Evidence for God: Humanness and Personal Identity

Part of the extended series Evidence for the Faith

Are you the same person you were when you were two years old? Not entirely: you’ve changed in many ways since then. But are you the same person? I heard someone recently ask it this way: were you ever two years old? Of course you were. Whatever the differences between the you of today and the two-year-old you, there is something about you that has endured across the years, to make you the same “you” now that you were then, in spite of all that has changed in the meantime.

What is that something? What is it about you that has caused you to remain you? What is personal identity, and how does it endure?

There is a mystery here, not easily resolved by naturalistic explanations. It constitutes one thread in a line of cumulative evidences for Christian theism. It is far from the strongest thread—I would not bank my entire belief-set on it, and I’ve only dabbled in study on this—but it is a fascinating one.

Physical “You”

The ancient Greeks wondered about a ship whose parts were replaced one by one over the years until none of the original remained. At the end, was it the same ship? I prefer the farmer’s story: “I’ve had this axe my whole life. I’ve had to replace the handle a few times, and it’s needed a new axe-head every dozen years or so, but it’s been a good axe, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other.”

Are you the same “axe” you were as a baby? Most of your body is far younger than you are. Your brain cells may be the same age as you, but almost nothing else is. Or perhaps even your brain cells are younger than you are. Were you ever a fetus? If so, then you were you at the time, even without all those neurons in place. (Some of you reading may doubt that you were really “you” when you were a fetus. That is to say, you doubt that whatever-there-was-that-was-about-to-become-you was really you when whatever-was-about-to-become-you was a fetus. That’s not just clumsy English—though it is indeed that. It’s nonsensical on its face.)

Physically, you are not what you once were, yet you are still who you once were. How is that possible?

Continuity “You”

Perhaps you are the same you now as before, just because you can trace a line of physical continuity, or continuity of memories, from then until now. Physical continuity seems a weak explanation for continuing identity, however, for reasons already mentioned. Continuity of memory seems more promising; but what about the person with amnesia? When his wife finally finds him and says, “Thank goodness, you’re alive!” is she wrong to identify him as her husband? If he asks, “Who am I?” and she answers, “You’re my husband,” is she wrong? If continuity of memory is the explanation for continuity of identity, then the “you” who was her husband no longer exists; the man is a different “you” in every sense that matters. But this is nonsense. He may not realize he is that person, he may not perceive it, but undoubtedly he is.

When my sister was in a coma for three weeks, we spoke words to her like, “We love you. We’re praying for you.” Were we wrong to think that was really her? Certainly not–even though for that period there was no continuity of experience or memory to her.

Question-Begging Assumptions

But the problem is even greater than that. If I say I am the same “I” that I was at two years old—or even two years ago—because I have experienced some continuity of memory since then, all I’m saying is that there exists in my mind today a memory that I ascribe to myself through that duration. But if I say this, I’m assuming it was “I” who had those experiences, who formed and retained those memories. I’m saying that they have been “my” memories throughout this period of continuity. This is illegitimate bootstrapping. If my continuing identity really does depend on me having developed and holding those memories, but my developing and holding those memories depends on my having had a continuing identity, then we have the existence of A depending on the existence of B while the existence of B depends on the existence of A.

The Parts and the Self

There is also the puzzle of the parts and the whole. My foot hurts; that means I hurt. My stomach has been empty for a while; that means I am hungry. The foot is not the stomach, but there is a sense in which I can say “I” when I speak about both of them. The parts have an identity relationship of sorts with the self, without being identical with the self.

That may seem fairly innocuous, but not so much so when we consider the brain instead of the foot or the stomach. When patients are diagnosed with dementia they experience a paradoxical sense of relief: “It’s not me, it’s only my brain.” As I point out in that linked article, I doubt this is just a false conclusion flowing from dementia. I think it’s a valid conclusion from the premise, I am intimately related to my body, yet I am not my body.

An Argument Against Atheism

I write these thoughts based on admittedly too little research. This is not (I repeat) my strongest argument for Christian theism.

Still I think there is something more to it than a mere mental puzzle. I am convinced I was once a younger man, and that the person I am now is, in essence, the same person I was then, even though in many properties and characteristics I am different. It seems to me that only one thing makes this possible, and it’s wrapped up in that important word “essence.” There is something that is essentially me, inherently me, enduringly me, despite all that has changed about me over the decades of my life.

I cannot imagine anything in philosophical naturalism—the view that reality is nothing but matter and energy interacting in space and time according to necessity and (perhaps) chance—that would supply that inherent, enduring, essential me-ness. So while this is not the greatest argument for Christian theism, I think it has force against naturalistic atheism.

Personal Identity: The Question

Am I wrong? In my admittedly brief readings on this topic, have I missed some satisfactory naturalistic explanation for human identity? Or is this a real problem for naturalism, as I think it is? I’m open for your input.

(P.S. for those who are wondering: yes, I am finally picking up this series again.)

Comments

  1. John Moore

    It might be helpful to compare the human self with a chess game. During the game, various physical pieces move, but it’s still the same game, right?

    A chess game isn’t just the physical board and pieces in some static position, but a chess game is a progression of physical things, a logical sequence from start to finish.

    When you’re born, that’s like the start of the chess game, and when the game ends, that’s like your death. Your life is everything in between. Your self is your whole life, and your body parts are just pieces on the chessboard of your life.

  2. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    A chess game is only the same game from start to finish if there are persons playing it who are the same persons from start to finish, whose conscious, intentional, teleological attitudes toward it and actions upon it cause it to be one game from start to finish.

    Your analogy assumes continuity of human identity. It does not explain how it could be possible on naturalism, but rather tends to support a more theistic answer.

  3. John Moore

    What if the chess pieces just move according to the laws of physics? There aren’t any players, but the pieces just move mechanistically according to physical laws. The physical laws give the system continuity.

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    Tom Gilson

    In other words, you went from comparing our lives to a game (in your first comment) to discussing the continuity of the parts (in your second comment). Which analogy do you really mean? The two of them could hardly be more different than they are.

  6. John Moore

    Why isn’t it a game? You can see the two sides competing, and one of them might eventually defeat the other. That could be a game.

    It’s like evolution, in which different individuals compete, and natural selection causes some to win and others to lose. If this isn’t like a game, then what definition of “game” are you using?

    What’s identity? If the self is your identity, then that’s the very thing we’re trying to nail down here.

  7. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    No, John, if it’s just the rules of physics moving the pieces, with no intention behind what happens, then there is no competition, there is no test, there is no victory, and there is no defeat. That could not be a game. It could be a series of events in some physical reality (setting aside the absolute disconnection between physical law and a knight’s, bishop’s, rook’s, or pawn’s moves!), but it could not be a game in the sense that it is some event that has an identity of its own. It would merely be a series of particulars among particulars, events among events.

    Let me clarify if I may. If it’s just physics pushing pieces around, then the “game” could just as easily be defined by which set of pieces gets put in place first, or which ones are put back in the box more neatly, or which side is first to advance its white bishop to the final rank on the board. Why say that the game is over when the king is in check, and has no legal moves to make? Why not say it’s over when the the player playing the white pieces has removed his king from the board, or when the board has been put back in the box? Or, why not even suppose that there are two games going on at once, one a race to advance the white bishop to the final rank, and another a challenge to see which side can wipe the most dust off the squares?

    Only a conscious observer with a continuing personal identity observing it from beginning to end could identify this game as what it is, and as having some identity (a “game” rather than a mere series of particular events). So your analogy still commits the flaw of using A (the game’s enduring identity) to help explain B (the enduring identity of a human self), forgetting that A cannot even exist without presupposing B. Or, A helps us understand how B is possible, as long as we assume that B is possible so we can understand how A is possible.

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    Tom Gilson

    What’s identity? If the self is your identity, then that’s the very thing we’re trying to nail down here.

    I take it that identity is the essential sameness of the self from time A to time B, to the (considerable) extent that the self is the same self at both times.

  9. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Going back to your first comment, by the way:

    Your self is your whole life, and your body parts are just pieces on the chessboard of your life.

    I’m confused. Are we talking about my self, my life, being the pieces or the chessboard? If it’s just the pieces, where does the chessboard come in? If it’s the chessboard, what explains the continuity of this chessboard, and its mysterious rule over what the pieces do?

    I guess the bottom line goes like this, John: this analogy isn’t going to get you anywhere. I suggest you back up and rethink your position from the beginning.

  10. John Moore

    Well, the analogy was supposed to help you get somewhere, but if you don’t want it, that’s fine. I’m not adamant about any of this.

    Suppose that intention is a physical thing, due to the forces of nature. Intentionality is like water flowing downhill. It’s that kind of compulsion where things tend to flow.

    Thus, we are interested in this game of life because of the raw physical circumstances in which we exist, because we evolved that way. We are compelled by physical forces to go through this game of life the way we do.

    You’re right that some disinterested observer could define the game anyway he liked, but we define the game as a life-or-death kind of thing, because that’s what we’re interested in. And again, we’re interested because of the flow of physical circumstances.

  11. John Moore

    It’s like the eternal question about whether God exists. Theists say there must be a player, but atheists say the game plays itself.

    Theists say the game without players has no meaning, but atheists say the only meaning is within the game itself.

    See, you can use this analogy to argue against atheists, if you want. You can ask the atheist if he really believes the game has no players. Does the thing just play itself?? I wonder what the atheist would say.

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    Tom Gilson

    John, you keep missing it. Now you’re responding on the matter of who’s playing the game. I keep telling you, and I will emphasize it this time, THERE IS NO CHESS GAME THERE on your theory.

    This is a post about identity, and you have said that the game is analogous to personal identity. But with only physics to push the pieces around, there is nothing there that can be identified as (has the identity of ) the game. That was the whole point of my last comment.

    Now you’re saying your analogy can be used in another dispute between theists and atheists. I’d rather keep this conversation focused on this topic, however–even if your analogy had some validity, which it does not, since there’s no game there (on your theory).

    I still recommend you drop the analogy and re-think things from the start.

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    Tom Gilson

    By the way, if there were the slightest reason to suppose that intentionality was a physical thing, I would be at least a little bit more willing to suppose that along with you. As it is, though, there’s nothing there but an empty supposition. It’s almost (not quite, but almost) like saying, “Suppose everything were a physical thing. Wouldn’t that support my theory that everything is a physical thing?”

  14. TFBW

    The argument from personal identity is, perhaps, one of the reasons that atheists like Sam Harris embrace a kind of Buddhism which specifically denies that there is any “self”. As with the argument from consciousness, the general counter-argument (if one can call it that) can be summarised in one word: denial. Any semblance of contrary evidence is summarily dismissed as “illusion”. Sam Harris also uses meditation to back up his claim, as there are meditative states in which the “self” seems to disappear. Other than the fact that they support his preferred belief, it’s not clear why Harris thinks that these special states are more veridical than everything else we experience. He calls his meditative activity “scrutiny”; I’m inclined to think of it as an abnormal brain state of questionable reliability.

  15. scblhrm

    Tom,

    Look at children. As a parent, looking across the whole show, from there inside of perspective across the stuff of Time, do you see the line of continuity in the particular person that is child A or B or C – and so on.

    Well of course.

    The line is not in question.

    The essence of that line is.

  16. scblhrm

    In a way it all brings us to that particular location, to the I-Exist which all of us little i-am’s unmistakably voice. Who am I? I am i-am and so on ever outward. The first-person actuality/reality always does land one step ahead of every third person utterance. The burden of proof that such is delusion – that the unrelenting and annoying step of separation amidst i-am and it-moves houses the stuff of delusion – lands not on the theist, but on the philosophical naturalist, and it is a burden which they will always attempt to meet, and which they will always fail to achieve. No this-moves has what it takes – houses the actual content – necessary to assume the location of the self-evident there inside of the first-person, there in that which is the Self. It always breaks down into a troubling loss of meaning, into that vexing loss of c-o-n-t-e-n-t, into that inescapable loss of what it is one is actually speaking of. It’s pesky. Undeniable. Brute. Always present. Never absent. But deny it they must as the location where such vectors bring us is that which they will not have, no matter the cost. The philosophical naturalist stands ever ready to pay Absurdity his full asking price, evidence playing second fiddle to conclusion. Idealism and every bit of its various regressions can only – in the end – land in that peculiar, in that volitional, in that uncaused I AM. Without question TFBW makes a good point there in the shared property of Atheist’s denial of perception itself should it mean freedom from His Shadow and Buddhism’s annihilation of all that is the Self (and if we follow Buddhism outward, all that is love suffers the same fate) and while the emotional pain of seeing genuine evil led Gautama (who became the Buddha) into his overt denial of reality, those sightlines stood ready to offer him Truth inside of those lines amid good / evil, amid the lovely and the unlovely. Unfortunately his escapism necessitated what end in the end could only be less sight, more darkness, more of the very thing he sought to escape. The mysticism of Harris is interesting. And inevitable. He must so motion. Else God. His a priori commitments lead him as all his observational science of brutally repeatable reality evaporates as he embraces the fog of i-do-not-[really]-exist.

  17. JAD

    What is it with these weak arguments from analogy that are being used by John and some of the other atheist interlocutors on other threads? I read it as a sign of desperation. It goes like this:You don’t have a good argument so you just start throwing anything that you think will stick, like mud against a brick wall. (I know, that is an analogy, but it’s a good one.)

    I feel insulted. Does John Moore really think Christians are that stupid? Does he believe that because he is an atheist that that automatically makes him more reasonable? Am I to be aw struck by the pure profundity of his arguments?

    Just a little advice to the atheist: Think! Save us our time and save yourself from embarrasment. Sometimes it’s just better to say nothing at all.

  18. Ray Ingles

    Tom, you already know how I’d respond to this, since we talked about it before.

    If people are regarded as dynamic patterns, as processes, things their material components do, much of the confusion evaporates. A waterfall is composed of different water molecules every second, and yet there’s a process there that continues.

    Continuity of memory seems more promising; but what about the person with amnesia?

    Memory is one aspect of the process that is a human being; a very important part, but it can be damaged and the process still recognized, just like a collapse in a cliff wall can alter but not eradicate a waterfall.

    But then there’s the counterargument – cases of complete destruction. The end stages of Alzheimer’s, for example. I’ve seen that, and I’m sorry but I can’t categorize what’s left as the person in any real sense of the term. The “process” model accounts for that all too well, though.

  19. scblhrm

    Ray,

    Theism accounts for the stuff of death far more robustly than all your false identity claims and equivocations EVER will. AND the stuff of life……. We’ve all seen it Ray – the content you equivocate and confabulate about is an insult to a life’s true content – as all your ends of regress must – in the end – be.

  20. JAD

    I think the best argument for our continuing sense of personal identity is to conceive of it as a properly basic belief. IOW it is a belief that is “hardwired” into us. Whether it was hardwired into us by a personal Creator or “mindless evolution” is not really crucial at this point. The fact is that most humans believe that there awareness of themselves as has having a persisting sense of identity is not an illusion. It’s real. The burden of proof then rests with those who take the opposite point of view. Why should I doubt that I am me? Why should I doubt that I have been me as long as I remember and that I will continue to be me as long as I live?

  21. scblhrm

    We’ve all seen the brutality of death. Our beloved there in the middle of it all.

    The emotional pain there has the power to move us to rage, to anger, to make conclusions which – in the middle of that darkness – the stuff of reason just could not care less about. We saw it in Gautama. If the necessary c-o-n-t-e-n-t that just is the beloved could in fact be delivered to us on a plate of an engineered molecular diagram void of 1) False Identity Claims and void of 2) Equivocation and void of 3) Confabulation there amid the stuff of i-am and the stuff of it-moves, if we actually had a regress which philosophical naturalism could contain without subtle intellectual hedging, then the stuff that is the Self there amidst the stuff that is the Beloved/Other would have a fighting chance to stick there inside of the Naturalist’s regressions. Indeed if such evidence could be brought to the table then all the emotional pain which – in part – moves one to hold onto such a view of all that is self, of all that is other, of all that is singularity’s us there within unity’s embrace would likewise have a fighting chance. But there is no such evidence, and in fact every time we dive in it is brutally repeatable in the opposite direction.

    Reality is brutally repeatable and the stuff there inside of science grants us the power, the intellectual and even the moral right to inform the philosophical naturalist, the atheist, that he’d better have a damn good reason to insult and degrade the beloved with what he is telling us about the beloved. God and all the evidence at hand declare very, very different ends within a life and that God means nothing to the atheist is a given, but that evidence means nothing to him here inside of this arena is quite disturbing given the price he is asking. Such a price demands a heavy dose of evidence. If philosophical naturalism means to declare such insults against the beloved, against all that is the beloved in the whole wide world, then that paradigm better bring, with evidence, the actuality – the content – of all that is the first person actuality of all of us little i-am’s and it better get busy presenting it void of 1, 2, and 3 above.

    Gautama saw the brutality that is evil for what was apparently the first time in his life. He did as Harris is doing. As many of us do in the middle of that dark hour. “It can’t be”. And therefore – Gautama reasons – it is not. Enter the stuff of illusion. That is fine if one has evidence. But there is no evidence that evil does not exist. There is no evidence that i-am is non-entity. There is no evidence that the beloved is but the content of a con.

    The physicalist’s engineering, all the power point slides, just never show us any loss of any some-thing which our beloved ever knew, ever lived, ever encountered. Not once. Ever. We stare with blank stares at his power point presentation of particle in motion and nothing there houses the content of what just was the beloved. Such just is the case past tense exactly because such just is the case present tense. C-o-n-t-e-n-t evades particle in motion. Perceived experience evades particle in motion. Relation evades – necessarily – Identity. (Beware of false identity claims there) Mind evades – necessarily – Brain. Our beloved evades – necessarily – body. Even further is JAD’s mention of another line of critical mass: The properly basic belief that I exist evades – necessarily – philosophical naturalism, and mereological nihilism, and ontological pluralism. The I-AM grounds the whole show. Timelessness. Immaterial. The I-AM. It’s all there in Scripture’s metaphysics.

  22. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Ray, can your identity, your you-ness, really be accounted for in terms of a dynamic pattern, a process, something your parts do? Is that what/who you are? Really?

    What’s it like for you, denying that you are who you are as a person, and trying to believe that who you are is something your parts do instead?

  23. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    As for Alzheimer’s, if your father was in his last stages would you say, “The organism that displays continuity of process with the organism that was once my father is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s”? Or would you say, “My father has Alzheimer’s”?

    On a materialist view, of course, there’s not much difference.

    In the one case, your father is an organism that can be completely accounted for by the material processes within him and his environment. In the other case, the organism is an organism that can be completely accounted for by the material processes within him and his environment.

    In the one case, your father has no free will. In the other case, the organism has no free will.

    In the one case (on many materialists’ view of it), your father has an illusion of consciousness, including consciousness of memories. In the other case your father has no illusion of consciousness or memories.

    In the one case, your father’s identity is wrapped up in a continuity of processes. In the other case the organism’s identity is wrapped up in a continuity of processes.

    So maybe your view isn’t quite what you think it is.

  24. Ray Ingles

    Tom – My wife can take flour, eggs, sugar, etc. and produce a delicious work of art. I can take the exact same stuff and produce a burned inedible mess. Yes, arrangement and process matters a great deal.

    “I don’t have less respect for people because they are, at root, ‘physical processes’; I just have more respect for what physical processes are capable of.” Recognize that?

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  26. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    As for Alzheimer’s, if your father was in his last stages

    …I would say, “that’s not my father anymore”. For pretty much the same reasons as I would if he were dead.

    In the one case, your father has no free will. In the other case, the organism has no free will.

    Separate argument. See: “compatibilism”, take a look at Daniel Dennett’s “Elbow Room”.

    In the one case (on many materialists’ view of it), your father has an illusion of consciousness

    Again, separate argument. And as you acknowledge not all materialists agree that consciousness is illusory.

  27. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    I know about compatibilism. Say what you want to say about it, okay? It’s not a separate argument, by the way. It’s

    “If he were dead.” What does that even mean? Didn’t you mean, “If the former he were dead”?

    And if you would say that’s not your father anymore, does that mean you tie identity completely to memory processes? What about everything else you seem to have tied it to in previous comments?

  28. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    “If he were dead.” What does that even mean?

    When his body ceases metabolizing and the complex biological processes that stave off entropy cease, and he starts decaying irrevocably? If I’m not allowed to use common English phrasing, this discussion is going to get a lot more difficult…

    And if you would say that’s not your father anymore, does that mean you tie identity completely to memory processes? What about everything else you seem to have tied it to in previous comments?

    A whole lot more than memory stops when people die! Of course it’s tied to everything else! Their awareness, feelings, intellect, perspective, and more all cease.

    Did you think Alzheimer’s only damages memory? I’m afraid its extent is rather greater than that, especially in the later stages.

  29. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Ray, read what I wrote, okay? If you’re going to complain about not being able to use normal English usage, then do yourself a favor and read what’s being said to you in normal English.

    Don’t be a jerk, in other words.

    And no, I don’t think Alzheimer’s only damages memory, but I suspect that’s what you mean by the ending of your father’s identity. Or would you say that a person with end-stage cancer, his body ravaged by metastasizing disease, who also gets badly burned and injured in a car accident, yet retains his cognitive faculties, is no longer the same person he was?

  30. G. Rodrigues

    @Tom Gilson:

    Continuity of memory seems more promising; but what about the person with amnesia?

    If physical continuity does not work, this cannot work either for naturalists that identify memory with physical states.

    Another random comment: your objection in “Question-Begging Assumptions” is a standard one. It can be put in a different way as follows. To remember, say remember doing X, is to remember *myself* doing X. But then it is uninformative to say that I remember myself doing X, for genuinely remembering *myself* doing X already presupposes that *I* was the one doing X.

  31. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    Don’t be a jerk, in other words.

    I’m not. I honestly didn’t think I was in any way unclear when I used the word “dead”.

    And no, I don’t think Alzheimer’s only damages memory, but I suspect that’s what you mean by the ending of your father’s identity.

    Thing is, I already denied that. As I said, “Memory is one aspect of the process that is a human being” – which obviously means it’s not the only part. I listed others since – “awareness, feelings, intellect, perspective”. Even a person with amnesia may retain a penchant for puns, an optimistic bent, a sharp eye for inconsistency, an impulse for generosity, etc. Humans are dynamic, not static, processes!

    With respect to cancer, that’s different. The brain seems to be where all the above processes happen. If your wife got a heart or kidney transplant, or an artificial limb, I presume you’d still think it was her.

    Would you still think so if she got a brain transplant?

    So long as a cancer patient’s brain is still capable of carrying out the processes of consciousness and cognition that characterize humans, then sure, they’re alive and it’s still them. Pith out the brain and destroy it… then even if you keep the body functioning, they’re dead.

  32. scblhrm

    Twenty five year olds with amnesia house all that is their personhood – ever retained in the Now – the Past being inaccessible in terms of memory – not in terms of personhood’s ties to what made the Past. Memory is a part of us – it is not the i-am.

    Yet another false identity claim of Ray. Like mind and brain.

    Ever one step of separation.

  33. Post
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    Tom Gilson

    Ray, you weren’t being a jerk when you used the word “dead.” You were being rather a jerk when you acted as if that was the word that was in focus. Let me repeat:

    “If he were dead.” What does that even mean? Didn’t you mean, “If the former he were dead”?

    The word in focus is the identity word, the word that connects to the whole topic of conversation, the word that I referred to when I asked what you really meant: “he.”

    But you ignored the obvious and chided me for not using the standard understanding of “dead,” not just once but twice.

    Get a life.

  34. scblhrm

    Ray,

    G. Rodrigues made this astute observation of your “means” in another thread and here it reveals (for this thread) an end for which you lack the means – for all the same reasons:

    “Then you go on to make an analogy with physical theories like Newtonean classical mechanics. The problem with the response is that it is demonstrably true that Newton’s equations of motion have solutions, that the solution set forms a sheaf, etc. *Because* the equations do have a solution, we can meaningfully speak of approximations, perturbations, restricted problems, etc. But what does it mean to say that there is a “best solution” when by hypothesis there is *no solution* at all? How can we speak of “good enough” when there is no “good” for there to be enough of, or an approximation to? If per impossible it were found that Newton’s equations had no solutions, the obvious tack would be to drop them as a true description of the world, apparently you think differently. Either way, to say “but… Engineering!” just makes the point for me.”

    That was comment #334 and still no non-arbitrary ought which transcends arbitrary – shifting – taste buds.

    Here now you will spend another 334 comments giving formulas that have no – yield no – solution/ends in the actual I-am we all “know”. No “it-moves” you offer will suffice for the i-am.

    Tom: I meant this for here as naturalism denies the very end (solution) under discussion.

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    Tom Gilson

    Even a person with amnesia may retain a penchant for puns, an optimistic bent, a sharp eye for inconsistency, an impulse for generosity, etc. Humans are dynamic, not static, processes!

    So long as a cancer patient’s brain is still capable of carrying out the processes of consciousness and cognition that characterize humans, then sure, they’re alive and it’s still them. Pith out the brain and destroy it… then even if you keep the body functioning, they’re dead.

    Is the person with amnesia the same self as he or she was before the trauma? How? What is the dynamic process that determines that continuity of identity? What is it about consciousness and cognition that makes identity to be identity? I don’t see why, in principle, you define identity that way. I think your “it’s still them” is arbitrary. What is the “them” that is still the same?

  37. Ray Ingles

    Tom –

    The word in focus is the identity word… “If he were dead.” What does that even mean? Didn’t you mean, “If the former he were dead”?

    I can’t even parse that question, “Didn’t you mean, “If the former he were dead”?

    If you want to ask, “What do you mean by ‘he’?” then why not ask it? I’m sorry I couldn’t puzzle out what you meant, but I admit I don’t feel that guilty.

    Is the person with amnesia the same self as he or she was before the trauma?

    Sure… damaged, but still there. I pointed out all the other aspects still present. (And don’t ask me for sharp dividing lines as to when the damage gets to be ‘too much’. There isn’t a sharp line between ‘day’ and ‘night’ – picking a nanosecond somewhere in the midst of twilight is not really going to work. But they are different states, even if the boundary between them can be fuzzy.)

    What is it about consciousness and cognition that makes identity to be identity?

    What else would it be? Consciousness is the difference between a subject and an object, cognition and feeling and perception what humans do. What’s your alternative?

  38. scblhrm

    Tom,

    I edited the end of #35 to reply to your #36 as I had edit time remaining ~~~ we’re in for an array of third person approximations ever coming up short of – one step of separation away from – the first person actuality.

  39. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    My alternative is the soul, the substantial self, the self that is more than body and more than brain, the person created in God’s image whose identity is known to God always, as well as to self in normal circumstances.

    There’s a whole world of ontology there that’s probably quite foreign to you. It must be–otherwise you wouldn’t have asked the incredulous question, “What else would it be?”

    My position is this: there is something else it could be, so “What else would it be?” is a fatally weak answer to the question you were trying to answer. You need to answer positively, not by way of elimination, because elimination still leaves you with the distinct possibility that you are wrong.

  40. Ray Ingles

    Tom Gilson – Let me explain the “way of elimination” I’m coming from.

    What’s left for the soul to do, once the brain is eliminated? The soul’s still supposed to be there, in brain death, in brains ravaged by plaques. Again, I can’t see anything left of the person once the brain’s been wrecked to that level, nothing left of what was loved.

    Take a look at things like the writings of Oliver Sacks. Damage to the brain damages consciousness and selfhood, and in fundamental ways. I can’t see a capacity it doesn’t impact.

    What’s left when the brain’s gone, and how do you know?

  41. scblhrm

    Ray,

    My capacities are – still – not me.

    I am. I exist.

    “I”.

    Hard Stop.

    All the rest – everything else – is “I have”.

    You’ve not even come close to the location of i-am.

    God’s simplicity will not wholly be mirrored in man on pain of necessary contingency in the created order.

    The contingency you seek you won’t find, however. Even with 334 “close enoughs”.

    You keep taking what I have – capacities – even life here in Time. Yet you fail to get to the (timeless) location which precedes those locations. The I. The first person ever one step removed.

  42. Hal Friederichs

    Tom,

    Is it your claim that no physical object can ever be said to maintain its identity because it changes over time?

  43. scblhrm

    Capacities come and go. Knowledge of Good, of Evil, comes and goes. Forgive – for they know not. Sin fails to end the regression – the sinner yet one step farther. Nature selects the strong – God the frail. Nature damns the mentally retarded, the Alzheimer’s patient as unworthy of Personhood. God there embraces – His love atop their still intact Person one step farther.

    Person ever out reaches Naturalism.

    This whole thread is yet one more testimony of the intellectual and ontological coherence of Scripture’s metaphysical regress in which Genesis’ innate worth and innate equality amid all Persons logically follows through and reaches beyond all fragmentation, all sins, all circumstances, and finds the Whores and Virgins, the Bastards and Bankers, the Priests and Prisoners – Neonate and Fetus, Crack-laden Teen and Demented Elderly, Free and Slave, Male and Female, Gentile and Jew – ad infinitum – as Being’s more precious than this/that “trait/capacity”. Naturalism has no such ontological REACH and we see in this thread all its arbitrary – pitiless – selectively discriminatory contours which it MUST honor on pain of circularity’s death.

    When Scripture tells us God chooses the weak it speaks not of our sense of that word but to something which Man in isolation, privation, void of God, can neither find nor claim.

  44. Brap Gronk

    Tom, do you have an answer for the question Ray posed in #32? Specifically, given that you would consider your wife to still be your wife if she got a heart transplant, would you consider her to be the same person if she got a brain transplant?

  45. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    If?

    We don’t know enough about what the result would be in that case, or whether it’s even possible in any future world, so no, I do not have an answer.

  46. G. Rodrigues

    @Brap Gonk:

    Specifically, given that you would consider your wife to still be your wife if she got a heart transplant, would you consider her to be the same person if she got a brain transplant?

    You seem to be making the same mistake as Ray Ingles (see below); either way, this type of scenarios is disastrous for the *materialist* — e.g. see P. van Inwagen’s Materialism and the Psychological-Continuity Account of Personal Identity (not for the faint of heart).

    @Ray Ingles:

    What’s left when the brain’s gone, and how do you know?

    You are confused; Tom is not asking about qualitative identity but numerical identity, neither is the question an epistemological one.

    @Tom Gilson:

    I do not think you are going to get much tracking from this; identity is a notorious vexing problem, personal identity is even more vexing, and especially vexing for materialists, but the reasons strike me more as symptoms of something else.

  47. SteveK

    I think the brain transplant scenario is no different than the conception to baby scenario. If you are the same person from conception to day 2 and from day 2 to week 38 then I suppose you would be the same person with a different brain in the transplant scenario.

    If you think that’s an unjustified statement then maybe putting it in less personal terms will help make it more clear.

    I think we’d all agree agree that it’s the same human being in each of those scenarios – yes? If I’m correct about that then this being-ness remains intact across different physical forms and stages of development. That being-ness is the “I”.

    Am I wrong?

  48. BillT

    I don’t think it’s an either/or. We are physical/spiritual beings. In life, you don’t get one without the other. They are intertwined enough that major changes in one effects the other, in some and differing senses, as it seems the evidence points to. And brain transplants?!?! Come on, Mary Shelly would be proud.

  49. scblhrm

    Bill T is right. While God’s simplicity will not be (fully) mirrored in Man, on necessary contingency, there is that end of regress the Materialist is searching for in Being, in I-Am, which he will never find inside of contingency. As Bill T noted, we don’t get “all one” nor “all the other”. There are areas of contingency yet therein Materialism just cannot reach to the first person – ever. Genome if crossed yields a child – and if we mix/match various physical lines with various lines of Being we will get, not all of A, nor all of B, but some mixing of impacts. That is from A to Z. God made us out of dirt, and of Being’s essence as well. Contingent lines of dirt impact each other. Theism has no problem with any of that in its regressions. Give me your hyperactive thyroid and I’ll feel darn hot. There are all the lines of I-Have and there are all the lines of I-AM. Genome, Brain, Thyroid, and so on to the bitter ends of the First Person, to the bitter ends of all Third Person descriptives, changes non of any of that. “IF” on the brain transplant remains to be seen. Until then, there is no data. We’ll be wide open to all new data there amid timelessness and time. The materialist will yet, even amid all new data, be awash in oceans for which he is unfit.

  50. G. Rodrigues

    @SteveK:

    If I’m correct about that then this being-ness remains intact across different physical forms and stages of development.

    This just is the standard description of change; at a minimum there is a subject that changes and at the same time persists through the change; we can make sense of diachronic identity and sentences like “X at t_1 is numerically identical to Y at t_2” are not only meaningful, but can express objectively true propositions.

    But then there is a different kind of change, substantial change, in which the subject does *not* persist. Obvious examples are death (for the materialist; leave aside the Christian retelling for now) or (a stock Scholastic example) the ingestion of food — we persist, but the food does not.

    So the difference is that there are some changes the subject can undergo and persist through and some that the subject cannot, the difference between accidental change on the one hand and substantial, or essential, change on the other. And the word “essential” already hints at the problem: there is no room for essences in naturalism, as there is no room for persons and selves (note: I am not arguing this here; I am just trying to explain why I think the problem of personal identity is symptomatic not essential). Essences, persons, etc. are just artifacts of our linguistic practices and classification schemes. Naturalism does not so much as have a problem with personal identity, but more that there are no persons or selves in naturalism for there to be a problem of identity to begin with.

    As for the brain transplant scenario, it is a red herring; a substance dualist (the non-materialist case easier to explain) does not tie the identity conditions of a person with the physical brain, but with the soul. Substantial dualists can have a problem of identifying if the person travels with the brain or stays with the body, or even if it survives at all, in the sense of being separated from the body, but he has no *identity problem*. And this is the important distinction to bear in mind: to have an *epistemological* problem on the personal identity question is bad but bearable, as there are all sorts of questions we do not have the means to answer. But what the scenarios purport to show is that there is no *fact of the matter* about personal identity, and *that* is un-bearable — for example, you can throw out the window moral accountability (“Me? Committed murder? But judge it was *not* me who did that. I admit that it was a similar fellow, with the same fingerprints and all, but it was not me. Here let me show…”).

  51. SteveK

    As for the brain transplant scenario, it is a red herring; a substance dualist (the non-materialist case easier to explain) does not tie the identity conditions of a person with the physical brain, but with the soul.

    This same thought occurred to me after I left my comment.

  52. Hal Friederichs

    G. Rodrigues:
    Essences, persons, etc. are just artifacts of our linguistic practices and classification schemes. Naturalism does not so much as have a problem with personal identity, but more that there are no persons or selves in naturalism for there to be a problem of identity to begin with.

    I don’t see how super-naturalists can escape language use anymore than naturalists can.
    We all agree that humans are persons. Ascribing personhood or personal identity to some sort of spiritual substance does not make it any more real than the naturalist’s ascription to a physical being.

  53. Ray Ingles

    SteveK –

    We don’t know enough about what the result would be in that case, or whether it’s even possible in any future world

    Given the progress with regenerating nerves lately, I think it might not be too many more decades before the experiment could be run. Regardless, I think we do know enough about neurology to have some fairly strong expectations…

    SteveK –

    I think the brain transplant scenario is no different than the conception to baby scenario.

    Ah, but there’s a lot of differences. For one thing, certain ‘experiments’ happen already.

    Zygotes can split up to two weeks after fertilization, leading to identical twins or triplets, or even quadruplets. Let’s keep things “simple” and consider just identical twins. Which twin has the soul? Or does each have half a soul? Or does God ‘supplement the soul supply’ in such cases with an extra? If so, when? At the moment of splitting? Or does it happen earlier – does God, at conception, infuse an extra soul in a zygote that It ‘knows’ will split later? Is there an objective way to detect zygotes that have an extra soul waiting for the split? Or if the extra soul comes later, is there an objective way to tell which twin had the original and which one got the ‘bonus soul’? Or are souls, in fact, divisible?

    Then there’s the case of ‘chimeras‘. Sometimes two eggs get fertilized at the same time. If both manage to implant, you get fraternal twins. But (very rarely) sometimes those developing zygotes fuse, and give rise to a person that is composed of two different cell lines. This has resulted in puzzling cases where a child appears not to be genetically related to the mother that conceived and gave birth to them! Consider, if both zygotes got souls at the moment of conception, does a chimera have two souls? Or did one of them ‘die’ and the other one kept on living? (Which one? Did the one that died get a ‘free pass’ to heaven?) Or can souls ‘merge’?

  54. Ray Ingles

    G. Rodrigues –

    But what the scenarios purport to show is that there is no *fact of the matter* about personal identity

    No, I think the scenarios illustrate that the ‘process’ model handles such cases better than a ‘substance’ model.

  55. scblhrm

    Ray,

    We already have identical twins. And we already have genetically rare folks.

    Nothing new here in being’s [i-have] amid being’s [i-am].

    God’s simplicity won’t be in the former. It will be in the latter. Scripture predicts such. Data affirms such.

  56. Mr B

    Tom: ‘I am convinced I was once a younger man, and that the person I am now is, in essence, the same person I was then, even though in many properties and characteristics I am different.’

    You are no doubt familiar with the probably apocryphal story of the foreign gentleman who travelled to England, and while there said he would like to visit Oxford University.

    Arrangements were made and the visitor was duly shown around some of the buildings and met the vice-chancellor and some of the staff and students. At the end of the visit the foreign gentleman thanked his hosts for their hospitality, but wanted to know whether they could now visit Oxford University.

    I feel the seekers after essences are in the same position as our foreign gentleman, assuming that ‘Oxford University’ must refer to some specific entity, a central campus perhaps, rather than the existing federation of a number of independent colleges.

    The university does have a central governing body, but it is not defined by that body. And yet the entity has persisted for hundreds of years despite its lack of an essential, unchanging feature. And most people have no trouble understanding the term ‘Oxford University’ and its many resonant associations.

  57. JAD

    Mr. B to Tom,

    You are no doubt familiar with the probably apocryphal story of the foreign gentleman who travelled to England, and while there said he would like to visit Oxford University…

    Another irrelevant analogy… I’m wondering, are people who think this way actually human? Or are they experimental Watson like AI routines which actually do lack any real sense of self? At least that would make sense of whatever they are trying to say. They certainly don’t come any where close to describing my conscious experience of my self. Zombies just don’t have those kinds of experiences.

    Maybe we should back up here and ask everyone, do you have a sense of self or person-hood? IOW are you self aware or self conscious? What do you mean when you describe yourself that way? Do you believe you were the same person five minutes ago that you are right now?

  58. SteveK

    JAD,
    Those are good questions because they help propel us toward the answer from a common-sense perspective. But you have to remember that we are dealing with skeptics who are skeptical of their own first-person knowledge and awareness – but only when it suits them.

    Take Ray for example, in #54. He has no clue who Ray is and if Ray is the same Ray he was at birth because he can’t answer the 74 questions in that comment. Must. Remain. Skeptical.

  59. Hal Friederichs

    I am self-conscious, that is I am aware that I am conscious. I also remember some of my past history. I am aware that there are many things in my life that I have forgotten.

    I fail to see why that should entail that my self is in reality some sort of ethereal soul that can exist without my body.

  60. SteveK

    I fail to see why that should entail that my self is in reality some sort of ethereal soul that can exist without my body.

    The philosophical concept of identity (A=A) is a good place to start in my opinion. If what you know to be true about the self is not true about your [insert body part or entire body] then the two are different things.

  61. Hal Friederichs

    Steve,

    That is an interesting point but I doubt that we would agree on what “A” is in this situation.

    I have a body and I have a mind. In other words there are many mental and physical properties that can be attributed to me. Those properties are different. They are also a part of myself, of who I am. But there is no self that exists apart from them as far as I can see.

  62. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Hal, if you fail to see how the evidence at the very beginning of the argument leads to the conclusion at the end of it, I suggest you follow the steps in between and try to find out.

  63. SteveK

    Hal,
    If you’re interested I heard a simple and easy to follow talk on the soul at STR.org. Yes it’s a Christian radio program, but the basic philosophical explanation is easy to follow and includes some of the problems with certain views. If you’re short on time, I think at or near the 1hr 30min mark would be a good place to start.

  64. Hal Friederichs

    Tom,

    If I understand what you wrote above I believe we both agree that we are spatio-temporal continuants. In other words, if one had the knowledge he could write a complete history of our existence on this earth from the moment of our conceptions to the present time. He could list precisely where we were at anytime during our lifetimes.

    I would take that as being sufficient in establishing each of our identities. But apparently you do not. I take it you do not because our bodies change dramatically over time. But I am having trouble understanding why that should be a problem. All physical substances are in a continual process of change. That doesn’t seem to limit our ability to identify the myriad physical objects we encounter everyday.

  65. Hal Friederichs

    Steve,

    Thanks for the link. I listened to just a few minutes where Mr. Moreland was talking about physicalism. Am going to listen to the rest of it, but I just wanted to clarify that I don’t believe in physicalism.

    You can get a better understanding of my position by checking out this lecture by Raymond Tallis and P.M.S Hacker on “Are Persons Brains? The Challenge of Crypto-Cartesianism” at this youtube link:

  66. JAD

    In his book, The Conscious Mind, David Chalmers writes that…

    “Consciousness is a surprising feature of our universe. Our grounds for belief in consciousness derive solely from our experience of it. Even if we know every last detail about the physics of the universe—the configuration, causation, and evolution among all the fields and particles in the spatial temporal manifold—that information would not lead us to postulate the existence of conscious experience. My knowledge of consciousness in the first instance comes from my own case, not from any external observation. It is my first-person experience of consciousness that forces the problem on me.” (p101,102)

    At the beginning of his book Chalmers identifies himself as a naturalist who opposes reductive materialism and sees consciousness as an ontologically distinct category like space/time or matter/energy.

    For example he writes: “Trying to define conscious experience in terms of more primitive notions is fruitless. One might as well try to define matter or space in terms of something more fundamental. The best we can do is to give illustrations and characterizations that lie at the same level.”

    However, as a non-theist Chalmers, like Thomas Nagel, opts for a “naturalistic friendly” explanation: panpsychism.

    I agree with him that consciousness is best understood as a non-reductive ontological category. However, I reject panpsychism.

  67. Mr B

    JAD: ‘Another irrelevant analogy… I’m wondering, are people who think this way actually human?’

    I would have preferred a considered and thoughtful reply rather than snark. You have not said why you think my analogy is irrelevant.

    ‘IOW are you self aware or self conscious?’

    Take it as a given that a self exists, is self-aware, and persists through time. The issue here is the claim that something called an ‘essence’ exists.

    I am aware of my physical body, and also various sense perceptions and mental experiences, as well as interactions with others. I have a remembered life history. These felt experiences are indicators that a self exists and has done so through time.

    What makes this issue particularly knotty is that not only is the self that is having experiences also the self that is introspecting on that experience, but that self is also trying to explain the experience in language that makes a division between subject and object.

    Thus, ‘I’ think about ‘my’ experiences, implying that there is some sort of immutable substratum that is viewing all this stuff happening, but the changes are ultimately trivial while the ‘real me’ persists.

    But this can’t be true. An old man is not a young man, even though the old man may not ‘feel’ old.

  68. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    But Mr B., I as an older man know that I am the same person I was as a younger man. I am not a young man, but I am in some very significant way the same man I was when I was a young man. My wife is still married to the person she married in 1987, not someone else.

    Were you ever two years old?

  69. Mr B

    Tom: ‘I am not a young man, but I am in some very significant way the same man I was when I was a young man.’

    But surely not exactly the same, i.e. not identical. For one, you are older, so in quite an important sense you are different.

    Nevertheless, both of us would say that there is a continuity between the self of 20 years ago and the self of today. From the ‘outside’ we have the physical body, the experienced history and the testimony of others, such as your wife. From the ‘inside’ we have memories of previous times.

    There are also other signs, such as the knowledge we have, photographs and so on. In this way, we build up a history of our self.

    Positing an ‘essence’ doesn’t add anything to these evidences. They would still exist in the absence of an ‘essential me’.

  70. scblhrm

    If one is going to claim physical reductive or non-reductive regressions as one’s paradigm, one needs to have an arena capable of getting past the mere association amid A and B. Brain state A will, forever, in physical elimination, find its brick wall there at A and will never break the threshold into the first person dimension that is identity. Semantic dances and word-smithing can’t change what is actually being said. Identity over time is even more troubling. We can read on various lines into physicalism’s FALSE IDENTITY CLAIM. Even worse (alluded to in the link) is the physicalist’s tentacles inevitably dipping their toes into the waters of illusion. Some are honest enough to use the words, like Alex Rosenberg, but most hint and hedge around the border knowing the fatalism which there results in something which is worse than the untenable – that being nihilism’s absurdity. We can deny we exist, and we can make leaps of faith against the grain of Mind, and so on. Fine. But no one is obligated by reason to believe the naturalist. In fact, reason leads us elsewhere as neither reduction nor its twin of the epiphenomenal break free of that final insult.

  71. scblhrm

    God’s Simplicity is not Man’s Composition. Nor can it be for any created being. Man has parts. Man changes. Pouring/Filling, or, Amalgamation’s lines may bridge, end, such paradigms, as the mutable swallows, is swallowed up by, the Immutable. Time giving way to Timelessness. And so on, as Scripture’s lines speak of on many levels. But such is a different topic.

    The naturalists in this thread are equivocating amid Being’s i-am and Being’s i-have. They seem to mean to assert that the Christian is asserting that God’s sort of Simplicity is how Man is “composed”. They are mistaken on the Christian’s use of “identity” and fail to inform themselves of the stuff of created-ness in the proper context of Theism. Man changes and is composed of parts, whereas God is not / does not and so on. The arena of such change is all the stuff of the physical. Dirt. Being’s (the created being’s) I-Have. Intertwined therein is all the stuff of the soul. The stuff of Immaterial. Or, if it helps (and it does help the Theist), the stuff of Timelessness. Hawking’s Imaginary Sphere. Which everybody knows precedes – and outlasts – our own (physical, material, temporal) universe. Being’s I-Am. The Christian need not sacrifice the paradigm of Timelessness nor must he (inevitably) make the Naturalist’s inane leaps of faith against the grain of Mind. Timelessness is. Mind is. Such is Being’s I-Am. All the stuff of I-Have cannot touch that. Rather, the i-am precedes, touches, the i-have. While such arenas are troubling for Naturalism (on many and various levels and in many fields of science), all are actually expected from eons ago there in Scripture’s varied vectors.

  72. G. Rodrigues

    @Hal Friedrichs:

    I don’t see how super-naturalists can escape language use anymore than naturalists can.

    I do not know what “escap[ing] language” is supposed to be, neither do I know how exactly is that supposed to be a problem.

    We all agree that humans are persons.

    Once again, I am not sure what “we” is quantifying over, but on the most natural reading this is false. More importantly, when naturalists and super-naturalists (who are they? I am going to continue to use the word, but I am not sure what you mean by it) say that “Tom Gilson” is a person, they are saying different things.

    Ascribing personhood or personal identity to some sort of spiritual substance does not make it any more real than the naturalist’s ascription to a physical being.

    First, naturalists super-naturalists disagree on what persons are. Theists would argue (or at least, I would) that *if* naturalists are correct, then it just is the case that there are no persons. Second, you may have not understood what I have said, but to clarify, while naturalists do indeed “ascribe personhood” to certain physical objects, this is emphatically not what super-naturalists do.

    And for the record, while I spoke of substance dualists, I reject substance dualism. In fact, I would argue that materialists and substance dualists make the *same* error; they just differ in the proper part they wish to identify the “real person” with.

  73. G. Rodrigues

    @Ray Ingles:

    No, I think the scenarios illustrate that the ‘process’ model handles such cases better than a ‘substance’ model.

    The “‘process’ model” does not handle better identity conditions than the “‘substance’ model” because it does not handle them at *all*. Processes like the digestion going on on my stomach or the thinking processes realized on the brain are not “things”, they do not identify anything, neither they have identity conditions, or at any rate if they have, they always resolve to the identity conditions of the material substratum or whatever.

    If saying “my digestion” as opposed to “Ray Ingle’s digestion” is meaningful, as it plainly is, it is solely because it is a process in and of *my* stomach as opposed Ray Ingle’s stomach, together with the fact that my stomach bears a special relation to me (including causal relations) as opposed to any other stomach in the world. Processes themselves, any process, are always analyzed as cases of change of the underlying substratum.

    Likewise, thinking does not exist in the abstract, neither it identifies a thinker, but we do speak correctly of “my thinking” or “the thoughts I am thinking”. It can be the case that I am not thinking any thoughts (e.g. when I am asleep), but there is no thinking that is not thought by a thinking subject, so it follows that thinking, that which the brain does, cannot identify anything whatsoever. After all, what does *unify* a stream of thinking? Is it not that they are the thoughts of *numerically the same* thinking person? The same goes for any other process you care to name. In fact, in the thread you linked you explicitly say, quite correctly and as you must, that “Variation, selection, and tornadoes are all processes. They supervene on things” which is just to concede that processes cannot ground the identity conditions of substances (but there is also the possibility that you do not know what supervenience is).

    I do not know of any serious naturalist metaphysician (Shoemaker, Parfit, Perry, Lewis, etc.) that grounds personal identity on such. There are naturalists that defend four-dimensionalist accounts of personal identity (Lewis) or a mental series conception (Campbell), but that is a different kettle of fish. Either way, I am done here.

  74. JAD

    Mr. B,

    JAD: ‘Another irrelevant analogy… I’m wondering, are people who think this way actually human?’

    Mr. B: I would have preferred a considered and thoughtful reply rather than snark. You have not said why you think my analogy is irrelevant.

    How can you accuse me of being snarky? Do you have special access to my private mental states?

    Blunt? Yes. Snarky? No.

    I am not going to waste my time on something which I consider, in my studied opinion, to be irrelevant. I believe that I have a right to spend my time as I choose.

    JAD: ‘IOW are you self aware or self conscious?’

    Mr. B: Take it as a given that a self exists, is self-aware, and persists through time. The issue here is the claim that something called an ‘essence’ exists.

    A rock exists. A rock persists through time. A rock is not conscious or self aware. A rock, therefore, is essentially different than an animal or a human being. IOW it has a different essense. Above @ #67 I quote David Chalmers who believes that consciousness is something that is not reducible to a physical substance. IOW consciousness, mind and self are essentially (ontologically) different from anything that is physical.

  75. Hal Friederichs

    G. Rodrigues: And for the record, while I spoke of substance dualists, I reject substance dualism. In fact, I would argue that materialists and substance dualists make the *same* error; they just differ in the proper part they wish to identify the “real person” with.

    I agree with this. Most materialist would identify the person with the human brain while substance dualists identify it with the soul.

    I share the Aristotelian view that “To say that it is the soul which is angry is as if we were to say that it is the soul that weaves or builds houses. It is doubtless better to avoid saying that the soul pities or learns or thinks, and rather to say that it is the man who does this with his soul”.

  76. JAD

    Here I think are some relevant observations by Ed Feser in a paper he wrote criticizing some of John Searle’s work.
    .

    “Neural processes also have by Searle’s reckoning a third-person ontology. But consciousness and other mental phenomena do not; they have instead what he calls a “first-person ontology,” being essentially subjective or “private,” directly accessible only to the subject undergoing conscious experiences. There is thus an essential difference between conscious phenomena and all uncontroversially physical phenomena – the former, being essentially subjective, cannot be identified with or reduced to any subset of the latter, which are essentially objective. Searle, again, acknowledges this: “The property dualist and I are in agreement that consciousness is ontologically irreducible” (2002, p. 60). Consciousness is, unlike solidity, not identical to the microphysical structures which cause it. But then property dualism seems unavoidable. If the physical processes which cause consciousness are objective third-person phenomena, and consciousness and other mental phenomena are subjective or first-person in nature, it is reasonable to describe the latter as being of a fundamentally different kind than the former. That is, it is reasonable to say that there exists in the universe a dualism of properties. If what all uncontroversially physical properties have in common is precisely their objective or third-person character, it is reasonable too to regard that character as what is essential to being physical – in which case mental properties, being essentially subjective, would necessarily count as non-physical.” (emphsis in the original)

    http://www.edwardfeser.com/unpublishedpapers/searle.html

    Notice how Feser uses the terms essnece and essential. Can we really argue that they are not relevant in this context?

  77. Hal Friederichs

    Steve: The discussion on identity (A=A) is at about the 2hr 21min mark.

    Thanks for the updated information.

    I happen to agree with Mr. Moreland that thoughts are not neurons. But that doesn’t entail the acceptance of his view that we have souls.
    He seems to be working with the same Cartesian presuppositions that physicalists work with when it comes to conceptualizations of the mind. Physicalists identify it with the brain while he identifies it with some sort of spiritual substance. Both positions are conceptually incoherent.

    It is the human being who has a mind and can think. It is not the brain or a soul that thinks.
    Human beings are persons. There is no other thing (like an essence or a brain or a soul) that is inside a human that is a person.

    If you watch the youtube lecture I linked to earlier, you will have a better understanding of my views on this issue.

  78. SteveK

    Hal,
    I am sympathetic to the AT view and agree with a lot of it. Some of it I am undecided on. It’s my inability to understand the nuances that leaves me straddling different views. Anyway, if I had known you held the AT view I would have never pointed you to the radio show.

  79. JAD

    “In February 2011… [an IBM computer named] Watson defeated all time Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter…”
    http://www.bobblum.com/ESSAYS/COMPSCI/Watson.html

    There is no doubt that Watson was intelligent. There is no doubt that “he” was a savant when it came to trivia. Beating two highly ranked humans on his initial attempt was an amazing accomplishment.

    Did Watson know that he had won? Was he conscious of what he had accomplished? Was he aware of his own identity?

    The answer is no. None of his creators have claimed that he was conscious. Not even AI enthusiast’s like Robert Blum are tempted to claim something like that.

    So what is consciousness? If we were able to create a self conscious machine, what would we have to do to give it consciousness or make it conscious? Is consciousness something that humans could create? If you think they could, tell us how to do it.

  80. Mr B

    JAD: ‘How can you accuse me of being snarky? Do you have special access to my private mental states?’

    No, but I do read the words on the screen. You should too, and you will find that I directed my comments at your reply, not your state of mind.

    ‘I am not going to waste my time on something which I consider, in my studied opinion, to be irrelevant. I believe that I have a right to spend my time as I choose.’

    You interjected your view into an exchange I was having with another person. Nobody demanded your participation. Your complaint is entirely self-created.

    You have still failed to say why you think my analogy is irrelevant. However, I take your point about wasting time and will not waste mine further.

  81. scblhrm

    Mr.B,

    The reason your analogy (A is B) isn’t addressed is because it doesn’t need to be. Things and thoughts are different. You haven’t shown otherwise. No one has. The physicalist hasn’t given a reason to have such thoughts about such reasons. A isn’t B. It’s that simple. Essence A isn’t Essence B. Epiphenominal leaps of faith against the grain of Mind have – so far – found that we are not obligated on reason to believe the naturalist.

  82. scblhrm

    Mr. B,

    Faith void of evidence isn’t Christianity’s definition and perhaps some expect that the Christian needs to just contradict evidence, or ignore evidence, and just grant that his (the Christian’s) methodological naturalism has no stopping point.

    But there is no evidence that microscopes CAN answer all questions. In fact, for painfully obvious reasons there, scientism just is nonsense.

    As noted already, the physicalist’s tentacles inevitably dipping their toes into the waters of illusion finds the tool of inquiry non-existent. Some are honest enough to use the words, like Alex Rosenberg, but most hint and hedge around the border knowing the fatalism which there results in something which is worse than the untenable – that being nihilism’s absurdity. We can deny we exist, and/or we can make leaps of faith against the grain of Mind, and so on. Fine. But no one is obligated by reason to believe the naturalist. In fact, reason leads us elsewhere as neither reduction nor its twin of the epiphenomenal break free of that final insult.

    Timelessness exists. We know that. Therefore the naturalist’s fear of it touching reality – our reality – in real ways – is neither rational nor scientific.

  83. Jenna Black

    I highly recommend to all this wonderful and highly readable book that gently but firmly and totally convincingly debunks materialism and its twins, naturalism and scientism:

    Stephen Barr (2003). Modern physics and ancient faith. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

    On p. 1, Barr says this “The fact of the matter is that there IS a bitter intellectual battle going on, and it is about real issues. However, the conflict is not between religion and science, it is between religion and materialism. Materialism is a philosophical opinion that is closely connected with science. It grew up alongside of science, and many people have a hard time distinguishing it from science. But it is not science. It is merely a philosophical opinion.”

  84. JAD

    Mr. B,

    Did you read the O.P? In it Tom alluded to well known “The Ship of Theseus Paradox.”

    The ancient Greeks wondered about a ship whose parts were replaced one by one over the years until none of the original remained. At the end, was it the same ship?

    He used it as an analogy to illustrate the problem of identity. I don’t see the point of using other analogies unless they clarify the issues further. I don’t see that your analogy (or John Moore’s or Ray’s earlier) did anything like that. The discussion here is not about analogies but about the problem of identity.

  85. Hal Friederichs

    JAD,

    Some think it is the same ship, others do not. The word “same” means different things depending on context.

    I’m having trouble seeing why this is such a threat to naturalism.

  86. scblhrm

    Hal,

    It’s a threat to naturalism because reductionism and its twin epiphenomenalism work with essence A and fail miserably with essence B. Reason leads us further from those and into Timelessness – which Hawking and everybody else knows exists in Being’s end of regress. Theism predicts, expects, welcomes such evidence / logical regression. There is no magical insulation there. And there is no evidence of delusion.

    A = B is false – as in mind/particle – and no physicalist has given reasons for us to have thoughts about those reasons which by reason obligate us to believe him.

    A “is related to” B ipso facto annihilates identity. Thought isn’t particle.

  87. scblhrm

    Hal,

    If I may inject a thought on your question to Jenna Black:

    Scientism is nonsense for painfully obvious reasons. As such, equivocation amid the terms Science and Atheism is dishonest. Or just uninformed.

    “Science works by experiments. It watches how things behave. Every scientific statement in the long run, however complicated it looks, really means something like, ‘I pointed the telescope to such and such a part of the sky at 2:20 a.m. on January 15th and saw so-and-so,’ or, ‘I put some of this stuff in a pot and heated it to such-and-such a temperature and it did so-and-so.’ Do not think I am saying anything against science: I am only saying what its job is.

    And the more scientific a man is, the more (I believe) he would agree with me that this is the job of science–and a very useful and necessary job it is too. But why anything comes to be there at all, and whether there is anything behind the things science observes–something of a different kind–this is not a scientific question. If there is ‘Something Behind,’ then either it will have to remain altogether unknown to men or else make itself known in some different way. The statement that there is any such thing, and the statement that there is no such thing, are neither of them statements that science can make. And real scientists do not usually make them. It is usually the journalists and popular novelists who have picked up a few odds and ends of half-baked science from textbooks who go in for them. After all, it is really a matter of common sense. Supposing science ever became complete so that it knew every single thing in the whole universe. Is it not plain that the questions, ‘Why is there a universe?’ ‘Why does it go on as it does?’ ‘Has it any meaning?’ would remain just as they were.” (C.S. Lewis)

    Philosophy trumps (physical) science – in a sense – for by philosophical means we come to see the self-evident, to know, that scientism is nonsense.

    Justified knowledge comes by many vectors. Not merely one.

  88. Holopupenko

    @87 & 88:

    The “Ship of Theseus Paradox” is not a paradox at all.

    The ship is an artifact (a thing which only “has” a per accidens nature and hence whose source of motion/change is external to it, and that external source must itself be rational. The ship is NOT a “nature” or a natural thing, whose source of motion is immanent to it and hence “has” a per se nature.

    It doesn’t matter out of what the ship is built or how many times it is rebuilt: it remains a ship as long as the artificer wants it that way. The power of the artificer is that he/she can impose a nominal definition upon the artifact. For example, a pen can be a writing instrument… or if the artificer (in fact, even a rational end user!) want it to be a bridge for ants, then it IS a bridge for ants. One can name–that is, define–artifacts to be anything a rational agent wants… hence, the term “nominal definition.” There is no inherent per se identity “in” an artifact because, again, it is defined by the artificer.

    One cannot do the same with a per se nature or “natural thing”. A human being cannot be a bridge (artifact) or butterfly (natural thing), and hence can never properly be defined or “named” to be one of these. Moreover, to use a natural thing against its nature is to violate that nature. That’s why it is objectively morally wrong for a Nazi officer to force a concentration camp prisoner to lie down in the mud to serve as a bridge so that the former’s boots would not get soiled. Moreover, as it pertains to human beings, to violate the nature of such an ontological type is to violate the nature of the very creature created in the image and likeness of God.

    A similar point applies to, say brute animals while exposing the sheer stupidity of animal rights thugs. We should avoid harming animals indiscriminately not because brute animals have rights (they have no rights by definition: they’re not rational beings, and hence not persons in the first place–they’re not created in the image and likeness of God), but because to harm a brute animal indiscriminately is to harm our own rational nature, i.e., it’s bad for us. However, we can humanely (get it?) use animals for food because, again, we are higher ontological types.

    (Important digression: a pile of sand is a natural thing if formed by the forces of nature (but not if formed by a rational agent), but it still does not “have” a per se nature because it is an accidental unity–not an organic [understood logically–not chemically] unity. In other words, while natural its unity is due to external forces–not to internal coherence.)

    You are one confused puppy, Hal Friederichs: any confusion over whether it is the same or other ship is on the part of the ignorant–which you’ve betrayed in yourself. It IS a problem for naturalism because that philosophical opinion is monist in its view of ontological types. And, while Prof. Barr makes numerous philosophical errors himself (including the reification of mathematical formalisms), he’s right about materialism: it’s an opinion (doxa) for two important reasons: (1) it limits knowledge to sensory knowledge, hence it is reductionist by its nature, (2) it’s ultimately self-defeating. I don’t expect you to understand much of this… but you could at least pretend to try. By the way, you’re in good company: the Christian apologetic William Lane Craig accedes to the deeply-flawed philosophical notion of the univocity of being, and hence is an ontological reductionist as well: he thinks the number two exists the same way a carbon atom does. Really.

  89. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm: It’s a threat to naturalism because reductionism and its twin epiphenomenalism work with essence A and fail miserably with essence B.

    To be honest I don’t even understand what you are saying in many of your posts. That is why I don’t respond to them.

    However, I do want to point out that there are forms of naturalism that do not adhere to reductionism or some of the crude forms of materialism that are being criticized in this thread.

    I’ll reiterate here my point about Theseus’ ship: simply because something changes over time does not entail a loss of identity. It may be a necessary condition for such loss, but it is not a sufficient one.

  90. scblhrm

    Hal,

    The link in #72 covered the terms used in #84/89. They’re fairly standard so I assumed no explanation was needed. As per #73 Man changes but you seem to be mixing terms there with nature or essence. Being and Having are mixing as you seem to be equating A to B in all these.

  91. Holopupenko

    scblhrm:

    I’m going to call you on this point per Hal Friederichs: rigorously define for us what you mean by the terms “essence” and “nature” and how you distinguish them. (It would likely help if you also provided definitions of “substance” and “form”.) Please do not refer to Wikipedia or go running to another source. If you’re using these terms here, you should be able to do what I reasonably request.

  92. Gavin

    Holopupenko Says,

    You are one confused puppy, Hal Friederichs: any confusion over whether it is the same or other ship is on the part of the ignorant–which you’ve betrayed in yourself.

    Tom,
    Is there any amount of insulting that can get a Holopupenko banned, or does he have some sort of free pass? In his very first post in this thread he is not attacking a position as ignorant, but directly attacking people who who hold that opinion, including Hal specifically. How can conversation happen like this?

  93. Holopupenko

    Because, on the part of Hal Friederichs, his assertion regarding the particular point is opinion indisputably based on ignorance. I call em as I see em.

  94. scblhrm

    The link in #72 hits the terms I’ve used.

    Then #73 is along the “I have vs. I am” – Memory gain/loss is contingent change but is not “me”. Man “changing” in this way (being’s I have) is not touching man’s essence (being’s I am).

    Change in fundamental essence isn’t coherent as per #91.

    Platonism isn’t actually W. Craig’s stopping point. Nor mine.

  95. JAD

    W.L. Craig’s view on the real existence of numbers:

    Question: Can you give an example, other than God, for something that would exist necessarily?

    Answer: As a Christian, I think that God is, in fact, the only necessarily existing being. So I think he is unique in that sense. But I can say to you that certain philosophers have thought that things like numbers exist necessarily. Others have said things like propositions exist necessarily…

    Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s4-2#ixzz3GcCgze82

  96. Holopupenko

    At the very top of page 188 of his “Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview”:

    “If being is a genus–that is, a univocal notion that applies in the same way to all things that have being–then this means that whatever existence itself turns out to be, everything that exists will have existence or being in the same sense. Being is a univocal notion that means the same thing for all entities whatsoever. On the other hand, if being is not a genus, then what it is for one thing to exist, say the number two, may be entirely different from what it is for a carbon atom to exist. It is most natural to take being as a genus, that is, to hold that a general theory of existence will give us a univocal notion of being that is equally true of all things that do, in fact, exist. When we contemplate all the things that do and do not exist, we seem to have a uniform notion we are using that characterizes the former group but not the latter.”

    Read also the next paragraph where he provides the example of a pile of sand vs. the grains that make it up: he limits himself with these to accidental unities AND he neglects other existence like numbers, qualities, and relational accidents.

    Worse, Craig in no way can account for the existence of concepts/ideas as anything other than a reductionist collection of time-dependent electro-chemical signals crossing brain synapses (falling precisely into the hands of the reductionist Churchlands).

    Worse still, in now way can he account for shadows–which are precisely a privation of being.

    Finally, do a simple Google search: while in the above non-rigorous text excerpt (in which he substitutes rigor for feelings: “It is most natural to take being as a genus… we seem to have a uniform notion…”) is an evasive maneuver, Craig comes write out and explicitly claims he accedes to the univocity of being: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-god-a-being-in-the-same-sense-that-we-are. Note that in this reference, Craig falls into the trap first year philosophy/theology majors in Aquinas’ time fall into, and which is covered in the very first chapters of the Summa Theologiae: the comparison on the level of aesity cannot be the starting point. William Vallicella and Edward Feser call him out on this as well.

  97. Holopupenko

    Craig’s error is actually quite egregious: at the risk of being redundant, I will reiterate the point about the shadow, the thing casting the shadow, and the light to demonstrate this.

    Let’s leave God (correctly characterized as THE NECESSARY BEING) out of the consideration, which only serves to complicate matters if the existence of contingent beings is not understood.

    (1) What Craig holds to explicitly and tenaciously is that ALL contingent beings enjoy the same level of existence, i.e., exist in the same way.

    (2) If that is true, then for Craig a shadow IS the same KIND of ontological-level being as the light blocked by the object.

    (3) But, a shadow is not a real being: it is a lack of real being–a privation of being.

    (4) What that means for Craig is that a shadow exists in the same way that light exists, i.e., that being and privation-of-being for Craig exist in precisely the same way.

    (5) But, what is different from beingsness or existence? Non-beingness and nonexistence. There is no “partly existing” just like there’s no “partly pregnant.”

    (6) The only way one can account for the logical AND ontological distinction between beings that enjoy different levels of existence is through an understanding of the analogousness of being.

    Finally, I have never seen in any of Craig’s writings the careful required distinction between positive univocal claims about God (which are impossible apart from revealed truth in Scripture), negative univocal claims about God (possible, because one can say univocally what God is not), and positive analogous claims about God. I have suspected for years, as have others, that what drives Craig are certain commitments from the theological tradition to which he belongs. It would be of great service if Craig honestly clarified precisely what drives him AND if he could provide a rigorous philosophical exposition for why he believes the univocity of being to be true. His attempts to convince people on non-rigorous popular forums is far from his usually quite careful modus operandi.

    I’ve stated on previous occasions: I want Craig in my trench when it comes to defending the faith against secular nonsense. But the potentially disastrous ontological reductionism of the univocity of being (on his part) must be squarely dealt with and dispensed with.

  98. Holopupenko

    One more try:
    (1) univocal assertion: a shadow exists in the same way the blocked light exists.
    (2) equivocal assertion: a shadow IS light.
    (3) analogous assertion: light and shadows both exist, but in different ways.

    The different “claims” to existence can be classified as follows:
    (0) God as Necessary Being, i.e., as Beingness Itself
    (1) contingent real being (independently-existing extra-mental objects)
    (2) essences (exist “in” real beings)
    (3) accidents (dependently-existing extra-mental objects)
    (4) universals and beings of reason (exist only “in” the mind)
    (5) privations (lack of being)
    (6) nothing

    Now, before someone nails me for this, first: this is not a rigorous exposition but merely a summary to help to get thinking about distinctions started. Second, neither (0) nor (6) properly belong in the above set: the former because God is not a being among beings; the latter because nothingness is the utter privation in any way of existence of any kind (one of the hardest concepts for humans to grasp because the first object of the human mind is being).

    As a closer, the profundity of the transcendence symbolized by the logical distinctions above wrt to God should be breath-taking. It’s akin to when one first understands (and realizes the implications) that individual angels are species unto themselves.

  99. JAD

    Holopupenko,

    My point was simply about Craig’s beliefs about numbers. He doesn’t believe that they “exist” necessarily as God exists.

    I probably agree with you (against Craig) that the way God exists is not the way we exist. However, as the Creator, God is causally connected to the universe so without His existence nothing else would or could exist. God is the ultimate reality, the ultimate ground of being. But this thread is not about any of that. It’s about human existence, about what gives us a sense of personal identity that persists, in spite of continuous on-going change, through time. What are your thoughts about that?

  100. Holopupenko

    Hi JAD:

    That’s part of the problem I see with Craig–he shifts to bringing God into what should be a philosophical point. No one is questioning his understanding that God is the Necessary Being. What we do question him on is his “starting” point on aesity to distinguish God and his ontological flat-landing of all other existents. I’m not concerned about his understanding that “two” is not a necessary being. What I am concerned about is his univocity, i.e., that the number two (which he does come out and state exactly what a number is) exists in the same way that a carbon atom does. I’ve gone on way too long about this above, so I’m dropping it.

    To be fair to you (and to Hal Friederichs), I realize the topic of discussion is wider than errors he makes. I saw it; I went for it. But this does connect to the wider topic: if Friederichs makes the errors he does, then surely his other views might warrant some criticisms as well… including what he understands to be “identity.”

    “Identity” is a modern term that has gained some fad-momentum… that unfortunately avoids rigorous understanding of the four terms I noted to scblhrm: form, essence, substance, nature. The identity of something is “what it is”… but there are better terms-of-art: “form” (being viewed from the perspective of cause in terms of what it is) and “essence” (being viewed with a focus on what it is, but the thing doesn’t need to exist to know its essence, e.g., George Washington doesn’t exist but we do know who/what he was). If George Washington did exist, he would be a primary substance, and the word “substance” is essence that enjoys per se existence. Finally, George Washington, in viewing his being as the source of his ordered actions, had a nature–human nature… and humans behave like humans, not like porcupines. A little more crudely, “nature” is a kind of locus of actions unique to that nature.

    Too much writing for a Sunday night in Ukraine…

  101. scblhrm

    Anti-Platonism and abstract objects in relation to the nature of existence is not only incredibly fascinating but also extremely helpful in clearing out the foggy, murky and imprecise abstractions we often unknowingly possess when contemplating such musings.

    Beyond the Control of God?: Six Views on The Problem of God and Abstract Objects” by Paul Gould and William Lane Craig (2014) is certainly helpful and houses the views of several philosophers.

    Its primer reads: “The question of God’s relationship to abstract objects touches on a number of perennial concerns related to the nature of God. God is typically thought to be an independent and self-sufficient being. Further, God is typically thought to be supremely sovereign such that all reality distinct from God is dependent on God’s creative and sustaining activity. However, the view that there are abstract objects seems to be a repudiation of this traditional understanding of God. Abstract objects are typically thought to exist necessarily and it is natural to think that if something exists necessarily, it does so because it is its nature to exist. Thus, abstract objects exist independently of God. Philosophers have called this the problem of God and abstract objects. In this book, six contemporary solutions to the problem are set out and defended against objections.”

    The six overarching “sections” are 1) God and propositions 2) Modified Theistic Activism 3) Theistic Conceptual Realism 4) Anti-Platonism 5) God With our Without Abstract Objects 6) Abstract Objects – Who Cares.

    Anti-Platonism is the general direction of Craig (and most). Therefore it is (perhaps) feasible that comment #91’s closing statement, “Christian apologetic William Lane Craig accedes to the deeply-flawed philosophical notion of the univocity of being, and hence is an ontological reductionist as well: he thinks the number two exists the same way a carbon atom does. Really…” is (perhaps) just slightly inaccurate somewhere in its dissection in that there are layers or nuances where that number-two of the Platonic sort and Craig’s Anti-Platonism clearly begin separate – and/or – that the one does not on necessity entail the other. And so on. The above mentioned book may be helpful for all of us.

    Craig touches on some of this on his webpage at the link HERE and also at the link HERE . Also the link HERE is a good summary which offers a bit more insight than the first link of the three listed here.

    As for the topic at hand, IDENTITY, the LINK in comment #72 is directly applicable. Naturalism just has nowhere to go other than away from Timelessness (and the immaterial) out of an irrational fear of its company here inside of this reality despite evidence that it is there waiting for all of our vectors, or, into reductionistic absurdity without evidence, or, into the hedge of epiphenomenalism (without evidence) and again (ultimately) into absurdity with what ends as yet another leap of faith against the grain of Mind.

  102. scblhrm

    Holopupenko said (of a Man) this:

    “….. in viewing his being as the source of his ordered actions, had a nature – human nature……. A little more crudely, “nature” is a kind of locus of actions unique to that nature…..”

    And it seems this is the location of such trouble for the Naturalist. It seems there is no such thing as “me” – as the end of regress is neither local, nor unique. There is no “supra” nature. There is energy. And there is where all the trouble comes for the Naturalist. Asserting that Nature houses I-AM is akin to the Naturalist asserting that there is that peculiar, non-arbitrary Ought which precedes and outdistances the taste buds of tasters. All there is for the Naturalist to offer in both problems is a litany of “close-enough-s”. Nihilism’s absurdity is the only end point therein – “I” not only does not exist as such, but, not existing, it cannot then continue through or inside of the paradigm of Time.

    It is worth repeating: The naturalist can make leaps of faith against the grain of Mind. Fine. But no one is obligated by reason to believe the naturalist. In fact, reason leads us elsewhere as neither reduction nor its twin of the “epiphenomenal” ever break free of that final insult. Timelessness exists. We know that. Therefore the naturalist’s fear of Timelessness touching reality – our reality – in real ways – is neither rational nor scientific. Hawking’s Imaginary Sphere need not annihilate our reality, our perception. In fact – there is no evidence that it can or does. Rather, there is evidence, in Mind, in Being’s I-AM, that such an “end”, such a “nature”, actually contains and even affirms our reality.

  103. scblhrm

    Holopupenko,

    I found your #91 and your #103 particularly helpful. Do you know of a resource which is digestible for the “non-philosopher” which breaks down the semantics of identity (nature… form… etc..). I’m not as precise / accurate as I’d like to be here and a means to better employment of terms would be a welcomed resource.

  104. Ray Ingles

    Holopupenko –

    The ship is an artifact (a thing which only “has” a per accidens nature… The ship is NOT a “nature” or a natural thing, whose source of motion is immanent to it and hence “has” a per se nature.

    Let’s say I show you two flu viruses – they are identical in terms of composition. And I say, “One of these was collected from a duck in China. The other was assembled, atom-by-atom, using an atomic force microscope and similar tools. Can you tell which one is which?”

    As I understand your position, one would have a per se nature, and one would only have a per accidens nature. Would you be able to distinguish between them? Would it, for example, make a difference to their behavior if they were allowed to infect an organism?

    Does the answer change if we move to cells? What about organs? What about a whole organism?

    That’s why it is objectively morally wrong for a Nazi officer to force a concentration camp prisoner to lie down in the mud to serve as a bridge so that the former’s boots would not get soiled.

    What if a parent stretches their body across a gap to allow their child to get across? Is that objectively morally wrong? If so, is it still wrong if they are fleeing Nazis?

  105. Holopupenko

    @109:

    You don’t pay attention very well, do you.

    I’ll provide a simpler example. If you can respond to my question, you might be able to answer your own questions… and please don’t whine that I’m being evasive.

    (1) Benjamin is carrying a bag of Scrabble letters accidentally (but without noticing) tears a hole in the bag while on his way to a tournament. As he’s walking, the following letters in the following order and orientation fall onto the pavement:
        T R A N S F I G U R E

    (2) Benjamin sits down at at the Scrabble tournament table, and during a game he uses his letters to add to existing letters on the board to form the word:
        T R A N S F I G U R E

    In which of these examples (perhaps neither and perhaps both) do the letters “have” meaning… and how can you tell?

    Hint: I’ll accept your implied premise that some day we may be able to build a virus (or even an entire brute animal) from individual subatomic particles. So what? It’s like the ship of Theseus went in one e-ear and out the other. Sheesh!

    As for the Nazi officer example, I’m amazed by your mechanical approach to moral issues and hence your inability to draw careful distinctions. In your reductionist world where final causes don’t exist, the ability to distinguish becomes impossible. That’s your world. In the real world, final causes (in this case, actual purposes of rational agents) makes ALL the difference… and hence for you to imply a father playing bridge with his children is the same intentional level as a Nazi officer using a person for a bridge is downright repugnant. Moreover, if we accept your implication that there is no inherent distinction because there are no (according to you, I believe) no final causes, then there is NOTHING you can say to stop the Nazi. That is your world.

  106. Ray Ingles

    Holopupenko –

    I’ll provide a simpler example. If you can respond to my question, you might be able to answer your own questions… and please don’t whine that I’m being evasive.

    Well, you are. Here’s a simple question: Do viruses have per se natures or not? (Well, okay, one followup: If viruses do not have per se natures, what’s the smallest organism that does?)

    In which of these examples (perhaps neither and perhaps both) do the letters “have” meaning… and how can you tell?

    Both of them map to the English word “transfigure”, so both of them have meaning relative to English-speakers. In only one case was it intended as a word, though – only one of them is an artifact in that sense.

    But that’s why the analogy fails. I’m comparing things with (so far as I can tell) per se natures with things that have per accidens natures. Your analogy, on the other hand, compares things like the pile of sand you mentioned – things without per se natures – with things with per accidens natures.

    In the real world, final causes (in this case, actual purposes of rational agents) makes ALL the difference… and hence for you to imply a father playing bridge with his children is the same intentional level as a Nazi officer using a person for a bridge is downright repugnant.

    Of course I’m not saying they are equivalent – I’m just making the point that “using a body like a bridge” is not inherently evil because it uses a body like a bridge. Indeed, it’s the intentions that make that difference! The evil of the Nazi has much more to do with the word “force” than the word “bridge”.

  107. Holopupenko

    @111:

    I’m not going to waste my time on this, except to say:
         (1) the letters that fell out of the bag carry no meaning of the dictionary word “transfigure”;
         (2) when a policeman forces you to obey the rules of the road, is that evil? In your world, yes… and, by the way, I see you’ve admitted to final causality;
         (3) “smallness” (the accident of quantity) does not define the substance;
         (4) yes, naturally-occurring viruses have per se natures, and if you can build one, then it is per accidens. And, just because I may not be able to tell them apart in that sense doesn’t mean they aren’t different–my epistemic limitations don’t define the reality of the objects observed.

    Sometimes, part of finding out about what something is and why it exists means querying the rational agent who set up the situation. That’s called critical investigation. The point of the Scrabble letters scenario was to get you to understand that the material cause is not the whole story. Clearly, you’ve failed on that point. How then can anyone reasonably expect you’ll understand the efficient, formal, and final causes that must be considered in your virus example?

    I’m no longer interested in responding to your sound-bite expectations. Your arrogance (driven by ignorance) is repulsive: you really think the questions you pose haven’t been asked (in various forms) many, many times over many centuries by many, many people who are neither interested in sound-bites nor in the scientism animating your worldview? And, do you really think you’ve challenged anything or anyone?

  108. Melissa

    Ray,

    I’m just making the point that “using a body like a bridge” is not inherently evil because it uses a body like a bridge.

    I’m curious. Why did you think that point needed to be made?

  109. Ray Ingles

    Holopupenko –

    yes, naturally-occurring viruses have per se natures, and if you can build one, then it is per accidens.

    But that makes absolutely no difference in practice. They’ll cause the same symptoms either way. There is no conceivable test you could devise that’d distinguish between them. And as William James put it, “A difference which makes no difference is no difference at all.”

    Back in #91 you made a big deal about how you can’t impose a function on something with a per se nature. It’d be hunky-dory to do that with one of the viruses, but not the other… though you can’t tell which one and nothing changes whichever one you pick. That’s a problem because:

    my epistemic limitations don’t define the reality of the objects observed.

    But doesn’t this seem like a chin begging for Ockham’s Razor? You insist they must ‘really’ be different, though in a way that cannot possibly make any difference in practice. What’s motivating the need for the distinction you want to make?

    There are people who argue that the various human “races” have different natures – in things like mental traits, not just skin color and superficial things like that. No actual evidence has turned up for that, and when you look at actual genetic diversity people within a race differ more than people between races. There’s no actual detectable difference there, and I feel rather confident you agree with respect to race that that means there is no such difference.

    But the viruses are another case where the difference makes no difference, yet you insist there’s really a difference. Why?

    you really think the questions you pose haven’t been asked (in various forms) many, many times over many centuries

    Sure, mostly before molecular biology.

    It used to be intuitive that things like living things were fundamentally different from the kinds of artifacts humans build. There was the whole elan vital and all that. Then Friedrich Wöhler managed to synthesize urea from inorganic precursors, which cut a gaping wound in vitalism. Even after that people argued that biology could not be any kind of mechanism, but the advance of molecular biology and the elucidation of the structure of DNA pretty much killed that off.

    Now we actually can make artificial viruses, and are working toward cells. It’s getting much harder to draw any kind of principled line between per se and per accidens. Speaking of which:

    the letters that fell out of the bag carry no meaning of the dictionary word “transfigure”

    Sure they do, to anyone who reads them. That structure is there, however it arose – accidentally or no. I understand where your intuition is coming from: coherent messages in human languages rather seldom arise accidentally. A single twelve-letter word might possibly appear by dropping a bag of Scrabble tiles; a short story, even a drabble, is (ahem) prohibitively unlikely.

    But that’s an artifact (couldn’t resist) of human languages – a requirement of their function is that coherent messages stand out. The subset of coherent messages in English is Vastly smaller than the set of all possible letter sequences. So it’s true that in practice coherent messages arise from intelligent intervention – but that’s not an inherent property of the messages themselves.

    when a policeman forces you to obey the rules of the road, is that evil?

    Naturally (again, couldn’t resist) not. The intention of those rules – and their function in practice – is to make vehicle transport as safe as possible. The use of force in that case is to everyone’s benefit, even ultimately my own. Not so much with the Nazi.

    Anyway, thanks for the last word, I guess.

  110. JAD

    Hal Friederichs @ #87 & 92:

    JAD,
    Some think it is the same ship, others do not. The word “same” means different things depending on context.
    I’m having trouble seeing why this is such a threat to naturalism…

    (#92) I do want to point out that there are forms of naturalism that do not adhere to reductionism or some of the crude forms of materialism that are being criticized in this thread.

    I’ll reiterate here my point about Theseus’ ship: simply because something changes over time does not entail a loss of identity. It may be a necessary condition for such loss, but it is not a sufficient one.

    It’s not a threat. It’s a problem. The problem is the same for both the theist and the naturalist. The solution, however, is different.

    The key question is, what grounds our personal identity if everything in the world, like our bodies, is changing? What is it that makes me, me? Is my body me? If my personal identity is based on my body then I am a different me than I was a few years ago, because the elements that make up my body are being recycled. If I base my personal identity on my “conscious self” the problem gets even worse because my conscious experiences are changing moment to moment. My experiences of my present now, of what I believe is me, are forever lost in the past.

    Theists ground their sense of personal Identity in Being that transcends space and time– the eternally existing transcendent “I”.
    God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exodus 3:14)

    The Hebrew name for God, spelled by the four consonants Yod, Hey, Vav, Hey, literally means I AM, or I EXIST. God then in His essential nature (capital B) Being, as the (all caps) I AM, is revealing Himself as not only the ground of being (GOB) of the impersonal (most of the stuff in the universe– stars planets, rocks molecules and hydrogen gas etc.– is impersonal) but the GOB of the personal– “I” can only be attributed to something, actually someone, which is meant to be personal. No form or naturalism provides a grounding for the personal. There can be nothing then that is personal from a naturalistic world view. As Steven Hawking has said we are little more than pond scum.

    As Angus Menuge says, in a paper quoted by W.L. Craig:

    Reductive and eliminative forms of physicalism fail to account for our mental lives. But . . . the varieties of non-reductive physicalism also fail to account for mental causation. If these theories are faithful to physicalism, then supervening or emergent mental properties cannot add anything new that was not going to happen anyway, as a result of their physical base properties. If we want to account for consciousness, mental causation and reasoning, we need some entity over and above the body. This entity must be simple, have thoughts as inseparable parts, persist as a unity over time, and have active power. That sounds like a soul . . .
    (emphsis added)

    Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s10-08#ixzz3GmutrbQZ

    To state the problem succinctly, how can naturalism which begins with the impersonal explain the personal?

    Theism solves this problem by referencing the transcendent personal– the eternally existing I AM. No flavor of naturalism has an infinite transcendent reference point.

    Therefore, on naturalism, any sense of personal identity is an illusion.

  111. scblhrm

    Holopupenko didn’t deny innate good/evil. Ray did as he has no final causation – no ability to distinguish. It would help if Ray didn’t misrepresent such things on the presence and absence of “innate” good/evil in these paradigms.

    All the virus talk just now affirmed the naturalist’s concession of no final causation. That is: Identity and Ought were just annihilated – declared illusion. On naturalism.

    Identity and Ought just are inseparable. “They” are really a singularity . That Singularity is illusion in Naturalism -and is ontological coherence in Theism.

    Immutable Love – the I AM – just are inseparable. God is One. God is love.

  112. Hal Friederichs

    JAD,
    Thanks for taking the time to explain your position. I also appreciate the civil tone.

    As Steven Hawking has said we are little more than pond scum.
    Mr. Hawking can speak for himself. I find his remark to be rather idiotic.

    Reductive and eliminative forms of physicalism fail to account for our mental lives. But . . . the varieties of non-reductive physicalism also fail to account for mental causation.

    I’m not a reductionist. The only form of physicalism I subscribe to is the position that the only substance that exists is physical. I’m also skeptical of the view that mental causation provides an adequate explanation for human behavior.

    Theism solves this problem by referencing the transcendent personal– the eternally existing I AM. No flavor of naturalism has an infinite transcendent reference point.
    Therefore, on naturalism, any sense of personal identity is an illusion.

    That is interesting because from my perspective this transcendent eternally existing I AM is merely an illusion that explains nothing.

    My basic position is well summed up with this quote from PMS Hackers’s book “The Intellectual Powers: A Study of Human Nature”:
    “We are substances – animate spatio-temporal continuants, consisting of matter, with active and passive causal powers. We are sentient, self-moving agents with the ability to act or refrain from acting at will. Being language-using creatures with rational capacities, we adopt and pursue goals for reasons…We have a mind and a body. The body we have consists of the somatic features of the body (the animate material substance) that we are. The mind we have is not a substance (a res cogitans) or a part of a substance (the brain). To have a mind is to have an array of first- and second-order intellectual and volitional abilities.”

    It may seem paradoxical but I don’t see how I could be who I am if I did not change over time.

    The Self is a contentious philosophical issue that we seem to be approaching from very different perspectives.

  113. scblhrm

    Hal,

    Show your work.

    Or even hint at a non-contradiction with your (physical) work.

    Show your physical non reducing end of regression.

    Borrowing from Theism is fine – at least you’re not afraid to have your eyes open – but on pain of circularity’s death you’ll have to show your (physical) work. Question begging isn’t helpful, of course.

  114. scblhrm

    Hal,

    Man changes. The I is added to. Not replaced.

    As per previous comments. So you gain nothing by observing that you change. You didn’t say you were replaced.

    Physical…… parts….. replaced….

  115. SteveK

    Self-moving agents in a universe where physical effects require a cause?? It’s a miracle, Hal!

  116. Hal Friederichs

    Steve,

    Just one of the the powers we share with other animals. Except we do so self-consciously. And we can articulate our reasons for acting or refraining from action.

    The diversity of forms and powers exhibited by living substances really is quite amazing.

  117. Melissa

    Ray,

    Because Holopupenko denied it, of course.

    No he did not, but if you think that I guess that explains your replies on the subject. It is the attempt to impose your own purpose on another human being that is the problem which is effectively what you argue in #112. I winder whether much of your disagreement comes about because of your own misunderstandings.

  118. scblhrm

    The Naturalist’s Quadrilateral Nonreducible Physicality:

    Powers
    Forms
    Substances
    Quite Amazing

    Well okay then. One cannot argue with that. After all – it’s physically nonreducible.

  119. Holopupenko

    @118:

    I’m not a reductionist. The only form of physicalism I subscribe to is the position that the only substance that exists is physical.

    Ummm… (cue: Jon Sewart’s confused look when faced with the irrational) there it is, folks: atheism at its best. You can’t make this stuff up.

    Isn’t that like saying: “I’m not an alcoholic. The only form of addiction I subscribe to is the only satisfaction that exists is in a vodka bottle.”

    Memo to the clueless: physicalism IS a form of ontological reductionism.

  120. Hal Friederichs

    Holopupenko ,

    Wow. You are the mirror image of the atheist who tries to insist that the only valid form of Christianity is what young earth creationists believe and then pats himself on the back for showing how irrational it is.

    Oh well. 🙁

  121. HeBe

    Curious about a thought experiment regarding comment 114:

    “Therefore, on naturalism, any sense of personal identity is an illusion.”

    Let’s suppose that naturalism is correct and our individual senses of personal identity are illusory from the standpoint of nature. We nevertheless still have the senses, and the illusions seem real enough to us.

    Is it undesirable that our senses of personal identity are more or less consistent to ourselves yet illusions from the perspective of nature?

  122. scblhrm

    Hal,

    Physical parts, quanta collections, (Etc.), and non-reduction.

    Can you elaborate? The non-reduction part is (IMO) the only (or main) part that is unclear.

    “Energy” and “Substance” are vague.

    A new physics, or rather a new Genre, are welcome participants.

    Epiphenominal elimination paths don’t seem very helpful.

  123. SteveK

    Hal,
    I think Holo’s comment was in response to your metaphysical view, not your Christian view.

  124. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm ,

    Well I’m not a physicist or a scientist for that matter so I have no new physics to offer.

    I think we would both agree that a thought is not reducible to neuronal activity. Nor would we identify the mind with the brain. Humans have minds; it is humans that think, not their brains. It simply makes no sense to say that a brain thinks or that a brain gets angry. We have criteria for establishing or claiming when a person is thinking or for attributing a thought to a particular person. No such criteria exist for the brain.
    But it also makes no sense to say that a mind thinks or that a mind gets angry. It is the person who thinks or becomes angry. As with the brain, what criteria would we use for determining that a mind is thinking?
    These seem to me to be obvious conceptual truths. I’m not sure why you think I cannot think such to be true unless I also believe that there is a God.

    I have difficulty expressing my views in the limited space we have in these postings. I do post here because I believe it important to defend my positions, but I don’t really wish to dissuade others from believing in God. Though not a believer myself, I do know that it helps many to live better lives through their faith in God. I do get rather ticked off at the view that one has to be a believer in order to live a good or worthy life. I don’t think I am the only one who has a sense that tensions between believers and non-believers has worsened in the past couple of decades. So it seems more important than ever to try and keep lines of communications open, to share views and hopefully prevent some of the demonizing that takes place on both sides.

    I posted the link below earlier, but am doing so again for convenience.
    You can get a better understanding of my position by checking out this lecture by Raymond Tallis and P.M.S Hacker on “Are Persons Brains? The Challenge of Crypto-Cartesianism” at this youtube link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZx93eov5i4

    I have also been very influenced by John Dupré. If interested, you can easily google some of his youtube lectures or debates.

  125. Holopupenko

    @129:

    … Nor would we identify the mind with the brain. Humans have minds; it is humans that think, not their brains… But it also makes no sense to say that a mind thinks or that a mind gets angry. It is the person who thinks or becomes angry… These seem to me to be obvious conceptual truths. I’m not sure why you think I cannot think such to be true unless I also believe that there is a God. ¶ I have difficulty expressing my views in the limited space we have in these postings.

    Yadda-yadda. You have a “difficulty”? Indeed! Perhaps evidenced by your red herrings “I’m not sure why you think I cannot think such to be true unless I also believe that there is a God” or “I do get rather ticked off at the view that one has to be a believer in order to live a good or worthy life.” Who exactly said–or even implied–such nonsense? Please provide a verifiable reference. If you can’t, keep such deflections to yourself.

    This is a site for thinking about deeply-important issues, largely (but not exclusively) in the context of St. Anselm’s fides quaerens intellectum. Based on how you’re bandying about the terms, I’ll bet serious money on the fact that you only possess–at best–a wishy-washy (certainly not rigorous) understanding of what the terms “brain,” “mind,” and “person” actually mean (and that’s only for starters)… and hence you could not provide rigorous definitions of them. Yet, you grant yourself special dispensation to drop subjective opinionated sound-bites in these discussions like buffalo turds in the vain hope that you’ll find validation for those opinions.

    How about a little humility? How about admitting something like “I don’t have a rigorous understanding of these terms, but I’m willing to learn,” rather than erecting a defensive wall because you “believe it important to defend my positions”? What “positions”? The one’s based on ignorance of important terms? The one’s you protect by deflecting to the false accusation that we demand you believe in God to think on these things? How about actually challenging your own ideas? AND, perhaps most importantly, if you don’t understand these terms rigorously, might it not be possible that you don’t understand the far, far more complex, existentially-lived Christian faith in THE God for whom people are willing to accede to martyr-level commitment? You’re the one–supposedly–with a commitment to “open communication”? Sheesh!

  126. Bryan Howlett

    I would like to learn more about the latest definitions of terms like “brain”, “mind” and “person”. Tom, would you be prepared to allow Holopupenko to write a short guest post on this specific subject? Holopupenko, would you be prepared to do something like that? I can’t expect you to be able to explain everything you know to a layperson like me, but perhaps you could write something that improves the level of understanding here?

    It feels frustrating all round at the moment with people bandying about ideas with insufficient depth of understanding behind them. Holopupenko, I gather that you have invested significant time building a depth of understanding of this subject. Would you be prepared to share some of what you have learned? Can you simplify it for the more stupid end of the spectrum (i.e. me) without losing the essence?

  127. Holopupenko

    Hi Bryan:

    I really appreciate your thoughts. Unfortunately, I must decline on the invitation to tutor:

    (1) To support Tom: this is a blog, not a book.

    (2) This is not, and can NOT be, sound-bite stuff: the many philosophical nuances are complex… and simply are not amenable for tutoring.

    (3) I’ve already spilled lot’s of e-ink over the years here trying to explain these issues, in violation of (1) above. Tom, at least since 2003, has covered many of these topics multiple times.

    (4) There are good books out there–off the top of my head, look up Edward Feser’s books on Amazon. (For example, his excellent Philosophy of Mind“.) But, please be aware, even in such “books for beginners” much is presupposed AND further investigation is presumed.

    Therein I’ve exposed one of my main flaws in these discussions: it’s not so much that I assume the interlocutor understands such complex issues (although sometimes that is true as well), but my passion for them gets the best of me… and, admittedly, I do tend to run roughshod over the nonsense atheists generally spout in these com-boxes–nonsense for which I have very little tolerance… in fact, none.

    So, with apologies to your kind request, I respectfully decline. I’m reduced, as in my latest comment to Hal, to demanding he examine his own beliefs… to at least open the door to normal exchanges.

    Finally, I do have a life here in Ukraine to which I must pay attention (including teaching a two-course sequence on the philosophy of nature)… and, which you can imagine, is currently very, ahem, “interesting.”

    Cheers and blessings.

  128. scblhrm

    Hal,

    This is at bottom a matter of observational reality and of evidence and where overlap does or does not occur. The semantics of this or that paradigm become more or less plausible as these discussions then progress. It seems we agree that neuron/brain do not in summation account for Identity, Thought, and so on. Well, then we observe that we begin to merge all these definitions with those of what it is the Theist is describing. That is not a proof one way or the other, rather, it is merely a matter of plausibility as that slice of observational reality coheres – not with physical ends/summations – but with the epistemology of Theism. Ontology, then, gets its toe in the door by that (slice of) observational reality. And so on. We seem to agree that reductionist lines fail. There at that location, then, our semantics begin to mirror, reflect, those of Soul. Now, you were asked for a physical explanation of these lines – reduction or non-reduction – though really it is not expected (on Theism) that the materialist can account for what we observe with material stuff as Identity and Mind are ongoing problems for the materialist. Further: that the Self changes over time, yet is never replaced over time, is another slice of observational reality which affirms – not physical parts being replaced – but the non-material Self persisting throughout such physical flux. Again, no proof, only coherence across epistemological and ontological lines which – as such accumulates – sums to plausibility. The Christian agrees with you that Atheists can and do behave well. It is unclear why you (seem to) feel that Christianity asserts otherwise. It does not. The current moral paradigm of innate human worth defines much of what we all call Good. However, where that moral paradigm came from, where it is coherent, where it is unquestionably blind axiom’s autohypnosis, why that Knowledge is in-play now, and the fact that it is Knowledge of Good/Evil and not genomic flux (genomic change just does not Nadir/Peak so rapidly) which accounts for every bit of Man’s moral experience, are, all, different topics than those currently at hand.

  129. Bryan Howlett

    Holopupenko, thank you for considering it. I’m disappointed, but I can understand your reservations.

  130. Ray Ingles

    Melissa, Holopupenko said, “to use a natural thing against its nature is to violate that nature”. Indeed, he specifically said “That’s why it is objectively morally wrong for a Nazi officer to force a concentration camp prisoner to lie down in the mud to serve as a bridge so that the former’s boots would not get soiled.”

    So the objective wrong is in using the prisoner against their nature – their nature is not a bridge. But my counterexample showed it’s not the bridge-ness that’s wrong, instead it’s the force.

    It is, fundamentally, the same mistake Leon Kass makes.

  131. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Ray, the reason that force is wrong is not because force is wrong. It’s because force applied for bridge-purposes is inappropriate for humans, because we are not, by nature, bridges.

  132. Melissa

    Ray,

    But my counterexample showed it’s not the bridge-ness that’s wrong, instead it’s the force.

    Echoing what Tom said it is not the force that is the problem, as you in fact conceded in #109. The problem is in acting out the belief, and indeed believing, that the purpose of humans is to satisfy the Nazis purpose for them (in this case being a bridge to keep his boots clean).

  133. Bryan Howlett

    Is it the belief or the action that is immoral? Is it OK / morally neutral to have immoral beliefs as long as you don’t act on them? Or are actions and beliefs inextricably linked? If you don’t act in line with an immoral belief do you actually believe it?

  134. Post
    Author
  135. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm
    “Now, you were asked for a physical explanation of these lines – reduction or non-reduction – though really it is not expected (on Theism) that the materialist can account for what we observe with material stuff as Identity and Mind are ongoing problems for the materialist.”

    Not sure why I should be expected to give a physical explanation. We agree that something like the mind is not reducible to the physical. And I am not a physicist or any other kind of scientist. Nor am I willing to play armchair scientist. I do think that there is only one substance: the physical. However, many other things exist in this world besides the physical.

    I am an amateur philosopher. As I view it, philosophy’s main role is to help us understand better the world we live in. And I think it does this best by dealing with conceptual truth, with elucidating the concepts we use to represent the world. It is not a type of science which is primarily concerned with giving us knowledge of the world.

    We are dealing here with concepts like MIND, SELF, BODY, CHANGE, etc. These concepts are shared by atheists and theists. So I don’t think that I am doing any borrowing from theism. If I were to say that souls exist then I think you could make a good case for claiming I was borrowing. In fact, I doubt that you will agree with my view of the mind. I don’t see it as being a mental substance like some dualists. I don’t think it is a thing at all. We attribute minds to beings like ourselves because we display a range of intellectual and volitional powers. We have well established criteria for identifying those powers. I do not think the self is something that can exist beyond the death of the body. Nor do I believe that the self is some kind of unchanging essence.

  136. Hal Friederichs

    Tom,
    “Beliefs are actions of the mind;”

    A belief can be true or false. Can an action be true or false?
    And what do you mean by saying the mind acts? Do you think that the mind is some kind of agent?

  137. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Okay, I’ll take a more technical tack. Forming and holding beliefs are actions of the mind. The person is the agent; the mind is the locus of the person’s agency in forming and holding beliefs.

    All this is fairly ordinary, and it surprises me you would ask about it.

  138. scblhrm

    Hal,

    You’ll have to clarify as it’s confusing what you are trying to describe.
    Earlier you commented:

    “I’m not a reductionist. The only form of physicalism I subscribe to is the position that the only substance that exists is physical.”

    Then of late you’ve made these comments:

    1) “We agree that something like the mind is not reducible to the physical”
    2) “I am not a physicist”
    3) “I do think that there is only one substance: the physical”
    4) “Many other things exist in this world besides the physical”

    These seem to be self-contradictory (and confusing).

    Then you say this:

    “It (philosophy) is not a type of science which is primarily concerned with giving us knowledge of the world”

    The problem with arguing that philosophical means do not – on delivery of the self-evident – thereby deliver to us that which is justified knowledge is that one is then left, on necessity, with scientism. Scientism is hopelessly self-defeating. Now, we do not come to know that about science by scientific means (by the microscope), rather, we come to know that about science by philosophical means. Were it not for philosophy, we would fall into the mistaken belief that Science is the only path to justified knowledge. Therefore, philosophy not only proves itself a means to justified knowledge about the real world, but, the very nature of science itself, what science can and cannot “say”, is extricated by those very (philosophical) means – a means (physical) science cannot provide. Yet what we are told there of science by philosophy is true of science, yet science cannot tell us this with its own mouth. If we dispute this, then: scientism’s absurdity. This is clarified further at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/is-scientism-self-refuting

    Once philosophy shows its hand there in scientism’s nature, once we are saved from the mistaken belief of scientism thereby, suddenly justified knowledge has a whole new alphabet with which to write about reality – justifiably.

    Then you say this:

    “These concepts are shared by atheists and theists. So I don’t think that I am doing any borrowing from theism.”

    The concept of Atheists about anything and everything – if purely materialistic, is not shared by Theists on many things (immaterial) while they are on some things (material). That is the point of this entire thread.

    One cannot (truly) have it both ways. Saying only physicality exists but then saying there are things which exist which are not physical just (in the end) leaves one saying nothing at all.

    Perhaps you are trying to land in the middle and taking the role of “the honest agnostic”. That is fine, but that too has a stopping point. Agnosticism here is fine, but one must then argue for “that”. That is to say, there is a difference between, “I don’t know” and “We cannot know”.

    Then you say this about Mind:

    “I don’t think it (mind) is a thing at all”

    Yet you claim only physicality exists. But you also claim that many other things besides the physical exist. So this isn’t really helping us understand where you locate any of these lines.

    Then you say:

    “We attribute minds to beings like ourselves because we display a range of intellectual and volitional powers. We have well established criteria for identifying those powers.”

    If by “powers” you mean something non-physical, then what part of physics do you there appeal to? I thought perhaps you meant to convey that the word “mind’ is only a symbol of those observed powers, and thus there is no such “thing” as “mind”. Assuming that: It is true that the “word” that is spelled M, I, N, D, is a symbol which we use to refer to the “concepts of” volition/reasoning/etc. Semantics – though – by mere employment do not nullify statements to falsehood. If the use of language is a proof of non-entity, or agnosticism, or something worse, well then, you will have to show your work ….. without using language.

    Then you say:

    “I do not think the self is something that can exist beyond the death of the body.”

    Well, it seems here we are again back to the physical. Or perhaps you are trying to say that there are (non-physical) “powers” (the mind. Etc.) which are not made of stuff that is inside of our known universe of energy/particle but yet cannot manifest inside of that known universe unless they are in a (physical) body.

    If you can clarify such lines a bit further it would be helpful.

  139. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm:You’ll have to clarify as it’s confusing what you are trying to describe.
    Earlier you commented:

    “I’m not a reductionist. The only form of physicalism I subscribe to is the position that the only substance that exists is physical.”

    Then of late you’ve made these comments:

    1) “We agree that something like the mind is not reducible to the physical”
    2) “I am not a physicist”
    3) “I do think that there is only one substance: the physical”
    4) “Many other things exist in this world besides the physical”

    These seem to be self-contradictory (and confusing).

    Sorry if you find it confusing.
    I’ll try rephrasing.
    Not everything that can be said to exist is a substance. The mind is not a substance. A law is not a substance. Don’t you agree that they exist?

    The only substance that does exist is what is commonly referred to as matter. That substance can take a wide variety of forms. Look at the differences between living matter and non-living matter.

    I mentioned that I am not a physicist because you were asking for a physical explanation that I am not qualified to give.

    Recognizing that the sciences are the best tools we have for knowledge of the world is not scientism. The sciences rely on philosophy for conceptual clarification and understanding. Philosophy relies on the sciences for the knowledge they provide.

    It is through philosophy that we aim for conceptual truth.

    If by “powers” you mean something non-physical, then what part of physics do you there appeal to?

    Why do you think I have to appeal to physics to recognize the intellectual and volitional powers displayed by humans?

    Do you believe that everything that exists has to be a substance?

  140. scblhrm

    Hal,

    It seems we agree that you are in fact a materialist as you say these:

    A:

    Mind = Non-Substance
    Law = Non-Substance

    B:

    All Substance = Matter

    Therefore A = B

  141. scblhrm

    Hal,

    If that seems confusing to you, it should.

    Or do you mean to affirm the existence of two realities:

    1) Material (Matter/Substance) (the realm of all known physics)

    2) Immaterial (Non-Matter / Non-substance) (inaccessible to the realm of all known physics)

    If so, then it seems we agree. Hawking too sees the need to exit time and material – else absurdity.

    The Theist, of course, always knew the path of evidence would take us there – to the Timeless and Immaterial.

    Idealism finds coherence there inside of Necessity. Mind. Law. And so on. Contingency, of course, ends all coherence for the non-theist should he attempt to have it both ways.

  142. Bryan Howlett

    @scblhrm
    I’m confused! Are you saying that:
    – the laws of motion are substances?
    – the laws of motion are inaccessible to the realm of all known physics?
    – or what?

  143. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm,
    If that seems confusing to you, it should.

    Unfortunately I do find what you have written to be very confusing.

    I fail to see why because substances like humans have the capacity to reason and think that entails some other realm of existence.

    I’m also not sure why you keep bringing up physics as if that is the only real science. I don’t think science is a unity. Not all of the sciences can be reduced to physics.

    As far as I can tell there is only one reality: the world we inhabit. In that world we encounter an immense variety of phenomena. Being rational creatures with the capacity to use language we have constructed a highly developed conceptual scaffolding (norms of representation) to help us understand that world.

    Apparently you think some other realm of reality must exist in order for us to conceptualize and represent the world we live in. I honestly don’t see why I need travel down that path.

  144. scblhrm

    Hal,

    Then we agree. Mind exists necessarily – non-contingently.

    Or perhaps you prefer ‘inexplicably”?

  145. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Motion is observable. In Material. In Microscopes.

    I’ve never seen Logic. Nor Thoughts. In microscopes.

    Have you?

  146. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm,

    Then we agree. Mind exists necessarily – non-contingently.

    I don’t think we do agree. You apparently think the mind is some sort of thing. I also have the impression that you think the mind is the self.

    I think that is a conceptually incoherent view of the mind.

  147. Bryan Howlett

    OK, I wasn’t really asking about motion. I was asking about the laws of motion. Have you seen the laws of motion? I’ve never seen them, but I’ve seen the effects. The same with logic.

    Physics uses logic and empirical evidence to formulate hypotheses. The hypothesies / theories / laws of physics aren’t substances (at least not in the usual sense of the word, although arguably they are stored in the atoms of brains or computers or whatever). They are to all intents completely fictional – and worth treating as such. That doesn’t stop them being useful. They are useful to the extent they have predictive power or provide other benefits or pathways to gaining more predictive power.

  148. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Stored in atoms. Yes – the reductionist’s path is well established. And problematic. Hence this thread’s topic, discussions, Etc.

  149. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm ,

    So we agree that Mind exists?

    I would agree that humans have minds. But when a human dies his mind does not continue to exist.

    As best I can make out, you think Mind is some sort of substance that exists apart from the reality we perceive with our senses.

  150. scblhrm

    Hal,

    As best as I can tell you claim mind is contingent on what we perceive with our senses – on Material. If not then Mind exists independently from Material. If contingency – well then contingent on material. Material then precedes Mind. And owns it. Or perhaps you feel Mind precedes Material – as in Idealism?

  151. Bryan Howlett

    scblhrm,

    The point that I’m trying to make is that the actual nature – whether material or immaterial – is completely and utterly irrelevant to physics (and science more generally). What’s important are the effects. We can then develop models that enable predictions in whichever realm of abstraction we decide to look.

    Looking at how an individual behaves does not necessarily tell you how a group or a society will behave. We can formulate models and hypothesies at different levels of abstraction. Mind is such an abstraction.

  152. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Mind is an abstraction.

    That is sort of like saying Mind is Mind, but the reductionist’s regress would keep going to a more distal stopping point – to Wave/Particle. To material.

  153. Bryan Howlett

    schblhrm,

    Well, yes, because there is significant evidence that the mind is an artifact of the brain and there is significant evidence that the brain is a physical substance.

    “Mind” is an abstract term – i.e. a word – we use to describe certain effects, like we use the word “War” to describe certain behaviors and effects. It’s a convenience for thinking and communicating at a certain level of abstraction.

    We can unpack it, but examining the individual parts may not give us a true picture or sense of the whole. If someone in the 18th Century saw the parts of a television they would probably not imagine or believe what the assembled object could do. That doesn’t mean it can’t do it.

  154. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan:

    The point that I’m trying to make is that the actual nature – whether material or immaterial – is completely and utterly irrelevant to physics (and science more generally).

    I’m trying to catch up with the conversation here, and this is one place for me to try to do that. I’m having trouble understanding why you would point this out. What’s completely and utterly irrelevant to science is not therefore completely and utterly irrelevant, right?

  155. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Hal, you write,

    As best I can make out, you think Mind is some sort of substance that exists apart from the reality we perceive with our senses.

    As best I can make out, this note from you implies you think you cannot perceive your own mind. It also implies that you think “reality” is what we perceive with our senses. I’m sure you meant that in a broad sense, i.e., our senses aided by instrumentation and mathematical inference.

    Still, I have to wonder, why would you think such a silly thing as that? What is it that seems compelling to you about that being the only reality? It’s a very strange, myopic, reality-limiting thing to think. Very strange.

  156. Bryan Howlett

    Tom:

    What’s completely and utterly irrelevant to science is not therefore completely and utterly irrelevant, right?

    Does it have any noticeable effect on us?

  157. scblhrm

    “…..implies you think you cannot perceive your own mind….”

    Hmmm… good insight Tom. I missed that one.

  158. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Ought.

    Logic.

    Presupposition.

    These all effect us and our science.

    You’ve asked the wrong question. If you’re a materialist you should ask how those material things effect us. Not if. Beware of illusion. And of a false identity claim – and of equivocation.

  159. Bryan Howlett

    Yes, and I would include them in things that have noticeable effects, so I don’t think I am equivocating. I am not a materialist in that sense; I do not know or care whether matter exists and I am happy to accept fictions that are useful (though I am eager to improve them).

  160. Post
    Author
  161. Bryan Howlett

    If it has noticeable effects then is it not within the realm of scientific exploration / learning (in a loose sense of the word – observing, modeling, reasoning, hypothesizing, testing, empirically improving)?

  162. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    That is what this thread is about. Mind. Self. What they are. Reality seems wider than the purely material. Reduction fails and yet it all matters. Reality matters. Material and Immaterial. Time and Timelessness.

  163. Bryan Howlett

    Reality matters, yes, but I’d argue we can happily live with fictions that gradually approach the truth about reality.

    I don’t understand this idea that reality is wider than purely material. I’m not saying it isn’t. I’m saying that I have not seen evidence of it. It seems to be an unwarranted leap and a distinct lack of imagination.

  164. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    The incoherence of materialism – of philosophical naturalism – is – again – one of the reasons for this thread. If Scripture and all available evidence lead us and Hawking out of both Time and Material then it seems reasonable to go there.

  165. Ray Ingles

    Tom Gilson –

    It’s because force applied for bridge-purposes is inappropriate for humans, because we are not, by nature, bridges.

    That’s not what Holopupenko actually said, though. What he said was that using a human as a bridge was wrong, period – “why” it’s wrong for the Nazi is because “to use a natural thing against its nature is to violate that nature”.

    Except using a human as a bridge is not bad when a parent does it to save their child, or a soldier does it to save fellow soldiers. It’s bad when it’s not their choice – when they are forced to against their will.

    Again, Leon Kass is convinced that eating ice cream from a cone in public is against human dignity, is against human nature. I suspect, though, everyone reading this has shown by their actions that they disagree with his conception of human nature in that respect. I wouldn’t dream of forcing him to eat an ice cream cone in public, though – because that would be against his will.

  166. scblhrm

    Ray,

    Innate ought beyond shifting taste.

    Holopupenko’s paradigm has it.

    Your paradigm still does not.

  167. Bryan Howlett

    scblhrm,

    … all available evidence…

    Please explain what evidence (other than scripture) leads us out of time and material with regard specifically to the topic of this blog post – the mind and/or what Tom refers to as the “essence” of a person.

    I don’t see evidence that leads there. I see evidence of people with limited imaginations unable to think of (or countenance) natural theories, and resorting to the supernatural. Unfortunately that approach to understanding reality has a long and disappointing history.

  168. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    The definitions implicit in Hawking’s imaginary sphere overlap with the semantics used in defining God. Any model which assumes a magical insulation from those vectors cannot be a complete model. That would be like asserting that Time/Space has no beginning – is the whole show. But Space/Time isn’t the whole show. Any model of Mind that is fearful of Timelessness cannot hope to be ultimately complete. Magic insulation doesn’t exist. “It” that precedes / out – lives space/time is right now in play inside this universe – our skulls are not immune or “magically insulated”.

  169. Post
    Author
  170. Bryan Howlett

    Any model of Mind that is fearful of Timelessness cannot hope to be ultimately plausible.

    This blows my mind. You think that any model of the mind has to include timelessness? That makes it a more useful model in what way exactly?

    I like to imagine Newton sitting in his orchard thinking “F=ma! Ah, no this is a useless model as it doesn’t include timelessness”.

  171. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Magic insulation?

    How?

    That would be like asserting that Time/Space has no beginning – is the whole show. But Space/Time isn’t the whole show. Any model of Mind that is fearful of Timelessness cannot hope to be ultimately complete. Magic insulation doesn’t exist. “It” that precedes / out – lives space/time is right now in play inside this universe – our skulls are not immune or “magically insulated”.

  172. Melissa

    Ray,

    That’s not what Holopupenko actually said, though. What he said was that using a human as a bridge was wrong, period – “why” it’s wrong for the Nazi is because “to use a natural thing against its nature is to violate that nature”.

    Except using a human as a bridge is not bad when a parent does it to save their child, or a soldier does it to save fellow soldiers. It’s bad when it’s not their choice – when they are forced to against their will.

    You are still not grasping what was actually being said. The Nazi is wrong because he treats the human as if their purpose is to act as a bridge to keep his boots clean. The parent acting as a bridge to save their child is not wrong because they correctly understand that their purpose as a human includes self-sacrificial love for the other. ie they are not using themselves in violation of their nature. You should know enough of this stuff to be able to work that out for yourself.

  173. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Think of it this way: Whatever that Timelessness / Immaterial “Sphere” is which precedes and outlives Space/Time is – right now – present, in play. ANY story which fails to include those tentacles cannot hope to be a complete story. Our skulls are not magically insulated.

  174. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    He doesn’t want to work it out for himself, Melissa. (But you were able to work that out for yourself, I know.) If he wanted to, he would. It’s easy enough, as you’ve rightly said.

  175. Bryan Howlett

    Tom,

    … there is no coherent way for rational inference to be tied to physical cause and effect…

    There may not currently be any well-evidenced theory for how consciousness (or rational inference) comes about, but is a far cry from saying that there cannot be.

    There are many theories and simulation evidence that show how learning can occur in neural networks. There are also theories about how “meta” feedback – feedback loops into the process of learning – can cause additional levels of learning and awareness. The human brain has an incredibly dense network of connections and feedback loops. Hardware for simulating anything like this scale is only just starting to become available.

    As far as I can see there is no evidence for supernatural causes. That is only a descriptive theory/assertion and it leads nowhere. It is easy to come up with theories that describe effects. Useful theories predict effects that can be tested too.

  176. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan, the problem is not one of lacking theories and evidence. It’s a problem in principle, the kind of logical impossibility that no amount of new information could turn into a logical possibility. Have you read any of the links?

    Learning is not rational inference.

    Your last paragraph, I’m afraid, is loaded with bias. Christian theism leads just about everywhere, if you’re willing to look where it leads.

    Useful theories are predictive where prediction is relevant, i.e., in natural settings which are defined by their predictability. Suppose God exists, loves you, and matters in every way to your life, yet is not as predictable as the acceleration of gravity. Your mandating of useful theories would amount to a mandate that God would not be a useful theory, even if he were the most important reality there is (which he is, I’m quite convinced).

    Let’s put it another way. Does God exist, and is he important? If you restrict your research to what is natural and predictable, then you are in effect saying, “I won’t pay any attention to a supernatural God unless he is a natural supernatural God.”

    Let’s put it yet one more way. If there is no evidence for a natural supernatural God, fine. We’re not positing one.

  177. Bryan Howlett

    @scblhrm

    Hawking’s concept of pre-big bang is his theory – a fiction that he has created to try to describe the evidence (or lack of evidence) and provides a direction for scientific thinking – how can this model be tested? It does not mean that it is true. It may have elements of truth about it. It may not.

    What makes you even think we can have a complete story?

  178. Bryan Howlett

    Tom

    Suppose God exists, loves you, and matters in every way to your life, yet is not as predictable as the acceleration of gravity. Your mandating of useful theories would amount to a mandate that God would not be a useful theory. Which is equivalent to saying that your mandate is a mandate to miss reality

    If He is wholly (holy?) unpredictable then yes, the God theory would be lovely and would fit reality but would also be pretty darn useless. What could you do with it other than say, “Oh, that must have been God acting in His mysterious ways again”.

    As I have tried to say, I’m interested in useful theories – theories that humans can do something with – to predict a turn of events, and that can be tested and have evidence to support them.

    Yet I am also interested in reality, and find it amazing that when we don’t instantly ascribe things to God we very often find very plausible natural explanations.

  179. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    It’s enough that we must include that paradigm – that sphere. Theism PREDICTED that. Eons ago. Definitions there amid his Sphere model and Theism begin to merge. As you noted such may direct our reasoning. As for your hope in some sort of magical insulation inside our skulls, well, Space/Time just can’t be the end of any story – we’re (essentially) certain of that.

  180. Bryan Howlett

    @scblhrm

    There are competing theories, e.g. an oscillatory universe (search for “non-singular big bounce” if you’re interested) where a big bang is a result of a big crunch.

  181. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Scientism is nonsense. So everything you’ve committed to with Tom is quite troubling for you. And if you believe in oscillations you need to go do more research. Space / Time still fail you.

  182. BillT

    As I have tried to say, I’m interested in useful theories – theories that humans can do something with –

    It’s not useful to you to understand your wants, needs, passions. It’s not useful to you to understand what drives you to do the good and maybe not so good things in you life. What motivates your empathy or your humility (or lack thereof?). Does science really help you discern these things. Help you understand what attracts you to things beautiful and draws you to (or away from) friends and family. My faith helps me with all these tings.

  183. Bryan Howlett

    It’s a problem in principle, the kind of logical impossibility that no amount of new information could turn into a logical possibility. Have you read any of the links?

    I read this article, but it seemed to be fighting a strawman, in that I don’t know of any modern neuroscience that models the workings of the brain as logic gates. Simulations such as Blue Brain don’t use logic gates but have simulated neurons and neural circuits that are electrically interconnected and operate on timings not boolean logic.

    The article seems to show no appreciation of the fuzziness and chaos introduced by timings, and feedback loops and seems to be predicated on an assumption that physical systems are essentially deterministic. It also seems to neglect the mental “circuitry” evolution has built-in, including a strong orientation towards survival. We are not dispassionate. There are useful models of the mind at different levels of abstraction. You seem to be caught up in the lower-level ones, trying to reassure yourself “it’s impossible”. I don’t know what scriptural reason lies behind it.

  184. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Effects have causes.

    If there is a break in that chain then it is only because another chain smashed into the first chain and broke it. But swinging chains and reasoning are not identical. Programmed permutations in chess to the Nth move still isn’t reasoning.

  185. Bryan Howlett

    And it’s not useful to you to understand your spiritual nature?

    As a human, I may have a “spiritual nature” or, perhaps more accurately, a natural desire to explain things around me, but I have no desire to believe in the supernatural as those explanations are useless in my view.

    It’s not useful to you to understand your wants, needs, passions.
    It’s not useful to you to understand what drives you to do the good and maybe not so good things in you life. What motivates your empathy or your humility (or lack thereof?).

    Yes, I find all these things extremely useful.

    Does science really help you discern these things.

    Yes! Science in a looser sense of the word (not the so-called hard sciences).

    Help you understand what attracts you to things beautiful and draws you to (or away from) friends and family.

    Yes.

    My faith helps me with all these things.

    You don’t need it.

  186. scblhrm

    Bryan seems to hold to scientism.

    How unfortunate.

    Philosophy’s self-evident could tell him there the innate flaw in that belief which his microscope can never reveal to him.

  187. Bryan Howlett

    I do not claim that science is necessarily the only way to gain knowledge. I also do not claim that answers to every question can be found through science. I definitely do not claim that.

    However, I find a scientific approach extremely valuable and use it in all areas of my life. I am always trying to uncover, question and challenge and test assumptions I hold and to change my mind when I see that my previous model was false or unhelpful.

  188. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    In this thread you’ve done nothing but beholden yourself to scientism. You cannot feel safe making truth claims without a microscope – specifically in the arena of philosophy. But Philosophy’s self-evident carries our sight to scientism’s self-negation. Microscopes never will bring that truth to us.

    Your tone and language here give no reason to believe you cherish that means to truth as delivering justified knowledge/belief.

    In short – you’ve demonstrated – consistently in this thread – the opposite of your claim of late that you do not hold to scientism.

  189. Bryan Howlett

    I did not claim to hold to scientism. You are the one handing out the labels.

    My view is that I don’t need my models to be coherent. I don’t need them to be right. I accept they are incomplete, fictional, wrong. I don’t care as long as they are useful.

    I’m not sure who it was that said: “All models are wrong, some models are useful.” But that fits my view.

    You seem to reject any model that is wrong. Well, if you do that you’ll have no models left. A model has to simplify, has to omit our it’s not a model.

  190. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Logic gates or whatever, Bryan, use your head: what matters is whether the outcome is driven by logic or by physics–and I don’t mean computer logic, but plain-old-fashioned logic. (Physics cannot accomplish inferential reasoning.)

  191. Bryan Howlett

    I did not claim to hold to scientism. You are the one handing out the labels.

    My view is that I don’t need my models to be coherent. I don’t need them to be right. I accept they are incomplete, fictional, wrong. I don’t care as long as they are useful.

    I’m not sure who it was that said: “All models are wrong, some models are useful.” But that fits my view.

    You seem to reject any model that is wrong. Well, if you do that you’ll have no models left. A model has to simplify, has to omit our it’s not a model.

  192. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Your means to justified models of reality is (thus far) only science. But Philosophy’s self-evident bypasses that with quite another means – a means which rescues you from the mistaken belief that science is the only “safe” path to truth (or accuracy). It does this by revealing the sort of truths microscopes cannot ever reveal – like scientism’s innate self-negation.

  193. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan, OCR software spits out certain patterns of output, interpretable by humans as symbols, when provided with certain patterns of input, also interpretable by humans as symbols although not as easily manipulated by computer means. It does so by means of physically determined processes, without drawing any inferences concerning the meaning of the symbols; indeed, to the computer there is no meaning there, only patterns of pixels, voltages, and etc.

    It seems a bit off topic. Why do you ask?

    (Oh, sure, I know why you think it’s on topic. Think it through some more.)

  194. Bryan Howlett

    scblhrm

    I use logic and thought experiments too. How is the Philosophy of which you speak practically of any benefit to me? I’m not very interested in theories that are descriptive and elegant but have no use. How is it useful?

  195. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    One practical benefit might be that it could help you re-think what it means for a model to be useful vs. true, and how your viewing the world in terms of models is essentially scientistic, even though you haven’t claimed scientism.

    Or in other words, it might help you think more clearly and accurately about the things you’re discussing here.

  196. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    If you find the ability to avoid the false (erroneous) belief of scientism to be if no help to you – then we can’t help you. If you want to avoid mistaken beliefs – well you’ll need Philosophy’s self-evident lines to get you there. Because science won’t reveal them to you.

  197. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    The answer to # 208 is this: you’ll see truth more clearly and also avoid erroneous beliefs (like scientism).

  198. Bryan Howlett

    I don’t want to avoid mistaken beliefs as such. I want to find beliefs that are (more and more) helpful.

    Philosophy may generate true beliefs, but completely useless ones. Unless you know of helpful beliefs that philosophy provides?

  199. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    If you don’t want to avoid erroneous beliefs (like scientism) then okay – you don’t care about avoiding falsehoods. Since that is going to be how you develop your models of reality – by not employing means which reveal falsehoods – then you’ll have falsehood-laden models of reality. Philosophy’s self-evident lines carry you to better – more accurate – models of reality.

  200. Bryan Howlett

    If I were to claim that science can provide all the answers, you could say it is false. I haven’t claimed it. You are putting words in my mouth.

    I will, however, claim that taking a scientific approach in my life has led me to deeper understandings about myself and others and has improved my life a lot.

    I do not want false beliefs, but I am prepared to accept them as part of the journey of learning. I work hard to identify contradictions in my models and eradicate falsehoods (where my model doesn’t match reality). I see my beliefs and models as works in progress. Models by their nature cannot be complete.

    If you think science tells me nothing about reality then I think you are wrong.

    I am genuinely interested if philosophy can lead to useful answers – answers that can be used to improve one’s life. My hunch is that while logical rigorous thought is useful, without empirical input, it’s just navel-gazing. Some people enjoy spending months “proving” that 1=1. I’d rather learn something that has more practical use.

  201. SteveK

    I am genuinely interested if philosophy can lead to useful answers – answers that can be used to improve one’s life.

    This is a philosophical question (re: improving one’s life) that you’ve already thought about and answered for yourself, and now you’re asking if the philosophy that got you the answer is useful? I dunno, you tell me, is it?

  202. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    What SteveK said.

    And also:

    You said, “You are putting words in my mouth”.

    No. I’m not. I’m describing your behavior in this thread. As we’ll see yet again in a moment.

    You said, “I work hard to identify contradictions in my models and eradicate falsehoods (where my model doesn’t match reality).”

    We all do. Now, the Theist allows logic to inform him that his microscope cannot show him all of reality. Science cannot tell him this. Now, this brings evidence that Philosophy cannot be mere navel-gazing, as you called it, but rather is a means to truth, to more accurate models. Like models void of scientism. Evidence without Philosophical insight is just as dangerous as Logic without evidence. Now, if I have to choose between logic and evidence, well it will be logic. For instance: if an argument is presented that mandates we believe the law of identity is false (that A = B is false) then the evidence has to wait until it bends to fit Logic. Philosophy trumps such evidence. Reality bends to fit logic. Models of reality are bent to fit logic. Because Philosophy’s self-evident lines are more critical – less flexible by nature.

    You said, “If you think science tells me nothing about reality then I think you are wrong”

    Science tells us much about reality. In fact, The Christian is commanded to pursue truth and subdue physicality. Science is a part of that. Not the whole of it. It just cannot tell us things like the fact that it cannot tell us everything. And it can’t. But we need those self-evident lines of logic, of Philosophy, to tell us about other areas of reality. Of course, if reason is just driven by deterministic chains as you infer from your computer models of reality – well then it seems your model may not be accurate – or perhaps even can’t be.

    Then you go again into talking down about Philosophy, which you say you’re not doing: “I’d rather learn something that has more practical use.” As noted earlier, if means to justified knowledge which can prevent you from having erroneous models of reality are “not practically useful” to you, well then you’ll have erroneous models of reality. Like the (self-negating) belief that science is the only means to justified knowledge.

    It isn’t.

    BTW: SteveK’s point can go on in about fifty different directions here – to the detriment of philosophical naturalism.

  203. Bryan Howlett

    If you think that philosophy can prove the existence of a deity, well, with logic, and no ability to check in reality, you can easily have garbage in, garbage out. You can tell me how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. You can believe whatever you like, and maybe it’s self-consistent but does it match reality or have you made a wrong assumption somewhere? You have no means to know.

    Would you prefer a true belief that has no practical use or one that is only partially true but that makes your life significantly better?

    I have never claimed my models are accurate or anything like it. They are USEFUL. If you think it’s possible to have a model that is wholly accurate, it’s not a model, in my view. A model is by it’s nature only a partial account – ideally the salient parts, the essence.

  204. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm,
    As best as I can tell you claim mind is contingent on what we perceive with our senses – on Material. If not then Mind exists independently from Material. If contingency – well then contingent on material. Material then precedes Mind. And owns it. Or perhaps you feel Mind precedes Material – as in Idealism?

    Since I am an atheist and not an Idealist, obviously I don’t think Mind is some sort of self-subsisting thing that existed before the universe. I could be wrong, but that is what I happen to believe.

    We can ascribe minds to substances like humans based on their behavior. Humans can talk, they can act for reasons, they can refrain from acting for reason. No other animal on this planet has those powers.

    The mind is not a thing. It does not interact with the physical. How could a non-thing interact with something physical? If it is not a thing, then how could it be physical? So it makes no sense to try and reduce it to the physical.

    Perhaps it would be helpful in this discussion if you laid out your conception of what the mind is. When you do that, I will be glad to elaborate on my conception.

  205. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    You ask a question filled with philosophical lines with:

    “Would you prefer a true belief that has no practical use or one that is only partially true but that makes your life significantly better?”

    Again, if you’re after inaccurate models of reality then we can’t stop you. As for the word “better” – well – SteveK already pointed out the irony.

  206. Bryan Howlett

    An example inaccurate but useful model is the golden rule: do to others as you would have them do unto you. It’s only partially true. A mother buying her son a flowery birthday card might find it’s not well received.

    The rule can easily be improved: do to others as they would like done to them.

    Even that’s not perfect: what if they would like something done to them which has harmful effects or infringes on someone else’s desires?

    And so on. We can use the model see what happens (or think through scenarios) and if necessary tweak the model. That’s what I’m talking about.

    Is it a full account of human nature? No. Is it completely true model? No. Does it have secure philosophical underpinning? No. Is it useful? I’d argue it is.

  207. scblhrm

    Hal,

    You offer: “It (mind) does not interact with the physical”

    Well then we mostly agree. Of course since you concede the universe precedes mind then clearly the (physical) universe “built” or “ultimately sources” the mind. Out of what such “construction” arose you cannot tell us of course… given that the two don’t interact.

  208. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    #218 seems to be about love, about ought. Arbitrary and shifting taste buds source such “models” on naturalism. Shifting models….. shifting reality…. the word “accurate” seems inaccurately employed. Unless you mean one’s (arbitrary) preference. “Useful” suffers the same fate on naturalism.

  209. Bryan Howlett

    It’s not arbitrary if you think about it. The problem is you don’t think about it because you think you already have the answers.

  210. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    We agree. Immutable Love precedes and out-distances all of Man’s (fragmented) moral claims. Such lines are thereby (logically) non-arbitrary at bottom.

  211. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Philosophical naturalism trying to claim that an immutable moral ought exists is intellectual dishonesty.

    If you would think about it you’d realize that. But you’re not interested in models truthful to reality. “Better” to just pretend.

  212. scblhrm

    Hal,

    Your regress seems confused.

    The mind isn’t a thing. It’s substance – but not physical (physics…). And it ultimately sources to the universe – which therefore somehow gave birth to Mind.

    So substance A gave rise to substance B. But substance B is not contingent on substance A.

    Well – Contingency seems like you can’t avoid it, Hal.

    Or – there is a part of nature now free of the rest of nature – a part of nature now (but wasn’t always) not contingent on it.

    You’re sort of all over the place. The A and B stuff is troubling.

  213. Bryan Howlett

    If you think anything is immutable about the love in our lives or that love is imbued by an invisible benefactor, you are caught up in your so-called logic, not reality. But as you said, you’ll take your logic over evidence. Sad really. Life is amazing. You don’t need magical thinking to make it amazing.

  214. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm,

    You totally lost me in post #224. I certainly don’t think mind is a substance. Is that your concept?

    I do think humans are contingent beings. Same is true for all living beings on this planet. It was not necessary that I exist. Someday I will pass away and no longer exist.

  215. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Well you had said that it all was non-arbitrary with, “It’s not arbitrary if you think about it”. Now it seems you are saying it is all rather arbitrary. It is probably safe to say that what is not arbitrary is that subtle hint of nuisance at the arbitrariness of it all. It seems that subtle felt undercurrent is the work of delusion – if philosophical naturalism – as there just is no thing for one to be frustrated about. A model of reality which embraced the undeniable empiricism of, the brute patency of, raw evil in the world and also accounted for that subtle non-arbitrary tone in all our rejoinders to it just may see past the inaccuracy there of philosophical naturalism’s highly incoherent model of reality – but one would have to be open to a mode of thinking far more robust then scientism to get there – as the brute force of immutable logic and ceaseless love do – as one follows them – carry all our perceptions to the beauty of Truth.

    Whether we speak of inductive or deductive reasoning, or of space-time / energy and that utter inability to self-account ad infinitum within that robust anthology of all that just is Physics, or of the brute empiricism of raw evil, or of love’s ceaseless reciprocity there amid I-You – there amid Self-Other – ever in motion there amid that peculiar singularity nuanced inside of e pluribus unum’s singular Us, or of all that is Mind, or of those peculiar and unforgiving vectors of the Self’s I-am there in this threads topic of Identity which forever precedes and therefor survives all third-person probes which mere naturalism hurls at it, whatever it is, whatever the topic may be we are left with all the stuff of blind psychic phosphorescence – of philosophical naturalism’s full and final nihilism on all these fronts as ontological pluralism’s absurdity ensues, or, we are left with coherence, with reality, as theism seamlessly subsumes ad infinitum’s ocean on all fronts and thereby harvests plausibility. It will be absurdity, or, it will be logic’s lucidity. That inexplicable fearfulness of reality driving philosophical naturalism’s unending commitment to its own a priori god despite all these anthologies of evidence against it is nothing short of visionless worship willing to pay any nihilistic price so long as its god somehow, someday, some way, any way, remains the one true god.

  216. scblhrm

    Hal,

    So far you’ve asserted that the only substance which exists is the physical.

    Then you add another layer to reality:

    Other “stuff” exists too – such as Mind, Powers, Forces. Non-Things.

    Then you arbitrarily separate these two layers:

    The Mind (these Powers, these Non-Things) does not / do no interact with the physical (physics) because non-things cannot interact with things (physics).

    Now you rip the wall down:

    The Mind (these non-thing forces) is birthed by, contingent upon, does not outlive, that which is the body, or the physical, or the universe.

    So first there are two realities existing side by side. A (universe/physics) and B (forces/non-things).

    Then that changes to A (universe) giving birth to B (forces)

    Then that changes even further to B’s contingency upon A.

    You are contradicting yourself, and, even worse, you are not saying anything other than what amounts to – ultimately – Mind’s reduction to, and contingency upon, its indifferent and deterministic predecessor.

  217. Bryan Howlett

    scblhrm

    Thank you for that response. It is an eye-opener for how oblivious of and distant from reality we can get when we can’t or don’t check our thoughts against reality, when we prefer to believe our “philosophizing” or scripture over the evidence of reality.

  218. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Beware of scientism. You still seem committed to it. Philosophy will save you though from such erroneous thinking. Well, not that determined machines actually can “think/infer”. As Tom astutely noted. Reality is that we do otherwise. We infer. We reason. You may want to adjust your model there – again watching out for scientism.

  219. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan @229,

    You might be interested to know that some of us theists have also told scblhrm he can let his love of language take over, and lose sight of clear communication in the process. Atheists make the same mistake sometimes. This is a worldview-independent writing style.

  220. Bryan Howlett

    Knowledge from philosophy can only be as good as its assumptions. You are blind to the number of assumptions you are making. “Machines can’t think/infer” is pure assertion, and does not fit the evidence and/or you are defining (modelling) the concept of “inference” in a way that is unrealistic and unhelpful.

    As I have tried to suggest, you can model things in all kinds of way. Some models are useful. The model of reality you are proposing appears not to be. Whether we “truly” have free-will or whether the causal sequence plays out in a deterministic fashion is an interesting question for a late night chat but the answer will not be useful. If the answer is “yes” or “no”, what do we do differently? Nothing!

    I don’t understand why you are so hung up about erroneous thinking. Making errors is part of learning and learning is one of the joys of life. It is only when we can’t see or correct our errors we have a problem. Your approach to knowledge creation has no reality-checking feedback mechanism to help you correct problems. You just live in hope that you haven’t made a mistake. How can you learn?

  221. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    If we don’t freely reason – can’t infer / reason – and if “utility” outweighs The Truth – well that is both absurdity’s nihilism and the worship of your a priori god against the evidence.

    Which I described to you in that last comment.

    But you’ll need to reason – infer – to know that of ourselves. So your model is a hopelessly self-negating religion. Scientism….beware.

  222. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Maybe this is the real problem: Bryan, apparently you think Christianity views God as “an invisible benefactor.” If so, then you don’t actually understand what you think you’re disputing!

    You can debunk that view of God all day long. I’m right there with you.

    The true reality of God, on the other hand–now that’s a lot more interesting, and there’s infinitely more intellectual distance to it. Would you like to have a conversation about that?

  223. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    As SteveK pointed out – your employed “useful” isn’t a scientific term. It’s a philosophical predecessor to all your modeling. That atop an innate inability to infer truth leaves one’s scientism hopelessly dependent upon Philosophy’s self-evident vectors. Vectors beyond the microscope.

  224. Bryan Howlett

    Tom,

    Thanks, but my knowledge (or lack of it) of the results of your philosophizing is irrelevant to the argument I’m making: that (1) philosophy is only as good as its assumptions; (2) with no means to check against reality you have to hope you haven’t made any mistakes; (3) logically consistent conclusions that have no practical application may be fun to think about but are useless for living better lives.

  225. Bryan Howlett

    scblhrm

    Are you happy? Sad? Tired? Do you have to have scientific definitions of words to be able to use them? You seem to think that unless a theory is complete and completely coherent it is must be rejected. You are suffering from black and white thinking. Do you need to know whether 1=1 is really true before you learnt to count? Before you calculate your tax bill? Of course not. Who cares if 1=1 is really true (whatever really true means). Numbers are useful. Get your head out of the clouds and start living your life.

  226. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Obviously truth is unimportant to your worldview. But on force of reason no one is intellectually obligated to believe that worldview.

  227. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm,
    So far you’ve asserted that the only substance which exists is the physical.
    Then you add another layer to reality:
    Other “stuff” exists too – such as Mind, Powers, Forces. Non-Things.
    Then you arbitrarily separate these two layers:

    Reality seems to be a complex affair. I don’t find it problematic that non-substances exist in it. I take it that you think only substances can exit?

    You are contradicting yourself, and, even worse, you are not saying anything other than what amounts to – ultimately – Mind’s reduction to, and contingency upon, its indifferent and deterministic predecessor.

    From within your conceptual scheme I’m sure it does look like that to you.
    From my perspective you appear to be a reductionist. The only thing I see differentiating your position from a reductionistic-physicalism is that you want to reduce everything to Mind rather than to the physical.

    I am not a reductionist. Reductionism is a faulty tool in trying to understand the world we live in. I would appreciate it if you stopped trying to shoehorn me into adopting that tool.

  228. scblhrm

    Hal,

    Show me where I went wrong on your statements / descriptive lines in #228. The relationship amid A with B seems accurately described based on your earlier comments. A and B don’t seem to exist side by side. Rather, one seems to be birthed by the other.

  229. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm,

    It is a distortion of what I have been saying. Because humans have the capacity to think and tell others of their thoughts does not entail that those thoughts can be reduced to a physical description. I see nothing contradictory or incoherent in this.

    You appear to deny this because humans are physical substances.

    Reality is complex. Many different kinds of things exist in it.

    Do you believe that the only things that exist are substances?

  230. scblhrm

    Hal,

    Then we agree. Reduction fails.

    Now, so far, on your terms, Naturalism accounts for Mind with this: “inexplicably existent” (irreducible to anything in the current anthology of physics). Is that more accurate?

  231. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm,

    You appear to acknowledge that I am not a reductionist, yet you keep insisting I give a reductionistic explanation for the mind. Why?

    I have asked you several times to clarify your conception of the mind, but you have yet to answer any of those queries.

    Unless you start explaining your position more clearly, I can only assume based on what you have currently said that you think reductionism is a valid methodology. You appear to wish to reduce everything to mind instead of everything to the physical. In other words, the only thing really distinguishing your position from reductionistic physicalism is the substance everything is reduced to: mental rather than physical.

  232. scblhrm

    Hal,

    We agree Mind exists.

    We agree reduction inside of known physics fails to account for such lines.

    You seem to infer of late that Naturalistic lines need not be reductionistic to (quantum / mechanics / physics / etc.). That is fine if you’d stick to it. But you don’t. As per #228. That would also be fine if you had some evidence or even no evidence as we could work with that. Of course, you’ve shown us no evidence of such a Naturalistic reality. You just keep paring up naturalism and non-reduction. Blind foisting. Though, as per #228, you do change from time to time.

    As you’re certainly aware of, Theism finds Being, Mind, Identity, and so on, traveling within those ontological contours of the Necessary Being.

    Your descriptive, however, so far is all over the ontological map.

    As noted in #228.

    None of those incoherent descriptives of your lines thus far (in #228) have been shown to be an inaccurate representation of your statements thus far. You haven’t shown me where #228 went off track.

    Therefore, Mind and Physics are, in one comment of yours, apparently disconnected from each other, while in another comment they seem connected to each other. There are gentle hedges in between, as per #228.

    Well, there just isn’t anywhere to go with that. One could claim that Mind just exists. Inexplicably. Untethered to anything inside of known physics. That seems to be your track of late. Fine. It all works as a statement, a hypothesis. But with #228’s shifting sand, dialogue becomes impossible. A hypothesis is one thing, while, of course, ontological coherence and evidence are different matters. Naturalism of a non-reductionistic sort is not the problem (if that is what you mean to assert). A and B can just co-exist side by side – ad infinitum. Fine. That is not a problem (if you mean to say that). Your hedging, rather, is the problem.

  233. scblhrm

    Hal,

    That you infer that a Theist reduces everything to “the mental” reveals a strawman of sorts. God creates actual things. Not illusions. You exist. As does your body. And your house and car. Theistic Idealism doesn’t annihilate such. Though in Naturalism of course ontological pluralism’s absurdity remains pesky. Even unavoidable.

  234. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Bryan, you say,

    Knowledge from philosophy can only be as good as its assumptions. You are blind to the number of assumptions you are making. “Machines can’t think/infer” is pure assertion, and does not fit the evidence and/or you are defining (modelling) the concept of “inference” in a way that is unrealistic and unhelpful.

    “Machines can’t think/infer” is neither pure assertion nor assumption.

    One of your assumptions seem to be that there is nothing more to be said on the topic than what we’re saying here in these brief comments, or that no one but theists has explored the problem, or that the links I provided earlier have nothing to offer on it.

    Do you want to know more about this important issue, or are you going to rest in the level of knowledge and assumption you are able to draw on without learning further?

  235. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    You can answer my last couple questions/comments any way you like, Bryan, but I’m really hoping you’re interested in finding out what you do not yet know, whether you agree with it or not. There’s a lot to be side for keeping one’s mind open, I’m sure you would agree.

  236. Hal Friederichs

    scblhrm,
    Naturalism of a non-reductionistic sort is not the problem (if that is what you mean to assert). A and B can just co-exist side by side – ad infinitum. Fine. That is not a problem (if you mean to say that). Your hedging, rather, is the problem.

    I don’t think I’ve been hedging at all. I do however feel somewhat frustrated by your misunderstanding of my position.
    I have clearly stated that the mind is not a substance. It is not like the physical substances in this world. It makes no sense to say it co-exists side by side with another substance. It is in a different conceptual category from that of substance.

    Here is a more complete summary of my conception of the mind that I have copied from P.M.S. Hacker’s book, Human Nature, The Categorial Framework:

    Not a substance.
    Is neither identical with the human body, nor distinct from the human body; i.e. the question of sameness and difference makes no sense.
    Not a part of a human being.
    Informs the living organism, but is not ’embodied’ in it.
    To possess a mind is to have an array of powers of intellect and will.
    The distinctive powers of the mind are all linked to responsiveness to reasons.
    Excludes sensation, perception, fantasia and appetite.
    Not an agent.
    Does not stand in a causal relationship to the body.
    Not a subject of psychological attributes, acts or activites.
    Not essentially private.
    Not essentially transparent.

    I’ve also been somewhat frustrated by the fact that you appear to take the standard approach of thinking the big conceptual divide or distinction is to be made between the mind and the physical. While I take it to be between living substances and non-living substances. Once physical substances acquired the powers we attribute to living things and began to evolve into a myriad of different species exhibiting different powers and abilities it is not all that incredible that rational creatures such as ourselves would appear.

  237. scblhrm

    Hal,

    I know your definition of powers.

    “Once physical substances acquired the powers we attribute to living things….”.

    That’s not new.

    That isn’t the question.

    The two questions are where and how physical substances acquired those powers (mechanism of acquisition)?

    And then, to clarify the 1st question:

    By acquired we presume you mean evolved?

    Or by acquisition do you mean a sudden leap out of thing-hood and into non-thing-hood (very rapid evolution perhaps) of what was once a thing? Or, a form of epiphenomenalism as in the link in #72?

  238. scblhrm

    Hal,

    Or – do mean to say that the mechanism of acquisition is that Mind (powers….) existed the whole time – alongside of physical stuff – and then you mean to move to a naturalistic version of dualism? Or is there another mechanism of acquisition?

  239. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Utility, not truth, is the very foundation of “knowledge” inside of philosophical naturalism and in fact anything that “works” will by far – even if delusion – be favored. We see it in those arrays of irrationally conditioned itches which “make us feel as if the life of my child matters even if everyone says it doesn’t” and so on in countless other cons played on Man by nature as nature “gets him to believe” such (arbitrary) constructs (if philosophical naturalism). The very ends of logic, of deduction, of love are all, therein, untenable and of course that is just the old story of Hume’s problem (of deduction and truth) being played out in a new form here in this thread. Useful Models, True Models, Error, Precision, and so on. Necessity and Logic (and let us add Love) bring us to the ends of Truth there in that Hard Stop in ontology’s Necessary Being and as such the phrase, “Truth Matters” rises to the surface whether we like it or not, that is to say, whether I like it or not. While the Christian is commanded by God to embrace methodological naturalism as he is commanded to subdue physicality, the road just never ends there with respect to Truth, to Reason, to Inference. That utility rather than truth wins out in any purely naturalistic worldview brings us to a location, a juncture, at which it just is the case that on force of reason no one can ever be intellectually obligated to believe in philosophical naturalism.

    David Hart describes some of this in the quote from his book, “The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss”. Of note it touches on the fallacy of methodological naturalism lending any weight to philosophical naturalism, and, also, it touches on the nature of identity, of being as well. Here’s the quote:

    “A straw man can be very convenient property, after all. I can see why a plenteously contented, drowsily complacent, temperamentally incurious atheist might find it comforting – even a little luxurious – to imagine that belief in God is no more than a belief in some magical invisible friend who lives beyond the clouds, or in some ghostly cosmic mechanic invoked to explain gaps in current scientific knowledge. But I also like to think that the truly reflective atheists would prefer not to win all his or her rhetorical victories against childish caricatures. I suppose the success of the books of the new atheists – which are nothing but lurchingly spasmodic assaults on whole armies of straw men – might go some way toward proving the opposite. Certainly, none of them is an impressive or cogent treatise……… The new atheists’ texts are manifestoes, buoyantly coarse and intentionally simplistic, meant to fortify true unbelieves in their unbelief; their appeal is broad but certainly not deep; they are supposed to induce a mood, not encourage deep reflection………..

    Regarding the ultimate nature of reality, at least, neither the general consensus of a culture nor the special consensus of a credentialed class should be trusted too readily, especially if it cannot justify itself except by reference to its own unexamined presuppositions. So much of what we imagine to be the testimony of reason or the clear unequivocal evidence of our senses is really only an interpretive reflex, determined by mental habits impressed in us by an intellectual and cultural history………. If we examine the premises underlying our beliefs and reasoning honestly and indefatigably enough, we will find that our deepest principles often consist in nothing more – but nothing less – than a certain way of seeing things, an original inclination of the mind toward reality from a certain perspective. And philosophy is of little use here in helping us to sort out the valid preconceptions from the invalid, as every form of philosophical thought is itself dependent upon a set of irreducible and unprovable assumptions. This is a sobering and uncomfortable thought, but also a very useful reminder of the limits of argument, and of the degree to which our most cherished certitudes are inseparable from our own private experiences……..

    ……..I have to admit that I find it impossible to take atheism very seriously as in intellectual position. As an emotional commitment or a moral passion – a rejection of barren or odious dogmatisms, an inability to believe in a good or provident power behind a world in which there is so much suffering, a defiance of “Whatever brute and blackguard made the world,” and so forth – atheism seems to me an entirely plausible attitude toward the predicaments of finite existence; but, as a metaphysical picture of reality, it strikes me as a rank superstition. I cannot imagine how it is possible coherently to believe that the material order is anything but an ontologically contingent reality, which necessarily depends upon an absolute and transcendent source of existence. To me, the argument for the reality of God from the contingency of all composite and mutable things seems unarguably true, with an almost analytic obviousness; and all philosophical attempts to get around that argument (I am fairly sure I am familiar with all of them) seem to me to lack anything like its power and lucidity. And the same is true in only slightly lesser degree of the argument from the unity, intentionality, rationality, and conceptual aptitudes of the mind, or the argument from the transcendental structure of rational consciousness.

    Even so, I must ruefully admit, I would be deceiving myself if I did not acknowledge that my judgments follow in large part from a kind of primal stance toward reality, a way of seeing things that involves certain presuppositions regarding, among other things, the trustworthiness of reason. Ultimately, though, I know that if the materialist position is correct, there can be no real rational certainty regarding ontological questions, or regarding anything at all; so the very assumption that what seems logically correct to me must in fact be true already presumes part of the conclusion I wish to draw.

    There, however, my generosity of spirit on the matter is exhausted. True enough, all of us derive our pictures of the world from certain fixed principles that we take as self-evident but can neither prove nor disprove, either empirically or dialectically. If, however, there is any legitimacy at all to the elementary categories of logic or the discriminatory powers of the intellect (and I think we have to believe there is), we can certainly say which perspectives on reality possess greater or lesser relative logical strength and internal consistency. So it is more than fair to point out that philosophical naturalism is among the most irrational and arbitrary visions of reality imaginable. This much is clear simply from the arguments typically made in its favor, all of which tend to be nothing more than catechetical assertions. Consider, for instance, the very popular but also purely doctrinaire claim that the principle of “the causal closure of the physical” precludes all possibility of supernatural agency in the world: an entirely tautological formula, warranted by neither reason nor science. It is indisputably true, admittedly, that any closed physical system that might happen to exist is by definition both physical and closed, but there is no compelling reason to think that our reality is such a system. And, anyway, a “closed” physical system still could not be the source of its own existence, and so would be truly closed only at the mechanical level, not the ontological; its existence would still have to be explained in “supernatural” terms. By the same token, claims that ………….the physical order is demonstrably devoid of final causality, and so on, are all just so many empty assertions masquerading as substantive arguments. As for the asseveration that naturalist thought has proven its cogency in the success of the modern sciences, this is simply a confusion of issues. Between the triumphs of the inductive, empirical, and theoretical sciences of modern age (on the one hand) and the metaphysical premises of naturalist thinking (on the other), any association is entirely a matter of historical accident and nothing more. Empiricism in the sciences is a method; naturalism in philosophy is a metaphysics; and the latter neither follows from nor underlies the former.

    The most egregious of naturalism’s deficiencies, however, is the impossibility of isolating its supposed foundation – that strange abstraction, self-sufficient nature – as a genuinely independent reality, of which we have some cognizance or in which we have some good cause to believe. We may be tempted to imagine that a materialist approach to reality is the soundest default position we have, because supposedly it can be grounded in empirical experience: of the material order, after all, we assume we have an immediate knowledge, while of any more transcendental reality we can form only conjectures or fantasies; and what is nature except matter in motion? But this is wrong, both in fact and in principle. For one thing, we do not actually have an immediate knowledge of the material order in itself but know only its phenomenal aspects, by which our minds organize our sensory experiences. Even “matter” is only a general concept and must be imposed upon the data of the senses in order for us to interpret them as experiences of any particular kind of reality (that is, material rather than, say, mental). More to the point, any logical connection we might imagine to exist between empirical experiences of the material order and the ideology of scientific naturalism is entirely illusory. Between our sensory impressions and the abstract concept of a causally closed and autonomous order called “nature” there is no necessary correlation whatsoever. Such a concept may determine how we think about our sensory impressions, but those impressions cannot in turn provide any evidence in favor of that concept. Neither can anything else. We have no immediate experience of pure nature as such, nor any coherent notion of what such a thing might be. The object has never appeared. No such phenomenon has ever been observed or experienced or cogently imagined. Once again: we cannot encounter the world without encountering at the same time the being of the world, which is a mystery that can never be dispelled by any physical explanation of reality, inasmuch as it is a mystery logically prior to and in excess of the physical order. We cannot encounter the world, furthermore, except in the luminous medium of intentional and unified consciousness, which defies every reduction to purely physiological causes, but which also clearly corresponds to an essential intelligibility in being itself. We cannot encounter the world, finally, except through our conscious and intentional orientation toward the absolute, in pursuit of a final bliss that beckons to us from within those transcendental desires that constitute the very structure of rational thought, and that open all of reality to us precisely by bearing us on toward ends that lie beyond the totality of physical things. The whole of nature is something prepared for us, composed for us, given to us, delivered into our care by a “supernatural” dispensation. All this being so one might plausibly say that God – the infinite wellspring of being, consciousness, and bliss that is the source, order, and end of all reality – is evident everywhere, inescapably present to us, while autonomous “nature” is something that has never, even for a moment, come into view. Pure nature is an unnatural concept.”

    It just is the case that on force of reason no one can ever be intellectually obligated to believe in philosophical naturalism.

  240. Bryan Howlett

    I cannot imagine how it is possible coherently to believe that the material order is anything but an ontologically contingent reality, which necessarily depends upon an absolute and transcendent source of existence.

    If you are interested in truth, this chap’s lack of imagination and unproven assumptions are far from a solid basis for it.

  241. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Show us the non-contingency that is itself void of effect-hood and is itself the necessary and sufficient cause of all effects.

    Don’t bother pointing to an effect.

    And you’ll need to establish inference, reasoning, in your pointing rather than mere input/output cause/effect. You’ll have to show your work here.

    And you’ll need to show us that the IT you point at isn’t a perceptual model – but the ontological end that is that abstraction of self-existing nature.

    Don’t bother employing any lines of the self-evident. You can’t afford it.

    And:

    “To me, the argument for the reality of God from the contingency of all composite and mutable things seems unarguably true, with an almost analytic obviousness; and all philosophical attempts to get around that argument (I am fairly sure I am familiar with all of them) seem to me to lack anything like its power and lucidity. And the same is true in only slightly lesser degree of the argument from the unity, intentionality, rationality, and conceptual aptitudes of the mind, or the argument from the transcendental structure of rational consciousness.”

    You’ll need to show your work on all counts. Using only what you can afford.

  242. Bryan Howlett

    I don’t need to do anything of the sort. You’re the one claiming to know the truth, not I.

  243. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    We’ve already established that philosophical naturalism cannot reach Truth. Illusion perhaps. Hume is merely replayed in this thread. All of us little i-am’s are ceaselessly contradicting the ends of philosophical naturalism, Being’s fountain being there itself a contradiction. Of course to even know these items one must make a truth claim. Agnosticism’s truth claim is as vacuous as is Scientism’s truth claim.

    I am.

    That troubles Hume’s reach, Materialism’s reach…..as those many lines of the self-evident should.

  244. Bryan Howlett

    If philosophical naturalism cannot establish the Truth, (which, by the way, I’m not arguing), your leaps-of-assumption based approach is far worse. You only get out what you put in. If you assume God, you’ll get God as your answer. Hooray! Wow! It’s surprising that you think this is worth anything. Logic is valuable but only as valuable as its assumptions.

  245. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Assume?

    No need for that.

    Agnosticism’s truth claim is as vacuous as is Scientism’s truth claim. It’s self-evident.

    I am.

    I don’t assume I am.

    It is self-evident.

  246. scblhrm

    We need not assume.

    We need only follow logic, follow reason, to their natural ends.

    I-Am

    It is self-evident.

    The desperation required to refute that 2 + 2 = 4 just to argue against God’s existence is discussed in this next link and is rather ILLOGICAL.

    That deduction and reason carry all semantics to necessary ends – on force of self-evident logic – where on force of reason no one can ever be intellectually obligated to believe in philosophical naturalism is not assumed. As Hume and countless others have – and still do – concede – it is self-evident. Utility claims forever suffering arbitrary ends void of final causation, rather than Truth claims, are therefore – on necessity – ultimately appealed to. It is not what is true, it is what works right now. It is Ontological pluralism – absurdity – for all we know. Those definitions and appeals themselves then, in circularity’s death, ever suffer the same fate – ad infinitum.

    Should there ever be a Hard Stop wherein the lucidity of seamlessness and the continuousness of coherence were to rip open the skies above our heads – ontology’s Necessary Being delivers – well then all the stuff of rationality and of reason will find Mind swallowing such Vectors as seamlessly and as naturally as Thirst swallows Water.

    We do not assume that Water is the natural and fitting end to Thirst. It is self-evident.

    We do not assume that A is not B. It is self-evident.

    We do not assume that Agnosticism’s truth claim is inherently vacuous. It is self-evident.

    We do not assume that Scientism’s truth claim is inherently vacuous. It is self-evident.

    We do not assume that no one ever is – on force of reason – intellectually obligated to believe in Philosophical Naturalism. It is self-evident.

    I am.

    I do not assume I am.

    It is self-evident.

    Being, in fact, is.

    We do not thusly assume.

    Such is self-evident.

  247. Bryan Howlett

    You are clearly passionate about this, but you seem to tie yourself in linguistic, rhetorical knots and miss the point.

    I am not arguing that we don’t exist. The assumption I’m questioning is “therefore God”, particularly any kind of interventionist God. The idea that our existence requires a God is far from self-evident and throws up far more questions than it answers.

  248. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Yes, that is exactly where and how our discussions of plausibility come in, such as on this topic of identity.

    Philosophical naturalism and agnosticism are troubling to any truth claim you make.

    Further, you better beware of a waive of the hand at the price of logic and reason. In reasoning, in arguing, you just can’t afford to allow your accounts to go bankrupt.

    Further, you’ve yet to account for Identity in this thread with anything remotely close to a sound argument.

    Now, when argument A consistently fails (yours) and argument B consistently presents seamlessness, lucidity, void of blind axioms, (Theistic), then you reject B on the same grounds that the Atheist in the link above rejects 2 + 2 = 4. That is to say, you do so not on rational grounds which follow patterns and evidence, but rather on the irrational grounds of your a priori philosophical commitments.

    That’s just bad science.

    If you mean to argue Evil Exists, well you’ll have to show your work – your regression to a Hard Stop of Immutable Love – as anything less than such an Objective Concrete Hard Stop is going to end up – as we dissect it – and make demands on it – as arbitrary consequentialism. Which, in logical terms, brings in all of circularity’s death in the Moral Paradigm as we just got done exposing in the Logical Paradigm.

    So, again, you would be back at moves which amount to bad science and irrational commitments.

  249. Bryan Howlett

    I’d love to hear what truth claims you think I am making, especially with the relevant quote from my words. I believe you are the one making truth claims. I have repeatedly tried to explain that I am after useful models of reality, not logical truths. My focus is on improving my models so that they gradually become more useful. To do that, they generally become truer, but I am not so deluded to think that any model of reality is true. All models are approximations. Some models are useful. Your models seem not to be. That you can’t see the assumptions in your models is worrying, that you think they are not models is worrying, that you cannot check them against reality is worrying but goes to show why I think your approach is fundamentally flawed. I also think that you are caught up in rhetoric and obscure vocabulary to the extent that you don’t even know what you are really saying, let alone able to communicate it to others.

  250. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Models that work at the expense of 2 + 2 = 4?

    You say you are not after logical truths? You don’t want logic built into your models? That is to say, if Logic is the price needed in order to get your model to work, well then that is okay?

    But if Logic, then PN cannot stand – on force of reason.

    Let’s just look at this from Tom, “OCR software spits out certain patterns of output, interpretable by humans as symbols, when provided with certain patterns of input, also interpretable by humans as symbols although not as easily manipulated by computer means. It does so by means of physically determined processes, without drawing any inferences concerning the meaning of the symbols; indeed, to the computer there is no meaning there, only patterns of pixels, voltages, and etc.”

    Now, not only is it I am. Not only is it Identity. It is also I infer. It is also I reason. Deduction. And so on. There is no model of any physical machine which even comes close to any of those – not in a million years. It is not reason nor is it logical lucidity “following patterns and evidence” which is so daring as to posit OCR software as something even close to Identity. No. It is instead some sort of blind philosophical commitment to one’s a priori / presupposition of philosophical naturalism. And that is not surprising. For, to even commit oneself to that, to PN, one must – on force of reason – be comfortable forfeiting any coherent ends in logic and in reasoning and in inferring. We do find a pattern of evidence here. But it is not on the stuff of Identity. Rather, it is on the predictable behavior of the irrational. Whether it is 2 + 2 = 4, or whether it is Logic, or whether it is Reason, or whether it is Inference, or whether it is Identity, the pattern and evidence is the same: those who suffer from this bizarre a priori commitment to PN are – without fail – demonstrably willing to pay any price to avoid the sight of, suggestion of, contours necessitating God – necessitating the stuff of immaterial timelessness – ever. These repeatable patterns are predictable and thus are workable models quite revealing of the truth about the reality of those forms of thinking over there in the PN camp.

  251. scblhrm

    Bryan,

    Behavior is demonstrated. It is not self-evident.

    Logic, I am, Identity, Being, these are self-evident.

    One is not in need of the other.

    You are equivocating.

    Badly.

    Do you mean to make a logical presupposition there with QED? If you did it failed on equivocation, but that you even try, given PN, is, well, all the demonstration needed. Your own work cannot afford the price you ask it to pay. On force of reason.

  252. scblhrm

    Since Philosophical Naturalism’s own work (PN’s own work) cannot afford to pay the price which PN itself demands even of PN itself, and, given that PN fails to explain by force of reason man’s intellectual experience nor his experience of being nor his moral experience and for that matter that his (or any) physicality exists, we see no need to pay the high, painful, terrible price of surrendering all those costly states of affairs within the contours of the self-evident realities of logic and reason and identity and inference and being and so on just so that we can defend a few irrational a priori philosophical commitments to PN.

    That would be very bad science. Justified knowledge just cannot afford to pay that price. The Christian’s embrace of methodological naturalism as God commands man to subdue physicality commits him to follow physicality to its bitter ends, wherever such methods may lead. As described of late in another recent thread the Christian Theist finds no reason to do anything other than diligently track the evidence forward as all sorts of working models come and go as old information morphs and new information arrives. Scripture’s means and ends are wide open. To Time. To Timelessness. To Material. To Immaterial. It all works. The ontological contradiction that is “PN Posited” just never arrives with enough revenue – it is always borrowing – and as such it is clearly the case that the Theist just always will leverage collateral and thereby will never – on force of reason – find it necessary to pay PN its full asking price – a price PN itself cannot afford.

    Those contours of the self-evident bring us to that peculiar work done by knowledge, that is, arguing itself, deduction itself, reason itself, inference itself, logic itself – even being itself right there in the middle of all of the above – and so on mandates that – necessarily – we leave PN behind for those very ends of logic, of inference, of reasoning, of being, of identity – and so on – themselves all achieve final incoherence therein.

    An interesting development: It seems both Logic and Morality bring us to an interesting “Y” in the road, and that is this: Arbitrary consequentialism within the ends of any Moral Paradigm is just as fatal to that (moral) paradigm (and hence all of its moral claims) as arbitrary utility inside of any Paradigm of Logic is to that (logic / reason / argument) paradigm (and hence all of its claims of coherence). Circular suicide rapidly ensues in either case. That unyielding dyad amid the logical and the moral is utterly catastrophic to the entire swath of ontological geography that is PN’s pathetic “accounting of reality”.

    How then to proceed?

    It is reason and logic, and therefore not PN, which allow us to follow God’s command to dive into and embrace methodological naturalism to its bitter ends as he (Man) is commanded by God to subdue physicality. And, as we all know, that road just never coherently (and coherence matters) “ends” there with respect to Truth, to Reason, to Logic, to Inference, to Identity, to Being.

    That utility rather than truth wins out in any purely naturalistic worldview brings us to a location, a juncture, at which it just is the case that on force of reason no one can ever be intellectually obligated to believe in philosophical naturalism.

    It is worth clarifying that for all these same reasons when we then move to the Moral Paradigm we find once again all the same problematic topography inside of any moral paradigm of PN. Seamless lucidity occurs, however, in continuousness of coherence as we – again – follow the patterns and the evidence of Man’s brutal moral experience amid his many painful fragmentations. Such carries us easily, necessarily, even rapidly, out of the murky fog of irrationally conditioned itches inside of PN’s perpetually arbitrary and vacuous open-endedness and into the clarity that is love’s ceaseless reciprocity within the triune landscape of the immutable love of the Necessary Being. On self-sacrificial love we find Necessity’s ontological Hard Stop inside of Trinity’s ceaselessly relational moral landscape where there is no question on the “real-ness-of” such motions amid all that is those contours of I-You. On Self-Sacrifice, on Love, it just is the state of affairs that God “is” – while Man “discovers”.

    Truth here is categorically decisive for it just is the state of affairs that as it is in logic, so it is in love. These two eyes are that “by which” we perceive the world in which we awake to find ourselves. Our brutally repeatable physical and moral and intellectual experiences find in the end just no room at all for the bizarre and irrational landscape of PN’s shifting sands of final dis-logic where logic ultimately becomes ontologically necessary in all regressions and for all the same reasons we find just no room at all for that same bizarre and irrational landscape of PN’s shifting sands of final indifference where immutable love ultimately becomes ontologically necessary in all regressions. Ontological final causes relentlessly trump and outreach PN’s final absurdity regardless of which of those two eyes – logic or love – we employ in perceiving reality. Necessarily. Within Christianity’s Metaphysics both eyes are – without fear – wide open.

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