Evidence for God: Rationality (The Argument From Reason)

Part of the extended series Evidence for the Faith

Human rationality provides evidence that atheistic materialism is false. What follows here is a version of the Argument from Reason, which was originally made widely known by C. S. Lewis in Miracles, and was considerably expanded by Victor Reppert in C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason.

Picture a box, a very large one, containing all the efficient physical causes in all of reality. On the atheistic-materialistic (A-M) view, there are no other causes. We say that causation is closed on the physical, or that there is causal closure there: that there cannot be any cause for any effect except for physical causes.

Now, on A-M, if rational inference exists at all (and it must), then it exists inside that box. It is a strictly physical process.

In contrast to that, the theistic view is that the universe of causation is larger, and that the very large box of physical causes is inside an even larger box that includes many other classes of causes. We would say that thoughts, in general, have causal roots in several different boxes. At this point I’m aware of the weakness of my analogy: boxing these things up is rather too cubical and physical of a way of thinking about them. I hope my point is clear, anyway, which is that causation is not closed on the physical, and that thoughts have causes from many different roots.

The A-M view disagrees. It says that a thought produced through rational inference is also a thought produced through entirely physical processes, and that logic in human thought is like the logic programmed into a computer. I don’t think that’s possibly true. There are many reasons for this.

First, there is the intentionality or “aboutness” problem. A-M proponents often ask us to think of the mind as being like a computer. It’s a useful exercise, because it helps us see how different rational thought is from mechanical signal processing. Logic gates in computers are never “about” the signal passing through them, nor are they “about” the information they carry. This is true of each individual switch, and it’s true of any large array of switches, for complexity cannot magically create “aboutness.” But rational inference is really a matter of being about the content being processed.

Modus ponens and modus tollens (Latin for, “two really common ways to run a logical deduction”) are algorithms. Plug any two true premises in, run the algorithm, and you get a sound conclusion—provided that the content actually is true, and provided also that the premises are related to each other in such a way that the algorithm actually applies. A computer’s logic is about the algorithm, not about the content; it will run the same algorithm equally well with any input. It doesn’t care whether the premises are true, and it doesn’t know whether they’re relevant to one another. it can only flip electronic switches according to a predetrmined program—for that’s what computers are: electronic switch-flippers.

Second, there is the related problem of the content’s being true or false. Physical systems cannot be true or false about anything. Nothing in my laptop is true about some other thing.

This is partly a consequence of the aboutness problem in physical objects, and it’s partly a matter of relationships. Consider the spreadsheet formula,

=1=1

Microsoft Excel will return “TRUE” if you type those characters into a cell. But what is it in those characters that is true? Nothing. The expression is true only in the interpretation (and humans either have to ignore the first = or else interpret it differently than the second one). There is, after all, a reason we call it an expression: expressions always require intelligent interpretation; and the truth is not in the signs on the screen or the voltage states that produce the signs; the truth is in that which is being expressed.

Further: The computer is not reflecting on the values of 1 and 1, and considering whether their equality is something that obtains in wider reality. It’s not recognizing a correspondence between “1=1” and some general truth. The computer is throwing switches as it’s been programmed to throw them. It’s been set up to throw switches corresponding to the characters “TRUE” just in case the first number represented there is identical the second one. It knows nothing of truth. It knows nothing, actually, though it is a most impressive switch-throwing machine.

Third, there are clear differences between rational inferences and physical processes. Rational inferences don’t follow physical laws. There are no equal and opposite reactions in them, no inherent tendency towards entropy, no mass, no inertia, etc. They don’t have a size, a shape. They progress, but they don’t travel north, south, east, west, up or down.

As C.S. Lewis points out in the third chapter of Miracles, to the extent that we can ascribe inferences to physical causes, to that same extent we doubt their rationality. If Grandpa expresses an opinion, the response, “Grandpa says that because he’s tired,” is likely to be another way of saying, “Grandpa’s opinion probably can’t be trusted.”

Fourth, there is the problem of how safe it is to conclude that physical laws in physical brains could have any reliable effect of producing truth in response to their causal predecessors. There is no known mechanism whereby mere physical processes could reliably produce truth-related outputs.

I understand that evolution is commonly proposed as exactly that mechanism. There are two problems with that view, however, which Alvin Plantinga has put forth in his Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. To begin, evolution is not a truth-seeking activity of nature, it is a survival- and baby-producing activity. Beliefs need not be true to be effective in leading persons to survival and reproduction. Sure, there could be a relationship there, but if there is, it’s accidental, not essential. Further, it’s really quite a fantastic conjecture to suppose that in its producing humans who could survive in the bush and the caves, it produced a brain capable of non-Euclidean geometry, algebra with imaginary numbers (which turn out to be quite useful in electronics), and a whole huge host of other abstract ideas of which I have no clue, and yet which turn out to be classifiable in their contexts as true or false.

For those four reasons, or five if you split the last one in two, I seriously doubt that rational inference can be fully explained from within the merely physical box of causation. Furthermore, if what we name “rational inference” could be fully explained on physical causation alone, there would be little about it that was rational.

So if causation is closed on the physical, then rational inference is out the window. If one has concluded by means of logic that the physical world is all there is, then one has concluded that the world is the kind of place wherein logical, rational conclusions cannot be made. It is a conclusion that no one can conclude anything. That’s the contradiction inherent in atheistic materialism, and it’s one of the main reasons I’m convinced the world must be more than physical.

(Most of this content appeared in the form of a comment I wrote earlier this month.)

Update March 2: The Argument From Reason Redux

Evidence for the Faith
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Comments

  1. John Moore

    So you’re saying it’s impossible for us to program a computer with true artificial intelligence so it would be conscious, alive and morally equivalent to a human being?

    Believe it or not, this is the main reason I’m an atheist – because you have no answer for me when I ask, “How are you going to build the AI robot?”

  2. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I’m not going to build that robot. No one is. At least not one that produces conclusions by reasoning from inferences. That’s one of the main reasons I’m not an atheist.

  3. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    And by the way, John, if you have an actual objection to the actual reasons I wrote here, I’d be interested to know what it is—because these are reasons not to be an atheist.

  4. SteveK

    John,
    The AI robot would only be as “intelligent” as the programmer that designed it (think about that in the context of naturalism where the ‘designer’ is literally as dumb as rocks), and even then the AI robot would never actually know what any of the input actually means. It would only “know” what to do with the input, and what to “think” about the input after “consulting” with the programmer who wrote the code. That’s not a rational process.

    This is the syntax vs. semantics problem that John Searle has highlighted so well in my opinion.

  5. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom,

    Another good post. Enjoying how this series is coming together.

    As always I’m going to ask whether you think these things apply just to people, or whether our closest cousins have these abilities as well? Because it seems to me that the only difference between our brain and those of another mammal is our total amount of memory and possibly how fast we can access it. I believe rationality is just our ability of using our past experiences/learning. All the great things we can do and know are built on foundations of things stored in our memory. And I think it’s highlighted by the fact that we are all born knowing nothing, including the most basic aspects of how to control out our own body. We need to learn everything. And learning is just experiencing things and storing them away in memory. We can then retrieve them when we need them to use them.

    New things are discovered all the time, of course, but these things are the result of small incremental changes built on what has come before in the same was as the physical evolution of the body. And these discoveries are fuelled by the memories of the inventor of what exists and what needs to be achieved.

    I don’t think anyone would disagree that higher animals remember things. I also think few of you, if any, believe that they have a soul. Therefore you believe that memory must be a purely physical process. But if the differences between our minds are just the function of accessing different amounts of memory, then it follows that the human mind is the product of purely physical processes. So, are there examples of the human mind knowing things it hasn’t previously learned? Are there examples of people applying rationality in way they haven’t previously experienced?

    I think this addresses the points above. If not, please let me know what I have missed.

    I will agree with this

    “Further, it’s really quite a fantastic conjecture to suppose that in its producing humans who could survive in the bush and the caves, it produced a brain capable of non-Euclidean geometry, algebra with imaginary numbers (which turn out to be quite useful in electronics), and a whole huge host of other abstract ideas of which I have no clue, and yet which turn out to be classifiable in their contexts as true or false.”

    It is amazing. But I’m sure that the family tree of all these things can be traced back to the earliest human experiences/memories of math. i.e. “If I have two of something and I eat one of them I only have one of them left.” I look forward to people pointing out where I am wrong.

    Cheers
    Shane

  6. John Moore

    This question about building a true AI robot is great because it’s really practical instead of just theoretical. If people do finally build the human-equivalent robot, that would defeat the apologist’s argument from reason just as Darwin defeated the argument from design. On the other hand, suppose we go another 500 years without building the AI – that would lend great weight to the Christian argument. So let’s see what happens!

    Most of the arguments in this blog posting amount to arguments from ignorance. You don’t know how a physical system can have intentionality or how a machine can know truth. I think you’re too eager to stop looking for the answer. There already exists a well worked-out system to explain these things.

    I want to suggest you click to visit my own blog, even though I haven’t polished the explanations very well yet. I would just mention here two basic principles: (a) truth is not a symbol of what exists, but it’s the thing itself, and (b) intentionality is energy flow.

  7. Melissa

    John,

    Most of the arguments in this blog posting amount to arguments from ignorance. You don’t know how a physical system can have intentionality or how a machine can know truth. I think you’re too eager to stop looking for the answer. There already exists a well worked-out system to explain these things.

    They are not arguments from ignorance but arguments against the possibity in principle of physical states being intentional. It’s not we don’t know how, but rather that given how we define the physical it can’t, in principle be about anything.

    Shane,

    But if the differences between our minds are just the function of accessing different amounts of memory

    I think most people would argue that the difference between humans and animals is the ability to conceptualise. I know you want to argue that animals comceptualise but we can’t know that. This line of argument is a dead end anyway for arguing against the immateriality of thought. If animals can conceptualise and reason using those concepts then it just means they also have an immaterial component as well.

  8. JAD

    Shane:

    I’m sure that the family tree of all these things can be traced back to the earliest human experiences/memories of math. i.e. “If I have two of something and I eat one of them I only have one of them left.” I look forward to people pointing out where I am wrong.

    That’s an example of what Steven J. Gould called a “just-so story.” Is that all you have are just so stories, or do you have some scientific evidence to back up your claim?

  9. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “This line of argument is a dead end anyway for arguing against the immateriality of thought.”

    Indeed. But all my arguments in these first few sections have been against the ‘uniqueness’ of man.

    “If animals can conceptualise and reason using those concepts then it just means they also have an immaterial component as well.”

    Which means either it developed as a means of evolution or that God gave this gift to more than just man. Both of these have an impact on Christianity.

    Cheers
    Shane

  10. Shane Fletcher

    Hi JAD

    “That’s an example of what Steven J. Gould called a “just-so story.” Is that all you have are just so stories, or do you have some scientific evidence to back up your claim?”

    No evidence at all apart from my own experience. This is just a theory that had occurred to me a while ago, and I thought there would be a place in Tom’s series where I could bring it up. I think it should be easy enough for people to show I’m wrong if I am.

    Cheers
    Shane

  11. JAD

    Here are are interesting thoughts from Rosalind Picard. She’s computer scientist from M.I.T. who developed the idea of affective computing– computer programs and robots which are able to interact affectively or emotionally with humans (something like HAL, 3CPO and other science fiction robots.)

  12. Melissa

    Shane,

    Which means either it developed as a means of evolution or that God gave this gift to more than just man. Both of these have an impact on Christianity.

    Nothing that you’ve pointed us towards demonstrates that animals can grasp concepts and reason using them. They can communicate but they don’t have language, or do maths or lots of other things that set humans apart. You claim that’s just a difference of degree but I would argue that it’s evidence that animals are not rational.

  13. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “They can communicate but they don’t have language, or do maths or lots of other things that set humans apart. You claim that’s just a difference of degree but I would argue that it’s evidence that animals are not rational.”

    They don’t have language because of the limitations of their voice box. And because of the way they live they have no need of it. They live communally and experience things in real time as a community. And this is part of the circle that means they have to live this way because they don’t have language. Humans live separately because we have developed language to allow us to communicate and tell people what has been happening to us during the day. And because we can communicate later that allows us to live separately.

    If you could give me an example of behaviour that would unequivocally be a result of rational thought I’m sure I could find an example in the world of primates. But you will not accept any evidence in that way. I find this contradictory in a person who claims to have evidence that there is a God.

    Cheers
    Shane

  14. Melissa

    Shane,

    If you could give me an example of behaviour that would unequivocally be a result of rational thought I’m sure I could find an example in the world of primates. . But you will not accept any evidence in that way. I find this contradictory in a person who claims to have evidence that there is a God.

    Yes, I’m terrible that way. I won’t accept any claim without some kind of solid evidence.

  15. bigbird

    So you’re saying it’s impossible for us to program a computer with true artificial intelligence so it would be conscious, alive and morally equivalent to a human being?

    How could you demonstrate that an AI computer was conscious?

  16. Melissa

    Shane,

    No evidence at all apart from my own experience. This is just a theory that had occurred to me a while ago, and I thought there would be a place in Tom’s series where I could bring it up. I think it should be easy enough for people to show I’m wrong if I am.

    Here:

    I believe rationality is just our ability of using our past experiences/learning. All the great things we can do and know are built on foundations of things stored in our memory …

    [snip]

    And learning is just experiencing things and storing them away in memory

    This is not correct. We experience particular instances then need to generalise from particular instances to universals, then apply sound logic. The problem with that is that the application of, for instance modus ponens requires that our thought be determinate in a way physical facts are not. It is a well known problem that the physical facts of any system could be consistent with any number of functions.

  17. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “Yes, I’m terrible that way. I won’t accept any claim without some kind of solid evidence.”

    Except that sometimes you do. Hence the contradiction.

    Cheers
    Shane

  18. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “This is not correct. We experience particular instances then need to generalise from particular instances to universals, then apply sound logic.”

    But we learn that we can apply logic and generalise universals from particular instances because of past experiences. It’s not something we innately know.

    “The problem with that is that the application of, for instance modus ponens requires that our thought be determinate in a way physical facts are not. It is a well known problem that the physical facts of any system could be consistent with any number of functions.”

    I don’t understand the problem here. Again we learn these things through experience.

    Cheers
    Shane

  19. Melissa

    Shane,

    Except that sometimes you do. Hence the contradiction.

    I have solid deductive arguments for the existance of God that if you disagree with the premises you end up in an incoherent mess up against some scientific studies that could be interpreted both ways. A conclusion that any other species fall under the description of rational animals at this stage seems unlikely because none do maths, science or philosophy that we are aware of. The question is also irrelevant to the argument from reason.

  20. Melissa

    Shane,

    But we learn that we can apply logic and generalise universals from particular instances because of past experiences. It’s not something we innately know.

    It’s not generalise universals, it’s generalise to universals. It’s experiencing particulars then abstracting from those particulars to the universal. Yes we learn how to do this but it is not a matter of “just having lots of experiences and storing it in memory”, there is reasoning that goes on between these two steps.

    I don’t understand the problem here. Again we learn these things through experience.

    No one is arguing that we don’t learn through experience. The problem us that physical facts are indeterminate while formal thought of the type occurring in rational reasoning must be determinate otherwise you undermine reasoning itself and in the process your own argument.

    Anyway moving on you say in the original argument:

    But if the differences between our minds are just the function of accessing different amounts of memory, then it follows that the human mind is the product of purely physical processes.

    Now since we have established that there is more happening than just experiencing particular events and storing them it doesn’t follow that the difference is just due to accessing different amounts of memory.

  21. Izak

    A thought crossed my mind the other day, one of those random things about something you learned years ago.

    In Computer Science there is a problem called the “halting problem”. To call it a problem doesn’t really imply that it can be solved, for it was already proven by one of those clever pioneers that no general solution exists to this problem.

    The halting problem states that there is no general way for a computer to determine whether an algorithm will run forever or if it will terminate. This means, in layman’s terms, that you cannot create a “tool” that can test computer programs to ensure that they won’t “hang”.

    I started wondering to whether humans are limited in the same manner. Clearly humans do have a much greater ability to look at the logic of a program and conclude: Yes, that is correct. But on the flip side: The halting problem says that no GENERAL solution exists, so perhaps humans are only successful in specific cases, while we are still unable to solve the general case.

    Thinking about this further, I realised that computers can do limited checking as well. A type of verification tool known as a “model checker” can map out the state space of an algorithm and determine whether there are loops in the resulting directed graph, although this uses massive amounts of memory (I remember model-checking a simple algorithm for a traffic light controller, and it used several hundred megabytes, and this was 15 years ago when a couple hundred was all you had).

    So while I still haven’t formed any conclusions, none that I can prove on paper anyway, I have a feeling that if we could prove that humans are not limited by the halting problem, it would be a rather significant pointer to reasoning capabilities that exceed computer-capabilities.

    On the other hand, it could also just mean we haven’t yet discovered how to build computers that are as powerful as our physical brains, so I have no idea if this will help. ’twas an interesting thought though.

    Came back to edit after reading up a bit:

    1. The Church-Turing thesis is the idea that anything that can be computed can be computed by a Turing Machine.

    2. A Turing machine cannot compute whether another turing machine will halt.

    3. The problem is therefore undecidable.

    The only way you get away from this is if a type of computation exists that has greater deciding power than a classical Turing Machine.

    If humans possess this power, they are more than Turing machines. But conversely, that may also provide the key to build a machine that is better than a classical Turing machine, thereby not really invalidating physicalism.

  22. GrahamH

    Tom

    It is a little unfortunate that this argument, like your posts on free will and the interaction problem, spend most of the time critiquing materialist arguments rather than developing the theistic arguments on their own merits. All of them seem to assume an immaterial or immaterial things like free will and then take it from there. I see little evidence of the immaterial unless the core argument is “materialism does not explain these things satisfactorily therefore theism wins”. I see no evidence presented to establish what you describe in your box analogy including the assumption “thoughts have causes from many different roots” (by “roots” do you mean your “boxes”?).

    Anyway, you say:

    “Furthermore, if what we name “rational inference” could be fully explained on physical causation alone, there would be little about it that was rational.”

    Why not? Is it because of your assertion no physical processes can produce truth-related outputs? Why can’t reason be reliable rather than truthful? We can be reasonably sure that certain conclusions are accurate to an acceptable degree of certainty without saying “we know this is true for sure”. We know that works.

    Also, like Shane above, I also can’t help thinking of animals. They seem to meet the definition you imply for rational inferences. There are degrees of sophistication in animals consistent with our evolutionary ancestry. We simply seem to have been lucky to have evolved into the most sophisticated of primates.

  23. bigbird

    We simply seem to have been lucky to have evolved into the most sophisticated of primates.

    That seems to be the thrust of many arguments I hear from atheists.

    We simply seem to have been really, really lucky – with fine tuning, with abiogenesis, with DNA, with evolution …

    But at what point does one decide being really, really lucky is really just too unlikely to be true?

  24. bigbird

    I posed the question earlier, how can we know when a machine is conscious?

    Here’s a recent article on this question.

    I still don’t see how passing such a test can ensure that the machine is not the equivalent of a philosophical zombie.

  25. GrahamH

    Bigbird some would say at the point where we invoke a supernatural parent to answer the hard questions for us.

  26. John Donnelly

    Hey Shane
    Was what you said in this particular blog just a product of physical forces or did you really mean what you said ? Was it all determined or did you make your assertions in here freely ?
    John D

  27. bigbird

    Bigbird some would say at the point where we invoke a supernatural parent to answer the hard questions for us.

    Given that it would be rather easy to program a machine to invoke a supernatural parent when questions are too hard, it seems to me that this is not a very good indication of consciousness.

  28. bigbird

    To answer bigbird’s question, I would say a machine is conscious if it is a neural network that evolves by natural selection. It’s not a question of calculation or problem-solving, but it’s a question of trying to stay alive.

    I don’t see what that’s got to do with being conscious. “Try to stay alive” is simply a programmed goal. It sounds like a computer virus that can evolve, which is not particularly difficult to write.

  29. JAD

    bigbird:

    We simply seem to have been really, really lucky – with fine tuning, with abiogenesis, with DNA, with evolution …

    That seems to be the thrust of many arguments I hear from atheists.

    In other words, their reasoning boils down to, “after this, therefore, because of this.” Does anyone else see the flaws in that kind of logic?

  30. Ray Ingles

    I tackle two separate problems with Plantinga’s argument here. I won’t quote the whole thing here. The first problem is that accuracy is highly associated with utility in the real world – much more highly correlated than Plantinga implies. The second is that the pattern of ‘warped thinking’ we see in humans is the kind that evolution would produce – if we were made by some Master CraftsThing, why aren’t we better at thinking than we are?

  31. JAD

    Our conscious experience is made up of several identifiable mental properties: thoughts, sensations (or feelings), beliefs, desires and volitions. How do we know about such properties? It’s primarily through out own personal conscious experience or communicating with other self-conscious intelligent beings.

    Do animals have beliefs? Could we create a computer so it has beliefs? How would we or could we ever know? Furthermore, how can we ever claim that any of our beliefs are true? If our thought processes are the result of a blind, mindless evolutionary process how can anybody’s beliefs be true? That’s the point that Lewis, Plantinga et al. are trying to make, which is why claiming to know truth is a dilemma for anyone who embraces naturalism as a world view. It is simply another belief system among thousands of others, which is an accidental result of mindless process that knows nothing or has any “concern” or “interest” in anything like truth.

  32. Larry Tanner

    From the OP:

    In contrast to that, the theistic view is that the universe of causation is larger, and that the very large box of physical causes is inside an even larger box that includes many other classes of causes. We would say that thoughts, in general, have causal roots in several different boxes. At this point I’m aware of the weakness of my analogy: boxing these things up is rather too cubical and physical of a way of thinking about them. I hope my point is clear, anyway, which is that causation is not closed on the physical, and that thoughts have causes from many different roots. (emphasis added)

    What are these “many other classes of causes” (or “many different roots” [of causes]) that are not physical causes, and how is the existence of these other causes established unambiguously?

  33. Larry Tanner

    Also from the OP:

    The A-M view disagrees. It says that a thought produced through rational inference is also a thought produced through entirely physical processes, and that logic in human thought is like the logic programmed into a computer.

    Could you post some direct quotations from authoritative sources that verify what the “A-M view” says?

  34. bigbird

    @Ray

    The first problem is that accuracy is highly associated with utility in the real world – much more highly correlated than Plantinga implies.

    How can you possibly know that?

    In fact you can only make that statement if you assume that it is true, i.e. you are question-begging.

  35. Jenna Black

    It seems to me to be a bit odd and not very enlightening to think of thoughts as having a “cause” in the same way that changes, movement, interactions of physical things have a cause. Thoughts are mental representations of reality as processed through the sensory and intellectual capacities of the person who has the thought. So a quest for the “many different roots” of a thought or to talk about their “existence” is a rather futile exercise. We can identify the physical source of sensory data but can we identify a “cause” for the way that sensory data is perceived, represented and integrated in the mind? It seems to me that the integrative element or processor we refer to as the human mind, spirit and soul is being left out of this discussion of “causes.”

  36. Larry Tanner

    Jenna,

    I like your comment and agree. Perhaps one general sticking point concerns the substance of thought. If I think of a chair, for example, what is the physical content of the thought? Doesn’t even a mental representation of a chair mean that one’s brain and body are doing something to produce the physical effect of a thought?

  37. John Moore

    The physical effect of a thought is clearly the neural-electric energy flowing through our brains. It’s a well understood physical phenomenon.

  38. djc

    bigbird,

    How could you demonstrate that an AI computer was conscious?

    The same way we infer that another person has consciousness, we assume it is so based on our ability to communicate and empathize with another mind like ourself.

    That’s the danger of assuming philosophical zombies are possible. If they are, I simply can’t know that anyone is truly conscious at all, I may well be alone in the universe.

    The cleanest resolution, in my opinion, is to conclude that if an entity can talk or communicate coherently about self in the same way we do, it is therefore as fully conscious as we are. That’s the bar set for AI.

  39. BillT

    That’s a nice write up you linked Ray but I have some issues with your basic conclusion. Even if you are right about accurate perceptions being more useful and more prevalent, you are still left with the fact that those perceptions, even if accurate, are only that by chance. You still have the problem that the mind on A-M evolution has no ability to perceive truth. That is, even if the correlation between utility and accuracy is high the A-M evolutionary mind can’t make a distinction between the two. If our mind has evolved attributes by reproductive advantage those attributes stop developing when the reproductive advantage is gained. We have no capacity to continue to develop further attributes such as the perception of truth as separate from utility. On A-M evolution we would get the minds that Plantinga describes not the ones we actually have.

    Further, you second point suffers from the same problem. You said:

    But that is not a concession that rational thought is impossible. Indeed, as I noted above, we can, with effort, think logically and come up with sound, reliable, testable, and tested answers about the world.

    If as you’ve stated the A-M evolutionary process leaves us with the inability to perceive truth from utility then those limitations form the boundaries of our abilities. You have those limitations then morphing into our sometimes inability to use logic correctly. What evolutionary advantage got that done? You say ” …we can, with effort, think logically and come up with sound, reliable, testable, and tested answers…” Effort? What’s effort got to do with it? Either evolution gives us attributes or we don’t have them. We can’t will ourselves attributes or gain them through effort.

  40. bigbird

    How could you demonstrate that an AI computer was conscious?

    The same way we infer that another person has consciousness, we assume it is so based on our ability to communicate and empathize with another mind like ourself.

    The analogy does not seem valid. I believe myself to be conscious, and therefore I infer other humans are also conscious because 1) they are very similar to me and 2) they appear to be conscious.

    The situation is completely different when considering an AI system that we have designed to appear conscious.

    That’s the danger of assuming philosophical zombies are possible. If they are, I simply can’t know that anyone is truly conscious at all, I may well be alone in the universe.

    If we are talking about AI, of course philosophical zombies are possible – in fact that’s precisely the matter that we are trying to settle here: is an AI system that appears conscious a zombie or not?

    The cleanest resolution, in my opinion, is to conclude that if an entity can talk or communicate coherently about self in the same way we do, it is therefore as fully conscious as we are. That’s the bar set for AI.

    All that will demonstrate is that we have successfully built an AI system that can mimic consciousness.

  41. djc

    bigbird,

    The analogy does not seem valid. I believe myself to be conscious, and therefore I infer other humans are also conscious because 1) they are very similar to me and 2) they appear to be conscious.

    But similar in what way? Suppose you have only a voice over a speaker. How do you judge that this person is conscious or not? Obviously it must be by how he or she talks about self, experiences, mind, etc. This is exactly what I mean by the bar set for AI. This is the Turing test essentially.

  42. bigbird

    But similar in what way? Suppose you have only a voice over a speaker. How do you judge that this person is conscious or not? Obviously it must be by how he or she talks about self, experiences, mind, etc. This is exactly what I mean by the bar set for AI. This is the Turing test essentially.

    But that’s the point – if I know someone is human like me I judge them to be conscious like me.

    With an AI system, 1) I know it is not human like me, and 2) it is designed to mimic consciousness.

    Because we reach the design goal of mimicking consciousness, why should I additionally infer that consciousness supervenes?

    The Turing test is about imitation, not about thinking or consciousness.

  43. djc

    bigbird,

    Because we reach the design goal of mimicking consciousness, why should I additionally infer that consciousness supervenes?

    First, we would not set out to design AI to mimic consciousness but instead we would design it with explicit ways to model other entities as agents with beliefs and goals. One special entity would be the “self” entity. A computational model that interrelates a “self” having “beliefs” and “goals” acting within a world of agents also with beliefs and goals would be one way to approximate a mind.

    Now, if this AI functions as intended (and obviously that requires more than we have today), the question of consciousness could then be answered with a blind study: our AI along with a person in a closed room answers questions from another person who does not know which is responding. If the AI can not be distinguished from a person, then there is good reason to believe the AI is conscious (as well as intelligent).

    Can we be absolutely sure? If you allow for the possibility of philosophical zombies, then we can never be sure that anyone is truly conscious. But that seems a position of needless skepticism. It makes more sense to believe that consciousness is associated with a coherent view of self.

  44. bigbird

    If the AI can not be distinguished from a person, then there is good reason to believe the AI is conscious (as well as intelligent).

    No, there’s good reason to believe that the AI has succeeded in imitating a person.

    I don’t see why that gives us a good reason to believe it is conscious.

    Can we be absolutely sure? If you allow for the possibility of philosophical zombies, then we can never be sure that anyone is truly conscious. But that seems a position of needless skepticism.

    It’s not needless skepticism if whether or not a machine can be conscious is the question we are trying to answer.

    Philosophical zombies must be allowed for, otherwise you are deciding the answer to the question before you begin.

  45. djc

    bigbird,

    No, there’s good reason to believe that the AI has succeeded in imitating a person.

    I don’t see why that gives us a good reason to believe it is conscious.

    How do you know a “person” you meet is not mimicking the consciousness of a real human being if you won’t trust yourself to make a judgment after listening to them? Do you require DNA samples to verify their species before you allow that a person might be experiencing consciousness?

    What about an alien race? To be consistent, you must also deny that aliens who might appear to be technologically advanced, intelligent, and having minds are actually conscious because they don’t look like humans.

    DNA seems irrelevant to me. The matter that a person is constructed out of should not truly make a difference. What should be important is the mind that is illuminated through communication. That should be the only test.

    It’s not needless skepticism if whether or not a machine can be conscious is the question we are trying to answer.

    It strikes me very much as needless skepticism if you won’t grant that someone is conscious unless they can prove they’re genetically related to you closely enough. Surely talking to them would be the most important test of all.

    Philosophical zombies must be allowed for, otherwise you are deciding the answer to the question before you begin.

    If you allow for philosophical zombies, anyone could be one. That consciousness only follows homosapien genes seems strangely arbitrary.

  46. bigbird

    If you allow for philosophical zombies, anyone could be one. That consciousness only follows homosapien genes seems strangely arbitrary.

    I think you’ve misunderstood my point. I’m not arguing for human philosophical zombies – I’m happy to accept that human beings are not zombies.

    But the very point in dispute here is “are AI creations philosophical zombies?”

    So of course you can’t rule out AI philosophical zombies, because this is what we are trying to establish.

    Given AI machines are created by us and are totally unlike us in constitution, I don’t see why consciousness should supervene.

    You seem to be saying that we accept people aren’t philosophical zombies, so if we can create a machine indistinguishable from humans, then it won’t be a philosophical zombie.

    I see no reason to make that step.

    What should be important is the mind that is illuminated through communication. That should be the only test.

    Again, whether or not AI creations have a mind is what is being questioned.

    Basically, you are asserting that the presence of a mind can be shown through communication. I see no evidence offered for that assertion.

  47. JAD

    I think very soon that computers using voice recognition programs are going to be virtually indistinguishable from a live human agent over the phone. (Already, as you know, voice recognition programs are being widely used by the travel, banking and other industries.) Should we conclude then that the program is self conscious? I doubt that anyone at present thinks so. Consciousness is an internal subjective state of awareness, not a pre-scripted program that is designed to respond certain kinds of verbal patterns. Such a computer program is no more conscious than the Chatty Cathy doll that my sister had when we were growing up. For sure, it is more sophisticated. Instead pulling a string and getting randomly scripted scratchy voice recording you get a seamless and pleasant sounding answer. In other words, such a program will be a very good simulation of what conscious agent would say, but there will be no agency there behind the facade.

    In other words, we’re just qualitatively improving the performance of mechanistically operating algorithms we have created to mimic the interaction of self conscious human agents. However, as self conscious human agents we know that… right?

  48. Oisin

    BillT:

    you are still left with the fact that those perceptions, even if accurate, are only that by chance. You still have the problem that the mind on A-M evolution has no ability to perceive truth. That is, even if the correlation between utility and accuracy is high the A-M evolutionary mind can’t make a distinction between the two.

    This is the perfect distillation of the argument here, I think both the dualists and the materialists should take a look at this to understand the difference between the two schools of thought displayed here about reasoning.

    The materialists say that reasoning is adaptive and imperfect, acquiring a degree of truthiness but not Absolute Truth, and would claim that Absolute Truth is not a claim that can be made, there must be some degree of doubt because humans are fallible.

    The dualists claim that reasoning produces Absolute Truth, and the materialists are wrong because they cannot make claims to Absolute Truth, that is that, because the materialistic “reasoning processes” cannot be known to have Absolute Truth, then they should not be called reasoning at all.

    An interesting question would be whether the materialists here are monists or not.

    Another interesting question would be how reasoning errors could possibly occur under dualism, seeing as reasoning taps into immaterial, universal propositions that lead to Absolute Truth.

  49. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Oisin,

    You’re a materialist. I want to know whether you think reason can “produce Absolute Truth.”

    Do you think reason can discover the truth 2+2=4 and be absolutely confident of its truth? For example, if you imagine two triangles in your mind, and then you imagine two more joining them, that the number of triangles you are now thinking of must now be four (barring mental tricks like triangles joining to become stars or hexagons, etc.)?

    Is that or is that not absolutely true?

  50. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Shane @#5,

    You ask about whether these things might apply to animals besides humans. Interestingly enough, in this case it doesn’t make the slightest difference. If animals can reason through some non-physically determinist process, then atheistic materialism is refuted. So the question in this context is moot.

    But hey, now I’m reading down the thread and I see Melissa answered the same way two days ago. (I drove a round-trip 315 miles for meetings yesterday, and I missed the whole day’s discussion.)

    You say,

    But I’m sure that the family tree of all these things can be traced back to the earliest human experiences/memories of math. i.e. “If I have two of something and I eat one of them I only have one of them left.” I look forward to people pointing out where I am wrong.

    I’m not going to point out where you’re wrong, I’m going to point out where you’re making up things as you go along. There isn’t the slightest evidence for that claim.

    Which JAD also said the night before last. I can see I’m not needed here … 😉

    But Shane, when you re-asked the question in #9, did you know that you were steering this discussion off toward one of your favorite hobby-horse topics, instead of the topic everyone else was discussing here?

    And then in #10, when you said, “I think it should be easy enough for people to show I’m wrong if I am,” you were dreaming again—unless you think inventing a time machine to observe these things arising all those millennia ago would be “easy enough.”

    But we learn that we can apply logic and generalise universals from particular instances because of past experiences. It’s not something we innately know.

    Evidence, please? Is this a recapitulation of Hume? Did you know that there’s evidence that infants can count?

  51. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    GrahamH @#22,

    It is a little unfortunate that this argument, like your posts on free will and the interaction problem, spend most of the time critiquing materialist arguments rather than developing the theistic arguments on their own merits. All of them seem to assume an immaterial or immaterial things like free will and then take it from there.

    First, have some patience, please. It’s unfortunate, perhaps, that you don’t like the sequence in which I’m covering this material.

    Second, for pete’s sake if you think these posts have been about assuming an immaterial reality, my goodness, why don’t you just come out and call the whole thing a massive begging of the question so the rest of us can explain to you how seriously you’ve misread it!

    These articles have been arguments from human experience to a conclusion that materialism is completely inadequate as an explanation.

    I see little evidence of the immaterial unless the core argument is “materialism does not explain these things satisfactorily therefore theism wins”.

    Do you have a better explanation for what kind of world we live in if materialism fails? (Some options for you to consider: theism, pantheism, panentheism, solipsism, Boltzmann’s brain as a variation on solipsism, Thomas Nagel’s I-don’t-know-but-it-isn’t-any-of-these-including-materialism….)

    Which of these do you prefer? You see, when there is a short list of possibilities for an explanation, and one or more of them is ruled out, the probability of what remains increases. Furthermore, if atheistic materialism is proved wrong by way of arguments like these, then anyone who claims to have believed in atheistic materialism must change his or her mind, on pain of gross irrationality. If I don’t prove theism but I do disprove atheistic materialism, I’ll still consider that a decent few days’ work.

    Finally for that comment, you quote me and then ask,

    “Furthermore, if what we name “rational inference” could be fully explained on physical causation alone, there would be little about it that was rational.”

    Why not? Is it because of your assertion no physical processes can produce truth-related outputs? Why can’t reason be reliable rather than truthful? We can be reasonably sure that certain conclusions are accurate to an acceptable degree of certainty without saying “we know this is true for sure”. We know that works.

    I can supply an answer for you. It may seem cute, but I’m making a very serious and intentional point. I have addressed that problem in a blog post here, which I’m guessing you might have seen before you commented, although the evidence on that point is ambiguous.

    Anyway, here’ s your opportunity to interact with some arguments if you care to do so–which you have not done by simply quoting my conclusion and asking why? as if I hadn’t said anything else.

  52. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Jenna @#36,

    You say, “It seems to me to be a bit odd and not very enlightening to think of thoughts as having a “cause” in the same way that changes, movement, interactions of physical things have a cause.”

    Exactly. This is a reductio argument.

  53. Post
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  54. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Ray @#31,

    The second is that the pattern of ‘warped thinking’ we see in humans is the kind that evolution would produce – if we were made by some Master CraftsThing, why aren’t we better at thinking than we are?

    You have just successfully refuted Master CraftsThingism. Thank you. It rules out that possibility, at least. Christianity, on the other hand, has an explanation for human imperfection.

  55. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Larry,

    What are these “many other classes of causes” (or “many different roots” [of causes]) that are not physical causes, and how is the existence of these other causes established unambiguously?

    Through arguments such as the one presented in a blog post I wrote here, if such arguments succeed. I think you probably read that article before commenting, though the evidence for that is ambiguous.

  56. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Larry, you ask, “Could you post some direct quotations from authoritative sources that verify what the ‘A-M view’ says?”

    Not really, it would take too much time. I’ve read it in too many places. Peruse Sam Harris’s Free Will or any of Jerry Coyne’s articles or blog posts on free will, and you’ll find something there.

  57. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    John,

    The physical effect of a thought is clearly the neural-electric energy flowing through our brains. It’s a well understood physical phenomenon.

    The physical effect of a thought is also your writing that comment, or pouring yourself a cup of coffee, or opening your car’s hood when it won’t start …

    Thoughts have many, many physical effects. The question isn’t in the effects, but in where thoughts come from.

  58. Oisin

    Tom:

    You’re a materialist. I want to know whether you think reason can “produce Absolute Truth.”

    We cannot claim 100% knowledge that we have acquired Absolute Truth, though it is possible that we had indeed done so, e.g. we say that water is two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen, this could and most likely is the case beyond any reasonable doubt, but to call it Absolute Truth would be a claim to additional knowledge that we cannot claim to have.

    Do you think reason can discover the truth 2+2=4 and be absolutely confident of its truth?

    Reason does not discover this, that is merely a description of the universe as informed by our senses, and expressed in the language of mathematics.

    I think you have ignored my question (déjà vu…):

    Another interesting question would be how reasoning errors could possibly occur under dualism, seeing as reasoning taps into immaterial, universal propositions that lead to Absolute Truth.

  59. Ray Ingles

    Bigbird – Did you read what I linked to? I think it explains my reasoning pretty well, and I don’t want to just quote long chunks of it here.

  60. Oisin

    Please take me off of moderation, Tom, or at least let me know what rules I have broken to deserve moderation.

    About this whole argument:

    A false dichotomy has been created, where the argument hinges on showing that rationality of any form is impossible under materialism, therefore dualism must be true.

    This is a completely illogical leap, there could be any number of explanations for minds that do not necessitate the Christian conception of the soul, for example there could be immaterial angels and demons that exist in a non-material realm that interact with human brains every time the human tries to reason, and when you get an angel you reason correctly and when you get a demon she tricks you into making reasoning errors.

    This explanation has exactly the same amount of evidence going for it as the explanations for dualism people are giving here. Why not Triadism, or Pentalism? How many of these immaterial causes exist, how can we rule one out and accept another? We cannot, such claims are unjustified.

    If materialism is wrong, all that means is that you have a huge amount of phenomena that need explaining, and just saying that the Christian conception of a non-material soul is not explanation enough for all of the phenomena.

    Further, since the dualist rejection of materialistic reasoning relies on reasoning requiring knowledge of Absolute Truth, since materialists reject the notion that humans can know that they have Absolute Truth then these particular arguments against materialism are straw-men.

  61. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Oisin, you say,

    About this whole argument:

    A false dichotomy has been created, where the argument hinges on showing that rationality of any form is impossible under materialism, therefore dualism must be true.

    This is a completely illogical leap, there could be any number of explanations for minds that do not necessitate the Christian conception of the soul, for example there could be immaterial angels and demons that exist in a non-material realm that interact with human brains every time the human tries to reason, and when you get an angel you reason correctly and when you get a demon she tricks you into making reasoning errors.

    Maybe you missed the answer I already gave to GrahamH on that very question.

  62. Post
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  63. Post
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  64. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    You say,

    Reason does not discover this, that is merely a description of the universe as informed by our senses, and expressed in the language of mathematics.

    So…

    Our senses inform us that mental images of imagined geometric figures conform to some reality in the world around us. I don’t know how they do that. I don’t quite know how our senses inform us that 2+2=4, either.

    Further, suppose we grant that our senses inform us that on every occasion so far, when two physical objects have been added to two physical objects, the result has been four. Tell me how you would move from there to the conclusion, 2+2=4, without using reason.

    Further, please explain to me why you are so terribly anxious to undermine even the most basic functions of human reason. What does that gain you? Frankly from here it looks like the same thing I see in denials of consciousness and free will:

    1. I believe in atheistic materialism.
    2. Free will, consciousness, and rationality are unexplainable on atheistic materialism.
    3. Therefore free will, consciousness, and rationality are not real.
    4. But free will, consciousness, and rationality are intransigent experiences: I can’t just wish them away.
    5. But I’ll try anyway! I’ll even deny that 2+2=4 is a conclusion of human reasoning!

  65. Larry Tanner

    Tom at #57. You link to the OP, which I did read. I am looking for you to name these many other causes. I accept that there are such things as physical causes. You argue that there are other, types of cause, and I want to learn what they are.

    Please reconsider the position you articulate in #58. Honest and open debate depends on bringing in exact words and arguments. You of all people know how frustrating it can be when people do not discuss actual arguments but rather address themselves to simplified, un-nuanced versions.

    Nevertheless, like Graham, I am not interested in your critique of materialism because you are predisposed against it. Your bias gets in the way. I would rather have you make a clear case that focuses only on theism: how human rationality, clearly defined, provides unambiguous evidence of the existence of a single Creator/Ground-of-Being god or gods. That case seems in my neutral view to be weak where it exists at all, but I understand that you are building up to the case’s strong points at some time in the future.

  66. Oisin

    Tom:

    Maybe you missed the answer I already gave to GrahamH on that very question.

    Okay, so this is not a post about evidence for God, just evidence against materialism, I’m glad that is clear.

    Oisin, you may think I ignored your question, but actually I addressed the same question put forward earlier by Ray. See #56.

    Hmm, okay, must’ve missed that, let me go check up on that and see your answer…:

    Christianity… has an explanation for human imperfection.

    Do I even need to make a joke about the inadequacy of that reply?

    2. Free will, [immaterial] consciousness, and [absolute] rationality are unexplainable on atheistic materialism.

    I have changed what you said there to actually match the claims made. No materialist denies that humans make decisions, no materialist denies that humans are conscious, no materialist denies that humans employ rational processes.

    Only dualists claim that our will acts free of all prior causes (without any evidence of this), only dualists claim that consciousness somehow exists outside of brains and free of any material causation (against all evidence to the contrary), only dualists claim that human rational processes result in Absolute Truth about the nature of the universe (without explanation of how God’s perfectly created spirits can reason incorrectly, except through free will maybe?).

    An explanation of why this reasoning sometimes produces Absolute Truth and sometimes produces falsehood and illogic would be great for carrying forward the discussion.

  67. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Larry,

    You argue that there are other, types of cause, and I want to learn what they are.

    No, at that point I was only suggesting there might be other causes. I don’t know what they all might be, nor do I need to know. This is not a post about every type of causation, but a post intended to undermine belief in materialism as an adequate explanation for every phenomenon.

    I don’t really care to re-read Harris’s book, thank you. Further, the answer to your question can be found in the very definition of the atheistic-materialistic (A-M) view. I don’t think there’s much need to find proof that the A-M view adheres to the A-M view. Now, if it happens that you don’t adhere to the A-M view, then this post isn’t about your view, and you need not worry about it much.

    Speaking of which, if you’re not interested in the topic of this post, you can wait and comment all you want when I write on a topic you’re interested in. I’ve posted the list of topics, so you pretty much know it’s coming.

  68. Larry Tanner

    No, at that point I was only suggesting there might be other causes.

    Oh, and these other causes all might be various shades of the color blue.

    Can we really discuss things that might be without basing the suggestions on anything tangible?

    The title of this post is “Evidence for God: Rationality (The Argument From Reason).” So when you say that “This is not a post about every type of causation, but a post intended to undermine belief in materialism as an adequate explanation for every phenomenon” then I am confused. I had taken the title on its face to mean that its post would assert a positive case for the argument from reason.

  69. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Oisin,

    Okay, so this is not a post about evidence for God, just evidence against materialism, I’m glad that is clear.

    You just muddied it up by over-simplifying it that way…

    Do I even need to make a joke about the inadequacy of that reply?

    The question was how imperfection can be explained, on theism. To joke about my reply would reveal more about yourself than about the reply: either you don’t know anything about what Christianity teaches, in which case you are in the odd position of strenuously objecting to you-know-not-what; or else you do know, and you think that there’s something funny about the answer, in which case it would be more fitting for you to say what you think that might be.

    2. Free will, [immaterial] consciousness, and [absolute] rationality are unexplainable on atheistic materialism.

    I have changed what you said there to actually match the claims made. No materialist denies that humans make decisions, no materialist denies that humans are conscious, no materialist denies that humans employ rational processes.

    Actually, Oisin, you haven’t read the materialists. Try Alex Rosenberg. Try Sam Harris. Try Paul and Patricia Churchland. Try Thomas Nagel’s critique of materialism. And try considering the point I’m making: if some materialists don’t arrive at those conclusions, my argument is that it’s because they are not reaching the logical conclusion to their positions the way the Churchlands, Rosenberg, and Nagel have done. Some materialists are wrong, based on their own premises.

    An explanation of why this reasoning sometimes produces Absolute Truth and sometimes produces falsehood and illogic would be great for carrying forward the discussion.

    See above, the answer you considered joking about. Note also that the question I’m raising here is how a purely material brain could ever reason from premises to truth.

  70. Post
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  71. Larry Tanner

    Tom at 73. Apparently so, but one might might look at the decline of Christianity’s relevance and cultural stature as an example of Pogo’s famous “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”

  72. Oisin

    Tom:

    You just muddied it up by over-simplifying it that way…

    Unjustified claim. I think I have clarified your position, as you offered no positive evidence for God here, only critiques of materialism (as Larry has said and for some reason you did not dispute with him).

    either you don’t know anything about what Christianity teaches, in which case you are in the odd position of strenuously objecting to you-know-not-what; or else you do know, and you think that there’s something funny about the answer, in which case it would be more fitting for you to say what you think that might be

    This paragraph makes no sense.

    I asked how Christianity explains reasoning errors, considering that you claim that we all have perfect, God-created spirits that reason immaterially to arrive at Absolute Truth. You said Christianity has answers. This is an absolutely ridiculous reply, which is why I could’ve made a joke but I declined to because I was hoping you’d actually flesh that out in a follow-up. But no…

    Actually, Oisin, you haven’t read the materialists.

    Pretty sure you don’t know that, Tom, and I am offended that you would try to make claims about me and what I have read.

    if some materialists don’t arrive at those conclusions, my argument is that it’s because they are not reaching the logical conclusion to their positions

    As I have said, you created a strawman materialism. You showed how free will, that is, free from all other material causes, was impossible on materialism. You did not show that will, completely bound by prior causes such as genetics and memories, was impossible.

    You did not show that consciousness was impossible on materialism, simply because consciousness is defined too loosely to make any kind of claim like that. Dennett addresses the problem of qualia and humunculi in his book ‘Consciousness Explained’, so materialism can potentially have a logically-sound position on consciousness.

    You have shown that rationality, by which you mean reasoning that produces Absolute Truths (that the individual can Absolutely Know are Absolute Truths), is impossible on materialism. But materialism posits imperfect methods of predicting the future, ones that have been selected for based on their utility, or degree of truthiness, rather than ones that 100% of the time produce Absolute Truth.

    The materialist accounts of rationality accurately correspond to the way we see humans reasoning, as humans make irrational leaps and base conclusions based on past experience rather than logical consistency. How can dualism account for these errors? Please actually answer this question, instead of ignoring it and focusing on why you think I am wrong. Convince me that you are right.

  73. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Oisin, you’re putting words in my mouth:

    by which you mean reasoning that produces Absolute Truths (that the individual can Absolutely Know are Absolute Truths), is impossible on materialism. But materialism posits imperfect methods of predicting the future, ones that have been selected for based on their utility, or degree of truthiness, rather than ones that 100% of the time produce Absolute Truth.

    And you’re ignoring what I’ve told you quite clearly:

    Note also that the question I’m raising here is how a purely material brain could ever reason from premises to truth.

    Pretty sure you don’t know that, Tom, and I am offended that you would try to make claims about me and what I have read.

    Okay, if you have read these materialists, Oisin, you didn’t catch what they said—because these materialists said things that you just told me no materialist says.

    As I have said, you created a strawman materialism. You showed how free will, that is, free from all other material causes, was impossible on materialism. You did not show that will, completely bound by prior causes such as genetics and memories, was impossible.

    Exactly. You got everything right there except for identifying my case as a strawman. I was quite clear about what I showed and did not show concerning materialism, and you agree that I showed it. What you’re disagreeing with here is whether it matters, not whether I demonstrated it.

    The materialist accounts of rationality accurately correspond to the way we see humans reasoning, as humans make irrational leaps and base conclusions based on past experience rather than logical consistency. How can dualism account for these errors? Please actually answer this question, instead of ignoring it and focusing on why you think I am wrong. Convince me that you are right.

    The explanation for human imperfection is in the Fall, according to Christian theism. Now, let me repeat what you had trouble understanding earlier, only with a blank or two filled in. This must be understood in context of prior discussion, of which I will now repeat only a portion (re-read the context for the rest):

    If you do not know about the doctrine of the Fall, then either

    1. You don’t know anything about what Christianity teaches, for the Fall is central to Christian belief. In that case you are in the odd position of strenuously objecting to you-know-not-what; or
    2. You do know about the Fall, and you think that there’s something funny about the answer, in which case it would be more fitting for you to say what you think that might be.

    I’m not going to convince you. You know that.

    I’m not even going to continue this conversation with you, because it’s heading down the same road the last one did. You accuse me of ignoring what I did not ignore. You yourself ignore answers that I have given (for evidence, see above). You’re falsely putting words in my mouth. All of this is really unproductive, frustrating, and annoying.

    I gave you a lot of leeway with that kind of thing a week or two ago. I’m not interested in repeating that experience. Since this is heading in precisely the same direction, and since you’ve had more than enough warning, the earlier banning is now reinstated. See above.

  74. Oisin

    Tom:

    I’m extremely confused, I do not see the problem. I am not intentionally misreading you, and as far as I can see I have not done so.

    Oisin:

    materialism posits imperfect methods of predicting the future, ones that have been selected for based on their utility, or degree of truthiness, rather than ones that 100% of the time produce Absolute Truth.

    Tom:

    And you’re ignoring what I’ve told you quite clearly:

    Note also that the question I’m raising here is how a purely material brain could ever reason from premises to truth.

    I do not see what I am ignoring here, Tom. I have correctly characterized your position, as you admit, but you say I am ignoring something by calling it a strawman.

    I say it is a strawman because materialists do not need to claim that reasoning processes produce truth, or ‘Absolute Truth’ as I am calling it to differentiate from fallible, pragmatic truth.

    Okay, if you have read these materialists, Oisin, you didn’t catch what they said—because these materialists said things that you just told me no materialist says.

    These materialists do not deny that materialistic will exists, they do not deny that consciousness exists, they do not deny that imperfect, evolved rationality exists. You know that, Tom.

    The explanation for human imperfection is in the Fall, according to Christian theism

    The explanation for human immorality is in the Fall. I have never seen nor heard of anything even alluding to the Fall affecting humanity’s ability to reason logically, can you point me to something explaining this link?

    You accuse me of ignoring what I did not ignore. You yourself ignore answers that I have given (for evidence, see above). You’re falsely putting words in my mouth. All of this is really unproductive, frustrating, and annoying.

    I apologize for this, I think it is my style of writing. Would it be friendlier if, instead of summarizing what I think you are saying as if I think I am definitely right that this is what you said, instead I ask you if that is a correct interpretation, so that I am not directly putting words in your mouth?

    BillT put what I think is the perfect analysis of your arguments here:

    even if the correlation between utility and accuracy is high the A-M evolutionary mind can’t make a distinction between the two.

    Is this a correct characterization? I think it summarizes Point One (that the calculations are not “about” the inputs), Point Two (they are not true or false about anything, there is only a correlation based on utility) and Point 4 (they cannot produce truth outputs, only adaptive or survival-guaranteeing outputs).

    My contention is that reasoning is exactly like this, it does not produce Absolute Truth, rather it produces degrees of truthiness that are adaptive, and sometimes it could in principle hit upon Absolute Truth, but we would not know that it was Absolute Truth with 100% certainty. for this reason, it is compatible with an evolutionary, materialistic account of humanness.

  75. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    One last time.

    You have not correctly characterized my position. How could you possibly say I admit it when I’ve just got done saying you’re putting words in my mouth??!?!?!??

    Alex Rosenberg denies that thinking exists. He denies (a fortiori) that rational thinking exists. And I know it.

    Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne deny that free will exists, and I don’t care (never said I did!) if they say that “materialistic will” exists.

    And I know it.

    Frankly I’ve never heard of materialistic will!

    Alex Rosenberg denies that consciousness exists.

    And I know it.

    Thomas Nagel denies that any of these things could exist, on naturalism.

    And I know it.

    Most of these deny that propositional attitudes exist.

    And I know it.

    So forget about telling me these materialists don’t say these things, and “you know that, Tom.”

    Human imperfection is a result of the Fall. It extends beyond moral failing to physical and noetic imperfections. Please read Genesis 3 and Romans 1:18-23. See also http://www.theopedia.com/Noetic_effects_of_sin and http://projecttgm.com/2012/10/the-noetic-effects-of-sin-and-discipleship-of-the-mind/ .

    No, BillT’s summation does not cover my position. It accurately states one aspect of what I believe, but only a piece of it, as he is certainly aware. It says nothing whatever about intentionality, in spite of your attempt to make that connection there; it has nothing to do with the truth-content of material objects, states or processes; and it totally misses the differences between inferential and rational processes.

    Let me ask you this, then.

    What would it take for you to be convinced that Christianity is true, that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, seated at the right hand of the Father (metaphorically of course, although truly in context of the metaphor), that his way is good, and that this makes all the difference in your life?

    Can you see yourself coming around to that conclusion?

    I ask this because it makes all the difference to me in whether this discussion is worth continuing.

    You might ask me in return what it would take for me to change my position. The answer is in two parts. The first part is that it would take something else besides someone suggesting that a piece of my fourth point in the OP represents my entire position, thinking that when I’m telling you outright that you’ve got my position wrong that I agreed that you got it right, and so on.

    The second part is motivational. I’m trying to think of some reason to prolong a discussion that’s going nowhere. If I thought it might get somewhere that I consider of value to me, I might stay in it despite the headwinds I have to slog through to get there. I need reasons that motivate me, not reasons that motivate you.

    Seeking the truth is motivational, by all means. I’m not seeing our discussions as being that kind of thing; not when I have to keep repeating and correcting your understanding of my position. You’re not succeeding in coming close to, “What is a true statement of Tom’s position (even if his position is false)?” If we can’t get near that small degree of truth together, we have no hope of getting to any larger truths.

  76. SteveK

    Regarding human imperfection, I maintain that nothing can actually be imperfect unless it has an objective purpose. Without a purpose, the only thing you can say is that the function changed.

    Humans have no purpose under materialism, so there is no such thing as an imperfect brain function. Irrationality is just a different function that results in a different outcome.

  77. BillT

    Just a clarification since my name has come up (and I’m a bit confused). My post #41 was a critique of Ray Ingles website (post #31) where he offered a critique of Plantinga’s EAAN argument.

  78. Oisin

    Tom:

    I will take the criticism that Alex Rosenberg says these things on board.

    Human imperfection is a result of the Fall. It extends beyond moral failing to physical and noetic imperfections.

    So people’s errors in assessing probabilities in the Gambler’s fallacy, people’s errors in recalling all the relevant data in confirmation bias, people’s errors in assessing risk/reward due to the framing of the situation, all of these occur because Adam and Eve ate an apple in the Garden of Eden?

    Did this event truly occur?

    What would it take for you to be convinced that Christianity is true, that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, seated at the right hand of the Father (metaphorically of course, although truly in context of the metaphor), that his way is good, and that this makes all the difference in your life?

    I have been desensitized to many religious arguments, and I have heard many scientific explanations based on evidence for things religious people say only religion can explain, so it would be difficult.

    One thing would be a personal experience of God. I maintain a daily spiritual practice, partly based on mindfulness which is about noticing how my thoughts affect my perception of reality, and trying to view reality objectively without imposing my thoughts and desires onto it, the other part being compassion meditation based on developing feelings of altruistic love towards all human beings. This would be a prime time for a religious experience. A miracle would shake me, too.

    Another thing that would convince me would be a prediction made by religious beliefs being confirmed via experimentation. It’s just that all the old predictions about the natural world based on the Bible have been falsified.

    Another thing would be some evidence that the scientific materialism is inadequate, that there are things that are completely baffling on materialism. As I have attempted to say here, materialistic explanations of the problems you note exist, and I do not see the flaws in the materialistic explanations. I would be open to being shown I am wrong, with reference to specific experiments that science explains incorrectly that religion explains better, and makes better predictions on it. This seems like you would say that these are two unrelated fields, but the scientific study of consciousness should be a good place for a meeting of science and religion, since you hold that dualism is true.

    Evidence that certain pieces of knowledge in the Bible are true that could not have been known by people at the time, and could not possibly have been fabricated by a people for whom a wheelbarrow would have been a huge technological advancement, this would also be good evidence.

    I’m not against a theistic view of the world in principle, I just think that the evidence for it grows smaller with each scientific leap getting rid of theistic predictions and truth-claims.

    I accept that thought is not truly “about” things, it is merely caused by them (in reaction to the things, so when I think “about” an apple, there is electrical activity caused by my previous experiences of apples), I accept that thought does not come to Truth or Falsehood, only approximations based on personal experience and the utility of the beliefs formed (how well predictive models work, rather than how true they are). This is the dominant view in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, materialistic model-based rationality.

    Why do you think that this particular materialistic explanation of rationality does not work? Please don’t just refer me to the OP, I have taken on some aspects of your critique and I am claiming that they do not contradict the materialistic viewpoint.

  79. bigbird

    @Larry

    Bigbird – Did you read what I linked to? I think it explains my reasoning pretty well, and I don’t want to just quote long chunks of it here.

    Yes. You say that “It’s critical to the argument that it be more likely, or at least as likely, that a false belief will be at least as useful as a true one. ”

    It’s not critical at all. The point of the EAAN is that in the universal set of possible beliefs (including beliefs about what our senses tell us), almost all beliefs are false.

    The only criteria for preserving beliefs is their utility for survival, and of that infinite number of possible beliefs, it seems likely that high numbers of false beliefs will contribute to survival despite their falsity. They don’t even need to be as useful as true beliefs as long as they make a difference.

    I was pointing out earlier that your statement about accuracy being highly associated with utility in the real world is dependent on the assumption that our beliefs are reliable (otherwise how do we know our beliefs are accurate?) – but the point is that from an evolutionary point of view, that’s precisely what the EAAN is questioning.

  80. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Oisin, if you still think that approximations to truth (or falsehood) are possible on atheistic materialism, you haven’t grappled with items 1 and 2 in the OP yet. I’m going to have to refer you back to the OP until I sense that you’ve caught what it’s saying, or ask some relevant questions about what it’s saying.

    Yes, the Fall happened. It wasn’t an apple.

    Do you doubt or disagree that it happened? That’s not in question right here, actually. You asked how theism explains imperfect reasoning, and that’s the answer Christian theism gives.

  81. djc

    bigbird,

    I think you’ve misunderstood my point. I’m not arguing for human philosophical zombies – I’m happy to accept that human beings are not zombies.

    Okay, let’s review.

    You use certain principles to accept that human beings are not zombies. If those principles are sound, you should apply them to AIs and either accept or reject that AIs are not zombies. Principles should be applied consistently.

    What are those principles? From your first post: “I infer other humans are also conscious because 1) they are very similar to me and 2) they appear to be conscious.”

    Principle (2) applies equally to persons and to a suitably advanced AI that appears to be conscious. I take “appears to be conscious” as a description of aptitude and skill demonstrating awareness of self, minds, agents, volition, intentionality, etc. So based on principle (2) alone, you would accept that an AI that appeared to be conscious is not a zombie. Am I correct so far?

    Now on to principle (1). “Similar to me” I have taken to mean that they have human DNA. That is not just 2 arms, 2 legs, 2 eyes, head in the right place, etc., but also a greater than 99.9% percent similarity with your DNA. Why is this a valid principle for consciousness? I maintain it is not a valid principle for consciousness, and I would like to know why you feel differently.

    So of course you can’t rule out AI philosophical zombies, because this is what we are trying to establish.

    You have stated that an X is not a philosophical zombie if it is 1) very similar to you and 2) appears to be conscious, where X is a person you meet on the street. It stands to reason if X is an AI and is similar to you and appears to be conscious you should also infer that it is conscious. That’s how I understand your argument so far.

  82. djc

    Tom,

    Oisin, if you still think that approximations to truth (or falsehood) are possible on atheistic materialism, you haven’t grappled with items 1 and 2 in the OP yet.

    I’m in the same boat, I do feel approximations are absolutely possible under atheistic materialism.

    Re: Item 1, intentionality is an interesting puzzle but if it is not strictly necessary for a computer to have it to function correctly, why should it be necessary for my mind (which I view as a highly complex computer) to function correctly? I am quite comfortable with the view that “aboutness” is the experience of the neural representations of reality.

    Re: Item 2: “physical systems cannot be true or false about anything”. “True” simply means that something has been communicated successfully between language-using minds, “false” means something went wrong. For example, is it “true” that the sun rose today? Yes, I saw it and everyone else saw so we all have a shared neural representation consistent with the sun rising today. Is it “true” that the sun will rise tomorrow? Well, we all have a shared neural representation that the past is a pretty good indicator of the future, but there is still a chance the sun will explode tonight nuking the earth, so it’s not really “true” but at least “probable”. So, again, I just don’t see a serious problem here.

  83. Melissa

    djc,

    I am quite comfortable with the view that “aboutness” is the experience of the neural representations of reality.

    Except that they aren’t representations at all if there is no intentionality. To rephrase you’re comfortable with the view that “aboutness” is the experience of neural events being about something.

    True” simply means that something has been communicated successfully between language-using minds, “false” means something went wrong. For example, is it “true” that the sun rose today? Yes, I saw it and everyone else saw so we all have a shared neural representation consistent with the sun rising today.

    I’m sorry but this is just silly. True means the belief or proposition accuately represents reality, of course in practice there will be degrees to which a belief is true or false according to how well it represents reality. Your example of the sun rising doesn’t include any kind of communication so how can the sun rising be true according to your theory? If I told you that the sun didn’t rise today and that is what I meant to
    tell you then I have communicated successfully but what I’ve communicated would be false.

  84. djc

    Melissa,

    Except that they aren’t representations at all if there is no intentionality. To rephrase you’re comfortable with the view that “aboutness” is the experience of neural events being about something.

    “Aboutness” is the experience of neural events having a time/physical correlation with something else via memory and computation, to use the language of computer science.

    I’m sorry but this is just silly. True means the belief or proposition accuately represents reality, of course in practice there will be degrees to which a belief is true or false according to how well it represents reality. Your example of the sun rising doesn’t include any kind of communication so how can the sun rising be true according to your theory? If I told you that the sun didn’t rise today and that is what I meant to tell you then I have communicated successfully but what I’ve communicated would be false.

    What does truth mean if no one has language or symbols? Imagine not be able to read or write, talk or hear, knowing no words or symbols, nothing but a narrow tunnel of subjective beliefs about the way things seem but you can’t ever ask or communicate with someone else if they see things the same way. What is truth in this case? It doesn’t even seem to exist.

    The communication was there in the comment: is it “true” that the sun rose today? I was addressing the forum using symbols. That was the communication. If you told me that the sun didn’t rise, we have a contradiction in our understanding, there is an inconsistency. Did the sun rise or not? I would trust my own judgment on something that simple, but on more complex subjects, like “does prayer work”, I might consult others, or check studies. True and false is primarily about communicating concepts among our minds.

    But, yes, I could talk only to myself and use the concepts “true” and “false” to reach an assurance that I understood what I mean, like if I’m working through a proof or something like that. But that also presumes my mind has been filled with language and symbols from years of living with other language-using minds.

  85. Melissa

    djc,

    “Aboutness” is the experience of neural events having a time/physical correlation with something else via memory and computation, to use the language of computer science.

    Except the problem with that is that the time/physical correlation could be with any number of things along the physical chain of causation.

    . What is truth in this case? It doesn’t even seem to exist.

    Our beliefs would still either represent reality or they wouldn’t

    . That was the communication. If you told me that the sun didn’t rise, we have a contradiction in our understanding, there is an inconsistency. Did the sun rise or not?

    That’s correct we either have a contradiction in our understanding of what the words mean (your position) different beliefs about whether the sun actually rose or not (my position). Although your last question shows that at bottom we agree. You want to know whether the proposition “the sun rose today” represents reality accurately.

    True and false is primarily about communicating concepts among our minds

    The words true and false may be primarily about communicating concepts but the concepts they’re communicating are this does or this doesn’t accuately represent reality.

  86. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “It’s not generalise universals, it’s generalise to universals. It’s experiencing particulars then abstracting from those particulars to the universal. Yes we learn how to do this but it is not a matter of “just having lots of experiences and storing it in memory”, there is reasoning that goes on between these two steps.”

    But again, we are not born with that reasoning. We learn it from past experience which is stored in memory and we can then access. Subconsciously for some of it, but it must still be in memory.

    Cheers
    Shane

  87. Shane Fletcher

    Hi John

    “Hey Shane
    Was what you said in this particular blog just a product of physical forces or did you really mean what you said ? Was it all determined or did you make your assertions in here freely ?
    John D”

    I’m not sure. I don’t know if I have free will or just the appearance of it. I don’t think it makes too much of a difference to me as I don’t live with the belief that I must have free will to have my actions judged by a creator.

    Cheers
    Shane

  88. Shane Fletcher

    Hi bigbird

    “That seems to be the thrust of many arguments I hear from atheists.

    We simply seem to have been really, really lucky – with fine tuning, with abiogenesis, with DNA, with evolution …

    But at what point does one decide being really, really lucky is really just too unlikely to be true?”

    When the odds of something happening by chance is far greater than the odds of their being an all powerful being that has existed forever.

    Cheers
    Shane

  89. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom,

    “You ask about whether these things might apply to animals besides humans. Interestingly enough, in this case it doesn’t make the slightest difference. If animals can reason through some non-physically determinist process, then atheistic materialism is refuted. So the question in this context is moot.”

    Well you use this to argument to suggest there is an extra part of us that does this thinking, our soul which was given to us by God and then lives on after our earthly bodies perish. Do you suggest that animals capable of reasoning also have a soul? How does that fit in with your Christian view?

    “But Shane, when you re-asked the question in #9, did you know that you were steering this discussion off toward one of your favorite hobby-horse topics, instead of the topic everyone else was discussing here?”

    Well I don’t have the learning to argue the philosophy behind it, which is of course fascinating and relevant. But what ever the cause, if reasoning is something that has evolved over time and can be seen in other animals, then it is not evidence for God.

    “Did you know that there’s evidence that infants can count?”

    I would be interested in reading the papers on this as well as what Melissa’s reaction to it was.

    Cheers
    Shane

  90. Melissa

    Shane,

    But again, we are not born with that reasoning. We learn it from past experience which is stored in memory and we can then access. Subconsciously for some of it, but it must still be in memory.

    So what? You are trying to defend the statement that “learning is just experiencing things and storing them away in memory”.

  91. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Shane, this isn’t about whether animals have souls, even though I know that’s a favorite topic of yours. I’ve said that often enough now, right? Animals’ reasoning capacities are so ambiguous and disputable, if those capacities exist at all in the form that’s relevant here, it’s just not fruitful for us to wander down that path.

    Feel free to look up the papers on infant abilities. I’ve seen them in the past; now I would find them the same way you would.

  92. GrahamH

    My beliefs may be, or come from, physical causes but also be supported by the reasons that I have for them. These beliefs are unreliable only if those causes were the only factors in my having the belief. I could also have excellent reasons!

  93. bigbird

    So based on principle (2) alone, you would accept that an AI that appeared to be conscious is not a zombie. Am I correct so far?

    No, appearing to be conscious is not sufficient for this in my view. That’s why I require something else – e.g. principle (1).

    Now on to principle (1). “Similar to me” I have taken to mean that they have human DNA. That is not just 2 arms, 2 legs, 2 eyes, head in the right place, etc., but also a greater than 99.9% percent similarity with your DNA. Why is this a valid principle for consciousness? I maintain it is not a valid principle for consciousness, and I would like to know why you feel differently.

    I believe I’m conscious, and I infer that other living humans are also conscious. That seems reasonable – they are alive like me, they appear to be composed of the same substance, and they behave like me.

    So I think principle (1) is one valid requirement for consciousness, but it may not be the only one (see below). It’s the only one I can think of.

    It stands to reason if X is an AI and is similar to you and appears to be conscious you should also infer that it is conscious. That’s how I understand your argument so far.

    AI cannot be similar to me. I’m a human, and it is not. I’m alive and it is not. It has nothing in common with me other than the hypothetical appearance of consciousness which is (at least in part) its design goal.

    The main problem with your argument I find is this: the question under consideration is “can AI machines be truly conscious if they appear to be conscious?”

    You seem to want to infer that it is conscious if it appears to be conscious.

    And yet that is the very question we are trying to answer.

    I think a different test for consciousness is required, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t think anyone knows.

  94. Larry Tanner

    if reasoning is something that has evolved over time and can be seen in other animals, then it is not evidence for God.
    Tom, do you agree with this claim by Shane?

    And back to this:

    What would it take for you to be convinced that Christianity is true, that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, seated at the right hand of the Father (metaphorically of course, although truly in context of the metaphor), that his way is good, and that this makes all the difference in your life?
    I don’t see any good evidence or reason right now to accept any of the above statements. No good evidence or reason currently exists, although I accept that those born into the tradition or temperamentally sympathetic with its ideas may have personal reasons for wanting to believe in one of the many forms of Christianity.

    But for me, something new, different, and unambiguous would have to happen, and God/Jesus would have a lot of explaining and apologizing to do.

  95. JAD

    It doesn’t follow that because you have “excellent reasons” that your beliefs are true. All you are doing here is making an unreliable subjective claim. Under naturalism that is all you can do.

  96. Post
    Author
  97. bigbird

    @Shane

    But at what point does one decide being really, really lucky is really just too unlikely to be true?”

    When the odds of something happening by chance is far greater than the odds of their being an all powerful being that has existed forever.

    Surely these aren’t independent events – in this case, if the odds of us being here by chance are vanishingly small, that has a direct influence on our calculation of the odds of there being an all powerful being that has existed forever.

  98. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Larry, the premise of the question is so deeply in dispute that I don’t see any advantage in discussing it. Yes, if reasoning evolved naturalistically, then it would not be evidence for God, but in my OP I gave multiple reasons to doubt that reasoning evolved that way. There’s really no evidence that reasoning evolved naturalistically. That’s a conclusion derived from metaphysical presuppositions, not from any observations in nature.

    Its function in this discussion is therefore something like, “If life came to be through purely naturalistic causes, then the same might be true of reason.” That’s trivially easy to see, and it doesn’t get us anywhere fruitful, especially since the point of the post is that reason itself seems impossible to have arisen just through natural causes.

    If you want to get God to apologize to you, I have news for you, some of which you might not like, but it’s good news: He is God. You’re not. He’s not going to submit himself to your standard. But he’s always willing to accept your apology.

  99. bigbird

    As long as we’re talking about detecting minds, we really ought to consider what Plantinga said about it. Pretty interesting stuff, and this link is a good summary.

    Thanks. I am using the analogical position he discusses for the same purpose – to say that the existence of other minds is reasonable.

    I am going on to say that I can’t see why the analogical position holds for AI.

    What might be more interesting is if I can’t tell whether the AI machine is human or not – if it is identical to a human in every way that I can determine. Can I then assume it is conscious?

    I think my answer would be yes, as it would be like any other human I encounter – until I find out it is not human.

  100. Larry Tanner

    Shane, do you agree with what Tom says in #101?

    There’s really no evidence that reasoning evolved naturalistically. That’s a conclusion derived from metaphysical presuppositions, not from any observations in nature.

    Tom, you misunderstand me:

    If you want to get God to apologize to you….

    I want no such thing. If (if) there were a God who finally decided to show up — thereby allowing reasonable people to accept that God exists — that God would owe an apology to all the Earth, not just humanity or me specifically. God submits to standards already. For example, he cannot make a square circle, at least according to most theologies. So, there’s precedent. But, if I saw the need for me to apologize, I would. I do it all the time.

  101. Bill L

    Tom,

    There’s really no evidence that reasoning evolved naturalistically. That’s a conclusion derived from metaphysical presuppositions, not from any observations in nature.

    Why do you not think the evidence found with different hominids during their evolutionary history is evidence that reasoning evolved? It seems to take some amount of reasoning construct tools intended for future use. If one makes a spear, then one has to think about how well it will work and compare it with the success and failure of past models in order to make improvements.

    So what about hand axes? Their evolution over time indicates that hominids were thinking about (reasoning about) improvements, albeit slowly.

  102. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    What’s missing most seriously is evidence that it happened naturalistically, which is the key condition for purposes of this discussion.

  103. Bill L

    Tom,

    Ok, fair enough. But you do seem to agree there is evidence that it did evolve. So then the question becomes one of mechanisms (how did it evolve?) correct?

    Well then we have an interesting issue. Brains of course don’t fossilize well, but other kinds of evidence are well preserved. And hand axes seem to follow a development through times stages that were separated by hundreds of thousands of years.

    So what does this mean? Did God give a little bit of the powers of reason to Australopithecus, then later, a bit more to Homo habilis, then more to H. erectus, and so on? Finally he gave full powers of reason to H. sapiens, and for some odd reason, this was all done in something rather like a progression?

  104. Larry Tanner

    Bill L:

    So what does this mean? Did God give a little bit of the powers of reason to Australopithecus, then later, a bit more to Homo habilis, then more to H. erectus, and so on? Finally he gave full powers of reason to H. sapiens, and for some odd reason, this was all done in something rather like a progression?

    Since Tom’s goal is to undermine naturalism, or A-M, despite the title of the OP, you should perhaps ask instead about evidence for non-naturalistic causes for reason and for the evolution of reason that you describe and Tom apparently agrees to.

  105. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I don’t subscribe to the evolution of reason, I just don’t think it’s worth disputing here. The question isn’t evolution-or-not, the question is naturalism-or-not.

  106. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I’m not sure why you’re suggesting anyone ask about evidence for non-naturalistic “causes for reason,” as if no one has thought about it. The point of the OP was precisely to provide evidence for non-naturalistic sources/roots/causes for human reasoning capacities.

  107. Larry Tanner

    The point of the OP was precisely to provide evidence for non-naturalistic sources/roots/causes for human reasoning capacities

    Ah. I guess I missed the actual evidence, then.

  108. Bill L

    Tom,

    I don’t subscribe to the evolution of reason….

    Are you saying that you don’t think tool making requires the ability to reason? Or are you saying that God did things in little steps (as I described in 106)?

    ….I just don’t think it’s worth disputing here.

    But you did say that “if reasoning evolved naturalistically, then it would not be evidence for God.” So this seems a highly relevant topic. Though we may not understand the mechanisms, if we understand evolution by natural means, then you have a problem with your line of thinking.

    If you dispute evolution by natural means, then I think you had better be prepared to defend this idea aggressively since you are essentially saying that you (a non-biologist/scientist) have a better understanding of one of the most well understood branches of science than most scientists. That’s fine to believe, but since it would be central to your claim, I think it is only fair to ask for good reasons.

  109. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Bill L,

    What I’m saying is not easily compressed into one blog post. See my entire topic list of discussions on Origins and Science. I’m not sold on evolution, period.

    But that’s not the point under dispute. Of course most biologists (obviously!!!!) have a far better understanding of the question of evolution than I have. That’s why I’m not debating evolution. The thing is, I’m disputing naturalistic evolution, which is a question of metaphysics, not science; for there is no way in theory or in practice for science to distinguish naturalistic evolution from God-guided evolution. For the best overview of my position on this, including my reasons for considering this a metaphysical rather than scientific debate, see here, and note the node on the chart labeled “empirically indistinguishable.”

    Since therefore it is a metaphysical debate, my qualifications, compared to those of scientists, are irrelevant. What matters are the arguments. This post is one of many instances of my aggressive defenses of my position.

  110. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    But Bill, I don’t agree with the premise of your questions. I don’t agree (as you thought I did) that it evolved. I don’t know the answers to your questions about the various hominids, because I don’t know enough of the paleobiology, I don’t know enough about what kind of reason they employed; I simply don’t know. I don’t know whether God would have given reason to them little by little. I wasn’t there and he hasn’t said.

    And as I said to Shane with respect to animal reason, it doesn’t matter. The arguments I’ve presented here show that there are grounds for believing that reason is incompatible with ontological naturalism (which I’ve been calling atheistic naturalism here). We have evidence that’s accessible to you and me today. Why deal with prehistoric ambiguous stuff when we have information to talk about that’s readily available and (arguably) determinative?

  111. Bill L

    Tom,

    Why deal with prehistoric ambiguous stuff when we have information to talk about that’s readily available and (arguably) determinative?

    Because the evidence that is there (thank you for the honest admission that you are not aware of it; but I caution your designation of “ambiguous” when you first admit not even knowing much about it) counters your position. The evidence is there that rational thought and reason developed gradually along with the evolution of hominids. Since we can account for evolution on naturalistic grounds, it is reasonable to proceed with this understanding that matches the physical evidence we have.

    Also, I have not found your arguments very determinative thus far, but that’s just my issue.

    So, let’s slow this down a bit… Do you agree that tool making would require some ability to reason?

  112. Post
    Author
  113. SteveK

    Being able to reason is like being pregnant. I don’t see either one being a gradual process. You are, or you aren’t.

  114. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Good point: there is a difference between reasoning and learning by conditioning. That’s one of the points of ambiguity I mentioned earlier: I don’t know where one ends and the other begins in paleohistory. I don’t think it’s a fruitful line of inquiry, since it’s fraught with imagination, speculation, and presupposition.

  115. Bill L

    If that is the way you feel, then OK. But I don’t think it’s accurate to say that there is no evidence that reasoning evolved naturalistically. There is evidence. But it seems that you’re not interested in it.

  116. Melissa

    Bill L (and others),

    Because the evidence that is there (thank you for the honest admission that you are not aware of it; but I caution your designation of “ambiguous” when you first admit not even knowing much about it) counters your position.

    What is ambiguous is whether the use of tools entails reasoning but the question is irrelevant to the OP.

    Tom’s conclusion in the OP is that materialism entails that we don’t reason. It is necessarily eliminative with respect to reasoning. He gives four arguments to support that position.

    So far the objections that have been raised are:

    The possibility of animals reasoning or early hominids reasoning. We have no definitive evidence that this is true and this would only establish that it is not only humans that reason. Materialism would still be false.

    The thought experiment of us building a computer that seems conscious, or has intentionality (etc, etc) which is just another way of saying “just imagine that your arguments were false”. The arguments need to be addressed not just imagined away.

    The objection that Tom has not proposed any process, mechanism or whatever to explain it. This assumes all explanation is required in the form of a mechanism. Materialism would still be false.

    The claim that humans can reason is somehow equivalent to a claim to Absolute Truth (whatever that means).

    The claim that learning things is nothing more than experiencing particulars and storing them in memory. Shane agreeing with the OP that materialism is eliminative with respect to reasoning and offering *reasons* for it.

    The claim that the arguments that materialism cannot in principle account for reasoning are not evidence for not-materialism.

    Does anyone have a relevant objection to all four of Tom’s reasons why materialism is eliminative with respect reason?

  117. Bill L

    Melissa,

    Are Tom’s and Plantinga’s arguments that we don’t reason, or more that on A-M reasoning is unreliable?

  118. bigbird

    If you dispute evolution by natural means, then I think you had better be prepared to defend this idea aggressively since you are essentially saying that you (a non-biologist/scientist) have a better understanding of one of the most well understood branches of science than most scientists. That’s fine to believe, but since it would be central to your claim, I think it is only fair to ask for good reasons.

    The claim that evolution is “well understood” is an interesting one.

    What exactly is well understood about evolution?

    I would say that evolution is very widely accepted by biologists, but that’s not necessarily related to how well understood the process is.

  119. Melissa

    Bill L,

    The four points Tom raises lead to the conclusion that we don’t reason if materialism is true.

    Plantinga’s argument is different. It brackets the problem of the immateriality of thought and deals with why we should consider our cognitive abilities to be reliable if they are the product of evolution.

  120. G. Rodrigues

    @Melissa:

    The objection that Tom has not proposed any process, mechanism or whatever to explain it. This assumes all explanation is required in the form of a mechanism. Materialism would still be false.

    Just to stress one point: the last statement is all that is needed. Whether there is an explanation, what sort of explanation, etc. is all quite irrelevant as far as the conclusion of the argument goes.

  121. Bill L

    bigbird,

    I’m pretty sure a discussion about the details of evolutionary biology here would get me banned from the site for not being relevant to the OP.

  122. djc

    bigbird,

    As I understand it, the general idea under discussion, here, is how to be confident an entity (be it human, alien or machine) is experiencing consciousness. I agree with your principle (2)– aptitude and skill demonstrating awareness of self, minds, agents, volition, intentionality, but your principle (1) — must have human DNA (essentially)– doesn’t seem logically necessary to me.

    Why would we expect human DNA to be a critical factor in achieving consciousness? Okay, perhaps human DNA encodes the only proper way to build a conscious brain. Then, suppose we build a human brain out of virtual neurons using human DNA as a blueprint and simulated it. I think it stands to reason it would meet principle (2), but what about principle (1), a disembodied brain running as a virtual simulation. Would it experience consciousness in your view?

    If not, the follow-up question would be whether a disembodied brain built out of artificial cells (ignoring all the ethical questions raised by such experiments for the moment) would then experience consciousness.

    And so on. You can see how slight changes to the thought experiment can eventually create vastly different beings from human beings that, yet, should still be considered conscious, I think.

    Unless there is something specific about human DNA that can’t be replicated artificially, but that seems unlikely.

    The main problem with your argument I find is this: the question under consideration is “can AI machines be truly conscious if they appear to be conscious?”

    You seem to want to infer that it is conscious if it appears to be conscious.

    Yes, because the similar question “can human beings be truly conscious if they appear to be conscious?” must be answered the same way. Yes, if they appear to be conscious. I don’t see anything special about human DNA that can not be replicated artificially in theory to achieve an artificial person or artificial intelligence. The hard part is always the mind.

  123. Bill L

    Tom,

    Melissa says: “The four points Tom raises lead to the conclusion that we don’t reason if materialism is true. [Emphasis mine]

    Is this what you meant to convey?

  124. Shane Fletcher

    Hi bigbird,

    “I think a different test for consciousness is required, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t think anyone knows.”

    How about the ability to form subjective opinions? And change them? Political views. Preferences in literature and music. That type of thing.

    Cheers
    Shane

  125. Alex Dawson

    I certainly agree with the OP in some sense.

    In so far as you define physical as “substances and properties currently described by theories of physics”, so roughly speaking, spatiotemporal entities; and defining materialism as “only physical substances/properties exist”.

    I hope I would be fair to briefly summarise points 1 and 2 of the OP as:
    (1) Propositions are not physical => Propositions do not exist under materialiasm
    (2) Truth is not physical => Truth does not exist under materialism.
    Propositions and truth are necessary for rational inference. Taking as given that rational infererence exists. => (by contradiction) materialism is false.

    This is effectively a subset of the (in my opinion very powerful) general defeater of materialism that there exist entities (such as truth, propositions) that are not identical (in the technical sense) with physical ones.

    However I also ask/wonder any materialiasts in this discussion whether they would define physical/materialism more loosely than above?

    In my experience materialism seems a buzzword that is regarded positively in some circles which may make people pick up it without considering its classical definition. It seems to me that sometimes self-reported materialists are in fact property (but not substance) dualists (which is sometimes agreed by “materialists” upon reflection).

    I will leave it to be seen whether this consideration is fruitful here, but if so I do not think any of the points in the OP would trouble a property dualist (but perhaps the above is sufficient from Tom’s POV).

  126. Melissa

    Bill L.,

    Melissa says: “The four points Tom raises lead to the conclusion that we don’t reason if materialism is true. [Emphasis mine]

    Is this what you meant to convey?

    That is correct.

  127. bigbird

    The main problem with your argument I find is this: the question under consideration is “can AI machines be truly conscious if they appear to be conscious?”

    You seem to want to infer that it is conscious if it appears to be conscious.

    Yes, because the similar question “can human beings be truly conscious if they appear to be conscious?” must be answered the same way. Yes, if they appear to be conscious.

    But I know from my own experience that at least one human being is truly conscious, and so I infer others are too. I don’t know that about AI.

    I don’t see anything special about human DNA that can not be replicated artificially in theory to achieve an artificial person or artificial intelligence. The hard part is always the mind.

    I do see something special about humans, which is why I think mimicking consciousness isn’t enough to demonstrate true consciousness.

    I think the onus is on you to show why AI is even able to produce consciousness. At the very least, a convincing reply to Searle’s Chinese room is required.

  128. Shane Fletcher

    Hi bigbird

    “Surely these aren’t independent events – in this case, if the odds of us being here by chance are vanishingly small, that has a direct influence on our calculation of the odds of there being an all powerful being that has existed forever.”

    Only if those are the only two possibilities.

    Cheers
    Shane

  129. djc

    Melissa,

    Except the problem with that is that the time/physical correlation could be with any number of things along the physical chain of causation.

    What I’m saying, essentially, is that a (software) program has a deterministic time/physical relationship with it’s outputs. It would have to be deterministic or software developers would be out of a job.

    The concept of a program designed by natural selection is where I’m going with that. Whether or not evidentially true (I think it is true), the concept of a program being designed by natural selection to do things–eat, reproduce– demonstrates that intentionality isn’t strictly necessary for function. Now add in consciousness as a facet of this universe’s physical law and you get the experience of being a program, which seems to me to be all that is needed to explain intentionality.

    The words true and false may be primarily about communicating concepts but the concepts they’re communicating are this does or this doesn’t accuately represent reality.

    I think it is safer to say true or false represents our “shared neural representation of reality” because minds throughout the ages have had a completely wrong understanding of the nature of things (at least according to what we know today), and yet, felt entirely comfortable using “true” and “false”. That demonstrates to me that it is less about matching reality and more about being consistent with the understanding of other minds.

    At the same time, I agree that we want our shared understanding to be actually what is out there. But my basic point was that “true” or “false” only become necessary or meaningful when language-using primates evolve. Take any physical system that is capable of evolving language-using minds and they will use a concept of “true” or “false” to share understanding of the collection of data these minds gather through sensory perception. (And I’m aware of gaps of knowledge in the evolution of language-using minds but they don’t seem insurmountable.)

  130. Shane Fletcher

    Hi SteveK

    “Being able to reason is like being pregnant. I don’t see either one being a gradual process. You are, or you aren’t.”

    As the father of 4 children I can attest that this analogy is 100% incorrect. I have witnessed reasoning being learnt in small incremental steps.

    Cheers
    Shane

  131. Bill L

    Alright, I have a lot to learn – no doubt about it. I don’t know what else to do other than to ask questions.

    From #1
    I guess I just don’t understand the “aboutness problem.” If intentionality is more of a collection of thoughts/feelings that reside in different parts of the brain, why can complexity not create “aboutness?” I’m envisioning something like the pixels on a computer screen… Zoomed in they are not about anything, but taken together they can rather accurately represent a picture of a lion.

    #2
    OK, the content could be true or false, but I don’t see why we should expect that probability to be equal. If a dragonfly wants to land on a cattail, it judges the distance from its body to the plant. If this is an important function for survival, many neurons will be directed toward that function (strong connections to the eyes, wings, and legs and so on). As evolution proceeded, insects got better and better at judging distance. Soon enough they were so accurate that we can’t distinguish their judgments (“I’m going to land on that cattail over there because I know how far it is”) from truth. Clearly it’s not always perfect, but we should expect high accuracy in an evolved world where brains needed to represent the world in a truthful way. Your laptop may not think, but it can pretty accurately represent other objects. Isn’t this what we call truth in some way?

    #3

    Rational inferences don’t follow physical laws.

    If rational inferences are a kind of thought, then they do follow physical laws. They are chemical and electrical (hence very little mass) impulses that will die when your brain does.

  132. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “Bill L.,

    Melissa says: “The four points Tom raises lead to the conclusion that we don’t reason if materialism is true. [Emphasis mine]

    Is this what you meant to convey?

    That is correct.”

    I think Bill L was asking Tom if that’s what he meant to convey.

    “So what? You are trying to defend the statement that “learning is just experiencing things and storing them away in memory”.”

    Yes. The ability to reason is something we learn from experience, which is therefore something that we have stored in memory.

    Cheers
    Shane

  133. djc

    bigbird,

    I do see something special about humans, which is why I think mimicking consciousness isn’t enough to demonstrate true consciousness.

    What is special about humans that can not be replicated artificially in theory to achieve an artificial person or artificial intelligence that is truly conscious? (And it would have to be something other than ‘mind’ because you indicated that it is not enough to have a mind to be thought truly conscious.)

    I think the onus is on you to show why AI is even able to produce consciousness.

    I proposed a method: take whatever is special (in your view) about human DNA and replicate it artificially. The problem is I don’t know what you think is special about human DNA that does the trick. Absent the brain coding, it’s all other biology stuff that seems unconnected to consciousness.

    At the very least, a convincing reply to Searle’s Chinese room is required.

    The standard reply is that the there is consciousness in the system, not in the individual parts.

  134. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Larry,

    “Shane, do you agree with what Tom says in #101?”

    There’s really no evidence that reasoning evolved naturalistically. That’s a conclusion derived from metaphysical presuppositions, not from any observations in nature.

    No. But I thought Tom accepted evolution as a fact so I couldn’t understand why he would believe one and not the other. Through his posts here I see that he believes God has influenced evolution along the way which makes his position clearer. If he does not believe that evolution alone could be responsible for all the physical differences we see in the world then it’s obvious he would credit God for the mental as well. It therefore doesn’t matter when reasoning appeared on the scene during the evolutionary process, as God can have the credit.

    Cheers
    Shane

  135. Melissa

    djc,

    the concept of a program being designed by natural selection to do things–eat, reproduce– demonstrates that intentionality isn’t strictly necessary for function.

    But natural selection doesn’t design anything and the concept of a program assumes intentionality because it is directed towards a particular goal or outcome.

    you get the experience of being a program, which seems to me to be all that is needed to explain intentionality

    I don’t think you understand what is meant by intentionality. I think you are confusing it with having intentions.’

    I think it is safer to say true or false represents our “shared neural representation of reality” because minds throughout the ages have had a completely wrong understanding of the nature of things (at least according to what we know today), and yet, felt entirely comfortable using “true” and “false”. That demonstrates to me that it is less about matching reality and more about being consistent with the understanding of other minds.

    No. I doesn’t matter whether a person is wrong about whether something is true or false, what the concept true means is that a particular statement corresponds with reality. Clearly someone can be wrong about whether something is true but that doesn’t change what is meant by the concept.

    But my basic point was that “true” or “false” only become necessary or meaningful when language-using primates evolve. Take any physical system that is capable of evolving language-using minds and they will use a concept of “true” or “false” to share understanding of the collection of data these minds gather through sensory perception.

    How is that relevant to Tom’s point that physical systems cannot be true or false about anything? In what way can these language-using minds use something (concepts) that are not physical?

  136. Melissa

    Shane,

    Do you see the difference between these two statements:

    learning is just experiencing things and storing them away in memory

    The ability to reason is something we learn from experience, which is therefore something that we have stored in memory.

  137. Alex Dawson

    Shane (and Melissa)

    Can’t help but jump in to point out that surely the fact that humans (may) have to learn to reason is a massive red herring. Even if needed to be learnt, it is the capability to reason that would be (purported to) then be unique compared to animals.

    And the fact that “knowing how to reason” is a memory does not show that the act of reasoning is identical to memory any more than “knowing how to walk” being a memory shows that the act of walking is identical to memory.

  138. bigbird

    @Shane

    “Surely these aren’t independent events – in this case, if the odds of us being here by chance are vanishingly small, that has a direct influence on our calculation of the odds of there being an all powerful being that has existed forever.”

    Only if those are the only two possibilities.

    It doesn’t matter how many possibilities there are. If the odds of us being here by chance are calculated to be vanishingly small, inevitably this changes the calculated odds of any alternatives.

  139. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Shane @134, and others, too:

    I’m echoing Alex Dawson, and extending his point.

    I’m a little concerned about your comment, Shane, about your four children being able to learn reasoning a step at a time. What that comment indicates is that you’re not getting the point. Something similar could be said about others commenting here.

    My point is intended to be this:

    1. IF ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS TRUE, THEN REASONING DOES NOT EXIST. (AS ARGUED IN THE OP)
    2. REASONING EXISTS. (BY OBSERVATION)
    3. THEREFORE ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS NOT TRUE. (MODUS TOLLENS)

    The key point you need to catch here is 2: what it isn’t, and what it is.

    It’s not,
    PERFECT REASONING EXISTS.
    Perfect or imperfect reasoning is still reasoning; if there is imperfect reasoning, reasoning exists.

    It’s not,
    REASONING CAME FROM SOME PLACE THAT WE MIGHT HAVE A WAY TO EXPLAIN NATURALISTICALLY.
    It doesn’t matter how reasoning came to be, if it exists: if it exists now, then reasoning exists.

    It’s not,
    REASONING EXISTS IN SOME FORM BUT NOT IN SOME OTHER FORM.
    It doesn’t matter in what form reasoning exists: if it exists in any form whatsoever, it exists.

    It’s not,
    REASONING EXISTS IN HUMANS BUT NOT IN ANIMALS (OR ANY VARIATION THEREOF).
    If reasoning exists in humans, then it exists, regardless of whether it does or doesn’t exist among animals.

    It’s
    2. REASONING EXISTS.

    Point 2 is true if reasoning exists to any degree, in any form. Point 1 claims that if any reasoning exists to any degree in any form, then atheistic materialism is false. (If the full extent of that wasn’t clear in the OP, then it should be now; for my intent was to show that no reasoning of any kind or any degree whatsoever would be possible if atheistic materialism were true.)

    Therefore there is no point in disputing where reason came from, how good it is or isn’t, or any such nuance or nicety. If you think that any reasoning of any sort in any degree exists, then you agree that point 2 is true.

    Point 2 is uncontroversial.

    So let’s not talk about whether reason exists, where it came from, or in what degree, or whether it exists in any being other than humans; for all of that is mere tinkering around the edges of the argument. If robots could reason, then point 2 would be no more or less true than we already know it to be, for all it would be would be a reaffirmation that reason exists.

    Every such discussion is just agreeing that reason exists.

    Now, if points 1 and 2 are both true, then the conclusion is necessarily true, since the form of the syllogism is a valid modus tollens. The interesting question is whether 1 is true. It is the only really interesting question here, in light of the OP. I think the answer is yes, it’s true. Do you agree? If so, then you cannot believe in atheistic materialism. If not, then on what grounds do you disagree?

  140. Post
    Author
  141. bigbird

    What is special about humans that can not be replicated artificially in theory to achieve an artificial person or artificial intelligence that is truly conscious?

    We’ve now reached the crux of this discussion.

    I am not a physicalist. When it comes to consciousness, I’m a dualist. That means I think there is something special about humans that can’t be replicated artificially.

    You, apparently, are working from an assumption of physicalism.

    So insisting that there is nothing special about humans and therefore mimicking consciousness is consciousness is merely restating your assumptions.

    My view is that the analogy argument (Plantinga) is enough to put the onus on you to explain how consciousness can supervene on a machine.

  142. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “Shane,

    Do you see the difference between these two statements:

    learning is just experiencing things and storing them away in memory

    The ability to reason is something we learn from experience, which is therefore something that we have stored in memory.”

    No. What is the difference?

    Cheers
    Shane

  143. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom and Alex,

    “1. IF ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS TRUE, THEN REASONING DOES NOT EXIST. (AS ARGUED IN THE OP)”

    Okay now I think I’m following you. But I don’t see how any of your examples show that.

    “And the fact that “knowing how to reason” is a memory does not show that the act of reasoning is identical to memory any more than “knowing how to walk” being a memory shows that the act of walking is identical to memory.”

    I’m not saying they are identical. I am saying they are based on a foundation of memory. You learn how to walk by consciously moving muscles and the consequences of failing. These things are remembered. You learn how to reason because of trial and error and remembering the consequences. When things work out in a way that works in the physical world you remember that and can draw on that memory in the future.

    So my supposition is that

    1. Reasoning is based in memory.
    2. Memory is a physical thing based on chemical/electrical impulses in the brain.
    3. Reasoning can exist in a materialistic world.

    Cheers
    Shane

  144. Melissa

    Shane,

    No. What is the difference?

    Learn from, but according to you learning is just experiencing things and storing them, there is no room for making connections between experiences. I’m not sure why you think that I disagree that we can learn to reason well.

    Anyway as has been pointed out it is a red herring.

    Do you, or do you not agree that we reason?

    If yes do you have any objection to Tom’s arguments that if atheistic materialism is true, reasoning does not exist?

  145. Melissa

    Shane,

    So my supposition is that

    1. Reasoning is based in memory.
    2. Memory is a physical thing based on chemical/electrical impulses in the brain.
    3. Reasoning can exist in a materialistic world.

    For 3 to follow from 1 and 2 reasoning would need to be identical to memory which you admit that is not. The argument is invalid.

    Edited to add: If you want to answer Tom’s argument you need to show where he goes wrong, giving speculative accounts of how reasoning might have originated in the face of in principle objections to the possibility is just changing the subject.

  146. Bill L

    I don’t know if I was the only one too dense to realize that the point of Tom’s post was to say that on A-M reasoning must not exist, but I did not understand that until last night. So if anyone (especially Tom or Melissa) could answer my questions/problems in 135, I would really appreciate it.

    Also, could anyone tell me if this is something that A-M philosophers and scientists are actually saying or is this something Tom et. al. have deduced?

    Thanks a bunch for the help.

  147. Larry Tanner

    Bill L., I am in the same boat as you. The post title is Evidence for God but actually argues something quite different. At no point was it clear to me that it was a premise that on A-M reasoning doesn’t exist.

    In fact, I had no idea at all that materialism entailed the non-existence of reasoning. The reason I had no idea of this, however, is because Tom is flatly wrong. Materialism actually does not exclude or preclude reasoning. Rather, materialism posits that reasoning occurs, uh, materialistically (or via materialistic means).

    As per comment #58 above, Tom is characteristically reluctant to provide direct quotations from people whose views he thinks he disagrees with. That makes it more difficult to show Tom the error of his ways.

    I don’t have the patience for it; instead, I come here to check whether any of the theists are making any solid or interesting pro-theism/Christianity arguments. Usually, the answer is no, but I get frustrated and annoyed with their bait-and-switch tactics. How many times will I go to a “This post delivers evidence for God” post that actually does no such thing and relies instead on hopelessly vague statements about how the author simply cannot imagine how reason/morality/consciousness/science/life/Jesus could arise naturalistically?

  148. scblhrm

    “What is Truth?”

    We find that such a regress must end within Intention, and, should it end elsewhere, Truth is we know not what, for Reasoning would be non-entity.

    “I think that he fails to take into account that agents who are free….. do things for reasons and thereby mark themselves out as neither determined nor arbitrary. If something is determined then it’s caused by factors outside itself to do what it does. So a billiard ball being knocked into the corner pocket because it’s struck by the cue ball would be an example of something that’s simply determined to do what it does, the ball doesn’t go into the corner because it wants to, it’s just simply determined…… I am the source of my own actions……. But that doesn’t mean, on the other hand, that they’re arbitrary. On certain interpretations of quantum theory the exact time at which a particle decays, for example, is said to be random; it just happens, and there isn’t any cause of its happening at that particular time. So randomness would be this sort of arbitrary occurrence of events. But clearly that’s not what freedom of the will is either. We don’t just have……decisions pop into our minds arbitrarily. Rather, what we do is we weigh the reasons for action, and then we act upon those reasons. And reasons are not the same as causes. Reasons for actions are more teleological in nature, they are the motivations for which we act, and different people can weigh different reasons for action and be persuaded to act one way rather than another based upon these reasons. So I think that’s what serves to distinguish…. free will from either determinism or just arbitrary randomness. It’s the ability of free agents to act without being determined on the basis of reasons.” (William Lane Craig)

    It becomes embarrassingly clear that what the Materialist/Atheist must mean by the verb “reason” is, on definition, housed entirely within the illusion of intention and does in fact end within an arena of blind, determined, random, and arbitrary rivers of cascading events. A bouncing ball is without the “thing” we are all talking about (intention), and the premise that placing fifty million bouncing balls into a bag, or onto a screen, magically shatters all the laws of physics and just grants the very thing we are all speaking of (intention) is not only unscientific, but, also, is a move of philosophical desperation. The Theist need not run in the opposite direction of all of physics to find the verb Reason, nor must he equivocate on this verb and whisper beneath his breath once everyone has left the classroom, “But really it’s all an illusion, for, there is no such motion, and that is because there is no such thing as a physical system free of all other physical systems, there is no nature free of nature.”

    Physics is on God’s side, for, we do reason. Physical systems cannot get us there in and of themselves. Now, the Atheist may soundly argue that intent is a misinterpreted experience we all happen to be having, at least for now, and that we do, in fact, misread it, for it is, at the end of regress, entirely determined, random, and arbitrary. Cascading photon fluxes reverberating amid blind, intentionless net summations of force.

    That is fine. The experience of intention is itself an illusion. With the loss of Intent comes the loss of Reasoning, and the Atheist seems all to “willing” to abandon reason for the sake of defending incoherence.

    That is fine. Push him, with logic, to that edge and see if he is willing to take that step, or, let him come up with a nature that is free of nature.

    We find then the question of, “What is Truth?” And we find that the question itself is absurdity should the end of regress be void of Person, and by Person we mean all the affairs of Will and of, well, and so on…….

    “Intention” within Atheism/Materialism regresses to Non-Intention for the very same reason that “Truth” in Atheistic grounds regresses to Not-Really, or, a move laterally to observational reality, which itself then regresses to no justification for any belief at all, in particular something as simple as the uniformity of nature, which must presuppose the former, which must then presuppose the later, and this dance ad infinitum as landscapes of Induction, Deduction, and Perception all converge within those ominously circular and undeniably fatal cascading fluxes of the determined, the random, and the arbitrary. Such becomes, ultimately, devastating to any marriage between atheism and reason as such a wedding is comprised merely of non-entity within blind axioms running in argumentative circles wholly unable to find ontological subtexts beneath our feet sturdy enough to support the weight of any presupposed context above our heads.

    When Immutable Love manifests within Time and Physicality, we find ourselves asking of Him, “What is Truth?” and we find Him housing all of the Physics Man will ever “know” within His response as His answer takes every last bit of Physics and turns it towards Himself as yet one more testimony of just how it is such a mammoth question can ever be answered. Void of Person, void of Will, there not only is no answer, there is no question either. Christ, Whose sightline far surpasses ours, points us to the only End of Regress wherein both the Question and the Answer find actual, brutal existence: “I Am Truth”.

    Theologically, Christ points us to the God Who is Love with such an answer.

    Scientifically, Christ points is to the topography of Person, to the landscape of Intention, with such an answer.

    We find here the wedded bliss of Science, Reason, and God.

  149. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Bill L, yes, there are A-M philosophers and non-philosophers like Jerry Coyne saying this. I’ve already mentioned several of their names. I didn’t deduce it originally myself by any means. But reason is a democratic pastime: it doesn’t matter who does it. What matters is the quality of the evidences, premises, and inferences, which I hope I’ve put forth here in a form that you can assess it with me.

  150. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    In fact, I had no idea at all that materialism entailed the non-existence of reasoning. The reason I had no idea of this, however, is because Tom is flatly wrong. Materialism actually does not exclude or preclude reasoning. Rather, materialism posits that reasoning occurs, uh, materialistically (or via materialistic means).

    It can posit all it wants. I’ve presented an argument that what it posits is impossible. Do you have an answer for that?

    I can’t imagine why you need me to provide quotes from Coyne, Harris, Nagel, or Rosenberg before you can assess my argument. If it’s really that importan to you I’ll dig some things up later today. I had thought you were dealing with the ideas I’d presented, not with personalities. Could you remind me why these other quotes matter?

  151. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    By the way, the reason I’ve titled this post “Evidence for God: … ” is because it’s part of a series on evidence for God, and also because evidence against atheistic materialism can be used as part of a positive case for God.

  152. G. Rodrigues

    @Bill L:

    So if anyone (especially Tom or Melissa) could answer my questions/problems in 135, I would really appreciate it.

    I will respond to you, because you can stand as a typical representative of how responders are failing to address the argument. Totally. Completely.

    The argument can be put in the following broad logical form:

    (1) Thought has property P.

    (2) No purely material process or object has property P.

    (3) Thought is not purely material.

    The argument is valid. So the only question is whether it is sound. For that, it depends on the property P invoked.

    Zoomed in they are not about anything, but taken together they can rather accurately represent a picture of a lion.

    You yourself have provided the answer, The pixels in the screen, qua *physical object*, mean nothing. Absolutely nothing. Period. Discussion is over. Done with. They only “accurately represent a picture of a lion” *because* minds interpret it so. So to say that physical objects exhibit intentionality, and then to offer as evidence the *derived* intentionality put there by minds, is to have smuggled in by the back door what you are supposed to have explained. In other words, you have explained exactly nothing.

    Isn’t this what we call truth in some way?

    No. And your cobbled up just-so story explains absolutely nothing and if true it just damns you even more. For example, when I apply modus ponens, I apply modus ponens not some “approximation” thereof (whatever that could even mean). Modus ponens is truth preserving, “approximations” thereof are not. So application of modus ponens *cannot* be indeterminate among “approximations” thereof, or incompossible forms, on pain of making a hash of modus ponens application.

    But the problems are virtually endless. Here is another for the road. You say and I quote:

    OK, the content could be true or false, but I don’t see why we should expect that probability to be equal.

    In order for this to be meaningfully true, then the statement p_1 = “the probability of p_0 is x_0” must be true. But determinate content is precisely what is being denied. So now, you must paraphrase the truth of P as “the probability of p_1 is x_1” and you have a vicious infinite regress in your hands.

    If rational inferences are a kind of thought, then they do follow physical laws.

    This is only true *IF* thought is purely physical, which is precisely what is under dispute. In other words, more question-begging.

  153. JAD

    1. IF ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS TRUE, THEN REASONING DOES NOT EXIST. (AS ARGUED IN THE OP)
    2. REASONING EXISTS. (BY OBSERVATION)
    3. THEREFORE ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS NOT TRUE. (MODUS TOLLENS)

    Is this a valid form of modus tollens?

    The text book form of the argument is:

    p implies q
    not q
    Therefore, not p.

    However, your argument takes the form:

    p implies not q
    q
    Therefore, not p.

    I am trying to think of other common sense everyday examples of premises that I could substitute into this second form of the argument. So far I haven’t been able to think of any. If it is a logically valid argument I should be able to do this.

  154. Alex Dawson

    JAD:

    Yes.

    Simply, (not q) it itself a statement, say r.
    Then not r = not (not q) = q.
    Substituting in your second form (not q) for r and q for (not r) we get
    p implies r
    not r
    Therefore, not p.

    which is the original form.

  155. Bill L

    G. Rodrigues,

    Help my understand your first point. It seems we could say it another way:

    1. Water has property P.

    2. No element has property P.

    3. Therefore water is not purely elements.

    I’m sure I’m misunderstanding your argument. But I don’t see how.

  156. Post
    Author
  157. Bill L

    Tom,

    ….which I hope I’ve put forth here in a form that you can assess it with me.

    It looks like at least two of us following this are not able to assess the form you’ve put forth. I suspect there may be more, but I’m not sure.

    I think it would be helpful if you did cite some specific places or arguments where people feel this conclusion is necessary, since your argument is founded upon it. I’ve read much of Harris, Dennett, and others (some of Coyne) but I have honestly never understood their statements the way you have.

  158. Bill L

    Tom,

    @160 – sorry. I was following the structure in 156.

    (1) Thought has property P.

    (2) No purely material process or object has property P.

    (3) Thought is not purely material.

    It seems that should be replaced as

    1. Water has property P.

    2. No pure element has property P.

    3. Water is not purely elements.

    Am I doing this wrong? If so, why does the structure change when you do it?

  159. JAD

    Alex @ #158

    Okay, I’m following you… However, as I said earlier, I’m looking for “other common sense everyday examples of premises that I could substitute into this form of the argument.”

    PS If this is a valid from of the argument, I think I have a logical “knockout punch” for any A-M responses.

  160. G. Rodrigues

    @Bill L:

    Am I doing this wrong?

    What exactly are you supposed to be doing wrong? Have you not noticed the qualifier I have added? E.g.:

    The argument is valid. Period. So the only question is whether it is sound. For that, it depends on the property P invoked.

  161. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Good question, Bill.

    For a syllogism, the terms need to remain the same from premise to conclusion. Your term “pure element” in 2 is not identical with “[composed of] purely elements” in 3. That which is a pure element is not composed of (plural) purely elements.

    Another way to look at it is that when you spoke in 3 of that which is “purely elements,” you introduced a term that had not previously been mentioned in the syllogism. If it’s a term not brought forth in the premises it cannot be a conclusion derived from the premises. It might be true, but if it is, it’s true for some reason other than the premises.

    In more general terms:

    Modus tollens (negative mode) syllogisms always have the form JAD and Alex discussed above:

    1. If P then Q
    2. Not-Q
    3. Therefore not-P.

    P must be identical in 1 and 3, and Q must be identical in 1 and 2. For example:

    1. If it is raining here, unsheltered ground here is wet.
    2. Unsheltered ground here is not wet.
    3. Therefore it is not raining here.

    But not:

    1. If it is raining here, unsheltered ground here is wet.
    2. Unsheltered ground here is not wet.
    3. Therefore it is not foggy here.

    Note that fog and rain are composed of the same stuff, but they’re not the same thing. That’s approximately the kind of error your syllogism displays.

  162. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Further, in light of what G. Rodrigues has been saying, it’s important to realize there is a distinction between
    A. True conclusions
    B. Valid arguments
    C. Sound arguments

    They don’t necessarily all go together.

    For example:

    A.
    A1. The Empire State Building is tall.
    A2. Michael Jordan is tall.
    A3. Therefore Michael Jordan was a great basketball player.

    The conclusion A3 is true, but the reason it’s true has nothing to do with premise A1 and nothing necessarily to do with premise A2 — lots of tall people (and buildings!) have not been great basketball players.

    B.
    B1. If Michael Jordan is tall, then he is a terrible basketball player.
    B2. Michael Jordan is tall.
    B3. Therefore Michael Jordan is a terrible basketball player.

    That’s actually a valid argument, because it follows a proper syllogistic form (modus ponens). If the premises were true, then the conclusion would necessarily be true. Premise B1 is obviously false, so the conclusion is false.

    That’s how the term valid is used in syllogistic logic: if the form of the argument works, it’s valid, whether or not the premises are true.

    C.
    (Borrowing from an example long familiar to students of logic.)
    C1. If Michael Jordan is a man, he is mortal.
    C2. Michael Jordan is a man.
    C3. Therefore Michael Jordan is mortal.

    (I might add, “in spite of his prodigious leaping ability.”)

    This is a sound argument: its form is valid and its premises are true, so therefore the conclusion must necessarily be true.

  163. Melissa

    JAD,

    1. If it is raining here, unsheltered ground here is not dry.
    2. Unsheltered ground here is dry.
    3. It is not raining here.

  164. Bill L

    I guess what I am trying to understand with Tom’s first reason is how emergent properties could not account for mind as a product of brain. That is why I used the monitor example – not because it takes a mind to interpret it (I agree with that), but because we do observe many emergent properties that could not be accounted for by the sum of the properties of their parts.

    Thanks for your patience everyone.

  165. Ray Ingles

    We’ll see if Cloudflare will let me reply this time.

    BillT –

    you are still left with the fact that those perceptions, even if accurate, are only that by chance

    That doesn’t follow. Water molecules bounce around randomly, but it’s not chance that the water in a puddle perfectly conforms to the contours of the depression it’s in.

    If our mind has evolved attributes by reproductive advantage those attributes stop developing when the reproductive advantage is gained.

    I don’t think you have a good handle on evolution. I suggest David Sloan Wilson’s “Evolution For Everyone”. It’s a good read and covers the basic ground well, dispelling a lot of misconceptions.

    Either evolution gives us attributes or we don’t have them.

    Another misconception. Humans have built-in talents for language but they don’t develop if we don’t exercise them.

  166. Ray Ingles

    Tom Gilson –

    Christianity, on the other hand, has an explanation for human imperfection.

    Maybe. Depends on how you understand the Fall. I don’t think this works if you go with what Feser claims, that “the penalty of original sin was a privation, not a positive harm inflicted on human beings but rather the absence of a benefit they never had a right to or strict need for in the first place but would have received anyway had they not disobeyed.”

    If that’s the case, if we’re operating ‘as designed’, then it’s funny that we were designed with such “intellectual limitations”.

    If, on the other hand, ‘original sin’ is understood as an active curse, then I’d wonder about someone who deliberately messes up someone’s thinking and then holds them responsible for any errors they make. Like slipping LSD into their food and then holding them responsible for mistakes on a test.

  167. G. Rodrigues

    @Bill L:

    I guess what I am trying to understand with Tom’s first reason is how emergent properties could not account for mind as a product of brain.

    There is emergence and there is emergence; water is wet, but no molecule is wet, so wetness is a property of the aggregate of H2O molecules (*NOT* just its mereological sum), not of a single H2O molecule. So far so good. So now explain to us, how, for example, intentionality arises from the physical interactions of the atoms composing the brain. Saying that it could, does not cut it (hint: you will fail, that is precisely what the arguments *prove*; but hey, prove us wrong).

  168. BillT

    Ray,

    I don’t see how your puddle analogy has anything to do with the subject at hand. Things that have reproductive utility may or may not conform with the truth, the percentage of times they do so notwithstanding. Liquids always conform the the shape of the container they are in that’s just physics

    And if you have a point to make about evolution why don’t you just make it. And do remember I believe in evolutionary theory as far as it goes.

  169. Bill L

    G. Rodrigues,

    I agree with you – I will fail. But why is this not possible? I’m not asking that as a rebuttal; I am just trying to understand.

  170. scblhrm

    Bill L.,

    Because nature free of nature is incoherent. If the nature of X houses Will, all regress ends in Person, and so on. If the nature of X is blind reverberations amid net force summations, all regress ends in the determined, the arbitrary.

    Intention of thought / Reasoning is an illusion we “experience”, if naturalism.

    Unfortunately pan-psychosis is still psychosis.

    C.S. Lewis comments on irrationally conditioned psychic phosphorescence here……

  171. G. Rodrigues

    @Bill L:

    I agree with you – I will fail. But why is this not possible? I’m not asking that as a rebuttal; I am just trying to understand.

    Honestly, I do not know what to answer you besides: to understand why it is not possible is simply to understand why the arguments work (and *if* one were to prove that the arguments failed somewhere, than *that* would possibly, probably, open up the way to see how the impossible was actually possible).

    Compare: to understand why first order PA cannot prove the consistency of first order PA is simply to understand Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. No more, no less.

  172. scblhrm

    Ray,

    Amalgamating “Fall” with a kind of functioning “As Designed” within some bizarre singularity is incoherent where Scripture is concerned. A is not B, and never can be. Such is the case whether we speak of positive evil (dark) or of privation (a vacuum necessarily void of light). Such can be carried over into any part / capacity of Man’s [A to Z], whatever that may comprise.

  173. Post
    Author
  174. djc

    bigbird,

    Dualism could be true and hypothetical AI’s could still be truly conscious if the “mystical conscious experience” part is mysteriously drawn to certain kinds of physical arrangements of matter that transfer bits of information.

    Only if you assume some sort of Christian doctrine, i.e. that God has specifically made mankind the only creature capable of consciousness, would we no longer share enough premises to continue the argument.

    My view is that the analogy argument (Plantinga) is enough to put the onus on you to explain how consciousness can supervene on a machine.

    Plantinga is saying belief in other minds is like belief in God. So I would actually wonder if he isn’t supporting the belief that AIs might have minds. I can’t tell from a cursory reading.

    But as for the argument itself, I’m not sure that philosophical zombies are even coherent so I would be of the belief that minds always have consciousness. One of the most persuasive arguments against zombies I’ve read is here.

  175. scblhrm

    Illusions are mystical experiences.

    Believing them to be reality is the inverse of reasoning.

    Determined reverberations, even “experienced” ones, even the word “experienced”, evade the premise at hand. Reasoning is not intentionality, but intentionality is part of reasoning.

    Nature free of nature?

  176. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Illusions are not mystical experiences, scblhrm. Illusions are errors in processing of perceptions. Believing them to be reality is a mistake in processing, not the inverse of reasoning.

    I’m not sure if you’re trying to produce poetry, a koan, or some mystical experience of your own, but “nature free of nature?” is a question without a question, a string of words without meaning. It’s not helping the discussion along.

  177. scblhrm

    Sorry, I was referring to an earlier description of what the materialist must settle for with his version of reasoning. It is, if naturalism, an illusion. He is having an experience which feels as if he is reasoning, as if he is being intentional, but, of course, that entire “experience” is an illusion. What C.S. Lewis describes elsewhere as “irrationally conditioned psychic phosphorescence”.

    So then, the materialist who observes himself thus “reasoning”, who then goes on to argue that he really is engaging in intentionality, really is, after all, “believing the illusion”.

    If Materialism is true, there is no part of Nature that is free of her, free of Nature, and, thus, all which occurs inside of her Nature just is deterministic at bottom, enslaved to her. There is no supra-nature.

    Intention is non-entity.

    Of course the atheist / materialist does believe the experience he is having, that of intentionality.

    And as the OP asks, why? Nature cannot be free of Nature, and something free of her, un-pushed-around-by-her, is a necessity here. But it is even worse than that, for it is not enough to be found un-pushed, for intentionality does more than that, more, even, than blind pushing back. No. It Wills. It Aims. Intentionality houses so many Properties (P’s) that, with each layer, it gets only more hopeless for Materialism.

  178. bigbird

    Dualism could be true and hypothetical AI’s could still be truly conscious if the “mystical conscious experience” part is mysteriously drawn to certain kinds of physical arrangements of matter that transfer bits of information.

    Sure, I agree. All I’m saying is that you need some way of detecting if an AI is truly conscious – and I’m not sure how that could be done.

    But as for the argument itself, I’m not sure that philosophical zombies are even coherent so I would be of the belief that minds always have consciousness.

    For the purposes of this discussion, I am happy to assume minds have consciousness – I wasn’t aware I indicated otherwise. I don’t want to get into philosophical zombies and physicalism either with regard to humans, as that’s a fairly deep rabbit hole.

    My main problem with AI is that no matter how well the AI mimics human consciousness, how can we know that the AI is not a philosophical zombie, i.e. exhibits all the behaviour of a human, but is not conscious?

    Given we don’t have the analogy argument for AI, it seems to me that it isn’t reasonable to assume consciousness. That assumption would just reflect your presuppositions (just as my presuppositions influence my skepticism).

  179. djc

    Melissa,

    But natural selection doesn’t design anything and the concept of a program assumes intentionality because it is directed towards a particular goal or outcome.

    If you assume undirected evolution is impossible, then, yes, that follows. But the evidence for undirected evolution is quite persuasive. The evidence for the evolution of programs both in DNA and in nervous systems is indisputable. Given the simple actions of replication and selection, the only goal the first replicator needs is, well, to replicate, and that’s conceptually enough to create the diversity of life/programs we see today (the ultimate point of which still seems to be entirely about replicating).

    I don’t think you understand what is meant by intentionality. I think you are confusing it with having intentions.’

    No. I’ll use scare quotes to be precise: an evolved “program” either as DNA or neural tissue demonstrates “intentionality” by “representing” “goals” that an “organism” has such as “finding” food and “finding” a “mate” and then functioning so as to “achieve” those “goals”. (It’s much easier to use Dennett’s intentional stance and skip all the quotes). If we deny conscious minds to organisms, we most necessarily deny intentionality for that organism. There is no mind and therefore no aboutness, no beliefs, no desires, no goals.

    But add in a mind and you get intentionality. What is the essential characteristic of mind for intentionality? It must be the observer, the awareness of consciousness, raw feels, etc. This is what endows the physical framework of atoms and molecules with true intentionality, with qualia, etc.

    Now I could be severely reductionist and say we don’t need qualia or intentionality at all, it’s just a misconception of computational models of mind, but I think it is reasonable to grant the experience of neural representation being about objects in one’s head as a form of real intentionality. But an experience that offers no challenge to physicalism if physicalism also can find some way to account for the phenomena of the conscious observer.

    No. I doesn’t matter whether a person is wrong about whether something is true or false, what the concept true means is that a particular statement corresponds with reality.

    I certainly agree that people use truth in a correspondence way, but I’m saying that the fact that the “truth” people believed has historically been 99% wrong can only be explained by realizing that people’s “reality” is much more about “shared neural representation” than about real, ultimate reality. I am necessarily limited in my viewpoint by the shared neural representation making up knowledge today. If that knowledge reflects ultimate reality, great. But, if history is any indication, it will turn out to be considerably incomplete. Truth is about sharing neural representations that we think and hope are reality.

    How is that relevant to Tom’s point that physical systems cannot be true or false about anything? In what way can these language-using minds use something (concepts) that are not physical?

    My basic point was that “true” or “false” only become necessary or meaningful if language-using beings evolve. Take any physical system that is capable of evolving language-using minds and they will use the concepts “true” or “false” to share understanding of the collection of data these minds gather through sensory perception. The concepts “true” or “false” do not need to exist except as shared neural representation, and audio signals from one mind may trigger neural activity in a listener mind, activating a part of the brain concerned with accuracy or fidelity, no physical law violated.

    A possible objection to that paragraph might be that physical systems can’t evolve language-using minds. I happen to disagree and I think Darwin demonstrated that. Another objection may be that conscious experience is left out of the picture. That’s true, it is not fully explained under physicalism, but I think patience is called for since we still don’t have a grand unified theory, or explanation for why time is a one-way process, or …

  180. JAD

    Melissa @ #168,

    Thanks for the example. (I’d like more examples, if anyone else has them. See the discussion above @ #157 & 158.)

    Earlier today I was wondering if there were any good counter arguments that could be given, by any of our atheist interlocutors, for the argument Tom made yesterday @ #143:

    1. IF ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS TRUE, THEN REASONING DOES NOT EXIST. (AS ARGUED IN THE OP)
    2. REASONING EXISTS. (BY OBSERVATION)
    3. THEREFORE ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS NOT TRUE. (MODUS TOLLENS)

    I thought it should be fairly easy to construct a modus ponens argument that matched the logic of Tom’s argument point-for-point. Here is what I came up with on my first try:

    1. IF ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS TRUE, THEN REASONING EXISTS.
    2. REASONING EXISTS. (BY OBSERVATION)
    3. THEREFORE ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS TRUE.

    However, though it closely matches Tom’s argument, I discovered that there is a problem here. This is not a valid form of modus ponens.

    The form of this argument…

    p implies q
    q
    Therefore, p.

    commits a fallacy known as affirming the consequent.

    For example:

    If Bill Gates owns Fort Knox, then he is rich.
    Bill Gates is rich.
    Therefore, Bill Gates owns Fort Knox.

    On the other hand, we could still construct a valid argument using the standard modus ponens form,

    p implies q
    p
    Therefore, q

    as follows:

    1. IF ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS TRUE, THEN REASONING EXISTS.
    2. ATHEISTIC MATERIALISM IS TRUE
    3. THEREFORE REASONING EXISTS.

    However, the argument in this form IMO is really very trivial and appears (to me at least) to lack any “punch.” By comparison Tom’s argument scores a knockout. I was honestly quite surprised by the asymmetry here. Is there a reason for this? Does anyone else have a better argument?

    Of course, as we all know, just because an argument is logically valid it doesn’t follow that it is true. However, it still gives me pause when I see the other sides arguments so lacking when it comes to basic logic. In this case the weakness appears to be rooted in logic itself.

  181. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    djc,

    What do you mean the evidence for undirected evolution is quite persuasive? What kind of evidence are you talking about?

    Consider this thought experiment. Biologists today are observing and recording characteristics of a definable population of squirrels under natural conditions. The observations and record-keeping continue for x years, maybe 100,000, maybe more, maybe less. Across x years the population gradually develops the ability to sing like a bird. Evolution has happened.

    Did it happen with or without direction? What evidence would decide the question?

    “We didn’t see any miracles”?

    or similarly,

    “We didn’t see any sudden unexplainable changes”?

    or,

    “Everything was completely gradual, so it’s not impossible it happened by natural causes alone”?

    Which of those forms of evidence, or any other you could think of, would rule out the possibility of God directing the process invisibly?

    The answer is quite clear: there is no empirical evidence that could rule that out. None. Nada. Zilch.

    That means that there is no empirical evidence that could clearly support evolution’s being undirected. The closest it could come is, “as far as we know it’s not impossible it happened without direction,” which is not the same thing as “the evidence for undirected evolution is quite persuasive.”

    Note further that this thought experiment assumes the best possible conditions: careful, long-term observation and record keeping by qualified scientists, keeping track of every gradual change over thousands of years. In the best of circumstances there’s no conceivable way to rule out directed evolution. If a best-case scenario couldn’t rule out directed evolution, how could the actual evidence we have rule it out?

    So your assertion that we have persuasive evidence for undirected evolution is plainly impossible.

  182. scblhrm

    DJC,

    You’ve given up, then, on actual, real intentionality and settle for your determined descriptive?

    If so, on what grounds?

    If not, why on earth not? You’ve not even us any reason to grant you anything.

  183. scblhrm

    DJC,

    You asserted, “What is the essential characteristic of mind for intentionality? It must be the observer, the awareness of consciousness, raw feels, etc. This is what endows the physical framework of atoms and molecules with true intentionality”

    Could you please give us evidence that molecules are there being infused with intention.

    You seem to be appealing to your felt experience, rather than to mechanistic data. This is a mere evasion of Tom’s question: Yes, you believe in intentionality, but why?

    Or perhaps you are settling for what is at bottom an illusion, an I-Feel, and though you know it cannot house intentionality at any molecular level, that you/we feel it is “good enough” because that is “our felt reality“, and though it’s just an illusion, it is what it is and that is our reality.

    Is that it?

    Or do you have some evidence of this I-Feel somehow providing an infusion of intentionality into molecules?

    You assert that you feel it is okay to just grant that all of these amalgamations sum to intentionality.

    But you’ve given us no reason to believe you.

  184. Melissa

    djc,

    If you assume undirected evolution is impossible, then, yes, that follows.

    Actually no assumption going on. Natural selection doesn’t design anything.

    Given the simple actions of replication and selection, the only goal the first replicator needs is, well, to replicate,

    But to allow any kind of goal is to acknowledge the reality of final causation – a reality that the materialist denies.

    If we deny conscious minds to organisms, we most necessarily deny intentionality for that organism. There is no mind and therefore no aboutness, no beliefs, no desires, no goals.

    Not being a materialist I don’t agree that organisms need a mind to have goals, they just don’t have conscious intentions.

    But add in a mind and you get intentionality. What is the essential characteristic of mind for intentionality? It must be the observer, the awareness of consciousness, raw feels, etc.

    No, intentionality itself is an essential characteristic of mind. Consciousness doesn’t automatically magic up intentionality out of nowhere.

    I think it is reasonable to grant the experience of neural representation being about objects in one’s head as a form of real intentionality.

    But there are no neural representations. (the physical facts alone do not make a representation) and to be about something is what you are trying to explain. Since you deny that they actually are about something, what you describe is having an experience of something that is not actually happening. So I think it is very unreasonable to conclude that you have described here real intentionality. It seems to me that you are denying intentionality and therefore reasoning and yet you are still offering an argument to support your position. Do you see the contradiction inherent in that?

    (It’s much easier to use Dennett’s intentional stance and skip all the quotes)

    Yes, I’m sure it’s much easier to fool yourself and other’s that your explanation has any kind of plausibility.

    concepts do not need to exist except as shared neural representation

    There is no shared neural representation. We all have individual brain states and representation presupposes aboutness.

    activating a part of the brain concerned with accuracy or fidelity

    People are concerned with accuracy and fidelity, brains are not.

  185. GrahamH

    I don’t think materialists have a firm position on intentionality and meaning; but that doesn’t prove materialism false. I see the alternatives to materialism having even greater problems in the context of their complications and lack of evidence (or perhaps we’ll see something compelling in Tom’s evidence series?).

    Materialism is in many ways side-chained to science and there is much yet to explore, the human brain/mind included. I am not surprised it doesn’t offer an absolute answer, but it does offer a good working hypothesis.

    I find it compelling that intentionality evolved like all life and occurs once you have organisms sophisticated enough to have self-generated responses to their environment. In other words, intentionality is highly contextual and depends upon behaviour within a particular environment. But I humbly admit I don’t know for sure.

    It is a fertile area of investigation. I am sure scientists are happy to keep working on the mind despite the criticism based on extreme forms of rationality.

    I see no basis why anyone would strike materialism out as false on the basis of this OP; and then say “well we killed that, lets move to theism” or whatever. For me it stays on the table to be compared with how well the alternatives stack up to scrutiny. And that will be interesting.

  186. Melissa

    GrahamH,

    I don’t think materialists have a firm position on intentionality and meaning; but that doesn’t prove materialism false.

    If you don’t understand the argument, I’m sure someone here would be happy to answer any queries you have.

    Also science is only side-chained to science by bad philosophy. I say let’s keep the science and get rid of the bad philosophy.

  187. GrahamH

    I don’t think the materialist position is as simple as stated in the OP that “logic in human thought is like the logic programmed into a computer”. That seems very simplistic to me.

  188. Melissa

    GrahamH,

    I don’t think the materialist position is as simple as stated in the OP that “logic in human thought is like the logic programmed into a computer”. That seems very simplistic to me.

    Like it or not that is how many materialists characterize the situation. The fascinating thing is that you have decided to quibble with a part of the OP that is tangential to the thrust of the argument. All that is really needed is the statement that materialism holds that human thought is nothing but physical processes. Do you agree with this statement? If so, do you wish to engage with the meat of the argument in the four reasons Tom has given to think that this is not true.

  189. GrahamH

    Do I agree human thought is nothing but physical processes? I am happy to say it is compelling but I can’t say for sure like I said above. Given we do not yet know what all physical processes are (and how they work), I don’t think anyone can be expected to affirm this with absolute certainty. I am not surprised then this honest doubt is not treated sympathetically to extreme rationalisation with the intent, as Tom says above in #53, to be used as a basis to rule out the materialist worldview completely so one would be forced to choose an alternative such as theism.

    That seems conceptually incorrect to me like I alluded to in #191. It stays on the table and gets weighed up with all the rest.

    I am also not sure it is correct to assume it is a worry re: does the mental need be eliminated in favour of the physical. The attributes of the mind could simply be intrinsic features of very complex kinds of physical or biological systems I alluded to earlier. If mental states are biological, they can cause and be caused by physical changes. The use of terms such as minds, intention etc. could simply be practical terms used for meaningful explanation of human behaviour.

  190. scblhrm

    It’s all a matter of one’s end of regress.

    The capacity to think with intentionality, the capacity to weigh reasons, to suspend in midair and there be about a multiplicity of reasons, all themselves suspended, held, in midair, finds all the business of Will, of Intention, of Person in the very location the Materialist never will be able to usurp: at the bitter end of regress.

    The Materialist’s comments in this thread seem to miss this point. The Theist doesn’t care if the Materialist unearths something with the appearance of, or, the feel of, this break-away from Nature, but which is actually not a break-away, and only feeds into the illusion of such, as all such systems still find themselves enslaved not to Will, to Intent, to Person but, instead, to reverberations of cascading photon fluxes pushed this-way-and-that-way by net summations of force. The bitter end of regress in all such systems enslaves every felt-whatever to such amorphous clouds.

    Reason and Logic are therein not what the Atheist/Materialist claims them to be and he finds himself unable to “reason”, or in fact “intentionally do” anything at all as all such motions, while giving the illusion of intention, are but a multiplicity of cascading forces (the cause) manifesting in summation (the effect). It is an ominous misfortune for the Materialist that Induction, Deduction, the presupposed trustiness of the Uniformity of Nature, and Perception all suffer the very same fatality as his Reason and his Logic.

    In fact, verbs like “deduce” and so on are found also to be incoherent for they would imply (those illusions once again) that one’s Self is pushing one’s mental contents this way and that way, but of course there is no such end of regress. No. That is not the end of regress. The end of that chain is tied to ever widening circles of quantum forces ever in irrational ricochet.

    It is fine to sacrifice Reason and Logic and get on with playing the Stoic. Such honesty would be refreshing. But this perpetual attempt to “tweek” and “adjust” and “nudge” some sort of “faint hint” of freedom, of actual intentionality out of a purely material substrate and hint that one is okay with settling for illusion because, well, “we get by on it” only serves as a demonstration of that foreboding unwillingness to let go of one’s personhood there at the end of regress.

    When the Christian ends all regress in the lap of Immutable Personhood, of Immutable Love, we find that all regresses, whether Reason or Logic or Love or Good or Ought’s Grain, and so on, all maintain coherence to the bitter end of his ontology, from A to Z. There is no need to cut the chain midstride and jump off in blind axiom prior to arriving at Z in order to run back to A and start again. That death of circularity just is non-entity in the lap of God.

  191. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Graham, your honest doubt with respect to #53 is nothing but doubt that the materialistic worldview I’ve described here is true. Do you have some hesitation agreeing that thought is an entirely physical process? Then you are not an atheistic materialist who accepts that causation is closed on the physical, and this post is about someone else’s beliefs, not yours.

    That’s no great surprise. You’re not the only one. Thomas Nagel is an atheist who believes that causation may not be closed on the physical. This post has nothing to say regarding his form of atheism. This post rebuts (and I think it refutes) physicalism of the sort that accepts no other forces, no other category of causation.

    However–you can say that the attributes of the mind could simply be intrinsic features of very complex systems. You can say that mental states “are biological,” presumably meaning nothing except for biological. You can say these things, but I don’t think you can make them anything more than shoulder-shrugging maybes.

    Meanwhile I have done more than say that these things are impossible. I have put forth an argument to that effect.

    Suppose mental states are intrinsic features of systems, as you say. How does thought relate to brain states, causally? Is thought identical to brain states? If not, does thought cause changes in brain states, or vice versa, or both, and how do you explain your answer?

  192. Larry Tanner

    Like it or not that is how many materialists characterize the situation.

    Yet no one sees fit to provide even one direct quote from a materialist in the relevant discipline(s) where the situation is actually characterized.

    I really don’t know how to respond intelligently to your assertions about materialism when you offer nothing beyond your opinion to substantiate those assertions.

    On the other hand, if you would like a very nice articulation of the naturalist point of view and why it is far and away better than theism, I can do no better than to point you to the recent Craig-Carroll debate. Yes, the debate centers on cosmology and not on reasoning, yet Carroll’s points have relevance here and remind us that when we compare naturalist and theist approaches, there is good reason to place theism aside and cease to take it seriously.

    Here is the link, and I do encourage watching it.

  193. scblhrm

    GrahamH,

    You commented: “Do I agree human thought is nothing but physical processes? I am happy to say it is compelling but I can’t say for sure like I said above. Given we do not yet know what all physical processes are (and how they work), I don’t think anyone can be expected to affirm this with absolute certainty.”

    I am unclear which location you mean to move “definition” to here, or if you mean to move it at all, or if you mean just to equivocate on the term “materialism”.

    Hawking leaves Time and Material in favor of borrowing the Property of Timeless and the Property of Immaterial from Scripture as he approaches Genesis 1:1 with his imaginary spheres. Though he would probably (or not) call that sphere ontologically real and Time/Material imaginary.

    Do you mean, now, by this move of yours, to borrow from Scripture the Property of Will to add to [Ultimate Actuality], alongside of Hawking’s borrowed Properties of Timeless and Immaterial?

    Have we really gotten that much closer to Genesis 1:1 in this thread, or are you merely equivocating on definition?

  194. scblhrm

    Larry T.,

    I see no good evidence at all that materialism grants intentionality.

    Anywhere.

    Thus: No reasoning.

    Or do you mean for us to settle for the illusion of intentional motions?

  195. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Larry, I don’t know why names and quotes are so important to you.

    Are you a physicalist in the sense of believing that there is nothing in all reality except for physical entities and processes, where “physical” means, of the sort that an ideal science of physics can now study or could hope someday to study?
    Do you believe there is the possibility of causation other than physical?
    Do you think it’s likely that mental logic could realistically be approximated to computer logic?

    If so, then these arguments apply to you. If not, then they don’t.

    I haven’t had time to look up the sources yet, but you could start here if you like.

  196. Post
    Author
  197. Jenna Black

    Larry and Tom,

    Here are the URLs to an article that gives a cogent definition and description of materialism by Sean Carroll of the California Institute of Technology that might further the discussion:

    http://preposterousuniverse.com/writings/nd-paper/

    PDF version

    http://preposterousuniverse.com/writings/nd-paper/nd-paper.pdf

    Here is Dr. Carroll’s definition of materialism:

    “The materialist thesis is simply: that’s all there is to the world. Once we figure out the correct formal structure, patterns, boundary conditions, and interpretation, we have obtained a complete description of reality. (Of course we don’t yet have the final answers as to what such a description is, but a materialist believes such a description does exist.) In particular, we should emphasize that there is no place in this view for common philosophical concepts such as ”cause and effect” or ”purpose.” From the perspective of modern science, events don’t have purposes or causes; they simply conform to the laws of nature.”

    Thanks,

    JB

  198. Larry Tanner

    What makes you think intentionality is a precondition of reasoning? Or to put it another way, can a reasoning process be conducted without intention? For instance, can a computer perform a reasoning process, or is it possible that in the future a computer will be able to perform a reasoning process?

    But the larger problem, as I continue to point out, is that nowhere is anyone providing even a single direct quotation that demonstrates a naturalist or materialists advocating the view that you say they do. Maybe there is such a direct quotation out there, I am not really sure. I would love to see it.

    I do know that you would probably not want me ascribing views to you and then criticizing them without providing a direct quotation of what you actually said. You probably would think that was unfair. Yet, in over 200 comments, not one critic of “materialism,” has provided a direct quotation.

    Why should anyone not consider this fact as evidence of intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy?

  199. Larry Tanner

    Seems that as I was writing my last comment, Jenna provided a link to a paper that articulates a naturalist view. I look forward to discussing direct quotations from it.

    Bravo, Jenna!

  200. Bill L

    Tom,

    I could be totally wrong about this and I am willing to concede that. But right now, I think I feel the way Larry does. I did search “computer” in the book you linked to (I have not read it). But I’m not finding what you are saying that A-M’s are saying (that we do not reason). Are you sure you are not saying something more like “A-M’s are saying that reasoning is material and I don’t see how that could be reasoning.”? That is, you don’t see (given the OP) that reasoning could be material, and since A-M’s believe it is material then you have concluded that there could be no reasoning on their system.

    Or are you saying that at best A-M would see reasoning as an illusion and that is not what you consider reasoning?

    I have just honestly never herd a serious A-M say that reasoning does not exist or can not exist (I am not including Oisin in this). It sounds like you have derived that from their understanding about materialism. Is this the case?

    It seems to me that no one is saying a brain/mind acts exactly like a computer, but that something like this is where we might find the answer. Note that I am not disputing that A-M does not provide an adequate explanation for mind. I am asking if A-M’s are actually saying what you claim they are saying.

    This is why I think it would be helpful (to say the least) to provide support for your position since it is the thrust of your argument.

  201. scblhrm

    Bill L and Larry,

    I take you to assert that intentionality is not a necessary component of reasoning and that our thoughts are simply pushed around by net summations of larger circles of irrational ricocheting reverberations.

    Is that right?

    While intentionality is necessary for reasoning, it is not sufficient. In other words, Intentionality of Thought = Reasoning would be a false identity claim. But you seem to be putting it aside as even a necessary component, and would equate robots / automatons to the process of reasoning.

    But if this is the move you want to make, I don’t see how you can justify it. Will you employ deduction? Induction? Perception? Be careful to avoid those circular loops which breed incoherency.

    As noted, reasoning and Logic are not what the Atheist/Materialist claims them to be and he finds himself unable to “reason”, or in fact “intentionally do” anything at all as all such motions, while giving the illusion of intention, are but a multiplicity of cascading forces (the cause) manifesting in summation (the effect). It is an ominous misfortune for the Materialist that Induction, Deduction, the presupposed trustiness of the Uniformity of Nature, and Perception all suffer the very same fatality as his Reason and his Logic. Verbs like “deduce” and so on are found to be incoherent for they would imply (those illusions once again) that one’s Self is pushing one’s mental contents this way and that way, but of course there is no such end of regress. No. That is not the end of regress. The end of that chain is tied to ever widening circles of quantum forces ever in irrational ricochet.

  202. scblhrm

    Materialism’s incoherency:

    The laws of nature do not exist independent from the properties of “stuff”. And, the “stuff” does not exist independently from the laws produced by / within their nature. In other words, A is contingent upon B, and, also, B is contingent upon A. We find nothing in any of that which births the Necessary, and, in fact, we find only the contingent in all vectors. Telling us that [Conformed To] does not equal [Caused To] is an incoherent attempt to escape this problem of contingency. It goes in circles as each contingent presupposes the other contingent and then this summation is supposed to magically amalgamate to the Necessary. It dies the death of circularity.

  203. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Larry and Bill L, the miscommunications continue. I’m sorry. I’ve been trying to be clear, but I haven’t been succeeding, apparently.

    I never said you would find materialists who would say we don’t reason. That’s a non-materialist’s argument against materialism! Why would a materialist bring it forth? (Is that what you wanted me to find for you, Larry?)

    But wait–there’s an exception: Alex Rosenberg says in the linked book that thinking about anything is impossible because of the intentionality problem. In Chapter 8:

    You can’t think about the unthinkable, because you can’t think about anything at all…. Thinking about things can’t happen at all. The brain can’t have thoughts about Paris, or about France, or about capitals, or about anything else for that matter. When consciousness convinces you that you, or your mind, or your brain has thoughts about things, it is wrong.

    That’s not a quote-mine. It is his belief.

    Rosenberg is a bit of an exception. Otherwise you’ll find a lot of physicalist/naturalist/atheist philosophers granting that reality is causally closed on the physical. And that is what I’ve been saying you’ll find if you read Coyne, Harris, and a whole lot of more respectable philosophers besides.

    (Do I really need to provide quotes for that, Larry?)

    From that point our conclusions diverge. Most of them try various epiphenomenal, property dualistic, or computer-modeling, or supervenience solutions to the problem I’ve outlined here, to salvage reason from within their philosophical frameworks.

    (Did you want me to show you where to find that? Just what are you wanting me to dig up for you?)

    My point is that starting from where they start, with a causally-closed physical conception of reality, it’s impossible to end where they end, because (for reasons we’ve been discussing all along) a system that is causally closed on the physical simply cannot have the capacity reason.

    Is that clear yet?

  204. Larry Tanner

    scblhrm,
    What are your thoughts on Prof. Carroll’s arguments in Jenna’s link?

  205. scblhrm

    The vast majority of “A-M’s” never tell me that there are non-determined forces in play.

    Never.

    I’ve had discussions of this sort with all sorts of materialists and, in probably 90% of those discussions, they end up talking about mere raw chains of physical (mass/energy) “events” wholly deterministic in nature as the bedrock of all that is human, from the genome upward.

    I find it odd that some are arguing that materialists out there are invoking non-deterministic fabrics to explain any part of reality.

    The closest we get is Hawking and his ontologically real sphere somehow producing imaginary time/material (and so on). But even there we find no hint of intentionality. It’s all deterministic at bottom, for no part of any of it is free from the rest of it.

    That would be impossible because Nature can never be free of herself.

    Genome. Body. Mind. Emotion. Taste. Fear. Laptop. Software. Hardware.

    It doesn’t matter.

    There’s no hint of intentionality.

    Because Nature is all there is. And Nature is never free of nature.

  206. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Larry, you ask,

    What makes you think intentionality is a precondition of reasoning? Or to put it another way, can a reasoning process be conducted without intention?

    For this I am able easily to provide quotes.

    First, there is the intentionality or “aboutness” problem. A-M proponents often ask us to think of the mind as being like a computer. It’s a useful exercise, because it helps us see how different rational thought is from mechanical signal processing. Logic gates in computers are never “about” the signal passing through them, nor are they “about” the information they carry. This is true of each individual switch, and it’s true of any large array of switches, for complexity cannot magically create “aboutness.” But rational inference is really a matter of being about the content being processed.

    — Tom Gilson, original post here

    They are not arguments from ignorance but arguments against the possibity in principle of physical states being intentional. It’s not we don’t know how, but rather that given how we define the physical it can’t, in principle be about anything.

    Melissa

    Except that they aren’t representations at all if there is no intentionality. To rephrase you’re comfortable with the view that “aboutness” is the experience of neural events being about something.

    Melissa

    djc, “intentionality” in this context is “aboutness.” See the first point in the OP, or see this article.

    Tom Gilson

    You yourself have provided the answer, The pixels in the screen, qua *physical object*, mean nothing. Absolutely nothing. Period. Discussion is over. Done with. They only “accurately represent a picture of a lion” *because* minds interpret it so. So to say that physical objects exhibit intentionality, and then to offer as evidence the *derived* intentionality put there by minds, is to have smuggled in by the back door what you are supposed to have explained. In other words, you have explained exactly nothing.

    G. Rodrigues

    There is emergence and there is emergence; water is wet, but no molecule is wet, so wetness is a property of the aggregate of H2O molecules (*NOT* just its mereological sum), not of a single H2O molecule. So far so good. So now explain to us, how, for example, intentionality arises from the physical interactions of the atoms composing the brain. Saying that it could, does not cut it (hint: you will fail, that is precisely what the arguments *prove*; but hey, prove us wrong).

    G. Rodrigues

    Do you get my point?

    It’s a little tiresome for you to ask a question that’s been answered so many times. Maybe we’re wrong (I don’t think we are) but you don’t have to ask what makes us think intentionality is required for reason. We’ve told you. Now, do you have any clarifying questions to ask about it?

  207. Post
    Author
  208. Larry Tanner

    Tom, that you do not see that you have not answered my question at all nor provided the kind of direct quotations that you need to is the problem.

  209. scblhrm

    Larry,

    So you are saying that A-M’s out there are invoking non-deterministic fabrics to explain mind?

  210. scblhrm

    Larry,

    The quote is interesting. It’s a whole other discussion of course. It seems evasive to me.

    The cup I just dropped was not “caused” to fall via gravity. Instead, it “conformed” to the force of gravity. To a Law.

    Thus there are no causes.

    Thus the problem of contingency in all vectors, and the Necessary in zero vectors, is evaded.

    Nothing explains the existence of anything, and we don’t need to, because there are no cause/effect.

    This is an odd sort of reasoning. One I find incoherent. The cup conforms to the force of X. The force of X does not cause the cup’s conforming. So there are no causes and no effects.

    That seems week, even incoherent. The Necessary seems to be his goal, but he doesn’t get there in my opinion. He just trades among contingents.

    The laws of nature do not exist independent from the properties of “stuff”. And, the “stuff” does not exist independently from the laws produced by / within their nature. In other words, A is contingent upon B, and, also, B is contingent upon A. We find nothing in any of that which births the Necessary, and, in fact, we find only the contingent in all vectors. Telling us that [Conformed To] does not equal [Caused To] is an incoherent attempt to escape this problem of contingency. It goes in circles as each contingent presupposes the other contingent and then this summation is supposed to magically amalgamate to the Necessary. It dies the death of circularity

  211. scblhrm

    Tom,

    What a wonderful blog / writing. I stumbled upon you guys a few days ago and want to thank you for the opportunity to jump in. I’ll be too busy in March to do this but again thank you and keep up this wonderful work =)

  212. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Larry,

    Earlier you accused me of dishonesty.

    In response:

    — I explained what I was answering and what I was not answering, and why I was and wasn’t answering.

    — I asked what part of your question I was missing, and gave you opportunity to clarify.

    — I acknowledged a failure in communication on my end and apologized for it.

    I did some of that with some incredulity of tone, I admit. But I still need to know just what you need me to back up with quotes. I asked you about that because I don’t understand what I’m missing. My comment 209 was a request for you to explain your question. It included an explanation for why I was having trouble understanding what you were asking, and why you were asking it.

    Now you say that I have not answered “at all,” and that my failure to answer the question is part of the problem. But this is just wrong. I did answer the question. I answered in the manner I’ve just re-summarized for you.

    I acknowledge that I’m part of the problem. Now, if you want to move forward, would you please let me know just what it is that you need quotes for, and would you please explain your request in context of my clarifying questions in 209? Because honestly, I don’t get what it is you’re requesting or why.

    Here’s why. Let me go back to your original question:

    Could you post some direct quotations from authoritative sources that verify what the ‘A-M view’ says?

    I think I’ve said this at least twice since then: in this post I am specifically rebutting a version of atheism that takes it that there is nothing to all of reality except for physical things and physical forces interacting in physical ways.

    I dont need to quote an authoritative source to verify that this is what “the A-M view says,” because this is the specific A-M view that I am rebutting here. Now, suppose no one believed in a purely physical universe of the sort I have in mind here. Then my rebuttal would be a rebuttal of nobody’s view. It would still be a rebuttal of the view I have taken up for discussion here—with or without authoritative sources.

    The whole idea of an authoritative source is silly anyway. There is no authoritative voice speaking for all of atheism. You know that! There’s no authoritative voice speaking for all of materialism. You know that, too.

    So again I ask, by way of clarification, just what is it that you seek, and for what purpose? I can’t think of any reason for it, except perhaps to show that somebody holds the view I’m rebutting, which would merely demonstrate that I’m rebutting somebody rather than nobody.

    If that’s important to you, let me know and I’ll do that for you. For my part, I’m less interested in showing that I’m rebutting some third party than I am in finding out whether you believe that basic position that I’m discussing with these arguments.

    Let me know. I am answering your question again. I am answering you by (again) requesting that you clarify the question. If that request is part of the problem, then you could contribute to solving the problem by answering my clarifying question.

  213. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Further, Larry, you said that I had not answered “at all,” when I had already given you a direct quote from Rosenberg.

    I’d like an apology, please. See also my previous comment.

  214. Post
    Author
  215. Larry Tanner

    Tom,
    I will show you how to use quotes and to analyze them on my own blog. I’ll let you know when I finish writing my piece.

  216. Jenna Black

    Larry,

    You provided us with the link to the debate between William Lane Craig and Sean Carroll, which I viewed in part and found very interesting, most especially the Q & A with the audience. I provided the link to the website and text of Sean Carroll’s paper on materialism. Aren’t these two sources of the atheist-materialist worldview vs. the Christian worldview sufficient for you to mine quotes from for the sake of this discussion with Tom and others? If not, why not? I ask because I share Tom’s puzzlement at what you are expecting from this conversation.

    JB

  217. Bill L

    Tom,

    I just wanted to be clear that I am satisfied with your answer now.

    Thank you

    Larry Tanner and Jenna Black,

    Thanks for the link to the debate and paper.

  218. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    @221:

    Golly gosh, Larry, thanks. I mean, gee, that’s really swell of you to help me out that way!

    Could you also show me how you answer a clarifying question here? Because I’m pretty stupid and I don’t know how to do that, either, you see, and I need someone to show me that, too.

    Larry, the problem isn’t that I don’t know how to analyze a quote. Good grief. How many times have I done that on this blog? The problem is that I’m not really clear on what you’re looking for. You’ve said you want me to provide a quote from some authoritative source indicating that A-M physicalism believes something or other. I’ve explained why that’s too unclear and ambiguous for me to respond to. The latest I’ve gotten from you is you’ve accused me falsely of dishonesty and of not answering.

    I don’t really care what you write on your own blog unless you explain there what it is that you’ve been asking for here. It would be a whole lot more sensible to do that right here, though.

    I’m still asking for an apology, by the way.

  219. Post
    Author
  220. scblhrm

    Tom,

    Free will for instance seems like a completely abstruse 19th-century concern, except for the fact that a belief in free will does affect people’s moral intuitions. The retributive part of our criminal justice system is predicated on it. And so, the idea that people really deserve to spend decades in prison because they’re really evil and they are the true authors of their own evil, I think is impossible to cash out once you understand the human mind as an expression of neurophysiology, and neurophysiology as an expression of genes and environment, etc. It makes no sense scientifically.” (Sam Harris, neuroscientist)

    I couldn’t believe how easy it was to go to Google and find ties and quotes between AI, Determinism, Reductionism, and outspoken people in all sorts of fields. Thank you for the quote from Rosenberg. From the way L.T. was going on and on in need of some sort of “proof” that such folks exist I began to question that maybe nobody out there was saying those sorts of things and you just made it all up. Clearly you weren’t. Perhaps L.T.’s agenda seemed (to me) to be along some other line related neither to dialogue nor to logical argumentation. I could be mistaken. I probably am. On the weight of the evidence found in under five minutes on Google, I find it amazing that anyone could believe that the majority of A-M folks out there are invoking non-deterministic fabrics to explain mental processing. I noticed you apologized for your possible failure in communicating (though I saw no real failure). I think I myself would have failed to do that, to give that apology, given what I know about my own tendencies. Though, according to Harris, I wouldn’t be to blame. Nor would my laptop. A good reprogramming should do the trick. But who gets to pick the programming? Me? Harris? Will there be a vote? Perhaps it is a good thing that we have highly educated neuroscientists to help us, and all AI’s, fully actualize.

    As I said earlier, March is impossible for me come Monday but I was glad to come upon this blog and its excellent writing and insights; a joy to read. Thank you again.

  221. Jenna Black

    Tom and Larry,

    In my comment #203 above, I quoted Sean Carroll’s definition of materialism without commenting on it. I’m glad I waited until I viewed the Craig-Carroll debate because the two combined give me an opportunity to give my explanation of the “problems” with the materialist world view. Several of these points are very skillfully articulated by William Lane Craig in this debate.

    Dr. Carroll says this: “In particular, we should emphasize that there is no place in this view [materialism] for common philosophical concepts such as ”cause and effect” or ”purpose.” From the perspective of modern science, events don’t have purposes or causes; they simply conform to the laws of nature.”

    This means that when we talk about “common philosophical concepts” we are talking about concepts, ideas, understandings of reality, even “models” of reality that are not explained as aspects of reality that “simply conform to the laws of nature.” Here Sean Carroll has captured the essential difference between materialism and theology. Eureka!

    So, when we talk about “purpose” or intention or will (volition), materialism offers no explanation. Theology does. We humans are created in the image of God and God has/is volition.

    In his article, Carroll calls concepts of purpose and cause and effect (from a philosophical perspective) to be “ancillary notions”: “According to the materialist worldview, then, structures and patterns are all there are — we don’t need any ancillary notions.” As I interpret this definition/description of materialism, the materialist doesn’t deny the existence of such concepts as “purpose” but merely discards these concepts as “unnecessary” for the materialist models of reality. So, basically, as I understand it, materialism is simply a worldview that refuses to entertain the complexities of human nature and human behavior that don’t fit within the boundaries and patterns that are explainable through physical, material models. IOW, materialists simply have a much lower threshold of satisfaction with the explanatory power of an epistemology about reality than we theists do.

    JB

  222. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    “materialists simply have a much lower threshold of satisfaction with the explanatory power of an epistemology about reality than we theists do.”

    Good summary!

  223. Jenna Black

    Continued from #228

    Another “problem” I have with materialism is this: If, as materialists propose, all thought or mental activity, including reasoning has a physical explanation or origin or cause (non-philosophical), then most certainly this applies to and encompasses thinking and reasoning about God (however God is conceptualized or thought/reasoned about.) This means that conceptualizations of God occur according to the laws of nature and are perfectly natural, having their origin in nature and being caused by the same natural, physical processes as all other mental activity and thoughts.

    This line of reasoning seems to me to make it impossible for atheists to argue on the basis of materialism that reasoning about God and reasoning that “concludes” God is somehow not reasonable or not the product of a natural process. If all thought and reasoning is, from the materialists’ worldview, deterministic, then humans are predetermined to reason to/about God. Science cannot demonstrate any physical differences between mental activity and thoughts that lead to a volitional choice to believe in and worship God and mental activity (reasoning) that leads to a volitional choice not to believe in or worship God.

    I recommend the research of Eugene d’Aquili found in these two books:

    Eugene d’Aquili and Andrew Newberg (1999). The Mystical Mind: Probing the biology of religious experience.

    Andrew Newberg, Eugene d’Aquili and Vince Rause. (2001). Why God won’t go away: Brain science and the biology of belief.

    Please let me know if I have misinterpreted materialism here.

    Thanks. JB

  224. djc

    Tom,

    What do you mean the evidence for undirected evolution is quite persuasive? What kind of evidence are you talking about?

    Which of those forms of evidence, or any other you could think of, would rule out the possibility of God directing the process invisibly?

    There is no way to prove that God was not involved, much like there is no way to easily prove a negative to an arbitrary degree of confidence. However, the form of your OP argument is asking how A-M can be true and account for the intentionality problem and rationality. I’m saying basically that if undirected evolution is true, then that leads to a solution to the intentionality and rationality problems under A-M.

    You don’t have to accept undirected evolution of course. In fact, my approach provides multiple ways to disprove A-M; one if there is no way for undirected evolution to occur, another if there is no way to solve the intentionality problem or account for rationality under undirected evolution.

    Despite not being able to prove a negative, I do believe undirected evolution is better supported than directed evolution based on Occam’s Razor. But I’m sure that’s a topic for another time.

  225. djc

    But to allow any kind of goal is to acknowledge the reality of final causation – a reality that the materialist denies.

    That was my point. The goal is to replicate, which is no real goal at all. Or at least no different from the cloud’s “goal” to rain, or a stream’s “goal” to flow downhill. The evidence from nature is that there is no final causation.

    Real goals come from the introspective experience of mind. But are these inconsistent with physicalism, in my view? No, not if our experience of goals is simply consciousness overlain on biological computers.

    But there are no neural representations. (the physical facts alone do not make a representation) and to be about something is what you are trying to explain.

    What then would you call neural groups connected and firing based on stimuli of external objects? I call these representations under materialism. If you want to call them “representations” that’s fine but the quotes just seem tedious.

    Since you deny that they actually are about something, what you describe is having an experience of something that is not actually happening.

    I deny that “aboutness” needs to exist in a dualist sense. But I do believe there a physical relationship between neural groups and the object they “represent”, and that is because the neural group is part of a complex program that can be observed to direct behavior of an organism based on the “representation”. A computer program that pilots a Google self-driving car has a physical relationship with the road via it’s “representations” of the road, the car, time, and speed.

    The physical relationship is there. Now add conscious experience of the physical relationship and that, I believe, accounts for intentionality.

    Yes, I’m sure it’s much easier to fool yourself and other’s that your explanation has any kind of plausibility.

    I don’t think a personal attack is called for here. Are we fighting? I thought we were discussing a highly complex issue.

  226. scblhrm

    djc,

    “I’m saying basically that if undirected evolution is true, then that leads to a solution to the intentionality and rationality problems under A-M.”

    No it doesn’t.

    This argument amounts to this: If evolution is true, then there is no intentionality problem for naturalism to account for.

    But there is.

    Because naturalism cannot account for it.

    This is why intentionality is such a powerful argument in favor of God. Physics is on God’s side, because we do reason.

    Harris is wrong. There is a component of thought which is free of Nature, and thus intentionality exists.

  227. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    djc,

    This much I find interesting:

    I’m saying basically that if undirected evolution is true, then that leads to a solution to the intentionality and rationality problems under A-M.

    This I don’t agree with:

    But the evidence for undirected evolution is quite persuasive.

    Since there’s no good evidence for undirected evolution after all, which I think you’ve conceded, then there’s no evidence for your solution to the intentionality problem.

    My agreement with that first statement is very provisional for this reason:

    I agree that if everything in natural history could be explained naturalistically, then we would be forced to say that there must be a naturalistic explanation for reason. That’s where your premises take us—but no further than that. They don’t tell us how to explain intentionality in an all-physical world, they only tell us there must be a solution somewhere, if intentionality exists (see scblhrm’s note on that just now). But philosophers who believe in naturalistic evolution have already been approaching the problem from that perspective, and from that perspective it remains unsolved.

    So naturalistic evolution, in this context, amounts to a conjecture that leads to an enigma that proceeds to a puzzle that’s already being worked on with no real success. It’s not much to hang your hat on.

  228. scblhrm

    djc,

    You are describing the mere illusion of freedom. Not the real thing.

    In which case you are saying what Harris is saying.

    The illusion of intent is not actual intent, and so long as that chain is tied to those cascading photons in force summations, thoughts are slaves.

    It’s that simple.

    There is free, there is slavery, and there is the illusion of freedom perceived by the organism (it can’t help it, of course), which is also slavery.

    Reasoning is non-entity in Harris’ descriptive given earlier. I think it is in yours as well.

  229. djc

    scblhrm,

    There is no infusion of molecules with intentionality, in my view. Imagine a Google self-driving car and it’s “representation” of the road and other cars around it via its sensors, memory and a program. Wouldn’t you agree that there is a physical relationship between it and the road via “beliefs”, “goals” and “models” running on silicon?

    Now, if somehow we can imagine being a Google car — say, in some distant future where the hardware/software improved enormously in sophistication with explicit models of self, minds, learning, etc.– I submit that the aforementioned physical relationship would feel like intentionality.

    Is that real intentionality or not? It is consistent with physicalism but it relies solely on conscious experience. It’s as real as conscious experience, in my view.

  230. scblhrm

    JB,

    You’re not misreading. Just look at Harris’ incoherent quote.

    “Free will for instance seems like a completely abstruse 19th-century concern, except for the fact that a belief in free will does affect people’s moral intuitions….”

    He argues that there is no free will, and then he tells us that belief “affects moral intuitions”. Is there supposed to be a decision to make there? Of course not, but he implies that we ought to think better. As if we have a choice.

    The whole dance is in line with your description. Naturalists tell us all the time we have no free will, and then they tell us to quit thinking A or B or C. As if we can intentionally push our thoughts against Nature.

    As if we can be free of nature. But they assure us we can’t. But they want us to act like we are. No one’s to blame for what their thoughts do, because we have no freedom, except those religious folks, they are to blame for thinking what they think. They need to reason “better”. But they can’t, because they are not free. But they “ought to” reason “better”.

    This entire approach is so comical, self-contradicting, and full of blind axioms, self-negations, and half-starts ending in circular dead ends that it seems to me they just cannot be hearing the words coming out of their own mouths.

    This is the value of this thread. It unmasks the most harsh atheist’s actual belief in intentionality even as they are midsentence denying it.

    But they must deny it. Because if there is something free of nature, then there is God.

  231. scblhrm

    djc,

    Is there intention?

    Or is it all being pushed around by Nature’s chains to those summations of forces?

  232. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    What does “representation” mean in this context? What does it mean to “feel like intentionality”? I can’t wrap my mind around either of those?

    Intentionality isn’t a matter of feeling. If I say I am thinking about the Eiffel Tower, either I am thinking about it or not, regardless of how it feels to me.

    That’s probably more apparent if we introduce truth-values into the discussion. Suppose I’m thinking about the Eiffel Tower, and I’m thinking, “The Eiffel Tower is a tunnel under London.” That’s a proposition with respect to the Eiffel Tower, London, and other things besides; and it’s a false proposition. It’s a false proposition in itself; it requires no feeling to make it false.

  233. djc

    Tom,

    Since there’s no good evidence for undirected evolution after all, which I think you’ve conceded, then there’s no evidence for your solution to the intentionality problem.

    Well I wouldn’t be an atheist if I thought evolution was obviously directed. I think replication and natural selection left to their own devices are powerful enough to create life under the parameters of this universe.

    Now that might beg the question of why the parameters of this universe happen to evolve not only life but conscious life, but to truly answer that question, I think one has to be “outside” this universe and grasp how and why universes come into being, and that won’t happen any time soon. I think if God exists, he should be interacting with this universe in indisputable ways, but I don’t see any clear evidence of that.

  234. djc

    Tom,

    What does “representation” mean in this context? What does it mean to “feel like intentionality”? I can’t wrap my mind around either of those?

    “Feel like intentionality” means the same feeling of “aboutness” you get when you think of beliefs, goals and representations.

    If I say I am thinking about the Eiffel Tower, either I am thinking about it or not, regardless of how it feels to me.

    Thinking of the Eiffel Tower brings to mind an image of the Eiffel Tower, experiences you’ve had. All an experience, yes.

    In my thought experiment, if we imagine being a Google car (improved enormously with explicit models of self, minds, learning) we would expect to have the same nature of thought of intentionality in regards to the road and about other cars. The physical relationship between the car and the boundaries of the road, other drivers, that is there via hardware and software models becomes something more under conscious experience.

  235. Jenna Black

    djc RE: #240

    You say this: “I think if God exists, he should be interacting with this universe in indisputable ways, but I don’t see any clear evidence of that.”

    Isn’t creation a form of interacting with this universe? I happen to think it is since without this interaction, we wouldn’t be here, correct? Keep in mind that the fundamental belief in God of the ancient Hebrews is God as Creator. See Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, …”

  236. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    djc,

    What your thought experiment boils down to is this: “Imagine the view you’ve been arguing for here is wrong, and intentionality is possible for artificial objects and systems—and not just intentionality, but mind and self-identity.”

    Or in other words, if your view is feasible, then it’s feasible. I don’t see anything here that shows that it’s feasible, though. You also don’t deal with truth-values, or at least you haven’t so far.

  237. Melissa

    djc,

    Or at least no different from the cloud’s “goal” to rain, or a stream’s “goal” to flow downhill. The evidence from nature is that there is no final causation.

    Regularity is in fact evidence from nature for final causation but there’s no need to get into that. I think we agree that given materialism any natural ends we perceive are projections of our minds and not intrinsic to the objects themselves.

    What then would you call neural groups connected and firing based on stimuli of external objects? I call these representations under materialism. If you want to call them “representations” that’s fine but the quotes just seem tedious.

    No I don’t want to call them “representations” because that would still be misleading. I want you to confront the true implications of what you are arguing. The problem with associating certain neural events with certain external objects requires identifying certain points in a continual chain of causes as the beginning and end, but objectively no points in the chain have that status. For a neural event to represent, for example cats, requires the the cat be treated as the beginning if the causal chain and the neural state as the end, but apart from human interests and interpretation there is just one continuous causal flux. The causal chain only has a beginning and end according to an interpreting mind.

    I deny that “aboutness” needs to exist in a dualist sense. But I do believe there a physical relationship between neural groups and the object they “represent”, and that is because the neural group is part of a complex program that can be observed to direct behavior of an organism based on the “representation”. A computer program that pilots a Google self-driving car has a physical relationship with the road via it’s “representations” of the road, the car, time, and speed.

    Once again no physical system can be described as running a program apart from some user who assigns meaning to the inputs, outputs and other states of the system. The car is designed by humans it has derived intentionality. The representation is not in the physical facts.

    I don’t think a personal attack is called for here. Are we fighting? I thought we were discussing a highly complex issue.

    It was not intended as a personal attack, I think you are unwittingly smuggling in intentionality and giving yourself permission by reference to the intentional stance. There is no problem using the intentional stance in everyday life but you are attempting to provide an explanation for intentionality in purely physical terms. I want you to see your position for what it really is – not hidden beneath the intentional stance.

  238. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “1. Reasoning is based in memory.
    2. Memory is a physical thing based on chemical/electrical impulses in the brain.
    3. Reasoning can exist in a materialistic world.

    For 3 to follow from 1 and 2 reasoning would need to be identical to memory which you admit that is not. The argument is invalid.”

    Okay I worded that poorly.

    1. Reasoning is simply remembering.
    2. Memory is a physical thing based on chemical/electrical impulses in the brain.
    3. Reasoning can exist in a materialistic world.

    Is that better?

    Cheers
    Shane

  239. Melissa

    Shane,

    1. Reasoning is simply remembering.
    2. Memory is a physical thing based on chemical/electrical impulses in the brain.
    3. Reasoning can exist in a materialistic world.

    Is that better?

    To be sound an argument must be logically valid and have true premises. You already stated further up the thread that reasoning is not identical to memory. Premise 1 is obviously false so the argument is unsound.

    While this has been an interesting diversion, what you need to do is show how Tom’s argument is unsound. Since the logic is valid you need to show how one of the premises is wrong.

  240. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    ” You already stated further up the thread that reasoning is not identical to memory.”

    That’s not exactly what I said. But let me clarify my position as stated in my first post in this thread way back at #5, now that I have a clearer idea of what Tom meant in the OP.

    I believe all the workings of the brain come down to an ability to remember. The conscious side of it, I mean, as opposed to the auto process that keep my heart beating, diaphragm filling my lungs with oxygen and the untold myriad of invisible processes that are controlled that keep us alive. Animals evolved and as they got bigger and more complex the brain became an organ necessary to run the important systems. As they continued to get bigger memory evolved as an advantage to evade predators, catch prey, recognise mates, etc. Brains got bigger and memory increased.

    Is there anybody that denies an incredible number of species of animals remember things?

    So, why is it so hard to accept that our brain is just remembering more things complex things. Tom’s arguments:

    “First, there is the intentionality or “aboutness” problem. A-M proponents often ask us to think of the mind as being like a computer. It’s a useful exercise, because it helps us see how different rational thought is from mechanical signal processing. Logic gates in computers are never “about” the signal passing through them, nor are they “about” the information they carry. This is true of each individual switch, and it’s true of any large array of switches, for complexity cannot magically create “aboutness.” But rational inference is really a matter of being about the content being processed.

    Modus ponens and modus tollens (Latin for, “two really common ways to run a logical deduction”) are algorithms. Plug any two true premises in, run the algorithm, and you get a sound conclusion—provided that the content actually is true, and provided also that the premises are related to each other in such a way that the algorithm actually applies. A computer’s logic is about the algorithm, not about the content; it will run the same algorithm equally well with any input. It doesn’t care whether the premises are true, and it doesn’t know whether they’re relevant to one another. it can only flip electronic switches according to a predetrmined program—for that’s what computers are: electronic switch-flippers.”

    Anything we think “about” or causes intentionality is based on us remembering things. I am writing this reply because of the posts that came before. I am remembering those posts, rembering my reasons for disagreeing, remembering the English language and the system of symbols we use to communicate, the layout of the keyboard, etc. lots and lots of remembering which is fueling my intentionality to reply here.

    “Second, there is the related problem of the content’s being true or false. Physical systems cannot be true or false about anything. Nothing in my laptop is true about some other thing.

    This is partly a consequence of the aboutness problem in physical objects, and it’s partly a matter of relationships. Consider the spreadsheet formula,

    =1=1

    Microsoft Excel will return “TRUE” if you type those characters into a cell. But what is it in those characters that is true? Nothing. The expression is true only in the interpretation (and humans either have to ignore the first = or else interpret it differently than the second one). There is, after all, a reason we call it an expression: expressions always require intelligent interpretation; and the truth is not in the signs on the screen or the voltage states that produce the signs; the truth is in that which is being expressed.

    Further: The computer is not reflecting on the values of 1 and 1, and considering whether their equality is something that obtains in wider reality. It’s not recognizing a correspondence between “1=1″ and some general truth. The computer is throwing switches as it’s been programmed to throw them. It’s been set up to throw switches corresponding to the characters “TRUE” just in case the first number represented there is identical the second one. It knows nothing of truth. It knows nothing, actually, though it is a most impressive switch-throwing machine.”

    I remember what is true or false. This is something I have learned and remembered. This is of course an ongoing process as I continue to learn throughout my life.

    If your argument is that the chemical/electrical process of remembering is different to what happens in the larger scale of the world we live in, you are right. But I don’t see why that is a problem.

    “Third, there are clear differences between rational inferences and physical processes. Rational inferences don’t follow physical laws. There are no equal and opposite reactions in them, no inherent tendency towards entropy, no mass, no inertia, etc. They don’t have a size, a shape. They progress, but they don’t travel north, south, east, west, up or down.

    As C.S. Lewis points out in the third chapter of Miracles, to the extent that we can ascribe inferences to physical causes, to that same extent we doubt their rationality. If Grandpa expresses an opinion, the response, “Grandpa says that because he’s tired,” is likely to be another way of saying, “Grandpa’s opinion probably can’t be trusted.””

    Again we will agree that the workings of the brain at the microscopic level are very different to the ways of the world where we live, but I don’t see why that is a problem. At the atomic level particles can exist in more than one place at once, travel multiple paths simultaneously and other things that seem nonsensical to the workings at the macro level. That doesn’t stop them from being true, or that our reality is built on these atomic workings.

    “Fourth, there is the problem of how safe it is to conclude that physical laws in physical brains could have any reliable effect of producing truth in response to their causal predecessors. There is no known mechanism whereby mere physical processes could reliably produce truth-related outputs.

    I understand that evolution is commonly proposed as exactly that mechanism. There are two problems with that view, however, which Alvin Plantinga has put forth in his Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. To begin, evolution is not a truth-seeking activity of nature, it is a survival- and baby-producing activity. Beliefs need not be true to be effective in leading persons to survival and reproduction. Sure, there could be a relationship there, but if there is, it’s accidental, not essential.”

    The whole point of memory is to create something that relates to the world. The evolutionary advantage to an animal remembering a scent, for example, is so that it can find prey, evade a predator, find a mate. If it doesn’t do this truthfully, then it will not be an evolutionary advantage. Memory is all about seeking/recollecting truth.

    “Further, it’s really quite a fantastic conjecture to suppose that in its producing humans who could survive in the bush and the caves, it produced a brain capable of non-Euclidean geometry, algebra with imaginary numbers (which turn out to be quite useful in electronics), and a whole huge host of other abstract ideas of which I have no clue, and yet which turn out to be classifiable in their contexts as true or false.”

    It’s perfectly logical that brains got better at remembering things truthfully which have lead us to discovering greater truths in the universe, such as Pythagoras theorem of right angled triangles.

    “For those four reasons, or five if you split the last one in two, I seriously doubt that rational inference can be fully explained from within the merely physical box of causation. Furthermore, if what we name “rational inference” could be fully explained on physical causation alone, there would be little about it that was rational.”

    I think your last sentence is trying to say that if we are just remembering things and responding to stimuli based on our past experience/memory then there is no rational thought nor free will and everything is deterministic in a Jerry Coyne kind of way. That doesn’t make it wrong. I’m assuming if there was an easy way to prove or disprove free will the argument would be settled by now. The posts I’ve read since last time I was online seem to take the tack that in a closed system there can be no starting point for intention to begin unless we have free will. But the problem there is our brains are not closed systems. They are constantly being fed information from the outside world through our 5 senses. In fact there is plenty of info to show that engaging those senses whilst learning will aid in remembering. Educational toys for children are bright colours and make sounds when you press them, etc to help with the retention of information. We remember things that must be fed to us by our senses in a purely materialistic world. And our lives consist of us responding to information that is fed into our brain/memory. New stuff can be filed away in our memory. Stuff we already know about we can process on our past experience/memory. And we know how to process stuff from past experience in processing it that we hold as memories.

    To sum up, everything we can do ‘without thinking about it’; reading, writing, speaking, mathamatics, etc are things we had to learn/remember a small step at a time. I believe all these things can be shown to be purely a process of memory. I believe reasoning is another skill that is born out of learn/remember . I believe memory can be shown to be a purely physical process. I therefore reject the premise of the OP.

    Cheers
    Shane

  241. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I think your last sentence is trying to say that if we are just remembering things and responding to stimuli based on our past experience/memory then there is no rational thought nor free will and everything is deterministic in a Jerry Coyne kind of way. That doesn’t make it wrong.

    If there’s no rational thought, but you’ve reached all these conclusions by way of rational thought, how could these conclusions possibly be right??

  242. Post
    Author
  243. scbhrm

    Shane,

    Your hypothesis fails on multiple levels.

    [Memory] = [Reasoning] is a false identity claim.

    As Tom notes, we all have thoughts (never mind reasoning) which are (in my experience) wholly disconnected from any memory.

    Further, reasoning invents. In other words, A and B and C stand present. Reasoning holds all three, suspended, in midair, weighs, (this is not remembering), invents ABC (this is not remembering), invents BCA (this is not remembering)…. and so on, and houses now, not just A or B or C, but a whole other world not formerly present, and within induction / deduction moves toward that odd affair we call decision (which your hypothesis destroys for automatons do not decide), and so on.

    With the death of decision, induction, deduction, and so on, your entire hypothesis is just another way of telling us that we are determined at bottom.

    That’s not news.

    That’s materialism.

    There is no “deciding”. Not that you’ve demonstrated.

    There is no “intention”. Not that you’ve demonstrated.

    All you’ve given us here is a very long essay about the illusion of intentionality. You’re on track with DJC. And Harris. Harris of course thinks we ought to think better, all the while telling us we have no such choice. Incoherence from A to Z.

  244. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Good points. Notice also that while modus ponens and tollens are algorithmic, the creation of ABC and BCA rarely is.

    (I have other thoughts about the relevance of algorithms in this discussion but I’ll keep it to this.)

  245. scbhrm

    Shane,

    We can say that the adult brain has forty million stored images. Memories. Let us call this substrate “4M” and all future action will bounce out of these 4M bouncing balls in summation.

    We must clarify here: [Reasoning] is not [Deciding]
    And, [Reasoning] is not [Memory]

    These are two fatalities of your essay, that of decision, and that of reasoning, neither of which is the other, and neither of which is memory.

    At the point of stimuli, the whole of 4M is impinged upon by this new stimuli, call it 1S. When 1S “hits” that huge lake of 4M, a ripple effect takes place.

    Now, this ripple effect is the beginning and end of your whole philosophy.

    Not mine. Yours. At this point, all such motions, while giving the illusion of intention, are but a multiplicity of cascading forces (the cause) manifesting in summation (the effect). Nothing else takes place.

    Nothing.

    There is no part of Nature (1S, 4M, and so on) that is free of those chains.

    This is not new. It’s just materialism and determinism.

    Verbs like “deduce” or “decide” or “induce” or “reason” and so on are found to be incoherent for they would imply (those illusions once again) that one’s Self is pushing one’s mental contents this way and that way, but of course there is no such end of regress. No. That is not the end of regress. The end of that chain is tied to ever widening circles of quantum forces ever in irrational ricochet inside those ripples inside of that lake.

    Again, this is not new. This is the Stoic telling us we “get by” and yeah, sure, we’re robots without the capacity of free thought, as all our thoughts are determined by physical forces outside of themselves, but it’s okay. Don’t worry. Man up.

    The problem is, well, there are many problems, but one of the problems here is that my brutally repeatable experience, which is measurable, falsifiable, and repeatable, tells me I have intentionality. If you mean to tell me I am therein psychotic and therein stamp all that is Mind / Mankind (we all experience this) with the diagnosis of Pan-Psychosis suffering the illusion of intention, how on earth will you justify this in the “minds” of “mankind”, of which your mind is a part?

    In the heaves of psychosis, how does Mind get anything right?

    How does one prove to the psychotic that it’s all just an illusion? You can’t, because the machine in question, the Mind, just can’t get it right. It’s in the heaves of psychosis. Your whole hypothesis then denies the brutally repeatable experience of intentionality which is itself testable, verifiable, and repeatable, and, also, your hypothesis has no methodology available to it which can bypass the psychosis and get “behind it” to prove to “man’s mind that’s it’s an illusion” because that psychosis is the end of regress, for it just is those ripples in that lake enslaved to irrational ricochet.

  246. scblhrm

    Shane,

    Do you think you have intentionality? Do you experience it?

    If you do, and I assume you do, is this a sign of psychosis?

    How would you ever know?

    What is real?

    What else is Mind mis-representing Pan-World, Pan-Mind?

    How would you know?

  247. JAD

    At best Shane could argue that memory is necessary for some kinds of reasoning. However, as has already pointed out, it doesn’t follow that it is sufficient to completely explain everything we know about our ability to think and reason.

    For example, by analogy, consider what it requires for a computer to process information and solve problems. Is memory alone sufficient to explain the process? Clearly it is not. A computer requires other hardware and software to function properly– a CPU, an OS etc. The materialist, not the theist, wants to argue that the brain is just a computer made with meat. So if the brain functions differently than computers that we can build and study, Shane has to provide us evidence for that assertion– otherwise, it’s just another “just-so story.”

  248. scblhrm

    Mind represents Reality, to Pan-World, to Pan-Mind, as that which houses actual intentionality. Everyone experiences this. Pan-Mind sees it. Pan-Mind knows it just intentional-ized.

    You could never convince anyone otherwise. That is to say, you could never convince me I did not just chose, direct, my thoughts, or my hand amid a multiplicity of options.

    I chose.

    I really did.

    The whole world would call you a lunatic if you tried to convince any of us otherwise within this arena of intentionality.

    If Pan-Mind is mistaken, and we are all, Pan-Mind, therein Pan-Psychotic, then the Materialist has just handed us the proof we need that Materialism cannot, does not, “get it right”, and in a staggering fashion.

    Of course, we have no way of knowing if this bit of information handed to us by the Materialist represents the real world, for we were just handed proof that, Pan-Mind, Mind actually does misrepresent reality, and does so Pan-Mind.

    What is real?

    If Materialism: We do not know. Cannot know. Psychosis is the end of regress. There is no getting “behind” those ripples in that lake as 1S impinged upon 4M (comment #252).

    Even now, I am, really, in the real world, by intentionality weighing which words to use, holding them in midair, inventing new arrangements with them which my memory has no imprint of, and deciding, choosing, what words to type in this sentence. I really am.

    That’s real.

    And I am psychotic. Because none of it is real.

    We are all psychotic in this arena. Pan-Mind.

    We have now the proof that “getting it right” is exactly what Materialism cannot claim.

  249. JAD

    I think I found a pair of modus ponens arguments that go head-to-head, theism vs. materialism. Check me out.

    First, the argument for theism:

    t-1. OUR ABILITY TO REASON CAN BE BEST EXPLAINED IF THEISM IS TRUE.
    t-2. WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO REASON.
    t-3. THEREFORE THEISM IS TRUE.

    Next, the argument for materialism:

    m-1. OUR ABILITY TO REASON CAN BE BEST EXPLAINED IF MATERIALISM IS TRUE.
    m-2. WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO REASON.
    m-3. THEREFORE MATERIALISM IS TRUE.

    If we accept that we have a real ability to reason (it’s not an illusion) then the argument boils down to premise t-1 vs. premise m-1.

    I would argue that on theism t-1 is self explanatory, because under theism, Mind is the ultimate explanation for everything else that exists.

    What would the argument be for m-1?

  250. Post
    Author
  251. scblhrm

    JAD,

    I was intrigued by your combination of the two ontological end-points.

    It got me thinking along those lines you hinted at…..

    A circuitous answer to your question which I think arrives on target while keeping both ends in the mix:

    All models from A-M would be as neuroscientist Sam Harris has put forth in the quote earlier stating that there is no free will. All is determined. We never steer our thought or hand. That is why retribution within criminal justice systems is incoherent in his view: one just is not responsible for one has no free will.

    Now that is the end-game of the A-M model. The “net effect”. Causes precede it. All which precedes that net summation which we call the effect, which is, say, Child Sacrifice, is simply, from A to Z, determined.

    Very well.

    At this point I will only add the business of every Mind which exists. For this I use the terminology Pan-World, Pan-Mind.

    On the business of reasoning, that comes into play.

    Sam Harris “reasons” that we are not responsible for the net effect, and (as JB pointed out on materialism’s view overall) he thus reasons that all which lies beneath that net effect is also “out of our control”. He then goes on in his reasoning about all sorts of things we “should do” and so on, in a hundred different ways speaking as if we actually do have control of our actions.

    Harris is one of (there are so many others) our A-M examples of “reasoning” observable to us in real-time. Harris suffers from the same psychosis all Minds suffer from: he feels as if, acts as if, believes, tastes, experiences, that the phrase, “intentionality is real” is on some level “true”.

    But he will be the first to tell us that intentionality is non-entity. How non-entity? This is how non-entity: The highly educated white male with no psychological chip on his shoulder who raped the 12 year old girl is not responsible for his action. That’s harsh, but “retribution” assumes free will, and this Harris, in the context of criminal justice, denounces. Harris is honest enough to mean what he says. We can at least respect his honesty. Others who are less honest, less Stoic, perpetually hedge, dodge, and evade. Not Harris.

    Intentionality of thought, which is not reasoning, but part of it, is experienced Pan-World and Pan-Mind. Reasoning is the about-ness, the weighing of multiple vectors, all suspended in midair, and, such is the game in question. That there is never any intentionality of thought in A-M models ipso facto annihilates any hope of reasoning being coherent within those models. That is critical: Intentionality of thought is not reasoning. It is necessary for it, but not sufficient.

    From this point forward we define all A-M models in terms of [X void of intentionality], for there is no intentionality of anything, as Harris, and countless others, assure us in all A-M thinking/models.

    Let us be clear: A) intentionality is illusion in all A-M models and B) the man who raped the girl is not responsible in all A-M models. B is inextricable from A.

    Stay with me, for our very Personhood, our very Humanity, is about to become non-entity, and this ties back into reasoning quite nicely. Keep in mind JAD’s two sides, that of Person/Mind, or, A-M…..

    Personhood is, herein, illusion.

    This is the great dividing line which occurs when Pilate asks of Christ, “What is truth?”

    Truth? The end of that regress, if A-M, is, at best, “Whatever Mind believes”, and, at worst, is, “You cannot know” and we find proof of this with Pan-Mind’s experience of the reality of our own intentionality. Everyone believes they experience intentionality, feels it, tastes it, and all day long. It’s “real”. And of course it is, if A-M, actual, real, psychosis. This is where Reasoning in all A-M models will bring us to: total, complete, utter deception in e-v-e-r-y mind. “Getting it right” is a claim which A-M has no right to, for PAN-Mind MIS-represents reality.

    Pilate gets a different answer:

    Christ points this question to another end of regress, that of Immutable Personhood, that world which houses Ontologically Necessary intentionality. Christ takes all of Physics and turns it on Himself and makes of it, not a master, but a servant, in His answer. “I am truth”.

    We find here something odd about Reasoning. It reduces to, as all things do, the ontological end of regress. Ontology has staggering consequences. Just ask Sam Harris and all those victims of violent crimes. We can dispense with the moral element and focus only on the element of reasoning, but it is important to note that one is inexplicably tied to the other.

    And why is that? Because Reality, whatever it is, is ONE.

    What have we briefly touched on thus far?

    Thus far: Reasoning within all A-M models will end in the lap of the Non-Personhood, the In-Human, the Pan-Illusion, and the Pan-World MIS-representation of reality Pan-Mind.

    That is A-M.

    When Pilate asks, “What is Truth?” he is given an answer wherein Logic and Love cohere inextricably into the End of Ad Infinitum, the End of all Regress, which is Immutable Person, Immutable Love.

    Which explanation of reasoning, pan-experience, pan-world, pan-mind is more cogent with the world we awake to find ourselves within?

    With explanatory power comes plausibility.

  252. Melissa

    Shane @245

    So, why is it so hard to accept that our brain is just remembering more things complex things

    Tom and scblhrm have already dealt well with this. Remembering is just data retrieval, but reasoning is making connections between data to come to new conclusions.

    The interesting thing is that later in that very same comment you agree that there is more happening than just remembering:

    Stuff we already know about we can process on our past experience/memory. And we know how to process stuff from past experience in processing it that we hold as memories.

    The processing, that’s reasoning. You yourself refute your own thesis that all that’s happening is remembering.

    I believe memory can be shown to be a purely physical process. I therefore reject the premise of the OP.

    For your argument to work reasoning must be identical to memory. Therefore what you are doing is arguing that reasoning doesn’t exist (disagreeing with premise 2 of Tom’s argument). So although we can and have given you reasons why reasoning isn’t identical to memory we don’t actually need to because you have undermined your own argument. How can we accept your reasons for why reasoning doesn’t exist?

  253. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom,

    “If there’s no rational thought, but you’ve reached all these conclusions by way of rational thought, how could these conclusions possibly be right??”

    If the first phrase is correct than the second phrase must be false so the question has no grounding.

    “Did you ever have a thought that wasn’t a memory?”

    As I sit here pondering this question, I’m lead to ask, “Can I think without remembering?” I believe the answer is no. More below as I respond to others.

    Cheers
    Shane

  254. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Wow. Shane, you’re flailing. Badly.

    If the first phrase is correct then your conclusions have no grounding, so they couldn’t possibly be right.

    Did you ever drive a car without a steering wheel? I believe the answer is no. Therefore a steering wheel is all there is to a car.

  255. Shane Fletcher

    #250
    Hi scbhrm. Glad to meet you. Have enjoyed your posts since you joined in.

    “[Memory] = [Reasoning] is a false identity claim.”

    Well memory is a noun and reasoning is a verb. I would suggest [Remembering] = [Reasoning]

    “As Tom notes, we all have thoughts (never mind reasoning) which are (in my experience) wholly disconnected from any memory.”

    Evidence of this would separate the two quite nicely. I have no idea how you would put this evidence forward but if you think you can please do.

    “Further, reasoning invents. In other words, A and B and C stand present. Reasoning holds all three, suspended, in midair, weighs, (this is not remembering), invents ABC (this is not remembering), invents BCA (this is not remembering)…. and so on, and houses now, not just A or B or C, but a whole other world not formerly present, and within induction / deduction moves toward that odd affair we call decision (which your hypothesis destroys for automatons do not decide), and so on.”

    The ability to combine A, B and C would be something we learn by previous experience and therefore remember. There is no doubt that music, literature and painting is created, but the quality of these creations is directly proportional to the skills of the artist and their skills are directly proportional to the amount of time they have spent doing their craft which adds to the memory. Beethoven’s 5th did not exist before he wrote it, but all the individual notes did, and Beethoven had the experience of working with them to combine them in the way he did as he had a huge amount of memory devoted to music.

    “With the death of decision, induction, deduction, and so on, your entire hypothesis is just another way of telling us that we are determined at bottom.

    That’s not news.

    That’s materialism.

    There is no “deciding”. Not that you’ve demonstrated.

    There is no “intention”. Not that you’ve demonstrated.

    All you’ve given us here is a very long essay about the illusion of intentionality. You’re on track with DJC. And Harris. Harris of course thinks we ought to think better, all the while telling us we have no such choice. Incoherence from A to Z.”

    I wasn’t putting it forward as anything new. These are just my thoughts on the matter.

    #252
    “We can say that the adult brain has forty million stored images. Memories. Let us call this substrate “4M” and all future action will bounce out of these 4M bouncing balls in summation.”

    It’s not just images of course, but all input from any of our senses, but carry on.

    “We must clarify here: [Reasoning] is not [Deciding]
    And, [Reasoning] is not [Memory]

    These are two fatalities of your essay, that of decision, and that of reasoning, neither of which is the other, and neither of which is memory.

    At the point of stimuli, the whole of 4M is impinged upon by this new stimuli, call it 1S. When 1S “hits” that huge lake of 4M, a ripple effect takes place.

    Now, this ripple effect is the beginning and end of your whole philosophy.

    Not mine. Yours. At this point, all such motions, while giving the illusion of intention, are but a multiplicity of cascading forces (the cause) manifesting in summation (the effect). Nothing else takes place.

    Nothing.

    There is no part of Nature (1S, 4M, and so on) that is free of those chains.

    This is not new. It’s just materialism and determinism.”

    Again, I would replace the noun of memory with the verb of remembering. Again, I never said it was new. And what I read there is you restating my supposition but not arguing against it.

    “The problem is, well, there are many problems, but one of the problems here is that my brutally repeatable experience, which is measurable, falsifiable, and repeatable, tells me I have intentionality.”

    I am interested in the specifics of this, obviously. How do you test for intentionality outside of any external stimuli? And as remembering is a cascading effect you need to test for intentionality outside of any internal stimuli as well. This seems an impossibility to me.

    #253
    “Do you think you have intentionality? Do you experience it?”

    I believe so. But I believe I am holding this coffee cup in my hand and I know that nuclear forces create a field that are not allowing me to actually touch it. My experience is often quite different to reality.

    Cheers
    Shane

  256. Shane Fletcher

    Hi JAD

    “At best Shane could argue that memory is necessary for some kinds of reasoning. However, as has already pointed out, it doesn’t follow that it is sufficient to completely explain everything we know about our ability to think and reason.”

    I believe remembering is necessary for all reasoning. An example of reasoning without accessing memory would go a long way to refuting my theory.

    Cheers
    Shane

  257. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Or rather, since you believe (I don’t!) that there’s no rational thought, then you cannot believe that you reached your conclusions by rational thought, so you cannot believe your conclusions could be right.

    The grounding problem doesn’t apply to me, since I’m not the one who disbelieves in rational thought.

    Now, let me ask you this follow-up question. When you wrote that about there being no rational thought, did it not bother you at least a little bit to realize you had reached that conclusion through a process of reasoning—a process you must have considered at least somewhat valid?

    Second, unrelated follow-up question: When you answered me what you did about my question having no grounding, did you know how strange, irrational, disconnected, and impertinent it would come across? Or were you just naive to that?

    Third question: did you realize your own contradiction? You said, “If the first phrase is correct [there’s no rational thought], the second phrase must be false.” But earlier you had said,

    there is no rational thought nor free will and everything is deterministic in a Jerry Coyne kind of way. That doesn’t make it wrong.

    You say that the lack of rationality doesn’t make you wrong, but the lack of rationality makes me wrong. How convenient for you.

    I’m not impressed.

  258. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Actually, Shane, in your last post you’re not just flailing, you’re bobbing, weaving, twisting, ducking, and turning.

    You say now that remembering is necessary for all reasoning. Do you think any of us disagree with that? What we’re contesting is your view that:

    “learning is just experiencing things and storing them away in memory;”

    “The ability to reason is something we learn from experience, which is therefore something that we have stored in memory;”

    “And learning is just experiencing things and storing them away in memory. We can then retrieve them when we need them to use them.”

    “Well memory is a noun and reasoning is a verb. I would suggest [Remembering] = [Reasoning]”

    Can’t you tell the difference between [Reasoning] requires [Remembering] and [Remembering] = [Reasoning]? Can’t you see that we agree with the first but disagree with the second? Can’t you see that you’ve been defending the second before now, but now you’re trying to refute us by defending the first one instead?

    Get a clue, man! If you’re making the point, [Remembering] = [Reasoning], you can’t defend it by reminding us that [Reasoning] requires [Remembering]!

    Do you even begin to see how far off you are from good reasoning here in these last several comments???

  259. Shane Fletcher

    Hi scblhrm

    “Mind represents Reality, to Pan-World, to Pan-Mind, as that which houses actual intentionality. Everyone experiences this. Pan-Mind sees it. Pan-Mind knows it just intentional-ized.

    You could never convince anyone otherwise. That is to say, you could never convince me I did not just chose, direct, my thoughts, or my hand amid a multiplicity of options.

    I chose.

    I really did.”

    I suggest you wrote that because you remembered the posts you are responding to, you remembered the argument you want to put forward and you remembered that it is a persuasive argument for your case. Followed by/in conjunction with your remembrance of how posting on this blog site works, your mastery of the english language and your typing skills.

    There were certainly options available to you, and your past experience/memories lead you to choose the one you did. I’m not going to guess your true motivation but I don’t see how it can be anything that you haven’t learned from experience and therefore have tucked away in a memory.

    “Even now, I am, really, in the real world, by intentionality weighing which words to use, holding them in midair, inventing new arrangements with them which my memory has no imprint of, and deciding, choosing, what words to type in this sentence. I really am.”

    No. You are not using words you do not remember. You are not creating sentence structure you do not remember. Is that the first time you have ever written that particular sentence? Very possibly. But every choice you made in creating that sentence was found in your memory. And the motivations to make those choices are also found in your memory. My 8 year old daughter could not write that sentence. She does not have those memories.

    Cheers
    Shane

  260. Shane Fletcher

    Hi JAD,

    “t-1. OUR ABILITY TO REASON CAN BE BEST EXPLAINED IF THEISM IS TRUE.
    t-2. WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO REASON.
    t-3. THEREFORE THEISM IS TRUE.

    Next, the argument for materialism:

    m-1. OUR ABILITY TO REASON CAN BE BEST EXPLAINED IF MATERIALISM IS TRUE.
    m-2. WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO REASON.
    m-3. THEREFORE MATERIALISM IS TRUE.”

    I think the “best explained” in the first point renders these false. Something doesn’t have to be the best explanation for it to be true.

    Cheers
    Shane

  261. Post
    Author
  262. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I do agree with one thing for a change: The best explanation is not necessarily true. It is more likely to be true. The more superior it is compared to other explanations, the more likely it is to be true.

  263. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    But the end of your comment 266 is as bad as everything else you’ve been displaying here. You’re treating his words as if there was nothing creative in their current arrangement. You might as well point out that there’s nothing new in anything anyone writes, since we all rely (in English) on the same 26 letters and small number of symbols that go with them. Everything is just a rearrangement of what we’ve had in our memories since we were your daughter’s age.

  264. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Notice that I am ignoring what you wrote about ethics. It’s as silly as the rest (and I mean that in all frankness) but I’ve given up on getting anywhere with you on that.

  265. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “The processing, that’s reasoning. You yourself refute your own thesis that all that’s happening is remembering.”

    The words have different connotations and I am sorry for the confusion but I am bound to slip into that every now and then. But the processing, the reasoning, is just more remembering. The question is the motivation for remembering. Something triggers you to remember. I just heard the washing machine beep. That triggered the memory of me putting the washing on and from past experience I remember that the next thing I have to do is hang the washing out. I remember that the sun will dry it. All this processing/reasoning is just remembering things. We give them a different name because that is a convention that we remember makes it clearer to talk about them.

    “For your argument to work reasoning must be identical to memory. ”

    Remembering.

    “Therefore what you are doing is arguing that reasoning doesn’t exist (disagreeing with premise 2 of Tom’s argument). So although we can and have given you reasons why reasoning isn’t identical to memory we don’t actually need to because you have undermined your own argument. How can we accept your reasons for why reasoning doesn’t exist?”

    So your argument is that the second point is it’s own proof?

    Cheers
    Shane

  266. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom,

    “Wow. Shane, you’re flailing. Badly.”

    Not the first nor last time. 🙂

    “If the first phrase is correct then your conclusions have no grounding, so they couldn’t possibly be right.

    Did you ever drive a car without a steering wheel? I believe the answer is no. Therefore a steering wheel is all there is to a car.”

    I do not get how the second example relates to the first.

    Cheers
    Shane

  267. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    You’re awfully content with your errors and flailing. Just be aware that no one else here thinks they’re doing anyone any good.

    Steering wheel:car::remembering:reasoning.

  268. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    “So your argument is that the second point is it’s own proof?”

    The negation of the second point its own [the negation’s] disproof.

    That doesn’t quite prove the second point. It just shows that it’s impossible coherently to deny that it’s true.

  269. Melissa

    Shane,

    So your argument is that the second point is it’s own proof?

    The point is if reasoning does not exist then that conclusion negates any argument you might give to support it.

  270. Melissa

    Shane,

    You ignored something I wrote that is crucial:

    . Remembering is just data retrieval, but reasoning is making connections between data to come to new conclusions.

    If we look at your last attempt to show that the processing is just more remembering we can see that.

    Something triggers you to remember. I just heard the washing machine beep. That triggered the memory of me putting the washing on and from past experience I remember that the next thing I have to do is hang the washing out. I remember that the sun will dry it. All this processing/reasoning is just remembering things.

    This is a very simple example that still shows that you are making connections between current data and past experience. It is not just memory retrieval.

  271. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom,

    “Or rather, since you believe (I don’t!) that there’s no rational thought, then you cannot believe that you reached your conclusions by rational thought, so you cannot believe your conclusions could be right.”

    This only applies by your definitions. I believe there are experiences I have that are rooted in fact. My rational thoughts and whether they are “right” are related to how well they allow me to get around in the real world. This includes discussions with others.

    “Now, let me ask you this follow-up question. When you wrote that about there being no rational thought, did it not bother you at least a little bit to realize you had reached that conclusion through a process of reasoning—a process you must have considered at least somewhat valid?”

    My thoughts don’t bother me. I have an idea and I follow it through to see where it leads me. The idea I have is based in part from my remembrance of an Ed Feser post I was linked to where he stated (paraphrase) “rationalising is quantitatively different to remembering”. I remembered that I need a reason to believe statements and I remembered that I could search for evidence for these statements through my own experience and through the experience of others as it is related to me. So this process you speak of and the reasoning involved are all about remembering things.

    “Second, unrelated follow-up question: When you answered me what you did about my question having no grounding, did you know how strange, irrational, disconnected, and impertinent it would come across? Or were you just naive to that?”

    Impertinent? Are you taking personal offence to what I wrote? I’m going to have to go with naive. Let’s step through it again.

    “Furthermore, if what we name “rational inference” could be fully explained on physical causation alone, there would be little about it that was rational.”

    “I think your last sentence is trying to say that if we are just remembering things and responding to stimuli based on our past experience/memory then there is no rational thought nor free will and everything is deterministic in a Jerry Coyne kind of way. That doesn’t make it wrong.”

    Do you agree with my assessment of what you were trying to say? Do you disagree with the fact that it could in fact be right?

    “If there’s no rational thought, but you’ve reached all these conclusions by way of rational thought, how could these conclusions possibly be right??”

    Do you disagree that if there is no rational thought then you can’t get to conclusions by rational thought? It is simply impossible, correct? If so you cannot ask about the validity of these conclusions because they don’t exist.

    On the other hand if there is no rational thought, then any conclusions we get to are via another way. And you can ask about the validity of those but it is not related to rational thought in any way.

    “You say that the lack of rationality doesn’t make you wrong, but the lack of rationality makes me wrong. How convenient for you.

    I’m not impressed.”

    As always I apologise if I upset you. It was not intentional. A summary of what I said (or at the very least, what I meant to say)

    [Responding to first post]: If there is no rational thought or free will then everything happens for other reasons, that being deterministic.

    [Responding to your question about rational thought]: If there is no rational thought than you can’t get to conclusions based on rational thought, and you must get to them another way, as in the deterministic POV.

    Cheers
    Shane

  272. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom,

    “Why so cheery when you’re so mixed up? I don’t get it.”

    I remember Dr Phil saying, “Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right?” 🙂

    A bit more seriously I remember being happy makes me feel good.

    “I do agree with one thing for a change: The best explanation is not necessarily true. It is more likely to be true. The more superior it is compared to other explanations, the more likely it is to be true.”

    Sure, so No 3 should be “more likely to be true”. It precludes it from being the knock out blow that JAD was looking for.

    “But the end of your comment 266 is as bad as everything else you’ve been displaying here. You’re treating his words as if there was nothing creative in their current arrangement. You might as well point out that there’s nothing new in anything anyone writes, since we all rely (in English) on the same 26 letters and small number of symbols that go with them. Everything is just a rearrangement of what we’ve had in our memories since we were your daughter’s age.”

    Why can we write better when we’re older? Because we have learned more/can remember more words, grammar, etc. All these things are in our memory.

    “Notice that I am ignoring what you wrote about ethics. It’s as silly as the rest (and I mean that in all frankness) but I’ve given up on getting anywhere with you on that.”

    No problems. I think we have a very good understanding of the other persons position.

    Cheers
    Shane

  273. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom,

    “Actually, Shane, in your last post you’re not just flailing, you’re bobbing, weaving, twisting, ducking, and turning.”

    Well I’m clarifying my thoughts and position by talking with everyone here. I apologise that it’s a bit scattered.

    “You say now that remembering is necessary for all reasoning. Do you think any of us disagree with that? What we’re contesting is your view that:

    “learning is just experiencing things and storing them away in memory;”

    “The ability to reason is something we learn from experience, which is therefore something that we have stored in memory;”

    “And learning is just experiencing things and storing them away in memory. We can then retrieve them when we need them to use them.”

    “Well memory is a noun and reasoning is a verb. I would suggest [Remembering] = [Reasoning]“

    Can’t you tell the difference between [Reasoning] requires [Remembering] and [Remembering] = [Reasoning]? Can’t you see that we agree with the first but disagree with the second? Can’t you see that you’ve been defending the second before now, but now you’re trying to refute us by defending the first one instead?

    Get a clue, man! If you’re making the point, [Remembering] = [Reasoning], you can’t defend it by reminding us that [Reasoning] requires [Remembering]!

    Do you even begin to see how far off you are from good reasoning here in these last several comments???””

    lol. I am trying, sir.

    Okay, more clarification. Remembering doesn’t just happen randomly. It happens as a result of a stimuli. Reasoning doesn’t just happen randomly. It happens as a result of stimuli. More below.

    Hi Melissa,

    “This is a very simple example that still shows that you are making connections between current data and past experience. It is not just memory retrieval.”

    Why can it not be memory retrieval of making these connections between current data and past experience? This is something else I have learned and have a memory of.

    Memory retrieval does not exist or happen for it’s own purpose. There is a reason that it happens. Either a an external or internal stimuli. An external stimuli can trigger a remembrance and that remembrance can trigger another or multiples of them.

    Cheers
    Shane

  274. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Shane, I’m giving up all hope in you. You quoted me then answered,

    “Or rather, since you believe (I don’t!) that there’s no rational thought, then you cannot believe that you reached your conclusions by rational thought, so you cannot believe your conclusions could be right.”

    This only applies by your definitions. I believe there are experiences I have that are rooted in fact. My rational thoughts and whether they are “right” are related to how well they allow me to get around in the real world. This includes discussions with others.

    If you can dismiss rationality and say that “right” (complete with scare quotes) is related to how well you get around in the world, then you have nothing to say to us here. Nothing.

    Sure, you could say, “hey, I like being happy. If I feel happy then I’m probably ‘right.'” But that has nothing to do with us, does it?

    And you say that my conclusion “only applies by my definitions,” as if there were something idiosyncratic about my believing that where there is no rationality there is no rationality, and that this means that a conclusion ostensibly reached by rational processes could not have been reached by rational processes.

    Let me direct your attention to the word “conclusion.” It is different from “opinion.” It is different from “view I have arrived at based on how it allows me to get around in the world.” A “conclusion” follows a line of reasoning, not a relationally-based feeling. (Of course it could also follow one’s reflection upon a relationally based feeling, but it’s not a conclusion unless it is preceded by some thought leading up to it; i.e., rational thought. Otherwise it’s just an impression or a feeling or perhaps a seed thought.)

    And you have been arguing here. You have been presenting a case here, where you have offered reasons for your beliefs. These things absolutely presuppose that rationality is real.

    So Shane, for all your “cheers,” which actually and honestly are grating on me now, because they only accentuate your blithe, naive, and deadly indifference to what is true and good, I am not sure what good it does for you to continue in conversation here. Here’s why. You practice something of the art of persuasive reasoning on the one hand, and on the other hand you deny that it has any reality. To practice an art you do not believe in can only be seen as dishonest, hypocritical, or manipulative.

    But if you were actually to give up practicing rational discourse here, in accordance with your putative beliefs, there would be nothing left for you to do but to tell us stories and to describe your experiences and feelings, which doesn’t exactly fit here.

    So I’m going to offer you the opportunity to answer a hard question:

    If you don’t believe in rationality, why do you seek to use reasons to persuade? Why not just quit pretending? Or better yet, why not come around to the reality that rationality is real, and drop this foolish denial of that which cannot be denied?

    I am not interested in your answer to any question now except for that multi-part one. Your answer will help you and me and the rest decide whether there’s anything for you to talk about here from this point forward.

  275. Melissa

    Shane,

    Memory retrieval does not exist or happen for it’s own purpose. There is a reason that it happens. Either a an external or internal stimuli. An external stimuli can trigger a remembrance and that remembrance can trigger another or multiples of them.

    Yep, we get it, there is no such thing as reasoning.

    Memory retrieval does not exist or happen for it’s own purpose. There is a reason that it happens. Either a an external or internal stimuli. An external stimuli can trigger a remembrance and that remembrance can trigger another or multiples of them.

    But lots of memories in sequence does not give reason. Let’s look again at your washing machine example:

    I just heard the washing machine beep. That triggered the memory of me putting the washing on and from past experience I remember that the next thing I have to do is hang the washing out. I remember that the sun will dry it.

    The second sentence is wrong. You remember from past experience that washing hanging out dries. So you reason that if you want the washing to dry you have to hang it out. There’s your reasoning. That’s more than just memory retrieval. It could be though that it’s raining outside. In that case you remember that the washing doesn’t dry in the rain. Therefore when the washing machine beeps you know that if you want the washing to dry you don’t hang it outside. It’s making rational connections between the data that you have.

  276. scblhrm

    Shane,

    I know. You agree that Pan-Mind is suffering from psychosis.

    That is the point.

    Thank you for agreeing.

  277. scblhrm

    Sam Harris, as he is telling us of the non-existence of intentionality, must also be speaking to himself inside his own head saying, “Okay Sam I know you just thought you were intentional there, but it’s not real Sam! Don’t believe it! No. Okay Sam, I know you think that guy could have chosen not to rape that girl, but NO! YOU ARE A SMART GUY SAM! Stay focused! Just keep walking and talking. Smile so they don’t notice! There it is again….NO! You’re NOT REAL! GET OUT OF MY HEAD! Okay, let’s say it three times fast: intentionality is not real, intentionality is not real, intentionality is not real”.

    Shane, what does he tell the 12 year old girl?

    What do you believe about your own intentionality and about that girl?

  278. scblhrm

    Shane,

    If you arrive at anything less than that troubling (to Harris) innate ought-not which transcends all of Man’s opinions – like Sam Harris’ – who hold that ought-not is non-entity inside that bedroom, then, please, don’t reply and we’ll call it a day.

  279. Post
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  280. Melissa

    Well I suppose it’s hard to be rational if you think that reasoning is just a string of memories lined up in a row.

  281. scblhrm

    Tom,

    Shane is all over the map.

    The hand holding the cup is on the way to quantum space and no finger/cup interacting. Apparently “hold” means “quantum touch”. Endless shifting equivocating semantic dances like that are unreasonable in a discussion about logic.

    The Self will be (soon) non-entity and we’ll have to decide if we actually exist….Hand / Cup….. wait for it….

    The end of reason is 1S hitting that lake of 4M and those ripples…..those ripples in that lake just are psychosis, and there is no “behind” the ripples to hope for, to trust in. The regress ends in that psychosis of Pan-Mind.

    Of course, all sorts of reasons / rational appeals will be used to disprove reasoning.

    Like Sam Harris talking to himself earlier…. #284.

    If that is not an unreasonable denial of the real world I don’t know what is.

  282. scblhrm

    When Pilate asks of Word’s Corporeal, “What is truth?” we find in his answer the ontological bedrock of both Logic and Love as each finds coherence to the bitter ends of ad infinitum. “I am Truth” is timelessly more than pure theology as it grounds not only unity in Immutable Love Himself, but, also, such an end of regress grounds reason itself in an ontology saturated with intentionality, with will, with mind, and these in all vectors. That Immutable Grain Who just is [Actuality] just is that fully singular, that fully triune Self-Other-Us Who is from A to Z love’s timeless E Pluribus Unum. Within uncreated Mind all that is Reason mocks the psychosis vainly pursued by Nature’s would-be taskmasters which would enslave every thought of every man but for the intention of that great abolitionist who makes us in His Image. In Reason’s immutable shadow we discover in sightedness that Ultimate Actuality just is Love and therein the Highest Ethic in all possible worlds just is Love. As such is spied through Reason’s gifts our eyes in Him discover that He just is that Immutable Grain Who is that fully singular, that fully triune Self-Other-Us Who just is E Pluribus Unum.

  283. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “The second sentence is wrong. You remember from past experience that washing hanging out dries. So you reason that if you want the washing to dry you have to hang it out. There’s your reasoning. That’s more than just memory retrieval. It could be though that it’s raining outside. In that case you remember that the washing doesn’t dry in the rain. Therefore when the washing machine beeps you know that if you want the washing to dry you don’t hang it outside. It’s making rational connections between the data that you have.”

    This seems so close to explaining the problem with my theory. But your last sentence just reminds me that the rational connections I make with the data are something I have learned and exist in my mind as a memory. When I was born I could not make rational connections at all, and definitely not the specific one here. I learned/experienced/remembered it over time. And no-one who has not learned/experienced it can make that rational connection. How am I looking at it wrong?

    Thanks
    Shane

  284. Post
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  285. Post
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  286. Melissa

    Shane,

    I learned/experienced/remembered it over time. And no-one who has not learned/experienced it can make that rational connection. How am I looking at it wrong?

    It is the same as any skill you learn. The skill is not identical to the remembering. I think it was Andrew W that already went over this and you seemed to agree with him but then you backed away from it. Walking is learned/experienced/remembered but is not identical to remembering. Rational thinking is the same, it is a skill you can learn, that doesn’t mean that it is identical to remembering.

  287. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “It is the same as any skill you learn. The skill is not identical to the remembering. I think it was Andrew W that already went over this and you seemed to agree with him but then you backed away from it. Walking is learned/experienced/remembered but is not identical to remembering. Rational thinking is the same, it is a skill you can learn, that doesn’t mean that it is identical to remembering.”

    I backed away from it because walking has a physical component that is not present in reasoning or learning maths or language. You can remember how to walk and still be unable to do so if there is a physical problem. But aside from that I don’t think you can walk if you can’t remember how to do so. I don’t think you can do trigonometry if you lose the memory of how to do it. As you get older, you forget things, you can no longer do them. In the worst cases when you see the memory fail and people can no longer reason and start to behave irrationally.

    Now you might say it is the mind failing, not simply memory, but I don’t see why there needs to be two separate things. I still can’t see a separation there. And certainly not one that suggests that reasoning is immaterial.

    And with regards to the immaterial … is learning how to walk stored somewhere immaterial? Is learning math or language? If these things are stored in the memory why can’t reasoning?

    I do appreciate your time.
    Shane

  288. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom,

    “I’m waiting for an answer to my question in my last long comment to you, Shane. Thanks.”

    Sir, it appears that my slap dash approach to posting responses to your questions when I see them, and the fluidity of my changing position as I process everyones responses is grating on your nerves. Taking some time to firm up my argument with others before I responded to you seemed like the best thing to do for all concerned.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  289. Melissa

    Shane,

    Do you want to know what is frustrating? You keep asking where you are going wrong and since the beginning of this conversation I have been telling you that reasoning isn’t identical to remembering. AndrewW, Tom, scblhrm and others have said the same thing and we’ve all given you reasons for our claim. You continue to reply by citing evidence that we use things we have remembered when we reason. Do you understand what is wrong with that or do you need it explained?

    And the other frustrating thing? Offering arguments and reasons why reasoning does not exist. Do you not see the contradiction here? You need to take this point seriously. There is no argument you can give to show that reason does not exist.

    And with regards to the immaterial … is learning how to walk stored somewhere immaterial? Is learning math or language? If these things are stored in the memory why can’t reasoning?

    But one of these sentences isn’t the same as the others. You need to learn to be more precise in your thinking, you can’t change terms mid argument.

  290. scblhrm

    Shane,

    You leave me unimpressed. I’ll give you the last word as this will have to be my last comment:

    So far you’ve conceded that on your view the end of regress is that psychosis, those ripples in the lake which has no “behind it” to get to and therein all of mind misrepresents reality where the Intentionality of the Self is concerned. You have to say this via the deterministic conclusion you are committed to reaching at all costs, even the denial of your own realized intention / choosing.

    You claim reality evaporates as we enter the quantum states, (your appeal to Cup / Hand), but I don’t mean to follow you to the point of arguing with you that I actually do exist. Nice try. The problem is, I exist. You’ll have to deal with that, though the line you take makes that statement sheer illusion in the end. If we follow your appeal out, my existence becomes itself an illusion. But of course isn’t that the whole end of your philosophy? Yes, it is.

    [I exist] = [Illusion].

    Impressive.

    Or would you stop “short” of that? If so, at what point would you end your regress? No. You went to quantum clouds in the Cup/Hand already. You can retract, I suppose, but that move now would just weaken your case. You’re committed to reverberating quarks in that lake of psychosis as the end of all things.

    Just as hollow, so far you’ve taken a blind leap and offered us no reason to believe you that [Using Memories] = [Reasoning].
    For one, Computers don’t reason, and even they have more than just the use of memory in their “processing”. We have here a real world example of [Using Memories] failing to rise even to the simple tasks of “computing”, never mind “reasoning”. That’s devastating to your identity claim.

    Secondly, and, thirdly, the new species of Invention and its cousin, which is similar, but not identical, that of Eureka, are two simple examples of mental processes void of learning. One does not learn of a thing which does not exist, and, one does not remember a thing which does not exist, and, one does not learn of a concept that does not exist, and, one does not remember a concept that does not exist. These two simple examples void of any and all learning each of which fail to materialize with any of the 26 letters of the known alphabet in any combination outreach your mechanistic model and are therein two (simple) separate gorges your theory traverses with two blind leaps of faith, via your blind assurances to us that, well, it just must be the case. That is not an argument, but it is all you offer.

    It just isn’t the case in either of them, of course.

    Not via the mechanism you’ve given.

    These two simple blind leaps of faith on your end, each void of any evidence, each traversed with blind assurances from you, coupled with [Using Memories] failing to rise even to the level of basic computing, never mind reasoning, and, all of that coupled with your embrace of psychosis as your end of regress traded for the two actualities of the Intentionality of the Self and of the Existence of the Self are five disjointed ramblings incongruous with the business of even basic reasoning.

    I offer to you that your capacity for choice and your existence are each ontologically real, just as is the innate worth of that 12 year old girl mentioned earlier. Harris (and your theory) gets it wrong. Immutable Person ever in amalgamation with Immutable Love’s fully singular, fully triune Self-Other-Us just is Actuality’s timeless E Pluribus Unum wherein both Logic and Love maintain brutal ontological coherence to the End of Ad Infinitum.

  291. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Shane, I’m asking you now to address this before you proceed with other discussions.

    If you don’t believe in rationality, why do you seek to use reasons to persuade? Why not just quit pretending? Or better yet, why not come around to the reality that rationality is real, and drop this foolish denial of that which cannot be denied?

    You could also answer Melissa’s question:

    You keep asking where you are going wrong and since the beginning of this conversation I have been telling you that reasoning isn’t identical to remembering. AndrewW, Tom, scblhrm and others have said the same thing and we’ve all given you reasons for our claim. You continue to reply by citing evidence that we use things we have remembered when we reason. Do you understand what is wrong with that or do you need it explained?

    In other words, you keep asking the same question even though it’s been answered multiple times, and you do not seem to credit the fact that you’ve been answered already.

    (I really can’t imagine what’s so hard about recognizing that the part [memory] does not equal the whole [the entire reasoning process].)

    All of this is germane to whether it’s a good idea for you to be commenting here. I’ve already explained why the first question set matters. The second one matters because (as Melissa said) it’s frustrating to interact with someone who acts as if you haven’t said what you’ve said. It’s frustrating at first, that is; after a while it becomes obvious that there’s no reason to continue at all.

    We want to know whether we can expect that to improve. Thanks.

  292. Bill L

    Tom,

    Because of your question in 286, I feel I should respond. Since I was a part of this conversation I’m sure I’m being indicted. I was hoping that my willingness to admit my lack of knowledge would have at least shown that I am willing to learn from the conversations. But if you prefer, I will not ask questions or interact; I’ll just read the blog posts and try to do my best that way.

    I had thought that from your “Safe for Humans” post, you were willing to try to be more patient with others. But maybe it’s just too difficult for any one person. I unfortunately found that much of that post was again an attack on the irrational mindset of non-believers. Believe me, I have gone through endless rounds of debates with Creationists and Global Warming deniers – so I know many people appear to choose ignorance while holding tenaciously to what they want to be true. But as much as I can, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and realize that they are doing the best they can.

    So I have to ask you – what is the point of your blog? Are you just trying to have interactions with other people who agree with you about why people who don’t agree with you are obviously wrong? Or do you see your role as one of educating others? I personally don’t know what else to do other than to ask questions when I’m trying to find answers, and this seemed like a good forum since the folks here clearly know more about philosophy, logic, and theology than I will probably ever learn in my few short remaining years on this planet.

    Before finding this blog, most of my interactions with Christians have been with creationists who really don’t seem to be interested in matters of truth on the issue. Naturally, that leads one to the feeling that they are probably more concerned with defending their beliefs then wanting to know the truth. Could you see why non-believers tend to view them with suspicion? In most of my personal interactions, I’ve talked to believers who often leave me nonplussed at their reasoning (i.e. Peter Boghossian is probably correct about 90% of believers).

    With your interaction with Shane and others, I would say I have certainly seen more patient people in my life, but you’re also no where near the worst (the patients you showed with Oisin was much more than I would have). Shane may not be perfect on every issue, but I feel he answered the morality problems better than anyone else did and he has been nothing but kind and respectful. Frankly, I find it strange that you would feel insulted that he signs “cheers” in his messages – that’s just as common in Australia/NZ as the way we greet someone by saying “Hello.” Perhaps this does show some kind of antipathy you have towards non-believers, but I don’t want to over-think it. There may be a danger when we consider others to be non-rational when they do not agree with us or see our reasoning (isn’t this what you often get frustrated with when militant atheists see believers that way?).

    Since I found this blog late last Autumn, I have been rethinking my positions at almost every waking moment. In fact I have been loosing a lot of sleep over it and my wife is rather concerned. But I don’t know what else to do. I have stopped considering myself an atheist, and now refer to myself as agnostic – it’s really the only position I can defend skillfully. 😉 I want to know the truth. I came here to have my views challenged and to see what I might believe that is wrong. Please let me know if you think I’m not intelligent or rational enough to take part. It’s your blog and I respect that.

  293. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Bill, I did not have you in mind at all when I wrote that question. I didn’t have djc in mind, either.

    The personal frustration you felt in me there was real. I’m really not sure whether I’m losing patience or not. There are certainly causes for frustration in what Shane has been doing—missing an obvious point over and over and over again, for example—and in what Oisin did earlier, putting words in my mouth, for one thing among many. The thing is, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and they’re not the first ones to do that here. They’re also not the first ones I’ve either disinvited or at least talked about disinviting. I’m just not sure whether I’m jumping to that step earlier than I used to do.

    I’m asking myself a lot of questions, in other words, and I’m not so sure of myself in the way I’m handling things with people like Oisin and Shane.

    The point of my blog is certainly not to have interactions only with those who agree with me. I’ve sought out differing opinions actively, Tom Clark, for one.

    The very nature of what I post is the sort of thing that invites differing opinions, and I’ve never even considered banning anyone for disagreeing. I’ve only done it for the reasons I’ve listed in the discussion policy, including rudeness and “persistently unproductive” commenting, which would include asking the same question over and over again after it’s been answered. I saw some rude behavior in Oisin, and I’m seeing the discussion with Shane going persistently nowhere, due to his inability to move on from thinking that the part equals the whole.

    Your explanation of “cheers” is enlightening. I didn’t know that about Australia/NZ. We ran into a cultural difference there, and that certainly places things in a better light.

    Anyway it was never about him saying “cheers,” which he did over 250 times here before I raised a question about it. It’s about his saying “cheers” while blithely, naively, walking a path of unreason and eventually death. That was (approximately) how I said it when I brought it up here. For me, not having the common cultural Australian/NZ experience, it feels almost as macabre as someone saying “Cheers” while knowingly lifting a glass of poison to drink it. I understand now, maybe, that it doesn’t mean the same thing Down Under. It will still take this American some getting used to.

    I don’t see Shane as non-rational for disagreeing; I see him as denying rationality while also depending on it. Admittedly, though, I’ve skimmed the thread this morning and I’m not sure where exactly I saw him denying rationality as blatantly as I thought he did. I may have made an old-fashioned mistake there. (He’s still pushing the limits of irrational thinking by equating the part to the whole.)

    Back to your original question: I did not have you or djc or a number of other recent commenters in mind when I asked the question in #286—only Oisin and Shane, and maybe Larry Tanner, too. I wrote the question partly because of my own uncertainty about myself; it was a genuine question.

    And I’m really glad you’re here. I think you’re contributing genuinely. I could wish for more of the same.

    P.S. I know and I agree Boghossian is right about most believers. It’s chilling. That’s one reason I do what I do: to help wake Christians up to the value, usefulness, and discipline of good thinking.

  294. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Shane, I want to direct this to you, which I just wrote as part of my comment to Bill:

    Your explanation of “cheers” is enlightening. I didn’t know that about Australia/NZ. We ran into a cultural difference there, and that certainly places things in a better light.

    Anyway it was never about him saying “cheers,” which he did over 250 times here before I raised a question about it. It’s about his saying “cheers” while blithely, naively, walking a path of unreason and eventually death. That was (approximately) how I said it when I brought it up here. For me, not having the common cultural Australian/NZ experience, it feels almost as macabre as someone saying “Cheers” while knowingly lifting a glass of poison to drink it. I understand now, maybe, that it doesn’t mean the same thing Down Under. It will still take this American some getting used to.

    Also:

    I don’t see Shane as non-rational for disagreeing; I see him as denying rationality while also depending on it. Admittedly, though, I’ve skimmed the thread this morning and I’m not sure where exactly I saw him denying rationality as blatantly as I thought he did. I may have made an old-fashioned mistake there. (He’s still pushing the limits of irrational thinking by equating the part to the whole.)

    If I was wrong about that—which appears now to be the case, as I try to track things down here—I apologize for the error.

    I might as well ask

  295. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Here is where I got that impression:

    For those four reasons, or five if you split the last one in two, I seriously doubt that rational inference can be fully explained from within the merely physical box of causation. Furthermore, if what we name “rational inference” could be fully explained on physical causation alone, there would be little about it that was rational.

    And then your answer:

    I think your last sentence is trying to say that if we are just remembering things and responding to stimuli based on our past experience/memory then there is no rational thought nor free will and everything is deterministic in a Jerry Coyne kind of way. That doesn’t make it wrong.

    I’d be glad to have you clarify.

  296. JAD

    Bill L,

    Before finding this blog, most of my interactions with Christians have been with creationists who really don’t seem to be interested in matters of truth on the issue. Naturally, that leads one to the feeling that they are probably more concerned with defending their beliefs then wanting to know the truth. Could you see why non-believers tend to view them with suspicion? In most of my personal interactions, I’ve talked to believers who often leave me nonplussed at their reasoning (i.e. Peter Boghossian is probably correct about 90% of believers).

    Ironically, you don’t seem to be willing to apply that same standard to other non-believers. Why is that? Is Shane interested in the truth? He seems to be “more concerned with defending [his] beliefs” even if those beliefs are demonstrably false. For example, his belief that our capacity to reason can be reduced to memory. Is this a scientific position? (Notice, that this is not even about some Christian belief.) Name me one neurologist or neuroscientist who defends a position like that. Let’s be honest. This is Shane’s theory which he made up here whole cloth. Clearly Shane is not being reasonable and presenting reasonable arguments. Rather, IMO he is presenting absurd arguments just to be argumentative. Personally, I don’t have the time, the interest or the patience to respond to foolishness like that– and that is what it is foolishness.

    Like I have said before, “honest questions deserve honest answers.” Dishonest and disingenuous interlocutors, however, don’t deserve the time of day.

  297. Bill L

    JAD,

    Actually I am willing to apply that standard to non-believers. That is something I have really woken up to in these last few years (more so since participating in this blog). I know that non-believers do this as well, as was evident in Oisin. I am not convinced Shane is doing this.

    Perhaps he has other reasons that he is not articulating perfectly. Perhaps he’s reasoning through his ideas right now. I don’t think he is saying that reasoning is only remembering in the sense that they are identical (although many of his statements seem to say that). I think he believes there is a higher order process in the brain that is materialistically caused whereby the brains memories reflect upon other memories. Maybe that little voice in our heads is one kind of memory (memories of flexible conversations) that interacts with other kinds of memories in our heads. In #280, he also says it’s a result of stimuli that could either be internal or external. I got in trouble once before by assuming to understand Shane’s position, and he corrected me only to give me a much better understanding that he had himself. So I will stop here.

    Tom,

    Thanks for clarifying.

  298. Ray Ingles

    scblhrm – I’m afraid I’m unable to parse #177.

    BillT –

    I don’t see how your puddle analogy has anything to do with the subject at hand. Things that have reproductive utility may or may not conform with the truth, the percentage of times they do so notwithstanding.

    A system with both random and fixed components can have different behavior from systems with only random components, and only fixed components. Water molecules bounce around randomly, but they also run into things like air pressure and surface tension and solid-matter physics and so forth.

    Further, percentage does matter. Technically, ‘thermodynamic miracles’ are possible. All the water molecules in a puddle could spontaneously, by chance, all happen to bounce upward at the same moment. But the odds of that are so small you’d have to wait many times the lifetime of the universe to have any realistic chance of seeing it happen.

    Even completely random mutations get honed by smacking into real-world constraints, and – as I’ve argued – false beliefs are significantly less likely to be useful than true ones. Constraints like that can allow for convergence.

    And the pattern of true and false beliefs bears that out. Last week as I walking upstairs, I didn’t bother turning on the light. At the top of the stairs, I thought for an instant that I saw one of our cats – but then I realized that curving line was the strap of a shoulderbag, not a tail.

    It’s important to recognize danger fast in the real word. The brain tends to try to fit new stimuli into the ‘dangerous’ box, at least at first. But fleeing all the time is counterproductive, too. So the brain also looks for ‘non-dangerous living things’, and, finally, calms down and checks other possibilities.

    Utility forces accuracy, again.

    And if you have a point to make about evolution why don’t you just make it.

    Already typed a bunch just now. Maybe I’ll get to it later, but for now I’ll just point out what I did last time – you seem, by your words, to have misconceptions about evolutionary theory .

  299. Melissa

    Bill L.,

    I don’t think he is saying that reasoning is only remembering in the sense that they are identical (although many of his statements seem to say that).

    But if his argument is to succeed then reasoning must be identical to remembering. This has also been explained to him.

    I think he believes there is a higher order process in the brain that is materialistically caused whereby the brains memories reflect upon other memories.

    Which would involve intentionality so he would need to address the intentionality problem but his argument looks to me to be attempting to get around the intentionality problem- to show that reasoning doesn’t require intentionality.

  300. djc

    Melissa,

    I think we agree that given materialism any natural ends we perceive are projections of our minds and not intrinsic to the objects themselves.

    Yes. Beliefs, goals, desires are only experienced by minds. A cloud has no mind, so it does not have a goal. But life, at a certain point of brain complexity, supports a mind that has a conscious observer. Once you have a mind with a conscious observer, beliefs, goals and desires are meaningful terms, under materialism. They may not mean the same things as to a dualist, they may be considered badly misunderstood under folk psychology, but they are not meaningless.

    The problem with associating certain neural events with certain external objects requires identifying certain points in a continual chain of causes as the beginning and end, but objectively no points in the chain have that status.

    I agree that there is a continual chain of causes, but I do not agree that all the points in that chain are identical. We identify clouds and rain as a special beginning/end cause/effect, even though that division point is not really there, because it is useful to cut the world in certain ways that simplify understanding cause/effect.

    In more physicalistic terms, treating certain clusters of atoms differently from other clusters of atoms results in a more successful strategy for survival. Given constant replication and selection, evolution can be expected to narrow in on the more successful strategy.

    When a cause acts on a mind, the mind’s computation results in the experience of beliefs, goals, desires within that mind, in my view. Those beliefs, goals, desires are still part of a continual chain of cause/effect without beginning or ending, yes, they don’t act any differently from any other cause, they don’t have any special power whatsoever, but they have a subjective quality that we all recognize as being the essence of the “conscious observer”. So the causal chain entering and exiting a mind has a particularly personal significance in addition to the purely useful result of cutting the world’s causal chain into “minds” and “non-minds”.

    For a neural event to represent, for example cats, requires the the cat be treated as the beginning if the causal chain and the neural state as the end, but apart from human interests and interpretation there is just one continuous causal flux. The causal chain only has a beginning and end according to an interpreting mind.

    The beginning (the experience of cats) and the end cause (the neural concept of cat) are two points on a continuous causal flux that are cut because it may be useful to partition the world into “cats” and “non-cats”.

    The intentionality problem asks how a thought of cats can point to real cats without being able to trace the connection atom by atom from the thought to a real cat. The problem is that this criticism of materialism misunderstands the nature of computation. In any computer program, the physical relationship between program, inputs and outputs is only seen by running the program. In more physicalistic terms, when atoms are arranged by design or by nature into computational networks using chemical sensors as input and chemical signals as output, a physical, atom-by-atom relationship can only be by seen by executing the program step by step. If a thought is computational in nature, the physical problem disappears. If a thought of cats is a neural group created by sensory experience of feline species, and this neural group is connected to other neural groups representing computational strategies designed by evolution, the result of a thought of cats depends on all the computation models making up a human brain, including models of self, models of other minds, models of goals, beliefs and desires, in order to see the physical connection. The physical connection is seen by theoretically executing the program that is the human mind step by step in the materialistic view.

    Once again no physical system can be described as running a program apart from some user who assigns meaning to the inputs, outputs and other states of the system. The car is designed by humans it has derived intentionality. The representation is not in the physical facts.

    Derived intentionality is tricky as it is difficult to understand where the intentionality in a designed product actually is if (1) the designer dies, or (2) the product is used successfully in a manner it was never intended for, or (3) the product breaks and acts in a matter not designed, or (4) the product is designed to act randomly in order to explore new ways of successful operation (.e.g. evolutionary algorithms).

    In any case, my question on the Google self-driving car is whether its physical operation requires derived intentionality to operate. That is, in a world without derived intentionality, does the Google self-driving car fail to start, or run completely contrary to it’s program, or something else. I would think the self-driving car operates just fine. The only agreement I would expect is that intentionality is not necessary for the purely physical operation of the Google self-driving car. That is, there is nothing dualistic about the operation of computer program.

    So if so, what prevents a program from evolving into existence via replication and selection? Essentially, modern science has no problem with DNA, a program, evolving from matter and energy. Thus, the intentionality problem does not seem to be a logical problem as much as a question of the evolution of programs (and of course accounting for conscious experience).

  301. bigbird

    Your explanation of “cheers” is enlightening. I didn’t know that about Australia/NZ. We ran into a cultural difference there, and that certainly places things in a better light.

    I can confirm that “cheers” == “regards” or “thanks” as a salutation as far as I’m concerned (from here in Australia).

  302. Jenna Black

    djc RE: #308

    You appear to me to be inventing new terms for the sake of argument, which you have not defined and most certainly are not coming from any research that I am familiar with. The two I question are “neural events” and “neural concepts.” It seems to be that neither a “neural event” nor a “neural concept” are physical somethings.

    My biggest problem with your argument and the new and undefined terms is that when we talk about reasoning, we are not talking about something that is physical. Reasoning is representational and is performed in the mind through language, which is itself merely a system of representations. We can talk until the cows come in about the neuro-physiology of the brain, but this doesn’t tell us much at all about what reasoning is and how it happens, since reasoning is more than just the sum of nerves and synapses firing off in the brain. This is the fundamental problem naturalism faces in explaining the mind (and the soul). Just because a physical, material human organ, the brain, is the instrument that performs thinking (reasoning), does not make reasoning a physical something.

    I am reminded of the classic scene from the movie The Miracle Worker where Helen Keller finally understands that her teacher, Anne Sullivan’s finger movements in her hand spelling out the word “water” as Helen puts her hand under the spout of the pump represent language. Once Helen grasped this notion, her ability to grasp the hand signal system was immediate and complete. I often use this scene from The Miracle Worker to explain the “light bulb going on in the head” phenomenon of children as they learn to read.

    Our understanding of the relationship between symbolic representations of reality and the reality itself is essential in understanding what reasoning and the mind work. Naturalism simply cannot explain reasoning solely as a physical process. Its explanatory power is limited to the neuro-physiology of the brain as an organ because it cannot explain the human ability to use language and manipulate abstract representations of reality.

  303. bigbird

    In any case, my question on the Google self-driving car is whether its physical operation requires derived intentionality to operate. That is, in a world without derived intentionality, does the Google self-driving car fail to start, or run completely contrary to it’s program, or something else. I would think the self-driving car operates just fine.

    Doesn’t someone have to tell the car where to drive to?

    All the self-driving car has done is make the mechanics of driving automated. Someone still has to communicate the destination.

  304. Melissa

    djc,

    Beliefs, goals, desires are only experienced by minds. A cloud has no mind, so it does not have a goal.

    Your second sentence doesn’t follow from your first. It should be a cloud doesn’t experience a goal but that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t have a goal.

    Once you have a mind with a conscious observer, beliefs, goals and desires are meaningful terms, under materialism.

    What your observer gets you is the experience of having a goal. If goals are not in the things themselves but are a projection of the mind, then brains do not have goals either, they are in the mind. But if, as materialism entails the brain is identical to the mind then there are no goals.

    They may not mean the same things as to a dualist, they may be considered badly misunderstood under folk psychology, but they are not meaningless.

    Are they badly understood though? And if you cash them out in materialist terms can that do the work that is required? How does our constant experience of something that is not really there not lead to complete skepticism about all our experiences? It seems to me that your conclusion that dualism misunderstands goals is entirely based on your prior commitment to materialism. What basis do you have for the claim that goals only exist if they are experienced?

    We identify clouds and rain as a special beginning/end cause/effect, even though that division point is not really there, because it is useful to cut the world in certain ways that simplify understanding cause/effect.

    Exactly we identify them. Now either there is something to identify or we are projecting onto the things themselves. I think Jenna referred above to materialism resulting in a denial of cause and effect and she is correct. It is our intentionality that picks out the beginning and end. That is not just an experience of intentionality but real intentionality.

    The intentionality problem asks how a thought of cats can point to real cats without being able to trace the connection atom by atom from the thought to a real cat.

    No that’s not it. They intentionality problem asks how one physical state can be about another.

    If a thought of cats is a neural group created by sensory experience of feline species

    Since you agree that it is our interests that pick out the cat and the neural group and associate them as the beginning and the end the neural group cannot actually be created by the sensory experience of feline species.

    other neural groups representing computational strategies designed by evolution

    To represent something is just to point towards something else so you need to explain how the neural groups become a representation. Nothing counts as a representation (or symbol) apart from a mind or group of minds that interpret and use it as a symbol. Neural groups can not represent anything without minds interpreting them as symbols standing for particular events.

    Derived intentionality is tricky as it is difficult to understand where the intentionality in a designed product actually is if (1) the designer dies, or (2) the product is used successfully in a manner it was never intended for, or (3) the product breaks and acts in a matter not designed, or (4) the product is designed to act randomly in order to explore new ways of successful operation (.e.g. evolutionary algorithms).

    I think you misunderstand what derived intentionality entails. Any goal that the product might have is not in the thing itself but in the mind of the programmer or user.

    In any case, my question on the Google self-driving car is whether its physical operation requires derived intentionality to operate. That is, in a world without derived intentionality, does the Google self-driving car fail to start, or run completely contrary to it’s program, or something else. I would think the self-driving car operates just fine. The only agreement I would expect is that intentionality is not necessary for the purely physical operation of the Google self-driving car. That is, there is nothing dualistic about the operation of computer program.

    A couple of points. To “run completely contrary to it’s program” could not be determined without reference to the goal of the program. You couldn’t even determine whether the car is operating just fine because there would be no goal. In a world with no intentionality you could certainly have things doing stuff, but you could not argue that they are performing one particular function, that they are defective, not operating, fine, broken, a misrepresentation etc. etc.

    Essentially, modern science has no problem with DNA, a program, evolving from matter and energy

    Really? Modern science cannot make sense of a program without presupposing meaning and intentionality. Either those are in the DNA or they are in the minds of the scientists. Are scientists just cataloguing there own projections onto meaningless, matter? I don’t think so.

  305. Shane Fletcher

    Hey everyone,

    Sorry for the short absence. Personal crisis yesterday which was thankfully resolved quickly with a positive outcome. All is happy and shiny with the world once again. I have just caught up with the posts since my last visit.

    Tom
    #303

    “I think your last sentence is trying to say that if we are just remembering things and responding to stimuli based on our past experience/memory then there is no rational thought nor free will and everything is deterministic in a Jerry Coyne kind of way. That doesn’t make it wrong.”

    I’d be glad to have you clarify.”

    As you can see I wasn’t even completely sure what your statement was saying and I didn’t make any assertion about what my own beliefs were. I was just taking what I thought you were saying to its natural conclusion. I did try to clarify in #278 with

    “[Responding to first post]: If there is no rational thought or free will then everything happens for other reasons, that being deterministic.

    [Responding to your question about rational thought]: If there is no rational thought than you can’t get to conclusions based on rational thought, and you must get to them another way, as in the deterministic POV.”

    but again I was just taking the first part of your statements and following them through to what I thought their conclusions were. I can certainly see how you could infer that I don’t believe in rational thought or free will but that was not my intent when I wrote it.

    I also apologise for the colloq use of “cheers”. I was simply using it as a way of saying ‘Bye in the same way we greet with G’Day even at night.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  306. Shane Fletcher

    Memory, language, reason.

    I believe these three things are wholly interconnected and evolved at the same time, and as such they are part of the brain. Memory is obviously necessary for both. Language is necessary for reason (not necessarily a spoken one, but a monologue of the mind) because without the ability to apply a mental abstract to a physical reality you cannot think, understand and use logic. And reason is necessary for language, because without the ability to understand and use logic you cannot apply a mental abstract to a physical reality. But the completion of the circle is that language and reason are necessary for memory. If I have no internal language of abstracts then there is nothing for me to remember. And if I have no way of linking the abstract concept to a physical thing via reason then there is nothing for me to remember. These three things are interconnected and must have evolved together over time.

    Some simple examples up the evolution ladder.

    A goldfish, often rumoured to have no memory, has no language or reasoning. It reacts immediately to stimuli and cannot communicate with members of it’s species.

    Dogs have memory. Pavlov’s experiment shows that they make associations from stimuli received by one of their senses to rewards they have received in the past. This is a learned response over time, but it’s possible it’s not autonomous. However a dog that brings a ball for you to throw so that it can chase it demonstrates these three things. The dog must have a concept of ball. It doesn’t grab any and all objects to you, but just ones the right size and shape. Perhaps even one specific ball of a number it has to choose from. It brings you the ball with the idea of you throwing the ball so it can chase after it and return it to you. Rinse and repeat. I don’t believe there is anyway you can explain this complex behaviour in the form of automatic impulses from an “unthinking” brain. The dog therefore has an internal language that at the minimum includes: Ball, Throwing, Chasing, You, I. It remembers these things. And it makes the following reasoning:

    I want to run after the ball
    For that to happen you have to throw the ball.
    For that to happen you have to have the ball.
    Therefore I bring you the ball.

    To clarify the obvious, the dog doesn’t think these things in English or any other language spoken by humans. But it exhibits repetitive behaviour that is not explained by purely automatic function of its brain, so it must have memory, an internal language and reason.

    Dogs do respond to people though, and can be trained to follow spoken commands. They also have the ability to make sounds themselves which indicate what they are “thinking”. The ability to “talk” and hear are directly tied in with language and their are plenty of studies that show the more language we have the better we can reason. With that respect, the evolution of memory, language and reason are tied in with the evolution of our physical senses.

    Primates – I don’t want to repeat myself here, so I’m just going to sum up by saying that they have long memories, a complex internal language indicated by multiple vocalisations that have a specific meaning and learning 500 distinct words in sign language. They have an enormous capability of reasoning, including the use of tools, a communal life with structure, the demonstration of empathy and the competition of tasks to receive reward.

    It seems that memory, language and the ability to reason are all interconnected. You can see them evolving over time together as part of the physical process of evolution. Infant humans don’t have language, the ability to reason nor remember anything from the day of our birth. These three things are learnt together over time, hand in hand. This makes the three of them physical processes that occur in the brain and therefore reasoning is not immaterial, and can exist in the A-M world.

    Cheers
    Shane

  307. Melissa

    Shane,

    This makes the three of them physical processes that occur in the brain and therefore reasoning is not immaterial, and can exist in the A-M world.

    Follows from nothing that you have said prior to that.

    A necessary requirement for good critical thinking is that you understand the question and are able to sort out what information is relevant to the question. Nothing you have written here is relevant to the question “how can reasoning be physical” in light of the problems outlined in the OP. Nothing.

    Whether it evolved overtime, is exhibited by other animals or learned by humans is irrelevant and Tom has made that quite clear further up the thread.

  308. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    “Nothing you have written here is relevant to the question “how can reasoning be physical” in light of the problems outlined in the OP. Nothing.”

    I responded individually to all of Tom’s points in my reply at #247. They were skipped over in the miscommunication that I didn’t believe reasoning was possible. Happy for anyone to explain where I’ve gone wrong with any of that rebuttal.

    My clarifying the process here is as much for me as everyone else. If memory is a physical thing and language is stored in a physical way due to memory and reasoning initially evolved (and now develops in human children concurrently) as these other two physical things than the logical inference is that it is also a physical thing, stored in memory in the same way language is. There needs to be some evidence to suggest otherwise and I have pointed out the problems I see with Tom’s evidence at #247.

    Thanks
    Shane

  309. Jenna Black

    Shane RE: #314

    You say this: “It seems that memory, language and the ability to reason are all interconnected. You can see them evolving over time together as part of the physical process of evolution. Infant humans don’t have language, the ability to reason nor remember anything from the day of our birth. These three things are learnt together over time, hand in hand. This makes the three of them physical processes that occur in the brain and therefore reasoning is not immaterial, and can exist in the A-M world.”

    This is not what psycholinguistics and psycholinguistic research or cognitive psychologists say about language learning and cognitive processing (reasoning). Human infants are born with the capacity for language learning, which is a particular form of learning that the brains of animals are not adapted form. It is called the Language Acquisition Device (LAD) that permits the infant to learn not just one but many languages as they are exposed to and use language(s) in their environment. I know of no researcher in psycholinguistics or psychology that calls language and reasoning “physical processes.” Can you point us to some peer-reviewed research studies published in scholarly journals that support your claims?

  310. Melissa

    Shane,

    Your reply at #247 just ignores what Tom has written. If you don’t understand what Tom is getting at why don’t you ask him some questions.

    Anything we think “about” or causes intentionality is based on us remembering things.

    Your quotes around about are telling. If you don’t think our thoughts are about anything then you are denying we reason at all. Us remembering something is intentional. So you have not addressed the first point at all.

    I remember what is true or false. This is something I have learned and remembered. This is of course an ongoing process as I continue to learn throughout my life.

    Says zero about how something physical could be true or false.

    If your argument is that the chemical/electrical process of remembering is different to what happens in the larger scale of the world we live in, you are right. But I don’t see why that is a problem.

    Since we have established that remembering is not identical to reasoning this is again irrelevant. The physical is defined for the purposes of study in the natural sciences as being without intention or truth value etc. etc therefore you are not going to be able get internality or truth out of the physical.

    The whole point of memory is to create something that relates to the world.

    If something natural has a point. that is teleology and materialism is false.

    If memory is a physical thing and language is stored in a physical way due to memory and reasoning initially evolved (and now develops in human children concurrently) as these other two physical things than the logical inference is that it is also a physical thing, stored in memory in the same way language is.

    There is no logic in what you’ve written here.

  311. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Here are the two key issues I see being in process here:

    1. We all grant that memory and language are necessary conditions for the practice of reason as we experience it in our human bodies. It appears that Shane thinks they are sufficient as well, meaning that if we have memory and language, we can have reason.

    2. We all grant that memory and language have physical correlates. Shane thinks the mind is entirely explained by the physical brain; others of us would say that (in our human bodies) the brain is necessary but not sufficient to explain the mind, or at least the mind’s expression in our world.

    So we all agree on certain necessary conditions: memory, language, and the brain. There’s no need to roll that set of questions around. What we don’t agree on is whether they are sufficient conditions for reason to be possible. The point of the post is to say that purely physical conditions are insufficient.

  312. djc

    Tom,

    I’ll make a final reply here in this thread and hope that it covers some loose ends as well as puts my answers in context for other commentators. I’m sure the issues will be rehashed in the future.

    What your thought experiment boils down to is this: “Imagine the view you’ve been arguing for here is wrong, and intentionality is possible for artificial objects and systems—and not just intentionality, but mind and self-identity.”

    No. The question I’m attempting to answer is how to account for intentionality under materialism. The idea is to break the concept down into smaller parts that are less controversial and more manageable and see how they fare.

    So the Google self-driving car first reduces the mystical nature of intentionality to something made out of metal and electricity rather then flesh and brain. While no one claims the Google car has intentionality, it nevertheless interacts with its environment in purposeful ways that demonstrate that a program with time-based delayed input/output behaviour is another way to interact physically. A program need not violate materialistic assumptions.

    But of course the Google car is designed by human beings who have intentionality. The next concept for accounting for intentionality under materialism is to suppose the Google car evolving into being by replication and natural selection. Of course, metal and electricity are no longer options here so we have to instead imagine the Google car made out of biological material. This, then, is the standard theory of evolution.

    Now there are some who reject evolution outright and others who say that evolution does not rule out intentionality from the mind of the designer, God. (For those who reject evolution outright, I won’t bother a defense.) For those who argue for intrinsic intentionality in the fabric of the universe, I have nothing to argue against. Indeed, if the universe is designed, there is intentionality in everything. However, the point of the OP was to ask how to account for intentionality under materialistic assumptions, not how to prove intentionality doesn’t exist.

    A critical assumption of materialism is that the universe does not appear to be designed. Thus, under materialism there is not the presumption of intrinsic intentional and final cause because the evidence is not considered persuasive enough to do that.

    Under materialism, accounting for human intentionality is all we need to do. DNA does not need to have intentionality, life does not need to have intentionality. The only intentionality to explain is how our perceived mind states can be “about” things outside of the mind without an atom-by-atom connection. But that isn’t hard to figure out if “representation” and “program” are valid materialistic concepts. Thus the questions for materialism on the way to accounting for intentionality are:

    How does information/representation evolve?
    How does mind evolve?
    How does consciousness come to be associated with mind?

    The first I think is adequately answered by evolution. The question of mind is being actively worked on today and computer science and study of AI are making progress. After that question is answered, I expect the last question to be considerably easier. But, in summary, if information/representation evolved, if mind evolved, and consciousness is associated with mind, intentionality is not a problem under materialism I believe.

  313. djc

    Melissa,

    It should be a cloud doesn’t experience a goal but that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t have a goal.

    I’m more interested in defending the idea of intentionality under materialistic assumptions than I am in proving that the universe is not designed. I can’t disprove final cause but I can say that I believe it is rational under materialism to assume there is no such thing as final cause.

    Are they badly understood though? And if you cash them out in materialist terms can that do the work that is required? How does our constant experience of something that is not really there not lead to complete skepticism about all our experiences?

    Certainly materialists are more skeptical of experience, but even the most radical reductionists still find plenty of meaning in existence.

    It seems to me that your conclusion that dualism misunderstands goals is entirely based on your prior commitment to materialism. What basis do you have for the claim that goals only exist if they are experienced?

    Materialism doesn’t assume final cause exists. Therefore, goals only make sense for those with minds.

    Since you agree that it is our interests that pick out the cat and the neural group and associate them as the beginning and the end the neural group cannot actually be created by the sensory experience of feline species.

    Our interests are created and shaped by evolution, encoded in our DNA, part of our desires and motivations (under materialism) so the neural group does indeed form directly via the sensory experience of cats.

    To represent something is just to point towards something else so you need to explain how the neural groups become a representation. Nothing counts as a representation (or symbol) apart from a mind or group of minds that interpret and use it as a symbol. Neural groups can not represent anything without minds interpreting them as symbols standing for particular events.

    A neural group stills functions as a representation even if there is no mind to perceive it. That is, in billions of years of evolution, DNA functioned just find without minds to comprehend what it was doing. Materialism sees no need to hypothesize that DNA requires a mind to function.

    Really? Modern science cannot make sense of a program without presupposing meaning and intentionality. Either those are in the DNA or they are in the minds of the scientists. Are scientists just cataloguing there own projections onto meaningless, matter? I don’t think so.

    It is possible to make sense of a program without presupposing meaning and intentionality. Simply simulate the program and see what happens to the inputs and outputs. This is the only thoroughly rigorous way to understand a program. However, if you already know that the program is implementing beliefs, desires or goals — i.e. evolved DNA-based life– it is possible to take the intentional stance and see where it gets you. But the key point is that the intentional stance is often wrong, it is less reliable then the physical stance.

  314. djc

    Jenna Black,

    It seems to be that neither a “neural event” nor a “neural concept” are physical somethings.

    Those terms refer to groups of neurons that fire when the mind thinks. The question is whether thought is entirely reducible to groups of neurons. Materialism assumes it is until evidence is found to disprove the theory.

    My biggest problem with your argument and the new and undefined terms is that when we talk about reasoning, we are not talking about something that is physical. Reasoning is representational and is performed in the mind through language, which is itself merely a system of representations.

    But representation always requires a physical template and physical transmission. There is nothing about reasoning that relies on something non-physical; actual matter/energy is used at all points. Consider this discussion, represented with digital bits on real transistors, transmitted with real pulses of energy and light, reflected off real cells on the backs of retinas, carried through neurons and triggering associations formed by sensory experiences in wetware biology. Where is the non-physical absolutely needed here? Materialism assumes it isn’t needed until evidence is found to disprove that theory.

  315. Jenna Black

    djc, RE: 323

    It seems to me as though this comment is beside the point in terms of what this article is about. Certainly we agree that thought (mental activity) involves/requires the physiological (physical) operations of the brain and biological sensory systems of the body. No one disputes or questions this reality. But you seem to be claiming that the physiological operations of the brain are equivalent to and all there is to reasoning. This appears to me to be based on your assumption or definition of all thought as “physical.” I find this problematic since no one can observe the molecules and atoms that make up a thought.

    As I discussed earlier, the materialist view of thought and reasoning that you describe here puts materialism on the horns of a dilemma. You contend that there must be some sensory trigger for any and all thought and that all reasoning about this sensory input is dependent on this sensory input. Okay. So how do materialists account for thoughts (reasoning) of/about/toward God? How do materialists explain (away) mystical, spiritual, transcendent experiences, which must be, according to your paradigm, a response to sensory input and based on sensory input. Doesn’t this then mean that our experiences of/with God are caused by and based on the reality of God as God is sensed/experiences through the physiology of the senses and the physiology of the brain (thought)?

    However interesting this discussion is, it still sidesteps the essential question that Tom’s article poses: What is the explanation offered by materialism or naturalism of how mind originates in matter? How does a stone produce a mind capable of representing it abstractly and reasoning about its properties? Naturalism necessitates the belief (and that’s what it is) that the non-physical mind is created by physical matter and physical processes. And don’t attempt to avoid this question using the usual “it evolved” cop-out, since evolution as a process requires a beginning point, an original life form that undergoes change through reproduction of itself, which naturalism cannot define or explain.

  316. Melissa

    djc,

    Our interests are created and shaped by evolution, encoded in our DNA, part of our desires and motivations (under materialism) so the neural group does indeed form directly via the sensory experience of cats.

    Yes but our interests by definition are just another instance of intentionality.

    A neural group stills functions as a representation even if there is no mind to perceive it.That is, in billions of years of evolution, DNA functioned just find without minds to comprehend what it was doing. Materialism sees no need to hypothesize that DNA requires a mind to function.

    Given materialism it functions, but not as a representation, because, as I have been reminding you constantly, representations presuppose intentionality and meaning. And the alternative is not that DNA requires a mind to function. Everything you’ve said just ignores this major point. If physical things do not point to anything else then neither do brain states and to be a representation is to point towards something else.

    It is possible to make sense of a program without presupposing meaning and intentionality. Simply simulate the program and see what happens to the inputs and outputs. This is the only thoroughly rigorous way to understand a program.

    Actually no. There is still the problem of the indeterminacy of the physical. The physical facts could be consistent with any number of functions and there is no way to distinguish what it is actually programmed to do.

    Look, if you don’t want to deal with the actual problem of intentionality fine, but stop pretending that you are.

  317. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Tom

    #320

    “So we all agree on certain necessary conditions: memory, language, and the brain. There’s no need to roll that set of questions around. What we don’t agree on is whether they are sufficient conditions for reason to be possible. The point of the post is to say that purely physical conditions are insufficient.”

    Thanks for clarifying where we are in the conversation. It certainly helps to keep the dialogue on track.

    The important thing in my belief is that memory, language and reasoning all evolved/developed at the same time. No two could exist without the third. Nor could any one of them exist without both of the others. So I wouldn’t say that memory and language were sufficient to create reasoning as though they needed to evolve first to pave the way. They couldn’t exist without reasoning.

    Are there any specific examples could be given to illustrate the 4 or 5 problems as you see them? I replied generically as I could, and I’ll respond to Melissa in a second, but perhaps I’m misunderstanding the meaning of them due to my ignorance on the subject.

    Cheers
    Shane

  318. Shane Fletcher

    #318
    Hi Jenna,

    “Human infants are born with the capacity for language learning, which is a particular form of learning that the brains of animals are not adapted form. It is called the Language Acquisition Device (LAD) that permits the infant to learn not just one but many languages as they are exposed to and use language(s) in their environment.”

    Yes. But the language I refer to is the internal one that an animal brain uses to label things in the real world. The language my children thought in before I taught them English, in other words. The language my 7 month old niece is thinking in right now.

    “I know of no researcher in psycholinguistics or psychology that calls language and reasoning “physical processes.” Can you point us to some peer-reviewed research studies published in scholarly journals that support your claims?”

    No. All this is just a theory in my head at this point.

    Thanks
    Shane

  319. Shane Fletcher

    #319

    Hi Melissa,

    “Your quotes around about are telling. If you don’t think our thoughts are about anything then you are denying we reason at all. Us remembering something is intentional. So you have not addressed the first point at all.”

    My quotes around “about” were to highlight the word in connection to “the aboutness problem”. It wasn’t to suggest thoughts aren’t about anything. And us remembering something is response to a stimuli, either external or internal (i.e. remembering a first memory that leads to a second).

    “Says zero about how something physical could be true or false.”

    Something that is physically real is true. Something that is not is false. An effect as a result of a physical cause is also true.

    Thanks
    Shane

  320. Melissa

    Shane,

    My quotes around “about” were to highlight the word in connection to “the aboutness problem”. It wasn’t to suggest thoughts aren’t about anything. And us remembering something is response to a stimuli, either external or internal (i.e. remembering a first memory that leads to a second).

    OK, then the question is in what way can a physical state be about something. A-M holds that no physical state points toward anything else. If a thought is physical what accounts for it pointing towards something else? Our memories are about things so “pointing us towards” them is not going to be a solution.

    Something that is physically real is true. Something that is not is false. An effect as a result of a physical cause is also true.

    If that is “true” then no thought would ever be false because it would always be physically real.

  321. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Good discussion here.

    djc,

    Let me ask you about this, please: “Materialism assumes [that ‘thought is entirely reducible to groups of neurons’] until evidence is found to disprove the theory.”

    I’d be interested to know what kind of evidence you could conceive of that could count against that theory, if it were found.

    Thanks.

  322. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    djc, you say,

    But representation always requires a physical template and physical transmission. There is nothing about reasoning that relies on something non-physical; actual matter/energy is used at all points.

    I’m not sure you have evidence to demonstrate all that. Sure, in our physical experience representation involves physical things. But basketball always involves a round ball and a round hoop; that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to basketball but roundness, or a ball and a hoop.

    Nobody disputes the need, in our physical bodies, for a physical brain and for physical things to be involved in transmission of symbols or signals. We do dispute that those factors tell the whole story, just as we all would dispute the idea that basketball requires roundness, therefore roundness is all there is to basketball.

    Just by way of reminder, too, when you say, “There is nothing about reasoning that relies on something non-physical,” you’re re-stating your conclusion. Be cautious about using it as a step in reasoning toward that conclusion; you’re liable to run in circles if you do.

  323. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Shane, I’ll have to think further about how to explain the original 4 or 5 problems more clearly.

    In the meantime, this is either false or question-begging, or both:

    Something that is physically real is true. Something that is not is false. An effect as a result of a physical cause is also true.

    That is, it’s false and/or question-begging unless you have a satisfactory answer to the following.

    Is that your definition of true? You have a clump of neurons sitting above and behind your left eyebrow. That clump is physically real. Is that clump true? I don”t see how that makes any sense. Is a rock on a mountainside true?

    And if the clump of neurons above and behind your left eyebrow is true, then why do we bother with the language of thoughts being true? If neurons are true, then thoughts are redundant language-symbols we enlightened 21st century people should feel free to eliminate. Is that right? If not, why not?

    But if thoughts still have some value after all, what is their relation to the neurons? Do they supervene on the neurons, as some say they do? Are they properties of neuronal systems, as some say? Are they epiphenomenal, as some say? Are they in some sense identical to the neuronal system and its activity, as some say? What’s your position on that?

  324. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Jenna,

    #324

    “You contend that there must be some sensory trigger for any and all thought and that all reasoning about this sensory input is dependent on this sensory input. Okay. So how do materialists account for thoughts (reasoning) of/about/toward God?”

    1. I have created a baby, I am a father.
    2. I was created by my father and he was created by his.
    3. Who was the first father?

    “How do materialists explain (away) mystical, spiritual, transcendent experiences, which must be, according to your paradigm, a response to sensory input and based on sensory input.”

    There are many chemicals which affect the way the brain processes input from its senses, many of them naturally made by your own body in response to the stimuli which create emotions, like fear, anger, happiness.

    “Doesn’t this then mean that our experiences of/with God are caused by and based on the reality of God as God is sensed/experiences through the physiology of the senses and the physiology of the brain (thought)?”

    We can very easily be wrong about what our senses are telling us.

    “What is the explanation offered by materialism or naturalism of how mind originates in matter?”

    As djc suggests, accepting that there is a natural explanation for anything is the default position until evidence is given otherwise. I am glad for the opportunity to work my way through your specific example.

    “How does a stone produce a mind capable of representing it abstractly and reasoning about its properties? Naturalism necessitates the belief (and that’s what it is) that the non-physical mind is created by physical matter and physical processes.”

    Naturalism necessitates the belief that mind is physical. A story to explain your stone question”

    The first time I come across a stone (as an infant) I have no memory of what it is, I have no word for it and I have no way to reason anything about it. But I see it, and handle it, and smell it and taste it and listen to it. I learn about its colour and weight and size and that it doesn’t have an odour, nor a taste, but maybe it makes a nice sound when I throw it hard against something.

    The second time I come across the stone, depending how much time has passed, I might not remember it, so I go through all the same processes with it. Maybe the same with the third time I come across it. But eventually I will see the stone and remember it just by looking at it. I will remember that the object that looks like that has the associated memories of smell, taste, touch and sound. Now is this reasoning or is this just remember based on an external stimuli?

    I find a different stone, which is a different colour, a different shape. I examine it and as my senses input the stimuli, there are some similarities; perhaps the taste, perhaps the sound it makes when I throw it; and that input triggers me to remember the first stone. Is that reasoning or is that just remembering due to external stimuli?

    This goes on and I find more stones which share a lot of characteristics. As my language gets more complex with the addition of adjectives, I can remember all these things and group them together under the common noun; small blue stone, sharp green stone, etc. But now when I see a stone, I can remember all the objects that I have given the name of stone. Is that reason or just remembering due to external stimuli?

    As I get older and I learn English, my dad points to one of these objects I know and he calls it a “stone”‘. After repetition I remember the auditory sound is representative of these objects I have been experiencing. Is that reason of just remembering due to external stimuli?

    Older again I learn written english. I see a picture of an object that looks like a stone. I see the written letters underneath it and I learn to write the symbols that represent ‘stone’. Is that reason or just remembering due to an external stimuli?

    Many years later, I read the word ‘stone’ on a computer screen and I have a representation in my mind of what a stone might look and feel like. It is most likely an amalgam of all of my memories of stones throughout my life. Is that reason or is that just remembering due to an external stimuli?

    This is a simple story to illustrate my thoughts on how experience becomes memory becomes reasoning. Somewhere along that story we can probably put a marker where simple remembering ends and reasoning begins. But would we all put it in the same place?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  325. Shane Fletcher

    Lots of responses here and I have to go to lunch.

    #329

    Hi Melissa,

    “OK, then the question is in what way can a physical state be about something. A-M holds that no physical state points toward anything else. If a thought is physical what accounts for it pointing towards something else? Our memories are about things so “pointing us towards” them is not going to be a solution.”

    I can feel pain in my hand when I grab something hot. The muscles in my arm contract to pull my hand away after the nerves in my body send the signals to my brain after the cells in my hand get damaged after I grab the metal spoon in the pot of boiling water. Is that not an example of a physical state pointing to something else?

    “If that is “true” then no thought would ever be false because it would always be physically real.”

    and Tom #332

    I said

    “Something that is physically real is true. Something that is not is false. An effect as a result of a physical cause is also true.”

    as an add on to my original quote of

    “I remember what is true or false. This is something I have learned and remembered. This is of course an ongoing process as I continue to learn throughout my life.”

    So my clarification post would be

    Something I can remember, that is physically real, is true. Something I can remember that is not physically real, is false. A cause/effect I can remember that can be demonstrated as physically occurring would also be true.

    Thanks
    Shane

  326. Jenna Black

    Shane,

    I don’t know if you realize that you are getting deeper into trouble with each of your responses. which are self-contradictory. You say this:

    “Something I can remember, that is physically real, is true. Something I can remember that is not physically real, is false. A cause/effect I can remember that can be demonstrated as physically occurring would also be true.”

    By this reasoning, if/when a person has a physical, sensory response to God, that means that God is real.

    Also, according to your statement, you do not believe that love can be or is true since love is more than just a response to something physical or just a physical response. An example: the psychological, emotional, spiritual pain we feel at the loss of a loved one through separation or death.

    I doubt that even naturalists/materialists will claim that it is impossible to love something that is not physical. Example: I love freedom. So if/since/when love is physical (and therefore real according to your criterion) love of God is love of something real because love is either true or false no matter what the object of that love is.

  327. Melissa

    Shane,

    I can feel pain in my hand when I grab something hot. The muscles in my arm contract to pull my hand away after the nerves in my body send the signals to my brain after the cells in my hand get damaged after I grab the metal spoon in the pot of boiling water. Is that not an example of a physical state pointing to something else?

    In what way?

    Something I can remember, that is physically real, is true. Something I can remember that is not physically real, is false. A cause/effect I can remember that can be demonstrated as physically occurring would also be true.

    I think you’ve forgotten what the question is. That is, you are trying to answer how a physical state can be true or false. Given that you are defending materialism “something you can remember” is just some particular brain state or states. Therefore your statement becomes some particular brain state or states is true if it is physically real. Now clearly some particular brain state or states are always physically real therefore we cannot, according to your definition, remember or think anything that is false.

  328. djc

    Melissa,

    We seem to be largely talking past each other. I haven’t quite figured out where the confusion is but I’ll get there.

    This has come up a few times:

    There is still the problem of the indeterminacy of the physical. The physical facts could be consistent with any number of functions and there is no way to distinguish what it is actually programmed to do.

    What are you referring to here? “Indeterminacy of the physical”. A link would be helpful.

    Second, is your view similar to Edward Feser, Thomism, etc.?

  329. Melissa

    djc,

    What are you referring to here? “Indeterminacy of the physical”. A link would be helpful.

    http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2012/01/the-irreducibility-of-intentionality.html

    and here for why invoking causation presupposes intentionality:

    http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2011/01/representation-and-causation-with-some-help-from-putnam.html

    Edited to add this from Ross: http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/courses/43151/ross-immateriality.pdf

    Second, is your view similar to Edward Feser, Thomism, etc.?

    Yes.

  330. djc

    Jenna Black,

    But you seem to be claiming that the physiological operations of the brain are equivalent to and all there is to reasoning.

    There is a brain simulation project throwing enormous computing power at simulating a brain. In some future decade, it will succeed in replicating the behavior of billions of neurons by simulating each neuron and its connections “brute force”. There’s little guesswork needed here, just massive amounts of computing power (which doubles every decade).

    Once we have this simulator running, will it go through all the steps of apparent reasoning? That is, when simulating the brain of an adult with training in logic, will the simulator appear to be reasoning soundly? I say “yes”. That is the long and the short of materialism’s theory of reason.

    What if anything is left out of a simulator correctly using reason and arguing successfully with human beings? I don’t see why we need to hypothesize anything missing. Why multiply entities if the essence of reason, the ability to convince humans, is solidly demonstrated on silicon?

    How do materialists explain (away) mystical, spiritual, transcendent
    experiences

    Briefly, the mystical, spiritual and transcendent experiences have in common the loss of self to the greater whole, the loss of the individual to the group. The ability of humans to band together into groups with one mind happens to be a very powerful force for survival especially in war. Evolutionary survival is where materialists would look for explanations for these kinds of group-beneficial traits.

    since evolution as a process requires a beginning point, an original life form that undergoes change through reproduction of itself, which naturalism cannot define or explain.

    No, theories of evolution prior to the first cell start with chemicals, not an “original life form”. Something like RNA world.

  331. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Jenna,

    “I don’t know if you realize that you are getting deeper into trouble with each of your responses. which are self-contradictory. You say this:

    Something I can remember, that is physically real, is true. Something I can remember that is not physically real, is false. A cause/effect I can remember that can be demonstrated as physically occurring would also be true.

    By this reasoning, if/when a person has a physical, sensory response to God, that means that God is real.”

    Well if God physically interacted with me, then yes I would think he is real. S/Pauls conversion occurred in this way.

    “Also, according to your statement, you do not believe that love can be or is true since love is more than just a response to something physical or just a physical response. An example: the psychological, emotional, spiritual pain we feel at the loss of a loved one through separation or death.”

    Well my comment was made in response to, and was specifically about, the physical world relating to truth. I didn’t say that was the only things that were true.

    “I doubt that even naturalists/materialists will claim that it is impossible to love something that is not physical. Example: I love freedom. So if/since/when love is physical (and therefore real according to your criterion) love of God is love of something real because love is either true or false no matter what the object of that love is.”

    I’m really not sure what you’re saying there, but you start by saying it’s possible to love something not physical. If that is the case then it’s certainly possible to love something imaginary, and loving it doesn’t make it real.

    Thanks
    Shane

  332. Shane Fletcher

    #336
    Hi Melissa,

    I can feel pain in my hand when I grab something hot. The muscles in my arm contract to pull my hand away after the nerves in my body send the signals to my brain after the cells in my hand get damaged after I grab the metal spoon in the pot of boiling water. Is that not an example of a physical state pointing to something else?

    “In what way?”

    The reactions in my body point to the fact the spoon is hot.

    “I think you’ve forgotten what the question is. That is, you are trying to answer how a physical state can be true or false. Given that you are defending materialism “something you can remember” is just some particular brain state or states. Therefore your statement becomes some particular brain state or states is true if it is physically real. Now clearly some particular brain state or states are always physically real therefore we cannot, according to your definition, remember or think anything that is false.”

    If I remember I have a$10 note in my wallet and I go to grab it to buy a coffee and it is there, then that physical state proves my memory true. If it is not there, because I forgot I spent it on milk and bread yesterday, then it proves my memory false.

    Thanks
    Shane

  333. Shane Fletcher

    #330

    Hi Tom,

    I’m going to jump in here on this excellent question to djc.

    “Let me ask you about this, please: “Materialism assumes [that ‘thought is entirely reducible to groups of neurons’] until evidence is found to disprove the theory.”

    I’d be interested to know what kind of evidence you could conceive of that could count against that theory, if it were found.”

    It seems to me that if the mind that reasoned was somehow separate to the brain that held the information there would be some kind of transceiver in the brain that shuttled the information back and forth. The brain would have to transmit to the mind so it could make it’s decisions and then receive the instructions from the mind so that it could control the body in the way it wanted to. So finding a section of the brain that specialised in that function would be decent evidence. Along those lines if there was any section of the brain that showed activity constantly would be a give away.

    I’m assuming you’re trying to suggest this immaterial place that does the reasoning is the soul that lives on after the physical body dies. However if the memories are kept in the brain, they would be lost at death. So memories must be uploaded to the soul as well so they can live on. If they are, or at least can be, immaterial as well, then there must be occasions when the brain wouldn’t have to do any of the work as the remembering and reasoning could be done in the soul. So any incidence of reasoning taking place with no brain activity, save for the transceiver section of the brain telling the body what to do, would also be some good evidence.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  334. Melissa

    Shane,

    The reactions in my body point to the fact the spoon is hot.

    If they do then natural teleology exists and materialism is false.

    If I remember I have a$10 note in my wallet and I go to grab it to buy a coffee and it is there, then that physical state proves my memory true. If it is not there, because I forgot I spent it on milk and bread yesterday, then it proves my memory false.

    Now you are confusing shown to be true with true. The thought/belief that you have $10 in your pocket was true or false before you confirmed it by checking. The question is – if that belief is just a brain state how can a brain state be true or false?

  335. Shane Fletcher

    Hi Melissa,

    The reactions in my body point to the fact the spoon is hot.

    If they do then natural teleology exists and materialism is false.”

    Because …?

    If I remember I have a$10 note in my wallet and I go to grab it to buy a coffee and it is there, then that physical state proves my memory true. If it is not there, because I forgot I spent it on milk and bread yesterday, then it proves my memory false.

    Now you are confusing shown to be true with true. The thought/belief that you have $10 in your pocket was true or false before you confirmed it by checking. The question is – if that belief is just a brain state how can a brain state be true or false?”

    Yes, the real physical state of things is the truth of those things. The brain state that reflects reality is true and the one that doesn’t is false. Whether something is true or not has little value if you can’t show that it is true. I cannot think of an example where the truth of something is important irrespective of whether you can show it to be true or not.

    I don’t understand the argument that is being made with regards to “if a brain is a physical thing it cannot know if something is true or false but an immaterial mind can”. A specific example if you have one would be great.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  336. Melissa

    Shane,

    If they do then natural teleology exists and materialism is false.”

    Because …?

    the final cause just is that which a thing is directed toward.

    The brain state that reflects reality is true and the one that doesn’t is false.

    But the question that needs to be answered is in what way can one physical state be said to reflect something else.

    I don’t understand the argument that is being made with regards to “if a brain is a physical thing it cannot know if something is true or false but an immaterial mind can”. A specific example if you have one would be great.

    I’m not sure where you’re quoting that argument from because it’s not the argument. The argument is that a physical state cannot be true or false.

  337. scblhrm

    Melissa,

    I want to say thank you for the links you just provided. Clearly there is presupposed intentionality / reasoning hovering beneath some of the physicalist’s arguments 😉

    FYI in the Scientific American essay here we see that the part (memory) becomes destructive to the whole (reasoning) the more that the other (non-memory) parts are forced out of the process. Time pressure drives out non-memory Parts of reasoning and reasoning suffers: “…..replicated this finding in a second study, finding that under no time pressure during fluid reasoning, working memory only explained about a third of the differences in reasoning performance”. As Time Pressure is removed, other non-memory parts impact reasoning.

    Overall “…..the strength of the correlation between working memory and fluid reasoning has been all over the map, making the true relationship between working memory and fluid reasoning difficult to determine.” As working memory is unloaded, and as other non-memory contributors to reasoning are allowed to play a role, reasoning improves. Raw memory is all that is left in Fast-Intelligence and as such “reasoning” becomes a matter of mere “reflex”, which leads to error in time-pressured settings. “These contradictory findings make sense in light of Chuderski’s study: when fluid reasoning tasks have strict time limits, they are essentially tests of working memory. So you would expect more of a transfer from working memory to fluid reasoning under such conditions. But when fluid reasoning tasks have more relaxed time pressures, working memory is more weakly associated with fluid reasoning, and other cognitive mechanisms come into play….”

    Correlation between memory and reasoning gets weaker as mere reflexology (fast intelligence) fades and time allows other cognitive functions to join the party. Learning entails memory, as does reasoning, and each is different than the other, and each form of learning / reasoning (Invention? Eureka?) needs other components besides memory if they are to be maximized. Raw Memory amounts to reflexology. That is when terrible events lead to time-pressured reasoning out of sheer memory and errors in what we call judgment ensue.

    It concludes with, “Working memory and fluid reasoning: same or different? It depends. Imposing extreme time pressures on an IQ test forces people to draw almost exclusively on their limited capacity working memory capacity, whereas giving people more time to think and reason gives them more of a chance to bring to the table other cognitive functions that contribute to their intellectual brilliance.”

    An interesting comment following the article was, “Unfortunately I could not access the full research report, but following computational models, suggesting that memory and instruction logic are the same thing is nonsensical. More appropriately, it should be considered here that reasoning ability/performance is functionally constrained by limitations in working memory capacity.”

    Which of course makes perfect sense: the Whole is limited by the capacity housed within the Parts. If Part A is limited, it limits the Whole. The Whole works better when all other parts are in-play.

    This leads to the same conclusion which you make, that memory is a part of, but not the whole of, reasoning. “Other cognitive functions” which work in tangent with memory are invoked for good reason in this conclusion. We find that a brain state of X, which is Memory-X, in summation, do impact reasoning, but, of course, there are other factors for, unfortunately for those who foist (blindly) the disproven notion that [Memory = Reasoning], when the pressure is on, the memory “percentage” goes up and the ability to reason, or the reasoning “percentage” goes down.

    Without evidence it is one thing to blindly foist this business of “Reasoning is Memory” but when there is reproducible evidence that other arenas are necessary then clearly the claim that Memory houses sufficiency becomes unscientific. And worse, when the percentage of memory-reliance increases, the capacity for reasoning decreases, which simply reinforces the falsity of the identity claim. Memory is not sufficient to explain reasoning. It merely shows that the Whole is constrained by its Parts.

    This is proof that the [Memory is Reasoning] identity claim is a false identity claim. It’s just too simplistic. It’s not a reasoned, scientific identity claim, and it just assumes that correlation equals identity. One can still hold onto one’s physicalism, but one will need to change definitions and mechanistic appeals. In other words, one will have to agree with you, that the Part is not the Whole. IMO this makes sense given the two phenomena of invention and of eureka, which each simply outreach such a simplistic mechanism.

    Also, in this essay here we find that there are brain states which, though full of memory and learning, are yet distinct from the self which is found observing them. Of note, the point of intention, intact throughout all of it, cannot be found to be a brain state, and in fact observes memories from some outside vantage point.

    All of this is offered only to show the logical error of insisting that the Part is the Whole, or, to show that believing, without evidence, that correlation equals identity, is an unreasoned move. One who so believes must look “at” the memory of “using memory” and then “infer” upward into the realm of the non-remembered if one hopes to see the error of one’s way here 😉

    That I should observe the stream of memories your electrical probe induces me to watch and observe my own Self and observe the new memory of this whole event and observe that there is a disconnect between intention and these other brain states is another fascinating nuance to add to the discussion, whither it may lead.

    I stand convinced that [Memory = Reasoning] is merely an unscientific, un-reasoned, false identity claim. The necessary and sufficient will be found elsewhere.

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