one. Here’s another. As Cortes approached Tenochtitlan in 1519, some of the natives believed that each conquistador and his steed were one fused being; a centaur. We would call this a mistaken idealization, I believe. This is not what I’m referring to.

    I am referring to a brief “pre-ideal” state during which one apprehends an object but does not place it at all. The overwhelming sensation is one of strangeness. Of course, one’s mind quickly gets to shuffling through “ideal” possibilities, i.e., “placing” the phenomenon (correctly or not). Usually, one emerges from the confusion within a few seconds: whether you place it rightly or wrongly, your mind does, in fact, settle on an ideal, an explanation, and quickly. What I am referring to is the interlude previous to the shuffling. You apprehend something. You have no idea what it is. Your mind has not pigeon-holed it yet. It is a very peculiar sensation. Later, you have great difficulty “imaging” the thing as you first experienced it since, in fact, you had not “imaged” it yet; you had not idealized it yet. Perhaps all you really recall is the strangeness of it.

    However, there is no doubt that you did, in fact apprehend it in some way; else it would not have seemed so strange. To me, this is “mere” matter, perhaps what you would call the material aspect.

  45. 45
    pmob1 says:


    I don’t recall that anyone has ever normalized a pleiodesic subspace. Possibly Bush at a major press conference.

  46. 46
    pmob1 says:


    you said: It’s a beautiful day here in northern California and my motorcycle beckons, so I’m going to postpone the replies I owe to several of you.

    Man that hurts. It got “up” to about 25 here today.


  47. 47
    pmob1 says:

    mentok, re: #27

    That was kind of fun. So how does all that figure into hunches and premonitions?

    Or speaking in tongues?

    Or completely turning yourself around?

  48. 48
    pmob1 says:

    DaveScot, re: 30

    I think in an infinite universe, everything happens not only in subtly different ways but in exactly the same way as well. Things of infintesimally small probability happen the same infinity of times as things of large probability. I’m not clear as to whether impossible things (of zero probability) happen as well but I seem to recall that D proposed that this was indeed the case. At least with infinite universes, I think he said something to the effect that Shreck is President of the United States in at least some of the universes and therefore in all of them at one time or another. I suppose Shreck holds other offices as well. Personally, I’d vote for him. Or rather, I guess I already have and will. I think this was called the infinite “probability horizon.” Sometimes I think D has too much time on his hands…

  49. 49
    keiths says:

    BK writes:
    “Neuroscience only establishes a sort of dependency of rationality on the brain, but it does not warrant the reduction of rationality to the brain.”

    The question is not whether neuroscience warrants the reduction of rationality to the brain. Occam’s Razor tells us that the right question is to ask what warrants the addition of a spiritual realm to a naturalistic model which has been so staggeringly successful without it. Look at the multitude of natural phenomena which have been successfully explained without invoking anything beyond the physical. What is it about rationality which makes you think there must be something transcendent involved in its implementation?

    Furthermore, if you think it is legitimate to assume the existence of a soul (or whatever you want to call it) in a hypothetical spiritual realm until neuroscience proves it unnecessary, I would ask, why stop there? Why not assume the existence of 17 realms beyond the physical, each of which contains a distinct soul which coordinates with all the other realms, including the physical, to generate rationality? The answer, of course, is Occam’s Razor again. When we have multiple models which are equal in their ability to explain the observations we have made so far, we choose the simplest. If new observations falsify the simplest model, we look at those models which incorporate all of the observations, old and new, and again choose the simplest one. In this way our models become “truer”, although I doubt that we will ever reach a final model which explains every observation we throw at it. So again I would ask, what is it about rationality that you think cannot possibly be explained by the interactions of matter and energy in the physical realm, and would therefore justify the invocation of a more complex model including a spiritual component?

    BK continues:
    “On the other hand, even if mind can be reduced to matter, why should this bother us? Could not matter itself be reducable to a spiritual principle?”

    I’m not sure what you mean by the phrase “reducible to a spiritual principle.”

    “Shouldn’t we move past cartesian dualism where it is thought that the spiritual can only be preserved by not contaminating it with matter, and on the other side matter is thought of as some spiritual-free, god-free, autonomous substance?”

    Most neuroscientists have already moved past cartesian dualism, seeing no need for the spiritual realm. It sounds like you’re proposing that matter may have some spiritual qualities, or that matter may be somehow inseparably intertwined with spirit (which probably amounts to the same thing). If so, what characteristics would this spirit/matter have that bare matter would not have? What does it mean for a free-floating hydrogen molecule in deep space to have “spiritual qualities?” What would the soul be under this view? The aggregate of all of the spiritual parts of the atoms within the brain? What would happen to such a soul as matter cycles in and out of the brain? What would happen to such a soul when the brain dies and disintegrates?

  50. 50
    Josh Bozeman says:

    1. Thoughts are, themselves immaterial. The brain, being a physical object is finite, thoughts and the ability for thoughts is, from the evidence, infinite. Infinite cannot fit into a finite object. Thoughts themselves, no evidence exists to suggest that we could ever possibly locate them, see them, or that they’re in any manner material objects with any physical properties. You can cram your brain full of knowledge and it will look just the guy who sat and stared at the wall all day with no new information being pumped into the brain. The cells will look the same, act the same way, etc. So, thoughts must be immaterial objects. We’ve no evidence otherwise that merely chemicals can rise to any sort of conscious thought, let alone the kinds humans experience- each one of us having a unique experience unlike no other person on earth.

    Clearly, a reductionist view cannot, at this time, incorporate all the evidence and facts, so use of the principle doesn’t really work here. Neuroscientists will tell you that they really know nothing of consciousness- what is it, how does it create a continuous stream of senses and data, how it could possibly arise from nothing, how you can explain morality by a reductionist view, etc. So, it might seem like one of the simplest theories, but it doesn’t incorporate all the facts (since we have large gaps in our knowledge of how a reductionist view could explain qualia, emotions, morality, etc.)

    To look at it in an evolutionary view- why would human emotions ever come about? There’s no reason for laughter in regards to survival, nor is there any need for compassion- compassion will often times put you in harm’s way, which is the opposite of what we should expect from survival of the fittest. There are many human endeavors that do nothing to bring about either survival or procreation or anything even remotely related to these two activities. So, you have to explain why on earth and how on earth consciousness itself came about, when the costs of human emotion is very high indeed. Human emotion in 2005 could mean the end of ALL life with a few nukes, doesn’t sound like a good idea if the sole goal is to procreate and continue the species.

    AS I mentioned in the other thread- human social orders, relationships, etc. go against survival of the fittest…so we have to answer the question- why? Why would NS select for mutations that would eventually lead to a vast range of pointless emotions that actually hinder evolutionary progress?

    There are many problems and gaps in explaining all of this by reductionist means. I don’t see any problem explaining all of it with the existence of an immaterial soul that acts on the human physical body. A spirit or soul working on the brain could take into consideration all the facts and easily incorporate them into the theory. The reductionist model, with the evidence we have today, cannot pull all the facts together.

  51. 51
    keiths says:

    pmob1 writes:
    “Man that hurts. It got “up” to about 25 here today.”

    I was raised in Indiana, so I empathize. If it makes you feel any better, it got down to 55 degrees on my way home. I had to put a sweater on under my jacket.

    It just occurred to me: Since I moved here, I don’t even own a windshield scraper anymore.

    No, ST1300.

    Do you ride?

  52. 52
    taciturnus says:


    I think I understand what you are saying but, again, I think you are arguing about our perception of things rather things as they are in themselves.

    A basic philosophical choice must be made up front. Can we know things as they are in themselves (Aristotle’s view) or only our subjective perception of them (Kant’s view)? You seem to be arguing the Kantian view that the only data we get from outside us is raw sensation, which we organize according to principles that arise from pure subjective reason. For Kant, “matter” is raw sensation prior to its organization by the subject, which also seems to be your notion of matter.

    Now if we adopt Kant’s view, then the argument about the material/non-material mind can stop right here. Since we only know our own subjective perceptions, the only judgements we can make are about how things appear to us, not how they actually are in themselves. Kant himself makes the point in the Critique of Pure Reason that the material/non-material mind debate is a waste of time since it is concerns a “thing in itself” that it is impossible to know.

    But I don’t think the folks who argue for the purely material mind mean “matter” in the Kantan way. They are not arguing that the mind merely appears material to us. (And were they arguing this way, then they could be dismissed in the same manner Kant dismissed them.) They seem to be arguing that the mind in itself is composed of something called “matter” that is more than just reality as it is immediately perceived by us.

    What they mean by “matter” is electrons, protons, atoms, neurons and brain chemistry, which are a lot more than the immediate, pre-cognitive experience of sensation that you are talking about. They think that all thought can be explained in terms of neurons and brain chemistry. And I have made two points about this:

    1) The positive case that rational thought can be understood on a purely material basis has not even been attempted, yet alone made. All examples from science involve pathological cases that only make the negative case that brain injuries interefere with thought. That doesn’t move the case a single inch along the road to proving that rational thought can be accounted for on a purely material basis. The key word here is “rational”. Emotions and feelings may have a purely material explanation. I doubt very much that “2+2=4” does.

    2) The material elements that form the foundation of the materialist account of the mind (electrons, neurons, and brain chemistry) are already shot through with “intellectual stuff.” Now I hold the Aristotelian view that the “intellectual stuff” is really part of things and not merely subjectively imposed on them by us, the way Kant held. When we cognize objects, we abstract their intellectual form from them (suck it out, so to speak) rather than impose on them an intellectual form we alread possess.

    But either way, on Kant’s view or Aristotle’s, it isn’t “mere matter” that that is the foundation of the materialist account of the mind. It’s the highly reified concepts of “neurons” and “brain chemistry” that form the foundation, in other words, concepts that are intellectually loaded and therefore themselves products of the mind. My point is that the materialist case is a non-starter because it attempts to argue the foundation of the mind in terms of products of the mind itself. It’s like a filmmaker arguing against his own existence because he doesn’t appear in any of his movies.

    Dave T.

  53. 53
    pmob1 says:

    Regarding the Soul phase-limiter and associated equipment:

    So if you’re stripped of sensation, there is still something in there that knows it is stripped, but if you lose the part that knows—what Bush 41 might call “the consciousness thing”—then it starts to get real personal. However, mentok holds that we can’t weigh it or anything, so it doesn’t seem to have mass. The brain weighs the same when you’re dead or in non-REM sleep.

    Even then, if we go with mind-as-computer, computers don’t weigh any more when we turn them on (correct me on that: electron numbers = static? Does current weigh anything? I can’t find a spec in the NEC.)

    Material or not, Soul Receivers appear to need a recharge cycle. However, this may be an effect of gross metabolism and respiration rather than a consciousness issue. The body might get so gunked up that it has to shut down consciousness—turn that maniac off—so it can do clean and repair.

    Another question: does the brain use more or less bodily resources in sleep than, say, in arduous mental exercise. The issue might be clouded by nocturnal repair and maintenance. If it is actually the Soul Receiver itself that requires recharge and reset, one may ask whether this is done on the material plane, where we might measure it in energy units consumed, or on the plane that includes the Soul phase-limiter and other equipment.

  54. 54
    pmob1 says:

    Josh, re:
    In the end, you’re still left with qualia and other properties that can’t yet be understood as merely the work of chemicals and energy.

    Granted, but lots of reductionism has been accomplished. Surely more to come. On the other hand, if our current abilities to sense and monitor don’t shake our faith in some immateriality, neither should technologies that might one day sense and indentify individual thoughts and feelings.

  55. 55
    DaveScot says:


    “but you can’t think of something and watch the brain light up”

    Actually you can now.

    “and then have a machine read the thought”

    Some thoughts can be crudely read by the shape and location of the patterns that light up.

  56. 56
    BK says:

    Keiths asks:

    “What is it about rationality which makes you think there must be something transcendent involved in its implementation?”

    We could make the question more general and ask why anybody would appeal to something immaterial for anything, not just mind, but God or gods or whatever. There are at least two ways in which this seems to happen:

    1. there is a cognitive aspect of intelligence that sees the phenomenal world in terms of signs. You could call it an analogical intuition. Basically, if sensible reality has the structure of a sign, than the reality signified would seem to be non-sensible, or immaterial.

    2. the scope of our experiences goes beyond empirical experience. Sitting down to write down a description of a tree outside is based on empirical experience. But what was Aristotle looking at (or smelling or hearing) when he sat down and wrote the Posterior Analytics (his treatise on logic)?

    So it’s quite natural and reasonable, I think, to infer that reality goes beyond the material.

    “So again I would ask, what is it about rationality that you think cannot possibly be explained by the interactions of matter and energy in the physical realm, and would therefore justify the invocation of a more complex model including a spiritual component?”

    It’s because my rationality isn’t “like” the interactions you are talking about in the physical realm. If “materiality” corresponds to the physical, and I have experiences that are trans-physical, why shouldn’t I infer that those experiences are based on an “immaterial” aspect of reality?

  57. 57
    keiths says:

    pmob1 writes:
    “I don’t recall that anyone has ever normalized a pleiodesic subspace. Possibly Bush at a major press conference.”

    Or perhaps Julia Kristeva, the prominent psychoanalyst and literary theorist. Check out this howler from her book “Semeiotike: Researches for a Semioanalysis”:

    “For us poetic language is not a code encompassing the others, but a class A that has the same power as the function psi(x[1]…x[n]) of the infinity of the linguistic code (see the existence theorem, cf. p. 189), and all the ‘other languages’ (the ‘usual’ language, the ‘meta-languages’, etc.) are quotients of A over more restricted extents (limited by the rules of the subject-predicate construction, for example, as being at the basis of formal logic), and disguising, because of this limitation, the morphology of the function psi(x[1]..x[n]).

    “Poetic language (which we shall henceforth denote by the initials ‘pl’) contains the code of linear logic. Moreover, we can find in it all the combinatoric figures that algebra has formalized in a system of artificial signs and that are not externalized at the level of the manifestation of the usual language…

    “The pl cannot, therefore, be a sub-code. It is the infinite ordered code, a complementary system of codes from which one may isolate (by operatory abstraction and by way of proof of a theorem) a usual language, a scientific metalanguage and all the artificial systems of signs — which are all only subsets of this infinite, externalizing the rules of its order over a restricted space (their power is lesser relative to that of the pl that is surjected onto them).”

    (Quote taken from Sokal and Bricmont’s book “Fashionable Nonsense”).

    Amazingly, this is regarded as serious scholarship by many literary theorists in France and the US.

    Old Dominion University awarded her an honorary doctorate, saying of Kristeva’s book:
    “After the publication of [the book], Kristeva became regarded as one of the most prolific theorists in France and the importance of her writing has been felt across the human sciences.”

    She remains a celebrity in France. The 11/17 edition of Le Monde quotes her:
    “Je vis avec ce désir de sortir de moi.”
    (“I live with this desire to flee myself.”)

    One can hardly blame her.

  58. 58
    DaveScot says:


    “The brain weighs the same when you’re dead or in non-REM sleep.”

    I bet I can find a rock that weighs the same as Mentok’s brain. Is having the same mass supposed to mean something?

  59. 59
    DaveScot says:


    Energy has mass so yes, when you turn on your computer, it does get heavier. The relationship of mass to energy is e=mc^2. I thought that was common knowledge. Silly me.

  60. 60
    DaveScot says:

    pmob asks

    “does the brain use more or less bodily resources in sleep than, say, in arduous mental exercise”

    Typically far less but it depends on where you’re looking and what phase of sleep.

    Here’s a bit of light reading on that subject.

    Radioactively tagged glucose is widely used to map brain activity. Overall your brain uses about 25% of all the oxygen your body takes in. It’s a real energy hog. Glucose is the fuel that is being oxidized. Individual neurons use burn more or less glucose as their activity level waxes and wanes. The technology to produce real-time 3D maps of glucose consumption in exquisite detail continues to improve and from it emerges patterns that correlate to specific thoughts. Unlike the ignorant, uninformed claims made by some here, thoughts can indeed be observed taking place in the brain and this is being done with increasing resolution. Can we read minds? Yes, to some extent, and the extent is growing by leaps and bounds as scientific inquiry continues.

  61. 61
    DaveScot says:

    Pleiodesic subspaces remind me of muffler bearings.

  62. 62
    pmob1 says:


    “Kristeva became regarded as one of the most prolific theorists in France and the importance of her writing has been felt across the human sciences.”

    Felt across the human sciences: Hey, I wondered what that was!

  63. 63
    pmob1 says:


    To put it in context of D’s thread-header, your position appears to be that if we were truly moral agents, we would richly deserve to be prosecuted for hate crimes (among others). However, it appears that we are not really moral agents after all?

  64. 64
    pmob1 says:


    The fine passage from Julia Kristeva put me in mind of other great literature that might be relevant to our current topic, the problem of detecting “hate” crime (or “hate” speech) and implications about some immaterial “hating” agency. In my state, the detection of “hate” in commission of a crime, ups the criminal penalty by one notch, viz. from petty misdemeanor to misdemeanor, misdemeanor to felony. “Hate” crimes include “harassment” (as per Minn. Stat. § 609.749) and that harassment can be directed at “sexual orientation.”

    Under Minnesota law, “sexual orientation” includes not only (actual or perceived) heterosexual, gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals, but also those

    having or being perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s biological maleness or femaleness.” (Minn. Stat. § 363.01, subd. 41a.

    There can be no doubt that this is great literature and that it was the result of “miracle thinking,” a not uncommon phenomenon at the statehouse. But I think there can be considerable doubt as to what, if any, material things it might signify. Apparently you may not harass such a one who has a self-image or who is perceived as having a self-image. In other words, the law assumes that the perp can detect (or mistakenly assign) a self-image, apparently some sort of reflexive psychological state. Such a state must obviously be externalized (barring immaterial telepathic powers) but the law does not tell us anything more about the “identity.” In my opinion, the law strongly implies that the “identity” does have some existence prior to its display to hostile parties.

    Hate-eligible identities include all those deemed “not traditionally associated” with the victim’s gender, where gender is defined (somewhat archaically) in terms of maleness and femaleness. Gender is not at issue. Rather the law addresses associations surrounding the gender, presumably social constructs. “Traditional” is not defined either, although it seems key to the statutory specification. Traditions change, obviously, else the statute had never been so finely crafted in the first place. The law presumes that, at the time of any given “harassment,” it will have been possible for the perpetrator to know which gender associations were currently held “traditional,” and that these associations will, in fact, have been commonly understood. This seems unlikely if you are living in certain sections of any of our large cities today, but, nonetheless, the law assumes “traditional standards” still exist.

    Do these “traditional associations” have mass or are they immaterial? Are they nothing more than molecules of ink on particles of paper posted somewhere for all to perceive and react to? Or perhaps they are “in the water” or distributed as additives in popular breakfast cereals. And how do these associations interact with the mysterious “self-images?”

    Of course, all this is only the beginning. The perpetrator must, in commission of a crime, also “hate” such a self-imagining victim, whose sexual identity is distinct from currently held “traditional associations,” or at least the perpetrator must “hate” what is supposed to have been such a self-imagination. More accurately, given our rules of evidence, the perp must have “hated” a Claimed self-imagining, or a self-imagining that can reasonably be held to have existed at the time, according to testimony; or a self-imagining whose mistaken attribution was evident to compelling witnesses. Are the witnesses’ (claimed) perceptions of mistakenly attributed self-images strictly material and, if so, may we detect and weigh and quantify them? Or are they just sounds shaped by larynxes in response to inquisitive sounds emanating from counsel? The alleged perception of a mistakenly attributed self-image may be enough to increase a material penalty, although it is difficult to imagine how either the perception or percept might be explained in strictly material terms.

    Personally, I think D’s colleague has made a very nifty observation about atheist / materialist lawmakers.

  65. 65
    Josh Bozeman says:

    Some are confusing impulses within the brain to subjective thoughts. Sit down right now and try to decide what your state of mind or mood is. Are you overjoyed? Are you depressed? Are you 10% happy but 90% depressed? Could a brain scan show either way? Hardly…which is why there is such trouble finding meds that will help with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders (if they are, in fact, disorders- is a “depressive” mood actually abnormal?) The SSRIs for instance- there’s new evidence that the levels of serontonin in the brain have little if anything to do with the feeling of depression…dopamine and other brain chemicals are thought to possibly contribute to certain moods, but no one knows. I know, firsthand, all about the complete failure of medicine to deal in any concrete, significant way with issues of mood. Fact is- moods are mysterious, pinpointing the causes and results (as well as labelling) of each mood and combinations of moods is even more of a challenge- especially when the patient himself cannot even fully express their own moods and feelings.

    We cannot pinpoint the reason for various moods or even map them…implulses and moods and feelings and thoughts are different things. Impulses are mechanistic in the sense that your brain demands a part of your body do something, or your 5 senses bring in information and the brain fires in a certain pattern to recognize these bits of data to process them into mental images, soundscapes, etc.

    No brain scans have (yet) shown various moods or actual thoughts. There have been brain scans that can with some accuracy guess which image of 2 you’re looking at based on the way the brain cells fire off (the pattern.) But, that’s a sensation from outside being processed…it’s not an actual thought. My eyes see the screen now, and my brain fires in a certain way to process the screen, the shapes, the colors, the depth, etc. The typed text is processed into sensible language and ideas that I can realize and understand and act on. These are sensory issues…I’m sitting here thinking ‘tonight I want to order a pizza…and thoughts of stringy cheese, sauce, and pepperoni’- that’s a thought. Thoughts are different than “screen=white background, english language text, text box, etc”.

    Moods are even harder. As I said before- try to sit there and think of how you feel, what mood you’re in. Do you even know for sure how you feel? Is it as simple as “I’m happy”? Or is it much more complicated- such as “I’m feeling okay right now…but in the back of my mind, I’m nearly panic stricken over a project due at work that I have yet to really start on…BUT, that emotion isn’t too strong because I’m actively suppressing it. At the same time tho, it’s a strong feeling and I’m not able to fully suppress it because it’s too imporant to put out of my mind totally. Then again, my dog died last week, and that’s causing me some pain, but he was an old dog and I feel relieved because he was in pain and is out of pain now.”

    We could sit down and go on for a half hour of the various competing and agreeing thoughts in our minds, the moods that exist in harmony and some in competition. We might not fully be able to even describe how we feel- or a thought might suddenly pop into our heads that totally changes our mood…or maybe it only changes a tiny fraction of our overall mood. Or maybe it does change our mood, but we decide to actively suppress the emotion and mood for the time being for whatever reason.

    Now, as I mentioned, in regards to internal thoughts and moods…a person cannot even always fully describe their own moods or thought processes at any given time (sometimes they can’t even do so internally for their own purposes). Nor can a person always truly make sense of all the things they feel…this event makes me happy, but then again does it really? The time I have typed this out, I have probably thought of a dozen other background thoughts at the same time (some of them were flashes of memories and thoughts and feelings, some of them were actually longer thoughts I sort of dwelled on- even tho the process was buried in the back of my mind while this comment was in the front.)

    We’re left with the fact that brain scans have shown 2 things- stimulus from our senses (vision, hearing)…and impulses from our brain to our body parts to do certain things. No brain scan has ever shown thoughts themselves. Stimuli from a red line is not a thought, nor is a direction from your brain for your arm to move left. Medicine and science can hardly even figure out why we feel certain ways we feel and what causes the changes in mood…does a depressed person truly have a chemical imbalance? Is there such a thing as a chemical imbalance- or are all chemical compositions different to each brain, none better or worse than the next? Moods and thoughts are not the same as the things brain scans have been shown to expose. An individual thought- is there any such thing? Or is every thought a series of thoughts compounded to make a single theme in your mind? Many problems. few answers…one thing we know for sure- the optic nerve reading a straight line or a zigzag is nowhere near the same thing as “I think this is beautiful” or “I cannot stand men” (pretend we’re talking about a radical feminist :))

  66. 66
    keiths says:


    I recently started a collection of short but interesting “found” sentences that, due to their singular strangeness (or CSI, if you will), have probably never been uttered before in the history of the language.

    Your sentence is the newest on my list:

    “Pleiodesic subspaces remind me of muffler bearings.”
    — Dave Scott, December 2005

  67. 67
    pmob1 says:

    Sorry for delay. I’m not well-versed in this stuff. I’m not arguing for raw sensation except in rare instances, which I’ll return to in a bit. I’m not sure which philosophical category I fit into. Maybe you can suggest one.

    I think we sense actual external objects. They are unique to our subjectivity if only because we observe them from a unique position, viz. we might each see the same completion near the goal line but from slightly different angles. Perceptions are also usually in context of understanding. I believe the philosophers say “intelligible.” (I am one of those people who think sense and intellect are separate but that intellect must be informed by sense.) I think almost all perceptions are intelligible, i.e. sense and intellect in cooperation. But sometimes we experience “raw sensation,” which is perception without intelligibility. The episodes are rare and fleeting because intellect butts in quickly and starts “placing” things.

    You write: “Can we know things as they are in themselves (Aristotle’s view) or only our subjective perception of them (Kant’s view)?”

    I think the concept of “as they are in themselves” is erroneous because it predicates an object with no subject. But object implies subject, and vice versa. The terms have no meaning by themselves. A similar error occurs when people say that our “ideas” are the only objects or our perceptions, i.e., as representations of (inscrutable) “raw matter.” This is erroneous in two ways. First, how can a thing (idea) be said to represent that which is unrepresentable? Second, how can a thing (idea) be both subject and object? That usage invalidates its own terms. I think Kant participates in these errors with his transcendental categories but I’d have to read him again to be sure. I don’t think I could possibly bring myself to do this unless, perhaps, I built and liberally used a certain contraption made known to me by DaveScot.

    So I don’t think there is anything like “pure subjectivity” or “raw matter.” We know things imperfectly, by using our intellect and senses. I would not completely divide subject and object any more than I would completely divide intellect and sense. To do so is a logical error.

    What I was talking about was not “raw matter” but just (momentarily) unintelligible matter. I think you could call it “raw sensation” in (and only in) that sense. A radio comes on. You hear, in progress, what is apparently the lead-in to a tune. You can’t place it at all. You can’t even find the beat. It sounds totally bizarre and without form, a kind of backward-moebius noise. All you can’t say is: “What the hell… ?”

    Very quickly, your intellect starts sorting it out and the “raw” thing is over. In fact, it’s the bridge to Jingle Bell Rock. You can’t believe you didn’t recognize it and you have great difficulty recalling any quality of the perception except its strangeness. You wish you could bring it back because it was some kinda gnarly, like really interesting in a way. But you can’t get at it. Nevertheless, you experienced it.

    However, this is not an apprehension of “raw matter” or anything like that. It’s a much more modest thing, an example of unintelligible perception. Episodes like that highlight for us the extent to which our perceptions are pre-organized and, failing that, quickly re-organized. We get a glimpse of the intellect scrambling to get back in the picture.

    I think people get there when they drop acid, which allows quite long sustains of this phenomenon. However, it’s a closed system and a waste of time in the sense that all you’re doing putting your intellect out of whack. Much better to just try new stuff, bust moves, stretch envelopes…

  68. 68
    pmob1 says:


    I see now that I originally made a claim about “raw matter,” an incorrect choice of words. Should have been “raw sensation.” Thanks for the objection. Caused me to try to think through these things.

  69. 69
    taciturnus says:


    I’m enjoying this conversation and if you want to continue it, drop me a line at the email listed in my profile. We are going to fall off a cliff here thread-wise.

    It turns out that I am currently in the middle of reading Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”. I haven’t found it as difficult as I thought I would, maybe because I came in with some pretty fearful expectations given its reputation. But I have read a lot of Aquinas, and maybe that was good prep.

    My contribution to this thread began when the subject of the materiality of the mind came up… this is a subject that holds a continuing fascination for me. I join in when it comes up because I want to find out if scientific materialists actually have an answer to Aristotle, Aquinas and Kant regarding the immateriality of the mind, or do they just dismiss the classical arguments without ever understanding them. In my experience, the latter is always the case. It’s as though merely shouting the word “science” somehow makes Aquinas and Kant disappear and eliminates the need to answer them.

    Dave T.

  70. 70
    pmob1 says:

    Yes, I’ll do that, and feel free likewise. I checked and I have a Kant here, a Cambridge softcover entitled Religion within the Limits of Mere Reason. I think I got it from Amazon. I opened it some months ago and the print was so small that I knew it would have to wait until temperatures were well below zero. However, that is coming right up hereabouts.

    I have no experience with Aquinas. I did read Chesterton’s Dumb Ox last winter, which I liked a lot. Could you recommend an edition of Aquinas? Did he ever do a formal refutation of gnosticism?

    I think you’re right about scientism discounting the old arguments out of hand. I think materialism is a sham but I’m too ignorant of the arguments to respond in a direct and effective way.

  71. 71
    pmob1 says:


    I think this thread is played out and you’re long gone, but here is a report on
    anomolous transient weight-gain-at-death in sheep.;hl=en

    There doesn’t seem to be a lot of agreement on whether current weighs
    anything. Quantum-like, it depends on how you define it.

    I know one thing. I weigh less after the 120 blows the cordless drill out of my hand.

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