William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

There Are Only Two Errors: Idealism & Materialism

Form and matter, together at last.

Form and matter, together at last.

There is that which is (and is not) and that which we know about that which is (and is not); i.e. there is ontology and epistemology. There are both and not only one.

To say that our thoughts are all that is, is Idealism, the first error. To say that we have no thoughts but things themselves only exist is Materialism, the second error. There are, of course, innumerable ways for human thinking to go wrong; I only mean these two errors, Idealism and Materialism, are the drivers of many or most of them.

Idealism says reality doesn’t exist per se as something outside our thoughts, or perhaps outside the thought of some superior being, perhaps God, perhaps a powerful (computerized, these days) demon. Idealism in its strongest and most erroneous form does not just assert that we can only know our own thoughts, or that we can’t know things are they are in themselves, but it says that our thoughts are it. The universe—by which here and everywhere I mean all there is—is only thought and utterly immaterial.

As we learned before, Idealism was The Consensus in philosophy in the Victorian era. Only deniers denied Idealism. As David Stove taught us:

In 1887 almost every philosopher in the English-speaking countries was an idealist. A hundred years later in the same countries, almost all philosophers have forgotten this fact; and when, as occasionally happens, they are reminded of it, they find it almost impossible to believe. But it ought never to be forgotten. For it shows what the opinions, even the virtually unanimous opinions, of philosophers are worth, when they conflict with common sense.

It is perhaps not surprising Materialism came on the heels of Idealism supplanting it as an overreaction in the opposite direction. It is also thus understandable that both errors waxed and waned over the centuries. Materialism is the idea that all that exists is matter, or rather matter-energy, or just plain energy since the two are equivalent in some sense. The universe is nothing but interacting “particles” or clashing fields of energy. Even our thoughts can be reduced to mere arrangements of matter and energy. We don’t exist formally, neither do our thoughts exist independent of matter.

Funnily enough, Idealists say matter is an illusion and Materialists say thought is an illusion. Both sides accuse the other of being figments of their imaginations, so to speak. The Idealists are one up on the Materialists with their rhetoric, though. If Materialism is true, there cannot be illusions. Illusions can only be had in non-material thoughts. Why? In order for there to be illusions, there must be an underlying Reality which is being mistook, and there must be an individual doing the mistaking. Material itself, i.e. arrangements of matter or energy, cannot be wrong, in error, or mistaken, deluded. To say, under Materialism, that there are illusions is to say matter is wrong about itself, which is absurd.

These errors have ties to physics, too. To say only “particles”, or whatever it is that is prime matter, say, strings, or only energy exists is Materialism. To say only there are only fields or “laws” of physics, i.e. forms, is Idealism. Together there is form and matter (or energy). Energy or matter must take a shape, and that shape is a form. Thus that form has to originate from something. It can and must exist as an idea and is not itself material. The marriage of form and matter in physics, and in ordinary philosophy, is called Realism.

Think of it this way. If all that existed was formless energy, or disorganized prime matter, and there were no forms then nothing could happen, no change could get started. And if all that existed were forms, then no interactions could take place, and again nothing could happen. Given what we see, it thus can’t be that energy or matter can exist without forms. Physics, then, is the search for the fundamental forms and the prime-est matter, if you like.

Physics hamstrings itself if it doesn’t consider these metaphysical ideas. Scientists do well enough with matter and energy, and they do understand that these must be wedded to form, without perhaps thinking of it in this way. But they are not so used to thinking about the immaterial nature of the forms, which is why physicists (in which I include computer scientists et al.) slide into Materialism, which is close to the consensus view today.

62 Comments

  1. I think we have a failure of imagination here. I see no reason why thought could not exist as “all there is” and the thought simply creates the forms and the interactions we observe (note: I will not answer nasty comments on this. If you have a real question, fine). Heck, maybe thought is all there is. That is possible, though a highly unpopular notion. Is is probable? I have idea.

    It seems to me the only reason we have discussions like this are because if materialism is right, then bye-bye God. If idealism is right, God can stay, but we have to see him differently. It really doesn’t matter as far as day to day life which philosophy is correct—we behave as if both idealism and materialism are true and, as noted, our imaginations generally refuse to let us consider any other possibilities. To use a scifi example, we could all be living on a holodeck and not know it. That changes nothing in our day-to-day lives. The only reason we ask is because we want to prove something that can’t be proven anyway. (It seems that generally materialism is used to “disprove” religion but it’s impossible to prove nothing outside of matter exists because it’s outside of matter and thus outside materialism. It may be a fun little thought exercise or great scifi, but we cannot answer the questions.)

  2. If you enjoy this sort of mind and word wresting, look into Nominalism:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominalism

    After that, you will wonder — if not already wondering — who feeds philosophers and why.

  3. Nothing wrong with materialism and idealism, it’s religion and marxism.

  4. Sheri writes “I think we have a failure of imagination here.”

    How many of you are in there?

    “I see no reason why thought could not exist as all there is”

    Descartes. Cogito ergo sum. There must exist a thinker of thoughts.

    “I will not answer nasty comments on this.”

    We shall soon see 😉

    “It seems to me the only reason we have discussions like this are because if materialism is right, then bye-bye God.”

    Unless of course God is material. Strict materialism also eliminates art, music, morality, right and wrong, joy and sorrow.

    “If idealism is right, God can stay, but we have to see him differently.”

    There is no “we”. I will see him the way God has already decided I am to see him.

    “It really doesn’t matter as far as day to day life which philosophy is correct”

    Evidently it does matter. A fellow I knew in the Navy believed he did not exist, that nothing existed, we were merely objects in God’s dreaming. I’m not sure the Navy was wise to give him a security clearance.

    Strict materialism eliminates morality leaving only Darwinism — do what you have the strength to do because that’s what the chemicals in your body, organized into neurons and muscles, compel you.

    “our imaginations generally refuse to let us consider any other possibilities.”

    I wish your writing more clearly established that you are speaking of yourself and for yourself. My imagination works well.

  5. Michael 2: Three and still counting.

    Descartes could certainly be wrong. Thought may not require a thinker, except by definition. Definitions are arbitrary. They can obviously be changed—happens all the time in everything now.

    You’re not being nasty yet.

    I suppose God could be material, though I think that kind of contradicts the whole “Jesus was God made human” thing. Maybe God can be material and not human. Hadn’t really considered that. Seems possible.

    You may not need to redo your idea of God if you have no problem with Idealism and do not believe there is an actual earth. That is not a common belief so far as I know.

    It doesn’t matter if the Navy guy was right or not. We might be just objects in God’s dreams. We can’t tell. How other’s perceive these beliefs could be problematic. Had the Navy guy not mentioned his beliefs, no problem. Strict materialism does eliminate morality, but if we are just material, it doesn’t matter. I have also had materialists argue that morality is not eliminated, but rather applies because of social interactions. Even ants don’t eat each other on a regular basis. They work together for the benefit of the group. That could be considered morality.

    “We” is not literal, though I may just keep using it since it appears to annoy you so. 😉

  6. Briggs, I’m not sure whether you’re trying to make a “reductio ad absurdum” argument in looking at these two extremes. In any case, I believe the dogma of the Catholic Church, that we, as individuals are one–body and soul. There is also the point made (I forget who said it) “You don’t say ‘the body has a soul’, but rather the ‘soul has a body’ ” . The body is the “form” of the soul.

  7. Sheri, thanks for the prompt reply. I suspect we both know that arguing can be endless, but also worthwhile to ground one’s own immovable object, the one thing you know for sure to anchor everything else.

    “Descartes could certainly be wrong.”

    Trivially true; anyone can be wrong. At some point one thinks carefully about what is likely to be “most true”. Descartes is “most true” on that singular point; a thing must exist in order to question its existence.

    “Thought may not require a thinker, except by definition.”

    That is the magic sauce of all argumentation. Change the definition, change the thing! If you mean something other than “thought” for “thought” well then all bets are off.

    “Definitions are arbitrary. They can obviously be changed—happens all the time in everything now.”

    To extend your thinking of thought, definitions cannot be changed because “definition” does not exist. What a word means to you is your definition. The word doesn’t HAVE a definition independent of any observer or thinker. That is to say, definition is not a property of a word; it is a property of your mind; how you translated the phonemes of a word into a mental picture or meaning of some sort which sometimes corresponds well or poorly to the same mental picture in my mind.

    In the case of an INTP having a conversation with an ESFJ, the mental pictures are going to be vastly different for any combination of words; while they may think they are having a conversation, they cannot have a mutual understanding. Same with right brain vs left brain dominant people. The artist mind just isn’t going to comprehend Boolean algebra, and the math geek isn’t going to comprehend Picasso art (not that anyone comprehends it).

    So we can spend hours defining a word with no hope of communication.

    But you can still think and develop your own world view in your own language; and God, whatever you think he/she is, ought to be able to communicate to you precisely in your definitions, your world view, with none of this uncertainty and confusion. None whatsoever. Perfectly matched. That is my experience with god.

    “You’re not being nasty yet.”

    Also a matter of definition. I seldom attempt it deliberately.

    “I suppose God could be material, though I think that kind of contradicts the whole ‘Jesus was God made human’ thing.”

    Yes to both. A totally immaterial god is difficult to imagine; I doubt such a thing is possible. A totally material god would not probably be god, being made of the same substance presumably he made. But just as I can bake a cake and then eat it, God is certainly not prohibited from partaking of the substance he presumably created, thereby becoming a part of his own creation; but not exclusively bound to it. Your body and my body *is* exclusively bound to it, being made of atoms and so forth, but some part of me is not bound to it and only loosely interacts. And yet, to have any interaction at all there must be some mutual interdependence or substance, that which is the transcendental part of God must necessarily interact and be the same kind of thing as matter itself, but different in a way that voltmeters and gravitometers are limited in their ability to detect it. It might still be possible to detect God with instruments but you’d have to know what you are looking for.

    That is why I frequently mention fish have no concept of water. They are immersed in it and thus cannot see “water” as a thing that needs a name.

    “Maybe God can be material and not human.”

    Battlestar Galactica (the original, good version!) featured aliens that were godlike, not gods, but considerably advanced over humans; and yet, still human in appearance. They proclaimed that they were once as humans are now, and that eventually humans would become as they are now.

    “You may not need to redo your idea of God if you have no problem with Idealism and do not believe there is an actual earth.”

    I redo my idea of God regularly. But I am quite certain there’s an actual me (Descartes), and if so, also the Earth and everything on it. Should it happen that in my next life I discover that it’s like the “matrix” and isn’t “real”, well that doesn’t matter; for I am here, and I define “real” to be what there is to be seen, touched, heard, smelt and so on.

    I do not need my definition of “real” to extend into the fourth, fifth or sixth (keep going) dimension; because none of my senses can confirm or deny alternate worlds and higher dimensions.

    I am aware of the concept of “Flatlandia”; where a three dimensional object casts a two dimensional shadow — but in flatlandia, that two dimensional shadow is “solid”, it is all there is!

    Consequently I recognize that a “shadow” cast by a fourth dimensional object onto a 3-dimensional world will seem solid even though it is just a “shadow”.

    A cylinder cut by Flatlandia will be a circle; same as a sphere. Thus, Flatlanders upon encountering a circle can speculate on the possible existence of something beyond the circle creating the circle, but whether it be a cylinder, cone or sphere they cannot know. If only they could look in the third dimension it would be easy; but their eyes are two dimensional and they simply cannot look in the third dimension even though it is there.

    So it is with the fourth (or more) dimension. If God is a four dimension being; his intersection with three dimensions will be quite solid in the three dimension world while revealing almost nothing about his appearance in four dimensions. It ought to be trivial to “look” in the fourth dimension but our eyes simply are not equipped to do that; it is impossible.

    And yet, if you pass the cone through Flatlandia, the circle might start tiny and grow, then suddenly vanish. If a sphere, the shape of the growing, then shrinking, will reveal its third dimension over time allowing to imagine the third dimension even by two dimensional beings.

    Another aspect of Flatlandia is that a three-dimension being, or even a two-dimension being able to move in the third dimension, is not confined by barriers in two dimensions. So it is that a fourth-dimension being is not even inconvenienced by barriers, walls and so forth of the three dimensional world.

    “It doesn’t matter if the Navy guy was right or not.”

    Your mileage obviously varies. When a person decides this world is not “real” then morality ceases to have consequence or meaning; in a dream you can do anything — it is just a dream. I prefer people with military secrets to consider this world real and the secrets they hold worth keeping secret.

    “We might be just objects in God’s dreams. We can’t tell.”

    Nor does it matter if one defines “real” as that which seems to be real. If in some fourth dimensional inspection it is not “real”, well, that doesn’t matter to me since I am three dimensional, I am *here* and however I got here, judge myself and will be judged by what I do with the cards I’ve been dealt.

    “I have also had materialists argue that morality is not eliminated, but rather applies because of social interactions. Even ants don’t eat each other on a regular basis. They work together for the benefit of the group. That could be considered morality.”

    It is circular reasoning. The advocate of this morality has already decided what is “moral”, then observes ants behaving morally, then uses that as an example.

    But how did the advocate decide ants not eating each other constitute morality? In part, it is instinct, DNA — the same thing that persuades ants not to eat each other because those that did no longer exist.

    Is God in the DNA? Most assuredly. The earth created life, and God saw that it was good. Bad life, which occasionally comes into existence, also creates its own extinction.

    “We” is not literal, though I may just keep using it since it appears to annoy you so. 😉

    It is a “dog whistle” indicator of a groupie. It would be extremely difficult for you NOT to use “we” because that is how you are wired. We-people really do feel that all, or most, are of the same kind, a herd or hive. Libertarians are the opposite; it simply doesn’t occur to a libertarian to lump other people together into a “we”.

    I’m not saying anyone is stupid; you can plainly see that libertarians exist just as I can see herds exist; but I cannot *feel* that bond or bondage to a herd, it has little power (but more than none). Herd members, while sometimes wishing for a bit more freedom, probably (I have to guess at it a bit) feel nervous being alone in eastern Montana with nobody around. No rules, no people, you are on your own. Libertarians love it.

    That is why nearly all, and maybe all, major cities are occupied by Democrats and the country is occupied by libertarians. You could move to the country, by why would you? When seconds count, the police or ambulance is only hours away!

    The purpose of God will also be seen by city dwelling Democrats and country dwelling libertarians as being very different. The city God exists for the same reason government exists; to be benevolent, all powerful, heal the sick and Give Me Free Stuff.

    Country dwellers see God differently; he’s the source of inspiration and such companionship as the libertarian occasionally desires. I loved my military duty in Alaska and obtained some of my most powerful inspirations apart from other humans but among birds, animals and plants in rich variety, all engaged in life, obeying the laws of their creation.

  8. Bob:

    http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/01/the-spiritualist-origins-of-you-dont-have-a-soul-you-are-a-soul

    CS Lewis has oft been cited but it wasn’t he (according to this site).

    By the way I commented on one of your old SF posts about William Hooper and CS Lewis – I’ll comment again when Briggs puts up your second post

  9. Eeegads…just consider how peculiarly concepts are being phrased here, and, some truly weird concepts are even being considered … for example:

    “There is that which is (and is not) and that which we know about that which is (and is not)”

    “The universe—by which here and everywhere I mean all there is—is only thought and utterly immaterial.”

    That quirky wording style, & those weird conceptual themes (thought =’s matter) are exactly the same styles & themes so prevalent with purveyors of metaphysical claptrap such as the likes of J.Z. Knight (to her [dis]credit has grossed $Millions off of gullible masses by trance-channeling Ramtha):

    Your thoughts matter…literally: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLGNFcbUGdo

    If it walks like a duck & quacks like a duck… One is judged not only by the company they keep, but even the peculiarly quirky company they might not keep but seem to share a lot in common with…

  10. Michael 2

    “Descartes is “most true” on that singular point; a thing must exist in order to question its existence. ”

    But what if you are just a figment of someone’s imagination and that someone is imagining that you are questioning your existence? How would you tell the difference. Cogito ergo sum is nothing more than an unprovable assumption.

  11. Sander van der Wal

    December 17, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    what is wrong with the kind of matter that can be arranged in such intricate ways that the resulting mind is as good as the Idealist’s mind, or everybody else’s pet theory’s mind?

  12. Sheri,
    Do you say there’s no universal truth?
    “might” or “may” render pretty worthless any statement that is intended to be a true statement. They are the linguistic snake that send the claim back to square one.
    Used all the time by “studies that show….x…may cause….y.” where y = hideous disease.
    “might, might not” “may, may not”.
    Like saying we don’t know about a thing called x but we’ll say it anyway.
    I had to take a “may” out before posting this!

  13. Ken writes “One is judged not only by the company they keep…”

    I am judged by many standards. When I returned to the United States from overseas Navy assignment, I discovered that I was a “neocon”, or so I was judged by my father. I spent a couple of years trying to get something more specific out of him, as for example, a useful definition of the word.

    My mother despised me for having been born when the astrological signs suggested I would be a “dispositor”, so whether or not I am actually such a thing, she is “disposited” because that is what the horoscope said, and thus it must be true!

    How nice it is to be judged HERE on things I actually write.

    But the instant you think you know me better than I know myself, off you go with your anticipation and judgment about things I probably haven’t heard of.

  14. Will everyone stop falling out!
    My Grandfather said about my grandmother,
    “You know we have been known to have an argument, fall out and make friends without my ever uttering a word.”

  15. Michael 2: Yes, a thing must exist in order to question it’s existence. However, the form taken by the thing is not mandatory. Thought alone could question it’s existence. (Matt S asked a good question on this.)

    You seem to be saying that reality is not there, but just our perceptions. Or maybe that we can ignore or augment reality with our minds. I’m not sure. I would agree that we can ignore or augment reality with our minds. I also believe reality exists outside of our perceptions. Whether or not we can know what that reality is is another matter.

    “A totally immaterial god is difficult to imagine; I doubt such a thing is possible.” Yet I have no problem with the idea. As you noted, people have their own ways of looking at things. I like your statement on fish and water. I think we’re on the same page with that.

    I am agreeing with your statement that if it turns out we are in matrix, it really changes nothing. That’s my point. People live with their perceptions of the world, whether it’s a matrix, a holodeck or a genuine physical planet.

    Yes, it is probably circular reasoning concerning morality. I was relating what I have heard from materialists. I don’t actually believe it. (I’m not sure arguing religious morality isn’t in some ways circular too. One starts with God and works backward.)

    Your analysis of why I use “we” could not be further off. I am more or less alone in rural Wyoming over 10 miles from town and would live further out if it were practical. My husband I and have a cabin even more rural where we love to spend as much of the summer as possible—no electricity, no plumbing, etc. I don’t like shopping, movies or anything else that involves crowds. Usually I am described as marginally social. What other’s think rarely matters to me—just a good argument or explanation. I don’t feel obligated to think like other people. I can and have worked in fields that require much interaction with the public, but I liked the positions where there was much less interaction with anyone. I am not at all like you seem to be perceiving me. If I had to leave Wyoming, Alaska would be my next choice. I refuse to live in town. If you click on my name, you’ll land on blog that have links to my conservation website—This is not the work of a city dweller and that will be obvious. (Since you seem to be bothered by my usage of “we” and why I use it, it’s a habit I had from social work and working in daycares. It’s about “we” when you’re in those fields. I am trying to change that, but I spent several years in such fields and it’s a hard habit to break.)

    Ken: I like learning about new ideas, even if they are quirky. Some of my best friends have very quirky ideas, some are completely straight-laced, reality grounded people. You may judge me anyway you like. It’s not important to me.

    Joy: I, personally, do believe there is universal truth. When I use the terms “might” or “may”, that is an indication I am merely being speculative. (You can see how easy it is to drop into the “may” wording!) Am I falling out here?

    All: Is it problematic here to speculate and explore ideas? Some seem very uncomfortable if I venture into “may” and “might”, etc. Is it bothersome to consider the possible and not just the probable?

  16. I love it when someone discovers the obvious.

    MattS writes “Cogito ergo sum is nothing more than an unprovable assumption.”

    That is correct. One must start a chain of deductive logic somewhere, a First Cause, something that starts all other causes. I cannot prove my existence to you; the utility of this slogan is proving myself to me.

    If I do not exist, then all other questions are moot and/or pointless.

    A thing must exist to ask the question, since questions do not ask themselves. But that is another assumption.

    You are free to tie yourself into knots; a thing inevitable when a person with at least 3 digit I.Q. starts to question things but has no foundation, no First Cause, nothing known to be certain and which thus anchors many other certainties.

    “But what if you are just a figment of someone’s imagination and that someone is imagining that you are questioning your existence?”

    Right now you are imagining that I exist; and in your mind I *am* a figment of your imagination and it cannot be any other way.

    Since I am reconstructed in your mind, I am anavatar but this avatar is under your control, not mine. You have brought it into existence and will give it whatever properties you wish, just as above I have described of my father and mother, who ought to know me well but demonstrably do not, having preferred to create an imagination of me that has very little resemblance to the real me. What they imagine of me allows them to pursue their lives free of guilt to not have association with me; my mother because she imagines I am a “dispositor” and my father because he imagines I am a neocon, and while he doesn’t know exactly what that means, it is a Bad Thing and thus I am also a Bad Thing. Naturally someone told him that neocons are bad and provided one or two methods of detecting a neocon, the “dog whistles” by which you identify friend from foe.

    Cogito ergo sum works only to ground oneself. It does not prove the existence of any other thing or person.

    A utility exists in this philosophy. I can leverage that certainty into other things. Well the next most certain thing of all things is knowledge of God’s existence, where for this purpose “god” is defined as that which knows me well enough to insert knowledge of him into me in such a way that I accept the certainty of it.

    There’s internal consistency and certainty, and external consistency. My stories involve both but are not necessary to repeat here.

    Every other thing impinges upon my brain through my senses, and they can be fooled, but it would be a mistake to very often imagine that what I see rushing toward me that looks like a speeding automobile is just a figment of my imagination.

    I suppose it might be useful to mention I place great emphasis on knowing what is real and thus have never intentionally drugged or inebriated myself. My only experience in my entire life with a drug was morphine and valium prior to a surgery. I was interested in the experience and wrote about it during that brief time although I found it remarkably difficult to write. My hand was lagging my mental commands by about two seconds or so it seemed. Rather than watching my hand for visual reference and feedback I just imagined myself writing what I wanted to write, and then about two seconds later the hand started writing all by itself and doing a reasonably good job of it.

    But I didn’t like the sense of detachment, this peculiar lag from thought to action. I prefer to see things as they are, or as they were, or as they might become (I love science fiction). My hobbies tend to be on extending my senses — microscope to telescope; from under the water to high in the sky.

  17. Sheri writes “Thought alone could question it’s existence.”

    Then “thought” is also the “thinker” and thus exists.

    “You seem to be saying that reality is not there, but just our perceptions.”

    Reality cannot be objectively proven by a single person to exist. It must be assumed to exist, although with very good grounds and reason to suppose it. If I exist, then so must everything necessary for my existence.

    It is logical, but not wise, to consider oneself to exist while everything else does not.

    “Yes, it is probably circular reasoning concerning morality. I was relating what I have heard from materialists. I don’t actually believe it. (I’m not sure arguing religious morality isn’t in some ways circular too. One starts with God and works backward.)”

    Morality is ultimately defined by who has power and thus is not circular but created ex-nihilo by any person at any time. Might makes right; extending your personally created morality onto other people, as many as you have influence over.

    A religious person accepts that God has power; power to create seems to include power to uncreate. But for most people, their knowledge of morality actually came from a human; a priest or prophet, dead or alive, and might not be as nuanced as it was coming from God. “Thou shalt not kill” is a morality, but it has exceptions difficult to convey in the code we call “language”. Dang, I just used “we”! But it means you and I.

    “Your analysis of why I use ‘we’ could not be further off”

    It happens, but I wouldn’t know this without a challenge 🙂

    “Since you seem to be bothered by my usage of “we” and why I use it, it’s a habit I had from social work and working in daycares. It’s about “we” when you’re in those fields. I am trying to change that, but I spent several years in such fields and it’s a hard habit to break.”

    So you recognize the source; “social work”. It is also a function of the consensus-style of management. It’s not a bad style and it works best when everyone at the table has similar intentions, experience, education and purpose. In that circumstance the realm of “we” is fairly obvious and does not mean all 7 billion humans. However, you’ll see plenty of universal “we” over on almost any global warming blog or leftwing website such as Slate, Salon, Huffington Post where “we” means “you” ought to do this or that. When you use “we” to signify your personal experience it suggests a denial that anyone else’s mileage varies.

    As to Wyoming; I like it better than Montana so I chose an example a little farther away from my own abode. I chuckle at “rural Wyoming” as if there’s any other kind. Outside of Casper and Cheyenne it’s ALL rural. I have kin up in Cody. You might be that kin.

    I like to drive from Kemmerer north to Pinedale, explore a bit maybe up to Green River Lakes, then down to Bondurant and up to Jackson. Circumstances do not permit going that way very often.

    “Joy: I, personally, do believe there is universal truth.”

    As do I; and like you do not assert it much since it closes conversations.

    “All: Is it problematic here to speculate and explore ideas?”

    That’s up to our gracious blog host to decide but the intersection of religion and science has very few fora. To me they are flip sides of one coin; inseparable but also not joinable, yin and yang.

  18. I was re-reading a Theology of SF post, and a quote from “A Canticle for Leibowitz” seems remarkably apropos of what’s being discussed:

    “..truth and meaning resided, unseen, only in the objective logos of Nature and the ineffable Logos of God…”

    said by the Abbott of the Monastery of St. Lebowitz to a group about to emigrate to a Colony on Alpha Centauri 4, to escape the coming nuclear holocaust on earth.

  19. Sander van der Wal wrote “what is wrong with the kind of matter that can be arranged in such intricate ways that the resulting mind is as good as the Idealist’s mind, or everybody else’s pet theory’s mind?”

    I have no idea. Build one and discover the answer.

  20. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 17, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Cogito ergo sum is nothing more than an unprovable assumption.

    Most folks today don’t get what Descartes was trying to do. As a logical proposition, Cogito ergo sum is circular. The term cogito is first person singular and presumes sum. Descartes was simply trying to establish some starting point for his philosophy. Like all the moderns he wanted to proceed axiomatically from undoubted first principles. Existentialists like Aquinas started from mundane experience and reasoned their ways to the principles.
    Besides, Nicholas of Autrecourt anticipated Descartes by a couple centuries. In discussing the distinction between evidentia potissimus and evidentia naturalis, which we might translate as “most powerful evidence” and “natural evidence,” he noted that all natural evidence could lead to was probable knowledge, which might be falsified by later knowledge. For example, “Grass is green” might be invalidated by the discovery of yellow grass. (As you can see, he anticipated Popper and Talib’s Black Swan, as well.) Since all natural science is based on natural evidence, its conclusions are always potentially falsifiable. The one bit of natural evidence that he allowed to be certain was knowledge of one’s own existence. This was where he anticipated Descartes. Self-knowledge of one’s existence is by definition subjective — which is why devotees of scientism call Descartes’ dictum an unproven assumption: the only “proof” that matters to them is objective.

    “You don’t say ‘the body has a soul’, but rather the ‘soul has a body’ ” . The body is the “form” of the soul.

    Actually, it’s the reverse. The soul is the substantial form of the human body. [Note: there are also accidental forms, such as color or weight.] Accidental forms may change: an apple may ripen from green to red but remain an apple. This is called “transformation.” But if the substantial form is altered, we call it “transsubtantiation.” As Aquinas once wrote: “My soul is not ‘I’.”

    Everything in the experienced world is a composite of matter and form. We never encounter matter except as some form of matter. As the old maxim had it: “Every thing is some thing.” By which it is evident that we know things by their forms: it is round, red, sweet, crispy, etc. Similarly, we have no experience with immaterial forms: “There is no ‘white’ without a white thing.” Pure matter is purely potential, without form. As such, it does not actually exist. Heisenberg thought that mass-energy was a good candidate for this “prime matter.” A decent respect for symmetry suggests there ought to be pure form at the other end of the scale. Some sort of “prime actualizer” or something.

    The composite of matter and form is called a synolon. “Synolistic” has entered Enhgl

    Yes, a thing must exist in order to question it’s existence.

    I question the existence of unicorns. Does that mean unicorns must exist?

    “A totally immaterial god is difficult to imagine”

    Hence, the limits of the imagination. We must rely instead on the intellect, instead. You cannot imagine it, but you can conceive it. You can not imagine a conjoining-and-splitting function space topology, either; but it can be conceived.

  21. Michael: I never said thought does not exist. Quite the contrary, I postulated it might be the only thing. (Yes, MIGHT.)

    I also agreed that reality cannot be objectively proven to exist. We either believe in it or we do not. It’s more a matter of faith.

    It’s really tough to avoid certain pronouns, isn’t it! 😉

    You didn’t consider my long, rambling paragraph about why you were wrong about why I used “we” to be a challenge? I’m going to have to work on that!

    Yes, I recognize the source of “we” and I was pretty clear that I have tried to break the habit, but years of working in certain fields make it difficult. I also realize that people may interpret “we” as some left-wing attempt to get you to do something. I personally have used when I want someone to do something but I don’t want to order them to do it—as in “you didn’t take out the garbage” versus “we need the garbage taken out”. Some people (maybe not you) find the second statement more agreeable than the first. Since there seems to be a bit of hypersensitivity here, I’ll watch closer. It’s not a left-wing thing—I’m about as far right as you can get.

    I’m not in Cody, so probably not your kin (but who knows?). Wyoming is “rural” to city folk, but not to me. It needs to be a lot more rural before I’m completely content.

    I too do not drug myself nor get drunk. There are times that the ability to separate from yourself is necessary, as in some illnesses. I had a serious illness four years ago and to this day when I look at the photos of me, I still don’t feel like I was there. It’s my mind protecting me and I’m okay with that. I know it happened and I don’t deny the reality of it. It was somewhat fascinating to me how detached from what is real one can become.

    YOS: The unicorn must exist in order for the unicorn to question its existence.

  22. YOS,

    “Descartes was simply trying to establish some starting point for his philosophy. Like all the moderns he wanted to proceed axiomatically from undoubted first principles”

    If that was what he was trying to do, I still call it a fail. He might as well have just started with “I am.”, “I think, therefore I am.” adds nothing useful.

  23. Sheri,
    It wasn’t and still isn’t at all clear to me that you weren’t defending idealism or possibly relativism. It seemed out of place but then you say,
    “I also agreed that reality cannot be objectively proven to exist. We either believe in it or we do not. It’s more a matter of faith.” that is remarkable Sheri.
    Reality doesn’t need a proof it is self evident. If there is universal truth what exactly are you looking for in a “proof”.
    A thought of a thing is not the truth of a thing. Thoughts are really happening and sometimes they are rarely happening. The constructions or creations or ideas will be true or false that is to say right or wrong .
    Where’s Captain?
    I’m looking out of that window and there’s a star heading our way!
    Scotty beam me up! The others aren’t sure they’re here and one’s got stuck in the hollow deck.
    Michael2,
    “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…”
    Neocon’ seems to be used as the pejorative. A prefix to offer the whiff of Neo-Nazi. (bless spell-check offered neonate.) Neoconservative is more polite. Media-ocracy have assisted the misinformation of ideas and neoconservatism is one example. It’s just a cheap shot.

  24. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 17, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    [Descartes] might as well have just started with “I am.”
    He did:
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/descarte/#H4

    He started with asserting the unreliability of sense impressions and the very existence of his own body. He doesn’t get to the existence of his own mind until the Second Meditation.
    http://www.wright.edu/~charles.taylor/descartes/meditation2.html

  25. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 17, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    In fact, I should add, the expression “cogito, ergo sum” does not occur at all in the Meditations.

  26. Fr. John Rickert

    December 17, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    Ahh, yes… “Quid est equinitas? Equinitas tantum.”

    God is pure act because He is first of all sheer act. Existence can explain essences, but essences, by themselves, cannot account for existence.

    A must read: “Being and Some Philosophers” by Etienne Gilson.

    Best wishes to you all for a Merry and Blessed Christmas —
    Et Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis.

  27. Joy: Sorry, reality is not self-evident. It is assumed. There are many people who do not believe in “reality”. One of my siblings is like that. So is his ex-wife. She actually said to me “Who’s reality?” one time. She was dead serious. So it’s not “self-evident”.

    I am not looking for proof of reality, proof of universal truth, etc because I do not believe proof exists in the general sense. My belief in reality is not based on proof. The fact that I cannot prove reality exists does not mean it doesn’t exist. The fact that I cannot prove morality and absolute right and wrong does not mean they don’t exist. It just means I can’t prove it. I don’t base everything I do on “proof”—that’s materialism.

    One must be careful of getting stuck on the holodeck, but one should be happy they know it’s a holodeck. Moriarty in Next Generation is probably still living happily ever after in his holodeck world. Endless transporter loops are even worse.

    I’m not sure what you are referencing in your comments about thoughts not being the truth of a thing. I stated I think there is an absolute truth, an absolute right and wrong, even if we can’t prove it or find it for that matter.

    I am not bothered by the lack of proof or the lack of certainty in things. To me, it’s just the way it is. I have no problem considering what some here consider outrageous ideas. To me, that’s how discoveries are made and knowledge advanced. In the end, I generally reject most of the farfetched ideas, but exploring them can lead me to other ideas that are useful and not farfetched. My existence is just that. My existence. Whether I live in a holodeck or on a planet really doesn’t matter to me. I can’t know so it doesn’t matter.

  28. A metaphysical explanation for anything does give us any further information about anything. It is useless on at least two levels. As far as I concerned, with this post, Briggs, you may as well have been a primitive witch doctor. Ugga bugga.

    JMJ

  29. Oops! “…doesn’t give us any further information about anything.”

    JMJ

  30. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 18, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Notice how moderns are focused entirely on “usefulness.”

    People who refuse to have anything to do with philosophy have become enslaved to outdated forms of it.
    — Mary Midgley

  31. JMJ: I would consider it an honor and compliment if you said to me “you may as well have been a primitive witch doctor”.

    Actually, materialism is great for lazy minds. No actual thought involved and no morality required. No personal responsibility, no personal initiative. One can see how it became popular. Now, if only the believers understood evolution…..

  32. Sheri,
    ?“I also agreed that reality cannot be objectively proven to exist. We either believe in it or we do not. It’s more a matter of faith.”
    This is what the psychologists call cognitive dissonance. The psychologists have a problem proving that because it is isn’t proven let alone self evident. ?Reality doesn’t need a proof because it is objectively self evident not because it is a matter of faith. Without reality there’s no objects! There are objects so your “only belief” argument is shown to be mistaken.
    Given that there is universal truth then from that perspective reality is self evident…. reality isn’t real enough for you?
    An idea of hollow decks is not reality, obviously. What a relief, I dislike Star Trek.
    Thoughts are happening in reality.
    Where else do they live? Unless you switch back and say you don’t believe in thoughts. It seems to me you’re arguing someone else’s world view by saying because someone isn’t in touch with reality it means that reality “might not exist”. It’s not rational.
    Reality isn’t happening only in thoughts. Not only inside but outside heads.
    Ideas are true or not true. The idea that reality is only an idea is one of those which are not true.
    Truth and reality go together. Just because we can’t understand a thing it doesn’t mean that there isn’t truth about that thing.
    Try a headstand.

  33. Sorry Sheri,
    The devil has taken residence in my keyboard.
    “because it is isn’t proven” line 4 centre
    “because it isn’t provable”

  34. JMJ, you do irony so deadpan that most miss it. Even you. 😉

  35. Joy: I have a degree in psychology and that is NOT what cognitive dissonance is, so please refrain from lecturing me on psychology and what it entails. I’m finished with this discussion. It is quite apparent that anything outside of the box or your idea of what is correct is not to be mentioned AND you persist in ignoring what I’m actually saying.

  36. MattS “I still call it a fail.”

    Millions of people know Descartes. How many know you?

    “He might as well have just started with ‘I am’ ”

    That was already taken. http://biblehub.com/exodus/3-14.htm

    And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

  37. Sander van der Wal

    December 18, 2015 at 10:51 am

    It is obvious to me that I exist, that there is an outside world and so on. I do not need proofs for that. What is not obvious is the exact nature of that world. What needs to be proven is that the clams made (Idealism, Materialism and so on) are true.

  38. Sander van der Wal writes “What needs to be proven is that the clams made (Idealism, Materialism and so on) are true.”

    Each is proven in its sphere. That is to say, a Materialist finds the proof of Materialism sufficient for his acceptance. An Idealist finds the proof of Idealism sufficient for her acceptance.

    An idealist will likely never accept a materialist’s proof of materialism because the words necessary to be used simply do not have the same meaning to an idealist as they do a materialist.

    Consider the question of proving the existence of God. To a god-believer, proof is everywhere, he is immersed in proof as surely as a fish is immersed in water. But this is mostly a function of definition: God is defined as the creator. Does anything exist? Yes. Therefore God exists. It is very simple logic. It doesn’t say much about whether you should go to church on Sunday.

    Similarly, suppose you proved Materialism or Idealism? What then? Well, then nothing. No human behavior is specified by either, so far as I know. It is a mere exercise for people with way too much time on their hands.

  39. Joy “This is what the psychologists call cognitive dissonance.”

    Sheri doesn’t want to respond to this but I will. Doubtless she would be more correct than me. Cognitive dissonance is pretty much exactly what the words mean — your thoughts are disturbed by conflicting information and you cannot very well believe both at the same time; you are forced to either switch back and forth, or let them compete in your mind disturbing your tranquility.

    The healthy approach, in my opinion, is to resolve the conflict by studying both systems of belief and correcting the one that needs correcting, a thing probably not obvious at the outset since otherwise there would be no dissonance, no disturbance of your tranquility.

    A typical instance comes from my own experience. I had learned, not in my home but from society, that the Earth was created in 6 days. As I had no reason to dispute it at my young age I believed it. But I also learned that the Earth was created in 4.7 billion years; or at least that is how old it is said to be, but I cannot refute or confirm that either.

    These two belief systems are obviously incompatible and yet I, and doubtless millions of other people, do and can hold them simultaneously. One comes out on Sunday, the other when needed. Quite frankly the 6-day Earth is useful socially; nobody has ever invited me to a party, or dis-invited me from a party, because I believed or not the age of the Earth being 4.7 billion years.

    These beliefs live in different compartments and most of the time only one compartment has conscious visibility. But occasionally something happens that brings both compartments to the foreground simultaneously and then you have a problem. Its like a short-circuit in electronics; sparks fly.

    Some years ago in Alaska I had a roommate, a BAC (Born Again Christian) that hated Mormons with a passion. All thoughts of loving your enemy vanish when it comes to BAC’s and Mormons.

    I have an instinct for uncovering opportunities to create Cognitive Dissonance. It’s snarky. I don’t even mean to do it deliberately, it just pops out. So one day I said, “Jesus is come in the flesh”. It must be spoken exactly that way.

    The result was somewhat frightening. I feared he was going to commit suicide. It is the mental equivalent of bringing matter and antimatter together; instant annihilation of both.

    You see, to a BAC, the bible is inerrant, every word of it is “proof text” and compels belief and behavior. The relevant part is
    http://biblehub.com/1_john/4-2.htm

    The proof text established that I was from God or more precisely my spirit is of God. But his cultural background was that I was an enemy to God. He was compelled to face squarely this dilemma and choose which to continue to believe, because it is impossible to consciously believe both at the same time. You can switch back and forth, but you cannot believe opposing beliefs at the same time.

    We soon departed on our respective Navy career paths and I met him again some years later. He was much more relaxed; still religious but recognizing that not every word, in English, in a KJV, is to be taken precisely at face value. He appeared also to no longer hate Mormons or any other group just because of that group membership.

    Skipping some commentary that didn’t make much sense

    “An idea of hollow decks is not reality, obviously. What a relief, I dislike Star Trek.”

    The word is “holodeck” and is an abbreviation of holographic deck or room. Holograph itself means “A complete, or holistic, picture” indistinguishable from the real thing.

    In the Star Trek series, it is achieved through transporter technology; as you approach the wall of the room, you are transported instantly back to the center along with the images. So it seems you can walk for miles in this simulation without ever bumping into a wall. Since the idea of the teleporter is that your matter is converted to energy, transmitted, and reconverted back to matter; it ought to be possible to start with energy and convert it to matter in any form you desire. It really will be matter, and you can interact with it as if it were real, for in that environment it is real.

    The storytelling potential is enormous. You can easily create anything you can imagine and it doesn’t require an evolutionary path. It would be an interesting twist to suggest the entire Star Trek series took place in a “holodeck” (actually rather true, it takes place on a sound stage somewhere!)

    The relevance to this discussion is that you will have to refine the meaning of the word “real” to proceed any further; things in the holodeck are very real, and can kill you, but confined to the holodeck. Their existence ceases if a person created in the holodeck leaves the holodeck.

    So it is a type of bounded reality; and I suspect all versions or definitions of reality are similarly bounded. The struggle seems to be to create a definition of “real” that is extra-universal; a thing must be real at all times, in all places, in this universe and any others, for some people to say a thing is “real” while other people accept that reality is instantiated the moment a thought is had, even if the thought has itself.

    It is interesting but not particularly useful to argue about it.

  40. Sheri,
    It doesn’t require a degree in psychology.
    If a comment is brittle surely it can be shattered? A logical and rational response is one way forward for that. Otherwise ‘tis you who insists on the world view inside or outside “the box.” I think you were stuck on a sticky wicket and would probably realise this. If I am wrong, show me where, how, why, what and when.
    There are bad ideas and good ones.
    some ideas don’t interest me either.
    Don’t forget you closed the conversation by declaration.
    “There’s no darkness but ignorance.”

  41. I was meaning to add a bit more on the Cognitive Dissonance thing. Minds have something like a circuit breaker and can detect imminent dissonance, which being dangerous and unpleasant, is thus avoided. The topic is suddenly taken off the table or a “shim” created that explains the conflict (rather than resolving it). If the shim itself seems inconsistent, create another one to explain the first, and so on. After a thousand years you end up with explanations like this:

    God is pure act because He is first of all sheer act. Existence can explain essences, but essences, by themselves, cannot account for existence.

    In ordinary English this has no meaning that I can detect. The existence of this explanation is likely to resolve a question, which came into existence as a result of an explanation to resolve an earlier question, and so on.

    The biggie has always been the three-in-one God. Who exactly was Jesus praying to in the Garden of Gethsemane? To me the answer is self-evident; he was praying to his father. Jesus is the son. But that conflicts with the one God belief. People have been arguing this particular “cognitive dissonance” for nearly 2,000 years.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_Christianity

  42. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 18, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    God is pure act because He is first of all sheer act. Existence can explain essences, but essences, by themselves, cannot account for existence.

    In ordinary English this has no meaning that I can detect.

    The first sentence has a redundant “because” clause, but otherwise it’s direct from potency and act, i.e., from matter and form. Formless matter, or “prime matter,” is pure potency, so it does not actually exist. Immaterial form is pure act, so it is not potentially anything else. Everything in common experience is a compound of matter and form. “Every thing is some thing” and “There is no ‘white’ without a white thing.” We typically conclude from a series of syllogisms that God is pure act; but it would be more precise to say that the being of pure act is God.

    That is also why we say that God is immaterial. Matter is the principle of potency, and God is purely actual. The pagans believed that the gods were material and lived atop Mt. Olympus. Were they about today, they would likely say they lived on other planets, since that would be less easy to verify.

    As for the second part, essence and existence are two different things. An essence is the substantive form, that which makes something what it is, while existence is an act of that form. Everyone grasps the essence of a “unicorn,” but unicorns do not have an act of existence. So they are not the same concept. It has been shown in an earlier post here that from contingent being we can conclude to necessary being, and eventually to a being whose essence just is to exist. If such a being could talk, it would call itself “I AM.”

    As for the Trinity, that follows from the all-powerful nature of the being in question. “All-powerful” means “full of all powers.” That is, because it is the first cause (origin) of all powers, it must contain in itself something analogous to those powers, either formally or eminently. In particular, there must be something in God analogous to intellect and will.

    With the intellect we conceive concepts, typically expressed in words.
    With the will we experience a desire (or repugnance) for the concept and proceed toward the beloved.

    God as the subject of these two operations is what we call the Father. As the object of the intellect, he is the only-conceived of God, and we call him the Word or the Son.
    As the object of the will, he proceeds from the Father to embrace what he desires, and we call him the Spirit.
    These are not three beings, but three hypostases of one being. An imperfect analogy is that I can be Mike the Father, Mike the Son, and Mike the Lover while remaining one being. To regard the three hypostases as three separate beings is pagan thinking, and a primitive form of paganism at that.

  43. Joy: The old “you won’t continue a pointless conversation so you are a loser move”. Nice, juvenile, but nice. I am only on a sticky wicket because one cannot have a discussion with a person who is not interested in anything but proving themselves right. I closed the conversation because you did what I clearly stated I would not tolerate. I said I would answer real questions. You are not asking questions, but rather telling me I don’t know anything because I suggested something that is not acceptable to you. I will not waste time answering people who have no interest in anything but proving someone wrong and continually ignore what is actually being stated. If you actually followed what I wrote, that would have helped.

    Michael 2: Technically, cognitive dissonance is when a person believes one thing but acts another way—like the straight-laced teen that takes up drinking and smoking to fit in with the crowd. What you have described is probably closer to double-think, holding to two contradictory ideas to be true. There’s some overlap in the two. Another example of cognitive dissonance is the scientist who does not believe in global warming but must pretend he/she does to keep a job. It’s extremely taxing to keep up the false image.

    YOS: Your analogy for the trinity—I have been told it’s like water, ice and steam. Three forms of one being. However, it does not explain Christ praying to God and speaking to God while Christ is God.

  44. Sheri,
    I’m not here for a conversation. I’m here for the argument.
    The numerous questions weren’t acceptable.
    What about debate? If I say “that is not rational” I mean exactly that. I fully expect to be shown why the statement IS rational. As for not reading, well. That is a statement which you make with such self assurance but which again I know to be false.
    You seemed to anticipate becoming upset. I don’t know where that comes from because I haven’t read all the history.
    I don’t know you from Adam I’ve probably read ten paragraphs or maybe twenty.
    That’s life isn’t it?some people are unkind. I wasn’t being unkind. As for juvenile, if you think anyone matures much beyond the playground think on that. I still think a headstand would help!

  45. Briggs

    December 18, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    “…he proceeds from the Father to embrace…”

    There goes YOS, trying to reignite the filioque controversy all over again.

    (To those who don’t know, this is humor.)

  46. Joy: You are definately here for the argument and I don’t waste time arguing with people who are just here to argue. Feel free to argue with someone else.

  47. It is interesting that people reject ideas such as the world could composed of thought alone while typing on a machine that is using 0’s and 1’s to display text on the screen. I was sorting pictures into folders—digital photos that have no “real” existence until I print them out. Are they real on the computer? They are just 0’s and 1’s. A hundred years ago, people would have freaked out had anyone said this was possible. You needed film and developing solutions to produce pictures. Before that, you needed a portrait artist. Yet here we are talking “face to face” with people over cell phones and storing our “pictures” on a hard drive.

  48. The Delayed Choice Experiment in Quantum Mechanics suggests the Bishop Berkeley and John Wheeler may be correct in their Idealist notion that what we observe we create. See (department of shameless self-promotion again)
    http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-delayed-choice-experiment-quantum.html

  49. Joy “I fully expect to be shown why the statement IS rational.”

    Wow. Do you still expect it?

  50. Sheri writes “It is interesting that people reject ideas such as the world could composed of thought alone while typing on a machine that is using 0’s and 1’s to display text on the screen.”

    Odd, but okay. I’ve never juxtaposed these wildly different things before.

    “I was sorting pictures into folders—digital photos that have no real existence until I print them out.”

    They aren’t real even then. Or maybe they are. A picture is a picture only in your mind. On a disk it will be a pattern of tiny magnetic domains (for instance) and must be rendered in a way to reproduce the illumination representative of a scene. It still isn’t a picture until your mind says it is a picture; or maybe it is a picture through the entire process, depending on how you define it.

    “Are they real on the computer? They are just 0’s and 1’s.”

    They are ones and zeros in your brain as well.

    It is therefore reasonable to assign the word “picture” to everything from the original scene, to its capture, reconstruction and perception. It is also reasonable to assign “picture” only to perception. Others assign the word to printed media only.

    Consistency is more important than correctness since no absolute authority exists on Earth (the Oxford Unabridged Dictionary attempted to be that authority but is widely ignored by many that know of its existence and by everyone that does not know of its existence).

  51. The original materialists were the ancient Greeks (Anaxagoras, Democritus, etc.). René Descartes physics was definitely strongly materialist. As was Spinoza. Then came the Empiricists (Locke, Berkeley Hume). The English (hence English language) tradition was strongly empiricist, NOT Idealist. Kant attempted to reconcile empiricism with the materialist/rationalist tradition. Schopenhauer and Hegel were the most famous Idealists and they followed.. The followers of this style of philosophy were mainly on the continent. NOT English.

    This article is a good lesson on why a statistician should not lecture on philosophy when he hasn’t studied it, and doesn’t actually know anything about it, and hasn’t even bothered to pick up a ‘history of philosophy for dummies’ booklet and read that, before pontificating. Apologies for being so harsh, but nearly everything in this article is wrong.

  52. I see the line or greyscale of these two errors but they must be both missing another factor rather than the “correct” or “ideal mixture of both.
    If this were a linear pattern of ideas a thinker would always be somewhere on that erroneous line:
    At best, weakly wrong for two reasons or dead centre, exquisitely wrong!
    I think there’s something missing.
    I see the contrast between the two is strong. However it is a “two error line” and must be a trap!
    The universe is more mysterious.
    Materialism derives no meaning. It does not know what energy is, what gravity is, what electricity. Science can’t help us here, it can only observe. Many have just given up asking and say “is just is” “Is, is.” “it is what it is”.
    Will,
    I don’t know anything about the history of philosophy but haven’t met many history teachers that aren’t biased. That is no dig at you or Mr Briggs. The truth of history is out there but the past is becoming as mysterious as the future.
    I didn’t see where the argument description was so wrong.

  53. Michael2,
    One can line in hope.

  54. liVe in hope, sorry.

  55. Joy is illustrating a typical thought pattern, accusing people of being cruel and immoral for hunting (and claiming this is “self-evident”, also known as “It is because I say it is” argument) and then complaining that other people are “uncivil”. If she lived in America, she’d be the perfect liberal. To top that off, she tells MattS that she does not say eating meat is immoral. So it must just be hunters that are immoral. Slaughtering cattle is okay, hunting Bambi is not. She apparently also believes that those who do the slaughter are either psychopaths that love killing (because they are not sorry for taking the job of killing cattle) or likely to go insane from the cognitive dissonance of killing an animal and feeling it’s wrong. She wants me to be sorry I had to kill the deer to eat it, which is irrational. I certainly cannot eat it alive. I don’t shoot deer and leave the carcasses to lay. I don’t gut shoot animals and then see how long it takes them to die. I don’t light cats on fire for fun. I don’t shoot rabbits and leave the carcasses to lay, though I have watched eagles and hawks feed on dead rabbits, so maybe that makes me a horrible monster? I even took pictures and video. To say that killing the deer and eating it is wrong somehow is also say to God is wrong.
    “The interesting point is whether, why, when, how or where humans ARE! Those are all interesting questions.” No, you have already made clear that you KNOW when that is true and is not and you only want to evangelize the answer, not ask a question.

    And JMJ, right on time to affirm my statement about Joy and liberalism.

  56. Will writes ” Apologies for being so harsh, but nearly everything in this article is wrong.”

    Astonishing. When it comes to philosophy, wrong is a word that really ought never to be used because no claim can be proven or disproven, a task that cannot start until everyone participating agrees on the over and covert meanings of the words used.

    As we here have seen among these few comments, Idealism is represented, so is materialism, and doubtless a few other isms. Each person is adapted to his or her “ism”, or more likely, the “ism” is adapted to the person.

    To me they are two sides of a coin; perhaps two sides of a multi-faceted die. Idealism seems correct insofar that your awareness of the universe exists as a model in your mind and indeed cannot have any other perceptual existence.

    It is material in the sense that you can put down an apple and I can pick it up, suggesting the object isn’t in your mind, it is there and you or I can pick it up because it is there.

    But it isn’t there for me until I perceive it; and having perceived it, realize that it might not actually be there, but if it isn’t, then neither are you, and that’s not a productive path.

  57. “When it comes to philosophy, wrong is a word that really ought never to be used because no claim can be proven or disproven”

    If the claim is philosophical system X came before or after philosophical system Y, that’s a matter of historical fact. That is not any more ‘subjective’ than pointing out that Marx followed Hegel or that Sartre followed Nietzsche. A subjective claim, on the other hand, would be to speculate why some people are so depressingly brainless.

  58. Will,
    This is what I meant:
    The truth of history is out there but the past is becoming as mysterious to me as the future. That is a problem.
    Why does the historical sequence change the ideas.
    Finding source material isn’t easy.
    How can a philosophy of logic be wrong? For example. without being illogical, I mean. I understand that defining everything is important and agreeing on premises. Once that is achieved the rest follows from there.
    Michael refers to wrongness about primary assumptions
    and you to wrongness about historical facts.
    There’s not much to disagree about.
    Subjective and objective are types of evidence, yes.

  59. Joy writes “The truth of history is out there”

    Not as much as you seem to think. Having just now studied a bit of Roman history, it appears there’s no written history of the Huns by Huns. All written history is according to the whims of a historian.

    “How can a philosophy of logic be wrong?”

    For the same reason a screwdriver of water is wrong. Philosophy and logic are different kinds of things and don’t go together in the same sentence. Logic requires assumptions to work on, and then works on those assumptions. Philosophy creates its assumptions and then tends to be happy with the assumptions.

    “Michael refers to wrongness about primary assumptions
    and you to wrongness about historical facts.”

    Get either wrong and the process fails.

  60. Michael,
    The Pythagorus link was a nice surprise.
    Truth Out There:
    “NOT AS MUCH as you seem to think”
    There’s some truth in the statement then.
    So I assert “truth is out there”.
    Do you prefer the truth is back there?
    All of the truth is not written clearly for all anywhere that we know of?
    There is truth so it is not rational to argue that there is only part truth out there.
    That’s about it.

    “Screwdriver and water” don’t belong in the same sentence.
    We’re back to the goldfish.
    “When i leant over the screwdriver fell out of my pocket, into the water, the goldfish jumped out and said nothing about it.”

    Two True things:
    Our goldfish really did jump out with a little help! The details of which I am happy to provide.
    It really didn’t say anything that I could hear.
    1 false thing,
    I never dropped the screwdriver into the water (but dropped other tools.)

    Information and language both complex. Isn’t logic an internal language or vehicle for information.
    If all philosophy is rational then it all must be based on some flavour of logic?
    Philosophy is love of wisdom.
    Is art applied philosophy?

  61. Joy writes “Do you prefer the truth is back there?”

    Truth is a knowledge of things as they were, and as they are, and as they are going to be. It is absolutely comprehensive. Consequently the word is also somewhat useless in ordinary conversation; a true thing is only part of Truth; but using the true thing by itself can lead to misunderstanding and it can be deliberately used to that purpose.

    “When i leant over the screwdriver fell out of my pocket, into the water, the goldfish jumped out and said nothing about it.”

    So you can construct a sentence with screwdriver and water. Good for you. But the water does not depend on the screwdriver for its existence, and the screwdriver doesn’t depend on water for its existence.

    Philosophy and logic are different things. You might abuse logic while arguing about your philosophy, but philosophy does not depend on logic, and logic does not depend on philosophy.

    “Isn’t logic an internal language or vehicle for information.”

    Yes, it isn’t. It is a method of processing information, but it can also process a proxy for information when you don’t actually have information.

    In your sentence, you declared “is it not…” which requires careful logic to understand. You are asking if a thing is NOT what follows, which is true, so the answer is “yes”, but many people insert “not” unthinking of its consequence as a rhetorical device and very much illogical.

    “If all philosophy is rational then it all must be based on some flavour of logic?”

    In my opinion, philosophy as expressed by widely diverse and generally self-proclaimed philosophers cannot be using logic; for if they were, they would necessarily all arrive at the same philosophy. Since they don’t then philosophy is either not rational or not logical.

    “Philosophy is love of wisdom.”

    Nearly so. Love of sophistry for sure; and what is sophistry? Using language to express your personal superiority over others. It helps to seem rational and logical.

    “Is art applied philosophy?”

    Art is whatever you wish it to be; but whatever it is, speaks to the right half of the brain, where logic speaks to the left half of the brain. That is why art and philosophy are neither logical nor rational except by accident.

  62. Michael,
    Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); ‘now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off). ‘Oh, my poor little feet, I wonder who will put on your shoes and stockings for you now, dears? I’m sure I shan’t be able! I shall be a great deal too far off to trouble myself about you: you must manage the best way you can; —but I must be kind to them,’ thought Alice, ‘or perhaps they won’t walk the way I want to go! Let me see: I’ll give them a new pair of boots every Christmas.’

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