Individualism vs. Collectivism

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by Immanuel Can » Tue Nov 12, 2019 5:24 pm

RCSaunders wrote:
Tue Nov 12, 2019 4:00 pm
Thank you so much for you sincere concern. It's not quite as serious as that, I think.
I'm somewhat relieved by that news, but shall remain concerned until I know you're 100% back.
If you don't mind I'd like to finish what I started, and will post that when finished.
Absolutely.
If you wonder why I truly appreciate your concern and appreciate your Christian values, in spite of my explicit disagreements, I think you would enjoy an article I wrote in 2006, when I still felt that, "Objectivism," was worth criticizing, An Atheist's Defence of Christianity. I think you will enjoy the article.
I did indeed. And not for the many kind things it says about Christianity, as nice as those are, but for the sincerity and rational consistency with which it's articulated. And it includes not a few quotable lines. I'm disappointed that it appears only on the internet, and think it worthy of publication in print, actually.

I don't even resent -- though I would politely contest -- the negative general criticisms of Christianity, for they have some application to insitutional, nominal "Christianity," and that's fair. I would not want to defend all that has been done, rather authentically, under a nominally "Christian" banner, and would even share your earnestness that people should not be quick to trust that all things that walk under that banner are good. I think many are not.

However, I think it's a very fine article, and I wish more agnostics or Atheists would write in such a thoughtful and fair way. We'd have a lot more productive dialogues if that ever happened. So thank you for your contribution to that goal...I think it's one we share.

I have one thought (you might have guessed I would, but perhaps not quite what it would be). And I think it stands both for Christian ethics and for any secular ones as well. That is, that all ethics are premised on particular ontologies. And the importance of this point can be illustrated both visually and in logical terms.

Let me begin by offering you this: "Castle in the Pyrenees," by Rene Magritte, a painting you may well have seen before. It is at bottom of this message.

There is a great mass of granite there. On top, is "the place where people live", metaphorically speaking, their security, their keep of strength, their fortress of belief. But beneath is nothing but the perfidious sea. There is no reason that the rock floats in the air...in fact, now its great mass is turned into a disadvantage, a weight more likely to plunge it to the depths than if the castle were founded only on wood or straw...

Whenever I see this image, I am reminded of ethics. Ethics or morality, whether secular, Christian, or other, is expected to provide "massive" underpinnings for our living conditions -- for our well being, our societies, and the direction of everything from our personal lives to our political projects. But if, underneath it all, there is nothing but air and water, then what we are doing is living in a dream only. And yes, we may for a time "float" on the power of that dream; but inevitably, when our ethics and morals are most needed and we look for our basis, we find nothing.

If that's the way it is, then there is no legitimate thing called "ethics." There are only varieties of delusion, with the deep truth being that there is nothing underneath to support the whole. The massiveness of the ethical theory may, for a time disguise this fact from us, and make us think we can keep going without basis (one cannot help but think of Kantianism, in this regard; it's no more "based" than any other ethics, but loses so many people in its perplexities that they forget to search for the ultimate grounds and just take for granted they must exist somehow -- why else would something so massive exist? :shock: ). But Kantianism, Utilitarianism, Virtue Ethics, Pragmatism, Emotivism, Egoism, Stoicism...they all suffer from that same problem: no ultimate basis. They're all castles on rocks, floating on air, but ultimately above the unforgiving sea of how things really are.

If Christianity were just another one of these ethical and moral hope-structures, then I would criticize it perhaps more harshly than you do in your article. I would say something like,

"Maybe Christianity has had some role in directing the history of humanity into some salutary channels, and maybe it even holds that role for some of us today; but it's time we woke up, realized that it's just another castle-on-air, and faced the fact that we can no longer legitimately tell people they should behave like Christians. We have been lied to. We are deceived. We must wake up, rescue whatever chance for momentary happiness we can seize between the womb and the tomb; because death ends all. So forget Christianity: in the short run, it may console you; but the end, it will mislead you. And while that may temporarily seem to your advantage, it is not the case that it offers any basis for morality -- there is no reason to forgo your pleasures or deny yourself one iota of possible self-gratification, because there is no more than that. 'Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow, we die.'"


That is what I would say, in contrast to what you suggested in your article. I would be much harder and less charitable than you have been, in that regard. However, there is this: I do not believe that the message of Christianity is fundamentally untrue. I believe its claim that we are living on a planet created by a good, personal and intentional God is reality. For me, the rock has no space underneath, but joins with the solid earth of truth. So I would not say the above; however, so far as I can see, it fits best with the right-reasoning of any Atheist.

Now, the problem for Atheism itself is even more vexed. For Atheism, if it is to be insisted-upon as a rational and compelling view (rather than a mere dilatory option for those who wish to hold to it) requires that Materialism of some form must also be the deep truth of things. There are no gods, no metaphysical forces, no afterlife, no souls, no judgments, no reincarnations, ghosts, souls or other non-physical realities. Less than this, and Atheism becomes less than certain, even for the most ardent of Atheists -- provided he remains rational, of course. But Materialism means that no basis can ever be found. There can be none. To paraphrase Hume, the "is's" of the factual world do not ground any of the elaborate "oughts" of secular hope. We are floating on nothing, inevitably and always. And so the enjoining of any ethical or moral imperatives at all on grounds of Atheism becomes simply dishonest. There are, ultimately, no foundations beneath the rock of morals/ethics. And to pretend otherwise is to deceive, and to deprive people of their last desperate chance to "eat, drink and be merry" freely, before they die. Then the darkness forever.

Nietzsche saw this. No wonder he put the words in the mouth of a madman. What could drive you more quickly to madness than this bottomless world that Atheism creates for us? To stare into that abyss, even for a moment, is enough to deprive one of sanity. However, to his credit (if such a thing as credit can be), he did not hold back, like some timorous, modern Atheists, but proclaimed the full blackness of that pit. Ironically, the fault of modern and Postmodern Atheists has been that they took Nietzsche nowhere near seriously enough. They are like the villagers in The Madman's Tale: laughing and carrying on as if there are no consequences to the "death of God". Nietzsche, that madman, clearly knew better.

The upshot is this: I'm grateful for the kind treatment you gave to Christianity in your article. But Christianity cannot legitimately be made the ally of a secular morality, for it stands on foundations no Atheist can accept; and Christianity cannot be recapitulated to resolve our social-ethical dilemmas in the modern age without us also taking its ontological fundamentals seriously. If we do not, then it will simply be another castle-on-air, that will let us drown in the end. So while your article represents Christianity sympathetically, my one caveat would be that it has underestimated the distance of the polarity between it and humanist-Atheists hopes.

Thanks again for sharing the article. I really like it, and think you could offer it to publication somewhere. Meanwhile, feel better soon. Rest assured, my prayers will continue for you.

IC
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Nick_A
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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by Nick_A » Tue Nov 12, 2019 9:07 pm

The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation. Simone Weil

In the Church, considered as a social organism, the mysteries inevitably degenerate into beliefs. Simone Weil
Exoteric Christianity is the Christianity of the worldly collective and is tied to conflicting beliefs normal for worldly life. It serves as a policeman in the world with mixed results.

Esoteric Christianity is the Christianity of the individual who has experienced for one reason or another that the source of the truths Christianity awakens us to and invites us to remember and receive does not arise from the earth but descends from above.

The esoteric Christian is like a salmon swimming upstream to return to its transcendent source while the exoteric Christian collective is concerned with swimming downstream to satisfy earthly desires and indoctrinated beliefs .

A person does have a choice providing they can feel the calling to be a seeker of truth as opposed to the satisfactions from being a blind follower of beliefs..

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RCSaunders
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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by RCSaunders » Wed Nov 13, 2019 2:42 am

Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:28 pm
Hi again, RC:

Sorry for the delay in getting back. It's been a busy week. But you're still being very interesting...rest assured.
I certainly understand. Not sure how soon this will get to you. I'm writing from a hospital bed; having a little congestive heart failure problem.

I'll not be able to address everything you wrote, which is probably just as well because I think we have pretty well made our views clear where we differ. I'm going to confine these comments to just .. . [four] points: "values," "feelings," "punishment," and "life." Please feel free to bring up any of your other points you think I should have addressed:

Values
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:28 pm
My issue with that is very simple: "responsibility" is premised on "response." And "response" is to something or someone external.
The real question is one of values. If there is no way of explaining why anything is objectively preferable to anything else, there would be nothing to be responsible for.

You and I begin with a fundamentally different premise related to values. That difference is what we mean by values. I mean a value, of any kind, is a relationship. Something can only be a value if there is some objective, goal, end, or purpose relative to which something is a value.

I cannot say exactly what you mean by a value, but you have stated in the past that you believe there are, "intrinsic," values. Perhaps you mean something else, but if by intrinsic value you mean something is a value without being a value to any specific objective, goal, purpose, or end, what does it mean to have a value?

Whenever anything is described as having some value, [this is good, that is important, these are necessary], if there is no answer to the question, "good, important, or necessary for what to whom?" there is no value. If a thing is not good to anyone for anything it is not good. If a thing is not important to anyone for anything, it has no importance. If a thing is not necessary to anyone for anything it is unnecessary.

I am quite familiar with the kinds of things intrinsuc values are subscribe to: "life is good," "happiness is good," "peace is good," "health is good," "beauty is good," "knowledge is good," etc. but such statements really do not say anything, and assume much more than is stated. "Life is good," does not say, "what life," is good or in what way it is, "good." The anopheles mosquito is living and the plasmodium parasite it injects into its victims causing malaria are living. The intrinsic view of, "life is good, would mean the forms of life that destroy the life of other creatures is an unqualified good, (so long as one blanks out the obvious contradiction). Nothing can just be, "good."

Feelings
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:28 pm
There are, as is empirically obvious, plenty of "feelings." People have no end of "feelings" about things. But these "feelings" are only that. If God does not exist, then all we can ever have is the feeling of meaning and purpose. But the deep truth will remain that there IS no meaning or purpose outside of our personal fevered imaginings. The universe will neither know nor care what meanings and purposes we "felt" we had.
Unless you are talking about your own, "feelings," there is no, "empirical," evidence for any feelings or emotions, because they are totally private (subjective) experiences. All feelings and emotions are our direct conscious perception (called interoception) of states of our physiology. There are two kinds of, "feelings."

The first kind of internal feelings are caused directly by the physiological states of the body and include nausea, fatigue, hunger, air hunger (shortness of breath), physical pain, excitement, feverishness, restlessness and more that we are all familiar with.

The second kind of internal feelings are caused by whatever we are conscious of: what we are perceiving externally, that is seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling and all that we are thinking. Those feelings are called emotions and are how the body reacts to whatever we are conscious of.

Emotional feelings include joy, ecstasy, fear, (and variations such as panic and terror) nostalgia, anxiety, sadness, grief, frustration, apathy, affection, antipathy, content, discontent, anger, nausea, hate, rage, confidence, enthusiasm, excitement, pride, and more. Notice that some emotional feelings have the same name as some physiological feelings, like nausea and excitement. Though the feelings may be very similar the difference is their cause. One may be nauseated because of an infection of the stomach (physiological feeling) or because they suddenly become conscious of something disgusting (emotion).

Except for those physiological feelings that inform us of physiological states, all other feelings are non-cognitive reflections of what we are conscious of, thinking, believing, and valuing, and provide no information or knowledge about anything beyond the feelings themselves.

Feelings And Emotions: Their Nature, Significance, And Importance

Punishment
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:28 pm
It is not evident that either in the short term or in the long term, people who behave badly are punished -- or if there's any vague sense in which they are, that that vague sense is anywhere near commensurate with the magnitude of their wrongdoings. And I think that's one of the remarkable facts of the observable world; justice is not done here. People get away with all kinds of things.

...

Let's take one of your examples:
Wealthy Jeffrey Epstein was patronized and socalized with the rich and famous like Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and Queen Elizabeth's son Prince Andrew. He committed suicide while in prison awaiting trial for sex trafficking, the result of his addiction to sex with underage girls.

Okay. Consider this. How many evil deeds did Jeffrey Epstein commit? How many girls did he hurt? How badly did he hurt them? How many years did he manage to do this? How luxurious was his lifestyle? How rich and indulged was he? How many were his "friends" and associates? How big was his influence on these people, and how many perks and how much power did he enjoy while he was alive?

Now, what is a punishment commensurate with what Jeffery Epstein did?
You've read my article concerning those things I find commendable in Christianity. There is one idea incorporated into Christian teaching, which certainly didn't begin with religion, but came to dominate it, that I regard as an inexcusable evil. That idea is the concept of, "punishment."

The idea of punishment has become so universal that it is never questioned and there is no kind of evil that has not been, "justified," in the name of, "retributive justice." However it is described, it is wrong to the core.

It is called, "justice," but is nothing more than vindictiveness or vengeance and is based on the unstated principle that inflicting harm in some way (never explained) cancels or corrects another harm.

Punishment cannot be described without contraction. It is assumed that all evil must (or ought to be) punished, whatever one's view of evil is. If someone causes someone else to suffer in some way (physically, emotionally, or loss of some kind, etc.), that act deserves to be punished. In simple language, if you hurt me, you ought to be hurt, as punishment. It is impossible to describe punishment as anything other than the absurd idea that if someone does something bad (wrong, evil, harmful, etc.) something bad must be done to them. It is said, the infliction of harm on someone judged to be bad, in some inexplicable way, "satisfies justice." What can that possibly mean?

How can any punishment make anything good. Killing a murderer does not bring the murdered person back to life and it certainly doesn't cancel the act of murder itself. Punishment never makes anything better. This is so obvious that when advocates of retributive justice are forced to face the fact that two wrongs do not make a right, they resort to explaining punishment as, "rehabilitation," or, "deterrence," or, "getting the criminal off the street," which are not punishment at all.

There is no objective rational explanation for why or how, "punishment," is right in any way, because the root of the concept is not in reason, but in that aspect of human immaturity that almost no human beings outgrow: the insatiable desire to get revenge and the very bad idea that someone else's suffering can be a source of one's own good or pleasure. The impulse to strike back at someone we think hurts us is common in children. The desire to, "get even," (a kind of justice I suppose) is strong until we learn that revenge satisfies nothing, and that the desire to see someone suffer when they, "deserve it," is a wrong desire that only harms ourselves. Most people never learn these things and they mistake their ignorant vindictiveness for a sense of justice.

Take your question: "How many evil deeds did Jeffrey Epstein commit? How many girls did he hurt? How badly did he hurt them? How many years did he manage to do this? How luxurious was his lifestyle? How rich and indulged was he? How many were his "friends" and associates? How big was his influence on these people, and how many perks and how much power did he enjoy while he was alive? Now, what is a punishment commensurate with what Jeffery Epstein did?"

What difference does it make what Jeffrey Epstein had or enjoyed? Perhaps he never, "suffered," at all. Aren't you implying that if he had suffered, and suffered enough, that would somehow make what he did justified? I don't know how you measure punishment verses what you consider evil, but how much punishment, "satisfies," any given evil?

You asked the question: "So where is justice in the Jeffrey Epstein case? How did he pay for his crimes?" That is exactly what is wrong with the whole idea of retributive justice. WRONG CANNOT BE PAYED FOR! If there were a way to pay for wrong in such a way that it was justified, what coin would that payment have to be in? Who or what but a demon or devil accepts suffering as a kind of positive payment for anything? What kind of being can find positive value in the suffering of another being?

Impossible? Of course, but such beliefs have been held widely throughout history and whole societies have been built around the belief that their gods accepted human torture and sacrifices as payment for their blessings.

[I do not at all agree that Jeffrey Epstein, or any of my other examples, were successful human beings, but only examples of the kind of false picture of success widely accepted in this ignorant world. Would you have exchanged your life for Epstein's so-called success if you could get away with it? The question, of course, is rhetorical. The question would be an insult if I did not already know you could not even consider it.]

Life
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:28 pm
Before you start talking about, "real life," shouldn't you at least say what "life" is?
I don't think that's possible -- even for the best of our scientists.

...

However, we're really pretty good at identifying life once it actually exists. We don't have any trouble recognizing an adult, a child, a toddler, an infant, a newborn...and a pre-born is just one second prior to the newborn, and has all the newborn's features and abilities. Moreover, we know that pre-born babies are often viable outside the womb, so essentially, they're infants. And we know that fetuses in utero are definitely pre-infants, with their own lives (heartbeats, brainwaves, circulatory systems, and so on). And for sure, we know that even a zygote is a life form -- and a human one, at that.

So we're on pretty good grounds there. We're very good at knowing WHEN life is; we're not good at saying WHAT life is precisely. It's not merely the sum of its manifestations, apparently.
The question, "what is life?" is not a question of science (which only deals with the physical), it is a philosophical question. You are right that we recognize things that are living because they have attributes that non-living entities do not. Most of the attributes you mention (heartbeats, brainwaves, circulatory systems) only pertain to some animals, and are not fundamental to the nature of life itself, since most living organisms have none of those features.

["And for sure, we know that even a zygote is a life form -- and a human one, at that." Just for clarification a zygote may be a fungi, plant, or any animal as well as human ones, and a zygote is only potentially a human, "one," because it very well may be two or more, depending on how it divides.]

In my article on this forum, The Nature of Life I list five characteristics that must be true of any living entity (organism). Life is that non-physical attribute that makes an enitity a living organism and the five characteristics are made possible and necessary by that life. Those five characteristics are: 1. Self-initiated and self-sustained, 2. Self-determined existence, 3. Sentience, 4. Unity, and 5. Continuity.

[The article briefly explains exactly what is meant by each of the five characteristics if you care to address any of them.]

The most important point is that the non-physical attribute or quality, "life," does not exist or have any meaning independent of the organisms it is the life of, just as no physical attribute or quality exists independent of the physical entities they are the attributes of. The five characteristics I have listed explain both what is meant by life and why life cannot be described or explained in physical terms.

I readily admit this description of life is not an argument. It is only a very precise delineation of what I mean by life, because any view of life sans the characteristics I have listed would not be life.

I do not expect you to have a similar view of life, but would hope, where you disagree, you can explain how some other description would really be what is meant by life.

I've finished. Please forgive the repeated parts.

Thanks for your patience and kind thoughts. Whether I agree with them or not, I appreciate the integrity of your values and your defense of what you hold to be true and important.

RC

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by Immanuel Can » Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:01 am

RC:

I'm relieved you seem to be back in the saddle again. I hope that that means the prognosis was good, in spite of the scare.

I'll go to the second half of your response, since I already spoke to the issues of the first two, if that's fine with you.


Punishment
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:28 pm
It is not evident that either in the short term or in the long term, people who behave badly are punished -- or if there's any vague sense in which they are, that that vague sense is anywhere near commensurate with the magnitude of their wrongdoings. And I think that's one of the remarkable facts of the observable world; justice is not done here. People get away with all kinds of things.
You've read my article concerning those things I find commendable in Christianity. There is one idea incorporated into Christian teaching, which certainly didn't begin with religion, but came to dominate it, that I regard as an inexcusable evil. That idea is the concept of, "punishment."The idea of punishment has become so universal that it is never questioned and there is no kind of evil that has not been, "justified," in the name of, "retributive justice." However it is described, it is wrong to the core.

It is called, "justice," but is nothing more than vindictiveness or vengeance and is based on the unstated principle that inflicting harm in some way (never explained) cancels or corrects another harm.
I think this misunderstands what justice is, and how it works. It really does have a punitive model in mind...more like the Catholic's purgatory than anything genuinely Christian. Perhaps we're too conditioned with reference to our experiences of human "justice," which is never truly just, or is (often rather impotently) aimed at goals like vengeance, prevention or correction.

Divine justice is quite a different thing. It's not about punishment, but about two other things: a righteous end to evil, and the honouring of human choices. But that's a very long conversation. Perhaps for now it's enough to say that I don't think mere punishment is the objective of Divine justice.
Take your question: "How many evil deeds did Jeffrey Epstein commit?
I think you misunderstand my intention. I did not raise Jeffrey Epstein to make the point that he deserved punishment. That might be true, but it's not for me to say. I raised it instead to object to your suggestion that the world operates in a rather predictable way to make bad things happen to people who make immoral decisions, and to make good things happen to good people.

Jeffrey Epstein was manifestly never subject to any sort of "natural law of consequences," of the type you describe. I think to say that his death was commensurate with his life would be a grossly unfair claim. I would say the same of Hitler -- he killed 6 million Jews, plus all kinds of others, and 8 million of his own people. Stalin killed more. Mao, more than that. And all of them, though they died, never experienced anything in this life one might interpret as an automatic set of consequences or a natural law of morals that punishes evildoers. If this life is all there is, we'd have to say that every one of them won.

There is no reasonable account of their lives that suggests that in this life, thorough some natural moral law, they got bad consequences for bad deeds. Rather, they all vastly "won" against whatever bad things they eventually experienced. And I don't doubt that some of them, had they been able to choose, would have chosen the bargain they got. Especially a guy like Jeffrey Epstein. He got a sudden and relatively painless end in old age, after years of being a filthy rich pimp to the stars, and years of abducting and raping young women. There are many men who would likely consider that bargain, as hideous as that is to say.

So no, I'm not saying Epstein's evil could be atoned for by torturing him. I'm saying that the young women whom he so abused are not going to share your certainty that there is some simple and automatic relationship between bad choices and bad outcomes. They've seen that it doesn't work that way.
Aren't you implying that if he had suffered, and suffered enough, that would somehow make what he did justified?

No, not at all. Again, what I'm saying is that the sort of automatic consequences of bad moral decisions you seemed to be saying was present in this world clearly isn't. It's manifest that consequences are often wildly out relationship to the morality or immorality of personal actions -- at least in this life. If there's to be any justice, it will not be here and now.
b]Life[/b]

The question, "what is life?" is not a question of science (which only deals with the physical), it is a philosophical question.
Well, it's both, of course. Science is interested in it, and so is philosophy.
Those five characteristics are: 1. Self-initiated and self-sustained, 2. Self-determined existence, 3. Sentience, 4. Unity, and 5. Continuity.
Yes, there are problems with some of those criteria. Even human beings are not "self-initiated" or "self-sustained," for example. But what you're aiming at there is a kind of composite, criterial definition of life -- the very thing that science also tries to do.
I do not expect you to have a similar view of life, but would hope, where you disagree, you can explain how some other description would really be what is meant by life.
It is a complex question. It's much easier to say where life is, once it exists, than to say what it would be in theory.

We know dogs and bats are alive, even though they can't tell us they are; but to say in what sense or measure their life exists, or how their form of life is essentially different from ours is very difficult, because none of us has ever experience what it is to be a dog or a bat. Each life has its own form of cognition, perception, experience and so on...we think. But we can never be quite sure, apparently.
I've finished. Please forgive the repeated parts.
Not a problem. I've answered by simply dividing into two messages, as you can see.
Thanks for your patience and kind thoughts. Whether I agree with them or not, I appreciate the integrity of your values and your defense of what you hold to be true and important.
The respect is mutual.

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RCSaunders
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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by RCSaunders » Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:38 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:01 am
RC:

I'm relieved you seem to be back in the saddle again. I hope that that means the prognosis was good, in spite of the scare.
Well the prognosis is still pending, but I'm always in the saddle and will no doubt die with my boots on, whenever that transpires.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:01 am
I'll go to the second half of your response, since I already spoke to the issues of the first two, if that's fine with you.
Of course.

About Justice I have only this comment to make to what you wrote:
Immanuel Can wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:01 am
It's manifest that consequences are often wildly out relationship to the morality or immorality of personal actions -- at least in this life. If there's to be any justice, it will not be here and now.
It is not, "manifest," to me! Whatever one experiences as the consequence of one's choices and actions is always appropriate. In most cases, I cannot personally know what those consequences are, because the most important ones are those to one's own psychological well being, which are seldom revealed. In those cases where it seems one has, "gotten away," with doing wrong, I know that appearance is deceptive, because all wrong is a defiance of truth (i.e. that which describes reality) and it is impossible to defy reality (do wrong) and get away with it.

I also do not believe in retributive justice of any kind, or that evil can be mitigated in any way, and regard every notion of, "justice," like notions of, "rights," and, "moral law," as meaningless floating abstractions. The problem is not any intention behind the use of those terms but the fact they are used with no explicitly defined meaning. People claim to believe in justice and rights, but only, "kinda know," what those words mean, but they sound good.

About your comments on life:
Immanuel Can wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:01 am
The question, "what is life?" is not a question of science (which only deals with the physical), it is a philosophical question.
Well, it's both, of course. Science is interested in it, and so is philosophy.
Those five characteristics are: 1. Self-initiated and self-sustained, 2. Self-determined existence, 3. Sentience, 4. Unity, and 5. Continuity.
Yes, there are problems with some of those criteria. Even human beings are not "self-initiated" or "self-sustained," for example. But what you're aiming at there is a kind of composite, criterial definition of life -- the very thing that science also tries to do.
Living organisms are physical entities and science can (and does) study the physical aspects of organisms (biology, physiology, biochemistry, etc.) but science cannot study life itself, because life is not a physical quality or attribute and has no physical aspects that science can address. Life has no size, weight, temperature, or shape, no chemical, electrical, or magnetic properties, and no mass or energy or any other physical quality that can be studied. Every physical property is originally discovered by means of that which can be directly perceived (seen, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted). Life cannot be perceived at all. The facts of reality that life makes possible (all the artifacts resulting from the behavior of organisms from bacteria to man) can be seen, but that attribute in organisms that makes their behavior, "living," cannot be perceived in any way.

There is nothing at all profound about the five characteristics of life I listed. The list is a result of a project I did some years ago in an attempt to determine if it were possible to describe or explain life in physical terms. The five characteristics are simply the answer to the question, "what exactly does it mean to say something is living?" I originally expected to find a similar kind of explanation of life by some other philosopher or thinker. That no such ideas already existed in the entire corpus of philosophy actually bewildered me. How in the world could either science or philosophy even begin to examine something which had never been identified, especially when it seems so obvious. One hour's rigorous thinking by any half-way intelligent mind would have produced the same list.

There are observable differences between those physical entities we call organisms from all other physical entities. The name we give to those observable differences is, "life."

The word, "life," only identifies the observable differences between living organisms and non-living physical entities. It is not an explanation of why there are such differences, it is only the identification of those differences.

The primary observable differences between non-living physical entities and living organisms are differences in behavior. Organisms behave in ways which no non-living entities behave.

The five characteristics I provided are nothing more than the enumeration of the observable differences in behavior between non-living entities and living organisms. They are not the, "cause," of life, or the, "explanation," of life, they are only a "description" of what is meant when we say something is alive (rather than dead).

When I describe life as, "self-initiated and self-sustained," I mean only an organism's living behavior, (not how its life began or where it came from, though I will say there is no evidence that life ever comes from anything but life). What I mean is, unlike the behavior of a non-living entity, which is determined entirely by physical causes which are both identifiable and predictable, an organism's living behavior is both determined and sustained by that behavior. It is, for example, an organism's living behavior that, "keeps it alive," because when the living behavior ceases, the organism ceases to live and the living behavior ceases. Furthermore, whatever an organism does, as a living organism, is initiated by the organism itself, not by anything, "outside," it.

When an organism's living behavior ceases, the organism not only dies, but ceases to be the kind of entity it was so long as it was living. That is what is meant by, "self-determined existence." So long as a lizard, cat, fish, or bird lives, it's behavior not only sustains the organism's life, it sustains the organism as the kind of entity it is. A lizard's behavior sustains it as a lizard, and a cat's behavior sustains it as a cat. A bird's behavior would not sustain a lizard as a lizard, or a fish as a fish. No non-living physical entity must behave in any particular way to remain the kind of existent it is. A rock, a moutain, a beach, a planet or star remain what they are (or not) independent of their behavior. In fact, the behavior of non-living entities is determined entirely by what kind or entity they are and their relationships to all other entities. Conversely, the kind of entity any living organism is, is determined by the organism's own behavior and that living behavior determines how it relates to all other entities.

How any non-living physical entity acts relative to other entities is determined entirely by the physical and chemical properties of those entities and is called a "reaction". A living organism's living action relative to other entities is determined by the organism's living behavior and is called a "response to a stimulus."

A "response to a stimulus," is not the same as a non-living physical "reaction" to an external influence. A physical reaction, like all physical behavior, is determined entirely by the physical characteristics of both the reacting entity and the entity reacted to and is predictable. The "response" of a living organism to outside influences (stimuli) is an action made possible and required by the life "process" of the organism and is not predictable. If, for any reason, the life process should cease, that response to stimuli would cease, even though all the physical attributes of the entity remain the same. It is the process itself that reacts to the stimuli, indicating the process "detects" the presence and nature of the stimuli in order to react to it.

If an organism could not detect a stimulus, it could not react to it. If an organism could not distinguish the differences in stimuli, it would react in the same way to all stimuli, or react randomly without any connection between the nature of the stimuli and the action. This is what distinguishes a physical reaction from a living response and why I call that difference, "sentience." A response is the result of the organism in some way detecting the presence and nature of the stimuli, a reaction is an immediate action attributable directly to the external influence and the laws of physics.

By "unity" I mean for every organism there is only one life and it is that life that is responsible for (makes possible) all the living behavior of the organism, and that life remains uninterrupted from the moment the organism begins living until the organism ceases to live.

By "continuity" I mean an organism's life is the same life from the moment it begins to exist as an organism until the moment it ceases to exist as an organism.

Since you believe, "there are problems with some of those criteria," perhaps you can explain what those problems are. If human beings, "are not 'self-initiated' or 'self-sustained,'" as I explained those terms, then they are not alive.

Now a confession. I've spent a bit more time on this explanation of life, as an exercise for myself in an attempt to make the explanation clearer to anyone for whom these views were new. I'm afraid I'm using you as a bit of a test case. Forgive me.

If I've made my explanation clear, I'll be a bit surprised if you do not favor it at all. It obviously contradicts the physicalist's view of life, which I would expect you to agree with. It would also be easy to give my view of life a supernatural foundation, which I personally would reject. I regard the attribute, "life," to be a perfectly natural attribute, like the physical attributes, but one that transcends the physical and makes living behavior possible in those physical entities we call organisms. I assume you view of life would be similar, except you would regard the attribute itself a supernatural one.

[Consider this: my view of life is the foundation for a non-physical, non-contradictory, non-dualistic explanation for consciousness and volition as well a life itself.]

Hope this finds you enjoying all that life makes possible to you, my patient friend.

RC

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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm

Dear RC:

I'm grateful to hear back from you. My concern for your welfare continues, on all fronts. But I'm hopeful this is a good sign.

What news?
RCSaunders wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 5:38 pm
About Justice I have only this comment to make to what you wrote:
Immanuel Can wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 4:01 am
It's manifest that consequences are often wildly out relationship to the morality or immorality of personal actions -- at least in this life. If there's to be any justice, it will not be here and now.
It is not, "manifest," to me!
Okay. I find that surprising.
... it is impossible to defy reality (do wrong) and get away with it.
In one sense, I agree with you...reality always wins, in the long haul. But there' s question that needs addressing behind this claim, and that is, "Are there any moral facts," or "Is the shape of reality actually moral?"

Because if there is no feature of reality itself that has any inherent moral status, then it is not true to say that someone who does evil is "defying reality" or "doing wrong." What he's actually doing is arguably strategically right for obtaining the ends he desires. In that sense, he is respecting reality much more than the person who imagines there is a moral content within reality for him to obey. His amorality is more "realistic" than the moralizing of the moralizer. And the moralizer is artificially inhibited by belief in a code that does not exist.

That rationale argues for an amoral universe, and for amoral conduct, to match.
People claim to believe in justice and rights, but only, "kinda know," what those words mean, but they sound good.
I agree.
... science cannot study life itself, because life is not a physical quality or attribute and has no physical aspects that science can address.
Ah. No.

Life itself, yes. But living things exhibit certain traits -- traits that science can easily observe and measure. Brain electricity, respiration, reproduction, action, circulation of fluids...these things are ostensible, and are the ways we detect life empirically. But "life itself," the "ghost inside the machine," to paraphrase Ryle...that we cannot locate. No wonder, then, that it has also been called "soul" or "spirit."

But I think this is what you are getting at when you later write,
There are observable differences between those physical entities we call organisms from all other physical entities. The name we give to those observable differences is, "life."


And I agree that,

The word, "life," only identifies the observable differences between living organisms and non-living physical entities. It is not an explanation of why there are such differences, it is only the identification of those differences.

WHY is a very good question.

We have no reason to expect life to exist...here, or anywhere. There are vast numbers of planets and, we think, whole solar systems that have no life in them, because as we observe them we can see that the size and disposition of matter and energy within them would be life-prohibiting. But, for that matter, we have no reason to expect that universes themselves would exist at all. If, for example, the strong and weak forces within the atom itself were even minutely different from what they are, there would be no coherent matter at all...no people, no planets, no galaxies, no universe...nothing.

Why does something exist rather than nothing? That is, indeed, a philosophical question. Science can point us to it, but it is outside of science's self-proclaimed realm of competence for it to propose an answer.
When I describe life as, "self-initiated and self-sustained," I mean only an organism's living behavior, (not how its life began or where it came from, though I will say there is no evidence that life ever comes from anything but life).

I think that is true.

But in a universe with no God to be the source of life, it raises a huge question. How can life have ever been started?
What I mean is, unlike the behavior of a non-living entity, which is determined entirely by physical causes which are both identifiable and predictable, an organism's living behavior is both determined and sustained by that behavior.
Again, I agree.

But I think we're both non-Determinists, and maybe anti-Determinists as well. Not everybody will agree with us. Some will say that freedom itself is a mere illusion or "epiphenomenon," but the deep truth is of a material causation as absolute as that of rocks.

The matter is not obviously possible to settle -- not because Determinism is so plausible, but because it's so reductive and recursive it admits of no grounds of verification or of falsification. It's the very paradigm of the unscientific postulate, therefore. Science cannot confirm or deny it.
Since you believe, "there are problems with some of those criteria," perhaps you can explain what those problems are. If human beings, "are not 'self-initiated' or 'self-sustained,'" as I explained those terms, then they are not alive.
Well, the Determinist (not me) is going to say that the self-initiation idea is a mistaken description of ordinary cause-and-effect. But as for "self-sustained," they're going to point out that, as you recently have experienced, not one of us sustains ourselves at all. We are contingent beings, not necessary (and hence, self-caused or self-sustaining) beings.
Now a confession. I've spent a bit more time on this explanation of life, as an exercise for myself in an attempt to make the explanation clearer to anyone for whom these views were new. I'm afraid I'm using you as a bit of a test case. Forgive me.
Heh. No "forgiveness" required. No offence felt.

I offer my responses as an opportunity for guinea-piggery anytime you feel so inclined.
If I've made my explanation clear, I'll be a bit surprised if you do not favor it at all. It obviously contradicts the physicalist's view of life, which I would expect you to agree with.
Oh, heck no. I'm just suggesting what the objections are likely to be. I'm no physicalist.
It would also be easy to give my view of life a supernatural foundation, which I personally would reject. I regard the attribute, "life," to be a perfectly natural attribute, like the physical attributes, but one that transcends the physical
This perplexes me. How can something be "transcendent" if no real realm "transcends" the physical? How can something be "perfectly natural," and not "supernatural," but at the same time "transcendent"? It's almost as if, in order to avoid the idea of the supernatural, you're positing the existence of a third realm, neither physical nor supernatural.

I can't make sense of that claim. Maybe you can help me.
I assume you view of life would be similar, except you would regard the attribute itself a supernatural one.
That's closer to what I think. But I don't quite know how to characterize "life" in this sense. It's not the merely physical, but clearly is connected to it. It's not open to scientific experimentation, except by means of its effects. But it's manifestly a real thing. That's very perplexing. I don't claim to know how, or with what sort of academic discipline, to solve it.
[Consider this: my view of life is the foundation for a non-physical, non-contradictory, non-dualistic explanation for consciousness and volition as well a life itself.]
I see that's what you're aiming for. But I seem to be missing a piece that might tell me how that's possible. Dualism and "transcendence" look inevitable there, as does the "supernatural." If they're not entailed, you're going to need to make very fine distinctions to explain to folks how that's possible.
Hope this finds you enjoying all that life makes possible to you, my patient friend.
You likewise.

I'm relieved to find you returned to some measure of enthusiasm for thinking and debating. A little 'sass' in you is a hopeful thing, given what you've been through. :wink: Life seems to have something to do with the 'sass' needed to initiate new things, after all.

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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by RCSaunders » Sat Nov 16, 2019 6:12 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
Dear IC:
... science cannot study life itself, because life is not a physical quality or attribute and has no physical aspects that science can address.
Ah. No.

Life itself, yes.
Life, "itself," is all I addressed, and I attempted to emphasize that is all I was addressing.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
But living things exhibit certain traits -- traits that science can easily observe and measure. Brain electricity, respiration, reproduction, action, circulation of fluids...these things are ostensible, and are the ways we detect life empirically.
What you are describing are physical characteristics of organisms, not the life of those organisms. I said, "living organisms are physical entities and science can (and does) study the physical aspects of organisms (biology, physiology, biochemistry, etc.) ...." There is probably no limit to the variety of ways life can be realized, and every organism will have its unique physical characteristics such as those you mentioned, but none of them are life. Observing them is not an empirical observation of life itself, only the physical aspects of an organism that its life makes possible.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
And I agree that,
The word, "life," only identifies the observable differences between living organisms and non-living physical entities. It is not an explanation of why there are such differences, it is only the identification of those differences.

WHY is a very good question.

We have no reason to expect life to exist...here, or anywhere.
What is that supposed to mean? There is not a single thing that I have discovered or learned that I, "expected," before I learned it. Does the fact that we are not prescient have some kind of philosophical significance? One thing is certain, there is life. If something is, it must be possible and must always have been, else it would not be.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
There are vast numbers of planets and, we think, whole solar systems that have no life in them, because as we observe them we can see that the size and disposition of matter and energy within them would be life-prohibiting. But, for that matter, we have no reason to expect that universes themselves would exist at all. If, for example, the strong and weak forces within the atom itself were even minutely different from what they are, there would be no coherent matter at all...no people, no planets, no galaxies, no universe...nothing.
That's a long way of saying, "if things were different they wouldn't be what they are." What is the point? The universe is and has the exact nature it has and could not have been anything else. If the universe was not always going to be what it is, it would not be what it is. If it were ever going to be something different, it would be.

No matter what exists, it has to have some kind of nature, and whatever that nature is must make possible all that exists. Since life does exist in the real universe, it could not possibly have had any other nature.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
Why does something exist rather than nothing?
Though the question is ubiquitous in philosophy I regard it as the most absurd question possible. It is perhaps the most obvious example of the fallacy called, "begging the question." It assumes what is not possible, that there could be, "nothing." Nothing cannot "be." Nothing means, "no existent." It is actually worse than begging the question, it is sophist nonsense: "no existent exists," means nothing. It is tantamount to saying "no red is red," or, "no truth is true." The question is as meaningless as, "why is red red and not not red?"
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
But in a universe with no God to be the source of life, it raises a huge question. How can life have ever been started?
That assumes life, "started." I see no evidence of that. I don't think you really believe that either, though your reasons will be different from mine. Haven't there always been living beings?
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
It would also be easy to give my view of life a supernatural foundation, which I personally would reject. I regard the attribute, "life," to be a perfectly natural attribute, like the physical attributes, but one that transcends the physical
This perplexes me. How can something be "transcendent" if no real realm "transcends" the physical? How can something be "perfectly natural," and not "supernatural," but at the same time "transcendent"? It's almost as if, in order to avoid the idea of the supernatural, you're positing the existence of a third realm, neither physical nor supernatural.

I can't make sense of that claim. Maybe you can help me.
I'll try. First, there is only one, "realm," which I call material existence (or natural existence) and includes all existents, physical, living, conscious, and volitional (human beings). There is a kind of hierarchy of existence as follows: 1. physical entities that have all the attributes we call physical as studied and identified by the physical sciences (all entities), 2. organisms which are physical entities with all the attributes of the physical and the additional perfectly natural attribute called life, 3. conscious organisms with all the attributes of organisms (physical and life) and the additional perfectly natural attribute consciousness, and, 4. volitional organisms (human beings) with all the attributes of conscious organisms (physical, life, and consciousness) and the additional perfectly natural attribute, mind.

What I mean by "transcends" is only that entities with the life attribute are different from non-living entities, and probably should have used the term, "differentiates," because they only are transcendent in terms of the hierarchy of existence.

I have fully explained what all this means in my articles here on this forum, "The Physical, Life, Consciousness, and The Human Mind—A Preface," and, "An Analogy, From Physical To Mind," if you are interested.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
I'm relieved to find you returned to some measure of enthusiasm for thinking and debating. A little 'sass' in you is a hopeful thing...
I have to admit I have endless enthusiasm for thinking, but not so much for debating. I enjoy our discussions because they inspire thinking. I suppose some of what I write might seem like sass, though it's not meant that way. I am quite fond of good sarcasm and fall into it quite easily, because much of what the world takes seriously is ludicrous to me.

You must be aware of G.B. Shaw's interest in phonetics and language (Pygmalion). A woman accosted him at some gathering saying, "you know, Mr. Shaw, there are only two words in the English language spelled with, "su," and pronounced like, "sh," sugar and sumac." To which G.B.S. responded, "sure!"

All my best!

RC

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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by Immanuel Can » Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm

Hi again, RC:

I sincerely hope your recuperation is going well. I am relieved you seem to be recovering. Life does (to borrow a Yankee metaphor) throw us curve balls sometimes...
RCSaunders wrote:
Sat Nov 16, 2019 6:12 pm
What you are describing are physical characteristics of organisms, not the life of those organisms.
I agree. But then we'd better say what we mean by "describing life." Because most scientific explanations are not what we are looking for, then.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
We have no reason to expect life to exist...here, or anywhere.
What is that supposed to mean?
That positing a randomly-generated universe would give us no reason to expect that life should exist anywhere.
One thing is certain, there is life. If something is, it must be possible and must always have been, else it would not be.
This is to argue backward, and thus not really to explain at all.

Suppose you and I were looking at a Ferrari. And you said to me, "Ferrari must have been one heck of a designer," and I said, "Ferraris exist: that's certain. If they exist, they must always have had to exist," or if I replied, "The fact that Ferarris exist means that they had to exist," would any rational person accept my explanation?

But that's the way the so-called Anthropic Principle, which essentially you are invoking here, works. It says, "Things are as they are, therefore they had to be what they are."
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
There are vast numbers of planets and, we think, whole solar systems that have no life in them, because as we observe them we can see that the size and disposition of matter and energy within them would be life-prohibiting. But, for that matter, we have no reason to expect that universes themselves would exist at all. If, for example, the strong and weak forces within the atom itself were even minutely different from what they are, there would be no coherent matter at all...no people, no planets, no galaxies, no universe...nothing.
That's a long way of saying, "if things were different they wouldn't be what they are."
More than that. It's saying that the very existence of anything at all is totally unpredictable mathematically. It's wildly odd. By all expectation, no coherent matter should exist.
What is the point?
The point is that where anything is wildly mathematically odd, it calls for some kind of rational explanation.
The universe is and has the exact nature it has and could not have been anything else.
Oh, certainly it could have been many other things. It could have been nothings but an equal soup of distributed energy, like Heat Death. It could have been an endless group of dead planetoids. It could have been a chaotic mess, with no observers to ever know. And all of those things are (to use the right word) astronomically more likely than what we observe does exist.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
But in a universe with no God to be the source of life, it raises a huge question. How can life have ever been started?
That assumes life, "started."
Of course it started. Every life starts and finishes.

Moreover, unless you believe Earth itself was eternal, which is empirically falsifiable, you would have to believe that life here began at some definite point in the past.
Haven't there always been living beings?
Obviously not. There hasn't always been an Earth. And so far as we know, there is no life anywhere else either. But if there were, it would only move the problem back one step, and make us ask, well, where did that contingent, temporal life begin? It's an infinite regress problem, you see.

Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
It would also be easy to give my view of life a supernatural foundation, which I personally would reject. I regard the attribute, "life," to be a perfectly natural attribute, like the physical attributes, but one that transcends the physical
I can't make sense of that claim. Maybe you can help me.
What I mean by "transcends" is only that entities with the life attribute are different from non-living entities, and probably should have used the term, "differentiates," because they only are transcendent in terms of the hierarchy of existence.
Why "hierarchy" though? What makes an entity with consciousness somehow "better" or "higher than" one that does not have it, if we live in a universe that produced both rocks and human beings by merest accident? Neither "transcends" anything, though they are admittedly "different." Both would merely be pieces of the detritus of the Big Bang...no more.
I have to admit I have endless enthusiasm for thinking, but not so much for debating.
Yeah, I get the difference. And I agree. A good philosophical discussion may contain the debate of various points, but does not aim at a kind of zero-sum win-loss outcome. Rather, it aims at enriching all participants by means of common inquiry. And I like that that's how we're proceeding.

My "sass" reference was jocular: I merely meant that I was relieved to detect that you had recovered some strength, as expressed in your obvious enthusiasm and vigour for continued discussion. I did not mean to trivialize that, however. I'm very glad of it indeed.
You must be aware of G.B. Shaw's interest in phonetics and language (Pygmalion). A woman accosted him at some gathering saying, "you know, Mr. Shaw, there are only two words in the English language spelled with, "su," and pronounced like, "sh," sugar and sumac." To which G.B.S. responded, "sure!"
Shaw could be very funny at times. Twain, Wilde, Chesterton, Churchill...all were magnificent at getting off the one liner, weren't they?

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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by RCSaunders » Mon Nov 18, 2019 3:13 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
RCSaunders wrote:
Sat Nov 16, 2019 6:12 pm
What you are describing are physical characteristics of organisms, not the life of those organisms.
I agree. But then we'd better say what we mean by "describing life." Because most scientific explanations are not what we are looking for, then.
Yes! That is really my point. Because life itself is not a physical attribute. I think you would agree with me that life cannot be explained in terms of the physical and therefore requires some other explanation. The difference in our view is that, for you, the explanation for life must therefore be supernatural because you regard anything other than the physical as supernatural. While I agree there is no physical explanation for life, I do not agree that the physical is all that exists naturally. I believe material existence includes all the following as possible natural attributes or qualities: the physical, life, consciousness, and volition, and what any entity is (mere physical entity, organism, conscious organism, or human being) depends on which of those attributes are present in the entity.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
We have no reason to expect life to exist...here, or anywhere.
What is that supposed to mean?
That positing a randomly-generated universe would give us no reason to expect that life should exist anywhere.
There are two premises here I must reject. The first is that the universe is random. There is no randomness. I used to work for a small cutting-edge computer company that developed high-speed (gigflop) technology. A very difficult problem with such technology is discovering what causes failures in the hardware because there are so many combinations of mathematical operations that could fail, discovering which combination failed would require almost infinite testing. The brute force method would have just started with any combination (1 X 1, for example) and reiterating until every possible combination (x^1024 X x^1024, for example) which would have taken weeks. As a solution, I developed a random number generator using chaos math that could run as a program testing the failing hardware against known good hardware, comparing outputs to automatically capture the random pair that failed.

The truth is, there is no such thing as a random number generator. There are endless digital schemes for producing numbers that appear to be random, and chaos math is the only one I know of that will never repeat a pattern. The apparent randomness of chaos math, however, is a deception. The output is absolutely determined but seems random because it cannot be predicted, unless the actual program is run. There is nothing in the physical universe that is random because everything is physically determined.

The second premise is that life is caused, or evolved, or is produced in some way, by the physical. Since life as a perfectly natural attribute of existence, in addition to the physical attributes, except that there must be a physical entity that is living, life is not dependent on any physical attribute.

I still have no idea why you think not expecting something matters to anything. After all, here we are in this universe and there is life all about us. There is certainly nothing impossible about life being in it.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
One thing is certain, there is life. If something is, it must be possible and must always have been, else it would not be.
This is to argue backward, and thus not really to explain at all.

Suppose you and I were looking at a Ferrari. And you said to me, "Ferrari must have been one heck of a designer," and I said, "Ferraris exist: that's certain. If they exist, they must always have had to exist," or if I replied, "The fact that Ferarris exist means that they had to exist," would any rational person accept my explanation?
You are right, it is not an explanation. It is not an argument. It is a simple statement of fact. It simply means that whatever is (or occurs) was always going to be (or happen), because if it were possible that it was not going to be (or happen) it would not have. The concept has led to endless bad ideas, like fate and determinism, but is neither. It is a summation of the fact that what is, is, and cannot be anything else. It is simply Aristotle's, A is A.

Your Ferrari example misunderstands the point. It does not mean the fact that Ferarris exist is in any way a, "cause," of there existence, it means the fact that Ferarris exist is only possible because they actually were designed and built, and otherwise would not exist. It means, it could never have been truly said, "Ferarris will never be designed and built."

[I has to do with the "timelessness of truth." On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln. It is still true today, that Wilkes shot Lincoln on that date. On April 13, 1865, it was true that Wilkes would shoot Lincoln the next day, though no one could have known it. The year before, on April 14, 1864, it was true that Wilkes would shoot Lincoln just a year later. There never was a time and never will be a time when it is not true that Wilkes shot Lincoln on April 14, 1865.]

Is this a new idea for you? Think of it in your own terms, that is, in terms of God's omniscience. Could God ever have not known Wilkes would shoot Lincoln on April 14, 1865?

Even if there is a God, that does no make existence contingent in the sense that it could be anything other than it is, unless God's knowledge of the future is contingent.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
There are vast numbers of planets and, we think, whole solar systems that have no life in them, ... there would be no coherent matter at all...no people, no planets, no galaxies, no universe...nothing.
That's a long way of saying, "if things were different they wouldn't be what they are."
More than that. It's saying that the very existence of anything at all is totally unpredictable mathematically. It's wildly odd. By all expectation, no coherent matter should exist.
What is the point?
The point is that where anything is wildly mathematically odd, it calls for some kind of rational explanation.
Please explain why you think prescience or predictability has anything to do with existence. As far as I know, the entire physical universe is understood to be predictable just because it is determined by physical principles, which is why physicalists are determinists.

There is nothing ontological about mathematics. Mathematics is only a human method of description and then only of those aspects of reality that can be counted or measured. Mathematics does not determine or cause anything.

There is absolutely nothing mathematically, "odd," about the universe. If there is a standard of what is, "normal," mathematically, it would have to be the thing mathematics was invented to describe, that is, the actual universe as it is. It would be something different from this world that would be mathematically odd, wouldn't it?
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
The universe is and has the exact nature it has and could not have been anything else.
Oh, certainly it could have been many other things. It could have been nothings but an equal soup of distributed energy, like Heat Death. It could have been an endless group of dead planetoids. It could have been a chaotic mess, with no observers to ever know. And all of those things are (to use the right word) astronomically more likely than what we observe does exist.
Yes, I know you believe in that Jules Vern, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clark, Leibnitz, ontology of other possible worlds. I do not, and I do not think an omniscient God would either. Could there be possible alternatives to God's perfect plan?
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
But in a universe with no God to be the source of life, it raises a huge question. How can life have ever been started?
That assumes life, "started."
Of course it started. Every life starts and finishes.
I'm assuming you mean individual organisms, not life itself. As far as it is possible to know, life never appears, "spontaneously," but is always an already existing life expanding into new organisms. Since there is no evidence of a, "first life," and only cosmological speculations that there might be such a thing, I do not believe it had a beginning. Also, since as long as there is still life there is no evidence that it will end. Look up turritopsis dohrnii, the immortal jellyfish.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
Moreover, unless you believe Earth itself was eternal, which is empirically falsifiable, you would have to believe that life here began at some definite point in the past.

I don't have to believe life began anywhere, much less on this planet. If there was not always life here it would have to have come from someplace else, but that does not require a beginning, just a migration.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
Haven't there always been living beings?
Obviously not.
So celestial beings aren't living?
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
Why "hierarchy" though?
It's not a political hierarchy or value hierarchy. It's a structural hierarchy. Just as a building has first a foundation, then walls, then a roof, with each level dependent on the existence of the previous, so all entities are first physical, which with the additional attribute life are organisms, which with the additional attribute of consciousness are conscious organisms, which with the additional attribute of volition are human beings. Each "level" is only possible if the previous level is present. A non-living entity cannot be conscious or have a mind. A merely living organism without consciousness cannot have volition.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
Shaw could be very funny at times. Twain, Wilde, Chesterton, Churchill...all were magnificent at getting off the one liner, weren't they?
Yes they were. Wilde was more flamboyant and intentionally, "shocking," I think, Twain was the master of wit. Have you ever read, "Adam's Diary?"

That reminds me. Today is our anniversary and I thought about how Twain ended his record of the fall:

"After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her. At first I thought she talked too much; but now I should be sorry to have that voice fall silent and pass out of my life. Blessed be the chestnut that brought us near together and taught me to know the goodness of her heart and the sweetness of her spirit!"

Every really great creator is also a helpless romantic.

RC

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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by Skepdick » Mon Nov 18, 2019 3:21 pm

RCSaunders wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 3:13 pm
I think you would agree with me that life cannot be explained in terms of the physical and therefore requires some other explanation.
Surely, before A can be explained in terms of B, and B can be explained in terms of C, and C can be explained in terms of D, and D can be explained in terms of E (ad infinitum) one needs to understand what an 'explanation' is?

As Feynman said "if you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it.", so how would you explain what an 'explanations' is to a 5 year old?

Also - why does nobody ever attempt to explain infinite regress?

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by Immanuel Can » Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm

RCSaunders wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 3:13 pm
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
RCSaunders wrote:
Sat Nov 16, 2019 6:12 pm
What you are describing are physical characteristics of organisms, not the life of those organisms.
I agree. But then we'd better say what we mean by "describing life." Because most scientific explanations are not what we are looking for, then.
Yes! That is really my point. Because life itself is not a physical attribute.
Well, then, I think we'd do ourselves a favour, in terms of keeping things straight, if we stipulated what we were meaning here. "Life" is a word that gets used different ways. For example, people say, "There's no life on Pluto," and they mean one thing. They say, "I used to be in the military, but it was no kind of life," and they mean a totally different thing. Or they say, "RC is the life of the party," and mean yet another thing.

The problem appears again when you ask if "life" includes being that are not strictly physical, such as God or angelic beings, if such are said to exist. It's not clear whether we want to generalize the term "life" from physical beings such as ourselves to other forms of conscious entity...although I'm inclined to think we ought to, particularly in the case of God. He does, after all, call Himself "the Living God." (Deut. 5:26, for e.g.)
I think you would agree with me that life cannot be explained in terms of the physical and therefore requires some other explanation.

Yes: pending a precise definition of "life."
The difference in our view is that, for you, the explanation for life must therefore be supernatural because you regard anything other than the physical as supernatural.

Well, that's true by definition. To be "natural" is to be physical. What else would you call that which is "more than" (super-) merely physical (natural)?
I do not agree that the physical is all that exists naturally.

I think I kind of agree with you, but I can't make sense of the word "natural" being tacked on the end there, if it doesn't entail the physical. Is it your view that "nature" is somehow a form of "spirit" of some kind? That doesn't seem to be what you're saying, and I'm pretty sure you're not Hindu; :wink: but I can't tell how something can be both "not physical" and also "natural."
I believe material existence includes all the following as possible natural attributes or qualities: the physical, life, consciousness, and volition...
Okay, now I'm really confused. I can think of many things that do have "material existence" but no life, consciousness or volition.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:25 pm
We have no reason to expect life to exist...here, or anywhere.
What is that supposed to mean?
That positing a randomly-generated universe would give us no reason to expect that life should exist anywhere.
There are two premises here I must reject. The first is that the universe is random.
The alternative is that it is non-random, which means, at the very least, calculated within limited parameters, if not outright intentional. But if the universe is constrained by parameters, then the existence of those parameters itself requires explanation: why would a universe that pops into existence for no reason be suddenly constrained to (what turns out to be an exceedingly tight) set of "laws" that govern what can and cannot happen? This is the "fine-tuning" problem of the universe: what constrains it to land within these narrow parameters, when there are literally infinite other parameters into which "things" might have fallen -- in most cases, producing no universe at all, as a result?
The truth is, there is no such thing as a random number generator. There are endless digital schemes for producing numbers that appear to be random, and chaos math is the only one I know of that will never repeat a pattern. The apparent randomness of chaos math, however, is a deception. The output is absolutely determined but seems random because it cannot be predicted, unless the actual program is run. There is nothing in the physical universe that is random because everything is physically determined.
This is, indeed, the alternate Materialist view. But it creates an additional problem: from whence this "determination"? What "determines" how things come out? Where is this set of laws encoded? It smacks of teleology, if not of Divine creation.

But worse: this alternate Materialist view eliminates one of those things we are both at pains to affirm: volition. For just like the ostensible randomness of chaos maths, volition then becomes a deception. Things are really predetermined; but because of an inexplicable "glitch" in the "program," perhaps, we imagine that our volition does something in the universe. However, it does not.
The second premise is that life is caused, or evolved, or is produced in some way, by the physical. Since life as a perfectly natural attribute of existence, in addition to the physical attributes, except that there must be a physical entity that is living, life is not dependent on any physical attribute.
Here again I'm going to need help to understand how "not physical" can safely be described as also "natural." You must be using the word "natural," it seems to me, in some specialized way -- not to mean, "produced by nature," but perhaps just "bundled in" in some way? You've really got to help me there.
I still have no idea why you think not expecting something matters to anything. After all, here we are in this universe and there is life all about us. There is certainly nothing impossible about life being in it.
Nothing "impossible," but everything contrary to mathematical probability. And highly improbable things need explanation.

Think of it this way. You're walking along, and you see a turtle on top of a gatepost. (That's an exceedingly simple analogy, I admit: because it takes for granted the existence of both turtles and gateposts. But problematizing those existences only makes the equation more in my favour, so I shall grant them to you here, gratis.) You say to yourself, "How does a turtle get onto a gatepost?" And why? Because turtles can't climb, don't like to climb, and aren't routinely found on gateposts. The extreme improbability of the case demands explanation.

So maybe you devise some hypotheses. Some plausible ones might be "Somebody put him up there." A less plausible one might be, "A flood swept him up there, and he just happened to balance." An even less plausible one might be, "This is a flying turtle: which though rare, are conceivable if wings are tucked under the shell." And so on.

The point is that one thing you don't do is just shrug and walk by. And you don't say, "Well, the turtle is on the gatepost, therefore turtles are automatically or naturally on gateposts." There are so many other ways things often are, and so many more ways things can be, and so many other ways things tend to be, that you can't pass up an event like a turtle on a gatepost without positing some explanation.

But as I said before, a turtle on a gatepost only involves two items, with the existence of both taken for granted. The universe is astronomically complex, and yet falls into a very narrow mathematical range of order. And this should cause us to ask why we are balanced where we are, as we are, being who we are, since everything calculable weighs against it.

And all we have at the moment is the bald and uninformative fact that we happen to be here. In no way, then, are we rational to say, "Well, the universe has to have existed, because if it didn't we wouldn't be here." That's reasoning so bad that it's not even as good as circular. It's downright question-begging.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
One thing is certain, there is life. If something is, it must be possible and must always have been, else it would not be.
This is to argue backward, and thus not really to explain at all.

Suppose you and I were looking at a Ferrari. And you said to me, "Ferrari must have been one heck of a designer," and I said, "Ferraris exist: that's certain. If they exist, they must always have had to exist," or if I replied, "The fact that Ferarris exist means that they had to exist," would any rational person accept my explanation?
You are right, it is not an explanation.
Okay.
It is not an argument. It is a simple statement of fact. It simply means that whatever is (or occurs) was always going to be (or happen), because if it were possible that it was not going to be (or happen) it would not have. The concept has led to endless bad ideas, like fate and determinism,
You're absolutely right. It positively necessitates Determinism, actually.

It argues that whatever is, had to be. But that can only be true if there is literally no possibility of another outcome. Subjectively, however, we all intuit that "other outcomes" were possible. All our decision-making is a weighing of outcomes..."If I do X, Y is going to happen" sorts of predicting. Even the fact that we are often wrong in such predictions suggests that the universe is not predetermined -- or that if it is, our cognition is entirely unsuited to knowing that it is, because we keep making the same error of thinking our decisions change things, and cannot, in fact, manage to live any other way.[/quote]
...but is neither. It is a summation of the fact that what is, is, and cannot be anything else. It is simply Aristotle's, A is A.
No, that's not right. That's Aristotle's Law of Identity, which was not a Law of Prediction, far less a Law of Ontology. It only says that when one is using logic to solve a particular problem, a variable assigned to one value must not be suffered to "shift" to another value until the equation has been completed. No more.
It means, it could never have been truly said, "Ferarris will never be designed and built."
But that's an ex post facto assessment, not a prediction. Prior to the creation of the Ferrari, there was no "law" in place that mandated "Ferraris will one day be built," and we cannot deduce that there was from the mere fact that Ferraris happen now to exist -- at least, we cannot do so without entailing a strict Determinism, which neither you nor I is prepared to do.

Rather, we both think that Ferraris are a product of the fertile mind of Enzo Ferrari. And that if Enzo Ferrari had not existed, then no car of that name or design would have been built either. The peculiarities of the design are a product of the designer...of his decisions, imagination, and ambitions. They are not a product of a random universe, or even of one governed by inexplicable mathematical constraints. And we can't accept that explanation, rationally, unless we are also ready to convert to strict Determinism.
Is this a new idea for you?

No: just an old, bad one, I would say.
Think of it in your own terms, that is, in terms of God's omniscience. Could God ever have not known Wilkes would shoot Lincoln on April 14, 1865?
Ah. I see the error. You're thinking that foreknowledge entails predetermination. An easy mistake to make: lots of people make it, and at one time it even baffled me for awhile, though I later rejected it.

It doesn't. Foreknowledge and predetermination are different.

I might "know," and perhaps correctly, that you will reply to this response. But if what I think I "know" is correct, then it won't entail that I forced or predetermined that you would respond. You'll still have the personal freedom to choose. My knowledge does not produce your action, or constrain your choice.

Just so, God can know what you will do, without thereby having made you do it. He can say, "I foresee, given my perfect knowledge of RC, that he will take up his keyboard, put it on his desk, and bang out a message to IC the very same night. I can foresee the keystrokes he will use, and when he will scratch his nose, and at what time he will hit 'send.'"

And God can be 100% right about all of those things, without thereby having made you do them.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
The point is that where anything is wildly mathematically odd, it calls for some kind of rational explanation.
Please explain why you think prescience or predictability has anything to do with existence. As far as I know, the entire physical universe is understood to be predictable just because it is determined by physical principles, which is why physicalists are determinists.
Right. But that's just because they've accepted a narrow premise that they will not give up.

The premise is that they will not use "God" in an explanation. In other words, the only explanations they will accept have to start with physical things existing, and physical laws already in place. (For them, the turtle must always be taken for granted; and the gatepost too. :wink: ) Then an acceptable explanation will only speak of how those laws act on physical entities. Nothing more can be entertained, even for a moment.

But physical laws themselves manifest coherence and constraint of options. A question no Physicalist can address is, "From whence these constraints?" Or "How do the scientific 'laws' themselves get 'chosen,' given that there are an infinite number of other ways things could have ended up?"

So their problem is their suppositional constraints on themselves. It's not that there isn't a question to be asked: its' that they refuse to ask it, because it takes them back to postulates they are at great pains never to consider, for ideological not scientific reasons.

This is why, for example, when the "origin of the universe" explanations involving the Big Bang were first advanced, a cry of horror went up from many scientists. They were philosophically astute enough to realize that if the universe had an origin point, then scientifically, it also had to have a cause. And that would produce a causal regress chain that would necessitate God. They could not countenance that, so they were very reluctant to accept things like the Red Shift Effect or the data on the background radiation in the universe...or even the observable expansion of the universe beyond possible point of recollapse. It's also why they've lately gravitated to non-scientific ideas like The Multiverse Hypothesis: because they are desperate not to go where the data would take them.
There is nothing ontological about mathematics. Mathematics is only a human method of description and then only of those aspects of reality that can be counted or measured. Mathematics does not determine or cause anything.
I did not say it did. But mathematics does tell us what the odds of something happening are.
There is absolutely nothing mathematically, "odd," about the universe.

Oh, yes there is. Our present situation is astronomically unlikely.
If there is a standard of what is, "normal," mathematically, it would have to be the thing mathematics was invented to describe, that is, the actual universe as it is. It would be something different from this world that would be mathematically odd, wouldn't it?
No, this is another ex post facto argument.

Think of it this way. Suppose you won the lottery. You didn't even buy a ticket: someone just happened to buy one for you, and the number of tickets sold was 1,004,032. So you know what your odds were, even if you had bought a ticket. But multiply those odds by the chances your friend would decide to buy one for you, and it gets much more "odd."

You could have two reactions. One is to say, "Wow, I'm one very, very lucky guy."

The other is to say, "Of course I won; I was fated to have done so, because the mere fact that I won shows there was no other way things could have been."

Which is the reaction you would find actually reasonable?
Could there be possible alternatives to God's perfect plan?
Do you mean, "Do you believe God micromanages the universe?"

No, I don't. But that doesn't mean he's lost control either. What it means is that God is more wise than to have to commit Himself and us to a single course. He can, for example, foresee ten outcomes of your reception of this message. And he can know which outcome you will, in fact, select. If anything else depends on that, He can know that, too. But it does not mean He has to force you only to one outcome. He can leave your choices free and genuine, and say, "I can work with any of the ten, but I happen to know RC will only do number 5, and thus am able to foresee that IC will take his number 7 in response..." and so on. But at no point in this telling of things is God the one who makes or compels RC or IC to do one thing or another.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
But in a universe with no God to be the source of life, it raises a huge question. How can life have ever been started?

Of course it started. Every life starts and finishes.
I'm assuming you mean individual organisms, not life itself.
Both. Because if you think otherwise, you create an infinite-regress causal chain, which is logically impossible. So because each individual life starts and end, and because life only comes from life, either you get an infinite regress, which is impossible, or a definite causal starting point.
I do not believe it had a beginning.
Then only one of the two above is possible. Either you (irrational) think an infinite causal regress can exist, or you are positing a singular starting point, which can, but then invokes the idea of an ultimate origin.

Think of it this way. Your life came from your parents, right? So that means that you cannot be born until they are. But their life came from your grandparents, right? So your parents could not have been born until after your parents were, and you couldn't have been born until after that. So far so good? That's obvious, right?

But your grandparents came from your great-grandparents. So you could not be born until after your great-grandparents were born, and then your grandparents were born, then your parents were born...and last of all, you. Each stage is, so to speak "held up" by the previous one. Nobody can be born until the person before them has already been born. That's a causal chain.

But if the causal chain of your ancestors were infinite, you could not be born...ever! :shock: And why? Because before your great-great-great-great...and so on...grandparents could be born, another had to be born in front of them. But that one depended on another one, and was held up until that one happened...and so on, ad infinitum. Meaning that the chain NEVER STARTS! The conditions of one person being born can never happen, because the prerequisites recede infinitely, and thus infinitely "hold up" his birth.

If you get that explanation, you will know why a First Cause of both existence and life is rationally inescapable. Not only is the mathematical evidence for God strong, it's absolutely conclusive.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm
Moreover, unless you believe Earth itself was eternal, which is empirically falsifiable, you would have to believe that life here began at some definite point in the past.

I don't have to believe life began anywhere, much less on this planet.
Well, one doesn't HAVE to, in the sense that one does not HAVE to believe things that are necessary, rational and true. But if one wishes to be rational, to recognize the necessary and to find the true, then one does. Life didn't have an infinite regress of causes. Such a thing cannot even exist.
If there was not always life here it would have to have come from someplace else, but that does not require a beginning, just a migration.
So your great-great-great-great-great-great...etc. grandparents came from Mars, perhaps. :wink: That will not solve the infinite regress problem at all. "Migration" explains only "where" part of the chain may have taken place: it does not save us from the infinite regress of causes trap.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Sun Nov 17, 2019 3:51 pm

Obviously not.
So celestial beings aren't living?
This would be going back to my earlier comments on the problem of defining "life." I think you should stipulate carefully what we should both be meaning here.
That reminds me. Today is our anniversary and I thought about how Twain ended his record of the fall:

"After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her. At first I thought she talked too much; but now I should be sorry to have that voice fall silent and pass out of my life. Blessed be the chestnut that brought us near together and taught me to know the goodness of her heart and the sweetness of her spirit!"
Oh. Happy anniversary!

How many years, now?

The theology's a little warped, of course, because Eve was created IN the Garden, and unconditional "goodness of heart" and durable "sweetness of spirit" perished with the act of disobedience and the acquiring of the knowledge of good and evil. However, it seems to me a great thing to spend many years with someone about whom you can feel this way.

Enjoy your day. In this land, we all feel we have too few of them. Carpe diem.

IC

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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by RCSaunders » Fri Nov 22, 2019 2:55 am

Hi again, IC. I'll begin here because I think this is where we fundamentally disagree.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
Well, that's true by definition. To be "natural" is to be physical. What else would you call that which is "more than" (super-) merely physical (natural)?
I do not agree that the physical is all that exists naturally.

I think I kind of agree with you, but I can't make sense of the word "natural" being tacked on the end there, if it doesn't entail the physical. Is it your view that "nature" is somehow a form of "spirit" of some kind? That doesn't seem to be what you're saying, and I'm pretty sure you're not Hindu; :wink: but I can't tell how something can be both "not physical" and also "natural."
That is because you equate the, "natural," with the physical. By "natural existence," I mean the same as I do by, "material existence," and by "material existence," I mean all that exists and has the nature it has independently of whether anyone is conscious of or has any knowledge of that existence. In short, material existence is all that exists the way it exists. Material existence includes all entities: physical, living, conscious, and volitional (humans) with all their qualities and attributes.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
I believe material existence includes all the following as possible natural attributes or qualities: the physical, life, consciousness, and volition...
Okay, now I'm really confused. I can think of many things that do have "material existence" but no life, consciousness or volition.
When you say, "material," you mean the same as I mean by, "physical," which is only part of "natural" or "material" existence as I mean it. By physical (your material) I mean all that can by directly perceived (seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted), and can be studied by the physical sciences, can be described entirely in terms of physical qualities and attributes, and is totally determined by the laws of physics. But natural existence also includes entities with additional attributes to the physical attributes which only some entities have. Those additional natural attributes are life, consciousness, and mind. Those entities with physical attributes and the life attribute are organisms. Those organisms with the consciousness attribute are conscious organisms. Those conscious organisms with the mind attribute are human beings.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
But worse: this alternate Materialist view eliminates one of those things we are both at pains to affirm: volition. ... Things are really predetermined; ...
If physical properties (qualities, attributes) were all that was possible in nature, that might be true, because that which only has physical attributes is determined by physical laws. But other natural attributes, like life, consciousness, and mind, are possible. For those entities with the life attribute, for example, while the physical aspects of the organism are determined physically, the living behavior is determined by the life attribute. That is why the behavior of all merely physical entities is predictable in terms of their physical relationships to one another, while the behavior of organisms relative to other entities is not predictable.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
The second premise is that life is caused, or evolved, or is produced in some way, by the physical. Since life as a perfectly natural attribute of existence, in addition to the physical attributes, except that there must be a physical entity that is living, life is not dependent on any physical attribute.
Here again I'm going to need help to understand how "not physical" can safely be described as also "natural." You must be using the word "natural," it seems to me, in some specialized way ...
Yes, that's right. I am using the word natural in a way that is no longer common. The fact that life is an aspect of natural existence was widely held until the eighteenth century, though it was very wrongly described (as a "thing" such as a substance or energy, for example), and not simply as an attribute. It was called vitalism.

While no actual hypothesis of vitalism was correct, the facts of reality that were the reason for those hypotheses have not changed, but are ignored. Such evidence as Pasteur's proof that there is no abiogenesis, the inexplicable behavior of living organisms (or protoplasm itself), the nature of consciousness, and the impossibility of dualism are either totally ignored or attempted to be explained by some absurd notion such as, "emergence."
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
Think of it this way. You're walking along, and you see a turtle on top of a gatepost. (That's an exceedingly simple analogy, I admit: because it takes for granted the existence of both turtles and gateposts. But problematizing those existences only makes the equation more in my favour, so I shall grant them to you here, gratis.) You say to yourself, "How does a turtle get onto a gatepost?" And why? Because turtles can't climb, don't like to climb, and aren't routinely found on gateposts. The extreme improbability of the case demands explanation.

So maybe you devise some hypotheses. Some plausible ones might be "Somebody put him up there." A less plausible one might be, "A flood swept him up there, and he just happened to balance." An even less plausible one might be, "This is a flying turtle: which though rare, are conceivable if wings are tucked under the shell." And so on.

The point is that one thing you don't do is just shrug and walk by. And you don't say, "Well, the turtle is on the gatepost, therefore turtles are automatically or naturally on gateposts." There are so many other ways things often are, and so many more ways things can be, and so many other ways things tend to be, that you can't pass up an event like a turtle on a gatepost without positing some explanation.

But as I said before, a turtle on a gatepost only involves two items, with the existence of both taken for granted. The universe is astronomically complex, and yet falls into a very narrow mathematical range of order. And this should cause us to ask why we are balanced where we are, as we are, being who we are, since everything calculable weighs against it.

And all we have at the moment is the bald and uninformative fact that we happen to be here. In no way, then, are we rational to say, "Well, the universe has to have existed, because if it didn't we wouldn't be here." That's reasoning so bad that it's not even as good as circular. It's downright question-begging.
If it is irrational to say, "Well, the universe has to have existed, because if it didn't we wouldn't be here," then it would be rational to say, "We're here whether there is a universe or not." That doesn't seem quite right, does it? Are you sure we could be here without there being the universe that actually exists?

If I discover a turtle on a fence post, if I think about it at all, it might be that, "some rogue children must have put the poor thing there," but I would otherwise have no interest in how it got there, because it wouldn't matter. All that would matter to me is the fact it's on the fence post, and since I like turtles, I'd lift it off and put it on the ground. I might be wrong about how the turtle got on the post but I could not be wrong about it being there.

Apparently, for you, "because turtles can't climb, don't like to climb, and aren't routinely found on gateposts, the extreme improbability of the case demands explanation." It is obvious to me, given the nature of turtles, someone put the turtle there. Since the turtle is actually on the fence post; however, there is nothing improbable about it, just unusual. One hardly ever sees a turtle on a fence post, because people don't generally go around putting turtles there.

The case of the universe is altogether different. We see the universe every day and there is never a case when there is not the universe. How can what is be, "improbable?" Even if it is granted the universe is improbable, that cannot mean it is impossible. If the presence of a turtle on a fence post is improbable, would you accept the explanation that it must therefore be there by magic, ex nihilo?

You can say, "... all we have at the moment is the bald and uninformative fact that we happen to be here," but I regard the fact that we are here as significant information. I do not need to know, "how," the universe or we got here, or, "why," the universe or we got here, to know the universe and we are here and have the nature we have.

The existence of the universe and our presence in it are certain. Every hypothesis about origins, either about how things came to be or why they came to be is based on assumptions and conjecture. The assumptions are that existence itself had a beginning, that what is could have been something else, and that knowing how something came to be matters to what it actually is. The conjectures are pseudo-scientific (evolution, cosmology) and mysticism (creation, other magical origins).
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
There is absolutely nothing mathematically, "odd," about the universe.

Oh, yes there is. Our present situation is astronomically unlikely.
Since probability is calculated by the number of expected events divided by the total number of events, [P = n(E)/n(T)], and the only known event is the actual universe and no others, the probability of the current universe is infinite. Of course one can imagine other events and other probabilities, but that would only be imaginary, not factual. The real problem with your argument is that it confuses probability for possibility.

Suppose you drop $10 worth (or any other number) of pennies on the ground. The possible sequences of heads and tails is 2 to the 1,000th power, and so the odds against getting any specific sequence is so low that for practical applications we could consider it to be zero. Yet every time you drop the coins, the mathematically improbable happens, because there is some sequence of coins.

The Theist claims that the odds against the universe randomly organizing itself in a way that supports life is like dropping of pennies. The probability that the right organization will occur is so miniscule, it is tantamount to zero.

The problem with the Theist's argument is that, like the dropped pennies, every organization of the universe, no matter how improbable, is possible and which organization actually occurs can only be discovered, in the same way the actual sequence of the pennies is discovered, by dropping the pennies and observing the resulting sequence. In the case of the universe, it has already been organized (the pennies have already been dropped) and it turns out, the organization is the improbable one that supports life.

[Note: I am only pointing out what is wrong with the probability argument. I do not believe the organization of the universe is random at all.]

Now with reference to what you call:
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
... infinite regress of causes trap.
I know you believe that both existence and life had to have a beginning, but you then change the context and believe that some life and existence does not have a beginning. So long as we are talking about the universe we are actually in and can directly perceive, you are certain there had to be a beginning to everything. But then you, "posit," that there is another realm which does not have a beginning. If that were the case then the world we are conscious of is not everything because everything includes both the perceived world and this other realm you posit, and everything does not have a beginning. All the arguments and circumlocutions in the world cannot make it true that both, "everything has a beginning," and, "everything does not have a beginning."

Your so-called infinite regress problem is mathematically impossible. If you want to imagine cause as some kind of infinite chain, then whatever is must be accepted as the middle of the chain, with an inifinite number of causes preceding the present and an infinite number of causes following the present.

That is why it is not true, "... if the causal chain of your ancestors were infinite, you could not be born...ever! Because before your great-great-great-great...and so on...grandparents could be born, another had to be born in front of them ...and so on, ad infinitum. Meaning that the chain NEVER STARTS! The conditions of one person being born can never happen, because the prerequisites recede infinitely ...." except that the infinite chain has an entire eternity to fulfill itself.

It is not possible that the so-called infinite chain never got started, because the present is and the past is an eternity that preceded it, and the future is an eternity that follows it, and an infinite number of events occur in any eternity.

Actually I do not believe in such things as infinite chains of cause, or infinite numbers of anything. I think there are indefinitely large numbers of things and events and that there is no limit to how many there can be but for there to be an infinite number of anything would mean that existence had ceased to be, because there could be no new things or events. It is one reason I cannot believe in anything described as infinite or eternal. If a thing were infinite, there would be nothing else. If a thing were eternal, it would be over.

If it could be demonstrated that there was some kind of beginning to the human species, it would do no damage to my view of human nature. It is certainly possible there have been changes in the human species, at least physiologically, (not psychologically). Ultimately, however, origins do not matter, only what is matters and how anything came to be cannot change what is and what is true.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
Oh. Happy anniversary!
How many years, now?
Thank you. Thirty three, my love tells me, but I think she must be exaggerating. It can't possibly be that long. (Second marriage for both of us.)
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
[About Twain] The theology's a little warped, of course, because Eve was created IN the Garden, and unconditional "goodness of heart" and durable "sweetness of spirit" perished with the act of disobedience and the acquiring of the knowledge of good and evil. However, it seems to me a great thing to spend many years with someone about whom you can feel this way.
How sad. Do you really believe your God would not have redeemed the woman created to be the example of what all women were supposed to be for all the future, made to be the help meet for man, the one a man would leave all for to be with and become one flesh with her. Was the coat of skins and the blood sacrifice not symbolic of anything? Oh well. Still, if you forget theology and read that delightful and gentle satire, I think it will brighten your day. It's not about religion, but about the relationship between men and women and why men have so much trouble understanding them. If you wish: Extracts From Adam's Diary

RC

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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm

RCSaunders wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 2:55 am
Hi again, IC. I'll begin here because I think this is where we fundamentally disagree.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
Well, that's true by definition. To be "natural" is to be physical. What else would you call that which is "more than" (super-) merely physical (natural)?
I do not agree that the physical is all that exists naturally.

I think I kind of agree with you, but I can't make sense of the word "natural" being tacked on the end there, if it doesn't entail the physical. Is it your view that "nature" is somehow a form of "spirit" of some kind? That doesn't seem to be what you're saying, and I'm pretty sure you're not Hindu; :wink: but I can't tell how something can be both "not physical" and also "natural."
That is because you equate the, "natural," with the physical.
Most people do. "Materialism," "Physicalism" and "Naturalism" are slightly different philosophies. But most philosophers understand that they can entail one another. See, for example, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/.
By "natural existence," I mean the same as I do by, "material existence," and by "material existence," I mean all that exists and has the nature it has independently of whether anyone is conscious of or has any knowledge of that existence. In short, material existence is all that exists the way it exists.
But this begs the question, "What exists?" In other words, it doesn't tell us whether metaphysical properties like volition, identity, consciousness and so forth "exist in their own right" or merely illusorily "supervene on the physical," as Physicalists say they do.
Material existence includes all entities: physical, living, conscious, and volitional (humans) with all their qualities and attributes.

And that summary doesn't really do the job of filling that out. Because what "qualities and attributes" are, and how their "existence" is different from the "existence" of physical things is the matter under hot debate in philosophy right now.

I'm not saying you're wrong to say that things like volition or consciousness exist -- I certainly believe in them -- but even I have to concede to my critics that I cannot claim they "exist" in precisely the same way, or by the same mechanics, as physical stuff does.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
But worse: this alternate Materialist view eliminates one of those things we are both at pains to affirm: volition. ... Things are really predetermined; ...
If physical properties (qualities, attributes) were all that was possible in nature, that might be true, because that which only has physical attributes is determined by physical laws.
Plausibly. But I think this runs the danger of misunderstanding what a physical "law" is. It's not a kind of rule-that-cannot-be-broken: it's just a description of the way things ordinarily seem to happen, as we have catalogued it. But it's revisable, should new data appear, and it's not impervious to violation if something new appears on the scene. That's a good deal softer as a concept.
But other natural attributes, like life, consciousness, and mind, are possible.
I agree that these things exist. I don't know if we're wise to jump to the conclusion we can just call them "natural." There's a great deal about them that's very hard to explain from a Naturalistic point of view.
...the the behavior of organisms relative to other entities is not predictable.
Determinist critics say this is merely because the causal chains involved are so complex, not because they're actually unpredictable-in-principle. They say that if we had all the data, these would become just as "predictable" as a rock falling when dropped.

How would you rebuff that critique? (I have my own answer to them, but I'm interested in yours.)
Yes, that's right. I am using the word natural in a way that is no longer common.

Oh, okay: you can do that. But if I may suggest, you should always tell people at the start that that's what you're going to do, or they'll be confused and think you're making statements they can't reconcile with facts.
The fact that life is an aspect of natural existence was widely held until the eighteenth century, though it was very wrongly described (as a "thing" such as a substance or energy, for example), and not simply as an attribute. It was called vitalism.
Yes, I'm familiar with that. It's no longer credited, of course.
While no actual hypothesis of vitalism was correct, the facts of reality that were the reason for those hypotheses have not changed, but are ignored. Such evidence as Pasteur's proof that there is no abiogenesis, the inexplicable behavior of living organisms (or protoplasm itself), the nature of consciousness, and the impossibility of dualism are either totally ignored or attempted to be explained by some absurd notion such as, "emergence."
I agree with you. I think "Emergentism" is no kind of explanation at all: it's a dodge, a non-answer dressed up in fancy clothes.

Another form of it is "Eliminativist Materialism," wherein all the spooky stuff (like consciousness, volition, identity, rationality, and so on) is explained away thus: "We do not know how they are physical now, but when we do, it will turn out that they'll all be merely physical."

That, my friend, is as good a case of gratuitous secular ideological prophecy as you and I will ever see. :D
If it is irrational to say, "Well, the universe has to have existed, because if it didn't we wouldn't be here," then it would be rational to say, "We're here whether there is a universe or not."
Well, nobody said that, obviously. And I did not imply it.

The point is rather the opposite: that our very existence is very surprising...by all reasonable expectations, we should not have existed at all. The fact that we do does not solve the mystery; rather, it probabilistically destroys any supposition that it would happen by mere accident.
If I discover a turtle on a fence post, if I think about it at all, it might be that, "some rogue children must have put the poor thing there,"
Right! That's the point!

The most natural supposition would be that such an unusual event must have been produced by some conscious agency. And yet, turtles on gateposts are very, very simple events. They could be explained other ways...but none of us would be inclined to those ways.

The simple analogy argues for the complex one. If even something as simple as turtles on gateposts invites us to think of conscious agency, how vastly much more does such a thing as a universe invite us to a similar hypothesis?
It is obvious to me, given the nature of turtles, someone put the turtle there.

Right. And given an understanding of the probabilities of the universe, the most reasonable hypothesis becomes, again, the intervention of an intelligent Creator, not the vagaries of accident.
Even if it is granted the universe is improbable, that cannot mean it is impossible.
We're not sure about that.

The probabilities are so vastly against us that we cannot even see if they exist at all. There is no current explanation for how the universe, or life itself, can "pop" out of nothing, so there isn't even a complete contrary hypothesis...just a bunch of very incomplete guesses, such as the Multiverse Hypothesis and String Theory, none of which may pan out at all, for all we know. So maybe it is impossible. It's certainly improbable in the astronomical extreme.
If the presence of a turtle on a fence post is improbable, would you accept the explanation that it must therefore be there by magic, ex nihilo?
Actually, some kind of "ex nihilo" origin for the universe is the most reasonable current scientific hypothesis. It's necessitated if we have a) linear time, and b) a non-eternal universe. If those two things are true, the universe would HAVE to have an origin, and there'd be no escaping it. Well, all the empirical evidence we have argues for both a) and b). So where does that leave us? Only with the most probable hypothesis: that somehow, something came from nothing.

Now, secularists and Theists don't agree on the nature of that First Cause, whatever it was. But science has no candidates, because it would have to be something non-contingent, or infinite regress of causes ensues, and that is mathematically impossible.
You can say, "... all we have at the moment is the bald and uninformative fact that we happen to be here," but I regard the fact that we are here as significant information. I do not need to know, "how," the universe or we got here, or, "why," the universe or we got here, to know the universe and we are here and have the nature we have.
No, that's true. You don't need to know the answer for "How did we get here?" to know "We are here." But IF we are here, then any reasonable person is going to ask a question about HOW we got here, and what the answer to that implies about what we ought to be doing while we are here.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
There is absolutely nothing mathematically, "odd," about the universe.

Oh, yes there is. Our present situation is astronomically unlikely.
Since probability is calculated by the number of expected events divided by the total number of events, [P = n(E)/n(T)], and the only known event is the actual universe and no others, the probability of the current universe is infinite. [/quote]
No, actually, it isn't. It only becomes "infinite" if you already take for granted that existence, which is tautological reasoning. It's like you are saying, "Because the turtle is on the gatepost, we need no explanation of why the turtle is on the gatepost." The "if" and the "why" are different questions entirely.

It's perhaps very certain we exist. But that says nothing about HOW we came to exist, much less WHY we exist. And those are real questions.
Suppose you drop $10 worth (or any other number) of pennies on the ground. The possible sequences of heads and tails is 2 to the 1,000th power, and so the odds against getting any specific sequence is so low that for practical applications we could consider it to be zero. Yet every time you drop the coins, the mathematically improbable happens, because there is some sequence of coins.
Actually, what happens in such a case is randomness. Any "pattern" discerned out of it is ex post facto, meaning something you, as a conscious entity, impose after the fact.

A better analogy would be if you dropped the coins a thousand times, and each time they landed in three perfect stacks, with the dates all lined up from recent to oldest. THEN you would need some explanation...but even that would be much simpler that the evident order in the universe.
In the case of the universe, it has already been organized (the pennies have already been dropped) and it turns out, the organization is the improbable one that supports life.
That's the same tautological argument: essentially, it's "We are here, therefore we had to be here." In a funny way, it's just as bad as the "emergence" argument that we both find so implausible.
I do not believe the organization of the universe is random at all.

Great! Now, what gives the universe its order, then?
Now with reference to what you call:
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
... infinite regress of causes trap.
I know you believe that both existence and life had to have a beginning, but you then change the context and believe that some life and existence does not have a beginning.
No, that's not true. I said no such thing.

I think you're amphibolizing the term "life." I would argue that contingent "lives" need an origin...I would not argue that the First Cause ever could. That would be untrue by definition.
But then you, "posit," that there is another realm which does not have a beginning.
No, no "realm." A First Cause only.
Your so-called infinite regress problem is mathematically impossible. If you want to imagine cause as some kind of infinite chain, then whatever is must be accepted as the middle of the chain, with an inifinite number of causes preceding the present and an infinite number of causes following the present.
That's a manifest logical mistake. The point is this: you cannot have an "infinite number of causes preceding" anything! It's not mathematically possible.

Do an experiment, to see if I'm right.

Write on a paper the digit zero.

But before you do that, write -1. But before you do that, I want you to make sure you've already written the digit -2. But before you write any -2, I require you to have already written -3...and so on, infinitely.

The question, then, is "When will you actually get to put pen to paper," if you do as I say? And you can see that the answer is, "Never."

What I've done there is to model -1 as the "cause" of the zero. Like any cause, I said it had to happen before the zero. But I did the same with the rest of the number sequence, modelling infinite regress for you. And you discovered that it is impossible...there would be no universe at all if "an infinite number of preceding causes" were posited to have been necessary for its existence.

My other model went as follows:
... if the causal chain of your ancestors were infinite, you could not be born...ever! Because before your great-great-great-great...and so on...grandparents could be born, another had to be born in front of them ...and so on, ad infinitum. Meaning that the chain NEVER STARTS! The conditions of one person being born can never happen, because the prerequisites recede infinitely ...." except that the infinite chain has an entire eternity to fulfill itself.
And you were mistake to reply that...
It is not possible that the so-called infinite chain never got started, because the present is and the past is an eternity that preceded it, and the future is an eternity that follows it, and an infinite number of events occur in any eternity.
Eternity, even if we posit it, does not entail that any events or causes at all had to start! In fact, the fact that a causal chain DID begin is a slam-dunk argument against the suggestion that a causal-chain universe such as ours could be eternal.
Actually I do not believe in such things as infinite chains of cause, or infinite numbers of anything.
Oh, infinite chains of numbers are very plausible: take pi, for example. But causal chains, because they mean a previous stage already has to be in existence before the next can happen, are not possible.
If it could be demonstrated that there was some kind of beginning to the human species, it would do no damage to my view of human nature.
Well, those are two different issues, of course.

Nice talking to you, RC. I apologize...I may be a bit scant of reply for a bit; I'll be around, but perhaps not often. However, I'll come back to our conversation as time permits.

I trust your healing continues apace? I would hope so.

IC

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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by RCSaunders » Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:05 pm

Hi again, my friend. I'm beginning at the end.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm
Nice talking to you, RC. I apologize...I may be a bit scant of reply for a bit; I'll be around, but perhaps not often. However, I'll come back to our conversation as time permits.
I hope it's because you'll be busy doing something important, satisfying, and enjoyable. I'll be more than satisfied when you find time to discuss things which I do quite enjoy.

First, an agreement:
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm
The fact that life is an aspect of natural existence was widely held until the eighteenth century, though it was very wrongly described (as a "thing" such as a substance or energy, for example), and not simply as an attribute. It was called vitalism.
Yes, I'm familiar with that. It's no longer credited, of course.
While no actual hypothesis of vitalism was correct, the facts of reality that were the reason for those hypotheses have not changed, but are ignored. Such evidence as Pasteur's proof that there is no abiogenesis, the inexplicable behavior of living organisms (or protoplasm itself), the nature of consciousness, and the impossibility of dualism are either totally ignored or attempted to be explained by some absurd notion such as, "emergence."

I agree with you. I think "Emergentism" is no kind of explanation at all: it's a dodge, a non-answer dressed up in fancy clothes.

Another form of it is "Eliminativist Materialism," wherein all the spooky stuff (like consciousness, volition, identity, rationality, and so on) is explained away thus: "We do not know how they are physical now, but when we do, it will turn out that they'll all be merely physical."

That, my friend, is as good a case of gratuitous secular ideological prophecy as you and I will ever see. :D
I quite enjoyed those descriptions with which I totally agree!
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm
Yes, that's right. I am using the word natural in a way that is no longer common.

Oh, okay: you can do that. But if I may suggest, you should always tell people at the start that that's what you're going to do, or they'll be confused and think you're making statements they can't reconcile with facts.
I do try to make that clear, as I have done here. Obviously I'm not doing so well. Not as a defense but explanation, I've only recently started using the terms, "natural existence," as synonymous with, "material existence," because the term nature keeps turning up. If you examine everything I've ever written, including most of my comments to you, I am always very careful to explain I do not mean the same thing by, "material existence," usually meant and I do not equate it with "physical existence." I obviously need to emphasize that even more.
So, I agree to your comment about mine,
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm
That is because you equate the, "natural," with the physical.
Most people do. "Materialism," "Physicalism" and "Naturalism" are slightly different philosophies. But most philosophers understand that they can entail one another. See, for example, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/.
I, of course, do not agree with that at all, or with almost anything else put over as philosophy. It just does not matter to me what, "most people believe," except that, in most cases if most people believe something, it's probably not true. So I'll not be guilty of not making my view clear I'll repeat what I wrote:
By "natural existence," I mean the same as I do by, "material existence," and by "material existence," I mean all that exists and has the nature it has independently of whether anyone is conscious of or has any knowledge of that existence. In short, material existence is all that exists the way it exists.
and,
Material existence includes all entities: physical, living, conscious, and volitional (humans) with all their qualities and attributes.
[NOTE: I did go to your link to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article, "Physicalism." It is a wonderful example of everything that is wrong with what is called philosophy today.]

Now briefly to your comments on that:
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm
But this begs the question, "What exists?" In other words, it doesn't tell us whether metaphysical properties like volition, identity, consciousness and so forth "exist in their own right" or merely illusorily "supervene on the physical," as Physicalists say they do.
It doesn't matter what physicalists say, does it? You and I don't agree with them. You may be right that, "what 'qualities and attributes' are, and how their 'existence' is different from the 'existence' of physical things is the matter under hot debate in philosophy right now," though I haven't seen it. Perhaps because I addressed all those issues years ago:

An entity is whatever its qualities are. If entities exist, the qualities that are that existent exist. All that exists materially are entities, the qualities that are those entities, the relationships between those entities, and the behavior of those entities. No quality, relationship, or action (behavior) exists independently of the entities they are the qualities of, relationships between, or behavior of.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm
I'm not saying you're wrong to say that things like volition or consciousness exist -- I certainly believe in them -- but even I have to concede to my critics that I cannot claim they "exist" in precisely the same way, or by the same mechanics, as physical stuff does.
But life, consciousness, and volition are not entities (things, substances, energy), they are qualities, therefore, like all other attributes, they only exist as attributes of the entities they are the life, consciousness, or volitional qualities of.

If you understand that, I'm sure you'll disagree, but I don't think you need to. Though I do not recognize the existence of any entities other than those I described as material, if life, consciousness, and mind do not exist independently of those entities they are the qualities of, life, consciousness, and mind would only pertain to material entities. While I do not recognize non-material, "entities," if there were such thing as you believe, it would still be true that their life, consciousness, and minds could not exist independently of them, wouldn't it? Even for celestial or supernatural beings there couldn't be life, consciousness, or minds without living, conscious, mental beings could there?
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
But worse: this alternate Materialist view eliminates one of those things we are both at pains to affirm: volition. ... Things are really predetermined; ...
If physical properties (qualities, attributes) were all that was possible in nature, that might be true, because that which only has physical attributes is determined by physical laws.
Plausibly. But I think this runs the danger of misunderstanding what a physical "law" is. It's not a kind of rule-that-cannot-be-broken: it's just a description of the way things ordinarily seem to happen, as we have catalogued it. But it's revisable, should new data appear, and it's not impervious to violation if something new appears on the scene. That's a good deal softer as a concept.
By scientific principle (law) I do not mean the formulas and theories thus far discovered by the sciences, but the actual nature of physical existence, however well or poorly it is understood. Reality is not revisable, our knowledge of it might be. Whether we know it or not, reality has a specific nature and that nature is how it behaves and it is that nature the sciences seek to understand. The laws do not "make nature behave the way it does," the laws only describe how it behaves.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
...the the behavior of organisms relative to other entities is not predictable.
Determinist critics say this is merely because the causal chains involved are so complex, not because they're actually unpredictable-in-principle. They say that if we had all the data, these would become just as "predictable" as a rock falling when dropped.

How would you rebuff that critique? (I have my own answer to them, but I'm interested in yours.)
Well, I have answered it at length in my two articles: The Nature of Life, and The Nature of Consciousness.

Briefly I'll say, because a living organism's behavior depends on that organism's own experience, ["sentience," in the simplest organisms, "consciousness," in the more complex ones], and since an organism's experience as sensed or consciously perceived is totally private, [cannot be observed or perceived], science can never study or describe what any organism's experience is and therefore why it behaves as it does. Only that which the physical sciences are able to study and describe is physically determined.

[Also, see the article, "The Biochemistry Challenge to Darwin," I linked to at the end of this post.]
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
Even if it is granted the universe is improbable, that cannot mean it is impossible.
We're not sure about that.
I'm sure. What actually is cannot be impossible.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
There is no current explanation for how the universe, or life itself, can "pop" out of nothing, so there isn't even a complete contrary hypothesis ...
Because nothing "pops" out of nothing. If you really believe a miraculous explanation for the universe is possible, why couldn't a universe without a beginning be miraculously possible? To make it simple, "something forever," seems more plausible to me than, "something from nothing."
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
You can say, "... all we have at the moment is the bald and uninformative fact that we happen to be here," but I regard the fact that we are here as significant information. I do not need to know, "how," the universe or we got here, or, "why," the universe or we got here, to know the universe and we are here and have the nature we have.
No, that's true. You don't need to know the answer for "How did we get here?" to know "We are here." But IF we are here, then any reasonable person is going to ask a question about HOW we got here, and what the answer to that implies about what we ought to be doing while we are here.
Perhaps I am an unreasonable person, but I really do not believe how I got here has anything to do with how I should live my life. I think how I must live is determined entirely by my nature as a rational volitional being in the kind of world I live in. I think looking for some reason or purpose to life outside one's own mind and being is a kind of superstition. I expect you will find that quite unreasonable.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
Suppose you drop $10 worth (or any other number) of pennies on the ground. The possible sequences of heads and tails is 2 to the 1,000th power, and so the odds against getting any specific sequence is so low that for practical applications we could consider it to be zero. Yet every time you drop the coins, the mathematically improbable happens, because there is some sequence of coins.
Actually, what happens in such a case is randomness. Any "pattern" discerned out of it is ex post facto, meaning something you, as a conscious entity, impose after the fact.
First of all, I have no idea why you refer to the observation of facts and identifying those facts as, ex post facto,. Of course a description of something after it happens is, "after the fact." You certainly cannot describe it, "before the fact," that is, before it happens and you observe it. Identifying a fact one observes "imposes" nothing.

ex post facto, [post hoc ergo propter hoc] is only a fallacy if it is argued that a fact (b) that follows another fact (a) is caused by the preceding fact (a). I am not talking about, "cause," at all.

Nothing is random. Nothing occurs willy-nilly without any explanation at all. What appears to be random is always only ignorance of the reason events occur. The position of every penny that falls is determined by its own momentum, rate of turning, and velocity as it falls. Of course the pattern can only be observed (not imposed) after it exists. If you are going to call everything that is ever observed ex post facto,, then everything ever noticed after it happened is ex post facto. When someone notices the barn door is open and the horse is gone and says, "the horse got away," is it untrue because it is ex post facto? Why would you say that my claim the universe that now exists supports human life is ex post facto?
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
In the case of the universe, it has already been organized (the pennies have already been dropped) and it turns out, the organization is the improbable one that supports life.
That's the same tautological argument: essentially, it's "We are here, therefore we had to be here."
That's not really my argument at all, but it does happen to be true. We are here; it cannot also be true that we are not here. Only if you believe reality (and truth) are contingent could it be believed it was otherwise.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
I do not believe the organization of the universe is random at all.

Great! Now, what gives the universe its order, then?
Does the universe have an order? I never said anything about order. I only mean there is nothing random in the universe. Is, "lack of randomness," what you mean by order? I have to ask you that because it is not what I mean by order, and everyone seems to have a different preconceived idea of what order means to them.

If, "not random," means, "ordered," to you, then nothing, "gives the universe its order." Nothing happens without a reason. "Randomness," is not a property, it is a concept for how things appear to human ignorance of why some things happen.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
I think you're amphibolizing the term "life." I would argue that contingent "lives" need an origin...I would not argue that the First Cause ever could. That would be untrue by definition.
If there is an amphibology it is yours, not mine. There is only life as I have defined it, not different kinds of life (contingent, non-contingent).
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
Your so-called infinite regress problem is mathematically impossible. If you want to imagine cause as some kind of infinite chain, then whatever is must be accepted as the middle of the chain, with an inifinite number of causes preceding the present and an infinite number of causes following the present.
That's a manifest logical mistake. The point is this: you cannot have an "infinite number of causes preceding" anything! It's not mathematically possible.
How disappointing that is going to be for Newton and Leibneitz. So much for the Calculus!
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
Do an experiment, to see if I'm right.
Write on a paper the digit zero. But before you do that, write -1. But before you do that, I want you to make sure you've already written the digit -2. But before you write any -2, I require you to have already written -3...and so on, infinitely. The question, then, is "When will you actually get to put pen to paper," if you do as I say? And you can see that the answer is, "Never."
Not as good as Zeno's Paradox, but still a clever sophism. Your argument is that an infinite series of causes is not, mathematically possible, but your little experiment is not mathematical. It is asking me to do something that would take longer to do than I'll live to do. It's exactly the same kind of, "experiment," as my telling you to walk across the room, by first walking half-way across, but before you do that, walk one quarter of the way, but before you do that, walk one eighth of the way, continuing to always walking half the previous distance infinitely before proceding. You would never get started because there would be an infinite number of half ways. But you can add those infinite half-way steps up [1/2+1/4+1/8+1/16...1/n..] which will equal the distance across the room, which means if you actually walk across the room you have covered an infinite number of half-way sections.

The correct mathematical description of what your experiment intended is a mathematical series, {a(n)} = {0, -1, -2 ... n-1, ...}, with the range 0 to infinity, or {a(n)}={n-1}∞/0. There is nothing, "mathematically impossible," about an infinite number of anything, though I remain certain there are no identifiable infinite numbers of actual causes, entities, or events.

I think you will find this article interesting: "The Biochemistry Challenge to Darwin." I think the article's arguments are all technically correct with regard to the biochemistry, and I'm sure you'll see them as supporting your view, I think.

I know you are busy, so read the article when it's convenient, if you are interested, and don't feel you have to respond to these comments, either, until it fits into your schedule.

In the meantime wishing you all the best! (My grandmother always said, "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride," but you know what I mean.)

RC

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Immanuel Can
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Re: Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by Immanuel Can » Sun Dec 01, 2019 8:13 pm

RCSaunders wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:05 pm
Hi again, my friend. I'm beginning at the end.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm
Nice talking to you, RC. I apologize...I may be a bit scant of reply for a bit; I'll be around, but perhaps not often. However, I'll come back to our conversation as time permits.
I hope it's because you'll be busy doing something important, satisfying, and enjoyable. I'll be more than satisfied when you find time to discuss things which I do quite enjoy.
It was enjoyable. I took a Caribbean vacation, actually. What luxury to feel the sun on one's skin in November! Where I live, it's quite unpleasant in terms of weather right now.

But I am back now, and thank you for your comments. They are both interesting and engaging.

On Emergentism, you wrote:
I quite enjoyed those descriptions with which I totally agree!
Well, I'm waiting around to hear a good description of how "emergent" properties can "cause" their own evolutionary appearing, since they can't be of any survival value while they don't exist, and thus can't "cause" their own emergence. Darwin argued that evolution had to be "blind" to anything that did not produce immediate survival value. So that's a further problem for his theory.

Jaegwon Kim has excellent stuff on this subject. I really enjoy his writing on the emergence problem.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm

Oh, okay: you can do that, of course. But if I may suggest, you should always tell people at the start that that's what you're going to do, or they'll be confused and think you're making statements they can't reconcile with facts.
I do try to make that clear, as I have done here. Obviously I'm not doing so well. Not as a defense but explanation, I've only recently started using the terms, "natural existence," as synonymous with, "material existence," because the term nature keeps turning up. If you examine everything I've ever written, including most of my comments to you, I am always very careful to explain I do not mean the same thing by, "material existence," usually meant and I do not equate it with "physical existence." I obviously need to emphasize that even more.
So, I agree to your comment about mine,
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm

Most people do. "Materialism," "Physicalism" and "Naturalism" are slightly different philosophies. But most philosophers understand that they can entail one another. See, for example, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/.
I, of course, do not agree with that at all, or with almost anything else put over as philosophy. It just does not matter to me what, "most people believe," except that, in most cases if most people believe something, it's probably not true.
Perhaps. But when we're trying to communicate a precise or complicated idea, normal usage is our best friend. It's what most people will understand from what we say. And it's not unreasonable of them to ask us if, when we depart normal usage, we carefully first stipulate that we are not using a term in a normal way. Absent that, we are likely to generate more confusions and misunderstandings than necessary -- and that's not in their interests, or ours.
I addressed all those issues years ago:

An entity is whatever its qualities are.
This is difficult to accept. It's certainly not intuitively true. A rock is perhaps brown, inert and hard...those are some of its qualities. But it does not follow that the word "rock" is adequately defined as "a brownness," or "that which is inert," or even by a combination of all three qualities. For rocks have other properties as well; and none of them in combination or alone is a sufficient definition of "rock."

In other words, qualities are adjectives we ascribe to the nouns...but these adjectival properties are not the essence of the nouns themselves.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:51 pm
I'm not saying you're wrong to say that things like volition or consciousness exist -- I certainly believe in them -- but even I have to concede to my critics that I cannot claim they "exist" in precisely the same way, or by the same mechanics, as physical stuff does.
But life, consciousness, and volition are not entities (things, substances, energy), they are qualities, therefore, like all other attributes, they only exist as attributes of the entities they are the life, consciousness, or volitional qualities of.
This is my point. We cannot therefore say, "An entity is whatever its qualities are."
...if there were such thing as you believe, it would still be true that their life, consciousness, and minds could not exist independently of them, wouldn't it? Even for celestial or supernatural beings there couldn't be life, consciousness, or minds without living, conscious, mental beings could there?
"Independently of them"? What is the "them" to which the above sentence refers? It's not clear to me.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
But worse: this alternate Materialist view eliminates one of those things we are both at pains to affirm: volition. ... Things are really predetermined; ...

Plausibly. But I think this runs the danger of misunderstanding what a physical "law" is. It's not a kind of rule-that-cannot-be-broken: it's just a description of the way things ordinarily seem to happen, as we have catalogued it. But it's revisable, should new data appear, and it's not impervious to violation if something new appears on the scene. That's a good deal softer as a concept.
By scientific principle (law) I do not mean the formulas and theories thus far discovered by the sciences, but the actual nature of physical existence, however well or poorly it is understood.

Well, we do not know anything about that, do we? The "actual nature" of which you speak? How would it be revealed to us?
The laws do not "make nature behave the way it does," the laws only describe how it behaves.
This is correct, I think. It's funny how talk of "natural laws" sometimes devolves into a feeling that they are like human "laws," in the sense that there is some impropriety or even immorality in the suggestion that any can be broken or suspended, even for an instant. In fact, some Physicalists feel a sort of fierce, self-righteous rectitude about the idea, say, of a miracle or divine intervention -- as if such a thing would be a sacrilege or an offence-against-science of some kind. But you're right: "law" just means "the way we usually observe things to work"; and though we have every reason to be surprised if we were to observe an exception, such that we might rightly exclaim, "It's a miracle!" we would not be right to suppose that science itself would be destroyed by any such event -- or that our observing of present regularities counts against the possibility of them being "violated" (note again the inflammatory language toward which they tend).
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm

Determinist critics say this is merely because the causal chains involved are so complex, not because they're actually unpredictable-in-principle. They say that if we had all the data, these would become just as "predictable" as a rock falling when dropped.

How would you rebuff that critique? (I have my own answer to them, but I'm interested in yours.)
Well, I have answered it at length in my two articles: The Nature of Life, and The Nature of Consciousness.
Thank you. I'll take a look.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm

We're not sure about that.
I'm sure. What actually is cannot be impossible.
It can, however, mean "impossible by non-supernatural means." In fact, I would suggest that that might well be what it DOES mean.
If you really believe a miraculous explanation for the universe is possible, why couldn't a universe without a beginning be miraculously possible?
It would hardly be "miraculous," then, would it? :wink: But more seriously, we're speaking of two hypotheses here, and of the argument-to-the-best-explanation. One could opt for the theory that a contingent universe popped into existence for no reason, in an utterly unique way, and without a cause, with all the complexity and design in manifests. In a similar way, we could say that our present world popped into existence yesterday, complete with all the furnishings of a long history that never really existed. That's possible: but is it the argument to the best explanation? And would any of us readily accept it?
To make it simple, "something forever," seems more plausible to me than, "something from nothing."
However, it has the distinct disadvantage of being against all science and data that we actually have. We already know that the universe is not eternal, and that it had to have a beginning. All that's really left to debate is the precise nature of the First Cause -- not its necessity.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm

No, that's true. You don't need to know the answer for "How did we get here?" to know "We are here." But IF we are here, then any reasonable person is going to ask a question about HOW we got here, and what the answer to that implies about what we ought to be doing while we are here.
Perhaps I am an unreasonable person, but I really do not believe how I got here has anything to do with how I should live my life.

Oh, I think it has to, obviously.

I mean, IF we ALREADY know that we are simply here by accident, there is no purpose. All there is are the contingent, arbitrary, temporary and inevitably failing "purposes" men invent for themselves -- but these have no ultimate value. But then also, there's no way I "should" live my life; only a bunch of ways I "could" choose to live it, with none being in any durable sense "better" or "more moral" than any other -- they're all just alternatives, within an uncaring universe.

But if we even entertain the thought that a conscious Entity might have created us for a purpose that Entity has, then to actualize that purpose is our mission, and to do that which accords with the achieving of that purpose is what we should mean by "morality." And ultimately, to achieve that purpose is what it means to have lived a "full," "valuable" and "realized" life.
I think how I must live is determined entirely by my nature as a rational volitional being in the kind of world I live in.
This is exactly right. But then, the question is, "In which kind of world do we actually live -- an accidental one, with no inherent purpose in it, or a purposeful world created by the deliberate decision of a loving God?"
I think looking for some reason or purpose to life outside one's own mind and being is a kind of superstition. I expect you will find that quite unreasonable.
Not unreasonable. But one that forecloses (in my view) far too rashly on the question above.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm

Actually, what happens in such a case is randomness. Any "pattern" discerned out of it is ex post facto, meaning something you, as a conscious entity, impose after the fact.
First of all, I have no idea why you refer to the observation of facts and identifying those facts as, ex post facto,.

Because the decision or determination that there is a "pattern" is being made after-the-fact by an intelligent being, who's imposing his own sense of pattern, after the randomness, where there is none -- there is only randomness.
Nothing is random. Nothing occurs willy-nilly without any explanation at all.
Those are two different issues, really. A thing can be random in outcome while still having a cause, and hence, not random causally.

For example, when Jackson Pollock created his famous "splash" paintings, his technique was to "use" randomness. The "pattern" discerned by both the artist and by the observer, were not a product of Pollock's deliberate choices. He did not manage or predetermine the outcome. The "pattern" was only imposed after-the-fact, and by the minds of the percipients.
Why would you say that my claim the universe that now exists supports human life is ex post facto?
Because like the Pollock painting, you say the universe was created without the deliberate volition of a Creator. It was, so to speak, a "splatter-painting." But now you point to elements of it, and say "pattern." This is ex post facto reasoning, if you are right about your first premise. There IS no pattern; one would merely have to imagine one after randomness has done what randomness has done.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm

That's the same tautological argument: essentially, it's "We are here, therefore we had to be here."
That's not really my argument at all, but it does happen to be true. We are here; it cannot also be true that we are not here. Only if you believe reality (and truth) are contingent could it be believed it was otherwise.
It does not follow that because we are here we HAD to be here. We might have been elsewhere and otherwise. Everybody thinks that's true, even the Determinist: because in spite of (and contrary to) his Determinism, he continues to act as if his choices matter.

But if his Determinism were right, there are no "choices." No such things exist. What is, had to be. There was never a time, and never any real sense, in saying it could have been otherwise.

But neither you nor I is a Determinist, I think. We both believe choices and human volition are authentic. That being so, though, there must be some sense to speaking of a could-have-been-otherwise. For instance, you and I don't have to be chatting right now. We have chosen to do so.

But truth is not contingent, because truth has only to do with reality, and with what IS, not what might-have-been. What might-have-been is what we call "speculation," not truth.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm

Great! Now, what gives the universe its order, then?
Does the universe have an order? I never said anything about order. I only mean there is nothing random in the universe. Is, "lack of randomness," what you mean by order? I have to ask you that because it is not what I mean by order, and everyone seems to have a different preconceived idea of what order means to them.
Oh, I see. We're again speaking of different kinds of "randomness." I'm speaking of the fact that Jackson Pollock painted "randomly," and you're taking me to be implying there was no Jackson Pollock. :wink:
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
I think you're amphibolizing the term "life." I would argue that contingent "lives" need an origin...I would not argue that the First Cause ever could. That would be untrue by definition.
If there is an amphibology it is yours, not mine. There is only life as I have defined it, not different kinds of life (contingent, non-contingent).
This is the key point of discussion, though. I do not think that "life" when properly defined, can exclude consideration of "the Living God," originator and source of all contingent life. You suppose that "life" can mean nothing but contingent life. And on that question, we have to pause -- for it's suppositional, and underlies any definition of "life."
How disappointing that is going to be for Newton and Leibneitz. So much for the Calculus!
Watch my wording carefully, if you don't mind: there is no such thing as an infinite regress of causes, and to think so can be shown mathematically.

Note that I did not say that there is no such thing as a mathematical idea or concept called "infinity": clearly there is. Pi is infinite, for example. So is the complete set of integers. We can speak of each coherently...though we can never physically see them in their completeness.

However mathematics is not a causal property. Maths never "caused" anything. The ability to conceptualize infinity is not affected by the impossibility of an actual infinity in regress of causes.
Immanuel Can wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 4:58 pm
Do an experiment, to see if I'm right.
Write on a paper the digit zero. But before you do that, write -1. But before you do that, I want you to make sure you've already written the digit -2. But before you write any -2, I require you to have already written -3...and so on, infinitely. The question, then, is "When will you actually get to put pen to paper," if you do as I say? And you can see that the answer is, "Never."
Not as good as Zeno's Paradox, but still a clever sophism.
It's not a sophism, actually. And Zeno's paradox isn't analogous: he mistook a ray for a segment.

It's a demonstration of the impossibility of an infinite regress of causes. Because BY DEFINITION, the "caused" cannot have taken place until AFTER the "cause" attributed to it. This fact, so to speak, "holds up" the commencement of the caused until the causer has first existed. And this makes any infinite regress utterly impossible. The chain can never begin, because the prior cause of the prior cause of the prior cause, is lost in infinite regress, and thus suspended eternally.

If causal chains had infinite regress, nothing would ever have happened.
I think you will find this article interesting: "The Biochemistry Challenge to Darwin." I think the article's arguments are all technically correct with regard to the biochemistry, and I'm sure you'll see them as supporting your view, I think.
I'll look. Again, thank you.

As we launch into the Christmas season, RC, I hope yours will be full of warmth, good times and close friends. It's good to be talking to you again.

IC.

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