William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

WMBriggs Podcast 20 Apr 2016 — The End Of All History

Lights Out clip, followed by the approach of Mars by Holst.

If, as claimed by humanism, man were born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to death, his task on earth evidently must be more spiritual: not a total engrossment in everyday life, not the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then their carefree consumption. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become above all an experience of moral growth: to leave life a better human being than one started it.

This is from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in his infamous Harvard address of 1978, a speech that shocked the bejeebers out of Western cultural elites. How dare Solzhenitsyn mention truth, veritas! How could he imply that we were not marching forward, but falling backwards into spiritual sickness! Spiritual health more important than materialistic wealth? Madness! (Links to speech: pdf, video.)

As rich as that speech is, we take here only one element from it, the truth that man is partly a spiritual being.

One day there was on this earth a creature that was not here the day before. Man. Everyone, from pagan to Christian to scidolator agrees with this. Man was different than any other life form. Man was a rational being.

Now what it means to be rational is this: to exercise will and intellect. Those parts of us that have this power are not material, which is to say, they are not made of stuff, material or energy. They are incorporeal, immaterial. This means that evolution, by whatever physical mechanism it is said to work, could not have produced these powers. Why? Because there was no stuff upon which to make purchase, and therefore no environmental “pressure” could manipulate or create these higher functions. This is also proof, incidentally, that we are not a “simulation” inside some giant computer, which has implications we’ll see and which is necessarily physical (even quantum objects—forces, fields and particles—are physical).

Will and intellect exist, as proved by your eyes scanning these words and understanding or comprehending their meaning, by seizing the concepts behind them rationally. Since these powers exist, they are actual, and therefore they must have been made actual by something—but not something physical.

Well, the “where from” answer is obvious. They came from God (see this series for proof). That fact has consequences which we obliged to understand. We’ll not be able to do that here, except by gross hints.

BBC Radio clip.

That’s point one. Point two is that the physical stuff that does exist also had to come from somewhere. It could not have come from nothing, which is defined as the complete and utter absence of anything. Again, the explanation, without proof given, is God. Another fact, more consequences.

Scientists take the material existence as given, and biologists take the stuff of which we are made as given, and both attempt, with greater and lesser success, to understand how this stuff works. These scientists are powerless to explain the Big Question of Why, however; they are forever silent on the nature, the essence, of the non-material, which, as I said, comprises the most important parts of us and the universe. Only philosophy and theology can answer Why.

That being so, if we’re to grasp where we came from and where we are going, we need to develop a philosophy or theology of history. The science of history is taken care of by physicists (and biologists). Scientists start with what is, posit working rules, and then guess what might happen. They are not always right, but, and this point is incidental, their confidence in their ability is never shaken by failure. Scientists have egos larger than actors. In any case, the theorems and predictions of science help on the peripheries our of philosophy of history, but they cannot provide everything.

What else have we going for us, to inform our new philosophy? History itself. We have a long record of what has happened, more or less complete and more and less biased. Does it appear from this record that things just happen, that history is one damned thing after another? Or is there a direction to events? If there is a direction, why? And pointing to what?

History can’t even be written without reference to a theory, and theories imply direction. If you want to write history, what time scale do you pick? What to include, what to exclude? What scope? Why these events and not those? And always there is contrast with now and with where the author expects mankind to go.

Prove this to yourself. You want to write about World War II. What is that, exactly? When did it really start? Stalin ruled Russia. How far back do you go in explaining this? Marx? Well, would there have been a Marx—in what sense does that question make sense?—without a Kant and Hegel (the first progressive?)? If not, how far back before Kant do we go? And so on and on and on. Editorial, i.e. theoretical, decisions are inevitable. Removing anachronisms, i.e. theories, is all but impossible. And it should be by now obvious that writing history logically implies that human nature exists, which means it must be understood properly to write proper history.

It is propaganda of the so-called Enlightenment that only in the 17th century did we as a race realize that mankind was could progress. Yet it was then that progress took on its modern connotation of something desirable, or good. That we could progress towards an undesirable goal is now unthinkable. Did we not recently have a popular slogan “Change we can believe in”? Those touting it had no awareness that “change”, in their hands, could be negative. To progress is entirely positive.

BBC Radio 4 clip.

What are the large threads that run through history? There is no way to summarize everything that happened here, but what is at least plain to everybody? At one point there were very many fewer of us, indeed only one, and perforce located in only one spot, and now there are many of us and spread everywhere. That is progress in a positive sense, if you cherish people. It’s curious, and important, that it is not seen a progress by those who aren’t fond of people.

Man was, when fewer in number, much more tribal than now (for obvious reasons of geology and technology, if nothing else). People never got along, but now we have acquired ways of killing each other with extraordinary efficiency. The beliefs we held have changed. When there were fewer of us (at any one time; so far there have been about 100 billion of us), a greater majority believed in the non-material aspects of ourselves and of the universe. These beliefs varied more, too, but then we were, as said, more tribal.

Now that there are many of us, the belief in ultimate Reality (immateriality) is fading. This is strange because we have also, over the last 100 years or so, developed better and more efficient capabilities to learn. Despite these tools, we are becoming more ignorant. Six, seven thousand years ago a man would watch the course of the sun through the sky and suppose a god had carried it. We have “progressed” to the point where we scoff at this man, and say only “blind” physics is needed to account for the movement. But this ancient man had it over us, because he was at least aware, as today’s man is not, that physics is no explanation at all for the Why of the thing. The ancient man at least tried to answer that most important question of spirituality. Modern man says the question isn’t even legitimate. How odd it is!

Here’s another point of change. Long ago, man viewed mankind itself as a given. That is, he took men as he found them. He explained the reason for man and his nature on the caprices of gods, whose designs were unfathomable and quixotic, to say the least. These answers, good or bad, recognized the existence of a fixed human nature and were at least aimed in the right direction. Our ancestors knew there had to be ultimate spiritual answers.

The melancholy view of man’s purpose was modified by people of The Book (we won’t argue here the entry requirements for these people), who, like pagans, took human nature for granted. With pagans, Book people recognized man’s corrupt and unfixable state. The advance was that Book people understood God, and not the gods, was the answer to the Big Questions. More than any before, these people looked forward to the time after this physical existence, and ordered their lives accordingly—though not, given our faults, altogether successfully.

Finally we reach the “present”, which is that which happened “yesterday.” A large portion of us believe that perfection is possible, that, as said, directed progress (by the enlightened) is always good, that the answer to all questions ultimately is Man himself. Perfection can be reached, and will! But only after those that cling to the older beliefs are, to put it as bluntly as is felt in the hearts of modern man, eliminated. Those that can’t be educated in the new way must be shunned. These living artifacts—they are cursed as “medieval”—are holding back man’s true potential that bridles to be set free.

If you are a modern, you see history as one steady uphill struggle, starting from the muck, slogging upwards through a moral thicket, shedding prejudice after prejudice. It’s a guess, but I’d say most moderns imagine they can see the peak just ahead, perhaps not reachable in their lifetime, but soon, soon. Moderns have a sense mankind is evolving into a superior being. In science fiction, this being is portrayed as an entity composed of “pure” energy, or the like (energy is material, however). This advanced being is a creature that does not suffer our bodily woes and has advanced beyond our cares and hates.

What makes this weird is that the modern, when he watches or reads these myths, feels he is taking part in a grand scheme, that he will and now shares in this future being’s greatness. Interestingly, in these stories what happens after the grand transformation is never spoken of. This isn’t necessarily a failing. How can an imperfect man describe perfection except imperfectly? Beings of pure energy needn’t be free form. Another form of the myth imagines “we” will be “uploaded” into some computer (who fixes it when it breaks?). The same theme of bodily limitations left behind is found, and the same notion of eternal life embraced.

National Lampoon clip.

If you are one of the remnant (i.e., people of The Book) that believes in Reality, you see history as a sort of large foothill, progressing from despair and hopelessness to an intermediate pinnacle of recognizing our true selves, our True Nature, and then comes a falling off into a deep valley of the grandest hubris that can be imagined. You see that not only can mankind not be perfected, but that all attempts to make him so will be destructive and lead to an apocalypse.

After the valley, history stops. Yet beyond this valley is a far off peak from which no descent will be possible. At that apex is found some of the same benefits Perfectionists envision. Surcease of sorrow, elimination of bodily limitation and illness, eternal life. And a realization of life with the central blot of man’s nature removed; a new heaven and a new earth populated by not new men, but men restored.

You see, then, that everybody has a philosophy and theology of history. Theodicy and eschatology are not only for the religious. Nobody really believes, at least for very long, that events “just happen.” Both groups, Perfectionists and Realists, look forward towards a great future. It’s that amazing! Yet the Perfectionists would reach their goal by turning inward and ignoring Reality, which is why they won’t make it. Reality is intrusive and insistent. Incorporeal intellect, for instance, cannot be uploaded into a machine—how could it? Our blighted nature can only truly be corrected by forces beyond, or rather outside, man’s control and outside material things.

Perfectionists and Realists envision an end. Timing? I haven’t the slightest idea. Both sides have advocates who try and rush The End, and both groups are in turn overly optimistic and overly pessimistic. The goal is said always to be in sight. Predictions fail, like with scientists, but it never stops anybody from making new ones. Whichever way you pick, history will come to an end.

Holst’s Mars. The BBC’s end of the world, part II. And I cut Tannhauser off at the end, the best part! Rats rats rats! Double rats!

41 Comments

  1. “Despite these tools, we are becoming more ignorant.”
    Tools diminish skills. Handcrafted furniture (albeit made with simple tools) is more elegant than versions churned out with power tools, for example. More powerful tools cause us to forget how to use the less powerful ones, and to forget their value. Yes, some new skills are acquired, but replacing the older ones with in some ways poorer ones in no gain.

  2. In 7th Grade, I was assigned the report subject “the Korean War”. As I started researching, I discovered that the Korean Peninsula has been in a state of war for something like 2000 years. Those states were different, but they were also somewhat similar. How do we distinguish the end of one and the beginning of another when humans are so damn good at holding grudges.

  3. L.E. Modesitt wrote a book called “Gravity Dreams”. The central character is a man who was trained in a faith that believed knowledge was the path to evil. The search for knowledge was a sure sign that you were on the path.

    He ends up on a different path where the search for knowledge was not seen as as evil. The folks on that path were faced with existential dilemmas that they could never completely face down. The central characters training as a man of faith lent him abilities that those without faith could quite achieve. One might say that it was the ability to accept Truth.

    In Science, we create buckets to try and partition the world into finite chunks of Truth that we can evaluate. The creation of the buckets is a necessary step to evaluating the Truth. The buckets always obfuscate the Truth a little because the desire to create them is wrong. Without creating the buckets we have no reference frame to assess the necessity of a god to drive a flaming chariot across the sky. With the buckets, we sort of lose the imagination to see the Sun as one of a not infinite number of wheels on the chariot going through the skies of not quite an infinite number of worlds. The chariot is itself a bucket.

    Creating buckets is neither good nor bad. Getting to enamored with the buckets IS bad. Believing that the buckets are not necessary at all IS bad.

    In golf, there is a very good reason to cock your wrists properly. It doesn’t add distance directly. It doesn’t really do anything. The one thing that cocking your wrists properly does, is keep your wrists from cocking improperly. If your wrists are cocked improperly, you must be a super athlete to hit the ball well.

    Drinking tea has a real benefit. Hot tea has benefits. The benefits are not from the tea leaves soaking in the water. The benefit is from the boiling of the water. And suddenly we are talking about amazingly powerful statistics. People who drink Tea regularly are more likely to not drink bad water. Not perfectly unlikely. Just more likely.

    People who cock their wrists properly are more likely to hit the ball better.

    People who can handle the Truth that the buckets are not perfect representations of life and can accept Truth (as in His Truth) are a little more likely to survive, especially when faced with other people with different Truths. Rubbing Blue Mud in your belly button when it is appropriate will help you survive. Believing that rubbing blue mud is silly and not doing it has the potential of getting you dead.

    Dead doesn’t let you talk much.

  4. From where I’m looking there’s no one more pessimistic than the American. I need a bigger sample size. I blame twitter. However Mr Briggs is speaking with a smile on his face so all isn’t lost.

    I’m about five miles from “The Secret Nuclear Bunker” Which is famously signposted. It is the weirdest thing to walk round it, stuck in time complete with Maggie’s waxwork sitting in the BBC radio cubicle giving the country the news to keep calm and carry on. In reality anyone stuck inside would know that there would be no point going outside because they’d be nobody there.
    The end of the world radio four was an April fools day broadcast, I’m guessing.

    However one Tuesday as the second clip reminds me, the world WAS going to end, word went round at dinnertime after which we had an obligatory ‘walk’ of our choosing. We were about 12. Four of us went to greet the end in the church lichgate seats. 2:30 was the time. Also the time of the first lesson, maths. The sky went dark and it started raining. I was slightly disappointed that nothing happened but quite glad because I enjoyed maths. Miss Short, who was a missionary in India found the whole thing strangely hilarious! For goodness sake.the end of the world’s no joking matter. We were told we were foolish and forgiven for being late.
    When I see her again I’ll remind her of that. I still call her Miss Short despite her insistence that she’s Jeanette.

    Intellect and will show humans are rational yes.
    Mammals are also rational.
    Are humans different from mammals? Yes but that description doesn’t cover it, or I’m not human, which is possible. No matter how historic or famous or Greek, or Roman, or clever or important the first man was who said it! It’s simply my observation.
    I’m not being difficult I’m telling the truth.

  5. The End of History by Francis Fukuyama … things didn’t turn out quite like he saw & envisioned…and the same will continue to go for others who try the same prognosticating…it’s a good read with the benefit of hindsight as hindsight renders this a cautionary tale about presuming anything about how the future appears to be shaping up vs how it is really shaping up.
    Millennia ago Cicero summed it up: “I wonder that a soothsayer doesn’t laugh whenever he sees another soothsayer.”

    “Now what it means to be rational is this: to exercise will and intellect. Those parts of us that have this power are not material, which is to say, they are not made of stuff, material or energy.”
    – And the proof of that spiritual source of rationality are historical and ongoing cases of brain damage correlating with cognitive deficits from injury, stroke, certain drugs… (‘course, ‘correlation is not necessarily evidence of cause-effect’)…

    “…Book people recognized man’s corrupt and unfixable state. The advance was that Book people understood God,..”
    – Those Book-People’s explanations of why the omnipotent & all-powerful God chose to make such fallibly “corrupt and unfixable” humans He’d have to save from the very product of his Design remain as much the elusive blather as ever…
    – Curiously, People of the Book do consistently accept those spiritual explanations with solemnity … but to a person reject comparable explanations in product liability suits – just shows we can hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold God.

    “…it was then that progress took on its modern connotation of something desirable, or good. That we could progress towards an undesirable goal is now unthinkable.”
    – Abilene paradox
    – Groupthink
    – And on and on and on….
    – That’s just the ‘flip-side’ to the view from the old that the young are messing things up for society. And that is a historical constant: The younger generations are consistently perceived by their elders as ‘bad’ – e.g. Philippians 2:15, some Egyptian hieroglyphs address this, and records can be found generation after generation ever since lamenting how the younger upstarts are dooming everything…and things generally manage merrily along….

  6. Nobody paid any attention to Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He wrote “live not by lies” and look at what politicians do today.
    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles/SolhenitsynLies.php?/articles/SolhenitsynLies.htm

  7. Well, all this really is is a projection of cynical subjectivity.

    Man does not have to seen as “corrupt and unfixable.”

    Brad, above says he did a paper once on the the Korean War, to which he ascribed a background that “the Korean Peninsula has been in a state of war for something like 2000 years.” What does that mean? Were they at perpetual war somewhere (everywhere?) on the Korean peninsula that whole time? Have they been getting invaded regularly all that time? Who was doing the fighting? Where? When? With whom?

    In fact, the Korean peninsula has not “been in a state of war for something like 2000 years.” Most Koreans throughout that period would never have seen a war.

    Brad is just seeing their history through the lens of his cynical subjectivity. By his standard, the same perpetual “state of war” could be ascribed to just about any society that ever existed, including the good ol’ US of A. But his standard is a simplistic boilerplate of his view that humans are intrinsically sinful. It offers no history. It only serves to reinforce his superstition.

    JMJ

  8. JMJ: Or it’s a objective indicator that human beings are intrinsically violent.

  9. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 20, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    human beings are intrinsically violent

    “The only generalizations you can make about mankind should be those that hold for you and your friends, for the obvious logical reason that you and your friends are just a particular sample of People In General…”
    — Joseph Moore

    Hence: “Sheri says that she and her friends are intrinsically violent.”

    Mammals are also rational.

    No, mammals are animals that nurse their young with milk. “Rational” in this sense is from Latin ratio, meaning “account, reckoning, invoice; plan; prudence; method; reasoning; rule; regard.” No matter how thoroughly an animal is questioned, it will never give you a rationale for its actions.

    Korean war

    My old history professor, John Lukacs, put forward the conundrum “When did the Second World War begin?” By this he did not mean its ultimate roots, but simply the outbreak of hostilities. The standard answer is September 1939, but he made a case for September 1931 as well as for December 1941. This reinforces Dr. Briggs’ point that even so mundane a thing as an historical “fact” is already an act of interpretation.

    He also gave three accounts of the conclusion of the Battle of Waterloo: That Wellington won the battle; that Blücher won the battle; and that Napoleon lost the battle (which is not the same thing as the first two).

    He also said that an historian must study the Battle of Salamis “as if the Persians might still win.” That is, a true (i.e., “faithful”) account of X must not consider anything that happened after X.

    He also said in a review of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History, “I am appalled to find that Fukuyama is a fool.”

    And the proof of that spiritual source of rationality are historical and ongoing cases of brain damage correlating with cognitive deficits

    “Immaterial” may or may not be “spiritual,” but that something may use a material organ for such material things as speaking, hearing, memory, consciousness, and so on does not make the rational faculty material as well. The intellect reflects on the products of perception and abstracts from them “concepts.” As Aristotle said, “Nothing is in the mind except through the senses.” But these concepts are themselves immaterial, even though abstracted from material percepts. We can see a particular dog, hear it bark, feel its fur and so on; but there is no organ by which we “perceive” a concept like “dog.”

  10. My old history professor, John Lukacs…

    This is only a little surprising.

  11. YOS: Nice to see you can make completely irrelevent statements, based on a quote from a single individual. I guessing this was an attempt to except yourself from my statement.

    (This is not a denial of what I originally said, by the way. I am human and humans are intrinsically violent, so my statement applies to me. My friends are also human, so it follows they are intrinsically violent too.)

  12. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 20, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    I am curious then what acts of violence you have perpetrated.

  13. Plead the fifth, Sheri.

  14. I’ve been known to beat eggs and whip cream. Does that count?

  15. Show me the evidence, Sheri, that proves humans are “intrinsically violent.”

    It’s a ridiculous claim, but it’s really what Briggs and all are saying – that humans can’t help but behave terribly. And it’s all so endlessly subjective. Hence the silly question, “when did WWII start?” Regressio ad nauseam.

    And YOS, that history professor, talk about judgemental subjectivity!

    This is all based on the insipid, stupid, anti-spiritual, guilt-up-the-wazoo notion of Original Sin, a horrible, stupid, self-fulfilling prophesy. It’s similar to the sleazy conservatives we have in government today, proving government doesn’t work by personally breaking it. I suppose this stupid Original Sin idea is why you guys are such fools for them.

    JMJ

  16. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 21, 2016 at 6:56 am

    Show me the evidence … that proves humans are “intrinsically violent.”

    I’d take issue with “instrinsically” but certainly the potency is there. Consider human sacrifice, from the pyramids of Mexico to the furnaces of Moloch, the enslavement of conquered peoples, the existence of conquered peoples, murder and war, gangsterism, the Milgram “experiment,” rape, etc. This potency may not be moved to actuality in every case, but it is certainly there.

    humans can’t help but behave terribly.

    But they can — by forming a “second nature” through habituation to the Seven Strengths or through following the Noble Eightfold Path.

    And it’s all so endlessly subjective.

    You say that like it was a bad thing.

    Hence the silly question, “when did WWII start?” Regressio ad nauseam.

    So when did it start?

    that history professor, talk about judgemental subjectivity!

    That was his whole point. When you are dealing with subjects, you cannot avoid subjectivity. That’s why the tools developed for the study of objects don’t work so well when dealing with subjects. Of course, that doesn’t stop folks from donning the ceremonial White Lab Coat and replicating, like cargo cultists, the motions and invocations of natural science. It just means they won’t recognize that that is what they are doing. Science deals with facts; history deals with events. Science seeks knowledge; history seeks understanding. Do not confuse What-I-Was-Always-Taught-in-School with “Objective” Facts.

    This is all based on the insipid, stupid, anti-spiritual, guilt-up-the-wazoo notion of Original Sin, a horrible, stupid, self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Aw, c’mon, JMJ, tell us what you really think.

    Actually, a great deal of it is based on observation of human behavior. Perhaps it would be best if men could rape women without feeling guilt up the wazoo, or if they could murder other men or if they could cheat widows and orphans out of their savings. No more guilt, hoorah! Or at least not up the wazoo. We had better tell the Buddha that he got it all wrong. “Concupiscence”: from Late Latin noun concupiscentia, from the Latin verb concupiscere, from con-, “with”, here an intensifier, + <i?cupi(d)-, “desiring” + -escere, a verb-forming suffix denoting beginning of a process or state.

    This state of Wanting Stuff really is intrinsic, making it the origin of sin (hence, “origin”-al sin), and the desire may be so strong that one resorts to violence and deceit to obtain it, from “c’mon, baby, I’ll still love you in the morning” to “your money or your life.” It is the source of all human sorrow and sin when the wanting is directed toward lesser goods (or in the Buddha’s view, to anything at all). This is because we can seldom obtain everything we desire and the frustration of appetites and desires leads to bad behavior.

    Of all the teachings of Buddhism and Christianity, the origin of sin is probably the most empirical of all.

  17. YOS, continuing the theme: (and I’m not implying you have a moustache!)
    Mammals are one of a group of five vertebrates which:
    give birth to live young
    Suckle their young
    Are covered with hair.

    This is categorisation based on visual observation but doesn’t answer the soul question.
    How are humans different from other mammals?

    (Mammals for my argument I am particularly thinking about dogs but there are examples of other mammals and since I haven’t known every mammal I assume other mammals can do the same, perhaps not all, I don’t know)

    The difference is not even a straight forward as implied by your comment about language but the answer is in the intellect, in part.
    Mammals have a language that is universal and understood by any but the most dull.
    Body language and vocalisation, just not conversation.
    Conversation on abstract matters they do not exhibit!
    Communication, they do, generally more readily with humans which they understand from familiarity.
    Dogs show the following which implies intellect:
    planning/plotting
    Memory
    Anticipation or prediction
    Evidence of dreams when sleeping
    Ability to be trained implying will to overcome instinct
    Ingenuity or initiative without training
    A combination of the above is used for the last and most impressive ability.

    So I don’t know what is meant by intellect with reference to this argument but I refer to intelligence.

    The human soul is not of a dimension which can be defined with any certainty except a word which we already have that covers what we don’t know.
    It’s not that people describe it it’s that they teach others with certainty.

    I am as certain as he who shall not be named is about his soul distillation, that the soul is not made of two parts which exclude both the clear omission which I don’t state for moustache twirling ridicule would be induced and the seemingly patent other dimensions which must be implied by the inexplicable existence of the person inside all of us. More mystery, not less entails because nothing material we know of can explain. The approach which leaves out the important dimensions is further rather than closer to the true nature of the soul. I think that distillation is popular because it appears intellectually antiseptic.

    If it could be described with certainty and accuracy we would be God, or something directly informed by God.

    Metaphysics, as is the popular word is the business of art, not logic. There is logic in art, though.

    “There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face.” either.

  18. I missed all the later comments until just now so only responding to your mammal statement and thinking about the soul. No sin, no war, no violence.

  19. No matter how thoroughly an animal is questioned, it will never give you a rationale for its actions.

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

  20. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 21, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    How are humans different from other mammals?

    “Do we really need to ask whether non-human animals have developed systems of physics, speculative mathematics, and metaphysical wisdom?” — James Chastek (https://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/what-really-are-uniquely-human-traits/)

    The scientists of the Early Modern Age famously regarded animals as ‘meat puppets’ — they were enthralled by the mechanistic metaphor of their new science — and crafted a model of instinct far less supple than the old Aristotelian one. To this day, our thinking is hampered by the residual of Cartesianism.

    Mammals have a language that is universal and understood by any but the most dull.

    I think you confuse language with making signs and such. The Underground Grammarian gives a good account of language here: http://www.sourcetext.com/grammarian/less-than-words-can-say/02.htm in his book Less than Words Can Say.

    Conversation on abstract matters they do not exhibit!

    Precisely! Intellect is the ability to abstract universals from concrete particulars.

    Communication, they do

    So does a disease.

    Dogs show the following which implies intellect: planning/plotting, Memory, Anticipation or prediction, Evidence of dreams when sleeping, Ability to be trained implying will to overcome instinct, Ingenuity or initiative without training

    None of this evidences intellect, only imagination (used broadly for the inner senses in general).

    common sense is the power to unite all the sense channels into a single perceived object, even though different sensations arrive in the brain at different instants.

    imagination is the power to form and manipulate images. The imagination “brings back to consciousness the images of objects that have ceased to be present.” Without such re-present-ation we would be conscious only of a kaleidoscope of transient sense impressions which, once gone can never be recalled. This is precisely what happens when, deprived of sensation during sleep, the imagination conjures up dreams from scraps of old sensations.

    memory is the power to recollect past images precisely as past. It is always associative: The puppy will remember making a puddle in the house and will associate that with the memory of the smack of the rolled up newspaper.

    estimation is the power to “discern the useful or obnoxious character of certain objects” and therefore to approach or avoid them.

    It is this combination of abilities, which we call “imagination” in the broader sense, that enables the animal to be trained, and even to self-train in some circumstances.

    Further discussion is here: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/10/in-psearch-of-psyche-man-animal.html
    ++++++++++

    No matter how thoroughly an animal is questioned, it will never give you a rationale for its actions.
    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    Perhaps so, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

  21. but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

    Such as claiming knowledge that animals are not rational when the only evidence you have is that you can’t ask them their reasoning? Pretty apparent some can solve goals which involves some reasoning but you want to dance around this with word play and rigging definitions so whatever is pointed to can be waved away.

  22. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 21, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    Such as claiming knowledge that animals are not rational

    Actually, the claim is that they are reasoning creatures, contrary to the observations of all mankind up until the “Jazz Age” of science, when in a determined effort to be accounted intellectuals scientists began turning things around.

    Pretty apparent some can solve goals which involves some reasoning

    I am only aware of animals solving problems involving physically present situations involving particulars. Those can be handled by imagination, not intellect. An animal knows food, but a human knows what food is.

    word play and rigging definitions so whatever is pointed to can be waved away.

    No, the definition of intellect and the anima rationalis are what they have been for more than two thousand years. “To reason” just is the ability to give reasons for things. It is the Modern who is determined to game definitions to include “lesser offenses” in the “charge.”

  23. Briggs

    April 21, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    YOS,

    The UG is the great resource of the world. All should read his books.

  24. No matter how thoroughly an animal is questioned, it will never give you a rationale for its actions.
    I am only aware of animals solving problems involving physically present situations involving particulars. Those can be handled by imagination, not intellect. An animal knows food, but a human knows what food is.

    Moving the posts again. Solving for goals (planning) requires reasoning therefore rational (Dictionary rational: based on or in accordance with reason or logic). That means there is a rationale (Dictionary rationale: a set of reasons or a logical basis for a course of action). IOW: there was a set of reasons. It’s irrelevant that they haven’t been expressed to you satisfaction. But, hey, reasoning only requires imagination.

    Since when is it necessary to know what something is vs. what something is for or can do? Is there really a difference? The former is exhibiting intellectwhile the latter is mere imagination? You seem to be going out of your way to reject that animals can have an intellect. Why is that?

    No, the definition of intellect and the anima rationalis are what they have been for more than two thousand years.

    So it’s a consensus then? Is that important?

  25. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 21, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    Moving the posts again. Solving for goals (planning) requires reasoning therefore rational

    Humans who “solve for goals” use their reasoning and it is very hard for us to imagine a sensitive anima that is not subsumed by a rational one. That is why we tend to read intellect into the actions of imagination. But even mechanical devices can solve problems — for example, an adding machine can solve problems of the form “what is the sum of these numbers?” — and these machines do not even possess conscious thought.

    You seem to be going out of your way to reject that animals can have an intellect. Why is that?

    Massive amounts of empirical data?

    Intellect is the power to reflect on sense impression (percepts) and to abstract from the “percepts” more generalized “concepts.” This is evidenced by the use of language; i.e., grammar, not just noun-signs. That is the difference between simply recognizing something as food on the one hand and recognizing the food as an “apple.” But since we are discussing this via words, it is difficult to discern the older instinctive level of thought.

    I had the experience once of walking home from the dry cleaners with a bunch of shirts on hangers over my shoulder. Along the way I began thinking about a problem in applied statistics, and the next thing I knew I was turning the key in the lock of my side door. While my intellective part was thinking about something else, the rest of me was seeing and hearing and walking, and even reached in my pocket to pull out the keys. Take away the part that “thinking about something else” and you get a taste of the animal anima.

    Or read Helen Keller’s account of her awakening in the well house and why she described herself as becoming human on that day. (Stipulated: she was always human because the potency for language was always there, even if it had not yet been actualized.)

    So it’s a consensus then? Is that important?

    When trying to grasp an argument, it is useful to understand the terms used by those framing the argument — lest one fall victim to the Disney syndrome of talking animals that one absorbed as a child. For example, the distinction between practical reason and speculative reason. And why “solving problems” is not a meaningful description without understanding what kinds of problems are solved. Recall in school that some problems were calculations which the student was to make while other problems were “word problems” that described a situation and challenged to student to abstract from the story the calculations that he would have to make.

    Clever Hans was a horse who could allegedly do arithmetic problems, but he was really reacting to cues in his trainer’s attitude. There was no deliberate cheating, but the trainer would relax when Hans’ foot-stomps reached the correct number, and Hans picked up on that. All that was necessary was perception, memory, and estimation, reinforced by a sweet. Hans had no idea what numbers meant or even that he was “doing” arithmetic.

  26. DAV: You seem to be going out of your way to reject that animals can have an intellect. Why is that?

    YOS: Massive amounts of empirical data?

    And this massive amount would be what? You claim to have it but instead give definitions which look very much an attempt to define away the question. Supplying some of your data would be better. Your definitions don’t really help except perhaps to shine a light on your approach to the question. But then you don’t really have any empirical data let alone a massive amount or you would be giving it. Again: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Assuming so is a logical error.

    Clever Hans was a horse who could allegedly do arithmetic problems, but he was really reacting to cues in his trainer’s attitude.

    You do realize that goal solving and planning is much larger than solving arithmetic problems, yes? I’m talking about actions that have little resemblance to built-in or even learned response. Ever watch a cat try to operate a doorknob? I’ve had several who did. They didn’t randomly jump on other objects. One would be hard pressed to claim it was innate or taught behavior.

  27. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 22, 2016 at 7:58 am

    Ever watch a cat try to operate a doorknob?

    Cat has eyes. Sees large biped open door numerous times. Remembers this. Esteems exit from room would be a good thing — there might be mice or something on the other side. Try to imitate biped manipulation. Succeed or not. (How is this not learned?)

    Everything in this process can be explained by means of sensation of particular objects, imagination, memory, and estimation. In short, by the inner senses of perception seated in the brain. By Ockham’s Razor! There is no need to postulate an additional entity/power of intellection by which the cat understands what a doorknob is or speculates on the reasons why the door has been left closed. Only instinct, broadly speaking, is required. But remember, instinct is not the Cartesian “meat puppet” or the post-modern built-in programming metaphor, but an exercise of what folks once called “practical reason.” (vs. “speculative reason.”)

    A growing awareness on your part that these terms had fairly precise technical meanings beyond ordinary colloquialisms does not constitute “moving the goalpost” on my part. They are still where they started thousands of years ago. A curse upon Descartes’ hemorrhoids! For it was the scientific revolutionaries who denied animals powers that the ancients and medievals always granted to them. So much so that Late Moderns have been astonished to discern that animals may use tools (and solve problems), experience emotions, possess personalities, and so on:
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13860-six-uniquely-human-traits-now-found-in-animals-/
    But none of these were denied by ancient and medieval thinkers:
    https://thomism.wordpress.com/2008/10/11/what-really-are-uniquely-human-traits/
    Once more a case of “back to the future.”

    You do realize that goal solving and planning is much larger than solving arithmetic problems, yes?

    So they can do this in a larger manner, but not in the smaller? Usually, skill works the other way: the smaller task is mastered before the larger.

    Quoting Chastek again:

    Medical textbooks draw pictures of bodies that are meant to look like every body. Imagination has the same power, which is enough to convince most people that imagination is intellect. But imagination can still do more. When the differences between the things become too great to represent with a single picture which ignores individual differences, imagination can coin a symbol to stand for the whole multitude. The symbol stands in for the picture which cannot be made. Nominalism seems to be the identification of imagination (in this highest, most subtle activity of symbol construction) with intellect.
    (It’s striking to read St. Thomas speak about how imagination makes sign usage possible.)

    Or more distinctly regarding intellect v. imagination:

    The when confronted with a series of things that are more or less alike, the imagination spontaneously makes a generic image, the way an anatomy textbook draws a picture of a generic looking body. When confronted with a vast multitude of things that it can’t assimilate into a single general image, imagination spontaneously groups them into a class marked by a symbol or token. Both of these things are prerequisite to forming the universal of the intellect- but neither of them is a properly rational activity. As soon as one admits that animals have imagination, and that this imagination does not retain images completely randomly but with some order and priority, he has to admit that the animal has some kind of “group image” or “class”.

    Human beings have a much more powerful image making power, but this power is still not intellect. Intellect does not meld or symbolize many images into a single symbol or generic image- it is capable of looking at a single thing and seeing that it is something that can be studied. Just look around you. What is there that couldn’t be the subject of many different scientific investigations? You sense the particular in its universality, or universality in the particular. When I look at my foot and see it as a podiatrist, I don’t have to see the class of many feet, or a vague general foot, or the heavenly form of foot, or the symbol or set of a foot. I don’t have to see the word “foot”. All this is unnecessary mediation. The thing the podiatrist understands is in my shoe.

  28. Cat has eyes. Sees large biped open door numerous times. Remembers this.

    And then 1) set the goal to be on the other side 2) go about removing the obstacle — or at least try 3) somehow aware of the dimensions of the door; never tried to go through walls or move them, etc. 4) dig up from memory that the way to removing this obstacle somehow has something to do with the doorknob. One of them jumped on a ledge next to the door but focused its attention on the doorknob.

    I should point out that none of the cats were deliberately allowed to go outside so coming and going was not a normal occurrence.

    Hard to see how that would be built-in behavior and if learned, say, by watching, then there is attempted application of a previously observed action to a current (novel, even) problem. Hard to explain it if that isn’t an example of reasoning.

    an exercise of what folks once called “practical reason.” (vs. “speculative reason.”)

    Animals don’t build and fly airplanes so therefore they have no intellectual capacity. Got it.

  29. YOS, (The resident Grue says this is boring so get a strong coffee)
    Dogs can count but only up to four in my experience and only when there’s reward involved. Mothers can count their litter, they know when one’s missing as well. Two weeks ago there was a documentary about four dogs who learned to fly (control and do figure of eights) a Cessna. Did I watch it? no it was on but it’ll still be on player if you want to check it. I know you’ll say that’s just training” So of course my list included training to show that they can overcome their animal instincts. Then there’s the case of the family German Shepherd in Canada or somewhere snowy in the US which was caught on dash cam saving the lives of it’s family and preventing the house from burning down by leading a police vehicle to the house. It went back out after the fire brigade were finally called by the police and lead them to the house as well. This was a silly daft family dog which was never trained to do anything and yet when the teenaged lad who’s foot was on fire and who was stuck in the garage told ‘buddy’ to go and help he did just that! It takes an owner to know their animal and when it comes to pets you get back what you put in. Some have dogs like statues. I like intelligent dogs and Staffies are one of the cleverest. A dog that misbehaves and is untrainable is often a clever dog. Reject guide dogs make very clever pets.

    There was the experiment of the dog, recorded on camera without prior training that moved a chair into the middle of the room in order to climb to reach the reward toy hanging from the cell. Only one dog achieved it or solved the puzzle but of course there are always clever and less clever animals. If you’re expecting them to join in a discussion of course it isn’t going to happen. I simply meant to indicate that the word language does entail communication and this can be done simply or in a more complex way.
    As to the definition of imagination It seems constructed to back up the claim about higher intellect being ‘all there is’ and therefore constitutes soul.

    “moderns”?
    Mike D: One of the sharpest and wisest men I’ve never known.

    “Bad blocking, aka arbitrary binning, aka dividing of the data into a priori subsets, is the principal source of bias in any type of analysis, not just the statistical kind. Very dangerous, too. Leads to wars, Holocausts, confiscatory taxes, shoes that don’t fit, and a variety of other evils, small and large.
    We don’t hand churn data anymore like Granny churned butter. We have computers now to do it for us. Give me all the data all the time. I’ll deal with the problems of autocorrelation and lack of independence. Don’t block me up.
    Don’t get all jiggy about the extreme data points. There are no such thing as outliers, there are only ordinary liars.”
    I particularly like ‘don’t get all jiggy.’
    Mike D.

    There is a huge amount of observational evidence which I trust. I have seen cats do what Dav says, I’ve known countless examples of drawing on experience, memory clearly some understanding of nature to solve a problem.
    Dogs don’t know about gravity but they know to run down the stairs if you hold the ball over the top! To jump left if you’re kicking looks aimed to the left an so on. They can do it faster than David Beckham!
    Cats and dogs, actually. I knew you would say “it’s just training’ but I’m speaking of actions when they are not trained.

    To ignore reality to flatter a world view? No. I except others have a different one and while I’m interested, it’s not to the point of being insulted into accepting what I observe to be wrong.

    It is enough that animals do not converse on abstract matters using oral language in order to concur, as I did, that humans are different from other mammals. It does not impinge on my world view, you see.

    Why require animals to be something even lower? To answer would be to question motive.
    Since this discussion is rather personal I won’t speculate.

    This is a delicate subject and it deserves careful consideration.

    “We ought to be able to discuss this without resorting to uncivil language.” WM Briggs.

    There’s been no convincing justification for the two dimensional soul which was the point of my response. I’ll manage that expectation..

  30. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 22, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    And then 1) set the goal to be on the other side 2) go about removing the obstacle — or at least try 3) somehow aware of the dimensions of the door; never tried to go through walls or move them, etc. 4) dig up from memory that the way to removing this obstacle somehow has something to do with the doorknob.

    Not trying to walk through walls is hardly a sign of intellectual activity. To the contrary, a persistent attempt to walk though walls is a sign of immanent extinction of the gene-line. None of the items you mention require the ability to abstract universals from particulars. Regarding Item 1): that final causes are important and nature is replete with teleology is hardly a revelation. Birds gather twigs in order to build a nest; lionesses hunt prey in order to feed themselves and their cubs. But of course they can set a goal without knowing that they are setting a goal, they can remove an obstacle without knowing that they are rmoving an obstacle or knowing what an “obstacle” is. Most animals are aware that something is large or small, though I doubt they pulled out tape measures to make that much more precise. Animals do have the ability to gauge distances: otherwise how could they leap upon their prey?

    There is nothing here that cannot be handled by imagination.

    Hard to explain it if that isn’t an example of reasoning.

    That’s because Modern thought is infected by the Cartesian notion of “instinct” as something limited or “hard-wired.” But also because Late Moderns are somewhat more sloppy in their definitions and use “reasoning” for a variety of things like “problem solving” or “tool-using.” I’ve heard people confuse “intellect” with “intelligence” with “consciousness” with “sentience” and so on.

    Animals don’t build and fly airplanes so therefore they have no intellectual capacity. Got it.

    No, you don’t. Not yet. Birds build and fly airplanes by entirely natural, biological means. Even that humans build and fly airplanes is not in itself evidence of their intellective activity — though the mathematics or the language-use involved in doing so would be.

    Paraphrasing Feser:
    1. intellect is the power to a) grasp abstract concepts (e.g. “man,” “mortal”), b) put them together into judgments (e.g., “all men are mortal”), and c) reason logically from one judgment to another (e.g., from “all men are mortal” and “Socrates is a man” to the conclusion that “Socrates is mortal”).

    It is to be distinguished from
    2. imagination, the power to form mental images (e.g., what your mother looks like, what your favorite song sounds like, what pizza tastes like, etc.);
    and from
    3. sensation, the power to perceive the goings on in the external material world and the internal world of the body (e.g., a visual experience of the computer in front of you, the auditory experience of the cars passing by on the street outside your window, the awareness you have of the position of your legs, etc.).

    Sensation leads to the formation of “phantasms” (approx., “mental images”), and from these objects of the imagination, the intellect in turn abstracts universals. All animals, including humans, perform the first two; humans perform the third. There is no evidence that any other species does so, although people raised on Disney cartoons often read into supple and flexible animal estimation something very like human intellection.

    The modern tendency is to collapse intellective activity into sensation and imagination. Now, sensation and imagination can work wonders. Your cat — or Joy’s cop-summoning dog — is an example. And we can imagine in science fiction advanced species that perform incredible feats without thinking. All we have to remember is that instinct is not rigid programming. The distinction between intellect and imagination can be tallied as:

    1. Concepts are universal while mental images and sensations are always essentially particular. That is, if you imagine a dog, you will always imagine a particular dog, or at least a particular kind of dog: a Rottweiler, a Shih-tzu, a Jack RUssell. But the concept “dog” applies to any and all dogs. And a good thing, too, or natural science of dog would be impossible.
    2. Mental images are always to some extent vague or indeterminate, while concepts are (at least often) precise and determinate.
    3. Many concepts are so abstract that they do not have even the loose sort of connection with mental imagery that concepts like ‘dog’ have — such as the concepts ‘law,’ ‘square root,’ ‘logical consistency,’ ‘collapse of the wave function,’ and many others.

    Chastek again:
    “Imagination also seems to connote the loftiest of the sensory powers- it is the closest to intellect and it it perfects a unified sensory perception. This loftiness and creativity of imagination accounts for both its dignity and its danger- it is a certain middle between a particular sense power and intellect and so it is easy to reduce it to both, and to reduce- more dangerously- intellect to imagination.”

  31. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 22, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Joy: There was the experiment of the dog, recorded on camera without prior training that moved a chair into the middle of the room in order to climb to reach the reward toy hanging from the cell. Only one dog achieved it or solved the puzzle but of course there are always clever and less clever animals. If you’re expecting them to join in a discussion of course it isn’t going to happen.

    But it’s precisely the lack of discussion that indicates the lack of intellect. Everything else involves the sensation (and manipulation) of actual physical objects, concrete particulars received in imagination, retained in memory, esteemed as good or bad. All this was attibuted to at least the higher animals back in medieval times. No surprises here.

    I simply meant to indicate that the word language does entail communication and this can be done simply or in a more complex way.

    But not all examples of communication involve language. E.g., contagious diseases are communicated.
    When a zebra out on the edge of the herd sniffs a lion in the tall grass, he does not say to himself in any fashion, “I had better tell the others.” (Nor would you, for that matter.) He simply does what is appropriate for a successful zebra to do under those circumstances. His startled neighbors, startled by what he does whether they sniff lion or not, do likewise. That’s part of how they got to be grown-up zebras in the first place. The zebras who are slow to startle have a way of dropping out of the herd early in life. In a moment, the whole herd is in flight, but it cannot be properly said that a zebra has sent a message. It would be more accurate to say that the zebras have caught something from one another.
    — The Underground Grammarian, “The Two Tribes”

    He goes on to write:
    There is a kind of everyday, commonsense notion about the origin of language that sticks in our heads and causes important misunderstandings. It is, of course, the notion that language must have begun as a way of naming things in the world in which we live. Those are exactly the things that need no naming….

    People who have merely come up with a word for “wet” can do nothing more than stand around in the rain announcing to each other a sorry fact that needs no announcing. It won’t help them, either, to come up with a word for “dry.” What they need is a way to think about “dry” even while they are getting wet, a way to relate the two even when only one is present in the world of experience. They need “wet could be dry.” That’s grammar.

    A collection of names for things in the world, however large, does not make a language. A language is only incidentally in the business of naming things. Its important business is to explore the way in which things are, or perhaps might be, related to one another. Building a shelter takes more than words for “dry” and “cliff.” It needs an idea of relationship, the idea of “under.” Then it needs another relationship, one that might be understood by something like “dry under made cliff.” To that, some designing mind must add not only “tomorrow” but “all tomorrows.” “Cliff” names something in the palpable world, and “dry” names not exactly a thing in the world but at least a physical condition. Those other words, however, “made” and “tomorrow” and “all,” name nothing in this world. They name some ways in which things can be related to each other.

    http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP078.html#FPQ78A4THEP1

    and also
    http://dhspriory.org/thomas/summa/FP/FP079.html#FPQ79OUTP1

  32. Animals don’t build and fly airplanes so therefore they have no intellectual capacity. Got it.

    No, you don’t. Not yet

    Actually, it is you missing it. I meant just pick something that animals don’t do (or think they don’t) and use that as your criterion for intellect. Which is exactly what you are doing. You don’t seem to see that by picking definitions this way you really haven’t done anything except confirmed your belief.

    Let’s see
    o) Don’t fill out tax forms: no intellect (OTOH, I don’t fill out my own either)
    o) Don’t build and fly airplanes : no intellect
    o) Can’t use language as we do: no intellect — but then, maybe you just don’t understand theirs. Perhaps the assignment of intellect has been reversed.
    o) “practical reason” vs. “speculative reason” : no intellect — but how do you know animals don’t have “speculative reason”? Apparently, your proof is they don’t tell you they do. Circular at best.

  33. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 22, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    You don’t seem to see that by picking definitions this way you really haven’t done anything except confirmed your belief.

    I’m not “picking” a definition, only using the original definition before it got mucked up by the moderns, so eager to perform vivisection that they redefined animals as meat puppets and thus spoiled the idea of instinct for everyone since. Imagination is not intellect, no matter how much you insist. An image of a petunia does not have the clarity of a concept. You cannot imagine a polygon with 1000 sides distinct from one with 999 sides — but you can conceive of it. Animals cannot work with polygons at all unless they are physically present.

    Don’t fill out tax forms: no intellect

    Requires grasp of abstractions like “taxes,” “income,” use of arithmetic, language, check.

    Don’t build and fly airplanes : no intellect

    Not exactly. Requires only mastery of physical acts. Can be learned by training and imitation. (Comprehending written work instructions or performing load calculations is something else, as is communicating with tower controllers along the way.)

    Can’t use language “as we do”: no intellect

    Check. Since we are the only known species to use language, using it “as we do” is a given. However, different languages employ vastly different grammars. Anglophones do not use language as Choctaws do and divide the world differently. But there are no languages that are not replete with abstractions and complex grammars, even in the most primitive of tribal cultures.

    but then, maybe you just don’t understand theirs.

    Demonstrate that other species use language, and we can discuss this. (Maybe there is a teapot orbiting Mars. You can’t prove there isn’t. Nyah, nyah. That’s not an argument.)

    “practical reason” vs. “speculative reason” : no intellect

    Correct. Practical reason requires only imagination, not the abstraction of universal concepts. Speculative reason does.

    how do you know animals don’t have “speculative reason”?

    There is no evidence in their cultures of art, mathematics, physics, etc. Where is the Tolstoy of the kangaroos?

    Apparently, your proof is they don’t tell you they do.

    Correct. The use of symbol-mongering (language) — as opposed to mere sign-making — is an excellent marker. Again, I refer you to the Underground Grammarian and his essay on “The Two Tribes,” linked above. Another useful essay is Walker Percy’s “The Delta Factor,” found in his collection The Message in the Bottle, available in trade paperback.

    A symbol does not direct our attention to something else, as a sign does. It does not direct at all. It “means” something else. It somehow comes to contain within itself the thing it means. The word ball is a sign to my dog and a symbol to you. If I say ball to my dog, he will respond like a good Pavlovian organism and look under the sofa and fetch it. But if I say ball to you, you will simply look at me and, if you are patient, finally say, “What about it?” The dog responds to the word by looking for the thing: you conceive the ball through the word ball.
    — Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle, p.153

    Another example is the man who has trained his dog to fetch a sponge to use in washing his car. If the dog cannot find the sponge in any of its usual places, it will not come back with a rag instead. It perceives and imagines the concrete object “sponge” but does not grasp the concept “that which can be used for washing a car,” largely because it does not have the grammar within which it can frame the thought. (This is also why we largely lack memories of our newborn years: before we have language in which to express a thought, we have no way to remember it.)

  34. I’m not “picking” a definition, only using the original definition

    Oh, dear! My apologies. It was that “Not Me” person again. Why think when others can do it for you? Far less effort. I really could care less that you are just parroting someone else and quoting them here does little to help. How do you know they got it right? Because Aristotle or someone like him said so? Really?

    You continue to miss the point: it is the definition that rigs the result. You went down a list given somewhat tongue-in-cheek and never realized they all amount to the same thing, namely, picking something you are fairly sure that animals don’t do and use that as the criterion. Of course, — and I shouldn’t have to say this — I don’t necessarily mean you specifically.

    So then the answer is: speculative reason AND they don’t communicate it. Double down. Why not? What is there to lose?

    Your evidence for no speculative reason is absence of evidence — completely disregarding the logical fallacy in this.

    The use of symbol-mongering (language) — as opposed to mere sign-making
    Even if the absence of it tells you nothing.

    So those are your best shots? Not very convincing.

  35. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 22, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    Why think when others can do it for you? Far less effort. I really could care less that you are just parroting someone else

    But if I prepared my own pristine definitions, you would come back with “moving the goal posts” objection. I think this is what is called a win-win situation. Next thing you know, we’ll all be told to make up our own definition of ‘biological evolution’ or ‘collapse of the wave function’ and not let them pesky scientists do our thinking for us.

    You went down a list given somewhat tongue-in-cheek and never realized they all amount to … picking something you are fairly sure that animals don’t do and use that as the criterion.

    The definition of intellect I was using was the ability to abstract universal concepts from concrete particulars, and this is precisely the question at issue. It is simply distinct from the imagination and from sensation, which all animals [including humans] do possess and which can entail extremely flexible and complex behaviors. I think the problem is that Late Moderns are satisfied with vague and inchoate definitions and are therefore unable to make clear distinctions.

    Your evidence for no speculative reason is absence of evidence — completely disregarding the logical fallacy in this.

    Maybe so, but
    a) you are asking for proof of a negative, another logical fallacy; and
    b) the absence of evidence may not be evidence of absence, but it is certainly not evidence for presence.

    Without actual real-world consequences, there would be nothing on which natural selection could get traction and therefore, per Darwin, evolution would “ruthlessly destroy” the faculty.

    In the absence of any positive evidence, absence is a reasonable conclusion. You can’t simply claim that there is a teapot orbiting Mars and then demand that everyone prove there is not. I would be perfectly content if it turned out that kangaroos could abstract universals from particulars, but — call me crazy — I’d like a wee bit of evidence before I would accept the hypothesis.

    Disney has a lot to answer for in this tendency to anthropomorphize animals.

  36. Anger is an emotion, spite is an emotion, malice is an emotion, sarcasm and satire are born of emotion. All of these are emotion! I do not see any evidence other than in the carefully constructed written word that all intellect does not exist precisely alongside emotion. E, F can’t talk about sex, one of his favourites, without giggling like a sixth former. At the same time he’s telling people why they must remember to separate the flesh from the body! Don’t do as I do, do as I say. I’ve seen him in action on youtube.

    “Moderns are somewhat more sloppy in their definitions” It’s disagreement about definition and who’s authority it is to make the definition. Rather just establish the definitions first.

    If intellect exists separate from emotion then why is there no evidence of it? It isn’t that there needs to be to believe it but say that someone who doesn’t concur is “totally wrong” is to say something on the basis of belief which is fine unless trying to convince somebody else to believe the same! I’d like to point out that I read no further than the second ‘totally wrong’. I was totally turned off. Everything else he said might have been totally right. In fact I don’t even remember what was totally wrong!

    The answer you gave focuses heavily on herding instinct; a lower function. Mammals like humans have lower or autonomic or automatic functions. The thesis ignores endocrine systems, the autonomic nervous system and how These also, being coupled with it, interact with it’s function. No neurologist, including Sam Harris, or theologian or philosopher understands it. There’s a lot of guessing. “Modest doubt is the beacon of the wise.”

    Thoughts are coupled with all that is happening inside the body at the time:
    By what is happening in the gut, heart, limbs, somatic system, adrenal glands, you get the picture; all of this is affected by the outside world as well both in terms of information via the senses and matter via trauma, nutrition , water, or lack of it, to name a few.

    None of that is conjecture it is all known. Of course there are extremists such as religious sects who’s members refuse blood transfusions because of an ideal about the body. It’s a another non pragmatic non realistic approach to life.

    Your reference to sensation (proprioception) is only the conscious part. If you lose all four limbs, eyesight and hearing as one certain lad did, of course you will be very well aware of the fact and no philosopher needs to point it out. He still has endocrine functions, thought, emotion. I know this is hard to accept but emotion can be complex just like thought can be because they are interconnected physically.

    There is no thought without a background soup of the rest of the body. It is easy with the written word to make it seem that there is such a thing as intellectual purity but this is illusion because all signs of, usually emotion is stripped out. The first line of this comment with your quote proves what I’m saying about the written word of language. Even if the emotion is seemingly well hidden, it is there. People who ignore this often develop intractable depression and are often intellectuals. This is in my view the trap they fall into; a kind of intellectual sulk of the intellectual snob. They’re angry, boy are they angry.

    What is so useful with the written word is the fact that communication of ideas can be achieved by various tweaks to the content of the emotion, for example a children’s story versus a satirical piece as apposed to an academic paper. Only in the latter is the attempt made to strip away emotion and there’s reason for that. It’s useful but some seem confused about why this is necessary. As opposed to the fact that it is simply wise to do so for a variety of reasons.

    The conscious brain frequently can’t tell where a physical pain is coming from in particular when the actual source of the pain is neural or neurogenic. It’s my belief that that gives a clue to something important.

    It is true that the ability to concentrate helps higher functioning thought. Higher, however need not be confused with higher in the ecclesiastical sense. The act of prayer seems somewhat different from the act of calculation for example.

    Language?
    Language is a medium of communication. If it is redefined to include only spoken or written language of course then grammar and parts of speech come into play. That doesn’t move the discussion on. There’s no difficulty with your definition. I said two comments ago, originally in fact that of course mammals don’t hold conversations. Deductive logic which is presented with the socrates example of course like any communicated verbal language won’t make sense to a dog. My cleverest dog knew loads of words and knew that spelling words meant something of interest to her. .. spelling meant a nice surprise. The word ‘would’ was particularly exciting even if in midst of a conversation about ‘wood’. I always prefaced a question with ‘would you like…’. She would word mine while you were speaking to someone.

    If a dog is frightened by a blue collar as a puppy it then deduces that everything of that particular shade of blue is to be feared and therefore barked at. That’s deduction as well as association. Socrates is a man is also association. To ascribe a group with a certain attribute and then deduce that all that fit into that group have the same attribute is very simple. The difference in the socrates example is the three lines of logic rather than just two. Like being able to count to infinity rather than just up to ten.

    However I remember reading that on Briggs blog years ago and being amazed! No exaggeration. That axioms are there to build upon I knew but knew little more.

    If the case for the soul must be made by demoting animals then it’s a kind of upside down way to make a claim.
    You see I agree with the fact that humans are special.
    If it is believed that the only thing separating us is intellect, then all you have left is QM and ancient studies, (to be a bit sarcastic.)

    Conveniently after the reductionist is finished what is left ostensibly constitutes the soul; it’s hubris.

    Mentally handicapped sometimes lack intellect. Many have no will either if they are apparently unconscious. I’m never going to be sold on this rather convenient, for some, explanation. They need to go and work with severely mentally handicapped and with patients with head injuries and then try and get their head round body and soul. More mystery again, not less, is apparent.

    This soul definition is just a good recipe for depression. Those patients with the most intractable depression are often black and white thinkers. which havediscarded complexity when it comes to the mind. They can quote QM or organic chemistry, they can talk but have a missing piece. It’s damaging and particularly unnecessary given that there is so little known about the mind let alone the soul. The depression is intractable because the intellectual thinks they know best! The modest humble person is more open to reason.

    Even that humans build and fly airplanes is not in itself evidence of their intellective activity.” No?

    “No, you don’t. Not yet. Birds build and fly airplanes by entirely natural, biological means.”
    Birds fly.
    They don’t fly planes, not even paper ones.
    I have never seen it, anyway.

  37. You can’t simply claim that there is a teapot orbiting Mars and then demand that everyone prove there is not

    Yet, doing the opposite, that is claim there is no teapot circling Mars, you are absolved from supporting your claim because you framed it as a negative? How convenient!

    You have done exactly this with your claim that certain criteria of intelligence are not present in animals and now contend you don’t have to supply evidence to support your claim because the claim is of a negative.

    Yeah, sure.

  38. “flesh from the body”
    is a misworning, Should be,
    “Body from the mind”.
    They can only be separated after death.
    No need to speak of “flesh”. It’s cheap.

  39. YOS, I’m still troubled by this:
    Misworning should be ‘wrong’ wording. (This was not even a typo as I’ve come to realise that words are changed instantaneously as they are posted, like with the ‘I’’s. I changed the word in case it did it again.

    To be clear having reread my post that intellectual does not mean ALL intellectuals.
    It therefore does not mean anybody on this blog or, in fact, you YOS as my interlocutor.
    It’s my observation and that of a colleague. Not based on a study or a statistic. It alters not a jot the way a patient is treated or regarded. I also do not believe that It follows that ALL intellectuals don’t respond. Just like everybody else, some do some don’t. When they don’t, they think they know best because they have an understandable reason for thinking so. Hope that’s clear.

    I think the point is made about emotion and in fact it’s not even my idea. I’t’s emphasising something which Mary Midgley said about scientists.. So YOS as I never mean offence (despite often causing it on here) and in case it has been misconstrued because of my description, I apologise.

    It just goes to show it doesn’t pay to say why you think a thing.
    Perhaps only in face to face interactions or with people with whom one is very familiar. I don’t even talk about these things normally.

    ‘flesh is cheap’? It’s a pejorative in my view.
    In common use people speak of flesh when they refer to meat to eat. In the bible it has come to be associated with ‘sins of the flesh’. The gentleman on youtube uses the word ‘flesh’ when speaking about people’s bits and pieces.
    When physios speak of people we speak of the body. Imagine what a patient would think if they went to a physio or GP about a thing and they started talking about ‘flesh’!
    ’flesh’ is only used to mean something negative. It’s partly the ‘intellect will’ opinion and that awkward mix of terminology.
    kindest regards.
    Joy Clarke

  40. Ye Olde Statistician

    April 29, 2016 at 11:14 am

    ncommunicado from bnoken arm, off-handed typing, and drug-induved haze. ytr agsin latr

  41. ,bless you YOS.
    Wish I could help.

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