Ways of knowing

by Neil Rickert

There have been several posts about scientism over the past few weeks, particularly at

I won’t single out specific posts at those sites, as I will only be making general comments.  Most of the people reading this have probably also read those other blogs and have already seen some of the relevant posts.

The claim made by proponents of scientism is, to perhaps overstate it a little, that the methods of science are the only way to knowledge.  I’ll count the first two of the sites I listed as favoring scientism, and the last two as opposing it.  And I’ll count myself as an opponent.

The proponents of scientism usually say that they include other disciplines, such as history, when they talk of using the scientific method.  On one hand, this is good, for it means that their scientism is not as narrow as it might seem.  Yet, on the other hand, it is also quite puzzling.  For history is very different from science, so different that it seems strange to say that it uses the same methods.  I’ll discuss this point later in the post, where I shall indicate why I consider science so clearly different from history.

Knowledge

If we are going to talk about knowledge, we should start by agreeing what we are talking about.  Philosophers often define knowledge as justified true belief.  I am on record as disliking that definition of knowledge.  It has always seemed to me that our knowledge vastly exceeds what can be expressed in the form of written or spoken statements.

If we take a more expansive view of knowledge, then the proponents of scientism would probably agree that there is a lot that does not come from the scientific method.  Examples would include the knowledge involved in appreciation of art and the knowledge required to excel at a sport.  So, to be fair to the proponents of scientism, I shall limit this discussion to what does reasonably fit the “justified true belief” designation.  In fact, I shall define the discussion to what we might call “factual knowledge.”

The puzzling thing for me, is that even when we restrict our consideration to factual knowledge, there is an enormous amount that does not come via disciplines such as science and history.

The overwhelming bulk of our factual knowledge is cultural knowledge.  It not knowledge about the physical world.  It is knowledge that we need to be part of a society.  This includes facts about the banking system, facts about how to shop in a supermarket, facts about sports such as golf or football or baseball or cricket.  It includes facts about government and politics, facts about the arts, facts about understanding the weather report, facts about using the Internet, facts about blogging.  It even includes facts about putting out the garbage for collection.

Some of those cultural facts will be of interest to historians and to those in other academic disciplines.  But much of our cultural knowledge is sufficiently mundane that it is not likely to be studied by any professional discipline.

Contrasting history and science

I’ll now turn my attention to the differences between science and other disciplines such as history and journalism.  Both science and history use evidence on which to base conclusions.  And that is probably what proponents of scientism have in mind when then include disciplines such as history among those using the scientific method.  However that is surely too simplistic.

History mainly uses evidence that already exists.  That is to say, they look at records that were made in the past.  They might also look at artifacts, so their descriptions of artifacts would perhaps count as evidence that did not already exist.  But it will still be similar in kind to already existing evidence.

Compare that to science.  When physicists started investigating electricity, there was no data or evidence about voltages or electrical currents.  The concepts of voltage (technically, elecromotive force) and current were not in use.  The scientists had to invent these new concepts, and they had to invent ways of getting data that related to those concepts.  This invention of new concepts is not restricted to physics.  Before Mendel, nobody talked about genes.  Before the work of Crick and Watson, nobody talked about the genome.  Across the physical sciences, and to a lesser extent with the social sciences, we see the invention of new concepts and new forms of data that had never been used before.  That is very unlike what happens with fields such as history or journalism.

Religions and knowledge

Perhaps one of the greatest concerns of the proponents of scientism, is that they want to exclude religion as a way of knowing.  Yet I fail to see how that can work.  A lot of what happens in a religion involves traditions and rituals that would count as cultural knowledge.  And some of that cultural knowledge is best acquired by being part of the religion.  So I don’t see that we can rule out religion as a way of knowing.

For myself, I do not value religious knowledge.  And I presume that proponents of scientism likewise do not value it.  But that it has no value to me does not imply that is not knowledge which others might value.

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31 Comments to “Ways of knowing”

  1. Hi Neil,

    I feel here you are misrepresenting the view about science being the only ‘way of knowing’. I feel the correct view, and one I’ve seen many scientists portray, including Dawkins and Coyne as examples, is that humans have only one way of knowing (a single epistemology of varying reliability) and that is modern empiricism: the view that we have only the sense and reason, where reason is a process of the physical brain, and the senses are physical systems that are part of the physical world that interact with other parts of it. Science then is merely a subset of all variations on the use of empiricism, a subset developed by humans as a means of compensating for the natural limitations and fallibilities of the senses and reasoning. Science is merely a more rigorous approach to our one way of knowing.

    One of the key features of science is the application of its developed methods (its methodologies) to build as consistent and reliable an understanding of the world that is thought to be ‘out there’ (outside our minds), and subsequently, thanks to evolution, neuroscience, psychology, a more reliable understanding of how human brains work in this very act of developing an epistemology.

    History, art, religion are also variations on this one way of knowing, varying in the degree to which they require and are able to develop the same consistency of understanding.

    History tries to apply more of the thorough scientific methods where it can (e.g. dating artefacts), but has to rely heavily on inference from limited patterns of data seen in the collection of information it has available. The problem for history, and for many of the ‘soft’ sciences, is that it is difficult to draw solid conclusions, and many theories can be constructed to model the same data.

    Art has a far freer requirement for matching the senses and reason, in that it values imaginative representations of what we sense, or imagines things we cannot sense. Artists may talk of ‘truth’ and other such terms, but in the context of art this really is more representative of the emotional content and the extent to which a piece might trigger emotions. The more spiritual artists may of course want to believe that this ‘truth’ has something of the sense of being real in the actual world that science discovers, but as with all spiritual imaginings there is never any evidence of such a connection. Any connection that does exist between artistic flights of fancy and the real world are likely to exist as physical states of the brain of the artist. Various transcendentalist ideas, and related ideas such as out of body experiences have never been shown to correspond to any reality other than the activity in the brains of those experiencing the phenomena.

    Then we have religion. This is the wildest and least constrained of all applications of our ‘one way of knowing’ in that it is almost entirely Rationalist imagination at work. As with any pure Rationalism that doesn’t require consistency with sensed data, the religious can make up pretty much any damned story they like and claim it to be ‘true’. The use of faith is in direct opposition to science in this respect. Faith is the process by which the ‘truth’ comes first, and then any amount of rationalisation, as necessary, to account for all and every reasoned logical argument that refutes the religious case, and to account for any counter evidence or lack of evidence that might challenge the religious case. So certain is the application of faith in the hands of many theists they see it as total justification for the control of others.

    All this of course is an epistemological problem – how can we be sure that what we know is ‘true’. Like you I find much epistemology to be hopeless. The Justified True Belief model, along with its objections and counter models, are all stuck in a Rationalist mind set. It’s the Primacy of Thought problem that I’ve covered before. Ultimately, if you follow Rationalist thinking where it leads you can’t really escape Solipsism. It’s the only rational conclusion, and is in itself a dead end.

    Thankfully our senses seem to be so persistently nagging at our inner mental lives that we feel sure that they represent something real, that there is a real physical world out there. The metaphysics, detailed ontology of that world, is a separate debate, and one I know you don’t like to take part in. But whatever the ‘ultimate’ reality turns out to be there is never a shortage of adherents to the empiricism that we all live by. Even most religions don’t deny the senses and the existence of the natural world to any serious degree, and some rely on it, as a house of sin and a point of departure to some other promised realm. For all that we are currently enclosed in our own heads, our own ‘minds’, we don’t generally limit ourselves to the dead end of pure Rationalism, but try balance our sense and reason experiences.

    But really, we have nothing better than empiricism; and science is the best of our empiricism. So much so that as the human sciences improve and we discover more and more we can look on with incredulous scepticism at claims for ‘other ways of knowing’, such as sensus divinitatis of Alvin Plantinga; for without evidence to the contrary we can only put this down to mistaken beliefs, fantasy, faith. That the religious ‘value’ there beliefs is not in question. That the religious believe in the content of their beliefs is not in question. What is in question is the actual content of those beliefs.

    We have only one way of knowing, as far as we can tell. Claims to ‘other ways of knowing’ amount to red herrings, such as your treatment of history and art, which are no more than variations on our one way of knowing, or are claims to something else for which no one has ever provided any evidence.

    So when scientists make statements such as ‘science is the only way of knowing’ they are really expressing their understanding that it is the best of our one way of knowing. Scientism is simply a pejorative label used by those that don’t get this.

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    • “We have only one way of knowing, as far as we can tell. Claims to ‘other ways of knowing’ amount to red herrings, such as your treatment of history and art, which are no more than variations on our one way of knowing, or are claims to something else for which no one has ever provided any evidence.”

      Not surprisingly, I disagree with you here. In your defense, I will say that more than likely most scientists do agree with you. I’d like to point out however, that there are certainly properties, attributes, ideas or other “perceived things” in this world that may not be communicable to others, and if so, any “evidence” pertaining to proving said properties, attributes, etc., wouldn’t count as valid evidence (due to it being noncommunicable). Evidence is something that has to be communicated to others with little or no problems (esoteric knowledge aside) in the hopes of confirming or dis-confirming a claim. If the property, attribute, or claim is not linguistically communicable, then any “evidence” that may exist for it would be useless and non-communicable as well (most would say then that this “potential evidence” if not usable, fails to be evidence, which is simply a matter of definition — I have no problem with that definition). We can say that this is a demonstration of epistemological limitations, but regardless of what we call it, we can see that some things known by others may not be communicable and thus fall out of the scope of science. Some forms of knowledge may only be shared by two or more people if they also share similar altered states of consciousness (or something else outside of “normal”). While some might call the claim of knowledge existing outside of science (due to it being unfalsifiable, indefinitely or at this time) to be a red herring, what’s clear here is that anything that is not communicable can’t be a part of science, and I believe noncommunicable things (properties, ideas, perceptions or sensations, etc.) do exist. This goes in line with the idea that linguistic thinking is not the only type of thinking there is. I am a proponent of this idea as well, because it seems most likely that we were still thinking as a species even before we developed language to think linguistically. Science is limited by language, and thus only communicable knowledge and ideas can have any part in science. This means that there are other ways of knowing things, but only self-discovery or other “non-scientific” methods can allow more than one person to share that same knowledge. In any case, if that non-communicable knowledge is shared, it can never be proven to be shared because it is noncommunicable. Those interested in scientific exploration detest this property of non-communicability, but we mustn’t conclude that all knowledge or ways of knowing are communicable and scientific. This is where science is limited. While science may be one of the best (if not the best) ways to inter-personally gain and share the most knowledge about the physical world (whatever this may be ontologically or metaphysically speaking), it is forcefully excluded from the realm of noncommunicable knowledge.

      As for saying whether or not what we know is true or not, I don’t believe anybody can prove knowledge to be true without it simply coming back to how we are defining terms. If I define all pieces of fruit in the world to be called “apples”, then I do in fact “know” that any piece of fruit I see is an “apple”. Most people would disagree with me if I pointed to an “orange”, but that is because they define “fruit” in a different way. Definitions are the only way we can know anything to be true, because it allows a common description or idea (objective form) to be communicated within a reality that is otherwise subjectively experienced (subjective form). The key thing here is HOW we define things. If our adherence to definitions are the only way to prove something to be true or not true, then our definitions are extremely vulnerable. Science operates this way all the time. How we describe the universe often changes (definitions are modified over time), such that the agreed upon definitions are consistent with “reality” and are communicable.

      So even if one said that there is only one WAY of knowing (which I don’t believe to be true either), we would still be able to say that some knowledge exists that is noncommunicable and is thus outside the scope of science (because science requires that all concepts, hypotheses, evidence, etc., are in fact communicable). Communicability is the key here in my opinion.

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    • I feel here you are misrepresenting the view about science being the only ‘way of knowing’.

      Thanks for raising this. Maybe we can try to clear up some of the confusion.

      I feel the correct view, and one I’ve seen many scientists portray, including Dawkins and Coyne as examples, is that humans have only one way of knowing (a single epistemology of varying reliability) and that is modern empiricism: the view that we have only the sense and reason, where reason is a process of the physical brain, and the senses are physical systems that are part of the physical world that interact with other parts of it.

      If people were saying “the only way of knowing is empiricism” rather than “the only way of knowing is that used by science,” they would have far fewer critics.

      the view that we have only the sense and reason, …

      This is clearly mistaken, even for science. We have sense, reason and action. Experimentation is important to science, and requires action. It cannot be done with sense and reason alone.

      Science then is merely a subset of all variations on the use of empiricism, a subset developed by humans as a means of compensating for the natural limitations and fallibilities of the senses and reasoning. Science is merely a more rigorous approach to our one way of knowing.

      I have just explained why this is wrong (because it omits action). I’ll use the term “textbook empiricism” for what you describe. It reasonably, though not perfectly, describes disciplines such as history and journalism. It seriously misdescribes science.

      Let’s make an important distinction here. The work “knowledge” refers to something that is personal and individual. It might be that much of my personal knowledge comes from experience, and some of it from textbook empiricism. But if that is what we are discussing, then it makes no sense to mention “science”. I take, then, that the discussion is not really about individual knowledge and how an individual acquires knowledge. Rather, it is about the role of institutions, such as science, in that knowledge acquisition. Unless we understand it that way, the whole “scientism” debate makes no sense.

      If we look at the role of science as an institution, then I can agree that empiricism (textbook empiricism + action) is a lot of what science does. One of the points that I made in my post, was that there is, in addition, a lot of cultural knowledge that is important to us but which does not arise from the methods of science. Individually, we might pick up that cultural knowledge with the methods of textbook empiricism. However, at the level of institutions, a great deal of cultural knowledge originates by means of invention rather than by empiricism. And here, I use “invention” broadly, so as to include ad hoc inventions that filter up into the culture at large, as well as high level inventions that begin near to the top.

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  2. Hi Lage,

    If these other ideas are ‘non-communicable’ then they are only subjectively experienced by an individual. And we already subjectively suspect, and science does give plenty of evidence to support the fact that such non-communicable ideas are not consistently reliable, and are therefore all suspect.

    It is only the common reporting of common but unshared experiences that gain consistency over all observers (of these internal experiences) that gives the confidence to accept some of them. Given that we are stuck inside our own heads this applies specifically to what we label as sensory experiences.

    We come to learn that objects have specific geometric shape, despite the distortions of perspective – so much so in this case that our brains sort of ‘correct’ for perspective so that we don’t see anything unusual in a foreshortening of a long object or the non-parallel appearance of railway lines; and so much so that it is the drawing of perspective, with guidelines, that makes these effects most noticeable. Two people viewing the same object from different perspectives become aware of this, and in listening to each other’s’ reports don’t presume they are looking at two different objects.

    Other common but unshared experiences are more difficult to quantify objectively, independently of individual observers, such as pain. The same physical pressure might cause two quite distinct nervous signals in two people, or it might produce two very similar signals, and yet we have no reliable way to scale the actual perceptions that we experience. We even feel that the experience exists at the point of contact, rather than in our heads – and yet a severed nerve would fail to report the pain to the brain, so there would be no experience of pain.

    So evidence is a complex concept. A materialist empiricism, which I think is the case, implies that our Rationalist minds are themselves entirely physical, so that everything is physical. Any experience that is non-communicable is merely a physical experience going on inside the head of the subjective observer. Given that the brain is a finite size and a consumer of a finite amount of energy there seems little scope for some of the more transcendent claims that are often associated with ‘other ways of knowing’.

    “we can see that some things known by others may not be communicable and thus fall out of the scope of science”

    I would paraphrase that as ‘we can see that some things that are claimed to be known by others may not be communicable and thus fall out of the scope of science to confirm or deny, and are therefore as pointless as claims’

    That of course that may still be of value to those experiencing them, which I agreed with in my earlier comment.

    But a significant point of epistemology is in deciding what we can and cannot know (as well as deciding what it is to know something). Where a claim is based entirely on a non-communicable experience then the subject has no access to science either, and so they too are in the same epistemological boat as the rest of us with regard to that experience. All they can legitimately claim is that they have had some personal experience (which may manifest itself as entirely mental, sensory, or sufficiently mental to convince the subject it was sensory). They too have no means of verifying the content of the experience, or the truth of what they infer from the experience. The nature of delusions is that they seem real, and so are indistinguishable from reality. This is the appropriate degree of scepticism which is being applied when claims to other ways of knowing are made.

    I don’t think the claim that these experiences are outside science holds water. Indeterminate by current science, yes, fine. But out of body experiences, for example, have been tested and found to be false – in that what is reported from the external perspective does not match third party observation; and out of body experiences can be induced by direct brain stimulation.

    Other experiences illustrate how unreliable is our own reporting of mental perceptions. A matrix of signals can be used to stimulate the tongue, driven by a camera. This is a very low fidelity signal that at first produces meaningless mental signals that create a replacement for lost sight. But the brain can learn to fill in the detail to make it appear as if the fidelity is greater than it is. Cochlear implant signals start off with a similar useless noise, but the brain learns to use those signals. The implication is that the brain fills in a lot of detail as it builds a learned response. Prior to these sorts of experiments we were left to wonder how just a few optic nerves transmitting trains of pulses into the brain could convey such high fidelity information that we perceive as sight. It is clearer now that they do not.

    The brain can produce perceptions of amazing fidelity from very little data. And it can produce perceptions that are even more detached from any reality. People who hear voices in their heads are known to have the auditory cortex stimulated, but with no input from the ears – this is entirely internally generated noise from the brain constructs real perceived sounds.

    All this is indication enough that all strange mental phenomena are rally just that.

    So, “This means that there are other ways of knowing things” should be restated as “This means that there are claims of other ways of knowing things”. When these claims are occasionally taken seriously they seem to be debunked, or forever remain claims of non-communicable experiences. And again, how does someone enjoying such an experience distinguish real content from imagined content?

    “In any case, if that non-communicable knowledge is shared, it can never be proven to be shared because it is non-communicable.”

    Then we reject it, as we do for any shared claims of the non-communicable experience of astrology actually working, or that fairies exist.

    “Those interested in scientific exploration detest this property of non-communicability, ”

    Some might well lose their patience with these claims, but so what. That does not give credence to the claims. Be careful of using the arguments of conspiracy theorists and paranormal investigators: that scientists reject their claims is somehow relevant to the credibility of the claims.

    “…but we mustn’t conclude that all knowledge or ways of knowing are communicable and scientific.”

    I don’t think anyone is concluding that in any absolute sense. Given the untold number of possibilities we might imagine to be true it’s merely a matter of efficiency to accept as true only thos claims that can be at least verified. This isn’t an outright rejection of the claims, only a pointing out that if the subject has no means of telling if they are true, and if they are non-communicable, what is there left to make of them? Some Pastafarian’s really do claim the FSM is real. I presume they are joking in order to make a point, but as long as they are insistent, as long as we have only their word for it, as we do with claims to other ways of knowing, should we deny them simply because we are second guessing their intentions? Where does this gullibility stop?

    “This is where science is limited.”

    Well, this is where empiricism, our one way of knowing, is limited. This is the problem we are all subject to. This is the nature of human brains. This is why scepticism, as opposed to certainty, is so valuable.

    “While science may be one of the best … it is forcefully excluded from the realm of non-communicable knowledge.”

    As are those that are having the subjective experience. They may have the knowledge that they are having an experience, but they do not have the knowledge of the content of the experience. Which makes such claims so much hot air.

    “I don’t believe anybody can prove knowledge to be true without it simply coming back to how we are defining terms.”

    Agreed.

    “Definitions are the only way we can know anything to be true”

    Yes, I agree. That’s the extent to which it is true that a bachelor is an unmarried man. But this is trivial. Problems come only with more complex arguments that call on experience and concepts, and there, deductively, in order to ‘prove true’, only validity can be assured, from the form of the argument. The soundness of any such argument always goes back to more and more premises. Deduction is a useful tool within a framework of already agreed premises, but is hopeless at creating knowledge.

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    • “Hi Lage, If these other ideas are ‘non-communicable’ then they are only subjectively experienced by an individual.”

      Well any experience is subjective (including those that involve communicable ideas), even if we think it is a perception of something that exists independent of our minds. Likewise, there could be something that “objectively” exists, has been experienced by someone, and is non-communicable. Unfortunately, verifying the experience in a way to satisfy most would involve the scientific method. If this is not possible, then anything known through this experience is outside the scope of science. If there was a synesthetic experience for example, a description of the experience may by either indescribable or not make any sense to a “normal” 3rd party (if a person was “hearing” colors or “seeing” sounds for example). One would be limited by language when trying to convey an experience that involved “seeing these sounds” or “hearing these colors”. I’m not saying that science has nothing to say about synesthesia, but what I’m saying is that there may be knowledge gained from an experience that is indescribable due to the limitations of language. Science is limited by this language, whereas knowledge as a whole, is not, simply because knowledge would include that which is true but is nevertheless indescribable. I want to add that there may be ideas or concepts that we simply don’t have words for and communicating them will be troublesome, incomplete, misleading or even impossible. This can apply to philosophical truths/knowledge, etc. To use another example, if someone discovers a major philosophical revelation, but they can’t explain it in words or very clearly — there may be knowledge at play, but it is non-communicable. They may even attempt to describe it to someone else by trying to approximate what they mean (in hopes for validation or presenting evidence), but may never be able to overcome the inevitable linguistic limitations in their description etc.

      “And we already subjectively suspect, and science does give plenty of evidence to support the fact that such non-communicable ideas are not consistently reliable, and are therefore all suspect.”

      So is science. It has been changing non-stop ever since it started. Every passing decade reveals how “old truths” are no longer “truths” and they’ve been replaced with new models or “new truths”. Science is incredibly inconsistent. It is consistent with creating new models that are able to predict outcomes more successfully over time, but the models and descriptions themselves are all approximations. Most importantly though, people have faith in science being able to best describe what is “real” and what is “not real”. What if “hallucinations” are really something that is objectively “out there” or real in some other way, but only those having the hallucinations are able to experience it. We may say, “the person hallucinating is not seeing things that we can see with our instruments, or that we can see”. Instruments are only designed to see what they are designed to see. The majority of people have similar physiological states and thus have similar sensations and perceptions. If on the other hand, we as a society drastically changed our physiological states, but left one “sober” person around — isn’t it possible that we’d accuse that one person of “hallucinating”? In other words, would the “reality” that we see in a dramatically different physiological state change the effectiveness of certain methods (scientific or otherwise) in attaining knowledge or truth? My main point here is that the methods and senses that we use for knowledge attainment may differ depending on physiological states as well, and this may prevent one “way or knowing” from being translated to another “way of knowing” as we can only effectively communicate ideas that are “on the same wavelength” as the person listening.

      I could also say that science is suspect, but what I prefer to say is that science and non-communicable ideas are BOTH suspect, albeit in different ways. Science is communicable, but is suspect in being able to access ALL knowledge. Non-communicable knowledge is suspect in the sense that it can not be easily (if at all) distinguished from non-communicable nonsense (this “nonsense” may actually be something of value, but is a discussion for another time). The very nature of non-communicability means that falsifiability goes out the window, which is why science excludes it even if there is truth involved.

      “We come to learn that objects have specific geometric shape, despite the distortions of perspective”

      We do learn this in our schooling, even though it may not be true (especially for an idealist).

      “Any experience that is non-communicable is merely a physical experience going on inside the head of the subjective observer”

      The experience, yes. Since all experiences are subjective. However this does not mean that all non-communicable experiences have no correlation with what materialists would call the physical reality (outside of the mind). We could have two people that see something “real” or learn some new form/piece of knowledge, with neither of them able to communicate it to the other because of language limitations.

      “Given that the brain is a finite size and a consumer of a finite amount of energy there seems little scope for some of the more transcendent claims that are often associated with ‘other ways of knowing’.”

      I’m not sure what you’re saying here. Yes, we can consider the brain to be a finite size (based on how we measure it), and a consumer of a finite amount of energy (based on the types of energy that we are able to measure and believe to exist). How does this imply “little scope for…transcendent claims…associated with other ways of knowing”? I’m not sure what you mean exactly. Are you suggesting that we’ve accounted for all the brain activity and calories consumed and there is only room for reason and communicable ideas? I don’t want to speculate what you mean here so perhaps you can clarify.

      “Where a claim is based entirely on a non-communicable experience then the subject has no access to science either, and so they too are in the same epistemological boat as the rest of us with regard to that experience. All they can legitimately claim is that they have had some personal experience (which may manifest itself as entirely mental, sensory, or sufficiently mental to convince the subject it was sensory). They too have no means of verifying the content of the experience, or the truth of what they infer from the experience.”

      I agree. People need to be careful with what claims they make based off of non-communicable ideas. What is best is to use the non-communicable knowledge for one’s own sake. Trying to make claims based off of something non-communicable can be a recipe for disaster, since it is non-communicable. If some parts are communicable and others not, it is worse yet. Then you invite endless disagreements and confusion. I’m very confident however that there are things known by others that are not communicable, and thus are outside the scope of science. Science involves definitions and language, and once that is abandoned, it’s unfamiliar territory. The main disagreement comes from those that say that verification is needed to determine if it’s knowledge, and this of course comes back to how we define knowledge which is subjective and differs from person to person.

      Peace and love!

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  3. Neil,

    I accept fully the inclusion of action, and I include it in empiricism. I base this on what is known of human development, in that simply sensing the world would produce data for the forming brain but would hardly be adequate. It is the infants prodding of its environment, it’s testing, that is an inherent part of its experiencing the world, that allows the brain to develop.

    But then I include that in all knowledge acquisition, including history and art. The artist certainly learns by practicing and expressing with action. And even a historian won’t be a very good one if all he does is passively take in data. Even if he only ever reads data he needs to do it by actively probing various sources, collating data, comparing and weighing, a very active process. Even plants and other life forms, while not having brains, have an active interaction with the world.

    Perhaps I should emphasise the ‘action’ part more often.

    I agree that knowledge is primarily personal, but some of the limitations that come with personal knowledge are good grounds for creating shared knowledge. Specifically, as I pointed out in my response to Lage, if it’s so personal an experience that it cannot be shared at all then even the person having the experience is limited in what they can infer from it, and would have a hard time distinguishing between the knowledge of having the experience and the supposed knowledge of the content of the experience.

    It is true that ‘shared’ knowledge is a indirect comparison of personal experiences, but of course some of these means of comparing experiences (e.g. through instruments) produce the most consistent knowledge that we have. We don’t even have to have direct personal sensory experience of the actual events we are measuring. No one has ever seen a quantum event directly, in the sense that we can acknowledge that experience, but it is claimed that the measurements in quantum physics are the most precise we have.

    But then the whole of human experience is personal. A solipsist view can internalise and personalise all experience, mental and sensory, to the extent that other people and everything else thought of as physical disappears into the solipsistic black hole.

    Empiricism (including action) is so persistent that it alone provides an alternative perspective to our lonely Rationalism. And when we take empiricism seriously it leads to science. And science to biology and evolution. And they in turn, from our understanding of our non-mental ancestry, imply that we are in fact physical experiential beings, despite our Rationalist prisons.

    “If we look at the role of science as an institution…”

    I don’t look at science as an ‘institution’. This is nearly as misleading as the term ‘scientism’. There are many institutions that take part in the human scientific endeavour, and they are not all mutually supportive, and not all in agreement about what constitutes ‘science’, and that’s because the use of the term ‘science’ varies according to how ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ a science is.

    “One of the points that I made in my post, was that there is, in addition, a lot of cultural knowledge that is important to us but which does not arise from the methods of science.”

    Yes, but my response to that was that science is a subset of this wider human way of knowing. As for the cultural versions of this one way of knowing they may be better or worse depending on what they are. Does taking part in Morris Dancing provide knowledge? Of course it does. We gain knowledge in whatever we learn. Does Morris Dancing provide knowledge to non-participating observers? Yes, quite simply they observe it and learn about it to some degree. Is it of value? Well, yes, but good or bad? That depends on the individual perspective. But then the same could be said of how people see the value of the science of petroleum extraction, or the value of the LHC. That we perceive value to varying degrees in what we learn, in the knowledge we acquire, is not relevant to the principle of our one way of knowing.

    “However, at the level of institutions, a great deal of cultural knowledge originates by means of invention rather than by empiricism.”

    But institutions consist of individuals. And the work carried out ‘by’ the institutions is actually determined by and performed by the individuals in those institutions – this is merely part of the process of making personal knowledge shared knowledge. And ‘invention’ comes from reasoning, imagination, sensing, acting: empiricism. So I’m afraid this is another red herring.

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    • Then I guess we are not too far apart.

      If people would say that empiricism is the primary way of getting knowledge, instead of making a reference to science, they would run into far less disagreement.

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    • “…as I pointed out in my response to Lage, if it’s so personal an experience that it cannot be shared at all then even the person having the experience is limited in what they can infer from it, and would have a hard time distinguishing between the knowledge of having the experience and the supposed knowledge of the content of the experience.”

      I do agree with you in the sense that a person having a non-communicable experience is limited in what they can infer from it. Likewise, this could be hard to distinguish from the act of obtaining non-communicable knowledge from that experience (as opposed to knowledge of simply having the experience). However, if someone gains insight or new ideas other than a mere episodic memory, I think their assumption of gained knowledge is justified. As you said though, it would be much more difficult in distinguishing the two when compared to impersonal (i.e. communicable) knowledge. Also, I think that it’s important to distinguish between “communicable” knowledge and “shared” knowledge. I think that all communicable knowledge is shared, but I do not think that all shared knowledge is communicable (i.e. communicable knowledge is a subset that lies completely within a larger set of shared knowledge). As I mentioned in a previous example, it is possible that two people know something non-communicable, and they share this knowledge in the sense that both possess it (overlap in knowledge). We’d never be certain that they both share some non-communicable knowledge, but it is possible and plausible since human brains are very similar etc. (think of Jung’s collective unconscious, the archetypes, etc.). You seem to refer to shared knowledge as that which is exchanged or transferred from some person or people to others, where I’m referring to overlap in knowledge between one person and another. Both exist in my opinion. Anyways, it never hurts to better define the terms we use so we’re all on the same page.

      “A solipsist view can internalise and personalise all experience, mental and sensory, to the extent that other people and everything else thought of as physical disappears into the solipsistic black hole.”

      True. I wanted to mention that one piece of knowledge that is shared but does not require communicability (or may not be communicable in it’s entirety) for verification is that of self-existence. We believe that our selves exist, but we have no definite proof that anything else does (which is why Solipsism is the most certain view of them all, even if seemingly less useful to some). We need no verification to be justified in believing that we as selves exist, because as Descartes put it, “cogito ergo sum”. While we may not know for sure what the “I” is, or what “existence” is, we can define the thinking thing as “I” and define the act of thinking as some type of “existence”. As for the communicability of this knowledge, it’s hard to say what exactly we could communicate to others with regard to this knowledge of self-existence. Are we able to distinguish the knowledge of the experience from the knowledge of the content of the experience? At the very least, “Existence” needs further definition to have a better chance at answering this question, and this of course lies within ontology.

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  4. Lage,

    “Science is communicable, but is suspect in being able to access ALL knowledge.”

    No one is claiming science has access to all knowledge, or expecting that it should have it. Some (and I’m one) do think that we cannot say that some things are beyond science, which is quite a different point. This is because a claim that something is beyond science is already a claim to the knowledge that it is beyond science, so is in itself a specific claim to knowledge. We cannot know what we cannot know, for to know what we cannot know is to know something of what we cannot know. I can’t even claim that I am right in thinking this, because it too would be a claim to knowledge that I can’t be certain of. So, to say that science is suspect is stating the obvious.

    “If this is not possible, then anything known through this experience is outside the scope of science.”

    The question then is, is it known? Or, what is actually known? Or, what is it to know something? Only the experience, not the ‘truth’ of the experience can be known. Remember, it is usually the explicit claim of those that claim ‘other ways of knowing’ that there are other ways of coming to ‘truth’. But they are empty claims. The best anyone can offer is a correlation of what we think we know internally with what we think can be verified externally.

    “We could have two people that see something “real” or learn some new form/piece of knowledge, with neither of them able to communicate it to the other because of language limitations.”

    But all you can be sure of in such situations is that their brains have acquired some novel state. The very fact that they are only personal experiences, in the brain, does not guarantee correlation with reality, since we know of brain states that do not correlate with reality (other than with the self reality of those very brain states). Knowledge, to humans, may be considered to consist of physical brains being in some state, and we tend to call it shared knowledge only when there is a shared identifiable correlation with the external world.

    I fully accept that when two theists discuss their ‘knowledge’ of God they are experiencing at least vaguely similar if not very similar states of mind, states of the brain, that through centuries of language and learning corresponds to a shared ‘knowledge’. But that ‘knowledge’ is only hypothetically representative of something real. There is no evidence for the God that their brains are conceptualising. If we want to look in detail at what is going on and really want to include these conceptualisations as knowledge then knowledge is only a matter of states of a brain. As a physicalist I’m happy to go down that road, but I suspect that many of those who are making these claims to other ways of knowing are not.

    With regard to the finite brain I was referring to claims that would clearly require something measureable that would go beyond what a brain would appear to be capable of. An example would be ‘astral planing’ where supposedly the mind leaves the body. Discussions of these phenomena are often accompanied by language that suggests more than is possible. I will grant that in this case it may be that such mystics are using inappropriate language because no better language is available, so they may be easily misunderstood. But really it boils down to what we know of physics. If they want to make claims for these other capabilities, or other energies, then they need to either demonstrate some science that will illuminate them, or accept that they are making unsupported claims that are indistinguishable from delusion or illusion.

    “What is best is to use the non-communicable knowledge for one’s own sake.”

    But that isn’t what happens. Quite naturally (and I don’t blame them for this) people who have vivid experiences they want to share them, and so speak of them publically. And then, quite naturally too, they will find disagreement. Historically these disagreements have been nothing more than debates in the realm of pure rationalism, all speculations from introspection. But empiricism generally, and science in particular, has given us a better way of assessing such claims. Again I emphasise that science isn’t ‘disproving’ these claims, but is simply offering counter evidence or demonstrating a lack of supportive evidence where they have been tested, or simply asking for evidence that can be tested. Nothing more.

    Yes, synesthesia is a subjective personal experience, but one that now has a scientific understanding. It is not another way of knowing, but simply a cross wiring of the sensory and perceptive activity of the brain, a variety of the one way of knowing.

    Can you give specific examples of ‘other ways of knowing’ that we can discuss?

    I gave ‘out of body experience’, for example, but science has debunked it, by finding no evidence to support it and counter evidence that demonstrates a natural physical system at work – the physical brain.

    Prayer? No evidence found.

    ESP? Detection of the paranormal?

    The point of bringing up sensus divinitatis of Alvin Plantinga was to illustrate that here is a claim to something that would be ‘another way of knowing’, and that the hopeless nature of the claim is bizarre. But it’s main problem is that it suffers from unsupported premises: that there is a God that put the sense there. This is the pure Rationaist at work, heaping one claim upon another without any pretence at verification by any means.

    All claims that cannot be at least verified (but also not falsified, etc…. methodologies of science build on our basic empiricism) are empty claims. There are so many things that we can imagine to be true that we are capable of believing any, unless we have some means of checking them out. As flawed as science is, as contingent as it is on our fallible senses and reasoning, as much as it does rely on our subjective experiences, it’s the best we’ve got and the best antidote to believing any old nonsense.

    An individual experiencing the ‘word of God’ as a very convincing audio effect may be so convinced, personally. When confronted with the science that shows that some of us can ‘hear things’ without stimulation of the ears are left with a dilemma. They can accept the science and question their faith (or at least that aspect of it) or they can stick to their faith and believe despite the evidence. The latter isn’t unusual. Humans are capable of believing stuff despite counter evidence. This is the natural fallible human brain at work.

    The only workable solution is that all lonely isolated subjective claims are treated *as if* they are not true, whether they are actually true or not. And it will be science that eventually shows them to be true, if they are true, because any ‘evidence’ offered in support will be subjected to scientific scrutiny and accepted if convincing. We know this is how science works, and this is why it is claimed that science is the best way of the only way knowing.

    You can explain how subjective science is all you like. This is already accepted. Science itself is an attempt to compensate for that very subjectivity so that we can have the most reliable shared knowledge. None of this is actual evidence for ‘other ways of knowing’.

    What have turned out to be natural processes at work (if sometimes not working well) were at one time thought of as mysterious, spiritual, magical, ‘other ways of knowing’. Those claims that remain (sensus divinitatis) remain as empty claims.

    “I want to add that there may be ideas or concepts that we simply don’t have words for and communicating them will be troublesome, incomplete, misleading or even impossible.”

    Then that’s all they are, troublesome concepts. If we can’t even understand them personally then we cannot then make further claims of them. It is this act of going beyond what we do know and making claims that are not supported simply because something is as yet unexplained that I am objeting to.

    “This can apply to philosophical truths/knowledge, etc. To use another example, if someone discovers a major philosophical revelation, but they can’t explain it in words or very clearly — there may be knowledge at play, but it is non-communicable.”

    Yes, I agree there will be something of the nature of ‘knowledge’ in that the brain of that person has changed, has some new concept in mind that he struggles to put into words. But this is not some ‘other way of knowing’. But brains are full of all sorts of data, and much of it isn’t even conscious. You need to be careful of the temptation to think only in terms of ‘mind’, as if it is a dualistic entity working outside the physical constraints of the brain (unless you are a dualist of course, in which case we need a different discussion).

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    • “The very fact that they are only personal experiences, in the brain, does not guarantee correlation with reality, since we know of brain states that do not correlate with reality (other than with the self reality of those very brain states).”

      I don’t think that we can know this. We can hypothesize that certain brain states do not correlate with reality, but they may in fact have a correlation that we do not see (either under normal circumstances or at all).

      “So, to say that science is suspect is stating the obvious. “If this is not possible, then anything known through this experience is outside the scope of science.” ”

      Yes, I agree that it is stating the obvious. Just as claims based on internal mental states are suspect, so are those based on science (albeit in different ways).

      “The question then is, is it known? Or, what is actually known? Or, what is it to know something?”

      You are now speaking of epistemology and what it means to know something or acquire knowledge. This is part of the argument we are discussing with regard to Scientism. Scientism precludes the idea that knowledge is only obtainable one way (i.e. the one way of knowing). A Solipsist would say that the only thing we can know is that our selves exist (something outside the scope of science, because it is internal knowledge based on skepticism of anything external — which science utilizes). In my opinion, this means that there is knowledge that is non-communicable and internal, and there is that which is uncertain that science tries to address and explore. Two types of knowledge here, and the more certain of the two (Solipsism) is outside the scope of Science because science precludes experimentation and 3rd party verification (forms of falsifiability) but Solipsism precludes that there is no certainty that 3rd parties even exist.

      “Some (and I’m one) do think that we cannot say that some things are beyond science, which is quite a different point. This is because a claim that something is beyond science is already a claim to the knowledge that it is beyond science, so is in itself a specific claim to knowledge.”

      Knowledge which is non-communicable is beyond science, period. Science is limited by language in terms of our hypothesis, what we’re trying to measure, and the evidence that ensues. A claim of knowledge of one’s own existence is a perfect example. We can try to describe existence and our experience of it, but the knowledge that we exist consists of non-communicable elements which are outside the scope of science. Science includes 3rd party verification about the external world, and knowledge of self-existence based on the experience of self-existence is outside the realm of 3rd party verification. We’re going to have to agree to disagree here. I will say however that we do agree on some points here. It is difficult to define knowledge, and if we agreed on a definition for knowledge and how it is obtained, then we’d have no argument. That is where we diverge, and it may simply be that neither of us have a clear definition of what knowledge is nor how it is obtained. It’s very difficult to do.

      ” I fully accept that when two theists discuss their ‘knowledge’ of God they are experiencing at least vaguely similar if not very similar states of mind, states of the brain, that through centuries of language and learning corresponds to a shared ‘knowledge’. But that ‘knowledge’ is only hypothetically representative of something real. There is NO EVIDENCE for the God that their brains are conceptualising.”

      In defense of the theists you speak of, I will say that they do have evidence in the sense that it is presented to them through a form of self-realization. The evidence isn’t “evidence” in how scientists define the term, that is, evidence for falsifiable claims. Since their claims are not falsifiable, the type of evidence present is not scientific. The self-realization of their unfalsifiable claim is “proof” enough for those theists and thus serves as a form of evidence. I’m only mentioning this because it’s important to remember that they don’t believe what they believe simply by complete abandonment of reason. They do use reason (in certain ways), but they value their internal “evidence” (not scientific evidence) more so than pure reason concerning the physical (external) world, whereas scientists don’t consider anything to be evidence unless it is external. What we can say is that there is no “scientific” (i.e. external) evidence for the God that their brains are conceptualizing. They do think that their is evidence, however it is meaningless in the eyes of science because it is internally-based.

      “If we want to look in detail at what is going on and really want to include these conceptualisations as knowledge then knowledge is only a matter of states of a brain. As a physicalist I’m happy to go down that road, but I suspect that many of those who are making these claims to other ways of knowing are not.”

      I agree with this notion in a sense. To me, knowledge is more a matter of conceptualizations (and how they relate to other conceptualizations) than any “correlation with reality”. As for physicalism, I disagree with this view in that I wouldn’t say that conceptualizations are merely physical “states of a brain”. While we may see a correlation between what we measure as particular brain states and conceptualizations within the mind, it’s impossible to determine if the correlation is also causal, and even if it is causal, which causes which. I have a belief that mental states are just as real as anything we think is independent of us. Part of this is because I’m a non-separatist and think that we (all “components” of the universe, thoughts included) are all unified as one and are thus equally real. Likewise, a dream, hallucination, etc., are all equally “real” in my opinion. I tend to think of the acausal nature of ontological randomness within Quantum mechanics as a hole within the idea of physicalism (unless physicalism has something to say about causation or lack thereof — science certainly assumes causation in the methods used). For me, while I do not believe that we have “souls” per se, physicalism is incomplete as well when it comes to seemingly paradoxical qualia that exist in the universe (consciousness resulting from a “physical” brain for example). The fact that we experience anything (consciousness) is not resolved within physicalism. In my opinion, it makes more sense to say that there are non-physical attributes of the universe (mind, thought, etc.) which are primary, and the “physical” attributes of the universe (matter, energy, etc.) are secondary since they are only attainable through conscious experience.

      Try to imagine the universe prior to mental consciousness emerging (even if we don’t know when this was). We can imagine a universe filled with matter and energy, but there would be nothing there to experience any of it! We can say “IF there were a conscious being looking at the early universe, it would look like this or that”, but before consciousness, what “is” there exactly? It seems to me that “existence” begins with some form of consciousness, and I see consciousness as a non-physical attribute. I don’t imply human consciousness, or even animal consciousness (i.e. mental consciousness) here, but rather any type of consciousness. So all matter (energy) may have some property of consciousness which collectively adds up to our mental level of consciousness when it reaches a particular configuration, but if this is the case, we have never measured this property in matter. It’s very fascinating.

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  5. “which is why Solipsism is the most certain view of them all”

    But it isn’t certain at all. It’s just one more speculative Rationalist view – it just happens to be one where all Rationalist views can lead. This isn’t a positive certain proposal. If anything it’s a criticism of pure reason, in response to any Rationalist claim (including theological ones): “You say there is a God? I say there is no God, and no you, only me, and only my mind, in all existence.” It’s only use, epistemologically, is to expose the weakness in Rationalist arguments.

    “We need no verification to be justified in believing that we as selves exist, because as Descartes …”

    I wouldn’t say we need no justification; more that we can’t find any justification. A ‘thinking thing’ is the last sceptical move left to Descartes from which he can bounce back (though he does that very poorly). If he continues his doubt he is left desperately asking what it is to be a non-thinking thing, while actually thinking that very thought. The cogito is the last ditch intuitive Rationalist premise that we all seem to rely on. It’s not satisfactory, but it’s all we have.

    And, it is the one rationalist experience we do all share. There is no need to posit a God, or anything else. From that one intuitive introspective leap, plus the arbitrary choice to accept also that there is something to our sensory experience that is not an illusion of a solipsist mind, so that we then have two modes to our investigation, reason and senses, springs the very empiricism that leads to science, to evolution, to the subordination of our reasoning to its physical sensory origins, to materialism and physicalism.

    That of course leaves lots of questions open, since this is such a contingent route to take. It offers us this one way of knowing, but gives no guarantees about what we know, what we can know. It gives no guarantees to the correspondence or correlation between our reasoned models and the anticipated reality that our senses expose. This epistemology gives no guarantees to the ontological conclusions we might come to from science.

    But what has not been exposed, demostrated, verified, is any ‘other way of knowing’.

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    • ” “which is why Solipsism is the most certain view of them all” But it isn’t certain at all. It’s just one more speculative Rationalist view – it just happens to be one where all Rationalist views can lead. ”

      No, it is very certain indeed (epistemologically speaking). The view within epistemological Solipsism, generally speaking, is that only one’s own mind is SURE to exist. A metaphysical Solipsist on the other hand is speculating. There is a distinction between the two. Since we’re discussing knowledge, I was referring to epistemological Solipsism. This is a sure bet and is a certainty.

      “From that one intuitive introspective leap, plus the arbitrary choice to accept also that there is something to our sensory experience that is not an illusion of a solipsist mind, so that we then have two modes to our investigation, reason and senses, springs the very empiricism that leads to science, to evolution, to the subordination of our reasoning to its physical sensory origins, to materialism and physicalism. That of course leaves lots of questions open, since this is such a contingent route to take. It offers us this one way of knowing, but gives no guarantees about what we know, what we can know. ”

      I believe that we have more faculties than simply reason and senses for obtaining knowledge (e.g. intuition). It is the other faculties (other than reason and senses) that I believe allow alternative ways of knowing. As for physicalism, I believe that other minds do exist independently of mine (even though I can’t be sure of it), but it is only the minds that exist in a primary sense (based on the characteristics that I ascribe to “existence”) since they lead to the experiencing of any “physical” thing. It is complicated to say the least, and I do acknowledge your position on the issue.

      “But what has not been exposed, demostrated, verified, is any ‘other way of knowing’.”

      This is because any alternative “ways of knowing” do not have properties which allow them to be 3rd-party verified, demonstrated externally, etc., due to their being a non-communicable nature to them (internally created, self-discovered, etc.). I believe the limitations of language exacerbate this inability for verification because we are trying to “objectify” a “subjective” thing. We are trying to quantify the qualia. Just as a synesthetic individual could never successfully describe what it is like to “hear a color” or “see a sound”, it must be experienced. Unlike subjective experiences in general however, where we all see colors, but may see them in a different way, crossing senses is something that is completely foreign and thus serves as a more appropriate example — to differentiate “two subjective experiences of a similar thing” from “a subjective experience that I can’t even imagine”.

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  6. Lage,

    Under the ‘doctrine’ of solipsism it may be ‘claimed’ that this is a certainty, but the fact of that claim is not actually certain, and the fuller implications of solipsism are far from implied by one’s introspective observation that “I think”.

    The whole point and problem of the rationalist spectulation that can lead to solipsism is that it is an intuitive observation, but has no objective support beyond that intuition. The very point of solipsism is that if it is true (if!) then all there is is a single mind that invents everything. If we do take empiricism seriously, and then science, and then evolutionary biology, then there is no actual ‘mind’, which is an essential part of solipsism, merely physical material that ‘behaves’ in a particular way – just as reacting chemicals behave, as cells behave, as organs behave, as organisms behave (with or without brains) as material entities labeled as humans behave when they ‘think’.

    “I believe that we have more faculties than simply reason and senses for obtaining knowledge (e.g. intuition).”

    I don’t think you’ve taken on board the warning I gave about falling for rationalist language (“You need to be careful of the temptation to think only in terms of ‘mind’”). You are using the term ‘intuition’ as if it is some magical rationalist ability. All our evidence of how the brain works suggests that our consciousness is simply not aware of all the unconscious activity that goes on in our physical brains that cause our ‘intuitions’ to appear. There really is no evidence for intuition being some other way of knowing. This is the problem with taking too seriously the views of philosophers, theologians and mystics from earlier times – they had nothing to go on. We do.

    What evidence do you have that ‘intuition’ is anything other than the unconscious working of the brain that stimulates some of our ideas and beliefs?

    “It is the other faculties…”

    So you’ve gone from one specific faculty, intuition, to now the plural. What are these other faculties?

    “I believe that other minds do exist independently of mine … but it is only the minds that exist in a primary sense ”

    So you are a dualist?

    “I do acknowledge your position on the issue.”

    Which bit? Are you objecting to my point that evolutionary biology implies that we are primarly physical entities, just another part of the physical world? I think you would have to deny evolutionary biology that shows that our ancestors that didn’t have brains are precursors to us with brains; or you would have to belive that, as religions seem cornered into, ‘mind’ has emerged or been injected into brains.

    “This is because any alternative “ways of knowing” do not have properties which allow them to be 3rd-party verified, demonstrated externally, etc., due to their being a non-communicable nature to them (internally created, self-discovered, etc.).”

    Then they are only speculative claims, and can be ignored ‘as if’ they are not real.

    “I believe the limitations of language exacerbate this inability for verification…”

    This is a dreadfully weak defence. Humans and pre-humans have gone from being interactive animals without any serious language capability to what we are now, where our language has developed to the point that it can continue to develop to describe the very complex technical world we have developed. But not only that, our language has had millenia to explain all the mystical stuff that we are supposed to experience internally. And we have failed to do it, because of the limits of language? Come on. We have had every opportunity to develop appropriate language. In the mean time we have invented all sorts of language to descibe our very recent discoveries of the physical world.

    “We are trying to quantify the qualia”

    Yes, or course. That is all we can do. Otherwise it is just a hopeless claim. And that is all that talk of qualia amounts to.

    You say several times “I believe…” Well, yes, you might. Some people believe:

    – Fairies exist
    – Astrology works
    – Mormons have a unique view of cosmology, and believe that all people are spirit-children of God, amongst other things.
    – Scientology teaches that people are immortal beings who have forgotten their true nature.
    – Christians think a man was also a god that died, was resurrected, ascended to heaven, and will one day return. And some thought that was going to happen on very specific dates in the recent past, only to be shown to be wrong.
    – That NASA did not send astronauts to the moon but faked it all.
    – That aleins have visited us and the government is hiding that.
    – That we have a sense of the devine: sensus divinitatis
    – …. this could turn out to be a very long list so I’ll stop there.

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    • “Lage, Under the ‘doctrine’ of solipsism it may be ‘claimed’ that this is a certainty, but the fact of that claim is not actually certain, and the fuller implications of solipsism are far from implied by one’s introspective observation that “I think”. The whole point and problem of the rationalist spectulation that can lead to solipsism is that it is an intuitive observation, but has no objective support beyond that intuition. The very point of solipsism is that if it is true (if!) then all there is is a single mind that invents everything.”

      I think you misread or misinterpreted what I wrote. What I said is that in EPISTEMOLOGICAL solipsism, the view is that the only knowledge that we can be certain of is that one’s own mind is SURE to exist. This is a certainty — period. If you disagree, then tell me what you think we can be sure of knowing, other than this. Or perhaps you think that we can’t be certain of knowing anything at all? The idea that “all there is is a single mind that invents everything” is one of METAPHYSICAL Solipsism which was not what I was talking about.

      “If we do take empiricism seriously, and then science, and then evolutionary biology, then there is no actual ‘mind’, which is an essential part of solipsism, merely physical material that ‘behaves’ in a particular way – just as reacting chemicals behave, as cells behave, as organs behave, as organisms behave (with or without brains) as material entities labeled as humans behave when they ‘think’. ”

      Unfortunately, I do not agree that all that exists is merely physical material that ‘behaves” in a particular way. Cells behave, organs behave, organisms behave, but the way we describe their behavior is through physical means. It is the physical description that goes in line with your “physicalist” view — HOWEVER, there is no physical description that accounts for the properties of mind (consciousness, etc.). We can describe the properties of everything else in physical terms, but there is a disconnect when it comes to “mind” and consciousness. This is the mind-body problem which as you may know hasn’t been “solved” by physicalism or any other materialistic theory. You may think that no problem exists, but until I see physical explanations to explain the properties of consciousness and experience, I remain incredibly skeptical.

      ” “I believe that we have more faculties than simply reason and senses for obtaining knowledge (e.g. intuition).” I don’t think you’ve taken on board the warning I gave about falling for rationalist language (“You need to be careful of the temptation to think only in terms of ‘mind’”). You are using the term ‘intuition’ as if it is some magical rationalist ability. All our evidence of how the brain works suggests that our consciousness is simply not aware of all the unconscious activity that goes on in our physical brains that cause our ‘intuitions’ to appear.”

      I think that intuition is a faculty that exists, and is one outside of the “reason” you mentioned. If you think that I am proposing that “intuition” is some magical rationalist ability, it is because it throws a wrench in your argument of us having only reason and senses as available faculties. You are correct that reason and the senses are the only faculties or means for verification, scientific inquiry, sensory-based empiricism, etc. I agree that this is true. Where we disagree is that reason and the senses are the ONLY faculties that exist. It is just something that we disagree on, and no matter how hard we try it’s likely that we will not persuade the other into thinking any differently. Intuition aside, “all the evidence we have about how the brain works” is scientific evidence, which will do nothing for validating faculties other than reason and the senses as scientific evidence is based on these two faculties alone. I don’t argue this. What I am saying is not falsifiable, just as my certain knowledge of self-existence is not falsifiable. You can’t prove or disprove that I exist in any ultimate sense, but I have all the proof I need to be certain of this knowledge. If there is knowledge that I can be certain of (i.e. “I exist”), but I can’t prove it to you (i.e. this ultimate proof lies outside the scope of science or external validation) — it’s quite possible that there are other pieces of knowledge that are likewise internal and outside the scope of science. You are right however, and I agree, on the point that reason and the senses are faculties with which science or empiricism operate on.

      “What evidence do you have that ‘intuition’ is anything other than the unconscious working of the brain that stimulates some of our ideas and beliefs? “It is the other faculties…” So you’ve gone from one specific faculty, intuition, to now the plural. What are these other faculties?”

      Intuition was the only specific one that came to mind. I don’t have a list here, but I also didn’t want to assume that there was only one more other than reason (any others that I’m not aware of or have no label for were accounted for by the plural usage). We will not get much farther in this conversation as you are looking for scientific evidence of any claims I make. My views are more philosophical in nature, and preclude that science is not the only way of knowing. Any ways of knowing that lie outside of science will have little or NO scientific evidence to support them. That’s the whole point. You will not be satisfied with answers I give because you are looking for scientific evidence about something that I believe lies outside the domain of science (whether it’s what I labeled as “intuition” or non-communicable knowledge). This is why we are at a stalemate here. Either way, I think that non-communicable knowledge exists and due to its non-communicability (at the very least), it lies outside of science due to science (and the shared knowledge people believe it produces) is limited by language and communicability.

      ” “I believe that other minds do exist independently of mine … but it is only the minds that exist in a primary sense ” So you are a dualist? ”

      No, actually I’m more of an idealist — however not human idealism, or animal idealism — that is, all matter may have some level of consciousness (not just “brains”, as this would be arbitrary in my opinion). I believe that consciousness is the only attribute of the universe that is “real”. Consciousness leads to an illusory reality that is independent of that consciousness. Since we, as thinking things, are able to describe what we see “physically” in the world with “physical explanations”, yet are unable to complete the description of thought and mind in physical terms, it demonstrates (to me) that the indescribable is of primary significance. To me this is analogous to the quantum mechanical assertion (within the Copenhagen interpretation) that suggests ontological randomness. We live in a seemingly causal universe with all physicalism, physical laws, etc., presiding under that premise of causality (after all we have discovered these physical laws ultimately through causality). Then quantum randomness slaps this causal inference (within the physical sciences and laws) in the face with acausality. Yet, people still believe that it is the quantum realm that is fundamental and primary (in that it leads to every adequately determined macroscopic event despite its random nature — or the appearance of order from chaos).

      “I do acknowledge your position on the issue.” Which bit? ”

      Your view of physicalism, and your view that reason and the senses (empiricism) are the only way of knowing. I just disagree.

      “Are you objecting to my point that evolutionary biology implies that we are primarly physical entities, just another part of the physical world? I think you would have to deny evolutionary biology that shows that our ancestors that didn’t have brains are precursors to us with brains; or you would have to belive that, as religions seem cornered into, ‘mind’ has emerged or been injected into brains.”

      No I agree that evolutionary biology implies that we are primarily physical entities, and thus just another part of the physical world. I agree that the biology implies this. But I’m an idealist. The idea that our ancestors did or did not have brains is irrelevant in my opinion because I think that consciousness transcends the brain and is either a property of all matter/energy (and is primary), or it exists on its own. This eliminates the silly notion that “mind” has been injected into brains, or something like that.

      “I believe the limitations of language exacerbate this inability for verification…” This is a dreadfully weak defence. Humans and pre-humans have gone from being interactive animals without any serious language capability to what we are now, where our language has developed to the point that it can continue to develop to describe the very complex technical world we have developed. But not only that, our language has had millenia to explain all the mystical stuff that we are supposed to experience internally. And we have failed to do it, because of the limits of language? Come on. We have had every opportunity to develop appropriate language.”

      It is not a weak defense at all. According to the theory of evolution, language did develop at some point, but language is a form of symbolism with intentions behind those symbols. We have not been able to describe subjective experiences to the point of differentiating them (adequately) from one another. If you aren’t seeing these limitations of language, then you are simply not looking hard enough. Just as we can’t describe and compare what the color red looks like between you and I, language limits us in many ways. No matter how many words we come up with for colors, it won’t help simply because we can’t communicate the qualia. The qualia, is one property of consciousness and experience that physicalism can’t account for or explain because physicalism requires external 3rd party verification and communicable descriptions.
      It does not matter how appropriate our language is, or how far we come. Language is a form of symbolic representation of intentions and we can only go so far with it. We can come up with more words and new words, but WHAT language actually is will never change.

      “You say several times “I believe…” Well, yes, you might. Some people believe: – Fairies exist – ”

      True. Some people also believe that the Sun is the center of the solar system. Some people also believe that matter is composed of atoms, which are composed of electrons, neutrons, and protons, etc. Some people believe that quantum randomness is ontologically random, and others believe it is simply appearing to be random (with ontological determinism at it’s core). Some people believe that reason and the senses are the only way of acquiring knowledge. As you said “… this could turn out to be a very long list so I’ll stop there.”

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  7. Lage,

    I can see now that reason and experience are, to you, on an equal footing with any crazy thing that one might suppose. Since you claim solipsism is certain do you also claim all imagined possibilities are also certain?

    The point of the cogito, that thinking implies existence, was the last ditch attempt at finding anything remotely reliable. Add to that the apparent reality of our sense experience and we have empiricism. And you want to lump this epistemological attempt at discovery of reality in with a bunch of speculative metaphysical claims that not only have no supportive evidence but have counter evidence, or can be explained in terms of our empirical understanding of the brain making dumb mistakes.

    The list I gave you is quite different that the list you gave.

    Even your first example of the Sun was once a very respectable belief from observation, where the limited evidence of the time really did lead to that conclusion. It is still a reasonable belief to hold for those ignorant of the information we have now – children and isolated peoples not exposed to the science might still believe it.

    Even the points about quantum randomness are reasonable, because the science is unclear about it. Greek speculation about atomism was a philosophical speculation based on a dichotomy that seemed logical and is still unanswered: can we go on dividing reality forever or must it stop at some discrete level.

    In other words, even though we don’t have answers to some problems, and even though some people may be mistaken in their understanding of what science has discovered, the examples you give are reasoned attempts to understand the world.

    The list I gave includes very specific ideas that remain speculative ideas about which some people maintain a committed belief, not from ignorance but from their faith in an unsubstantiated belief that they have acquired through indoctrination, or through persistent ignorance in the face of lack of evidence or counter evidence.

    The empirical cases may still have gaps associated with them, where the case is still open, or where there is room for competing theories that are compatible with the data, the ideas are adapted to conform to new data. Elements are rejected out of hand when the counter evidence becomes convincing. The earth centred view of the solar system is rejected for the heliocentric, based on better evidence; and the simple solid atom model has been abandoned based on evidence for sub-atomic particles; and the absolute deterministic model is now in doubt because of the science of quantum physics.

    In the case of the latter you might say that some ‘believe’ that the universe is truly random while others ‘believe’ that it is not – but this isn’t at all the same type of belief that is applied to the unsopported ideas, but more a speculative placing of bets, a conviction from intuition if you like. But this intuition will be flipped in the blink of an eye if the evidence becomes strong enough one way or the other.

    But the beliefs on the list I gave are so full of holes that adherents are forever constructing adaptations to excuse the belief. The belief must be maintained in spite of reason and evidence. As you say yourself, you hold your belief out of intuition and don’t require reason or evidence for it.

    Let’s take your position:

    “I’m more of an idealist – however not human idealism, or animal idealism – that is, all matter may have some level of consciousness (not just “brains”, as this would be arbitrary in my opinion). I believe that consciousness is the only attribute of the universe that is “real”. Consciousness leads to an illusory reality that is independent of that consciousness.”

    Deciding out of the blue that only brains could have consciousness would be arbitrary. But the evidence so far is that only brains do have consciousness.

    Of course some people believe only brains can have consciousness, and that the consciousness of humans is very special in some mystical way. But there is no evidence to support that case since we only have a sample of one species for special consciousness, and one source of live, based on earth bound genetics, has produced a variety of conscious brains in a pattern that is strongly supported by evolutionary theory and evidence.

    Given that there is no evidence that consciousness should be restricted to biological brains we can investigate and expect to be able to create artificial consciousness. But we expect that to require something of the complexity of the brain. All evidence shows that the type of consciousness is related to the number and the connectivity of the neurons, such that this may be at least required, if not sufficient.

    Perhaps you can tell me more about your view of consciousness. For example, is consciousness in a rock? What if the rock is split in two, does that create two consciousnesses? Is there one universal consciousness, or many – and if so how many and how are they separated? Are you and I two separate consciousnesses, or part of one universal consciousness? If we are part of one why do we disagree as if separate?

    If solipsism is the case who is the imagined party, you or me? Can we test this? Can you are I control our supposed consciousness to make the other vanish from the imagination from which they are created? Would we need to act out that destruction of an imagined other by fighting it out in our imagined material world, in order to make the destruction convincing? If solipsism is the case how come you (or I) can’t get your consciousness to remove all competing ideas?

    I realise that you think you don’t need evidence or reason to support your points of view, but I’m curious about how you came to your particular belief. Was it fully formed, un-reasoned? Did you not read any philosophical arguments that were supposed to support your case and thereby use at least some reason?

    You seem to think that reason and evidence do have a place in our lives, but your choice of when to use them seems as arbitrary as anything, as does your choice of your particular idealism over many competing ones. Your decision to use evidence and reason seems to be apparent when you use it to support your case, but you reject reason and evidence when it might not. For example, you are prepared to reason that your idea of consciousness makes the evidence from evolution irrelevant. This is very much like the counter factual support that theists give for their beliefs: the belief comes first, or becomes paramount, so that no counter evidence or argument will refute it – therefore is is true.

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    • Ron,

      “Lage, I can see now that reason and experience are, to you, on an equal footing with any crazy thing that one might suppose.”

      No, actually I never said that. Reason is the main faculty we use as human beings in our day-to-day lives. Experience on the other hand, may involve more than reason. It may involve other faculties or if you don’t believe any others exist, then one must at least acknowledge that experience involves indescribable qualia (and other non-communicables). Now with regard to “any crazy thing that one might suppose”, some questions that come to mind are: Why is the thing “crazy” in your opinion? Is it because you think someone has absolutely no “reason” for believing such things? Or is it because you don’t like the reasons for why they suppose such things? I’m guessing it’s the latter. Having faith in the idea that science will provide truth is a very easy path to take. Contemplating the philosophical implications in and of other possibilities and not simply taking everything at face value is much more challenging. One thing I will say is that everybody has reasons for why they believe what they believe (including you and I). It’s the non-falsifiability that you are uncomfortable with as well as the idea of anything that transcends the senses or “reason”. Most importantly, I don’t think you acknowledge the importance of non-communicables due to the limitations of language.

      “Since you claim solipsism is certain do you also claim all imagined possibilities are also certain?”

      I never claimed that Solipsism in general is certain, what I said (for the third time now) is that EPISTEMOLOGICAL solipsism, the view that the only knowledge that we can be certain of is that one’s own mind is SURE to exist is a certainty. Once again I ask (hopefully you’ll answer this time), if you disagree, then tell me what you think we can be sure of knowing, other than self-existence. Or perhaps you think that we can’t be certain of knowing anything at all? I will say that this “certainty of knowledge” is dependent on our definition of knowledge, but if it even remotely resembles the Platonic “knowledge = justified true belief”, then I think that will suffice. If we agree on the definition of knowledge (at least in a general sense), then I assume you’d agree that the knowledge that has the best justification over any other (and proved to be true to one’s self) is the knowledge of our own existence. It is a certainty simply because it is not external, it doesn’t matter if we are dreaming, it doesn’t matter if we were BIVs, etc., it is a certainty in all cases because we are experiencing something.
      Again if you disagree, then tell me what knowledge you think we can be certain of (if any at all). I’m curious what your thoughts are as you haven’t clarified that yet. Solipsism in general, the view that one’s mind is the only thing that exists, is NOT a certainty. This is speculation.

      “Add to that the apparent reality of our sense experience and we have empiricism.”

      I agree with you here.

      “And you want to lump this epistemological attempt at discovery of reality in with a bunch of speculative metaphysical claims that not only have no supportive evidence but have counter evidence, or can be explained in terms of our empirical understanding of the brain making dumb mistakes.”

      Your assumption that there is anything that exists independent of our minds is a speculative metaphysical claim. Your assumption that causality is certain (which leads to all of the physical laws and reason for that matter) is speculation, and is questionable by certain interpretations of quantum mechanics or other philosophical inquiry. So we both speculate via our philosophical beliefs. You just take that speculation one step further and say that the patterns and physical laws that we’ve found indicate that this potential illusory “external reality” must be real or at least more real than our minds. It’s all speculation Ron, and you must know that this is the case. As for our “empirical understanding of the brain making dumb mistakes”, this is based on an assumption that brain activity is causing something fallacious or unreal, rather than a mental construct being correlated with certain brain activity. In general, our assumption of physical “causes” for certain things may just be correlations rather than causes. It is an assumption that causes are truly causes rather than correlations. I have no doubts in my mind about the repeatability of empirical findings regarding the brain, etc., but our understanding is limited and we have many assumptions based on causality.

      “The list I gave you is quite different that the list you gave. Even your first example of the Sun was once a very respectable belief from observation, where the limited evidence of the time really did lead to that conclusion. It is still a reasonable belief to hold for those ignorant of the information we have now – children and isolated peoples not exposed to the science might still believe it.”

      Actually the sun IS the center of the solar system (that is, we define it to be so as everything revolves around it despite elliptical orbits and the center of mass being slightly off from the center of the Sun — this is the heliocentric theory Ron). Perhaps you confused my example with the geocentric theory (the Earth being the center of the solar system). As for the rest of my list, our lists are not very different in that they are both lists of beliefs. People put different weight on various beliefs, and some things that you may consider to be “facts” rather than beliefs are based on your belief in certain objective premises (external validation being required, empiricism being the only valid way to knowledge, or physicalism, which I disagree with).

      “Even the points about quantum randomness are REASONable, because the science is unclear about it. Greek speculation about atomism was a philosophical speculation based on a dichotomy that seemed logical and is still unanswered: can we go on dividing reality forever or must it stop at some discrete level.”

      One could argue that the quantum findings are not reasonable because they negate cause and effect which is what reason employs. Even if we ignored that cause-effect negation, and said it was still REASONable, you are assuming that REASON is the only way to truth or knowledge.
      As for dividing reality, you already know that I’m a non-separatist. We had quite a long discussion about my views of reductionism and how it relates to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. There is no need to delve into this again as we view this very differently.

      ” In other words, even though we don’t have answers to some problems, and even though some people may be mistaken in their understanding of what science has discovered, the examples you give are reasoned attempts to understand the world.”

      I agree. They are REASONed attempts to understand the world. No argument here.

      “The list I gave includes very specific ideas that remain speculative ideas about which some people maintain a committed belief, not from ignorance but from their faith in an unsubstantiated belief that they have acquired through indoctrination, or through persistent ignorance in the face of lack of evidence or counter evidence.”

      Your ideas of physicalism or a reality independent of our minds existing are speculative and are largely based on your scientific indoctrination. Your view that their beliefs are unsubstantiated is based on that scientific indoctrination, given what you value and believe to be the only path to knowledge and substantiation. Some people agree with you with regard to physicalism, and others don’t. There is no right or wrong belief. They are all based on what attributes of said knowledge acquisition you value most. You value 3rd party verification very highly, and I value it less.

      “In the case of the latter you might say that some ‘believe’ that the universe is truly random while others ‘believe’ that it is not – but this isn’t at all the same type of belief that is applied to the unsopported ideas, but more a speculative placing of bets, a conviction from intuition if you like. But this intuition will be flipped in the blink of an eye if the evidence becomes strong enough one way or the other.”

      Nope. They are the same types of beliefs. Both are based on speculation. If a person believes in “fairies” because they think they’ve seen one, or heard a convincing argument for their existence, then they have some support for their ideas (just not the “scientific” support/verification that you seek). Whether or not the universe is deterministic or random at it’s core will never be proven, and here’s why. If we were so certain that the universe was deterministic, and quantum physics questioned this, even if we are to find evidence of a pilot wave theory or otherwise that suggests that “it was determinable all along” — there’s no way to know that we won’t rediscover another element that appears random. Even if we never ever discover a random element, we can never be sure that it isn’t fundamentally random due to our epistemological limitations. All we can do is say what the scientific evidence says, which isn’t “truth” (even if you think that “it’s the best we can do”). It’s limited by what we are able to access in the universe. Anything at a scale that would require particle accelerators with energy greater than that of the universe to probe are impossible to probe. This is one inherent limit just off the top of my head (but I need no examples to demonstrate that the knowledge we can acquire through reductionism is limited). We can’t ever know if the universe is ontologically random or 100% determined. It does not matter what evidence we find. We can say what the scientific evidence says, but this may not go in line with intuition (including the “conviction from intuition” you eluded to earlier). The truth of the matter is that most of those that believe the universe is ontologically random are taking the evidence at face value, and those that believe it is still determinable are stuck with “reason” as their faculty for believing so. They think it is consistent with reason (even Einstein felt this way). I disagree with the view of determinism, as I believe the universe to be acausal (and that there is an infinite number of universes, and/or our’s is of infinite size, and/or an infinite iteration of universe “creation” and “destruction” occurs — on an infinite time scale). Infinity is another concept outside of reason (in my opinion) because it is not concrete, finite, and reducible which reason/causality relies on (in my opinion). We can try to conceptualize “infinity”, but it is impossible in my opinion. We are merely memorizing a definition of “endlessness” without actually conceptualizing it in it’s entirety. Even if someone were able to conceptualize it, could we ever verify it? I don’t think so. Despite this, mathematics and physics utilize the concept of infinity in various explanations and scientific descriptions (like conductivity in a superconductor for example). Other than a definition, nobody can actually show what “infinity” is (all we can do is symbolize it in a non-quantifiable way). Cantor’s Set Theory with multiple levels of infinity (i.e. infinite sets with different cardinality or countability) is another concept that abandons reason in at least some ways. The proof in his elementary diagonal argument is “reasonable”, but the concept of differently valued infinities seems unreasonable. This demonstrates that there are things within mathematics (which Physics utilizes) that are contradictory or outside of reason in at least some ways. Just taking the last example with regard to Set Theory, isn’t is reasonable to assume that an infinitely large set of anything is as large as any set can get? I think so. However when we look at Cantor’s work, we can see that infinite sets come in different “shapes and sizes” which the diagonal argument shows (i.e. some infinite sets are “countable” and others aren’t). Infinity is a great example of where “reason” and “no reason” sort of shake hands.

      “Deciding out of the blue that only brains could have consciousness would be arbitrary. But the evidence so far is that only brains do have consciousness.”

      Yes, but the evidence is based on how we define consciousness, and also the fact that we have no idea what to look for in terms of consciousness in a “brain-less” entity (since it can not respond in a certain way, etc.). One main problem we have is deciding where cells eventually turn into a conscious entity whereby sensory cells transform information into perceptions, cognition, thoughts, etc. Is there some new property that emerges? Or is consciousness a property that all matter possesses but that which is only evident or dominant in certain configurations? A more general question may be how do we define a “new” property. It may be that the “new” property has been there all along but is only realized in certain circumstances. Just as the effect of gravity on matter is not easily apparent at small scales, it is nevertheless present all the time, even if electro-static forces are dominant. I think consciousness or any property for that matter would follow similar principles. I am at least slightly skeptical when I hear the concept of properties either emerging or disappearing. What caused it to appear or disappear? Is it arbitrary? If it seems so, then perhaps there was only the illusion of emergence or disappearance, and it is a fundamental property that is constant (much like gravity). So clearly part of the problem is the need to better define what we are looking for, but this may be unachievable in some cases if we are asking the wrong questions.

      “Of course some people believe only brains can have consciousness, and that the consciousness of humans is very special in some mystical way.”

      I believe that this is definitely arbitrary and silly. If we define consciousness to be something that only brains possess, then the first point is valid, but I don’t define consciousness this way. As for human consciousness being special, this is nothing more than selfish anthropocentrism in my opinion. We can say that humans are different from other animals in some ways, and that our level of self-awareness seems unique, but that is about it (in my opinion).

      “Given that there is no evidence that consciousness should be restricted to biological brains we can investigate and expect to be able to create artificial consciousness.”

      I agree. However, what you are most likely referring to is creating a specific type of consciousness (mental/self-aware consciousness). I think the concept of consciousness in general extends further than this (i.e. to all matter). What we may have to do is differentiate “self-aware” consciousness from this “other” more fundamental consciousness that may exist. It would seem that a fundamental form would or could lead to self-consciousness, but they would be different nonetheless.

      “But we expect that to require something of the complexity of the brain. All evidence shows that the type of consciousness is related to the number and the connectivity of the neurons, such that this may be at least required, if not sufficient.”

      Right. There is a relationship that appears to exist based on scientific evidence. We can’t say that this is all there is to it (certainly not), but there is a correlation between neuronal configuration and at least some “levels of consciousness” (e.g. mental, self-awareness, etc.).

      “Perhaps you can tell me more about your view of consciousness. For example, is consciousness in a rock? What if the rock is split in two, does that create two consciousnesses? Is there one universal consciousness, or many – and if so how many and how are they separated? ”

      Yes, I believe that there is consciousness in a “rock”, in an “atom”, in anything and everything (because everything is “one” fundamentally). I believe that different levels of consciousness appear to exist due to their being a non-fundamental degree of separation. As I said before, I’m a non-separatist, which means I think that all matter and energy (which is just energy in my opinion) are ultimately “one” entity. What the illusion is ultimately, is that we are fundamentally separated. While the separation that we see and experience may be defined to be some degree of separation (e.g. I appear to be physically separated from you and appear to have a 100% independent mind), I do not believe it to be fundamentally so (we are connected on a plane we can’t see and as a result our minds are not 100% independent of each other). I believe this to be the case partly because of my assumption that what we call “the universe” cycles away from and towards a unified singularity. So you could say that I believe that a universal consciousness is “shared” in everything at once.

      The problem of Abiogenesis and the mind-body problem may result from most people seeing fundamentally different properties between the non-living and the living as well as between the conscious and the non-conscious. The fact that there is a problem creating an unequivocal definition for life or consciousness is intriguing and may relate to our limitations within reductionism, reason, or otherwise. We may be looking at the world in a way that is “creating” these problems because we aren’t seeing some form of continuity.

      “Are you and I two separate consciousnesses, or part of one universal consciousness? If we are part of one why do we disagree as if separate?”

      I believe that we are a part of one universal consciousness. One key thing to remember is that in my view, it is the universal consciousness ascribed to every “thing” which allows for existence. This is what I mean when I say that consciousness is primary over some independently existing reality. Consciousness is what creates the reality, where the “physical reality” is secondary. Without it, there would be nothing (again this is my opinion and it isn’t easy to simplify). You could also say that I equate time with consciousness (in at least some ways). Our experience of mental consciousness seems to be our accessing the temporal dimension (which includes the use of memory). So to recap, I do think that we are a part of one universal consciousness. I do not know why we disagree as if separate. It is a good question that many have pondered over. I believe that enough open dialogue may help to overcome this hurdle simply because we will learn more about our overlapping views in order to grow as a species by truly understanding other points of view. I think if we had the infamous “point of view gun”, most if not all of our disagreements would be settled. Perhaps it is that our typical experience is hindered from the universal consciousness, and perhaps those that are able to achieve certain alternate states of consciousness (or even “unconscious” states) are able to overcome this hindrance. Obviously, I’m not certain of these answers. It is a very fascinating topic though.

      “If solipsism is the case who is the imagined party, you or me? Can we test this? ”

      I never said that I was a Solipsist (generally). I do agree with epistemological solipsism as I mentioned earlier. I do not believe that “you” or “I” are the imagined party.

      “Can you are I control our supposed consciousness to make the other vanish from the imagination from which they are created? Would we need to act out that destruction of an imagined other by fighting it out in our imagined material world, in order to make the destruction convincing?”

      I don’t think that our imagination created you or I.

      “You seem to think that reason and evidence do have a place in our lives, but your choice of when to use them seems as arbitrary as anything”

      Yes. We use primarily reason in our everyday lives, so primarily it does seem to have a place in our lives. Where we diverge is the idea of reason and 3rd party-verifiable evidence being all that matters, or are the only ways to obtain knowledge. This is not arbitrary at all. I’m simply acknowledging that since we can’t know everything, what makes us think we know all the ways to obtain knowledge?

      “as does your choice of your particular idealism over many competing ones.”

      My philosophy is not easily labeled as physicalist, dualist, idealist. There are multiple views from each that have at least some overlap with my own. It’s impossible for me to say truthfully that “I am a ____-ist”, simply because I don’t truncate my views into some label. I’m not able to communicate all my views as clear as necessary for them to be fully described. This goes back to limits of language and communicability. It’s inevitable.

      ” Your decision to use evidence and reason seems to be apparent when you use it to support your case, but you reject reason and evidence when it might not.”

      This specific conversation topic is ABOUT reason and the senses being the only way to knowledge. That’s where the argument started. I do not believe that reason and the senses are it when it comes to obtaining knowledge. If I believe that evidence, reason, etc., are not necessary for all forms of knowledge, then it goes without saying that I will not be using “evidence and reason” to support my case. My position involves reason and evidence being incomplete and not valued as highly as in your book.

      “For example, you are prepared to reason that your idea of consciousness makes the evidence from evolution irrelevant. This is very much like the counter factual support that theists give for their beliefs: the belief comes first, or becomes paramount, so that no counter evidence or argument will refute it – therefore is is true.”

      See my previous comment. If we are talking about a conversation topic that involves ONLY reason and evidence, or with premises of certain facts being accepted, then I am willing to talk about those things. For example, we can talk about evolution, neurology, biology, etc., and I can remain within the confines of reason and evidence. When the topic becomes ABOUT reason, evidence, knowledge, metaphysics, ontology, etc., then my beliefs come out irrespective of the assumptions we relied on in our conversation about the aforementioned natural sciences. I am willing to chat about various positions while using scientific evidence in my arguments, but some topics are more philosophical in nature and fall outside the realm of evidence, 3rd party verification, communicability, etc. This is why my use of reason and evidence appears to be arbitrary. If we just talk about evolution and nothing else, then it will not be arbitrary. I will apply reason and evidence to the conversation. If it “evolves” into a conversation with philosophical facets, then my more general philosophical views will precipitate which may be incompatible with the rest of the conversation (evolution for example).

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  8. Lage,

    “No, actually I never said that [equal footing stuff].”

    Throughout your comments you have said or implied that you believe things not based on reason but on some subjective personal experience (an intuitive experience?) that cannot be shared. But to believe these very personal experiences without reason, and without any way of sharing those experiences and putting them to the test then you do seem to be ignoring my objection that they are therefore indistinguishable from hallucination, delusion, and they do indeed allow you to have crazy experiences and believe them to be real, if you think they are above reason and evidence. I have no way of knowing if your intuited ideas are crazy or not. And neither have you.

    “Why is the thing “crazy” in your opinion?…”

    I didn’t say that any particular belief was necessarily crazy. I said that your method of coming to your particular belief must leave you in the same state of belief with the same level of reason (zero) and evidence (100% internal experience) as those who believe things that the rest of us deem to be crazy (e.g. some guy believes he is Jesus due to his internal unshared experience). They are on an equal footing, epistemologically.

    “Having faith in the idea that science will provide truth is a very easy path to take. ”

    I’ve never said I have faith in that idea. I simply say that there is no reason or evidence to support the claim that science won’t be able to investigate internal beliefs. It is you who is making claims that sound very certain:

    “The qualia, is one property of consciousness and experience that Physicalism can’t account for or explain…”

    “…is a very easy path to take”

    It is the imagining of rationalism that’s the easy step to take. You merely have to come up with the idea and claim it to be true (I presume when you say “I believe” that what you believe you believe to be true, or are you simply saying “I believe it *might* be true”). The path of science is extremely difficult and not at all easy. I agree that to have ‘faith’ in science to the extent that you seem to have faith in your ideas would be an equally easy path to take. But I’m not taking it. I’m not using faith. I don’t even know that science will provide the answer to some of these difficult questions. But nor do I know it will not. And neither do you, despite your faith that it won’t. I am disputing your certainties, not providing my own, as you’ll see shortly.

    “Contemplating the philosophical implications in and of other possibilities and not simply taking everything at face value is much more challenging.”

    Hold on. To contemplate philosophical implications requires reason. Implication comes from reasoning. But you have specifically claimed that your ideas do not come from reason but from some internal unverifiable intuitive experience. There’s a lot of nonsense built around the profound sounding words ‘contemplation’ and ‘philosophy’ that amounts to no more than imagining stuff. There’s a lot of it that is nether arrived at by implication or implies anything in its turn – and your ideas on consciousness seem to be in that category.

    “One thing I will say is that everybody has reasons for why they believe what they believe (including you and I). ”

    Well I would think so. I actually reason that this is the case, from a combination of my reasoning and experiences going back to the cogito. But you have already made a claim for intuition instead of reason (and evidence). I’d like to know your ‘reasons’ for your thinking on consciousness, or your certainty about epistemological solipsism.

    “It’s the non-falsifiability that you are uncomfortable with as well as the idea of anything that transcends the senses or “reason”.”

    But you have given me no ‘reason’ to believe your claims about consciousness, and you have given me no ‘reason’ to believe anything transcends the senses and reason. You just put these claims out there. Why should I take them seriously at all? Note the use of ‘why’ in that last sentence. It is asking for reasons, explanations.

    “Most importantly, I don’t think you acknowledge the importance of non-communicables due to the limitations of language.”

    I do acknowledge that there are sometimes difficulties with language. But you have given me no ‘reason’ to support your two claims: that this problem of language is relevant in this case; that it is ‘most important’ in this case.

    “I never claimed that Solipsism…”

    I know you mean EPISTEMOLOGICAL solipsism. But on what grounds, for what reasons, do you suppose it is certain? Or is that also intuited? You are merely claiming it. That is no better than someone claiming that there is only the physical and the mind is built out of the physical; and I think perhaps you think I claim this, but I do not. I infer it as the most likely explanation, based on reasons going back to the cogito. I have already said that I cannot refute solipsism. But neither can I refute Physicalism. Or any other imagined intuited idea. I only take what I find to be the best explanations from reason and experience.

    I’ll give you a reason for not thinking solipsism to be certain. It requires deep philosophical contemplation, so you’ll love it, or not. We go back to the cogito because that’s all we are able to do since we appear to have only our minds as tools to investigate. But note, under a Physicalism that says that a mind is an outcome of physical complex systems, a behavioural nature of these systems, the mind would still see itself as the primary source of knowledge and being. In other words it would seem like the mind is real, under solipsism or Physicalism.

    But sticking with the cogito for now, the cogito experience is consistent with rationalism, idealism, empiricism, physicalism, … This last point alone removes certainty from solipsism because the cogito could lead to many epistemologies and ontologies. But we can go further than that in our uncertainty of solipsism. We don’t really know what is involved when it comes to ‘existence’. We speculate about it, we contemplate it, we reason about it. But we don’t have any clear and certain knowledge. So, it could be that there is the appearance of mind when in fact there is no mind at all. Perhaps there is some fantastic realm beyond all our possible understanding in which some entity causes the appearance of mind when in fact there is no such mind. Does this sound illogical? Well, that shouldn’t be a problem for you because it is beyond the logic of reason – we’re at a philosophical position where we can’t even be sure of logic. We are all placing a bet on the cogito, but we have no way of being certain about it. This isn’t a position of choice; it’s not the best that we would want from our epistemology, but there’s no way around it. It seems like we exist, so let’s roll with it. It seems we have senses, so let’s roll with that too. Everything else that follows we apply reason and evidence, making the best of these limitations, trying not to compound them by inventing more stuff that can’t be substantiated.

    And this is the problem for any idea that is beyond reason and senses: we have no way to stop making up nonsense and presuming it to be true. Throw out reason and you abandon yourself to irrational invention; and throw out senses and you have lost the last chance of trying to compare ideas to experiences in order to look for consistent systems of belief.

    “Or perhaps you think that we can’t be certain of knowing anything at all? ”

    Exactly. But not only that. I can’t even be certain that I’m right about that very same point. Do you now get the depth of uncertainty that I think surrounds us?

    And we don’t agree on the definition of knowledge it seems …

    It appears to me that what we commonly think of as knowledge, the ideas, concepts, information, that humans build up over time, is merely data, in the form of physical states of a brain. It is no different in principle than the states of anything else. The apparent difference comes about due to a ‘relativistic’ effect, being in a ‘reference frame’ (I’m using relativity as a metaphor here).

    Think of the brain as being a relativistic frame of reference consisting of physically growing neurons. As sense data comes and as the brain body systems interacts with the environment (and in this context even the body is part of the environment) then the data in the brain builds consistent patterns. These patterns only start to ‘mean’ something to the infant human as they persistently match up with experiences. All of human ‘knowledge’ appears to consist of an entire relativistic relationship between states of the brain and states of the environment. They need not be too precise or exact. Evolutionarily there was only what became a human brain, and it evolved in an environment where the survival of the individual was aided by the capacity of the brain to manage complex relationships with the external world. In doing so, a greater survival advantage came to those brains that could best process the data, to ‘reason’ about the brain-body system, the human organism, in terms of self-reflection, to think of “I” as this system and about its relationship with the environment. Gathering information that would give the human greater personal advantage, and being able to relate that data, in order to better predict the interaction with the environment, is what we now perceive as knowledge. This simplistic state of affairs is what gave rise to more complex reasoning and eventually to science. This is how human brains process data about the world. It is no different, in terms of the principles of physics, than any other data processing by the simplest orgainism, but it is different to the extent that specialised cells in great complex networks have evolved to the extent that this data processing, including the processing we call self-awareness, introspection, reasoning, is the method by which all this data becomes, in our terms, knowledge.

    I accept fully that I infer this from all of the science and philosophy I know. I attach no certainlty to it, only the best explanation as I see it so far. What I haven’t done is relied on some simplistic intuitive leap that has no reason or science behind it.

    “but if it even remotely resembles the Platonic “knowledge = justified true belief”, then I think that will suffice. ”

    My view clearly does not resemble Platonic knowledge. JTB is a farce that will not suffice and has failed to be sufficient for millennia. Requiring that we should be justified in what we believe is fine, but that only pushes back the uncertainty to what makes a belief justified. Requiring that a belief should be true then requires that we establish what about our belief is true, and that’s the problem we start with anyway. It’s not very practical as s definition. And it doesn’t allow for the complexity of human knowledge, where something might be sufficient (sufficiently approximately true?) in one context but not in another: Newtonian v Einstein.

    I don’t have a problem with calling knowledge of God knowledge, in the context of a time when most people believed in gods, because socially it functioned (for good or bad). It’s just by today’s standards I would call that mistaken knowledge, incorrect knowledge, knowledge least likely to correspond to reality. It’s not as if theist don’t know stuff. They know lots of stuff about belief. And they already believe it to be justified and true, so what good is JTB? The question is only about the correspondence of that knowledge to our best view of reality. The current best view of reality, no matter that it is uncertain, incomplete, contingent on philosophy, is one based on scientific knowledge, from our only way of acquiring knowledge: empiricism.

    Knowledge is what is contained in a human’s head. Information. It is the degree to which it matches reality that is in question, that determines the quality of the knowledge. We would like it to be ‘justified’, but we then need to agree on the means of justifying it (reason and senses, not intuition?). We would like to be true, but how do we define truth (by the best correspondence of reason and senses through some methodology, like science, but not intuition?). So I’m quite flexible in my general use of the term ‘knowledge’, but when I ask “How do you know that?” of someone making a claim I clearly have reason and senses in mind as a starting point.

    “If we agree on the definition of knowledge (at least in a general sense)…”

    So I might be able to agree in some general sense. The danger is of course that once we agree on some simplistic model of knowledge that you will then use your particular model to inject some implication later into the debate, and of course I would do the same. We can’t help that. We carry our biases with us at all times and they are difficult to resist.

    “then I assume you’d agree that the knowledge that has the best justification over any other (and proved to be true to one’s self) is the knowledge of our own existence.”

    And here is a case in point. I can agree that ‘knowledge’ is best justified in terms of my existence, from the cogito – that I am an existing thinking thing; but that is not certain; and the route from the cogito onwards takes a very different path to yours, to the extent that we still end up disagreeing elsewhere.

    “It is a certainty simply…”

    There. We disagree already. From my perspective I’m only prepared to say it appears certain. The implications drawn from it differ greatly. As I said, the inferences I draw from reason and the apparent persistence of our senses, then in turn from science, is that we are actually physical beings, like all our ancestors, and that the ‘mind’ is a behavioural characteristic of a physical brain in action. The mind only ‘appears’ independent in some way because there are limitations to what a physical system can ‘know’ about itself (its data capacity and access to internal connections).

    “I’m curious what your thoughts are as you haven’t clarified that yet. ”

    I’ve given links before, all of which can be reached from here: http://ronmurp.net/thinking/

    “Solipsism in general, the view that one’s mind is the only thing that exists, is NOT a certainty. This is speculation.”

    Yes. But so is it speculation that it IS a certainty. This is the impasse that I’m referring to when I say nothing is certain. Merely intuiting something and then believing it for yourself does not necessarily convince others. Where does your certainty come from?

    “Your assumption that there is anything that exists independent of our minds is a speculative metaphysical claim.”

    If I were claiming with certainty then I would agree. But I’m not. Everywhere I explain this stuff I try to fill my writing with the uncertainty, the contingency, of our human condition. It is your claim to EPISTEMOLPGICAL certainty that I object to. Remember, the only context in which the word ‘certain’ has its most forceful meaning is in relation to deductive logical argument. But ALL deductive logical arguments also have premises, and the premises are not certain. The certainty of the conclusion, in a valid argument, only comes about (it is a sound argument only) IF the premises are true. So we go back and check those premises – and we eventually find we either go in circles or rely on intuitive perceptions, like the cogito. These intuitions are not certainties, to us, because we have no way of ensuring their certainty; even if they feel certain.

    The whole of human knowledge is based on these uncertain intuitions: first the thinking existence, and then the persistence of the sense experiences. Only following these together do we find we actually make progress – just look at what science has produced. Intuitive and speculative reasoning alone also get you gods, of various kinds, depending on where the intuition and reason lead. Intuition and pure reason are open ended – so open ended they lead anywhere and nowhere.

    “Your assumption that causality is certain…”

    I don’t assume causality is certain; far from it. I think causality is the greatest intellectual problem we have. It is problematic in quantum physics if we take the notion of randomness seriously. Is a random physical event caused? If it is then what caused it and how? How does randomness come about if it is caused? By more randomness? Surely there must be some deterministic cause somewhere?

    If random events are not caused, and yet they cause non-random effects which in turn become determinate causes of other effects, does this mean that random effects are uncaused causes? What does cause and effect even mean?

    I accept fully that all this complex materialist stuff might be mere content in my imaginative solipsist mind. Or my perception of the whole of reality might be a figment of your imagination. As much as I can’t refute solipsism (whoever it belongs to) it doesn’t get us very far: is it this, is it that, is it the other? All questions with no answers.

    “You just take that speculation one step further and say that the patterns and physical laws that we’ve found indicate that this potential illusory “external reality” must be real or at least more real than our minds. It’s all speculation Ron”

    I agree, partly. It’s a speculation that starts at the cogito (speculating that this thinking experience really does imply I exist) and then the senses (speculating that these sensed experiences are sufficiently persistent to be real, at least to some degree). All else follows from there, using this empiricism. And I follow that route for its productivity. Solipsism is entirely unproductive in that it leads you anywhere and nowhere.

    “…and you must know that this is the case. ”

    Have I not been emphasising the contingency and uncertainty; even disputing certainty wherever you have supposed it?

    “…this is based on an assumption that brain activity is causing something fallacious or unreal, rather than a mental construct being correlated with certain brain activity.”

    But once we have gone down the route to empiricism this becomes one of the most reliable pieces of knowledge we have. It’s not an assumption that the brain can produce unreal perceptions, it’s a conclusion based on evidence. “We all make mistakes.”, “Nobody’s perfect.” – how do we come by these notions? We know them from basic human observation, before we even get started on the sciences of the brain. What the science provides is emphasis and confirmation about what can be relied on and what cannot. But you misunderstand me if you think I mean ALL mental constructs are ‘wrong’. There is some correlation between the knowledge (data in brains) and the external world. But not always, and not necessarily very good correlation. Just the simple fact that you and I disagree about something illustrates that at least one brain is making a mistake, whichever it might be.

    If you suppose that some ideas are perfectly certain without the requirement for external confirmation, how do you know that? You seem to be proposing a self-certifying system that is as reliable as the self-certifying systems of financial institutions. I think we have found that this isn’t a good methodology for achieving certainty. When many of the bankers assured us there was no problem they really believed it. Having a feeling of certainty does not guarantee certainty.

    “In general, our assumption of physical “causes” for certain things may just be correlations rather than causes.”

    Yes, quite possible. I’ve made this point in various discussions.

    “I have no doubts in my mind about the repeatability of empirical findings regarding the brain, etc., but our understanding is limited and we have many assumptions based on causality.”

    I agree with the last part. But I’m not so certain as you are on the first part. We do indeed rely on the repeatability of empirical findings, but they are always made in some context or other. There are occasions when even repeated experiments turn out to be based on incorrect initial assumptions about the experimental set up. Most often though I think errors are more likely where inference is made from observation – the sun appears to go round the earth; and on human scales, if you don’t look too closely, there is no tectonic plate movement. Many of the observations we take for granted now were not so obvious at first. I expect we will find this is the case with many other ideas we have. I expect that the same will apply with the human brain: we will learn far more by anticipating it to be investigable, and we will learn less if we assume there is an untouchable mind. Progress so far seems to support this expectation.

    “People put different weight on various beliefs…”

    Yes. Because there is no easy route to certainty. Simply claiming that you believe something without evidence and reason seems to be the most unreliable means of acquiring knowledge. Those intuited beliefs come from the same one way of knowing, but used in the least reliable way. They come from various ideas formed from past reasoning and experience. They appear ‘intuitive’ because we can’t detect or remember the influences that drive them. Experiments demonstrate how subjects that are influenced by certain conditions or prior knowledge can be induced to make particular decisions; and they will even rationalise those decisions on grounds other than the factors which influenced them. Our ideas aren’t as spontaneous or as intuitive as we tend to think they are. If we find we have some profound ‘intuitive’ idea (e.g. yours about consciousness) it’s worth asking oneself why that is believed.

    “One could argue that the quantum findings…”

    Exactly, one could argue. Not merely intuit?

    “Your ideas of physicalism or a reality independent of our minds existing are speculative and are largely based on your scientific indoctrination.”

    You may think they are based on indoctrination, but they are not. They are based on ‘contemplating philosophical implications’: http://ronmurp.net/thinking/. And one of the outcomes of that contemplation is that we have reason and senses, that then *in turn* (i.e. more reason) imply what follows from there. You on the other hand seem to accept the same starting point but then decide that consciousness is the stuff that produces everything; but you base this particular belief on what?

    “If I believe that evidence, reason, etc., are not necessary for all forms of knowledge… My position involves reason and evidence being incomplete and not valued as highly as in your book.”

    On what grounds? In stating that you have something that is above reason and evidence, and which does not require reason and evidence, then you are just making a claim that is unsupportable. It is, by definition, unsupportable by reason and evidence. So on what basis do you support it? What other basis (way of knowing) do we have available? You intuit your intuition provides sound ideas? Why?

    We both think that the cogito is a good starting point, and we both agree that the senses are persistent enough to be taken into account. But that’s all I start with because that is all I experience in such a way that when built into a more complete system it is all consistent, even though it is contingent on those initial experiences. But within that system we find that there are many subjective experiences that are not consistent with this view. We do acknowledge that we have delusions and hallucinations.

    But then on top of that you seem to be adding beliefs that are not supported by our reasoning and our senses, and seem happy to do so. My question is why you think there is anything to those beliefs. And if you really do believe that consciousness is the producer of all things, then …. (I asked several questions toward the end of my last comment, starting with “Perhaps …” paragraph).

    Can you give me more examples of which other ways of knowing you think exist (you have already given intuition, which I dispute, but only on the grounds of reason and senses of course).

    For each way of knowing what new knowledge do you acquire?

    You have given the intuited (way of knowing) idea about consciousness (the thing known by this way of knowing): “all matter (energy) may have some property of consciousness which collectively adds up to our mental level of consciousness when it reaches a particular configuration”.

    Well that’s a grand idea. But the problem with that is that the physicalist idea could be contained within that, as a subset. It could be reasoned that the physicalist discovery of consciousness in human brains, and to a lesser degree in animal brains, and then down to an undiscoverable amount (apparently none) in a rock. If you are claiming that a rock too must have some degree of consciousness then you are proposing some property (analogous to mass, say) that tends to increase as brains become more complex, and apparently vanishes to some as yet unmeasurable degree in objects we commonly think of as not being conscious. You posit this ‘property’, without any further support.

    “When the topic becomes ABOUT reason, evidence, knowledge, metaphysics, ontology, etc., then my beliefs come out irrespective of the assumptions we relied on in our conversation …”

    So, what do your beliefs come out of? And what do they produce for us?

    Like

    • ” Throughout your comments you have said or implied that you believe things not based on reason but on some subjective personal experience (an intuitive experience?) that cannot be shared. But to believe these very personal experiences without reason, and without any way of sharing those experiences and putting them to the test then you do seem to be ignoring my objection that they are therefore indistinguishable from hallucination, delusion, and they do indeed allow you to have crazy experiences and believe them to be real, if you think they are above reason and evidence. ”

      I am not ignoring your objection. You are correct here. I can not distinguish them from hallucination, delusion, etc. Although, on an entirely different note, we can not say that we truly know what a hallucination is. That is, a hallucination may have some bearing on reality, that we don’t see — and so we may be falsely labeling or defining a hallucination to be something “not real” when in fact it is really just something that “doesn’t appear to be real or match reality” (but in fact, does). This is an important point to make along with my agreement of your objection here. You are right that one can’t differentiate between an internal experience (one which involves gaining non-communicable knowledge) and a hallucination or delusion, etc. But we also can’t say with 100% certainty that a hallucination “isn’t real” (on several levels) or isn’t some form of knowledge that exists outside of reason and evidence.

      ” “Having faith in the idea that science will provide truth is a very easy path to take. ” I’ve never said I have faith in that idea.”

      So you don’t think that science provides truth? Just curious.

      “I simply say that there is no reason or evidence to support the claim that science won’t be able to investigate internal beliefs.”

      What I’ve said from the beginning of this conversation is that non-communicables are outside the realm of science, because the reality that science suggests (and anything that science delivers with regard to reason and evidence) is limited by that which is communicable — plain and simple. It does not mean that science will not one day be able to probe into certain elements of our experience (“see” our dreams for example or display thoughts in some way shape or form), but science would still be limited to that which is communicable (if it was an idea or concept that could not be explained in words or imagery).

      ” It is you who is making claims that sound very certain: “The qualia, is one property of consciousness and experience that Physicalism can’t account for or explain…” “…is a very easy path to take” It is the imagining of rationalism that’s the easy step to take.”

      It is true however that the qualia and subjective experience is a property of consciousness that physicalism has yet to explain. I don’t believe it is possible simply because of the limitations imposed by physical explanations. If we redefine physicalism to include non-physical things (things other than matter, forces, quanta, etc.), then we no longer have physicalism. There are non-physical attributes of mind and consciousness (take “thought” or “experience” for example) that are impossible to be explained in total by physicalism if physicalism is actually being adhered to. Even if we assume that all thoughts are a result of physical brain states (which is an assumption of causality that has not been proven nor can it be), we still can’t describe every property of thought in physical terms. All one can do is describe the physical aspects correlated with thought and mind. Again, this is unless we redefine physical terms to include non-physical terms which negates physicalism and misses the point of the philosophical position entirely. How do YOU define physicalism? What are physical terms to you? Depending on how broad someone’s definitions are, you can have seemingly contradictory philosophical viewpoints both lie within the set of the other. It all depends on definitions and how broad or specific they are. Assuming that there is only one type of explanation to account for everything, be it physicalism or otherwise, is an easy path to take, and appears to be a view you have faith in (physicalism).

      “The path of science is extremely difficult and not at all easy. I agree that to have ‘faith’ in science to the extent that you seem to have faith in your ideas would be an equally easy path to take. But I’m not taking it. I’m not using faith. I don’t even know that science will provide the answer to some of these difficult questions. But nor do I know it will not. And neither do you, despite your faith that it won’t. I am disputing your certainties, not providing my own, as you’ll see shortly.”

      It sounds like you have faith in physicalism, if nothing else. Science revolves around physicalism and materialism, and for obvious reasons.
      My certainties, just as anybody else’s are based on my assumption of us using common definitions for terms like knowledge, etc.
      Outside of the standardJTB definition of knowledge, I agree with you that we ultimately “know” nothing at all. Something I like to call the Socratic truth.

      ” Hold on. To contemplate philosophical implications requires reason.”

      I never said that philosophical contemplation didn’t involve reason. However, philosophical viewpoints that include various possibilities, or assumptions, may include concepts such as the concept of “outside of reason” or “beyond reason”. One may hold a philosophical position that, due to the epistemological limitations we have and our human lens of perception, the faculty of reason which we use via a subjective experiencing being may imply that it is incomplete. Incompleteness is a concept that doesn’t necessarily imply that what is missing is known, but rather that something is missing — period. My belief of there being at least SOME knowledge existing outside of reason is based on this philosophical assumption of incompleteness. Perhaps this clears up some questions you may have, or perhaps it will raise new ones.
      In a nutshell, one can use reason to contemplate the absence of reason (in some way shape or form that applies to reality).

      “But you have specifically claimed that your ideas do not come from reason but from some internal unverifiable intuitive experience. There’s a lot of nonsense built around the profound sounding words ‘contemplation’ and ‘philosophy’ that amounts to no more than imagining stuff. There’s a lot of it that is nether arrived at by implication or implies anything in its turn – and your ideas on consciousness seem to be in that category.”

      I’m suggesting that some forms of knowledge exist which are outside of reason, and due to non-communicability, are unverifiable.
      Philosophy involves imagination because new constructs and principles are made that may have never been defined before. Philosophy is all about this. It includes concepts that involve imagination including concepts related to existence, language, mind, knowledge, etc. Imagination provides us with meaning and understanding which is fundamental to the topics of knowledge and existence. So what is your “beef” with imagination? 🙂 It’s integral to all of philosophy, learning, and generally making sense of the world.

      “I’d like to know your ‘reasons’ for your thinking on consciousness, or your certainty about epistemological solipsism.”

      Which part? If you’re referring to my belief that consciousness is a property ingrained in all “matter” and not just brains, it stems from the repetition I see in nature. I do not think that things we call “properties” appear or disappear. I think that a more consistent idea is that all properties are conserved (much like energy). Just as gravity never disappears, but only changes it’s significance based on other forces that dominate in different size regimes — I think that consciousness, is something ingrained in all things. We can very specifically define consciousness to be some property which is limited to the brain, but then we have to make an assumption that it is limited to the brain. If it is not, then the property we are defining isn’t a real one. Furthermore, since I have certain views on non-separability, I believe that one common attribute of all existence is a universal consciousness driving it — one that has existed for eternity, and will continue to exist for eternity (conservation of energy, consciousness, etc.). As for epistemological solipsism, the position which holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure — I believe that this is a certainty because of the lack of verifiability of externals. We define existence to be what we are experiencing, and if this experience is occurring, then we can say that we are sure it is happening (regardless of what may be causing it to happen). It is real. Anything outside of the mind however, we can only take on face-value. We experience sensations and perceptions, but all we can say is that our knowledge/experience of sensing and perceiving is real — however we can’t be sure of knowing anything pertaining to WHAT we are sensing with certainty. It is all external and outside of our mind and relies on assumptions of some property outside of our experience. We can always be a brain-in-a-vat (BIV) and not know it (or some other scenario with similar consequences), and if that possibility is true and consistent with our experience (which it is), then the world we perceive is an uncertainty, even if the experience of perceptions themselves is a certainty.

      “But you have given me no ‘reason’ to believe your claims about consciousness, and you have given me no ‘reason’ to believe anything transcends the senses and reason. You just put these claims out there. Why should I take them seriously at all? Note the use of ‘why’ in that last sentence. It is asking for reasons, explanations.”

      I did give some more explanations pertaining to these claims of consciousness I’ve mentioned (see above comment). I can not give you a reason for why something transcends reason, other than to say that reason is a faculty we have based on a limited lens of perception and cognitive ability. Due to my belief that subjective experience contains a type of incompleteness, the idea that “reason” is a complete view or method for obtaining knowledge is incompatible with this “incompleteness theory”. Due to the subjective experience being “incomplete”, our subjective view of our own faculties is incomplete (in my opinion). We can not see ourselves in an objective way (i.e. we can’t see the “I”, we can only see the “me”). Since I believe non-communicables exist due to limitations of language, again I say, nothing that can be put into a communicable format (i.e. language) can account for everything pertaining to knowledge. Non-communicables and my “incompleteness theory” go hand-in-hand. You have made an assumption that language is adequate for communicating anything pertaining to knowledge, and I disagree with this assumption for the aforementioned reasons. As I said, due to our subjective perspective (human lens of experience), our view of even ourselves is incomplete, and this includes our perception of what faculties we think we possess. This is why I have a problem limiting faculties, etc., to a single label. It seems more appropriate to assume that we don’t and can’t know everything there is know about ourselves and our abilities. We are a part of the system, and as such, we can’t look at our faculties objectively.

      “I do acknowledge that there are sometimes difficulties with language. But you have given me no ‘reason’ to support your two claims: that this problem of language is relevant in this case; that it is ‘most important’ in this case. ”

      The “problem of language” is an inherent limitation of communicable knowledge, and this means that language-limited-knowledge is an incomplete view of knowledge. That’s the main point I’m making here. There are many different types of knowledge and this argument depends on one’s definition of knowledge as well. As for “reason and the senses”, I think that what we can categorize as “within reason” are certain communicables. We have no way of determining if non-communicables are within or outside of reason, and to me, this implies that other faculties may just as well exist (like intuition or otherwise, which allow those non-communicables to have meaning). I make no claim that I know which faculties allow us to obtain knowledge, but my philosophical view of incompleteness suggests that it is not limited to some single definable faculty (e.g. “reason”).

      “That is no better than someone claiming that there is only the physical and the mind is built out of the physical; and I think perhaps you think I claim this, but I do not. I infer it as the most likely explanation, based on reasons going back to the cogito.”

      Are you not a physicalist?

      “I have already said that I cannot refute solipsism. But neither can I refute Physicalism. Or any other imagined intuited idea. I only take what I find to be the best explanations from reason and experience.

      I agree, in that I use reasoning of some kind as well as experience to form my beliefs.

      ” I’ll give you a reason for not thinking solipsism to be certain. It requires deep philosophical contemplation, so you’ll love it, or not. We go back to the cogito because that’s all we are able to do since we appear to have only our minds as tools to investigate. But note, under a Physicalism that says that a mind is an outcome of physical complex systems, a behavioural nature of these systems, the mind would still see itself as the primary source of knowledge and being.”

      Yes, but for Physicalism, one needs to be specific in what they mean by “physical complex systems”. What do these include? This is important so Physicalism isn’t arbitrarily non-specific to include what many people consider to be non-physical things.

      ” In other words it would seem like the mind is real, under solipsism or Physicalism.”

      I don’t argue this, however I will say that Physicalism goes further to say that other things are equally real or are real as well. This takes a bigger leap of faith than Solipsism.

      But sticking with the cogito for now, the cogito experience is consistent with rationalism, idealism, empiricism, physicalism, … This last point alone removes certainty from solipsism because the cogito could lead to many epistemologies and ontologies.”

      Nope. While the cogito experience is consistent with rationalism, idealism, empiricism, and physicalism, this does not remove certainty from EPISTEMOLOGICAL Solipsism — the view that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure. My lack of certainty in external truths is a certainty. Does this make sense?

      ” But we can go further than that in our uncertainty of solipsism. We don’t really know what is involved when it comes to ‘existence’. We speculate about it, we contemplate it, we reason about it. But we don’t have any clear and certain knowledge.”

      Yes, but we can easily define existence to be, or to be a property of, our experience. It does not matter what is involved (if there is anything other than experience). We do have clear and certain knowledge that we are experiencing things, which fits in a very basic definition of existence.

      ” So, it could be that there is the appearance of mind when in fact there is no mind at all.”

      We can define the “appearance of mind” to be mind. Our act of thinking is what we call an act of the mind, so appearance is irrelevant. The experience is there, and it is the experience we are defining to be “mind”. To say there could be no mind at all, is silly, because the experience that is occurring is what we’ve defined the mind to be or to do. If we start saying that we know WHAT we are experiencing, or that it exists independent of experience, then this is where we enter the slippery slope and start speculating.

      “Perhaps there is some fantastic realm beyond all our possible understanding in which some entity causes the appearance of mind when in fact there is no such mind. Does this sound illogical? Well, that shouldn’t be a problem for you because it is beyond the logic of reason – we’re at a philosophical position where we can’t even be sure of logic.”

      I disagree. See above comment.

      ” We are all placing a bet on the cogito, but we have no way of being certain about it.”

      We can be certain of our existence, even if we can’t be certain of details behind what the “I” is in the concept “I exist”. However, we can define the “I” to be the central conscious self, and if we do this, then we can say with certainty “I exist”. We just can’t delve into details about “existence” (other than it being implied through experience) or the “I” without a lack of certainty.

      ” It seems like we exist, so let’s roll with it. ”

      I do exist. I know this for a fact. Although I don’t know that “you” exist independently of my mind.

      “It seems we have senses, so let’s roll with that too. ”

      Yes, it feels natural to “use our senses” and you’re right that this is just something we roll with, even if we don’t know WHAT we are sensing, or WHAT sensation is exactly. Some assume it is a process involving external stimuli independent of our minds, and some assume it is a process only involving our mind.

      “Everything else that follows we apply reason and evidence, making the best of these limitations, trying not to compound them by inventing more stuff that can’t be substantiated.”

      The assumption of a physical world independent of our minds is a huge unsubstantiated assumption. Which means that anything outside of the cogito is invented in one way or another. If my mind is all there is, then anything I imagine has equal credibility to anything else.

      ” Throw out reason and you abandon yourself to irrational invention; and throw out senses and you have lost the last chance of trying to compare ideas to experiences in order to look for consistent systems of belief.”

      This may be true, but it does not mean that all products of “irrational invention” are not true. It just means that they are irrationally derived.
      I do think that reason and the senses help to predict observable events during the course of time, by making use of cause-effect relationships, etc. However, I do not think that we can know what all of our faculties are, due to the “incompleteness” that I believe exists as a result of our subjective perspective. The senses are fallible and not able to experience objectivity, and we are using these senses to infer our own faculties. This in itself, this epistemological limitation implies that what we think is true of ourselves, is probably not the case. If we acknowledge the limitations of our sensation, perception and experience, then we should acknowledge that our view of ourselves is truncated and incomplete. This is the most general way I can put this idea such that you may be able to see where I’m coming from. It is a philosophical position I hold based on my belief of our limitations of knowledge.

      ” “Or perhaps you think that we can’t be certain of knowing anything at all? ” Exactly.”

      I acknowledge your position here. Now I see where you’re coming from. I still disagree however, as I know that I exist, based on how I define “existence” (experience), and “I” (the self).

      “What I haven’t done is relied on some simplistic intuitive leap that has no reason or science behind it.”

      Other than your intuitive leap that there are things that exist independent of your mind. This is probably the biggest leap there is.

      “My view clearly does not resemble Platonic knowledge. JTB is a farce that will not suffice and has failed to be sufficient for millennia. ”

      Don’t get me wrong here. I only mentioned JTB to see where your view of knowledge fits in. I do not agree with the JTB definition in it’s entirety either. It serves as an attempt to get a starting point for a definition, but it is far from being generally accepted. If I had to give a definition similar to JTB, which I have written about in the past, I would say that Knowledge = Justified Non-Coincidentally-True Belief (to account for the Gettier Problem) is a better version. Even with this, however, there are still issues that people disagree on when it comes to what we consider knowledge. The lack of a common definition for knowledge is definitely a huge part of the problem here when it comes to debates like this. Without a common definition, people can argue over points that needs not be argued over, simply because the arguments may precipitate from uncommon premises or definitions. It’s all good though. I always enjoy these conversations anyways because they help us learn more about ourselves in the process.

      “Requiring that we should be justified in what we believe is fine, but that only pushes back the uncertainty to what makes a belief justified.”

      You are correct here! Justification is probably the biggest “question mark” of them all when it comes to the JTB account of knowledge.

      “And it doesn’t allow for the complexity of human knowledge, where something might be sufficient (sufficiently approximately true?) in one context but not in another: Newtonian v Einstein. ”

      Yes, this is why I often see different perspectives as just varied descriptions of the same thing, different ways of describing things that is. In the case of Newtonian vs. Einstein, they are different types of descriptions of the same world. One may help to increase the accuracy of predicting events, but it does not negate the other model completely, nor imply that the other model was wrong — just incomplete or focusing on different aspects of the same world.

      “I don’t have a problem with calling knowledge of God knowledge, in the context of a time when most people believed in gods, because socially it functioned (for good or bad). It’s just by today’s standards I would call that mistaken knowledge, incorrect knowledge, knowledge least likely to correspond to reality. ”

      Well, by “today’s standards”, you probably are referring to the “current scientific consensus”, which isn’t the same thing. It may be true that more people accept science now than in the past, but Science has nothing to say about “God” because the concepts involved are unfalsifiable. All that science can say, if anything, is that “God” and the related claims pertaining to this “God” are speculation and unfalsifiable. I understand your willingness to accept science as the ultimate path to finding truth about reality, or use methods that “correspond to reality”, but as I’ve said a few times now, in my opinion this is still incomplete for a number of reasons — including non-communicables, internal subjective experience (qualia) and the lack of verifiability or quantification of said things.

      “It’s not as if theist don’t know stuff. They know lots of stuff about belief. And they already believe it to be justified and true, so what good is JTB?”

      Again, I’m not a huge fan of JTB, so I completely agree with what you’re saying here. JTB appears to be useless, especially when we haven’t established an agreed upon definition for the constituents of JTB, namely justification above all else.

      “The current BEST view of reality, no matter that it is uncertain, incomplete, contingent on philosophy, is one based on scientific knowledge, from our only way of acquiring knowledge: empiricism.”

      This is your opinion on what is best. Some people believe that the uncertainties or incompleteness that exist allow quite a bit of wiggle room for various philosophical viewpoints to take priority, even if they may seem to be irrational inventions to others. You value senses and reason, and others value feelings, emotions, altered states of consciousness, and qualia, more than the predictive capability afforded by science. Science still has questions left unanswered, and in my opinion, will remain unanswered forever. It comes down to what people value most, what limits if any that people impose on their beliefs, and the meaning of the philosophical viewpoints that ensue.

      ” Knowledge is what is contained in a human’s head. Information. It is the degree to which it matches reality that is in question, that determines the quality of the knowledge.”

      Perhaps, I think many people would agree with this. However, even deciding on degrees of reality-correspondence is open to debate. Different people value different attributes and philosophies. Who knows, it may be the case that the quality of all knowledge is equal. Again, it all comes back to how we define knowledge, if that’s even possible to do (or agree upon).

      “We would like it to be ‘justified’, but we then need to agree on the means of justifying it (reason and senses, not intuition?)”

      This agreement seems unlikely to happen.

      “We would like to be true, but how do we define truth (by the best correspondence of reason and senses through some methodology, like science, but not intuition?)”

      Yeah, truth is difficult to define as well. We can say it is “the way things really are”, but what does this even mean? We are looking at things through a subjective filtered lens of experience, so perhaps there is no such thing as truth, at least none that we can ever discover as subjectively experiencing beings.

      “The mind only ‘appears’ independent in some way because there are limitations to what a physical system can ‘know’ about itself (its data capacity and access to internal connections).”

      True, but it goes even further than this. Even if a physical system is able to access a theoretically identical system such that it can access that “clone’s” internal connections, one could say it is still looking at everything through a subjective lens.

      “Merely intuiting something and then believing it for yourself does not necessarily convince others.”

      Agreed. I don’t intend to convince you. I only intend to share information, but I believe that some things are either non-communicable, or can not be accepted unless certain premises are accepted first. We disagree on certain premises, and so our philosophical viewpoints are a result of taking different paths from the beginning. Which is ok.

      “”Solipsism in general, the view that one’s mind is the only thing that exists, is NOT a certainty. This is speculation.” Yes. But so is it speculation that it IS a certainty. ”

      Yes, for “Solipsism in general”, I agree with you. However for epistemological Solipsism, that is, the view that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure, I believe to be a certainty, simply because I don’t believe there is any way to be sure of things independent of one’s own mind. That is, I believe that the uncertainty (of knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind), is a certainty. Technically, if you believe in some overall uncertainty, then you also agree with Epistemological Solipsism, even if you don’t think that we can know anything. That is, you don’t think we can be sure of any knowledge within our heads or outside our heads, but your all-encompassing uncertainty is contained within Epistemological Solipsism — if that makes sense. Mind you, I’m not talking about Solipsism in general, only Epistemological Solipsism. So to recap, someone who is uncertain of ANY or ALL knowledge also agrees that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure (which is Epistemological Solipsism). Does this make sense?

      “The whole of human knowledge is based on these uncertain intuitions: first the thinking existence, and then the persistence of the sense experiences. Only following these together do we find we actually make progress – just look at WHAT science has PRODUCED.”

      Some would say that science has detached people or blinded them from the “other ways of knowing” or blinded them from a particular perspective of what matters most. Some would say that it has detached us from the most fulfilling path in life, the importance of the non-physical (e.g. mind, subjective experience, etc.). My main point here is to question your idea of progress. You are correct that science has produced certain sets of knowledge or understandings of the world, but some would also say that this path has been a degression (in some ways) rather than a progression. I believe that every point of view or path taken is neither good nor bad (since I believe these concepts are relative and thus are subjective), it is a trade-off of many different things which leads to “progress” in some ways, and “regress” in others.

      “Is a random physical event caused? If it is then what caused it and how? How does randomness come about if it is caused? By more randomness? Surely there must be some deterministic cause somewhere? If random events are not caused, and yet they cause non-random effects which in turn become determinate causes of other effects, does this mean that random effects are uncaused causes? What does cause and effect even mean? I accept fully that all this complex materialist stuff might be mere content in my imaginative solipsist mind.”

      Yes, it seems that an acausal property may exist fundamentally in the universe. Acausal certainly implies that there is no cause. This seems to be due in part to our experience of time. Is time an illusion? That is, is every “event” that ever happened or ever will really just a whole single piece (a time line) rather than a sequence of events (points on a time line in a particular order, etc.). Even the cause-effect that we see in the world around us may be a result of consciousness somehow accessing the temporal dimension (or accessing it in a particular way which is incomplete).

      “Just the simple fact that you and I disagree about something illustrates that at least one brain is making a mistake, whichever it might be.”

      Or, for a 3rd option you failed to consider, we may both be wrong/correct. I may say that something is true, and you say that something is false. It may be possible that it is true and false, or neither true nor false (certainly not within the domains of logic, but who said that we are limited to logic).

      ” If you suppose that some ideas are perfectly certain without the requirement for external confirmation, how do you know that? You seem to be proposing a self-certifying system that is as reliable as the self-certifying systems of financial institutions.”

      Hardly. No, they are certain because they are based on definitions. One of my philosophical beliefs is that the only knowledge we can be certain of is that which is based on definitions. If I define existence to be “this” or “that”, and I define “I” to be “this” or “that”, then depending on my definitions (assuming no contradictions), I can be certain that “I exist”. If you and I agreed on the definition for knowledge, existence, etc. (which we can never know the extent of our agreement), we would have no problem coming to agreement on everything. This problem is in at least some ways, related to the limitations of language. We assume that even with shared definitions, that we understand what words and concepts mean, even if we don’t share the same semantics/meaning behind words. We assume that we all know what certain words and concepts mean, but we can’t be 100% certain that we share the understanding or meaning with other people simply because language is a system of symbols with intentions. We can try our best however. I’m simply amazed that we have the language acquisition capabilities that we do.

      “Simply claiming that you believe something without evidence and reason seems to be the most unreliable means of acquiring knowledge.”

      I agree. It is unreliable, or at least less reliable than other means. But it does not negate the ability to acquire knowledge nevertheless, as unreliable as those means are.

      “If we find we have some profound ‘intuitive’ idea (e.g. yours about consciousness) it’s worth asking oneself why that is believed.”

      Yes, one can ask these questions, but they may not be answerable.

      ” “Your ideas of physicalism or a reality independent of our minds existing are speculative and are largely based on your scientific indoctrination.” You may think they are based on indoctrination, but they are not.”

      Yes they are. You put much value on there being a physical world independent of our minds, and it is a result of indoctrination. There are those that do not put much value on this (Solipsists for example), and it is a result of their indoctrination.

      “And one of the outcomes of that contemplation is that we have reason and senses, that then *in turn* (i.e. more reason) imply what follows from there. ”

      Yes, this is one POSSIBLE outcome. Also, “what follows from there” is the big IF and relies on assumptions. We are just going around in circles here, Ron.

      “You on the other hand seem to accept the same starting point but then decide that consciousness is the stuff that produces everything; but you base this particular belief on what?”

      One reason is how I define existence. In my opinion, if there is no ability to experience, then nothings exists. Whether or not this belief comes from having a subjective experience of self-awareness matters not. All of our beliefs are based on some attribute of our human existence and how we perceive the world. I put a lot of weight on what I perceive as certain properties of consciousness. If experience is dependent on some type of consciousness (which I believe to be the case), then consciousness produces all existence. This is one train of thought that I employ. This is one reason why I believe there is a universal consciousness that pervades everything (on top of the fact that I believe in a version of non-separability which unifies everything anyways), as it gives rise to existence through some means of experience (whether it is the experience of a “rock”, “brain”, “electron”, “photon”, etc.). It is in this way that I call myself an idealist, putting a high value on “mind” or more appropriately consciousness/awareness, although I don’t like to label myself with terms that are incomplete and fail to describe all of my philosophical viewpoints. It is a property of consciousness that I think applies to defining existence itself.

      ” “If I believe that evidence, reason, etc., are not necessary for all forms of knowledge… My position involves reason and evidence being incomplete and not valued as highly as in your book.” On what grounds?

      My “incompleteness” theory, which suggests that since we view the world through a subjective lens, then our view of OURSELVES has to be incomplete and truncated. This includes our view of ourselves in terms of what faculties we think we possess, how we acquire knowledge, how we see ourselves in general, how we see the “I”. Even if I approach this on a psychological level, I can say that the unconscious mind driving as much as it does, prevents us from knowing our limitations and capabilities, and who the “I” is, even if we have a good idea or know “everything” about the “me”.

      ” In stating that you have something that is above reason and evidence, and which does not require reason and evidence, then you are just making a claim that is unsupportable. It is, by definition, unsupportable by reason and evidence. So on what basis do you support it? What other basis (way of knowing) do we have available? You intuit your intuition provides sound ideas? Why?

      I don’t need to know what other faculties exist. All I need is to remain consistent in the belief that our knowledge of the world is incomplete including the knowledge of ourselves, our faculties, etc. Also, I’m not saying that another way of knowing is somehow ABOVE reason and evidence, but rather that another way of knowing exists — period. Even you claim that we can’t be certain of knowing anything, so what makes you so certain that the reason and the senses are the only way of knowing. What makes you certain of this knowledge? If you’re not certain, which you have claimed several times that you’re not, then there is no issue here. Uncertainty of knowledge and your belief in epistemological limitations should include our supposed knowledge of ourselves and our faculties. What more do you need to see this clearly? If you truly believe in uncertainty, then you should accept my “incompleteness” theory and accept that our view of ourselves and our supposed faculties is truncated, subjective, and incomplete. I believe this to be the case with any view, opinion, or conclusion we make about fundamentals of our existence. It is INCOMPLETE.

      “Can you give me more examples of which other ways of knowing you think exist (you have already given intuition, which I dispute, but only on the grounds of reason and senses of course). For each way of knowing what new knowledge do you acquire? You have given the intuited (way of knowing) idea about consciousness (the thing known by this way of knowing”

      I only mentioned intuition because it is contrasted with discursive reason, as a potential form of unconscious perception. I just threw that in there for some food for thought. On a more basic level though, I don’t claim to know what the faculties are, as this goes beyond the most major point I’m making (that is, that we don’t know what all of our faculties are). I am claiming that we can’t know what they all are due to my “incompleteness” theory. We could define “all ways of knowing” to be reason/senses, but this doesn’t accomplish what you are trying to accomplish. You seem to think that we know “how we know” or “by what means we know”. I don’t think we can know that, and I believe our view will be incomplete and truncated due to us experiencing reality through a subjective lens.

      ” “all matter (energy) may have some property of consciousness which collectively adds up to our mental level of consciousness when it reaches a particular configuration”. Well that’s a grand idea. But the problem with that is that the physicalist idea could be contained within that, as a subset.”

      Only if “consciousness” and it’s properties can be explained in “physical” terms. If someone says that “non-physical” things can be defined as “physical” things, then fine — otherwise I’d need a specific definition of what a physicalist thinks are physical terms/things. We have things like qualia which I don’t see being explainable in physical terms.

      “If you are claiming that a rock too must have some degree of consciousness then you are proposing some property (analogous to mass, say) that tends to increase as brains become more complex, and apparently vanishes to some as yet unmeasurable degree in objects we commonly think of as not being conscious. You posit this ‘property’, without any further support. ”

      It is analogous to mass only insofar as it may be called a property, however it is non-physical (in my opinion) whereas mass is a physical property that is measurable and quantifiable. I posit this “property” because it seems like a more parsimonious explanation (here’s me using reason) than saying that consciousness emerges at an arbitrary point. I don’t need support for what appears to be a more parsimonious explanation. You don’t have support to suggest that the properties of consciousness can be explained in physical terms. So we’re even steven.
      I tend to think outside of the box, as limiting thought without imagination or paralleled use of reason (i.e. parsimony in the aforementioned case) creates tunnel vision. There is more than one way to think Ron, and both my way and your way can use reason. We may just apply it on different levels of the topic at hand.

      ” “When the topic becomes ABOUT reason, evidence, knowledge, metaphysics, ontology, etc., then my beliefs come out irrespective of the assumptions we relied on in our conversation …” So, what do your beliefs come out of? And what do they produce for us?”

      My beliefs come from the same place yours do, my mind — based on what I’ve thought, contemplated, related to other concepts, etc. Where we differ is in our “first principles”. As for what they produce — at the very least, they produce a view that our knowledge is limited, even with regard to how we come to know things. Our epistemological limitations include the knowledge of HOW we acquire knowledge, faculties we think we possess and use, etc. As for another product, how about simply another point of view that you may have not considered. Even if you had or have considered my point of view, I can reinforce what principles I value most and we can simply share ideas. Inter-subjective communication is always beneficial even if it seems futile or frustrating at times. Peace and love Ron!

      Like

  9. Lage,

    “… we truly know what a hallucination is. That is, a hallucination may have some bearing on reality, that we don’t see …”

    Only in the very same context of an unsupported Rationalist speculation. An example I have given is an auditory hallucination, where people hear voices in their heads thought there is no external sound corresponding to those voices. Parts of the auditory cortex are active without the normal stimulus from the ears. You might want to suggest that perhaps there is some other unknown source at work (e.g. God), but that is an empty suggestion. Direct stimulation of neurons can, for example, cause the ‘hearing’ of a favourite tune. These are clear indications that these delusions, or simply illusions where the subject knows the cause and doesn’t believe them to be real ‘other ways’ of experiencing, are explained in terms of our basic understanding of reality. The positing of some other source seems pointless. And given that any number of mystics might claim their own particular source is at work they are all extraneous unsupported explanations.

    Similarly your suggestion that there is some consciousness belonging to everything is just as empty a claim.

    “But we also can’t say with 100% certainty that a hallucination “isn’t real” (on several levels) or isn’t some form of knowledge that exists outside of reason and evidence.”

    So why propose such ‘other ways’, as if your particular idea has credibility? Where do you think the credibility comes from? Take your consciousness example. An alternative view might be that every alternate atom has consciousness, but only at midnight every Tuesday, all other days consciousness residing only in alternate atoms in animal brains, so that the appearance of consciousness being only in animals is so explained. Can’t you see that this nonsense is just as viable as your particular view of consciousness? As is any of the infinite other possible views. The only views about consciousness that seem to have any support from science then consist of the known naturally occurring consciousness in animals, to varying degrees, and the possible development of consciousness in AI one day.

    “So you don’t think that science provides truth? Just curious.”

    Not particularly – it depends on the definition of ‘truth’. Is all we can say is that science identifies consistencies between our models of the world we think is out there and the experimental results that come from testing the world we think is out there. From those results we can make ‘true’ statements: ‘the simplistic model of reality is that matter is made of atoms’. This is a true statement, but with plenty of caveats about how we interpret those words, and the extent to which we are prepared to accept such an ‘approximation’ of reality. But note that it is the statement that contains truth value: a declaration about a model. That model could still be way off the mark regarding actual reality. There is a distinction between making statements about our science (such an experiment shows that this model is consistent with it) and statements about actual reality. They become conflated in the efficient use of language: ‘matter IS made of atoms’. Similar to ‘truth’ is the term ‘fact’. A scientific fact is a claim about the correspondence between a model and experimental results (or observations).

    “What I’ve said from the beginning of this conversation is that non-communicables are outside the realm of science…”

    Then I’m saying that unless you can give specific support for your claims they are also outside all human knowledge and amount to empty claims. Otherwise, how do you communicate this knowledge to yourself? Remember, we make a big deal of our senses and our reason because they hit us smack in the face. You are suggesting we believe in some other way of knowing based on what?

    “but science would still be limited to that which is communicable”

    But, to avoid taking any old story to be true that also applies to each of us as individuals. I was reading an article about person held captive by terrorists. They held him in a dark cellar with no light and little human interaction. Hallucinations soon started. Human brains have evolved to work in natural open surroundings, interacting with the world, and with people and animals. It is easy to create conditions where inner subjective experience loses touch with reality. It is our very communicability with the outer world that dictates how our brains work. We are always comparing our reason and experiences. That’s what animal brains do. It is a purely Rationalist supposition that brains, as minds, can have internal private experiences that are real, without be communicable. Sensory deprivation is dangerous to animal brains. The level of isolation that that creates such dangers is a good hint that ideas that are not subjected to reasoning and the senses might well be flaky. How could you possibly know such an idea isa good one? How would you possibly know that your ideas about consciousness are good ideas?

    “I don’t believe it is possible simply because of the limitations imposed by physical explanations.”

    What limitations? How do you know of such limitations?

    “If we redefine physicalism…”

    We can define redefine anything in and out of existence; we can define physicalism to be capable of accounting for some ideas or not, according to our definition. Why redefine it? Why would you want to (apart from forcing the new definition to fit your cause)?

    “… to include non-physical things (things other than matter, forces, quanta, etc.), then we no longer have physicalism.”

    Or, I could say that anything we discover we define as physical, so everything comes under physicalism. We can toy with the language all we like. But the simple idea behind physicalism, using the language for it as it has been used most commonly, is that we not only know nothing about anything non-physical, but it is not even clear how we could, should there be anything non-physical. It is for those making claims for the non-physical, as something in addition to the physical, that must support their claims.

    “There are non-physical attributes of mind and consciousness … ”

    No. Some people hold ideas in their brains that mind and consciousness are non-physical. These are merely abstract models that they invent, and they suppose that this concept of mind takes on some reality. But this is an unsupported proposition. If these very concepts are themselves mere behaviours of a dynamic brain then there is not only nothing of a mind to exist, but even the concept of a mind is a mere physical pattern in a brain.

    ” … that are impossible to be explained in total by physicalism if physicalism is actually being adhered to.”

    No. They are easily explained, descriptively. They have simply not been verified be experiment. They await a greater understanding of the brain, some decent multi-level models of how brains work. For example, as particle physics explains chemistry explains biology, so we need to understand the chains from neurons to concepts. Though we don’t have such detailed connections yet, there are many gaps being filled. This is both understandable, given where we are at the moment. Any claim that science will not achieve this is just as speculative ad unfounded as any 19th century claim that man will never take to the skies in planes – the early difficulties may have seem impossible to overcome. The pattern of our unfolding understanding of the universe can be reasonably speculated to include such an understanding of the brain.

    “Even if we assume that all thoughts are a result of physical brain states (which is an assumption of causality that has not been proven *nor can it be*)”

    Why can’t it be?

    “…we still can’t describe every property of thought in physical terms.”

    So what? The ideal gas laws describe an inflated balloon quite well, but we don’t know where every atom is in the balloon. We have digital computers that work on the very small scale, but each transistor on a chip does not require a very specific number of electrons passing through it for each transmitted bit of data. We get by with approximations quite well; and they are even necessary to make our understanding possible, since we are using finite brains.

    “All one can do is describe the physical aspects correlated with thought and mind.”

    And? Take this picture of a rain cloud and rainbow:
    Rain clouds seen from Märket

    As you approach the cloud and enter the rain it will not look like this. You will see rain drops and not so much rains ‘streaks’. The rainbow, as it appears here, will vanish, as you enter that space. And yet an observer at our original POV will still see the rain and the rainbow as we see it in that picture.

    This is how you need to think of the mind and consciousness. There is no reason to suppose the mind is something that exists in addition to the brain. It is the brain, in action, just as the rain and the rainbow is the rain cloud in action. You are positing an existent mind as something undetectable, and then (surprise) declaring it undetectable. But with no good reason to do so.

    “How do YOU define physicalism? What are physical terms to you?”

    Physicalism is the philosophical idea that what we detect with our senses, and reason about with our ‘mind’, turns out to all there is. So much so that even what we start of as thinking of as the ‘mind’ is also encompassed by the physical. Now, what this physical reality is that physicalism is describing is another matter. We can say what it is only in terms of the science we use to investigate it. The key point behind physicalism isn’t to say specifically what the physical reality turns out to be, but that there is no evidence for anything but this physical reality that we experience.

    “Depending on how broad someone’s definitions are, you can have seemingly contradictory philosophical viewpoints both lie within the set of the other.”

    I think my use of the term physicalism matches pretty much what we might say is a narrow and standard definition. Remember that the key point is that physicalism comes about in opposition to claims about the non-physical. It is not an absolute denial that there is anything non-physical, but rather that there is no evidence for anything non-physical, at its least forceful; or that the notion of there being anything non-physical is incoherent to physical beings like humans, nothing but a fanciful idea. Note again, it is those that are claiming that there is the non-physical to show or explain why we should believe them.

    “It sounds like you have faith in physicalism, if nothing else.”

    Given how I keep explaining the contingency of our sense experience I’m not sure why you think that I have faith in the physicalism that derives from it. I simply have no reason or evidence for accepting the alternatives.

    “… the faculty of reason which we use via a subjective experiencing being may imply that it is incomplete.”

    But any suspicion that reason is ‘incomplete’ does not provide a free pass to insert your particular god of the gaps. It is sufficient to say that our reliance on reason and the senses is contingent on us having both, but that they in particular are so forceful that we can only go along with them, taking all the precautions that we have built into scientific methodology in order to keep an eye on them. But to suggest we have other ways of knowing has no support.

    “Incompleteness is a concept that doesn’t necessarily imply that what is missing is known, but rather that something is missing — period.”

    On both counts this is wrong. First, it does not necessarily imply that something is missing, only that we might feel it is incomplete, that something is missing. The feeling of incompleteness might be our error on our part. It may be that reason and senses combined is the only way of knowing; and we certainly know of no other way. Second, this then makes the possibility of knowing of some other way of knowing rather dubious. You seem to be claiming that there are other ways of knowing beyond our only known way of knowing. You seem to be taking our human limitations and simply deciding that you have detected, experienced, intuited, some additional way of knowing, even though you can’t say what it is. I see no excuse for taking such a leap.

    “My belief of there being at least SOME knowledge existing outside of reason is based on this philosophical assumption of incompleteness.”

    But note that your ‘impression’ of reason being incomplete is just that, an ‘impression’. It could be mistaken. So simply suspecting it is incomplete is not a good enough reason to assume that it is and to subsequently place some other god into the gaps. And it is customary to reach a conclusion (that there is some knowledge outside of reason) by a reasoned argument, and your argument appears to be: I think our reason and senses are incomplete means of knowledge therefore there is some other way of knowing outside reason and senses. Well, this too is incorrect on two counts. First, that our human way of knowing is not *sufficient* for acquiring all knowledge does not necessitate there is some other way of knowing – knowledge may be an incomplete business, full stop. Second, even if human senses and reason are incomplete as ways of knowing and there are other ways of knowing, it’s not at all clear that these other ways are available to humans.

    Our very experience of reason and senses, and in turn what they tell us about hallucinations, illusions, delusions, imply that humans are indeed restricted to this one way of knowing, and that it is a very imperfect way at that.

    “In a nutshell, one can use reason to contemplate the absence of reason …”

    And one can imagine, to contemplate, pink fairies. I’m not disputing our imaginative capabilities. I don’t know what the limits are to that, except to say they are limited by the physical capacity of the brain, given its size, mass, energy consumption, etc. The unknown bit about this is how much imaginative conceptual capacity corresponds to those physical limitations – as in how many tera-bytes is required for the variety of concepts we might entertain.

    “Philosophy involves imagination because new constructs and principles are made that may have never been defined before.”

    Yes, and I’m sure God was a novel concept once. There is no necessary reality to what we imagine. Remember that imagining what concepts are is itself an imaginative process, about concepts: concepts of concepts. This is so self-referential, recursive, that we don’t have any real understanding of such matters. Except that is for the inference that they are processes in a dynamic brain.

    “Philosophy is all about this.”

    Philosophy is nothing more than an active busy brain at work, speculating about itself and the wider universe. There is no certainty to its posited results.

    “Imagination provides us with meaning and understanding which is fundamental to the topics of knowledge and existence.”

    Our brains invent this conceptualisation. I have no beef with imagination. It’s got us this far. But it’s just as much a physical process as anything. It’s the brain unconsciously rolling its dice and seeing if it can match what pops up to anything remotely corresponding to our other knowledge. It produces the melting clocks of Dali, as well as the thought experiments of Einstein. We mull things over, let things stew, sleep on a problem. Current neuroscience thinking is that much of our thinking is unconscious, so that when ideas appear, are intuited, are inspired, our brains are using processes below our consciousness. So what appear as imaginative leaps are really ideas formed below the surface by processes we are unaware of that bob up to the top.

    Gravity and energy in its various forms we can detect. We can measure space, time, mass. But consciousness? This is you presuming it is something other than a physical brain at work, without any support for that belief. You have been busy telling me that science cannot determine what consciousness it, and yet here you are telling me that it is everywhere without backing up that belief.

    “I think that consciousness, is something ingrained in all things.”

    Yes, you’ve told me this. But you haven’t said why. Yes, there are these other measurable properties, but we know of them because they are measurable. Your consciousness, as something that exists, rather than being a behaviour of matter in the form of brains, is a mere imaginative invention. Your claims about the non-communicability of these matters is similar to the ineffability of God – a convenient way of proposing an idea and keeping it safe from investigation.

    “We can very specifically define consciousness to be some property which is limited to the brain, but then we have to make an assumption that it is limited to the brain.”

    Most specifically not. It is true that all instances of consciousness known to humans is associated with animal brains, to varying degrees. But that doesn’t mean that that is the only place consciousness may appear. But there does seem to be a relationship between complexity and the variety of consciousness, and that complexity, on our scales, does seem to be observed only in brains. But, what you are stuck with, as are we all, is that our only example of consciousness is that we observe in animal brains.

    There are suggestions that this need not be the case. Gregg Egan has a novel, Permutation City, in which the patterns of consciousness of humans are transferred to computers. In this sense consciousness is a behaviour, or dynamic patterns, just as is computer software. And like computer software it can be instantiate in the patterns in many different substrates, from electronic, to magnetic, to abacus beads. The crucial point in this context is that the conscious ‘minds’ (the software that is a consciousness that once was in a human brain) can run at various speeds, including slow speeds (17 time slower typically). And, of course, some people wonder if the complexity of the internet amounts to a consciousness. I think there’s a lot more work to do to establish either of these cases; but nonetheless, at least they are based on some comparison to known consciousness based on complexity. I simply can’t see what supports your idea that consciousness exists in all matter.

    “Furthermore, since I have certain views on non-separability, I believe that one common attribute of all existence is a universal consciousness driving it — one that has existed for eternity, and will continue to exist for eternity ”

    Fantasy. Since we know so little of what it takes to make a universe, and our universe in particular, we have no knowledge of the real extent of its existence, the possibility of multiple universes, even the real meaning of terms like ‘eternity’. You view seems just as much pie in the sky as concepts of an eternal God, or eternal family of gods, or anything for which we have no knowledge, only imaginative fantasy.

    Can you explain, for example, why this universal consciousness manifests itself such that you and I, which presumably are part of this universal consciousness, appear to be disagreeing? And all the billions of other people who live and have lived? What is this universal consciousness up to? Arguing with itself?

    “we can’t be sure of knowing anything pertaining to WHAT we are sensing with certainty”

    Agreed.

    “It is all external and outside of our mind and relies on assumptions of some property outside of our experience.”

    Not quite. We are defining our sensed experience as reality. We are saying, we sense, and what we sense has some correspondence to what is there to be sensed. This is contingent, uncertain. But its persistence is common enough to all of us (and this is recursive, because it assumes that our senses reveal each of us to each other, as opposed to being just more imagined stuff). There is no other reason to accept our reason and senses other than there persistence. Claims to other ways of knowing are not so persistent, only fantasised, imagined.

    “I can not give you a reason for why something transcends reason, other than to say that reason is a faculty we have based on a limited lens of perception and cognitive ability.”

    Your claims are based on even less. See above for my rejection of your incompleteness idea as a reason for supposing there are other ways of knowing.

    “Due to the subjective experience being incomplete…”

    Well, yes. Your perception of other ways of knowing is subjective, and incomplete, and less persistent than sense and reason; and incompatible with what our sense and reason tell us about intuition, the working of the brain, and the possibility of crazy ideas. Our sense and reason is not only less incomplete than these intuitions, but also explains away these intuitions as figments of the imagination.

    “The “problem of language” is an inherent limitation of communicable knowledge, and this means that language-limited-knowledge is an incomplete view of knowledge.”

    Then, these other ways of knowing are inaccessible to you too. You cannot explain them to yourself. You can only imagine them – and it must be imagination, since imagination consists of ideas formulated in the brain without clear and immediate reference to the external world. We imagine a lot that isn’t real. You don’t have the language to convince me, or yourself, that your particular ideas are real. Your belief must also be an imagined certainty.

    “There are many different types of knowledge and this argument depends on one’s definition of knowledge as well.”

    This doesn’t do the work you want it to. If I define fairies as real physical beings, does that make them real physical beings? We can define, conceptualise, imaginative unreal ideas. The possession of the idea is real enough, as patterns in the brain, but need not correspond to any reality whatsoever.

    “Are you not a physicalist?”

    Yes, by inference from my experiencing of my senses and reason, and from there all I know about science. Don’t mistake my imagining an invented physicalism for me not subscribing to physicalism. This is partly my point. We can imagine stuff, whether it’s real or not. I can imagine an entirely imaginative physicalism that isn’t real; but I actually infer physicalism from what I experience (of my senses and reason).

    “To say there could be no mind at all, is silly…”

    It’s only silly in a framework that already accepts logic and reason. But logic and reason are experiences that come after our thinking. We have no knowledge of what makes us exist, except in the framework of the physical where we describe our existence in physical terms. If you really want to go beyond reason, then I want to go beyond logic. We experience our exisitence even though we don’t exist – this is beyond reason and logic and so you can’t refute it. This claim is no different than your claim that I can’t use reason and evidence to counter your claims, because they are beyond reason and evidence.

    “because the experience that is occurring is what we’ve defined the mind to be”

    Only after we have thought about it – we need to think to define.

    “If we start saying that we know WHAT we are experiencing, or that it exists independent of experience, then this is where we enter the slippery slope and start speculating.”

    Exactly. That’s what I’ve just been doing. And it’s an echo of what you’ve been doing in making claims about ways of knowing being beyond senses and reason. You are already speculating out of nothing.

    “The assumption of a physical world independent of our minds is a huge unsubstantiated assumption.”

    It’s substantiated only by our experience. Your idea of other ways of knowing, and your ideas of consciousness, are not. They are imagined inventions without any correspondence with any other faculty.

    “If my mind is all there is, then anything I imagine has equal credibility to anything else.”

    And therefore useless. I can imagine everything is conscious. I can imagine everything is not, including my apparent consciousness. I can imagine anything. We only come to rely on what we imagine by the extent to which it can be corroborated with our experiences of the external world of our senses.

    “I know that I exist”

    You think you do. But since we’re disputing what knowledge is, how do you know you know? Because you think? This objection of mine is just as crazy as yours that you have other ways of knowing, or that everything is conscious. Anything goes in solipsism, including nothing, not even you. If your consciousness is a figment of my imagination, like words on the pages of a novel, then you really do not exist, because your ‘thinking’ is constituted on no actual first hand thinking, but instead on what is happening in my mind. You have no way of knowing that your subjective experience of thinking isn’t in fact my mind thinking on your behalf – and remember at this point in this particular sub-argument I have discarded our physical separation, so this formation of your subjective experience as part of my mind is quite legitimate.

    “Other than your intuitive leap that there are things that exist independent of your mind. This is probably the biggest leap there is.”

    It’s not an intuitive leap. It’s an inference from experience. It isn’t a necessary one. In fact as physics advances we seem to be explaining away the physical world as matter. This is fine, because I need assume nothing. I need only follow where the science leads. If it turns out that what we call our physical existence is nothing that matches our common conceptualisation of matter, then fine. But what of your consciousness? How is that to be tested?

    “Even with this, however, there are still issues that people disagree on when it comes to what we consider knowledge.”

    There is bound to be disagreement when the only attempt at saying what knowledge is consists of rationalist mind descriptions. We need a relation to our sensed experiences, through science, our understanding of the brain. A physical brain is dynamic matter (whatever that is) in action; patterns in the brain.

    “You value senses and reason, and others value feelings, emotions, altered states of consciousness, and qualia, more than the predictive capability afforded by science.”

    But feelings and emotions are part of the same business. Emotions are necessary to help us decide (Damasio). Feelings are nervous and chemical biological reactions. Altered states of consciousness are alter states of the brain. They are actually demonstrated by science. They are not something other, some other way of knowing. As much as emotion and feeling are necessary they also contribute to some of our fallibilities. You have given no ‘other way of knowing’ here. Emotions and feelings were once thought to be separate from reason, but that was only a rationalist perspective that didn’t have the advantage of science. I don’t know of any scientists now that thinks emotions and feelings are something different, in kind or source, than reason. They may constitute variety of behaviour of the brain, matters of detail, that we experience differently (we don’t feel the same when experiencing solving a cross-word compared to experiencing love), but its all brain stuff. You are imposing a rationalist separation of feelings and emotion behaviour of brains from the reasoning behaviour.

    “Science still has questions left unanswered…”

    But it has answered far more than a few rationalist ideas about mind have. They never lead anywhere but remain fantasies. Really, what has your concept of consciousness everywhere produced?

    ” … and in my opinion, will remain unanswered forever”

    An easy opinion to muster. As easy as the opinion that humans will never get planes to fly – until they did. History is full of such claims to our limits that have been shown to be wrong.

    “deciding on degrees of reality-correspondence is open to debate. Different people value different attributes and philosophies.”

    Hence the value of shared knowledge, experiment, comparison.

    “Even if a physical system is able to access a theoretically identical system such that it can access that “clone’s” internal connections, one could say it is still looking at everything through a subjective lens.”

    I don’t worry what a balloon is thinking while I’m thinking about its volume and pressure. But when it comes to comparing brains, even our own, there is already a better understanding of one’s own brain than there once was. Psychology, CBT, understanding epilepsy, these are all cases where people can come to know there own brains in a far more useful way than through subjective experience alone; and the subjective experience can often be shown to be the false friend, the bit that’s wrong. Patients are far more aware of their own conditions in scientific terms that better explain their conditions than did the personal subjective perspective. Experiments on subjects that force biases show subjects do not in fact know their own minds introspectively any better than third party experimenters. The subjective POV may be a very handy evolved tool, but it is overrated when it comes to matching reality.

    “I believe [it, epistemological solipsism] to be a certainty, simply because I don’t believe there is any way to be sure of things independent of one’s own mind.”

    This is a god of the gaps argument again. You cannot be certain there are things independent of one’s own mind, and you cannot be sure there are not. You cannot be sure that your ‘mind’ as a thing that is in addition to a brain is real.

    My mind (M) contains ideas about an imagined physical reality that includes a brain (B) that through its behaviour and limited self-referential contact appears to it to have a mind (M). So, is mind a behaviour of a physical brain (and therefore not real), or is the brain an invention of a mind? Your certainty about your thinking fades away in the uncertainty of the source of your thinking. In possibly being the behaviour of a physical system, ‘thinking’ may mean your mind exists no more than bits in a computer make software exists – it does not. Software bits do not exist. Only patterns in a computer exist. When I type these words and they appear on your screen is all that has happened is that computer, internet, computer, has undergone physical transformations. The software does not exist in its won right. These words do not exist independently of the computer components upon which they are formed. Your brain may feel certain, but it does not have the capacity to be certain. It is only a human brain, thinking stuff, thinking it is certain about the existence of a mind.

    “There is more than one way to think Ron, and both my way and your way can use reason. We may just apply it on different levels of the topic at hand.”

    This does not mean there are other ways of knowing. But yes, I agree there is more than one way to think. And this is explained in the following report of papers, as described in Scientific American:

    “In 2011 researchers from Harvard University published a paper showing that people who have a tendency to rely on their intuition are more likely to believe in God. They also showed that encouraging people to think intuitively increased people’s belief in God.”

    “And Gervais and Norenzayan’s (Columbia University) research is based on the idea that we possess two different ways of thinking that are related. Understanding these two ways, which are often referred to as system 1 and system 2, may be important for understanding our tendency toward having religious faith. System 1 thinking relies on shortcuts and rules of thumb, whereas system 2 relies on analytic thinking and tends to be slower and to require more effort. Solving logical and analytic problems may require that we override our system 1 thinking processes to engage system 2.”

    “It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to believe in God. Because system 2 thinking requires effort, most of us tend to rely on our system 1 thinking processes whenever possible.”

    Your reliance on your intuitive approach seems to be a far less reliable method of coming to beliefs – a method discredited by millennia of dogma based on intuited ideas. And reason and evidence seems to be a far better way of thinking when we want to increase the reliability of our ideas.

    Like

    • “Lage, “… we truly know what a hallucination is. That is, a hallucination may have some bearing on reality, that we don’t see …” Only in the very same context of an unsupported Rationalist speculation”

      I agree. It is speculation.

      “Parts of the auditory cortex are active without the normal stimulus from the ears. You might want to suggest that perhaps there is some other unknown source at work (e.g. God), but that is an empty suggestion.”

      Yes, I am aware of how the brain is thought to work (in terms of cortical stimulation, etc.). I am simply suggesting that there may be other possibilities that we haven’t considered due to our lack of knowledge — that is, when it comes to what we describe as a “hallucination”. Even if we agreed that an auditory hallucination is not a sound that 3rd parties could hear, this does not mean that we can be certain about the source of the “hallucination” or lack thereof. We can be fairly certain that it does not correspond with any sound that 3rd parties can hear (the majority of them at least), but what else can we say about it? We could have a synesthetic individual who “hears” colors/visual stimulation and is then receiving this falsely labeled “auditory hallucination” from actual stimuli from the environment (just not what we consider “sound stimuli”). There are more possibilities than you’ve considered. Even beyond this last example I’ve given, what else can be said about “hallucinations”? Do they really have no bearing on reality? How are we defining “reality” anyways? If the hallucination has a causal source of some kind (e.g. randomly induced action potentials in neurons of the auditory cortex), then what from the real world caused those “random” action potentials? You are right that it is an empty suggestion. I’m not arguing that. I’m just illustrating that we can’t know whether or not hallucinations actually have SOME bearing on reality (albeit in a way that we are unaware of). I only mentioned this simply because we take for granted what we consider “reality”, etc. Is a hallucination “real” in any way, and if so, what possible ways can it actually be real? What if what one considers to be a hallucination, is actually just a time-delayed response to true stimuli, that is, what if I see or hear something that “isn’t there” but “was there before”? If enough time has passed, it increasingly fits your definition of a hallucination. According to neuroscience, all of our perceptions are delayed by some amount after sensory stimulation. In some cases, there could be extra-delayed perceptions, or something stored in memory that produces what would otherwise be called a hallucination. Just some more food for thought, Ron.

      ” Direct stimulation of neurons can, for example, cause the ‘hearing’ of a favourite tune. These are clear indications that these delusions, or simply illusions where the subject knows the cause and doesn’t believe them to be real ‘other ways’ of experiencing, are explained in terms of our basic understanding of reality.” ”

      See my previous comment.

      “The positing of some other source seems pointless. And given that any number of mystics might claim their own particular source is at work they are all extraneous unsupported explanations.”

      Perhaps to you it seems pointless. I like to consider possibilities that aren’t in plain sight, and yet may still fall within the confines of reason or rational explanation. I enjoy it as I believe it keeps me sharp and creative. Some explanations or possibilities may be harder to swallow than others, but it doesn’t negate the possibility of them being true. Anything that is outside of plain view in terms of simple cause-effect relationships will not normally be investigated by science. This is why a lot of other belief systems, and beliefs in general, exist, simply because some choose to contemplate or address possibilities that science doesn’t consider. Imagination has been used for scientific innovation, and it is also used when contemplating matters that science has not or can’t investigate.

      “Similarly your suggestion that there is some consciousness belonging to everything is just as empty a claim. ”

      I disagree. I think that it is a more reasonable explanation since it involves constancy and conservation of properties rather than arbitrary emergence/destruction of said properties. My theory that consciousness is a property of all matter is more consistent than your view that consciousness is a property that suddenly/randomly emerges after a specific configuration of atoms is attained. I believe that we are both using reason in our beliefs here, but we differ in some of our core principles. I see interconnectedness and non-separability as fundamentally true, and this is part of the motivation for my belief that a universal consciousness exists in all “matter”. I think that conservation of fundamental properties (including consciousness) is more reasonable than your belief. I see conservation in nature around me (e.g. fundamental forces, energy, etc.), so while my reasoning may not have direct scientific evidence to support it, it is consistent with some attributes of the universe that do have scientific evidence to support them.

      “So why propose such ‘other ways’, as if your particular idea has credibility? Where do you think the credibility comes from? Take your consciousness example. An alternative view might be that every alternate atom has consciousness, but only at midnight every Tuesday, all other days consciousness residing only in alternate atoms in animal brains, so that the appearance of consciousness being only in animals is so explained. Can’t you see that this nonsense is just as viable as your particular view of consciousness? As is any of the infinite other possible views.”

      Your example is a much less parsimonious explanation than my belief/theory. It appears to be less consistent with some basic principles of constancy and conservation. You may be right however. We can never know for sure. Clearly part of the problem is also based on how science defines “consciousness” when compared to my definition or yours. If you are defining “consciousness” to be “mental-consciousness”, that is, an experience that only a brain can provide, then you’ve limited all subsequent assumptions and properties associated with it. If however, you don’t limit this concept to something that only a brain “produces”, one can think of primary principles that they think are consistent with the concept of consciousness and infer possibilities that fit within those principles. Either way, your example is very different from mine in that you didn’t appear to have any motivation for that example/belief. You are trying to imply that my belief is random, so any other “random” belief is just as viable. You made one mistake however, and that is, assuming that I didn’t have any reasoning behind my belief.

      “The only views about consciousness that seem to have any support from science then consist of the known naturally occurring consciousness in animals, to varying degrees, and the possible development of consciousness in AI one day.”

      True. These are the views that have support from science. I don’t argue this. That’s part of the point behind this discussion — realizing what science can and can’t say about various things. Just because science can’t say something about a particular belief or concept, doesn’t mean it’s not true. It only means that science has nothing say about it. That’s it.

      ” ‘the simplistic model of reality is that matter is made of atoms’. This is a true statement, but with plenty of caveats about how we interpret those words, and the extent to which we are prepared to accept such an ‘approximation’ of reality.”

      Yes, it is only true insofar as we BOTH understand the meaning behind those words. We can never know for sure whether or not you and I infer the same meaning. That is one of the limitations of language. We may both agree it is true, based on the assumption that we know what each word means. So even to call that a “true statement” is arguable. “Truth” is arguable as it is ill-defined.

      “There is a distinction between making statements about our science (such an experiment shows that this model is consistent with it) and statements about actual reality. They become conflated in the efficient use of language: ‘matter IS made of atoms’. Similar to ‘truth’ is the term ‘fact’. A scientific fact is a claim about the correspondence between a model and experimental results (or observations). ”

      Exactly. Anything we say is based on what methods of analysis we value, and is based on our perception of how the world works. You are only interested in concrete things that science has to say, whereas I’m interested in BOTH what science has to say, and what science can’t talk about.

      ” “What I’ve said from the beginning of this conversation is that non-communicables are outside the realm of science…” Then I’m saying that unless you can give specific support for your claims they are also outside all human knowledge and amount to empty claims. ”

      I disagree. I’ve mentioned that due to non-communicables existing (I assume they do, whereas you may not), we can’t discount the idea that non-communicable knowledge may exist and is outside of 3rd party verification because it is not communicable. We are talking about a claim based on the assumption of non-communicables existing (qualia or attributes of said qualia), and the assumption that knowledge does not have to be communicable (e.g. knowledge of certain qualia existing). For example, I may know what the color “red” looks like to me, but I could never communicate this knowledge to you (at least not completely). I could try to say things about what I’m seeing, but I’ll never be able to describe the indescribable. If a synesthetic person tried to describe what it is like to “hear” a color or visual stimuli, the only thing you could do is try to imagine a sound and a sight (separately). You could never truly know what the experience is like. These are very basic examples, and by no means do I think that non-communicables must be limited to describing qualia.

      “It is easy to create conditions where inner subjective experience loses touch with reality.”

      This is based on your assumption of what “reality” is. Perhaps since we don’t know what reality is, in its entirety, we also don’t know if we’ve actually lost touch with it.

      “How could you possibly know such an idea isa good one? How would you possibly know that your ideas about consciousness are good ideas?”

      I think that this is a completely bogus question. A “good one”? What is a “good one”? What I know is that some of my ideas of consciousness are consistent with certain core principles I adhere to. If two people are consistent with their principles, even if both have opposite views, they are both producing a “good one”.

      ” “I don’t believe it is possible simply because of the limitations imposed by physical explanations.” What limitations? How do you know of such limitations?”

      If you define “physical terms”, then I can better answer your question. There are limitations imposed on language, our assumption of how the world operates, what exists independently of our minds, etc. More generally however, we define “mind” to be a non-physical thing. So how can we give a full account of a non-physical thing with a physical explanation? Are you really failing to see why, Ron? Or are you just playing the devil’s advocate?

      “We can define redefine anything in and out of existence; we can define physicalism to be capable of accounting for some ideas or not, according to our definition. Why redefine it? Why would you want to (apart from forcing the new definition to fit your cause)? “… to include non-physical things (things other than matter, forces, quanta, etc.), then we no longer have physicalism.” Or, I could say that anything we discover we define as physical, so everything comes under physicalism.”

      That’s my point. If we redefine physicalism to include “anything we discover”, then we need to define what we’ve discovered. If you say that we’ve discovered “mind”, and thus it is physical, then this circumvents a lot of meaning behind the term physicalism. As an example, we tend to agree that anything physical is something that we can see, touch, probe with an instrument, etc., but can we see, touch, or probe the mind? We can probe the brain, and see it, and touch it, but the mind includes non-physical attributes like dimensionlessness. I can think of “the universe” and it doesn’t take up a universe worth of space. I can imagine anything at all, and there are no space constraints (as there are with all other physical objects described under physics). There are properties that we inherently define as non-physical, and this is what makes a physicalist explanation limited and incomplete. What part of this do you not understand?

      “But the simple idea behind physicalism, using the language for it as it has been used most commonly, is that we not only know nothing about anything non-physical, but it is not even clear how we could, should there be anything non-physical. It is for those making claims for the non-physical, as something in addition to the physical, that must support their claims.”

      So you think that an “idea” or “concept” is physical? If so, how? If not, then can we know an idea or a concept?
      I don’t believe that an idea or concept is something physical? I don’t believe that an intention or meaning behind a symbol is physical. Yet I do believe that we can “know” intentions, meanings, ideas, and concepts.
      You say that it is not clear how we could, should there be anything non-physical? The circular answer I can use to that is, that our minds are non-physical, and that is how we are able to know non-physical things. Ta da!

      ” “There are non-physical attributes of mind and consciousness … ” No. Some people hold ideas in their brains that mind and consciousness are non-physical. These are merely abstract models that they invent, and they suppose that this concept of mind takes on some reality. But this is an unsupported proposition.”

      Nope. Other than defining “physical” to include mind and consciousness (which accomplishes nothing), it is inconsistent to say that mind and consciousness are physical based on our use of the term physical. Circumventing this by changing the definition to accommodate certain concepts accomplishes nothing. To call the mind or consciousness physical would also be an unsupported proposition.

      “For example, as particle physics explains chemistry explains biology, so we need to understand the chains from neurons to concepts. Though we don’t have such detailed connections yet, there are many gaps being filled.”

      The gaps being filled are “physical” gaps in my opinion, not “non-physical” gaps. They are learning more of the physical nature of the correlation between brain and mind, but the non-physical attributes can’t be explained by physical terms. As for particle physics explaining chemistry explaining biology, these are all examples of physical explanations being inclusive of other physical explanations/sciences. Going from “neurons to concepts” will require a transcendence that I believe doesn’t exist. We will have physical explanations regarding what neuronal states of affairs are correlated with a mind thinking about certain concepts, but that will not explain the non-physical attributes of the mind. You refuse to believe that the mind is non-physical, because you know that if it was, that a physical explanation would be incomplete. It’s as simply as that. We both disagree on how we define physical, as well as non-physical.

      “Any claim that science will not achieve this is just as speculative ad unfounded as any 19th century claim that man will never take to the skies in planes – the early difficulties may have seem impossible to overcome.”

      Any claim that science WILL achieve this is just as speculative as people thinking that we’d be time traveling to the past by the 21st century.

      “”Even if we assume that all thoughts are a result of physical brain states (which is an assumption of causality that has not been proven *nor can it be*)” Why can’t it be? ”

      Simple. Because we can never know for sure that an independent cause resulted in the correlation we witness as a causal interaction. For example, if I see a billiard ball hit another and change its trajectory, I can never know if one ball actually “caused” the other ball to move or if some unknown cause caused the first ball to stop and the other to move. It is not provable, simply because we have to isolate cause-effect relationships, which fail to take into account the unknowns.

      ” “…we still can’t describe every property of thought in physical terms.” So what?”

      So what? So you agree now that every property of thought can be described in physical terms? Interesting. Yet you fail to see how a physicalist explanation would be incomplete for the same “thought”?

      ” The ideal gas laws describe an inflated balloon quite well, but we don’t know where every atom is in the balloon. We have digital computers that work on the very small scale, but each transistor on a chip does not require a very specific number of electrons passing through it for each transmitted bit of data. We get by with approximations quite well; and they are even necessary to make our understanding possible, since we are using finite brains. ”

      How is this relevant? In the case of the balloon, it should still be theoretically possible to know where every atom is, or if we take superposition into account, we should be able to say that it is theoretically possible to know the probability of finding any atom at any one location at one time even if it exists “everywhere at once”. Or if we take that superposition attribute of existence literally, then we can say that we do know that every atom in the balloon is “everywhere at once”.

      “As you approach the cloud and enter the rain it will not look like this. You will see rain drops and not so much rains ‘streaks’. The rainbow, as it appears here, will vanish, as you enter that space. And yet an observer at our original POV will still see the rain and the rainbow as we see it in that picture. This is how you need to think of the mind and consciousness. There is no reason to suppose the mind is something that exists in addition to the brain. It is the brain, in action, just as the rain and the rainbow is the rain cloud in action.”

      Nope. How we’ve defined the brain in action, or “action” in general, is particles exchanging energy with other particles in a certain way, with certain particles, etc. Nowhere in this “action” is it explained how the non-physical attributes of mind are accounted for. The rain and rainbow perspective is based on a particular subjective view of stimuli. By observing the stimuli from a different perspective, we are seeing different stimuli, different intensities, effects of constructive vs. destructive interference, etc. It is COMPLETELY different when compared to the differences between a non-physical mind and brain. Bad analogy. In the case of the rain and the rainbow, BOTH perspectives are based on physical differences in the stimuli or how they are perceived.

      “You are positing an existent mind as something undetectable, and then (surprise) declaring it undetectable. But with no good reason to do so.”

      If by detectable you mean physical, then yes, a mind is undetectable. It is merely your opinion that I have no good reason to posit such. I see non-physical attributes which don’t fit inline with a physical-term model. This is a good reason to me.

      “It is not an absolute denial that there is anything non-physical, but rather that there is no evidence for anything non-physical,”

      Well at least you aren’t denying anything non-physical — rather you are just saying that there is no evidence for it. Good enough for me.

      ” “Incompleteness is a concept that doesn’t necessarily imply that what is missing is known, but rather that something is missing — period.” On both counts this is wrong. First, it does not necessarily imply that something is missing, only that we might feel it is incomplete, that something is missing. The feeling of incompleteness might be our error on our part.”

      True it doesn’t imply that something MUST be missing, but it suggests that in all likelihood, something is missing (and we can’t know what that may be). The fact that we are subjectively experiencing beings means that our filtered experience isn’t objective, and is incomplete (hence filtered). This strongly suggests that there are things missing from our perspective that actually exist (if we take a step past Solipsism).

      “You seem to be claiming that there are other ways of knowing beyond our only known way of knowing. You seem to be taking our human limitations and simply deciding that you have detected, experienced, intuited, some additional way of knowing, even though you can’t say what it is.”

      What I’m saying is that our human limitations of knowledge include knowing HOW we know, that is, knowing what our faculties are. After all, how well can a system know itself, know how it operates, with a finite amount of memory? If our unconscious mind is outside of our consciousness, and we can know things unconsciously, we can’t communicate that knowledge, and we can’t necessarily consciously know that we know it.

      All of what we are saying here is speculative. You believe in uncertainty, and yet you believe that we are certain in what our faculties or ways of knowing are? Really? Do you see the inconsistency here?

      “Current neuroscience thinking is that much of our thinking is unconscious, so that when ideas appear, are intuited, are inspired, our brains are using processes below our consciousness. So what appear as imaginative leaps are really ideas formed below the surface by processes we are unaware of that bob up to the top. ”

      Right! Are you saying that reason includes all unconscious thought processes? Even if you don’t know what those process are, how they are implemented, etc.? If so, then you are speculating. At the very least, our unconscious “ways of knowing” are outside our realm of knowledge. We aren’t conscious of them, so we can’t know what is truly going on.

      “Gravity and energy in its various forms we can detect. We can measure space, time, mass. But consciousness? This is you presuming it is something other than a physical brain at work, without any support for that belief.”

      Exactly. This is why gravity can be explained by a physicalist model, and consciousness can’t We can measure quanta but not consciousness. The support for my belief in “mind” is my experience. I am a thinking thing. That’s all the support I need for that belief Ron. On the other hand, my mind is not a brain. My mind does not have fluids flowing through it, electrical connections, etc. My brain has these attributes. My mind is non-physical even if it is correlated with a physical brain.

      “You have been busy telling me that science cannot determine what consciousness it, and yet here you are telling me that it is everywhere without backing up that belief. “I think that consciousness, is something ingrained in all things.” Yes, you’ve told me this. But you haven’t said why.”

      Actually I’ve told you several times now. I think it is ingrained in all things because I do not believe that fundamental properties emerge, I believe that they are conserved. I believe consciousness to be a fundamental property of the universe that ultimately drives everything, eventually leading to higher levels of consciousness, evolution of living organisms, etc. Everything is linked by a universal consciousness due to the conservation that I believe to be a core principle of the universe (just as energy is conserved).

      “Your consciousness, as something that exists, rather than being a behaviour of matter in the form of brains, is a mere imaginative invention.”

      Yes, just as your idea that consciousness is a “behavior of matter in the form of brains” is. Mind is non-physical, just as those imaginative inventions are.

      “Your claims about the non-communicability of these matters is similar to the ineffability of God – a convenient way of proposing an idea and keeping it safe from investigation.”

      It has nothing to do with convenience, although since you can’t investigate it, I see that you feel uncomfortable talking about it.

      “”Furthermore, since I have certain views on non-separability, I believe that one common attribute of all existence is a universal consciousness driving it — one that has existed for eternity, and will continue to exist for eternity ” Fantasy. Since we know so little of what it takes to make a universe, and our universe in particular, we have no knowledge of the real extent of its existence, the possibility of multiple universes, even the real meaning of terms like ‘eternity’.”

      We need not know what it takes to make a universe to believe that the idea of conservation (nothing is created or destroyed, but only changes form) is consistent. This implies that “where we came from” is something eternal and conserved. It is REASON that has led me to believe this. Multiple universes are beside the point, because I can just define them to be one single “universe”.

      “You view seems just as much pie in the sky as concepts of an eternal God, or eternal family of gods, or anything for which we have no knowledge, only imaginative fantasy. ”

      Except my view of an eternal universe is consistent with physical laws that we believe govern the universe. 🙂
      It is certainly not entirely fantasy. It is based on models of consistency and conservation. Period.

      “Can you explain, for example, why this universal consciousness manifests itself such that you and I, which presumably are part of this universal consciousness, appear to be disagreeing? And all the billions of other people who live and have lived? What is this universal consciousness up to? Arguing with itself?”

      It’s funny, you’ve already asked this question at least once or twice now. Were you not satisfied with my previous answer? I do not have an explanation as to why this universal consciousness manifests itself to disagreeing beings, other than to say that I believe that we are actually one being, and our “disagreeing separate selves” are illusory. Who knows? It’s a moot point in my opinion.

      ” “The “problem of language” is an inherent limitation of communicable knowledge, and this means that language-limited-knowledge is an incomplete view of knowledge.” Then, these other ways of knowing are inaccessible to you too. You cannot explain them to yourself. You can only imagine them – and it must be imagination, since imagination consists of ideas formulated in the brain without clear and immediate reference to the external world.”

      Nope. They are not inaccessible to me if they can be known without linguistic thinking. Since I believe that thought is not limited to linguistic thinking, I also believe that knowledge is not limited to only that which I can linguistically produce.

      “We imagine a lot that isn’t real. You don’t have the language to convince me, or yourself, that your particular ideas are real. Your belief must also be an imagined certainty.”

      We can never know that what we imagine isn’t real. I’ve talked about this briefly in an earlier comment. We can say that we imagine a lot that doesn’t appear to correlate with reality, but we can’t know for sure. I don’t expect to have the language to convince you that my ideas are real. We’re conversing, but we can’t expect to communicate all of our ideas in a way that will persuade the other. I certainly don’t expect to. It’s clear that you are uncomfortable with some of the implications of uncertainty, and as I mentioned earlier, your views (as well as mine) are based on a subjective lens of perception and thus we can’t know HOW we know things. We can guess, but we can’t know. It is the incompleteness that begs the question. This is a core principle that I believe in, and I’m just willing to apply it to our view of ourselves (where you are not). When we are talking about anything related to thought, whether it’s knowledge, cognition, concepts, etc., we must realize that we are assuming how we think based on how and what we think. Our brain does not have complete knowledge of itself (probably less knowledge than that of the “external world”). A system can’t know itself beyond a certain amount, and our view of our own faculties is no exception.

      “There are many different types of knowledge and this argument depends on one’s definition of knowledge as well.” This doesn’t do the work you want it to. If I define fairies as real physical beings, does that make them real physical beings?”

      Yes it does make them real physical beings if I’ve defined them to be such. That’s the point here. That is why definitions are so important, because they must be agreed upon if we are to expect an increase in overlapping viewpoints. If we both agreed on your definition of fairies, then we would both believe them to be physical beings. Now you probably don’t believe that fairies are real physical beings, unless you think that all things are physical including ideas, concepts, etc., which you eluded to earlier (with your physicalist view).

      “We experience our exisitence even though we don’t exist – this is beyond reason and logic and so you can’t refute it. This claim is no different than your claim that I can’t use reason and evidence to counter your claims, because they are beyond reason and evidence.”

      I agree with you here.

      Like

    • ” “The assumption of a physical world independent of our minds is a huge unsubstantiated assumption.” It’s substantiated only by our experience.”

      It doesn’t imply that it is true. Our experience says a lot of things. Whether or not I was experiencing a hallucination, I would have just as much credibility in saying that my experience substantiates my belief that a world exists independently of my mind.

      ” Your idea of other ways of knowing, and your ideas of consciousness, are not.”

      They are substantiated by my experience which has led me to believe that my subjective view of the world is incomplete.

      ” They are imagined inventions without any correspondence with any other faculty.”

      Your opinion based on your opinion that the only faculties are reason and the senses.

      “I know that I exist” You think you do.

      Nope. I do know it based on how I’ve defined “I” and “exist”.

      “If your consciousness is a figment of my imagination, like words on the pages of a novel, then you really do not exist, because your ‘thinking’ is constituted on no actual first hand thinking, but instead on what is happening in my mind.”

      I would still exist, because I am defining “I” and “exist”, and putting those concepts to the test. “First hand thinking”? What would that even mean? Thinking is thinking. That would be like saying that if a “God” created me, that I’m not really here, I’m just a figment of “God’s” imagination. There are some flaws in your reasoning here.

      “Other than your intuitive leap that there are things that exist independent of your mind. This is probably the biggest leap there is.” It’s not an intuitive leap. It’s an inference from experience. ”

      It is a leap when we see that an equal inference from experience can be made that there are NO things that exist independent of my mind.

      “In fact as physics advances we seem to be explaining away the physical world as matter. This is fine, because I need assume nothing. I need only follow where the science leads.”

      I prefer to follow where the science leads AS WELL AS think for myself. I prefer to use both methods for my beliefs. If we all did exactly as you did, then we’d all have the same beliefs. Now, I don’t like the idea of ignoring science like some people do, but I take it with a grain of salt, and complement those principles and observations with ideas that are consistent with science yet are outside the realm of science (this is the philosophy, the speculation, etc.).

      ” If it turns out that what we call our physical existence is nothing that matches our common conceptualisation of matter, then fine. But what of your consciousness? How is that to be tested?”

      I’m not sure. It may be untestable (much like how we are unable to test an electron to see simultaneously where it is located and how fast it is moving). Some things may not be possible to do.

      “But feelings and emotions are part of the same business. Emotions are necessary to help us decide (Damasio). Feelings are nervous and chemical biological reactions.”

      They are more than this. This is the physical description you’ve ascribed to it. It fails to include the qualia, the non-physical, the conceptual, the meaning, etc.

      ” Altered states of consciousness are alter states of the brain. They are actually demonstrated by science. They are not something other, some other way of knowing.”

      We can’t know this. Altered states of consciousness are CORRELATED with altered states of the brain. That’s all we know between the two.

      “You have given no ‘other way of knowing’ here.”

      I need not. I only need demonstrate that our view of ourselves is fallible and incomplete.

      “Really, what has your concept of consciousness everywhere produced? ”

      I’m not sure what you’re asking here. My beliefs need not produce anything.

      ” “and in my opinion, will remain unanswered forever” An easy opinion to muster.”
      As easy as the opinion that humans will never get planes to fly – until they did. ”

      You are talking about an example where someone suggested that a technology would never be viable. It is quite different than saying that non-physical attributes will be explained physically. Come on Ron, you can’t be serious.

      “History is full of such claims to our limits that have been shown to be wrong.”

      I would say that the claims that you are thinking of from history are not fundamental in nature (much like the mind-body problem we are discussing).

      “I don’t worry what a balloon is thinking while I’m thinking about its volume and pressure. But when it comes to comparing brains, even our own, there is already a better understanding of one’s own brain than there once was.”

      Okay…not exactly sure what point you were trying to make here. I don’t argue that we have a better understanding of our brains. I was illustrating that our brains can’t fully know themselves, and for various reasons, including that we experience the world through a subjective lens of perception and how we study the brain or anything else is through that same filtered lens of perception. How we think of ourselves is filtered. The faculties we think we use is based on a filtered perspective.

      “Experiments on subjects that force biases show subjects do not in fact know their own minds introspectively any better than third party experimenters.”

      Based on what those experiments measured, you’re probably right that those experiments showed this. So?

      “I believe [it, epistemological solipsism] to be a certainty, simply because I don’t believe there is any way to be sure of things independent of one’s own mind.” This is a god of the gaps argument again. You cannot be certain there are things independent of one’s own mind, and you cannot be sure there are not.

      That’s what I said. I believe that the uncertainty (which Epistemological Solipsism holds) is a certainty because it is compatible with the view that we can’t be certain there are or are not things independent of one’s own mind. I’ve mentioned this a few times and I think you are just failing to understand what I mean here. I tried.

      “So, is mind a behaviour of a physical brain (and therefore not real), or is the brain an invention of a mind?”

      Why would a behavior be defined to be “not real”? Why do you assume this?

      “In possibly being the behaviour of a physical system, ‘thinking’ may mean your mind exists no more than bits in a computer make software exists – it does not. Software bits do not exist. Only patterns in a computer exist.”

      I don’t think that “thinking” is physical even if it is correlated with physical events.

      “It may also help explain why the vast majority of Americans tend to believe in God.

      I’m not in that boat. I do not believe in “God”.

      Your reliance on your intuitive approach seems to be a far less reliable method of coming to beliefs – a method discredited by millennia of dogma based on intuited ideas. And reason and evidence seems to be a far better way of thinking when we want to increase the reliability of our ideas.

      Your method relies on ONLY science. My method relies on science as well as intuited ideas that are compatible with that same science. I find my method to be more open and more useful than science alone. We are just going to have to agree to disagree. As always, I enjoyed the conversation Ron. Perhaps if we discuss an issue that is limited to the realm of science, we will agree more. I know that we have a lot of overlap when it comes to what science says. We both agree on the efficacy of the physical sciences and the information it has provided to us. I can drink to that!

      Peace and love Ron!

      Like

    • Ron,

      “You are making specific claims about what does exist, and in the bargain making specific claims about what science will never show. ”

      I have made claims of what I believe to be the case. I’m not calling them facts. One of my claims is that we can’t claim that we know all ways of knowing. You think that we can know this, as you think that reason and the senses provide the only way of knowing. My claim is that we can’t know what our only ways of knowing are, and due to our incompleteness, we can assume that other ways may exist, even if we are not sure of that, and even if we don’t know what those other ways are. We may get lucky and through our filtered lens of perception, somehow be able to pull out everything that’s out there — but I think it’s more likely that our filtered perception has indeed filtered some things out. This is part of my reasoning. The other part of my argument is the suggestion that our unconscious mind may use another way of knowing that we can’t prove is limited to reason and the senses. We can infer that it does, but not with nearly as compelling evidence as is the case with our conscious mind. This is point two. Third, I believe that non-communicables exist, and that knowledge can include non-communicables. Non-communicables are untestable, unsharable, etc., and thus lie outside of scientific inquiry. As for my BELIEFS of what science will never show, these are my beliefs, just as you may believe that science will show us everything or anything we can possibly think to ask about. I don’t believe this to be the case. You have your reasons and I have mine.

      ” “Even if we agreed that an auditory hallucination is not a sound that 3rd parties could hear, this does not mean that we can be certain about the source of the “hallucination” or lack thereof.” I agree. But that does not then give us enough information to say that there is some other way of knowing at work. ”

      I never said that it did. I just made a point about hallucinations because of your bold assumptions of what constitutes “reality” and your assumption that “hallucinations” have no bearing on reality. If you said that the evidence suggests that hallucinations have no bearing on reality, then fine. But when you say that hallucinations have no bearing on reality, that is a claim that needs further explanation.

      “You are adding a positive claim in the gaps of current lack of knowledge. “There are more possibilities than you’ve considered.” But speculating about possibilities isn’t sufficient grounds for claiming your particular speculative possibilities are actualities, which is what you have been doing.”

      What I’m saying is that the gaps imply that we can’t know certain things about the subject we are discussing. Which means that you stating that reasons and the senses are the only ways of knowing (when we have gaps) is JUST AS justified as my claim of saying that we have more ways of knowing (when we have gaps). If you said that the evidence suggests that reason and the senses are the only way of knowing, then you may be correct. However when you say that reason and the senses are the only way of knowing, that sounds like a pretty certain claim to me. I believe that we are both unsure, but perhaps you feel that you are “sure” that we only have one way of knowing. You don’t want to assume there’s anything else, and I am assuming that there is. We don’t know either way, so what’s the difference? You feel that anything without evidence should be ignored, where I say that possibilities do have some importance within this discussion AS WELL AS the evidence. My view is more inclusive whereas yours is not. This is one way we differ. You are treating the discussion like a scientific experiment, where evidence and 3rd party verification are the only things that matter to you, rather than complementing those with imagination, creativity and thinking outside the box. Since when is philosophy (the blog area we are discussing in) limited to evidence? Why can’t it include broader concepts that are speculative? You should go to a strict science blog if you want strict scientific answers to your questions.

      ” The more parsimonious speculative understanding, based on all other evidence, is that they are in fact aspects of physical brain behaviour. ”

      I don’t argue that hallucinations are related to brain activity. I believe that there is a correlation. That I’ve never disputed. However we’d need to define what “aspects” entail, and the more important issue of assuming whether or not hallucinations are actually correlated with reality in some way we haven’t considered (time delayed perception, etc.). You only care about evidence, whereas I care about BOTH evidence as well as other possibilities given that I feel justified in the belief that my view of the world is incomplete and filtered. If we know that our perspective is filtered, is it a better bet to say that what we are seeing is all there is to it (e.g. reason and the senses are the only ways of knowing)? Or is it safer to say that there are things missing (e.g. we can’t know what our faculties are as there may be those we are unable to know we have)? I think the latter is a more justified position to hold. Going along that line, even if I couldn’t name a specific faculty other than reason and the senses, I’m safer assuming that there are additional faculties we don’t know about. This is part of my reasoning, and where we differ. I’m not claiming that I know these things to be the case, I’m just speculating based on some of these core principles (incompleteness, subjective perspective, filtered perception, etc.). Whenever I hear statements like “this is the only way” or “that is impossible” or “we know all there is to know about that” — I’m doubtful. When I hear statements like “this is not the only way”, “we don’t know all there is to know about that”, I tend to agree. This is part of why I believe that there are other ways of knowing. It is a safer bet than saying “there are no other ways of knowing” (i.e. I am certain that there are no other ways of knowing).

      “That auditory experiences can be stimulated by direct firing of neurons from a probe is evidence that internal auditory experiences come from physical action in the brain. If you reject this evidence then I don’t know how you personally have confidence in any evidence from science, and why you don’t reject it all?”

      I never said that I rejected this evidence. What I’m saying is that we can’t say that the firing of neurons CAUSES the auditory experiences (and even if we could, we can’t say HOW the firing of neurons could CAUSE the auditory experiences), only that they are correlated with one another. I have confidence in all scientific evidence giving us new information. What I lack confidence in is the belief that science is the only thing we should look to for answers to questions. I believe that science is a tool to help us increase our understanding, but it only increases a type of understanding, not all understanding.

      “”What if what one considers to be a hallucination, is actually just a time-delayed response to true stimuli…” So, during a brain operation where the patient is still awake the surgeon stimulates a particular set of neurons and the patient hears his favourite rock song, in real-time, synchronised to the stimulation: on, he hears the sound, off, he doesn’t. You seriously suspect that some other spooky force might be at work, some other way of knowing? ”

      The hallucination wrench I threw in has nothing to do with some “other way of knowing” as you suspected. See my earlier comment on this.
      As for the brain operation comment, I don’t think that there is some “spooky” force at work. I’m not even sure what that means. Your word, not mine. However, I will say that it’s complicated to assume what corresponds with reality and what doesn’t. There are many different facets to the concept of “reality”. All these comments really do is re-introduce the possibility that we are all brains in vats, which doesn’t help your case at all.

      “How many more ‘possibilities’ do we have to endure before we throw out such nonsense and simply follow the evidence that is available?”

      You ignoring any and all possibilities that have no evidence is NONSENSE in my opinion. As for your specific claims about witches and demons, you can come up with a bunch of silly arbitrary examples if you’d like, but it’s not going to get you anywhere in this discussion.

      “But on what grounds would you say that such delayed perceptions are not also caused by earlier physical processes in the brain? In the case of spontaneous voices then this is the very case that is being made. In the case of direct stimulation under open head surgery it is very specific and known stimulation. “Just some more food for thought, Ron.” – Junk food?”

      Junk food? Certainly not. If you’d like to call my food for thought, junk, that is your choice. As for your comments, again, my comments on hallucinations were only meant to question what we consider to be NOT correlated with reality. That’s all. It has less relevance to the “other ways of knowing” discussion.

      “”I like to consider possibilities that aren’t in plain sight…” – Magic fairies? Do you consider that possibility?”

      No I have not considered the possibility of magic fairies. It does not correlate with my core principles and seems arbitrary. You are giving obvious examples of what people consider to be fiction or not real. Those examples will not get you what you want from this discussion.

      ” IS the combined good and evil in the world caused by competing good and bad gods? Do you consider that possibility?”

      Actually, I don’t even believe that good and evil exist (objectively), as I believe that they are subjective constructs created by us. Perhaps you do believe in good and evil. If you do, you are entitled to your opinion.

      ” I ask, because you haven’t proposed these possibilities, but they seem equally viable as ‘other ways of knowing’ and ‘consciousness everywhere’ – that is they have equal amounts of reason and evidence to support them.”

      Well my ideas on the conservation of consciousness involves principles that are consistent with parallels seen in science (e.g. conservation of energy, etc.). Magic fairies and the competition of good and evil, do not seem to be consistent with parallels seen in science. If you don’t see that, then that is part of the problem here Ron. You are not looking at it from my perspective. Tunnel vision.

      ” “I enjoy it as I believe it keeps me sharp and creative.” – So you don’t take seriously the caution of not being so open minded your brains fall out?”

      No. I don’t believe my brain will fall out Ron. Do you?

      “These rather open ended seemingly profound yet bland statements don’t really say anything of value. ”

      Ok. I never said that they did. They just acknowledge that we can’t be certain that we know all of our faculties.

      “So, how do you actually investigate these possibilities without reason and evidence?”

      I never said that you could or should. That is your assumption that this is something we should strive to do. Some things are not accessible for further investigation. They just “are”. You take it or leave it.

      “How d you come to support, to believe, that there are other ways of knowing or that consciousness is everywhere in everything?”

      I’ve given you reasons, but you have either failed to understand them or failed to read them.

      “”This is why a lot of other belief systems, and beliefs in general, exist, simply because some choose to contemplate or address possibilities…” No, it’s more than that. They are not simply considering them. They are considering them and then choosing, for no reason (you do say reason is not required), to believe them.”

      More than likely everyone has reasons for why they believe what they believe. It is the reasons that you disagree with. I have reasons to believe that I can’t claim that reason and the senses are the only way of knowing. You just disagree with my reasons.

      “It is the going beyond speculation, and acting as if what you believe is actually true, is where you are going wrong”

      I’m not sure what you mean here. I am speculating. Just as you are speculating that there are minds that exist independently of yours, and you are acting as if that speculation were actually true. Is this where YOU are going wrong? Or are you entitled to speculate and act accordingly?

      “If it’s constancy you want then we already have it with physicalism. Only if you see consciousness as something separate from the physical does its ’emergence’ become a problem – the problem of dualism, connecting some supposed mystical and separate ‘consciousness’ or ‘soul’ to the physical world.”

      You are correct that Physicalism does contain a type of constancy. We can define all things that we see or experience as “physical”, so that all things are constantly physical. This does nothing to address the issue of non-physical attributes. I do not believe that consciousness is separate from the physical world in the sense that you think I do. It is as much a part of anything in this world as anything else. It is the physical descriptions and explanations of mental-consciousness that fail. I want to reiterate that I believe that a universal consciousness gives rise to the physical world in that I believe it drives all physical processes and allows for “existence”. It is a very complicated subject to talk about (consciousness that is).

      “The ’emergence’ of consciousness as just another behaviour of physical systems is quite straight forward and parsimonious. And as all the evidence points to this then why do you reject evidence in this one particular case, where you have come to some belief about consciousness that does not fit know evidence, for (as you say) no reason”

      Yeah, and what is a behavior? What do we limit this term to? I do not reject the scientific evidence. I just believe that there is more to it than just what the evidence suggests. You are forgetting that evidence suggests some things, it does not gives an explanation for how something works — it only describes correlations and manipulated variables. It does not tell us if we are failing to consider other variables, etc. I don’t ignore the evidence. I just do not take it at face value and leave it at that (this is what you do).

      “You don’t have a theory. You have a speculative idea. Where’s the theory? Where’s the link to other known ideas? Where’s the link to the rest of science such that a theory is constructed that doesn’t negate the rest of science?”

      It is not a scientific theory. It is however a theory that does not ignore what science has to say. Where’s my link to other known ideas? I see the conservation of energy as my first link. I believe that consciousness (the universal consciousness) is a property similar to energy and that it is not created or destroyed, but only changes form. The level of mental consciousness that we see in animals with brains is one form of consciousness originating from that constant universal consciousness.

      “”…your view that consciousness is a property that suddenly/randomly emerges after a specific configuration of atoms is attained.” Who said anything about it being sudden? Millions of years of evolution have had time to result in a variety of degrees of consciousness and self-awareness. Don’t forget the many human like precursors that are now extinct. Had they survived we would be in a better position to observe the gradual changes. But perhaps some changes were more spontaneous than others. So what? This is all accounted for within the theory of evolution, so that only the specifics are unknown. ”

      I’m not discounting evolution at all. By “sudden” I mean the point where we didn’t have consciousness and then we did. There has to be a point when this happened. If consciousness emerged, this point has to exist. A point in time where before there was no consciousness, and after, there WAS consciousness. This is what I mean by sudden. You clearly misunderstood me.

      “And your ‘randomly’ doesn’t do justice to natural selection. Either you’re being intentionally equivocal here, or you really don’t understand evolution.”

      I am confident that I understand the basic mechanisms of evolution just as well as you do.

      ” “I see interconnectedness and non-separability as fundamentally true,…” Why? Give some reasoning.”

      Findings in quantum mechanics that imply we can’t separate ourselves from the object observed is one reason. One of the other reasons is that I believe we all came from the same source, and if we accept the Big Bang Theory (this IS a scientific theory), it is implied that the universe was an infinitely dense singularity. How much more non-separable and interconnected can anything be other than an infinitely small speck lying in nothingness? These are just a couple reasons behind this belief of mine. Satisfied? Probably not because you don’t carry the same belief.

      ” First, conservation isn’t so obvious. That’s a learned fact of science. It certainly isn’t intuitive. ”

      I disagree. I think that for millennia there have been people (not scientists) that believed in eternity, cycles, and constancy. These are all forms of conservation. It is quite intuitive. The fact that you failed to see this demonstrates what I believe to be part of these reason we are disagreeing. We look at the world in different ways, and through different perspectives.

      “”I see conservation in nature around me (e.g. fundamental forces, energy, etc.)” Where? People die and never come back. Water runs one way down stream and never comes back (until you learn the evidence of the water cycle).”

      Whether we see it with scientific instruments matters not. I see conservation with time and motion for one thing. Time is never actually lost. It is something that never stops and is thus conserved. To say that time had a starting point is incredibly unintuitive in my opinion.

      “”Your example is a much less parsimonious explanation than my belief/theory. It appears to be less consistent with some basic principles of constancy and conservation.” No it isn’t. If something happens every Tuesday then that seems pretty consistent.”

      Yes it is. Something happening every Tuesday is not constant. It is intermittent/periodic. Besides that, your theory of “every other atom”, etc., was arbitrary and less consistent with scientific principles. Try an example that is more consistent with scientific principles and I’ll give you more credit.

      “As for parsimony, you are the one positing consciousness everywhere when you observe it only in animals.”

      Yes, I am positing this because I believe it is less arbitrary than saying it is limited to some arrangement of atoms in an animal brain. It is parsimonious in that it is constant and thus requires less complication due to “emergence”. It is my opinion. Just as it is your opinion that consciousness being limited to brains is somehow more parsimonious. I think that my assumption is more simply and thus more parsimonious than your assumptions — REGARDLESS of what the evidence is limited in suggesting. The same scientific evidence had people believing that the sun revolved around the earth. You shouldn’t put so much faith in science. We both acknowledge it’s value, but you have much more faith in it than I do, even if you don’t think it is faith. It is faith. You also have faith in the scientific community to not lie to you or others in the population. There are many facets of faith involves with science and the fact that old theories are constantly being replaced with new ones illustrates that the guy who proposed “maybe the sun DOESN”T revolve around the earth” despite the evidence, had a valuable idea. Scientific community just didn’t know it yet.

      “You have mentioned before the problems of language. Well, you will have problems with language if you abuse it in such a way.”

      It’s not abuse, it’s USE.

      “So, tell me what you could possibly mean by a rock being ‘conscious’ that has anything to do with any other use of the word ‘conscious’, without totally obfuscating the term.”

      For one thing, I believe that existence depends on awareness of some kind. If all “mentally-conscious beings” are eliminated from the universe (all beings with brains for example), I don’t believe that the universe would still exist UNLESS everything remaining had some level of awareness/consciousness. Beyond that, I see consciousness as constant, and is thus a property in all matter, not just some special arrangements of matter. My view of universal consciousness is more complicated than this, but this may give you something you asked for. Perhaps not.

      “First, it’s not ‘something’ that the brain produces, as if it were some other thing. It is a behaviour. ”

      This is circular Ron. What is a behavior? Is it a property of something or is it action of some kind? You can’t just hide behind a word like “aspect” or “behavior” as if to somehow negate the non-physical. It simply won’t work.

      ” And second, it need not be confined to a brain. It may well be possible that other substrates may demonstrate consciousness. ”

      Well I’m glad that you agree with me here at least.

      “This is the best idea based on current evidence. There is nothing to suggest a rock can be conscious. ”

      There is also nothing to suggest that a rock CAN’T be conscious. 🙂

      “But you can’t say what science can’t say about anything. It is you that is saying we cannot know, through science, some particular things about the brain and consciousness”

      The main thing to consider here is that I believe that science can only talk about the physical. I do not believe that consciousness is completely physical, and thus, science can’t say anything about it. It’s that simple. You can believe that consciousness IS physical, but I believe it isn’t — and my belief is based on reason as is yours. We are going to have to agree to disagree. You don’t seem satisfied enough to do this however. You prefer to write thousands of words cycling through the same arguments. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy discussions, debates, and sharing different points of view — but once we realize that we are at an impasse, we should except it and move on to the next subject.

      ” But what we value is very specifically not a good guide to what we should believe, because we can come to value ideas even when evidence and reason does not support them. ”

      I disagree, in that reason doesn’t support certain ideas. I’ve demonstrated the reasoning behind why I believe what I believe. It just fails to have the evidence (or type of evidence) you think is required to believe those things.

      You value evidence. I value evidence PLUS reasoned speculation.

      ” “As an example, we tend to agree that anything physical is something that we can see, touch, probe with an instrument, etc., but can we see, touch, or probe the mind?” Yes. We can manipulate the ‘mind’ by altering the brain. The evidence is very clear and abundant.”

      We can manipulate the mind, yes. But can we see it, touch it, or probe it? Or are we probing the brain which then has an affect on the mind? I think the latter.

      “”I can think of “the universe” and it doesn’t take up a universe worth of space.” This is childish nonsense. ”

      No it is not nonsense. Your demeanor however is coming off as a little childish. Try toning it down a bit.

      “You are not holding the actual universe in your head, you are holding a vastly reduced model of it. ”

      Yes, this is obvious. The point is that concepts do not take up physical space (at least not proportional to what is being modeled). That’s all I meant by that.

      “”I can imagine anything at all” No you cannot. You can imagine vague and approximate models, as restricted by your brain”

      I mis-spoke. Correction: I can imagine an infinite number of things. This goes back to set theory. Although I can imagine an infinite number of things, it is a set of things contained within an even larger infinite list of “all things”.
      Both are infinite however.

      “You cannot fit more information into your head than the physical particles can hold in their various states”

      This is an assumption you make, and there is little evidence to support it. That is, we aren’t fully aware of how memories are stored, how different types of memories take up different space, etc. Perhaps the particles are able to hold an infinite number of states? Who knows? Certainly not you or I.

      “”So you think that an “idea” or “concept” is physical? If so, how? If not, then can we know an idea or a concept?” An ‘idea’ or a ‘concept’ consists of patterns in a physical brain. ”

      I disagree. I don’t think that an idea or concept can be fully described as “patterns in a physical brain”.

      “Where did the requirement for proof sneak back in?”

      I mention it because it seems to be the only thing you are interested in. When you want to talk to someone who thinks in a foreign way, it helps to speak their language.

      “What has your circular argument shown? Only that you have come up with a circular argument. It does not provide any support for itself.”

      It has shown that no matter what, you believe that the mind is physical and I don’t. It need not provide support for itself. I believe that the mind has non-physical properties (including concepts, ideas, thoughts, etc.) and this is part of the basis for my belief that a physicalist explanation will fall short. We disagree here. It seems futile to try and change the other person’s mind, so we can just stick to our beliefs here. It’s not as if we have any free will to do otherwise, right?

      “Science isn’t proving stuff, merely spotting correlations; and where the correlations are well supported we infer causal connections.”

      Exactly. It isn’t proving stuff. Your inference of causal connections is an inference that has no proof. It is speculative. Causal connections are speculative. Science shows correlations and nothing else in my opinion. This is what the evidence suggests. It says nothing about causality in the classical sense of the word. We infer it (some of us do). Others disagree with that inference (like me).

      “You seem willing to accept that we could, in principle, know how individual atoms contribute to a particular balloon’s state, but not how individual atoms contribute to a brain’s state”

      Nope. You are incorrect again. I believe that we can infer how individual atoms contribute to a particular balloon’s PHYSICAL state, and how atoms contribute to a brain’s PHYSICAL state. I do not think that we can connect atomic arrangements and the mind’s non-physicality. We are going around in circles Ron, because of our disagreement with the mind being non-physical.

      “Why presuppose the non-physical? Until you get past that the rain cloud analogy stands.”

      Because I believe that things including concepts, thoughts, etc., are not physical (at the very least, some properties of them are not). So the rain cloud analogy does not stand. That is an analogy of one physical state looking different from another physical state. No relevance here.

      Like

  10. “I am simply suggesting that there may be other possibilities that we haven’t considered due to our lack of knowledge – that is, when it comes to what we describe as a “hallucination”.”

    If you were making such a simple open ended suggestion of possibilities then I would agree. There may be aspects of the brain we haven’t discovered, and there may be features of the universe or extra-universe that we haven’t discovered. The problem is that you are not making a simple open ended suggestion. You are making specific claims about what does exist, and in the bargain making specific claims about what science will never show.

    “Even if we agreed that an auditory hallucination is not a sound that 3rd parties could hear, this does not mean that we can be certain about the source of the “hallucination” or lack thereof.”

    I agree. But that does not then give us enough information to say that there is some other way of knowing at work. You are adding a positive claim in the gaps of current lack of knowledge.

    “There are more possibilities than you’ve considered.”

    But speculating about possibilities isn’t sufficient grounds for claiming your particular speculative possibilities are actualities, which is what you have been doing. When you say you ‘believe’ these other claims, about other ways of knowing, about consciousness in everything, I take it that you do in fact believe them and that you are not using the word ‘believe’ in some distorted sense.

    “I’m just illustrating that we can’t know whether or not hallucinations actually have SOME bearing on reality”

    The more parsimonious speculative understanding, based on all other evidence, is that they are in fact aspects of physical brain behaviour. That auditory experiences can be stimulated by direct firing of neurons from a probe is evidence that internal auditory experiences come from physical action in the brain. If you reject this evidence then I don’t know how you personally have confidence in any evidence from science, and why you don’t reject it all?

    “What if what one considers to be a hallucination, is actually just a time-delayed response to true stimuli…”

    So, during a brain operation where the patient is still awake the surgeon stimulates a particular set of neurons and the patient hears his favourite rock song, in real-time, synchronised to the stimulation: on, he hears the sound, off, he doesn’t. You seriously suspect that some other spooky force might be at work, some other way of knowing? Then as I type each key on the keyboard to write this some spooky demon might be manipulating my fingers. one by one? Or perhaps I am typing this under the spell of a witch that was alive a century ago and the spell has just come to life? How many more ‘possibilities’ do we have to endure before we throw out such nonsense and simply follow the evidence that is available?

    “According to neuroscience, all of our perceptions are delayed by some amount after sensory stimulation. In some cases, there could be extra-delayed perceptions, or something stored in memory that produces what would otherwise be called a hallucination.”

    But on what grounds would you say that such delayed perceptions are not also caused by earlier physical processes in the brain? In the case of spontaneous voices then this is the very case that is being made. In the case of direct stimulation under open head surgery it is very specific and known stimulation.

    “Just some more food for thought, Ron.” – Junk food?

    “I like to consider possibilities that aren’t in plain sight…” – Magic fairies? Do you consider that possibility? IS the combined good and evil in the world caused by competing good and bad gods? Do you consider that possibility? I ask, because you haven’t proposed these possibilities, but they seem equally viable as ‘other ways of knowing’ and ‘consciousness everywhere’ – that is they have equal amounts of reason and evidence to support them.

    “I enjoy it as I believe it keeps me sharp and creative.” – So you don’t take seriously the caution of not being so open minded your brains fall out?

    Any physicalist scientists would say such things as ‘I like to consider possibilities that aren’t in plain sight’, and ‘Some explanations or possibilities may be harder to swallow than others, but it doesn’t negate the possibility of them being true’.
    These rather open ended seemingly profound yet bland statements don’t really say anything of value.

    “Anything that is outside of plain view in terms of simple cause-effect relationships will not normally be investigated by science.”

    So, how do you actually investigate these possibilities without reason and evidence? How d you come to support, to believe, that there are other ways of knowing or that consciousness is everywhere in everything?

    “This is why a lot of other belief systems, and beliefs in general, exist, simply because some choose to contemplate or address possibilities…”

    No, it’s more than that. They are not simply considering them. They are considering them and then choosing, for no reason (you do say reason is not required), to believe them. You have made positive belief statements that go way beyond speculative consideration. I can quite easily speculatively consider the possibility of magic fairies. I reject them as actualities because there is no reason and evidence to support that idea. I will stop rejecting them when reason and evidence is provided for them. It is the going beyond speculation, and acting as if what you believe is actually true, is where you are going wrong: http://ronmurp.net/2012/10/11/the-dangers-of-praxis-acting-as-if/.

    “I disagree. I think that it is a more reasonable explanation since it involves constancy and conservation of properties rather than arbitrary emergence/destruction of said properties.”

    If it’s constancy you want then we already have it with physicalism. Only if you see consciousness as something separate from the physical does its ’emergence’ become a problem – the problem of dualism, connecting some supposed mystical and separate ‘consciousness’ or ‘soul’ to the physical world. The ’emergence’ of consciousness as just another behaviour of physical systems is quite straight forward and parsimonious. And as all the evidence points to this then why do you reject evidence in this one particular case, where you have come to some belief about consciousness that does not fit know evidence, for (as you say) no reason.

    “My theory that consciousness …”

    You don’t have a theory. You have a speculative idea. Where’s the theory? Where’s the link to other known ideas? Where’s the link to the rest of science such that a theory is constructed that doesn’t negate the rest of science?

    “…your view that consciousness is a property that suddenly/randomly emerges after a specific configuration of atoms is attained.”

    Who said anything about it being sudden? Millions of years of evolution have had time to result in a variety of degrees of consciousness and self-awareness. Don’t forget the many human like precursors that are now extinct. Had they survived we would be in a better position to observe the gradual changes. But perhaps some changes were more spontaneous than others. So what? This is all accounted for within the theory of evolution, so that only the specifics are unknown. And your ‘randomly’ doesn’t do justice to natural selection. Either you’re being intentionally equivocal here, or you really don’t understand evolution.

    “I believe that we are both using reason in our beliefs here…”

    But you have specifically said you do not need to rely on reason. So, give me the reasoning behind your belief that consciousness is everywhere. Your god of the gaps argument doesn’t cut it.

    “I see interconnectedness and non-separability as fundamentally true,…”

    Why? Give some reasoning. I too see interconnectedness and non-separability, but from the evidence – the evidence that all we know of is made of matter/energy and that our brains are made of the same stuff, and that there is no evidence of anything else.

    “I think that conservation of fundamental properties (including consciousness) is more reasonable than your belief….”

    First, conservation isn’t so obvious. That’s a learned fact of science. It certainly isn’t intuitive. Perpetual motion seems most intuitive to children because they see things happening and assume they always happened. Even on planetary scales, for humans, the motion of the sun around the earth seems perpetual. It tends to come as a shock to most people when they learn that the sun will die and engulf the earth. Are you sure you are not now conflating your learned experiences into your speculative ideas?

    “I see conservation in nature around me (e.g. fundamental forces, energy, etc.)”

    Where? People die and never come back. Water runs one way down stream and never comes back (until you learn the evidence of the water cycle).

    “so while my reasoning may not have direct scientific evidence to support it…”

    But you have provided no reasoned support, and there is not only no direct evidence there is no indirect evidence either.

    “Your example is a much less parsimonious explanation than my belief/theory. It appears to be less consistent with some basic principles of constancy and conservation.”

    No it isn’t. If something happens every Tuesday then that seems pretty consistent. It’s certainly more consistent than other observations, such as the life of an insect which can come to life and die, forever, in a few days or weeks. As for parsimony, you are the one positing consciousness everywhere when you observe it only in animals. Tell me what consciousness you observe in a rock, and how you investigated that to in order to come to believe it.

    “If you are defining “consciousness” to be “mental-consciousness”, that is, an experience that only a brain can provide, then you’ve limited all subsequent assumptions and properties associated with it. ”

    This is equivocation of the highest degree. If you define a ‘car’ as a mechanical vehicle with wheels then you prevent my use and definition of an elephant as a ‘car’, as a vehicle for transport, or as a ‘crane’, as a vehicle for moving logs. You have mentioned before the problems of language. Well, you will have problems with language if you abuse it in such a way.

    So, tell me what you could possibly mean by a rock being ‘conscious’ that has anything to do with any other use of the word ‘conscious’, without totally obfuscating the term.

    “If however, you don’t limit this concept to something that only a brain “produces”…”

    First, it’s not ‘something’ that the brain produces, as if it were some other thing. It is a behaviour. And second, it need not be confined to a brain. It may well be possible that other substrates may demonstrate consciousness. This is the best idea based on current evidence. There is nothing to suggest a rock can be conscious.

    “That’s part of the point behind this discussion – realizing what science can and can’t say about various things.”

    But you can’t say what science can’t say about anything. It is you that is saying we cannot know, through science, some particular things about the brain and consciousness, and also saying that you specifically do know something about consciousness that is specifically not demonstrated by science. You are attributing yourself with magical posers it seems.

    “We can never know for sure whether or not you and I infer the same meaning. That is one of the limitations of language.”

    But your abuse of language, your equivocation when it suits you, is plain to see.

    “Exactly. Anything we say is based on what methods of analysis we value, and is based on our perception of how the world works.”

    No, not on what we value, but on what we find works. We may then come to value what works. But what we value is very specifically not a good guide to what we should believe, because we can come to value ideas even when evidence and reason does not support them. You have failed to provide any explanation of why anyone should take on board your value of what is worth believing.

    “You are only interested in concrete things that science has to say, whereas I’m interested in BOTH what science has to say, and what science can’t talk about.”

    You have not shown that science can’t talk about ‘other ways of knowing’ or ‘consciousness everywhere’. You simply state that.

    “What I know is that some of my ideas of consciousness are consistent with certain core principles I adhere to.”

    You have not given any support for those core principles, and you have not shown how your ideas follow from those core principles. You are simply stating that you hold these preinciples and you are also claiming that what you believe is based on them. You have shown no connection.

    “More generally however, we define “mind” to be a non-physical thing.”

    We? Who is this ‘we’? Descartes and some old Rationalist dualists. OK, so you define it as such. Now demonstrate that it is in fact non-physical. How do you investigate that?

    “So how can we give a full account of a non-physical thing with a physical explanation?”

    You first have to demonstrate that it is non-physical. Simply defining at as such isn’t enough.

    “If you say that we’ve discovered “mind”, and thus it is physical, then this circumvents a lot of meaning behind the term physicalism.”

    But that’s not what we’ve done. At one point ‘mind’ was thought to be something non-physical, but this has not been demonstrated. I ask again, how do you investigate that to show it is indeed none physical? Instead, we discover all we currently know about matter and energy; we observe the brain is made of the same stuff; we discover that manipulations of the physical brain (intended, or through damage and disease) alter consciousness and the supposed ‘mind’ in such direct and causal a fashion that the only sensible conclusion is that the ‘mind’ is in fact the behaviour of a physical brain. Millennia of contemplation by dualists has shown nothing.

    “As an example, we tend to agree that anything physical is something that we can see, touch, probe with an instrument, etc., but can we see, touch, or probe the mind?”

    Yes. We can manipulate the ‘mind’ by altering the brain. The evidence is very clear and abundant. Just as with computer software. You cannot hold software in your hand. It does not exist as something separate from the devices and media in which it ‘resides’. Software and mind are merely patterns in physical substances.

    “but the mind includes non-physical attributes like dimensionlessness.”

    No it doesn’t. Where on earth do you get that idea?

    “I can think of “the universe” and it doesn’t take up a universe worth of space.”

    This is childish nonsense. You are not holding the actual universe in your head, you are holding a vastly reduced model of it.

    “I can imagine anything at all”

    No you cannot. You can imagine vague and approximate models, as restricted by your brain. The capacity of the physical brain and its compliance with physical laws – your very own observations of conservation – restrict what you can imagine. You cannot fit more information into your head than the physical particles can hold in their various states. The second is your imagination is imagining that you can fit more. You are fooling yourself. Do you really suppose a computer model of a weather system holds all the data that corresponds to every atom of a real whether system?

    “and there are no space constraints”

    How do you know this? Even if we imagine for a moment that there is such a thing as a mind, how do you know there are no constraints?

    Let’s test. I have an item to the right of my computer that has been sat there for a few days. It is contained in my room, which is contained in the universe. You can imagine the universe, without any constraints. Imagine what that object is and tell me.

    “There are properties that we inherently define as non-physical, and this is what makes a physicalist explanation limited and incomplete. ”

    But defining them does not make them real. In any realm, physical or non-physical. You need a non-physical realm in order to contain non-physical stuff. Where is it? How do you know about it?

    “What part of this do you not understand?”

    I understand that you are making stuff up, defining it, imagining it, then imagining that you have struck the gold of some reality.

    “So you think that an “idea” or “concept” is physical? If so, how? If not, then can we know an idea or a concept?”

    An ‘idea’ or a ‘concept’ consists of patterns in a physical brain.

    “I don’t believe that an idea or concept is something physical? I don’t believe that an intention or meaning behind a symbol is physical. Yet I do believe that we can “know” intentions, meanings, ideas, and concepts.”

    Why? How do you demonstrate any of this?

    “The circular answer I can use to that is, that our minds are non-physical, and that is how we are able to know non-physical things. Ta da!”

    And God exists because God says so. And magic fairies exists because magic fairies say so. … What has your circular argument shown? Only that you have come up with a circular argument. It does not provide any support for itself.

    “Going from “neurons to concepts” will require a transcendence that I believe doesn’t exist.”

    Yet you believe other transcendences do exists: you have observed human consciousness, so consciousness must be everywhere in everything?

    “…or if some unknown cause caused the first ball to stop and the other to move. It is not provable, simply because we have to isolate cause-effect relationships, which fail to take into account the unknowns.”

    Where did the requirement for proof sneak back in? I thought we’d dispelled that myth long ago. Science isn’t proving stuff, merely spotting correlations; and where the correlations are well supported we infer causal connections. But that’s all it is. So it is quite legitimate, based on all known science, to infer that we will find an explanation of how consciousness works in brains. You on the other hand have yet to demonstrate that consciousness even exists in rocks, let alone explain how it works in them.

    “How is this relevant?”

    It is relevant in the same way. You seem willing to accept that we could, in principle, know how individual atoms contribute to a particular balloon’s state, but not how individual atoms contribute to a brain’s state. You are, or course, already supposing that there is a mind that is separate from the brain and so inaccessible to such principle; but you have yet to demonstrate, support, provide evidence or reason, for supposing the mind is a separate thing.

    “[rain cloud] … Nope. … Nowhere in this “action” is it explained how the non-physical attributes of mind are accounted for.”

    Why presuppose the non-physical? Until you get past that the rain cloud analogy stands.

    “The rain and rainbow perspective is based on a particular subjective view of stimuli.”

    Your view of having a separate non-physical ‘mind’ is a subjective view of the stimuli of your own brain in action.

    “By observing the stimuli from a different perspective…”

    We are already seeing the brain from the perspective of disease and intended manipulation and observing a direct causal connection between brain and mind. And still you offer no reason to suppose there is a non-physical mind.

    “It is COMPLETELY different when compared to the differences between a non-physical mind and brain.”

    Why do you think there is anything non-physical? What makes you a dualist?

    “Bad analogy. In the case of the rain and the rainbow, BOTH perspectives are based on physical differences in the stimuli or how they are perceived.”

    There is no reason to think the brain has any non-physical mind associated with it.

    “It is merely your opinion that I have no good reason to posit such. I see non-physical attributes which don’t fit inline with a physical-term model. This is a good reason to me.”

    How do you see them? With what faculty?

    “Well at least you aren’t denying anything non-physical – rather you are just saying that there is no evidence for it. Good enough for me.”

    And I’m not denying there are magical fairies on the same grounds. Is that good enough for you to believe in them? Do you think that gives your particular belief any credence?

    “True it doesn’t imply that something MUST be missing, but it suggests that in all likelihood, something is missing (and we can’t know what that may be).”

    But you are claiming you do know what it might be. You have made very specific claims about other ways of knowing and about consciousness everywhere.

    “The fact that we are subjectively experiencing beings means that our filtered experience isn’t objective, and is incomplete (hence filtered). This strongly suggests that there are things missing from our perspective that actually exist”

    And this problem is addressed by science, by attempting to overcome these limitations. What is your methodology? Guessing, then believing, that consciousness is everywhere? If not guessing, then what?

    “What I’m saying is that our human limitations of knowledge include knowing HOW we know, that is, knowing what our faculties are. After all, how well can a system know itself, know how it operates, with a finite amount of memory?”

    More equivocation. You said a short while ago that your mind was limitless.

    “They are substantiated by my experience which has led me to believe that my subjective view of the world is incomplete.”

    No they are not. You claim they are, but show no such support. You merely leap from your assumption that our known ways of knowing are incomplete and that therefore there must be other ways available to us.

    “Nope. I do know it [that you exist] based on how I’ve defined “I” and “exist”.”

    Definitions are not the same as knowledge. Knowing the definition does not make the content of the definition real. I can define Superman, but that does not make him real.

    “I would still exist, because I am defining “I” and “exist”, and putting those concepts to the test. ”

    What tests? And what are the results, specifically?

    “It is a leap when we see that an equal inference from experience can be made that there are NO things that exist independent of my mind.”

    But then complete and utter solipsism (not just epistemological solipsism). I can point to all that reason and evidence has produced in the physical world, and solipsism simply states that this is all imagined within the mind. Solipsism doesn’t actually produce anything, it only explains everything and nothing. A useless philosophy.

    “I prefer to follow where the science leads AS WELL AS think for myself.”

    More equivocation. You are not thinking in a rational reasoned and evidenced way, but simply guessing then believing. You may well be doing it for yourself, coming to your beliefs in contrast to mainstream science; but mainstream science is mainstream for a good reason. There are many sages of the mystical coming up with all sorts of ideas like yours, but what do they ever produce, except books and gullible followers? Here’s Schermer on Deepak Chopra: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-happens-to-consciousness-when-we-die You don’t appear to be thinking for yourself but latching onto woo that has been around for some time.

    “I prefer to use both methods for my beliefs.”

    You have not described your other method – there is no method in it. You have stated some assumptions, and then claimed your beliefs follow from them. You specifically avoid method. Method would imply a process, steps along the way that lead one to the next. You don’t do this.

    “Now, I don’t like the idea of ignoring science like some people do, but I take it with a grain of salt, and complement those principles and observations with ideas that are consistent with science yet are outside the realm of science (this is the philosophy, the speculation, etc.).”

    It’s not only speculation, it’s equivocation. If something is outside science how do you establish it is consistent with science? What you offer are simple statements that are no different in credibility than countless other statements of woo.

    “[But what of your consciousness? How is that to be tested?] I’m not sure. It may be untestable (much like how we are unable to test an electron to see simultaneously where it is located and how fast it is moving). Some things may not be possible to do.”

    Then how do you know of it?

    “[Feelings and Emotions] They are more than this.”

    How do you know this? You reject evidence and reason, so how do you know?

    “It fails to include the qualia, the non-physical, the conceptual, the meaning, etc.”

    You have given no reason to accept the non-physical as worth considering. You simply state it, as if there is some reality to it. You toy with words, definitions, as if defining something somehow brings it into existence. You change definitions willy-nilly. Your re-definition of consciousness is an abuse of language, pure obfuscation.

    “I was illustrating that our brains can’t fully know themselves, and for various reasons, including that we experience the world through a subjective lens of perception and how we study the brain or anything else is through that same filtered lens of perception. How we think of ourselves is filtered.”

    Then it is filtered for you too, and your early comment about your mind containing the universe is equivocating nonsense. You point out these limitations of the brain, but then suppose that you have some mind that transcends this brain of yours. If it’s the brain that’s causing your brain behaviour that makes you think you have a mind that then supposes it can contain the universe … can’t you see how filtered is your view, how distorted it is?

    “That’s what I said. I believe that the uncertainty (which Epistemological Solipsism holds) is a certainty because it is compatible with the view that we can’t be certain there are or are not things independent of one’s own mind.”

    More equivocation. How can you claim certainty if the mind is uncertain? Our very uncertainty is uncertain. This is just word play on your part.

    “I don’t think that “thinking” is physical even if it is correlated with physical events.”

    You don’t think it’s a physical processes, the behaviour of a physical brain? Why not? What have you got that would suggest otherwise, other than simple assertions?

    “I’m not in that boat. I do not believe in “God”.”

    Why not? It is even more consistent with everything than your mere consciousness idea, and as a concept is even more parsimonious.

    “Your method relies on ONLY science. My method relies on science as well as intuited ideas that are compatible with that same science.”

    You misconstrue, again. Science uses intuition. Intuition is the appearance of ideas for which we are not fully conscious. The human invented process of science is a collection of methods that take these ideas, many of which may be nonsense, and tests them. Only those that come through those many tests by many people survive to be taken as good approximations to reality, because they work. Your intuition about consciousness does what exactly, produces what, informs us of what, leads where?

    “I find my method to be more open and more useful than science alone.”

    Open, yes – so open that anything goes. Useful? In what respect is it useful? In merely satisfying your curiosity? Givining you the impression that you understand the universe in some deepity way?

    Here are some more ideas that are just as valid as yours because they have just as much support: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/huffpo-blogger-makes-case-for-esp/. How do you distinguish theirs from yours?

    We will have to disagree as long as you abused words, redefine to suit yourself, equivocate on meanings, speak in riddles of profundity. You even equivocate on your acceptance of science, accepting only when it suits and is unavoidable, ridiculing its limitations as if you alone are aware of them, as if most if not all scientists aren’t acutely aware of our human limitations. But you then make claims and state beliefs that are in direct defiance of these very limitations, as if you have personal access to these truths. You equivocate on the extent to which you’ll agree that you are speculating, when answering one specific point, and then switch back to beliefs when making profound sounding generalised deepities.

    Like

  11. Lage,

    “I have made claims of what I believe to be the case. I’m not calling them facts.”

    Well, I tend not to believe things that I don’t also think are facts. But, OK, you’re comfortable with that. I can see a particular reason why you don’t need justified true beliefs – you don’t require your beliefs to be justified or true, just possible; even remotely possible will do.

    “One of my claims is that we can’t claim that we know all ways of knowing. You think that we can know this, as you think that reason and the senses provide the only way of knowing.”

    Again you miss the significant contingency. I never said we know all the ways of knowing. I said the ways we currently have of knowing, sense and reason, are the only ones we know of, given the contingency of what we think we can know. We both accept sense and reason, but you want to add other ways of knowing, such as intuition, without explaining how we know that they work. Our sense and reason, when out through the rigor of science, give us clear indication that intuition is just one more aspect of our experience: an internally physical phenomenon of a physical brain; and it also gives us a clear indication that it is an unreliable method of acquiring knowledge. We can only check our suspected ways of knowing against each other – what else can we do, since we have no other authority to appeal to. And when we check supposed other ways of knowing against the one way of knowing we both agree on, they come up with nothing, or are shown to be part of our sense and reason experience.

    “My claim is that we can’t know what our only ways of knowing are, and due to our incompleteness, we can assume that other ways may exist”

    Why? How do you know they are incomplete? What faculty tells you this? Even if they are incomplete, why assume any other way of knowing is available? It may be that humans simply have incomplete ways of knowing and that no others are available to us.

    “We may get lucky and through our filtered lens of perception, somehow be able to pull out everything that’s out there – but I think it’s more likely that our filtered perception has indeed filtered some things out. This is part of my reasoning.”

    This isn’t reasoning, it’s guessing.

    “Third, I believe that non-communicables exist, and that knowledge can include non-communicables.”

    Why believe that?

    “If you said that the evidence suggests that hallucinations have no bearing on reality, then fine. But when you say that hallucinations have no bearing on reality, that is a claim that needs further explanation.”

    Of course I mean the evidence suggests this. It should be plain from everything I’ve written that evidence and reason, being the only way of knowing that we know of, that works, is behind my claim. That I even give the example, as evidence, makes it clear I’m arguing from evidence.

    “If you said that the evidence suggests that reason and the senses are the only way of knowing, then you may be correct.”

    Of course that’s what I mean. That I’ve had to repeat the issue of contingency and that all we have is reason and senses and that the best we can do with them, through science, leads us to rely on evidence, should make this so obvious that I should not need to keep making the same point. It really is ridiculous to suggest I’m making bold claims to the extent that you are. Your claims *are* mere statements of belief. You make several, and you suppose that one leads to the other, as if by argument. But they are simply unrelated statements of what you believe. You specifically say that you think they are outside of science, outside our senses and reason.

    “However when you say that reason and the senses are the only way of knowing, that sounds like a pretty certain claim to me.”

    It’s a claim based on evidence: the evidence that we do agree on, that most if not all humans agree on, that we do in fact have senses and reason. These are observations that though contingent are ones that very few people actually object to. So, if this is the only way of knowing that we agree on, and many people see no evidence for other ways of knowing, then it is for those claiming other ways of knowing to demonstrate them, explain them, in ways that are acceptable to a wider audience. That is how humans come to agree. So, no, I’ve not claimed that sense and reason is the only way of knowing, but that it’s the only way that we know of. I’m quite open to there being other ways of knowing, such as Plantinga’s sensus divinitatis. Now, you don’t believe in God, you say. How do you evaluate Plantinga’s sensus divinitatis?

    “I believe that we are both unsure, but perhaps you feel that you are “sure” that we only have one way of knowing.”

    Has all the contingency that I keep stressing really passed you by?

    “You don’t want to assume there’s anything else, and I am assuming that there is.”

    Not quite. I am prepared to assume there might be something else; but without evidence for it I can’t possibly say that there is something else, and therefore can’t say specifically what that something else might be. You, on the other hand, seem to take the assumption that there might be something else, and then go on to tell us what you think it is. Without any grounds for doing so.

    “We don’t know either way, so what’s the difference? ”

    The difference is you believe you know, without good reason or evidence.

    “You feel that anything without evidence should be ignored”

    Until evidence arises, then yes, of course. Should I listen to astrologers about how to live my life, simply because, despite the evidence, there might be some truth in it? When my brother-in-law thinks he’s on a winning streak on the horses and says I should put a tidy sum on a horse he’s sure to win, should I do that because he might be right, even though all previous evidence suggests he won’t be? Should I really do anything in particular, just because someone believes everything is conscious, when there is no evidence to support that claim?

    “My view is more inclusive whereas yours is not.”

    Why don’t you include belief in magic fairies, or Plantinga’s sensus divinitatis? You’re not as inclusive as you think you are. You have attached yourself to very specific beliefs, such as the one about consciousness.

    “You are treating the discussion like a scientific experiment, where evidence and 3rd party verification are the only things that matter to you, rather than complementing those with imagination, creativity and thinking outside the box.”

    I’ll make the point again, that science uses imagination and thinking outside the box. How on earth do you think that so many counter intuitive ideas make it in science? They make it because people imagine them, they think outside the box. And then they test them to see if they work. Just check out the many current ideas for the origins of the universe – there are several quite distinct ones that are all ‘outside the box’. The distinction between these ideas and fairy stories about gods is that they have some foundation in other results; they try to see how the ideas fit other ideas. So I’m afraid your claim to open mindedness doesn’t wash. It seems you are so open minded that your brain is falling out – metaphorically of course. You are using your intuition and going with it, instead of examining it for its flaws. You are not testing it – you insist it is beyond reason and evidence.

    “Since when is philosophy (the blog area we are discussing in) limited to evidence?”

    The distinction between philosophy and religion is (or should be, but not all philosophers adhere to this) is that it is based on reason, critical thinking, thinking about thinking and ensuring that our reasoning processes are the best we can muster. Though philosophy, like science, and any other human effort that uses the brain, does use intuition and imagination, it is still necessary to put those ideas to the test. In philosophy that means reason; though any sensible philosopher will also take into account what we have learned through science.

    The problem for pure thought is that we can indeed come up with any idea we can imagine. We can come up with contradictory ideas, and the only way to choose between them is to use some other method to check them – sense experience, science. Let’s keep to speculative ideas: you suggest everything might be conscious, and I suggest only brains are conscious though other substrates might be made conscious. What do we do next? we test those ideas. I can give the example of human brains and animal brains as being conscious, but I can’t show anything else. Your turn. What do you bring to the table to support your case? That’s how humans do things. Guessing and then believing tends not to work reliably.

    “Why can’t it include broader concepts that are speculative?”

    I’m all for speculation and imagination. If you look back you’ll see I’ve made that point before. What I don’t get is why you believe a particular speculative idea to be true without being able to support that view. Your incompleteness idea is no support.

    “You should go to a strict science blog if you want strict scientific answers to your questions.”

    Well, no, I should not. This would negate my efforts to consider other views. Isn’t the fact that I’m in this discussion with you evidence that I am prepared to consider other views? I’ve been considering yours. Don’t mistake your failure to convince me, to provide sufficient evidence, as me not being open minded.

    “Or is it safer to say that there are things missing (e.g. we can’t know what our faculties are as there may be those we are unable to know we have)?”

    But you have made claims about these other faculties. You believe you have the faculty to know that everything is conscious.

    “Going along that line, even if I couldn’t name a specific faculty other than reason and the senses, I’m safer assuming that there are additional faculties we don’t know about.”

    I do too. Right, so what are they? How do they work? How do we verify that they are not mistaken? Intuition is not another way of knowing since it is easily encompassed by the physicalist understanding of the brain. You have offered no reason to think otherwise.

    “This is part of my reasoning…”

    Your reasoning so far: We don’t know everything, and so there might be other ways of knowing. That’s it. None of your other stuff follows from that. You offer no argument as to what those other ways may be – though you claim intuition is one. And I’ve seen not one argument that gets you from there to ‘consciousness everywhere’.

    “I’m just speculating based on some of these core principles ”

    But you don’t speculate that fairies exist and sensus divinitatis works and reveals God? Why?

    “Whenever I hear statements like “this is the only way” or “that is impossible” or “we know all there is to know about that” – I’m doubtful.”

    Excuse me? You are the one who knows that science will never discover what consciousness is. I’ve been sprinkling contingency throughout my comments. I’m the one who doubts your certainties, remember? I’ve not claimed we know all there is to know, but you have, implicitly, in claiming science will never understand consciousness. Your comments flit around from pillar to post. There is no coherent case.

    “This is part of why I believe that there are other ways of knowing.”

    You’ve moved again, from speculation back to belief.

    “What I’m saying is that we can’t say that the firing of neurons CAUSES the auditory experiences (and even if we could, we can’t say HOW the firing of neurons could CAUSE the auditory experiences), only that they are correlated with one another.”

    If you fail to accept this as a causal connection then why do you accept any science at all? This is a really weak objection. Are you an evolution doubter because we have no point-by-point evidence of specific mutations and selection events? Do you seriously doubt that there is another human being at the other end of this conversation, because you can’t see the causal connection of my existence and my typing these words? Your statement completely misses the whole of how science works. How do you even get out of bed in the morning if this is your degree of doubt in causation and how we assess it and distinguish it from correlation? When you look for your socks in the morning do you merely hope that there is a coincidental correlation between your expectation of where they might be and your memory of where you left them?

    “I have confidence in all scientific evidence giving us new information. What I lack confidence in is the belief that science is the only thing we should look to for answers to questions.”

    Fine. Then it is for you to come up with specific challenges where you think science has got it wrong, why and how. That’s how humans get through life – it’s not just a science thing. If you think there is a mistake in the science that shows that auditory experiences may occur through internal neuron activity alone, then how do you propose to falsify that? Simply suspecting they might have it wrong is just about how conspiracy theorists work.

    “I believe that science is a tool to help us increase our understanding, but it only increases a type of understanding, not all understanding.”

    Then that too is a specific belief. Why do you think that? because of your god of the gaps type trick? You have not shown that there is any other way of knowing, only speculated then believed it to be the case. You have not shown why your idea of consciousness everywhere should be taken seriously, you simply state it and believe it.

    “You ignoring any and all possibilities that have no evidence is NONSENSE in my opinion.”

    I realise that this is your opinion. So, how do you pick and choose from the un-evidenced possibilities. What about a particular possibility makes that one easy for you to believe, and not others? How do you come to choose consciousness everywhere over sensus divinitatis?

    “As for your specific claims about witches and demons, you can come up with a bunch of silly arbitrary examples if you’d like, but it’s not going to get you anywhere in this discussion.”

    And nor will the silly example of ‘consciousness everywhere’. I don’t know what it is about that particular example that does it for you, but that really is as silly as the others.

    “No I have not considered the possibility of magic fairies. It does not correlate with my core principles and seems arbitrary.”

    Consciousness everywhere seems just as arbitrary and unconnected to your core principles of: ‘incompleteness; therefore other ways of knowing’. Not that I think your core principles are convincing.

    “You are giving obvious examples of what people consider to be fiction or not real. ”

    Yes I am. The very specific purpose of these examples (as with Russell’s Teapot) is to emphasise how ridiculous examples are indistinguishable from your cherished example of ‘consciousness everywhere’ (or God, w.r.t. Russell’s Teapot), when it comes to the method of coming to those beliefs.

    “Those examples will not get you what you want from this discussion.”

    I realise that this might be the case, since using Russell’s teapot and other examples in discussions with committed theists has little effect too. But I was hoping you’d see the nature of the analogy. As it happens I think God and consciousness everywhere are more plausible sounding than magic fairies; but this is because they contain less of what we do know from science. Magic fairies would have to contravene more of what we do know from science, while a God could conceivably be some greater scientific being, using methods that we are unaware of. We don’t know very much about what it takes to make a universe. Our current evidence only shows material non-supernatural evidence.

    But, despite that, God, and ‘consciousness everywhere’ remain speculations. The problem with believing them is that without evidence we can add other speculations to them. We could think that God thinks of us all as sinners, and that specifically Islamic terrorists are really doing Gods work. Or we might think that a universal consciousness everywhere means that I can choose to abuse children because that must be OK, since the universal consciousness must be choosing that I do it. These are some of the possibilities that you might not want to consider and believe, but by using your own route to belief you can have no argument with anyone who has these particular beliefs. They too are achieved through speculation followed by belief.

    Reason and evidence are the real core of what has allowed humans to be what we are. Terrible mistakes are made when people rely on intuition. Tony Blair took the UK to war because he believed he was doing the right thing. George W Bush relied on his gut. This is nonsense. A reprehensible way for humans to conduct their lives. That some made-up beliefs are benign, like some forms of Christianity, or like ‘consciousness everywhere’, does not make them any more credible than the malignant ones.

    “Well my ideas on the conservation of consciousness involves principles that are consistent with parallels seen in science (e.g. conservation of energy, etc.).”

    Then they are also consistent with the conservation of good and evil? This is nonsense. Simply declaring that consciousness is everywhere, and then also declaring it is consistent with conservation, like the conservation of energy, is just so much hot air. The conservation of energy is a hard won principle that comes from a lot of scientific work. It may have started out as intuitive speculation, but it is the hard evidence of science that still maintains that as a principle – it has not been contradicted by any science. Yours is just made up in your head.

    “Ok. I never said that they did [say anything of value]. They just acknowledge that we can’t be certain that we know all of our faculties.”

    Your ‘consciousness everywhere’ seems more than just an acknowledgement of uncertainty. You believe it, you say. So, does it have any value? Or do you simply choose to believe this speculative idea?

    “I never said that you could or should [investigate]. That is your assumption that this is something we should strive to do. Some things are not accessible for further investigation. They just “are”. You take it or leave it.”

    OK, let me make sure I understand you. You think that consciousness is everywhere. You have no reason or evidence to support this, and think it beyond reason and evidence. You intuit this. You don’t think it can be investigated, and nor should it need to be investigated. You have simply made it up in your head. Take it or leave it. Is that about it?

    “I’ve given you reasons, but you have either failed to understand them or failed to read them.”

    Putting aside for the moment that you have also said it is beyond reason and evidence, that it just is, I have given objections to what you claim to be reasons. So, I take it now that here I should take ‘reasons’ to mean ‘explanation’ and not a reasoning process. The explanation being that you simply intuit it and believe it, without need for reason and evidence.

    “I want to reiterate that I believe that a universal consciousness gives rise to the physical world in that I believe it drives all physical processes and allows for “existence”. It is a very complicated subject to talk about (consciousness that is).”

    I can see how this is a take it or leave it proposition. It is invented in your head and defies reason and evidence. But I still don’t see what makes you think this is the case, as opposed to physicalism being the cause of consciousness, or pure solipsism.

    “I do not reject the scientific evidence. I just believe that there is more to it than just what the evidence suggests.”

    But you think that scientific evidence itself is constructed along with everything else, by consciousness?

    So, why are we disagreeing? Which consciousness is at work here? We seem to come to our own personal consciousness, recognise that other humans are conscious, and go from there. So how does your view of consciousness fit in with this? Why does a consciousness everywhere produce apparent individual consciousness’s that disagree about consciousness? Why does this consciousness even bother producing the physical, or the appearance of the physical?

    “It is however a theory that does not ignore what science has to say.”

    Yes it does. If science, along with the physical scientists, is a product of the consciousness then it is that consciousness that is the arbiter of what science shows, not the science itself. Science is just an artefact of the consciousness and might have no bearing on reality at all, if consciousness is the only reality. Your idea completely negates all science. Any scientific evidence provided (e.g. auditory experiences not cause be sound entering the ears) is countered by ‘it might be this, it might be that’ non-evidenced speculations. The earth is billions of years old? No, it just appears that way to science, but science is wrong because a particular belief in God dictates it is only 6,000 years old. Take it or leave it. Of course many Creationists will accept science, and causation, when it suits them. They too will pick and choose, as long as their cherished belief is excused. Can you not see how your cherished belief is similar?

    Of course I would expect you to echo this comment about my cherished beliefs, as if they are the same type of beliefs as yours, as you have disingenuously several times. But my ‘beliefs’ are not reached in the same way as yours and those of theists. My beliefs are always tentative and contingent; and science only every shows consistency between senses and reason and makes no further claims.

    “I see the conservation of energy as my first link. I believe that consciousness (the universal consciousness) is a property similar to energy and that it is not created or destroyed, but only changes form.”

    Why? Your ‘seeing’ consciousness as being conserved has nothing like the evidence for the conservation of energy. There isn’t even any evidence of universal consciousness, and so no evidence that it is conserved. You make this stuff up as if it is on a par with the conservation of energy? This is a joke.

    “The level of mental consciousness that we see in animals with brains is one form of consciousness originating from that constant universal consciousness.”

    How do you know that is the source? The evolutionary explanation fits well, so what makes your idea credible?

    “I’m not discounting evolution at all.”

    But I am, and saying it is a better fit as an explanation of what consciousness is and how it arises in humans. What do you have to offer to suggest universal consciousness?

    “There has to be a point when this happened. If consciousness emerged, this point has to exist.”

    Why? This is not at all how things work. We know what water is, and how it behaves her on earth, in this gravity well, in this atmosphere. But what of water is obvious from a single H2O molecules in a vacuum in space? The same applies to species. There is no one point when one species turns into another. Every infant is of the same species as the mother, and yet over time enough differences accumulate so that a distant grand-daughter is of a different species. Some fish-like creature was probably our mutual distant grand-mother. Your argument about consciousness sounds very much like the misunderstanding creationists have about evolution.

    “A point in time where before there was no consciousness, and after, there WAS consciousness. This is what I mean by sudden. You clearly misunderstood me.”

    I understood you. But you are wrong. This is a gross misunderstanding of evolution.

    “I am confident that I understand the basic mechanisms of evolution just as well as you do.”

    Clearly you don’t, if what you have explained about the evolution of consciousness is anything to go by.

    “I believe we all came from the same source, and if we accept the Big Bang Theory (this IS a scientific theory), it is implied that the universe was an infinitely dense singularity.”

    Try looking up some of the alternatives. But even so, that we all come from the same source is sufficiently close enough. It seems clear that on the scale of the universe we do indeed come from the same material; and from evolution we do come from the same physical precursors that did not have consciousness. Nowhere is there any evidence of a universal consciousness. We have not knowingly heard from such a consciousness. The only remotely similar claims are religious ones, about a conscious entity called God, but there is no evidence of that either.

    “These are just a couple reasons behind this belief of mine. Satisfied? ”

    No, because they all point to a physical reality of matter and energy. Nowhere in any scientific theory does it start out with a consciousness that creates this physical singularity (you do say the consciousness creates the physical).

    “I disagree. I think that for millennia there have been people (not scientists) that believed in eternity, cycles, and constancy.”

    It’s philosophers and theologians that did some thinking on these matters that came up with these counter intuitive ideas. But it has taken science to show which stand up to scrutiny. You have no evidence that this is what comes naturally to most people. Children seem to have a particularly simplistic view in that they take what they see as real. They see the sun move across he sky regularly and they presume the sun is a smallish object in the sky. My grandfather, even in old age, insisted that the sun was not a star, because it was obvious that it was not. You mistake your own ingrained education on these matters for regular intuitive insight. They are not.

    And conservation is a bit of an open ended notion that you abuse. It could be said that there is conservation of motion in a perpetual motion machine – if something has been going round and round for some time then what is to stop it? Only evidence that indeed things do stop, the evidence of friction, counteracts this intuitive otherwise idea. How come the sun keeps going round the earth (to a child’s eye) and yet a spinning top eventually falls over? These are empirical questons that only the inquisitive seek answers to. Many people are content with not knowing. Most educated people get the answers in school, and from then on, after the fact, they then seem intuitive. How come the electron never loses momentum and spirals into the nucleus of the atom? Where is the intuitive answer? There isn’t one. Only theory and measurement discover the quantum world.

    Even the idea of atomism may sound intuitive, but it is opposed directly to continuous divisibility. To the early Greeks they were contradictory ideas. Only empirical investigation starts to explain, to expose the atom as being more than a solid indivisible whole. Intuition is a great tool for prompting questions. But it is unreliable as a means of answering them. Only science has been successful here.

    “We look at the world in different ways, and through different perspectives.”

    Yes, I don’t see that making stuff up, intuiting it, then believing it, is sufficient. I see this fail so often, as with religion, the many religions, and with many philosophies. Though I agree there may be many things we don’t know, I think that if we don’t know then it’s no good simply making stuff up to fill the gaps where we don’t yet have specific answers.

    “Time is never actually lost. It is something that never stops and is thus conserved.”

    What a totally incoherent statement based on speculative woo. There is no real answer available to us about what time is. Some theories have it that time started in this universe with the creation of the universe, and will end when this universe eventually fades away. There may even be time outside our universe, but maybe different times. The whole notion of time is up for grabs. Within this universe it has a very specific meaning, which at one time was thought of in absolute terms, but later shown to be relative. What does it even mean to say whether time is lost or not?

    “To say that time had a starting point is incredibly unintuitive in my opinion.”

    Well, that’s because your intuition on this, the ideas that form in your physical brain that guide you in this matter, are influenced by other beliefs and understandings you posess. Intuition is peculiar to individuals, in that it fits their own experience. This can be seen across cultures where even the way brains work in particular cases are different and so inform intuitions in a different way. Example: http://sighkoblahgrr.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/eastern-vs-western-brain-function.html

    “Something happening every Tuesday is not constant. It is intermittent/periodic.”

    Hold on, you included cycles in your list of conservations.

    “Besides that, your theory of “every other atom”, etc., was arbitrary and less consistent with scientific principles. Try an example that is more consistent with scientific principles and I’ll give you more credit.”

    Your idea about consciousness everywhere is even less consistent in terms of evidence. It can be construed as consistent just as my example can – by merely claiming it is so. Explaining anything explains nothing. Your consciousness example is no different than claims about God. Here you seem to be demanding scientific credibility, and at other times declaring it irrelevant – as it suits you.

    “Yes, I am positing this because I believe it is less arbitrary than saying it is limited to some arrangement of atoms in an animal brain.”

    First, why is it less arbitrary? How do you measure degrees of arbitrariness in this case, when you reject all measurement (evidence) for your case.

    “It is parsimonious in that it is constant and thus requires less complication due to “emergence”.”

    OK, the number 1 is everything. How’s that for a declaration of something constant, conserved, and explains everything? This is how you work? Just because you claim consciousness is everything you think the apparent profundity of the term gives it any more merit?

    “I think that my assumption is more simply and thus more parsimonious than your assumptions – REGARDLESS of what the evidence is limited in suggesting.”

    Yes, I realise you believe stuff REGARDLESS of evidence. This is apparent.

    “The same scientific evidence had people believing that the sun revolved around the earth.”

    No it it did not. Additional evidence changed what people believed to be the case. The sun never did revolve around the earth. People on earth believed that from their vantage point and without adequate tools and methods to see otherwise. The same use of our eyes and daily experiences from the behaviour of the sun/earth system still give the same impression. Your view, that consciousness is everywhere, has never had any evidence to support it.

    “You shouldn’t put so much faith in science.”

    haven’t we had this discussion before? Haven’t I pointed out the distinction between faith and acquired trust?

    “…but you have much more faith in it than I do, even if you don’t think it is faith.”

    How do you make that out? I have explained many times in what sense I do not have faith in science. I only have trust in it to the extent that it produces results. You mistake my lack of faith in your ideas for a faith in science?

    “It is faith. You also have faith in the scientific community to not lie to you or others in the population.”

    What? Where on earth did this come from? This is in direct opposition to my view of science. I know full well that scientists are humans, and that humans are fallible, including greed, pride, bias, political persuasion, and many other counts. I know full well that insurance companies in America have sometimes coerced their scientists into decisions that avoid the pay-out of insurance claims, against the scientific evidence. I know big pharma and tobacco companies have been selective in what science they release to suit their needs. I don’t know how you come to this conclusion given all I’ve been saying about human fallibility. My only point, that I’ve emphasised often, is that, as flawed as it is, science is the best we have; it has the most robust methods in place for getting at reliable results. That the whole human enterprise is still subject to human flaws is not enough to make it out to be on a par with the much worse methodologies of believing without evidence that you seem to support (and yet are particularly selective about).

    “For one thing, I believe that existence depends on awareness of some kind.”

    Why? What in your core principles leads you to this belief?

    “If all “mentally-conscious beings” are eliminated from the universe (all beings with brains for example), I don’t believe that the universe would still exist UNLESS everything remaining had some level of awareness/consciousness. ”

    How do you know that? Why do you believe it? There was nothing that gave any hint of the quantum nature of the universe prior to experimental results that demonstrated it, or prior to theories that suggested it and where then tested. I don’t recall any philosophy that intuited that the atom was not a solid whole, until experiments gave odd results that suggested it might be the case. What has brought you to your beliefs about consciousness? Simply coming up with an idea that is consistent isn’t good enough. The God idea is just as consistent. This is why science is better than intuition alone. Contrary ideas that are all consistent with what we superficially observe must be put to the test. What tests lead to your idea? What specific theory?

    “Beyond that, I see consciousness as constant, and is thus a property in all matter”

    Hang on, a while ago consciousness created matter, the physical.

    “My view of universal consciousness is more complicated than this, but this may give you something you asked for. ”

    You’ve had plenty of opportunity to offer a more detailed explanation. Please give it, by all means. Oh, I forgot, it’s conveniently beyond communication.

    “This is circular Ron. What is a behaviour?”

    Behaviour is merely dynamic matter as observed locally. The collection of atoms that make molecules, that make organic compounds, that make cells, that make organs, that make organisms, that include the brain organ – this collection is a dynamic system. That dynamic system, as a whole, in its dynamic activity, is what we call behaviour. An individual atom, in its interaction with others, ‘behaves’, according to the laws of nature we discover to match out models. A human being, as a system, behaves. Some of that behaviour involves the brain activity that results in speech, motor action, thought. This is all quite straight forward.

    “Is it a property of something or is it action of some kind?”

    It’s an action. But the term ‘property’ is sometimes used flexibly to declare consciousness as an emergent property. The confusion is that some properties seem more concrete than others. To some people mass and colour seem like equally viable properties, while to others colour is an artefact of human perception determined by different properties of matter. Depending on the context it might be convenient to call consciousness an emergent property, but really it is more like software – it does not exist in its own right. So, to take your point, remove conscious animals from the planet earth and there will be no consciousness around, as far as we can tell.

    “You can’t just hide behind a word like “aspect” or “behavior” as if to somehow negate the non-physical. It simply won’t work.”

    It is you that hides behind the non-physical without demonstrating that there is such. You do after all agree that there is the physical. You say so, even if you do say it is created by consciousness. But though we both agree we experience the physical you have nothing to show for your understanding of consciousness.

    “There is also nothing to suggest that a rock CAN’T be conscious.”

    And nothing to suggest there is no God. What makes you think there is consciousness but no God? Why believe one without evidence and not the other?

    “The main thing to consider here is that I believe that science can only talk about the physical.”

    You have not shown there is anything else. And that I can’t show there isn’t is irrelevant. How many types of non-physical are there? Consciousness, God? How do you choose between these speculative ideas?

    “You don’t seem satisfied enough to do this [agree to disagree] however.”

    I already agree that we disagree. I’m trying to find out if there is any good reason to see it from your perspective.

    “once we realize that we are at an impasse, we should except it and move on to the next subject.”

    If only this were possible. But we’ve done that before. On some other post you will make comments about the underlying consciousness, or some other way of knowing, as if it’s a done deal. I’ll object that you haven’t demonstrated any other way of knowing, or given good reason for thinking consciousness creates the physical, and you offer the same explanations again. You even make points about me believing things that I have specifically said I don’t believe, you completely ignore my points about the contingency of how humans come to think what might be the case and say I have faith in science. All the time you never give reasons for your beliefs beyond some unconnected statements (incompleteness, conservation, consciousness) without any connecting arguments.

    “You value evidence. I value evidence PLUS reasoned speculation.”

    Here’s a case in point. You have specifically said your ideas are beyond reason and evidence, and now you claim reasoned speculation. But your speculations are not connected by reason. How does your consciousness idea follow from incompleteness and conservation? You have to have some notion of consciousness before you can then show it is conserved, but you claim consciousness comes first. You are simply making unconnected statements and using them as if they support each other. This is somewhat like a theist claiming that God exists because the bible says so, and the bible is true because it is inspired by God.

    “Or are we probing the brain which then has an affect on the mind? I think the latter.”

    But that is only the case if one first establishes that the mind is indeed something separate from th brain. And anyway, didn’t you deny you were a dualist?

    I mean it quite literally when I say your idea is childish. It is the simplistic unrealistic idea a child would entertain. That’s all I meant by that.

    “Yes, this [reduced model] is obvious. The point is that concepts do not take up physical space ”

    How do you know that? You have not demonstrated this at all. The physical nature of the brain and its finite possible states restrict how concepts are held in the brain. You have to demonstrate something beyond the physical, which you fail to do. This is tied to the problem of thinking that thinking is something special. That in itself is an idea of the brain. You have offered no reason to believe that the mind is something other than the dynamic brain in action and that it is not bound by the finite physics of the brain.

    “I can imagine an infinite number of things.”

    No you cannot – or at least you are unable to support this claim. You can entertain the notion of infinity, but you cannot actually imagine an infinite number of things. Take a three bit memory. It can hold only 8 possible states. The brain, even if we use individual atoms as binary state holders in some way, would still have a finite number of states available to it. If each state represented the existence or not of an atom in the universe the possible it will probably exceed the number of atoms in the universe. But it is still finite. Concepts may correspond to the states of collections of neurons, and in some case even down to states specific neurons, but it will all still be finite. Add to that the limitations from experience and the number of ideas we can practically entertain will be even less. This seems to match our experience, in that all of the humans that have ever existed seem of share many finite concepts, and infrequently have completely novel concepts that are then shared as new human knowledge.

    “This goes back to set theory. Although I can imagine an infinite number of things, it is a set of things contained within an even larger infinite list of “all things”. Both are infinite however.”

    This is quite wrong. You can imagine the idea of a set that you label as infinite and that you define as containing infinite things, but you cannot imagine that actual set and its actual contents.

    This is similar to the error of theists who imagine that the veracity of their beliefs are equivalent to the truth of their beliefs. You are thinking that if you imagine, bring to mind, the notion of an infinite set that you are actually imagining the infinite set itself. You are not.

    “This is an assumption you make, and there is little evidence to support it. That is, we aren’t fully aware of how memories are stored, how different types of memories take up different space, etc.”

    Again, this is really quite a simplistic view. It doesn’t matter how they are stored, the brain is still finite. And, as it happens, we do know how memories are stored. You are mistaking the vague concepts that appear in the human consciousness for something quite ephemeral and unreal, non-physical. There is no evidence to support this view, but plenty of evidence to support the mechanistic view of memory storage in the brain.

    “Perhaps the particles are able to hold an infinite number of states? Who knows? Certainly not you or I.”

    Without evidence that they can, and that individual particles (do you mean atoms, molecules, cells, neurons?) contribute to consciousness in some specific way it is you that is going beyond the evidence. The evidence is that memory is recorded at the level of the synapse, and that individual fleeting activity with greater or lesser fixation of synaptic junctions. There are details about how much other cells, such as glial cells, contribute, but these are technical details. But, just as gaps in the fossil record regarding specific evolutionary lineages do not negate the principles of evolution, nothing currently unknown in neuroscience suggests anything other than the physical brain being responsible for our experience of consciousness. And there is nothing at all in science (only in your belief it seems) that suggests ‘consciousness everywhere’.

    “I disagree. I don’t think that an idea or concept can be fully described as “patterns in a physical brain”.”

    Why not? What evidence do you have to counter this idea? There is plenty of evidence that supports it, though much of the detail is yet to be discovered.

    “I mention it because it seems to be the only thing you are interested in. When you want to talk to someone who thinks in a foreign way, it helps to speak their language.”

    This is so bogus and disingenuous of you. I’ve stressed at length the nature of evidence being only a consistent pattern between reasoned ideas and evidence. I have given specific objections to terms like ‘truth’ and ‘proof’. It is certainly not my language.

    “It has shown that no matter what, you believe that the mind is physical and I don’t.”

    The ‘no matter what’ is the case on your part, but not mine. You fail to give reason and evidence, but claim they are irrelevant. You also occasional claim to use reason. But you also fail to explain why your intuition should be regarded is good reason, when intuition is easily shown to be unreliable.

    “I believe that the mind has non-physical properties (including concepts, ideas, thoughts, etc.) and this is part of the basis for my belief that a physicalist explanation will fall short. ”

    In what sense is this not a dualist idea? OK, it’s not the dualism of a theist that posits a soul, but in declaring you believe in the non-physical it is still a dualism. “So you are a dualist?”, “No, actually I’m more of an idealist”. Dualism is the belief that the mind is separate from the physical brain. OK, so you think the mind has some non-physical properties? This is still a form of dualism. How can a physical brain have non-physical properties? I can see that if you believe in a mind separate from a brain that the brain is non-physical. What are non-physical properties and how do they interact with the physical brain, or even with the physical part of the mind, if the mind is physical at all. You seem to have very mixed views on this that either aren’t at all clear, or that you keep changing.

    “Exactly. It isn’t proving stuff. Your inference of causal connections is an inference that has no proof. It is speculative.”

    More nonsense. Humpty-Dumpty stuff again, making words mean what you want them to mean. Inference from causal connections is quite different from speculation. A speculative idea is one that lacks inference from causal connections. Your ideas lack both inference from evidence as well as proof. You have nothing to support them. You simply believe them.

    “Causal connections are speculative.”

    Only at a philosophical level where we don’t really understand causality. But at a pragmatic level the use of causality produces results – all of science is based on it. Now, you say so much about how you appreciate science and follow its methods too, so it’s not as if you are rejecting causality. You are being as picky and choosy as a theist deciding which bits conveniently fit your beliefs and which don’t, and chirping up with your disclaimers when evidence and reason are asked for in support of your beliefs.

    “Science shows correlations and nothing else in my opinion. ”

    That may well be, but some of the correlations are so persistent and survive so much theory and experiment that we call them causes. You have no such support for your ideas. You have not even got any correlations.

    “Others disagree with that inference (like me).” – When its convenient to your beliefs.

    “I do not think that we can connect atomic arrangements and the mind’s non-physicality.”

    Again, you need to first demonstrate the non-physicality before this even makes sense. And we are going round in circles because you cannot see the limitations of your own ideas, how much they lack support and how they are just like any other intuited ideas that are unsupported – like God – that you reject. Though you think you have reasons for believing your ideas they are no better than reasons for believing other non-evidenced and supposed non-physicalities that you don’t accept.

    “because of our disagreement with the mind being non-physical.”

    Show it is non-physical, or give some reasoned argument for taking that view seriously and the discussion will change.

    “Because I believe that things including concepts, thoughts, etc., are not physical (at the very least, some properties of them are not).”

    But why? On what basis? Your core ideas of incompleteness and conservation do not magically lead to this proposition. Where does it come from?

    Like

    • Ron,

      “I said the ways we currently have of knowing, sense and reason, are the only ones we know of, given the contingency of what we think we can know.”

      I agree with this more so than the claim “there is only one way of knowing”. You have made that claim before. The evidence may suggest that there is only one way of knowing, but that doesn’t mean that we are correct in saying “there is only one way of knowing”. It seemed that you had “we have only one way of knowing” a few times now. I’m saying that the evidence isn’t enough to say “what is” and “what isn’t”. If you are in agreement with this uncertainty, then let’s move on.

      “I said the ways we currently have of knowing, sense and reason, are the only ones we know of”

      This may be true , assuming we agree that one can only “know” something if they have 3rd party verifiable evidence to support it, and if you include non-discursive reason (intuition) into the category of “reason”. Still I say, we can’t know what or how the unconscious mind knows, so it would be more correct (in my opinion) if you said that “reason and the senses” are the only ways of conscious knowing, that we know of. Now it is obvious that generally when we speak of “what we know”, we are referring to what we know consciously. I want to make this distinction however because there is evidence that suggests we have an unconscious mind which affects what we know implicitly. Having knowledge that a part of our mind is not available to our “conscious-ness” (and also knows things implicitly) suggests that we aren’t or may not be conscious of HOW it knows or in what ways it knows. This goes beyond our simple recognition that we have epistemological limitations. We seem confident that we have a part of our mind that is inaccessible to our conscious perspective, so we can’t say much about it. Even if we said “all evidence” suggests that our conscious mind has only the faculties of reason and the senses, we can’t directly interact with the unconscious mind to be able to say the same thing. We may infer that it operates with the same faculties as the conscious mind, but without it consciously accessible, how can we say anything about it that isn’t pure speculation? I’m more comfortable saying “reason and the senses” are the only way of knowing that we explicitly know. The reason for this is we may implicitly know that more faculties exist, but it would not be conscious knowledge. Do you think that we can implicitly know something? If it is implicit knowledge, how can we explicitly know how we acquired it?

      “Our sense and reason, when out through the rigor of science, give us clear indication that intuition is just one more aspect of our experience: an internally physical phenomenon of a physical brain; and it also gives us a clear indication that it is an unreliable method of acquiring knowledge.”

      It does not matter how unreliable it is. It only matters if it is a way of acquiring knowledge (ever). You may have mentioned this already, but do you think that unconscious perception is “reason” (if I am to define “intuition” this way as did Carl Jung). If so, why? I think it helps to better define “reason”. If you have given me a definition that you use already, let me know again please.

      ” “My claim is that we can’t know what our only ways of knowing are, and due to our incompleteness, we can assume that other ways may exist” Why? How do you know they are incomplete? What faculty tells you this?”

      Partly because we have knowledge of an unconscious mind, and any implicit knowledge would be acquired through unknown means since we are not conscious of it being acquired. Reason and the senses tells me this.

      “It may be that humans simply have incomplete ways of knowing and that no others are available to us.”

      True. However, re-read my previous statements about the unconscious mind.

      ” “We may get lucky and through our filtered lens of perception, somehow be able to pull out everything that’s out there – but I think it’s more likely that our filtered perception has indeed filtered some things out. This is part of my reasoning.” This isn’t reasoning, it’s guessing. ”

      Nope. It is reasoning. I have reasoned from the evidence, which suggests that we have filtered perception, implies that some things have been filtered out. Some of this filtering I believe to be conscious filtering due to the unconscious mind implicitly acquiring knowledge without our recollection or sense of it happening. So I’ve reasoned that it is a safer assumption to assume that something has been filtered out, as opposed to the alternative assumption that nothing has been filtered out. Regarding this filtration, I believe that knowledge of what or how we know is among the things filtered, and more so than other things due to the knowledge being conscious knowledge about ourselves, while we simultaneously acknowledge that an unconscious mind (one that evidence suggests we have) is also at work doing things in a way that we are unaware of.

      “”Third, I believe that non-communicables exist, and that knowledge can include non-communicables.” Why believe that?”

      Because language is a bottle-neck for all possible ideas, concepts, and knowledge. That is, language puts limits on what can be communicated successfully. If it allows some things to be communicated and others not to be, this suggests that the list of all knowledge is greater than the list of communicable knowledge limited by language. I’ve used reason to infer that language has limitations on what can and what can not be communicated. Do you honestly think that every concept or idea can be successfully communicated to everyone else? If you do, you have a lot more faith in the abilities of language than I do. If you don’t, then you must acknowledge that there are concepts or ideas that exist which are not communicable. If we can consider these concepts or ideas to be knowledge, then knowledge can include non-communicables. Also, if we can’t communicate implicit knowledge acquired by the unconscious mind (because it is not explicitly known or accessible to the conscious mind), then this is another source of non-communicable knowledge that exists. Your thoughts?

      “”If you said that the evidence suggests that reason and the senses are the only way of knowing, then you may be correct.” Of course that’s what I mean. ”

      I still believe that implicitly acquired knowledge is a gray area in terms of how we label that “way of knowing”. If we have knowledge of us in fact gaining implicit knowledge (which I believe we do have ample evidence to support this unconscious state of affairs), then since it is implicitly acquired, it is safer to leave it unlabeled or list that way of knowing as “other” — since it seems that we know that this form of knowledge acquisition exists (despite having any more knowledge about it).

      “That I’ve had to repeat the issue of contingency and that all we have is reason and senses and that the best we can do with them, through science, leads us to rely on evidence, should make this so obvious that I SHOULD NOT NEED TO KEEP MAKING THE SAME POINT. ”

      Believe me, I feel the same way.

      “It really is ridiculous to suggest I’m making bold claims to the extent that you are.”

      Not really. I can see that we both acknowledge the importance of evidence (even if we disagree on the degree of importance), and that we are both making claims that we believe to be true. It’s easy to get lost in the list of comments and think that someone feels certain about something when they are just making a claim. This goes both ways. You do feel confident in your position on all of these issues right? If so, then when we talk about them, it’s easy to come off as making claims that seem certain as well. I will reiterate that my claims are OPINIONS. I do not believe them to be facts, if we define facts as claims that have had repeatable 3rd party verification. It is clear that we are both uncertain about our views.

      “Your claims *are* mere statements of belief.”

      So is your statement “there is only one way of knowing that we know of”. I believe that we can implicitly know things, but that they are not accessible to the conscious mind. When you say “that we know of”, I assume you are referring to what we consciously know. I believe we can unconsciously know things as well — which makes me see your claim just as much a belief as mine are.

      “”However when you say that reason and the senses are the only way of knowing, that sounds like a pretty certain claim to me.” It’s a claim based on evidence”

      So are my claims — “we have an unconscious mind”, “we implicitly acquire knowledge”, “we can’t consciously/explicitly know what all of our implicit knowledge is, nor how it was acquired”, etc. These claims are based on evidence as well as yours. Do you disagree? If so, why?

      “So, if this is the only way of knowing that we agree on, and many people see no evidence for other ways of knowing, then it is for those claiming other ways of knowing to demonstrate them, explain them, in ways that are acceptable to a wider audience.”

      I think that our knowledge of an unconscious mind is evidence for another way of knowing — an unconscious way of knowing that we don’t explicitly know. Can we explain how our unconscious mind comes to know things, or what it knows in its entirety? Probably not.

      “Now, you don’t believe in God, you say. How do you evaluate Plantinga’s sensus divinitatis?”

      Well God is a complicated concept. It means a lot of things to different people. I see God as the universal consciousness or driving energy in the universe. I do not see “God” as some source of objective morals, or anthropocentric favoritism. In a way, I see us all along with everything in the universe as “God” or collectively as “God”. As for Plantinga’s sensus divinitatis, I think that this innate knowledge proposed by Plantinga (and originally by Calvin), if it exists, could fall into the unconscious knowledge acquisition I mentioned earlier. It would imply that there are other ways of knowing, or at the very least, that we don’t know what all of our senses are (some senses may be implicit). If implicit senses do exist (and we call the unconscious perception the same thing or a result of this), you could be correct in saying that reason and the senses are the only way of knowing that we know of. However I believe that by senses, you are referring to the senses we know we have explicitly (i.e. physical senses of taste, sight, hearing, touch, smell, etc.).

      “You, on the other hand, seem to take the assumption that there might be something else, and then go on to tell us what you think it is. Without any grounds for doing so. ”

      I do have grounds for doing so. One thing that I’ve suggested is that if we know about an unknown (unconscious mind and it’s operation for example), then to lump that form of knowledge acquisition in with “reason and the senses” is presumptuous. It would be better to say that the only ways of knowing are “reason and the senses” as well as the “unconscious way of knowing” (whatever that may be). My grounds for this are partly based on assuming that we have implicit knowledge acquisition from the unconscious mind (which is warranted by evidence we have concerning the effect of the unconscious on our behavior), and b) that we can’t know what it’s form of knowledge acquisition is because it is implicitly acquired. We can’t directly experience its acquisition. So it seems that there is some implicit knowledge acquisition occurring, and no way to know (for sure) how it is acquired. This is what I see as an unlabeled “option B”, to complement the explicitly known “reason and senses”. It may turn out that it is just another form of “reason and the senses”, but until we know for sure, it should have its own label of “unconscious faculty”. It is a way of reconciling the idea that we know there is implicit knowledge acquisition going on, with the idea that we’re not sure what faculties are used to accomplish this unknown acquisition. So it seems that one way in which we may disagree is with the claim that we can know things unconsciously, and yet not know how we acquired that knowledge, since it was implicitly acquired. I believe that you are correct in saying that what we consciously know is acquired through reason and the senses.

      “The difference is you believe you know, without good reason or evidence”

      We both disagree on what is considered good reason, even if we do agree on what is good evidence.

      ” “You feel that anything without evidence should be ignored” Until evidence arises, then yes, of course. ”

      I don’t think this way. I don’t think that I should ignore things that have little or no evidence to support them, IF I have some reasons for believing them.

      “Should I listen to astrologers about how to live my life, simply because, despite the evidence, there might be some truth in it?”

      Not if you have reasons for NOT listening to those astrologers that you feel have more weight than the reasons that may incline you to listen to them.

      “Should I really do anything in particular, just because someone believes everything is conscious, when there is no evidence to support that claim?”

      This example is a bit different. I’m not telling you to do anything in particular, when an astrologer is implying what you should do. I’m not saying that you should do “this” or “that” will happen. This is one difference between my claims and that of an astrologers. My belief in everything having some element of consciousness doesn’t imply that you should do anything differently Ron. It’s just something I believe. If I said “I believe that everything is conscious, so you should do this”, then you’d have a point.

      “You’re not as inclusive as you think you are.”

      You don’t know how inclusive I think I am, so this claim has no merit.

      “I’ll make the point again, that science uses imagination and thinking outside the box”

      It does not think outside the “evidence box”. This is what I’m implying. Science is limited in discussing things which have evidence to support them. All other things, true or not, can not be outside of this “evidence box”.

      “They make it because people imagine them, they think outside the box. And then they test them to see if they work.”

      And the things that are untestable fall outside of this category of ideas even if they are consistent with scientific laws in one way or another.
      Even if some of them are not consistent with scientific laws, they are still untestable.

      “So I’m afraid your claim to open mindedness doesn’t wash.”

      I didn’t expect it to.

      “I can give the example of human brains and animal brains as being conscious, but I can’t show anything else. Your turn. What do you bring to the table to support your case?”

      I’m not trying to convince you Ron. I’m only sharing my beliefs. The constancy that I see in the universe with regard to energy, etc., is my starting point. From there I infer that a property as integral as awareness is less likely to emerge at some arbitrary starting point, but rather the level of consciousness is what we may interpret as having manifested or emerged. I believe that some inherent property of awareness in all material/energy provided the foundation for said mental-consciousness to eventually develop. It is this foundational universal consciousness that I see as constant and conserved. Evolution of the animal species may have led to some form of harmonics or other stable configurations that displayed what we see as a “new property”, that is, “mental-consciousness”. I’m not sure of the exact mechanism, with regard to how the universal consciousness manifested itself as a mental-consciousness “mode” of some kind. This is just my thought based on an assumption of constancy of energy in the universe, and the assumption that what I call “universal consciousness” is either a property of the aforementioned energy or vice versa. My view of evolution sheds some light on my view of consciousness/energy overlapping as they do. If life is a result of enough time, particular stable chemical bonds, an input of energy (e.g. the Sun), etc., and this life eventually led to mental-consciousness — then it seems just as reasonable to say that what time is really allowing for is for certain properties to become recognizable rather than created on the spot. Life is such a self-sustaining, seemingly unique property of the universe. Why would it come to be from inanimate matter? Perhaps it is because the properties needed for life are ALREADY ingrained in all matter/energy and life’s emergence is really just a property becoming recognizable or showing itself. Why can’t consciousness be similar to this “emergence of life”? When I am told that some property is new or has emerged, I tend to think that it was already there but has just become noticed. This is another reason for my beliefs regarding consciousness. Humans are excellent at recognizing patterns, but that means we sometimes look for patterns that aren’t there or see patterns that aren’t there. Likewise we may be mistaking one large pattern for several seemingly separate patterns. We see life as unique but it is difficult to define. We see consciousness as unique but it is difficult to define. Any reason why this may be the case? Could it be that certain properties aren’t new and the problem is that we think that new properties exist? If this is the case, it’s reasonable that consciousness be included in this consideration. That what we see as new is just being recognized for the first time. There are a number of ways to look at this topic. As I said before, to me it seems the more parsimonious explanation to assume that properties or things analogous to energy are conserved; to assume that the properties needed for life, consciousness, etc., are ingrained in all matter as something waiting to be recognized, rather than new properties emerging. Just my opinion.

      “That’s how humans do things. Guessing and then believing tends not to work reliably.”

      There is no “how humans do things”. That’s simply ridiculous. While “guessing and then believing” tends not to work reliably, it doesn’t mean it is completely useless. Nor does it mean that I need the same reasons that you do to believe that something is true. If my imagination is broader than yours, and it allows me to see the world in a different way than you, I hardly consider it a liability. It just makes us see the world differently Ron. As for guessing, you are guessing that science holds the answers to your questions. We all guess on some level. The reasoning and evidence behind the guess is what you see as fundamentally different, whereas I just see both of us as employing different grades of guessing.

      “What I don’t get is why you believe a particular speculative idea to be true without being able to support that view.”

      It seems to fit the best within the constraints of my assumptions, which are based on things I have experienced and have learned in the sciences.
      I do have enough support for my view, in my view. We disagree on what is considered “no support” or enough support. To me, no support means no reasons at all, thus implying that the belief is truly un-caused, random, or similarly so. First, I believe that a universal consciousness exists because I believe consciousness/awareness (of some type) is necessary for existence (this is a philosophical starting point of mine, one of my core principles). I think that the universal consciousness would have to be consistent, conserved, etc., (just as energy is) in order for existence to be consistent and conserved. Second, I believe that an attribute/property such as consciousness, even if it were not necessary for existence, would not spontaneously emerge, but would rather come about due to a more fundamental property. Just as some scientists think that a slab of material and its properties can be broken down into basic fundamental parts which explain those bulk material properties, I believe that our mental-consciousness would have a similar consideration — that is, be explained by some fundamental property of consciousness that eventually displays something recognizable (e.g. mental-consciousness). I see consciousness as non-physical in that symbolism, intentions, and subjectivity exist, and I see no place for these things in an objective physical model (e.g. things that can be treated as objects, etc.). One of my core principles is property conservation, thus I believe that all “properties” are conserved and thus what we see as new properties are really just recognized versions of the fundamental property that was there all along (e.g. from atoms to brains). Again my “property conservation” stems from certain systems that are conserved that we have good reason to believe exist (mass/energy, various cycles in nature, etc.). My view of “other ways of knowing” involves our current knowledge of the unconscious mind and our lack of certainty in how it operates. It’s better to say that “reason and the senses” are the only conscious way of knowing, that we consciously know of. I would say that our unconscious knowledge acquisition mechanisms have evidence to indicate they exist, yet no certainty in what those mechanisms are. It’s better to say that our ways of knowing include “reason and the senses” and the “unconscious faculty” (whatever that may be, whether it includes intuition or otherwise). “So in short, I do have reasons for my beliefs. You just disagree. It’s as simple as that.

      “Your incompleteness idea is no support.”

      It is support in my view. If we know our knowledge of the world is incomplete, then this includes the knowledge of ourselves and of our faculties (probably more so since we are talking about assumptions of HOW we think, and we are thinking to accomplish this task). It is better to assume that our knowledge is lacking something rather than assuming its complete. If we assume it’s lacking something, then I believe we are safer assuming that there are other ways of knowing, even if we don’t know what they are. Assuming WHAT the other ways of knowing are is purely speculative, but assuming that there are other ways of knowing (due to our knowledge of the unconscious mind, etc.) is much less so.

      ” “You should go to a strict science blog IF YOU WANT STRICT SCIENTIFIC ANSWERS to your questions.” Well, no, I should not. This would negate my efforts to consider other views. Isn’t the fact that I’m in this discussion with you evidence that I am prepared to consider other views? I’ve been considering yours. Don’t mistake your failure to convince me, to provide SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE, as me not being open minded.”

      Yes, you should. Read what I wrote. I said “if you want strict scientific answers” then you should go to a strict science blog. Do you expect to get strict scientific answers to your questions here? Your efforts to consider other views don’t change the fact that you want strict scientific answers to your questions. We weigh evidence differently and we consciously justify our beliefs with different levels of reasoning.

      “But you have made claims about these other faculties. You believe you have the faculty to know that everything is conscious.”

      I’ve only made claims that I believe other faculties exist (even if we don’t know what they are). I mentioned intuition as a POSSIBLE faculty, but that was a mere guess. As for my view of consciousness, I have reasons for believing what I believe, and my views of consciousness are strongly influenced by my reasoning — as opposed to some other faculties (although I don’t doubt that other faculties may contribute to my belief regarding consciousness.

      ” “… I’m safer assuming that there are additional faculties we don’t know about.” I do too. Right, so what are they? How do they work? How do we verify that they are not mistaken?”

      I never said that I knew what they are. I never said I know how they work. These are questions that you are interested in, whereas I am not. We may never be able to verify what we can’t consciously access.

      “Intuition is not another way of knowing since it is easily encompassed by the physicalist understanding of the brain.”

      For the sake of this argument, it only depends on if “intuition” falls within the definition of “reason and/or the senses”. When you speak of reason, you more than likely are referring to conscious reason. If not, then you should say so. I’ve mentioned the unconscious mind several times now.

      ” “Whenever I hear statements like “this is the only way” or “that is impossible” or “we know all there is to know about that” – I’m doubtful.” Excuse me? You are the one who knows that science will never discover what consciousness is. I’ve been sprinkling contingency throughout my comments. I’m the one who doubts your certainties, remember?”

      Excuse me? I am uncertain about my views as are you — for we are both subjectively experiencing beings that have different reasons for our beliefs based on our experience and our perspective of the world. I don’t claim to know with 100% certainty that science will or will not discover x, y, or z. What I BELIEVE (and with good reason) is that science will not be able to explain the non-physical attributes of consciousness with a physicalist model. This seems pretty plain and simple to see Ron. Come on.

      ” I’m the one who doubts your certainties, remember”

      What certainties are you referring to?

      ” “What I’m saying is that we can’t say that the firing of neurons CAUSES the auditory experiences (and even if we could, we can’t say HOW the firing of neurons could CAUSE the auditory experiences), only that they are correlated with one another.” If you fail to accept this as a causal connection then why do you accept any science at all? This is a really weak objection.”

      You can call my objection weak or whatever you choose. It matters. I accept science for being able to provide us with useful information. What I disagree with is the extent of causality implied by science and scientists. We can differentiate causality from correlation by manipulating an independent variable and seeing if the dependent variable changes (and repeatably so). It’s elementary experimentation. HOWEVER, what we can’t do is actually determine the DEGREE of causality or be certain of the causal connections from one action and another. You like many others take it for granted that causality is causality. If I strike a billiard ball into another and the other ball moves, how can I be sure that the second ball didn’t sense the other ball coming and get out of the way? How can I be sure that the second ball didn’t move for some other reason (or multiple reasons)? I can’t. Which is why defining the degree of causality or at least our uncertainty of it, is very important. I see “causality” as just a different kind of correlation because I don’t make the same assumptions that you do regarding causality. The fact that you call my objection weak further demonstrates your assumptions of causality.

      “Are you an evolution doubter because we have no point-by-point evidence of specific mutations and selection events?”

      I don’t doubt the theory of evolution. It is a theory with a lot of scientific evidence to support it. We’ve even seen mutations and natural selection demonstrated with bacteria in real time (seconds, minutes, hours, days — as opposed to the time scales needed to see speciation of animals). There is no evidence regarding degrees of causality here however. We can look at the evidence and say that the theory is consistent, predictable, etc., but it says nothing about degrees of causation. So no, I’m not an “evolution doubter”, and I’m not a “neuroscience doubter”. I just doubt that we can confidently say (A caused B). Given the findings regarding quantum randomness, causality in general has to be questioned. If I perform an experiment one million times, with repeatable results between two variables — and one time it does not happen as expected, what do we conclude? Do we say that A caused B one million times and then lost the causal connection? Do we say that there is a high probability that A causes B? If ontological randomness is at the core of every cause-effect relationship at a fundamental scale, what do we say about causality in general? These are all good questions that must not be simply dismissed with “that’s a weak objection”. Causality is just another type of correlation (with a high probability of happening a certain way), but this does not mean that there aren’t hidden variables or that we can prove that A causes B.

      “Do you seriously doubt that there is another human being at the other end of this conversation, because you can’t see the causal connection of my existence and my typing these words? Your statement completely misses the whole of how science works.”

      Uh, no. I never suggested this at all. What I’ve said takes into account how science works and more carefully analyzes the implications and assumptions that people hold based on scientific data. So no, it doesn’t miss the point at all.

      “How do you even get out of bed in the morning if this is your degree of doubt in causation and how we assess it and distinguish it from correlation?”

      My uncertainties have no bearing on whether I get out of bed or not, just as our acceptance that we have no free will hasn’t led you or I to moral nihilism, depression, or suicide. It may for some people, but not for you or I (at least at this point). We accept the illusion, and continue to live our lives as if we have a choice in the matter. You take too much for granted regarding causation (in my opinion).

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  12. Lage, “I agree with this more so than the claim “there is only one way of knowing”. You have made that claim before. The evidence may suggest that there is only one way of knowing, but that doesn’t mean that we are correct in saying “there is only one way of knowing”.” I think you are being picky here. Given the history of our conversations, and the number of times I’ve posted links to my posts that express the contingency of the statement “there is only one way of knowing”, such that I clearly mean we have no good reason to believe there are in fact other ways of knowing, or that there is any evidence of other ways of knowing, or any reason or evidence ever offered, other than statements equivalent to “it feels like there are might be other ways of knowing”, then I think you misrepresent my case. And, in agreeing with the contingency you misrepresent your own, since you have specifically said that you believe your case (e.g. consciousness everywhere). But let me make it clear, the contingency, though a real one philosophically, has no support whatsoever pragmatically. My uncertainty, though it forces me to accept logically that there is a possibility that there might be other ways of knowing we haven’t detected, it is quite a uninformative possibility. For example, when did you last use any other way of knowing to come to know anything? Although you do switch between degrees of certainty, the case you are making is generally made as if there is a genuine comparison between my case and yours. I don’t think it’s much use simply offering the unevidenced and unreasoned but logical possibility that there are other ways of knowing, as if it’s as clear as the case for empiricism. You really do offer no reason to either accept your position particular, or to distinguish it from any other unevidenced case. “If you are in agreement with this uncertainty, then let’s move on.” I’ve been stating it all along. My statement that “there is only one way of knowing” has been made in the context of uncertainty all along. There’s nothing new to my position here. You could have accepted this a long time ago, but you have been busy rejecting my position because you seem to not only agree to the logical possibility of other ways of knowing, but seem to be convinced that they are realities, or that there possibility is somehow stronger than a mere logical possibility. But where is the practical application of them – or even where are they, what are they? “Now it is obvious that generally when we speak of “what we know”, we are referring to what we know consciously.” Sometimes we are that specific, but not always obviously so. There are many ways in which we do know things unconsciously. There are even brain conditions that demonstrate this. Someone with short term memory loss can learn some new skill, and they will improve at it on each attempt they come back to it. Yet they have no conscious recollection of learning it. Clearly they have knowledge of performing the skill, but they don’t know they know it – i.e. they don’t know consciously that they do indeed know. Experiments can introduce bias into different groups so that later tests reveal the biases without the subjects being aware of it. They clearly know something that they are not aware of in making their decisions, but they don’t know it consciously. So, there is every reason to think that intuition is the coming into consciousness of ideas that have sufficient unconscious stimuli. “…we aren’t or may not be conscious of HOW it knows or in what ways it knows. This goes beyond our simple recognition that we have epistemological limitations. We seem confident that we have a part of our mind that is inaccessible to our conscious perspective, so we can’t say much about it.” But this only relates to our personal subjective introspective view. It is not the view of science. This is no different from saying that I can’t at this moment, detect which of the specific memory bits in my computer are in state 0 or 1. I can no more detect the details of what’s happening in the hardware of my head than in the hardware of my computer. The only distinction is that my awareness, my consciousness, is implemented in that biological hardware that is the brain. But that subjective experience, while quite informative about our external view of the world, tells us very little about the operation of the brain. It is entirely the wrong tool for the job. Just as I would need additional hardware tools to monitor the memory activity of my computer I would need additional tools to monitor that activity of the brain. That the tools we have available at the moment give us only limited access is no reason to claim philosophical certainties, such as the claim that science will never understand consciousness. You really need to start making this distinction, because it seems to be your reliance on the subjective experience that is dictating what you think is possible to know. While science may not yet have the details of how consciousness works, how the conscious and the unconscious interact, there really is no reason to suppose it will not be possible, contrary to your claims that it won’t be possible. “Even if we said “all evidence” suggests that our conscious mind has only the faculties of reason and the senses, we can’t directly interact with the unconscious mind to be able to say the same thing.” With regard to the introspective view, then this is obvious. But this is the limitation that should make you suspect the introspective view – including your view that there are other ways of knowing, rather than just the acknowledgement of the logical possibility. We can interact physically with consciousness to a limited degree already. We can force conscious and unconscious activity by making changes to the brain; we can invoke mental experiences under experimental control. “We may infer that it operates with the same faculties as the conscious mind, but without it consciously accessible, how can we say anything about it that isn’t pure speculation?” Because the examples I’ve given where the unconscious can be specifically manipulated. Science is based on inference. That we can manipulate the unconscious and that this has an effect on conscious actions implies that they are so connected. The only serious difficulty is not necessarily that science can’t inform us more, but that science isn’t allowed to learn more, because for ethical reasons we can’t probe brains just for research purposes. Yet we can infer so much about brain operation in spite of this restriction. And, compare with what, from introspection? What have you experienced of other ways of knowing that have revealed anything to you? How precisely did the idea of ‘consciousness everywhere’ (CE) come to you? “I’m more comfortable saying “reason and the senses” are the only way of knowing that we explicitly know.” That’s precisely what I’ve been arguing. “The reason for this is we may implicitly know that more faculties exist, but it would not be conscious knowledge. Do you think that we can implicitly know something? If it is implicit knowledge, how can we explicitly know how we acquired it?” Yes I think we can implicitly know something, as I’ve described above. We need to take care with our understanding of the term ‘implicit’. There’s no reason to take this to mean anything non-physical of magical. Information contained in the brain, or that is created in the brain, by states of neurons, may come about ‘implicitly’ in the sense that prior states of neurons, or collections of neurons, including chemical states, DNA states, etc., can all contribute to overall internal state, and therefore unconscious state. What of this becomes conscious is a matter of what parts of the brain’s states contribute to consciousness, and the mechanism by which unconscious states influence conscious states. But, to take up your point, how do we come to consciously and explicitly know we know it, if it is indeed implicit to the extent that it is never revealed to us subjectively, or through 3rd party investigation? By guessing and then believing that guess? Let’s guess at a new implicit ‘way of knowing’ – we can simply label it IK1 (Implicit Knowing). We never become conscious of it, and we never observe any positive effect of it, from those that claim to have it. How can you tell the difference between having it and not having it? How about another one, IK2; then IK3, … This is precisely my objection to your claims about other ways of knowing. There could be any number of them and we can’t know anything about them consciously, either personally or through shared conscious experience. So, if your CE comes to you by IKi, how do you know that? And without knowing you have this faculty IKi, how do you know that your belief of CE is derived from it, and not just some intuited idea influenced by the history and current popularity of panpsychics? “It does not matter how unreliable it [intuition] is. It only matters if it is a way of acquiring knowledge (ever).” Of course it matters. Should jurors in a trial rely on their intuitions if they are counter to the evidence? And it is a part of the one known process of acquiring knowledge. Intuition is an experience of the brain. Some intuitive ideas may be completely novel, in that they may come about from a unique combination of unconscious and conscious processing. They may be sketchy, as a vague but novel idea that need fleshing out with more thought; or they may come as almost a fully formed answer to some problem that has been contemplated for some time. Other intuitions may be recurring ideas that we never get round to examining further, such as some of our ingrained prejudices that are not arrived at by conscious reasoning about other known facts. But it certainly matters how unreliable it is. We know that it can go very wrong. “do you think that unconscious perception is “reason”” I think it’s part of or contributes to the reasoning process. As are emotional influences. Antonio Damasio’s work implies that we cannot make decisions without some motivational emotional influence. Of course there’s a distinction here between what the brain does and our more traditional view of ‘reasoning’ that accounts for our formal definitions of reasoning, such as deduction, induction and so on. The latter are attempts to structure the less well regulated processes of the brain, to give some control over our evolved reasoning. But as a computational system there is always some decision making process involved in brain activity, even at the level of the neuron, where a neuron will fire only if sufficient other neurons trigger it. There are several models of neurons that though simplified (as all models have to be) are computational. “However, re-read my previous statements about the unconscious mind.” They give me no more reason to suspect there are other ways of knowing. The logical possibility of there being other ways is so much at odds with the evidence that it is not worth taking seriously. But I have no problem with those investigating these possibilities, just as I have no problem with those that investigate the paranormal. I just haven’t seen any results to support any of this stuff, and certainly not enough to support your claims, or those of Deepak Chopra, for example. “It is reasoning. I have reasoned from the evidence, which suggests that we have filtered perception, implies that some things have been filtered out.” But that is not the same as reasoning that we can remove those filters, or that alternative filters are available to us: IK1, IK2, … You have not reasoned or given evidence for other ways of knowing. The most persuasive point you have made is that there is a logical possibility, but this is trivially as uninformative as the logical possibility that fairies exist. “Some of this filtering I believe to be conscious filtering due to the unconscious mind implicitly acquiring knowledge without our recollection or sense of it happening.” But this is already understood and already covered by physicalism. The point is that the physcial brain operates away as a physical system and there is no evidence of anything non-physical at work. And there is no evidence of any other way of knowing. You are not offering some alternative here. As an aside, at this point, I note again the odd mix of your ideas. You believe in CE, and yet you also believe in an individual person’s consciousness, and their unconsciousness. I presume you also accept the results of split brain examples that seem to indicate more than one conscious entity in a brain, once split. You do after all say you accept much of what science shows. There is of course also a real case for a brain in the gut, though there is no suggestion, usually, that this is a conscious brain. How do you factor together all these consciousness? I think I asked before, if you split a rock, does that rock then become two independent consciousness’s? “So I’ve reasoned that it is a safer assumption to assume that something has been filtered out, as opposed to the alternative assumption that nothing has been filtered out.” This is rather ambiguous. What are you saying is filtered out here? Knowledge? The degree to which our senses and reason are unreliable? If so then yes, knowledge is filtered by our fallible faculties, as I’ve said all along. But you can’t then use that to say that because some knowledge is filtered out that this implies that we also have filtered out some hidden faculty. You need to give explicit support for the claimed faculty, not just its logical possibility which comes about because of the incompleteness of our knowledge generally. “we simultaneously acknowledge that an unconscious mind (one that evidence suggests we have) is also at work doing things in a way that we are unaware of” But all the evidence is that the unconscious is working away physically according to known processes. There is no indication of anything else, such as sensus divinitatis (IKsd) or any faculty you might think you have used to come to CE (IKce). “Because language is a bottle-neck for all possible ideas, concepts, and knowledge.” Red herring. Does a smile not communicate knowledge? You are using limitations of language as a barrier to hide your presupposition of non-communicables. If they are non-communicable then how do you know of them? Or are you again using the logical possibility of such to imply that they exist? “Do you honestly think that every concept or idea can be successfully communicated to everyone else?” Do you think they can’t? What evidence do you have to support this? Humans always seem to find ways to communicate ideas. And they don’t always need language. “If you don’t, then you must acknowledge that there are concepts or ideas that exist which are not communicable.” Quite wrong again. You see, your are, as I suggested, inferring there is something else, from the logical possibility that there might be something else. This is so flaky. “If we can consider these concepts or ideas to be knowledge, then knowledge can include non-communicables.” Again this is vague. I accept that you hold in your brain a concept of incommunicables; but I disagree that because of the limitations of language plus your holding of the concept that such incommunicables must therefore exist. There may well be many things going on in the brain that we are unable to communicate, to each other or to ourselves individually by introspection. But this does not mean you have hit on something that is uncommunicable in principle. All these things that we are in practice unable to communicate are most likely to be physical states of the brain, since there is no evidence for anything else. “If we have knowledge of us in fact gaining implicit knowledge (which I believe we do have ample evidence to support this unconscious state of affairs), then since it is implicitly acquired, it is safer to leave it unlabelled or list that way of knowing as “other”” But we have examples of the unconscious being stimulated without our conscious knowing to the extent that the later effect on conscious decisions is measureable. This is not some ‘other’ way of knowing. It’s the physical brain being influenced by experiences we are not consciously aware of. This is not evidence of other ways of knowing. What you are describing is the subjective experience of not knowing where particular thoughts come from, not the fact of where they come from. Identifying some personal unknowns is no indication that they are related to speculated other ways of knowing. “I can see that we both acknowledge the importance of evidence (even if we disagree on the degree of importance)” But you have explicitly said that there are some ways of knowing that you believe to exist and that you do not think they are subject to reason and evidence (despite your contrary paragraph that now says you have evidence). You then say you do in fact give reasons – though your reasons do not imply what you think they do, as I pointed out above. You treat a lack of certainty in one faculty (our only known one of empirical reason and senses) and the logical possibility (i.e. not absolutely refuted) to imply there are in fact other ways of knowing. This will not do: AK = All Knowledge AWK = All Ways of Knowing E = Empiricism OWK = Other Way of Knowing 1) E cannot give AK 2) OWK is not disproved, but has no evidence to support it C) Therefore AWK = E + OWK 1 and 2 are not related sufficiently to support C. “we are both making claims that we believe to be true.” But they are quite different. I leave on the table all the contingencies. I claim only that empiricism is the most persuasive, and appears to be the only way of knowing, because there is no evidence of any other. I do not claim that there is no other way of knowing, only that there is no evidence or reason to think there is. You on the other hand seem to take a very similar position, except that form the same basic uncertainties you not only believe there is some other way of knowing, but also that this other way of knowing informs you that there is CE. Can you not see the distinct difference? “It’s easy to get lost in the list of comments and think that someone feels certain about something when they are just making a claim. This goes both ways. No, the claims are quite different. “You do feel confident in your position on all of these issues right?” Only to the extent that evidence supports them, or offers best explanations. I do not believe something from some imagined faculty for which there is merely the logial possibility yet no evidence. You do. “I will reiterate that my claims are OPINIONS. I do not believe them to be facts…” I find this is still vague, given what you have said so far. When you have said you believe we have other ways of knowing and you believe there is CE I don’t know how to take your use of the term “I believe”. Because to say “I believe X” usually does mean what you believe X is fact or true. Even an opinion is an opinion about what is fact. So, do you say, “I do not believe them to be facts, but I believe them anyway,” or “I do not believe them to be true, but I believe them anyway”? If you were to say something like, “I know there’s no evidence, but I rather like the idea that there is consciousness everywhere, because it seems a neat idea”, then I would say fine. I used to like the idea that Santa Claus brought me gifts. But to what extent are these things informing our understanding of how the world actually is? “I do not believe them to be facts, if we define facts as claims that have had repeatable 3rd party verification. It is clear that we are both uncertain about our views.” Again I find this to be more equivocation. Yes, there are personal experiences that can be convincing to us individually, personally. I have no argument with Paul on the road to Damascus claiming he had some extraordinary experience. But I do think that if he wants to claim that this extraordinary experience was an accurate representation of some real event in the world, such as a divine message, and not just some mental aberration then yes, we need third party verification. I have relative who is sometimes convinced they have certain experiences that others around them reject. This relative is also known to have brain conditions that lead to some of these mistakes. Yes, third party verification is crucial. Particularly in the areas we have been discussing, where not only is there no evidence to support your claims, but the specific claims you are making about human function – the means by which we know things – is particularly unreliable from a subjective perspective. Of course there are trivial experiences that cannot be verified. If I saw something in the sky that really convinced me wasn’t any known type of aircraft then I’d have to consider seriously the options: that it was something quite natural that I haven’t happened to had seen before, or that I’d been mistaken in my perception. My first port of call isn’t that I’ve seen a UFO, because all the 3rd part evidence is that this option is unlikely in the extreme. Only if far more tangible 3rd party evidence (e.g. as imagined in the TV series “V”) came to light would I start to take it seriously. “I think that our knowledge of an unconscious mind is evidence for another way of knowing” Really? Why? Do you reject the examples I’ve given above about how the unconscious can be manipulated in quite straight forward predictable ways? There is no ‘other way of knowing’ implied by any of our knowledge of the unconscious. You’re just attributing ‘other ways of knowing’ to natural events in the same way that the religious attribute God’s action in the process of evolution. It’s a rather cheap claim to make, as is demonstrated by equally ridiculous claims made about the FSM. To simply state that our knowledge of an unconscious mind is evidence for another way of knowing is false. It is not evidence for that at all. “Can we explain how our unconscious mind comes to know things” Yes. Our brain consists of neurons and other cells which work on physical principles with no evidence of anything else. We can stimulate the brain directly to the extent that the subject cannot feel the intervention physically in the same way we sense touch (they are not conscious of it, it is unconscious), and yet they can experience sounds consciously as a direct result. And we have other examples where the unconscious is shown ot be influenced by quite natural causes. And we know the mechanisms by which areas of the brain communicate. What we haven’t been able to show is the detail of how these processes work. We can stimulate specific brain activity through drugs. We can make the brain know and experience things by means other than the usual ones we are used to – by listening and seeing through the senses. “or what it knows in its entirety” We don’t know anything in its entirety. So what? This doesn’t help your case. When I asked how do you evaluate supposed ways, such as Plantinga’s sensus divinitatis, your response only restated what these are. You didn’t say how you evaluated them, how you decide which is worth believing and which not. How do you come to choose CE as opposed to sensus divinitatis? They are quite distinct. The latter is claimed by Plantinga to reveal his very specific God, not your CE, so your equivocation on what people call God is irrelevant. Why do you believe CE and not Plantiga’s God as revealed by sensus divinitatis? “It would be better to say that the only ways of knowing are “reason and the senses” as well as the “unconscious way of knowing”” But there is sufficient evidence, from manipulation of the unconscious by natural means, to include it in our one way of knowing. As part of the physical brain it constitutes physical processes in action. You have not offered any reason to suppose there is anything else. Your use of the unconscious brain here to support your case tells us nothing. It does not support your case. “My grounds for this are partly based on assuming that we have implicit knowledge acquisition from the unconscious mind ” Well, as I’ve said, this is quite a natural process. And, you seem to have shifted from your core principles now. You are simply labelling the unconscious activity, which is part of the physical brain processes, as another way of knowing. This is a bogus attempt. “that we can’t know what it’s form of knowledge acquisition is because it is implicitly acquired. We can’t directly experience its acquisition” This is like suggesting that a conjurors trick is really using magic simply because you can’t see how he pulls of the trick. Anyway, I must say that you now seem to be reiterating much of what I’ve been saying, but you somehow think that this change of tack now supports your case. The more you say the more you are convincing me that there is only one way of knowing. You now seem to be simply hiving off one piece of the natural brain processing – that which we are not personally conscious of – and making some claim about other ways of knowing. But 3rd party evidence, such as fMRI work, shows specific brain activity for both conscious and unconscious behaviour. How do you turn this into some other way of knowing? “We both disagree on what is considered good reason, even if we do agree on what is good evidence.” Not quite. The reasons you say you give are not supporting your case (i.e. logical possibility does not imply existence, of a way of knowing). And we do disagree about evidence. I think the evidence supports natural physical brain processes that we subjectively experience as senses and reasoning. You believe in other ways of knowing in spite of that evidence, and without any additional supporting evidence. And you now try to co-opt natural evidence to your case for unevidenced faculties. “I don’t think that I should ignore things that have little or no evidence to support them, IF I have some reasons for believing them.” But without evidence to support some idea you have no way to distinguish it from other contradictory ideas, so you have no *reason* to believe that particular idea over the others. They remain competing ideas. “Not if you have reasons for NOT listening to those astrologers that you feel have more weight than the reasons that may incline you to listen to them.” No evidence and no reason has been provided to demonstrate any other way of knowing, or that any claimed other way of knowing actually produces results. There is no evidence or reason to support a belief that there is CE. There is zero weight behind those ideas. You have even less weight behind your ideas than does astrology, because at least astrology relies on patterns of behaviour of planets. Their particular mistake which is akin to yours is in supposing that this has some influence on human behaviour at a level of detail for which there is no evidence. Can the moon influence human behaviour? Yes, indirectly, because it drives the tides and the tides have had an influence of human behaviour for millennia. But can the moon stars and planets influence how I fall in love, because my date of birth matches some pattern in the heavens? No evidence for it, and plenty of evidence from physics, chemistry, biology, and even common sense, that this is not so. This is very much like your beliefs. Unevidenced claims. “My belief in everything having some element of consciousness doesn’t imply that you should do anything differently Ron. It’s just something I believe.” Like Santa, or Satan? Like making up a story about the future and thinking it will come true: Star Wars. Like making up a story about the past and believing it is true: Jesus Christ. Many false beliefs can actually be made to do work – or perhaps a better way of saying that is that many false beliefs can make us do work in living our lives as if they are true. Many Christians do good work, and their belief in God helps motivate them. But there is still no evidence to support the content of any of these beliefs. So, does believing CE actually do anything, contribute to human well being in any way, … anything? And even if it did, that would only be an effect of your belief in the idea, not an effect of the truth of the idea. “You don’t know how inclusive I **think** I am, so this claim has no merit.” True. But what you think of your inclusiveness need that have no bearing on how inclusive you actually are. “It [science] does not think outside the “evidence box”. ” Of course it does. This is what imagination is all about. Do you not think Einstein was thinking outside the box with his relativistic thought experiements. The evidence comes later, in testing the imaginative ideas, distinguishing them from wishful thinking. Or, where there is some evidence of an anomaly, then the imagination can be used to think of alternative explanations, which are n turn tested for evidence to support them. Science doesn’t reject thinking outside the box. It depends on it. But that’s still another aspect, using the imagination, of our one way of knowing. A physical brain at work. “Science is limited in discussing things which have evidence to support them.” Clearly not. Otherwise nothing new would ever be learned through science. The implication of what you’re saying is that science can’t start some investigation until it has the evidence to support the conclusion it is going to reach, before it begins the investigation. This is nonsense. “All other things, true or not, can not be outside of this “evidence box”.” Not sure what you mean by this. “And the things that are untestable fall outside of this category of ideas ” Can you name some? And can you explain why they are untestable? “I’m not trying to convince you Ron. I’m only sharing my beliefs. The constancy that I see in the universe with regard to energy, etc., is my starting point.” OK, let’s start there then, at your starting point. Do you have anything that links consciousness to energy? The only thing I can think of is the energy consumption of a human brain (about 20W). Similar estimates can be made for brains of other animals. But a typical one bar electric fire consumes about 1KW. Is it more or less conscious than a brain? What about a 100W light bulb? How precisely is consciousness related to energy? The only relationship between consciousness and any other measurement we have made is some vague relationship to the complexity of neurons in brains. There is nothing that links consciousness to anything else. Our only other anticipated connection is still a relationship between consciousness and complexity, but with some other substrate instead of neurons. “I believe that some inherent property of awareness in all material/energy provided the foundation for said mental-consciousness to eventually develop.” How do you come to that belief? What is this ‘inherent property of awareness’? Do you just mean that awareness is an inherited ‘property’ of the brain? Well it seems more like awareness is an inherited behaviour of the brain. But how does this help your case? “It is this foundational universal consciousness that I see as constant and conserved.” How do you see this ‘foundational universal consciousness’? Then, how do you see it is conserved? By what laws? Is this just made up stuff? “Evolution of the animal species may have led to some form of harmonics or other stable configurations that displayed what we see as a “new property”, that is, “mental-consciousness”.” Or, God might have done it. The history of making up stories is not new. And any number of myths can be invented to describe our observed reality. This is why science has been so successful. It distinguishes myth from fact, in that our myth models don’t produce anything useful, while our models that most resemble facts about the world do. “I’m not sure of the exact mechanism…” Can you be a little more specific about your degree of uncertainty here. Could you, for example, distinguish it from some other examples of uncertainty, like guessing? “This is just my thought based on an assumption of constancy of energy in the universe, and the assumption that what I call “universal consciousness” is either a property of the aforementioned energy or vice versa.” This is becoming more vague by the minute. It’s based on the assumption of the constancy of energy in the universe, but you don’t say how it is based on that assumption. Is this just a guess, that if energy is conserved then you guess consciousness might be too? And ‘a property of the aforementioned energy or vice versa’ is pretty open ended. So much so that I’d sort of agree with one of those possibilities: that consciousness is related to energy. Without a supply of energy through food a brain could not survive; and without consuming energy in consistent with the 2nd law of thermodynamics the brain would not be conscious. Of course this is simplistic and leaves out all the other details of how brains work, the reliance on complex neuronal connections and so on, but I could go that far in agreeing with just one aspect of your mean-nothing statement. “Life is such a self-sustaining, seemingly unique property of the universe. ” Yes, life is self-sustaining, to a degree, within the contexts of first natural selection, and then the 2nd law of thermodynamics. But so what? How does this inform you ideas on CE? It seems like you are using your idea of CE as an explanation for life, pretty much as theists imagine there is a God, claim God created life, and then say, “See! Life is evidence for God.” “Why would it come to be from inanimate matter?” Ah! Intelligent Design! That’s it. You have an alternative ID theory! Your CE caused/created life! But seriously, life didn’t come from inanimate matter. Though we have traditionally used the term ‘inanimate’ as a means of distinguishing what we call life from non-life, matter was already animated. Chemical reactions where already the norm. The life/non-life distinction is one that we humans make. We recognise certain complex conglomerates of matter as being dynamic and in motion; that’s how we see ourselves and other animals. This perspective will have been forced upon us by how our evolving brains come to terms with different parts of their environment – the best that move and the bits that don’t. Even the distinction between plant life and animal life need not be an automatic perspective – plant life, when viewed from the perspective of locomotion, could be considered inanimate. The clouds are more animated than plants, so are clouds alive? Retrospectively our life/non-life distinction doesn’t match what we now know about the world: there is still dispute over whether viruses are life or not, for example. You are not thinking deeply enough about the details of life and the chemical nature of life, and the dynamic nature of chemistry and physics. Nothing we know of is actually inanimate in any sense that distinguishes what we label as life and non-life. “Perhaps it is because the properties needed for life are ALREADY ingrained in all matter/energy and life’s emergence is really just a property becoming recognizable or showing itself.” Well, yes, sort of. What did you mean by ‘showing itself’? If you mean that some life forms acquire brains that become aware of their environment, aware of themselves, and so label that type of matter as ‘life’, then fine. But then where is consciousness in this early non-brained life, of in the chemistry of pre-life? Science hasn’t found it. But you have? Rocks are conscious? “Why can’t consciousness be similar to this “emergence of life”?” It is, if you understand it in its physical form and don’t invent magic souls or consciousness or life forces. Life isn’t something spiritual that exists in its own right, like a soul. Life is just a certain type of activity in certain collections of chemicals. Consciousness is just an even more specific activity in specific type of chemicals that when bunched together in the form of brains is just how those brains behave. “When I am told that some property is new or has emerged, I tend to think that it was already there but has just become noticed.” Then you misunderstand emergence in this context. Nothing has come into being that was not there already. There is nothing like a soul that has suddenly come into being. Think of life, and consciousness like a pendulum. The components, when lay on a table, do nothing. But when the laws of physics bring them together (to form life, and brains, for the organic stuff, that in turn forms a pendulum from its parts) then the activity of being a pendulum ’emerges’ once it has been brought together and set in motion. There is no ‘pendulumness’ that you can take away from this pendulum. There is nothing extra added. It is still all consistent with the conservation of energy and the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Physical atoms in motion come together and form molecules; these form complex molecular systems, that form biological units that form cells that form organs that form organisms that contain brains that form pendulums. It’s all part of the same process. All physical. No ‘life force’, no ‘consciousness’, no ‘soul’, no ‘pendulumness’ has been added anywhere. “Humans are excellent at recognizing patterns, but that means we sometimes look for patterns that aren’t there or see patterns that aren’t there.” As you are doing. As theists do. You see consciousness, as a behaviour, but then perceive it as something that can exist in all things, as if it is something non-physical that exists in some sense in its own right. “We see life as unique but it is difficult to define.” I just defined it. As a natural process of dynamic matter constrained by the 2nd law. It’s only when theists and philosophers want to impose some spiritual meaning to the term ‘life’ do they have difficulty defining it because they are looking for something that isn’t there. “We see consciousness as unique but it is difficult to define.” Not quite. We see a unique example of something that behaves consciously – the brain. Again, I define it as the behaviour of a self-monitoring system with sufficiently complex system (the brain in our case). Look at a brain in action, through the portal of the body that contains it, and define that as an example of conscious behaviour. Easy. The difficult bit is understanding the detail. “Any reason why this [difficulty] may be the case?” Yes, as I said, theists and philosophers are looking for something that isn’t there. They are looking for ‘pendulumness’, as if it is something extra, added, injected, or whatever their particular ideas might suggest to them. Follow the 2nd law. You will find nothing is left over, nothing injected. You would have to show some serious evidence for the breakdown of some basic laws in order to demonstrate that there is anything other than physical nature at work. “Could it be that certain properties aren’t new and the problem is that we think that new properties exist? If this is the case, it’s reasonable that consciousness be included in this consideration.” Why consciousness? Why not magic, God’s intent, or anything else that has been proposed in countless myths? “That what we see as new is just being recognized for the first time.” This is all that current science is suggesting. That what theists and some philosophers see as something new, something added, such as life, consciousness, the soul, are merely animated matter in action. There’s no need for your consciousness as the more basic idea. There is no evidence of it in what we call non-conscious objects, such as rocks. Physicalists are already recognising the more basic concept that is consistent with all our science. “As I said before, to me it seems the more parsimonious explanation to assume that properties or things analogous to energy are conserved; to assume that the properties needed for life, consciousness, etc., are ingrained in all matter as something waiting to be recognized, rather than new properties emerging.” But this isn’t what you’ve said before. This fairly clear statement that doesn’t mention CE is only describing how physicalists view the world, with the only unclear bit being the equivocation on your use of ‘new properties emerging’. It would be better to say that new behaviours emerge. Atoms, when they come together in a bacterium behave in a way (as life) that is novel, compared to the atoms in isolation. Neuron cells, when they come together to form a brain behave in a way (as a conscious brain) that is novel, when compared to neurons in isolation, and the degree to which we observe conscious behaviour depends on the complexity and form of the brain. “While “guessing and then believing” tends not to work reliably, it doesn’t mean it is completely useless.” It is useless in isolation, because you have no way of checking that your guess is reliable. We always go back to checking empirically. Except for those that are prepared to live as if their made up belief is true. “Nor does it mean that I need the same reasons that you do to believe that something is true.” I agree. You don’t need any reasons to belief something is true, if you are intent on believing it. There will be reasons you believe it, of course. And, just because you believe it to be true and you think you have reasons to believe it is true, does make it true and doesn’t make the reasons adequate ones. Belief is a suspect faculty that requires evidence to back up the belief. Clearly you think so in the matter of belief in God? Why spare your particular beliefs from this scrutiny? “If my imagination is broader than yours, and it allows me to see the world in a different way than you, I hardly consider it a liability.” Is it a liability for someone to believe, through their imagination, that fairies are real? Anyway, I wouldn’t say it’s a comparison of imagination. I too can imagine your CE. The issue here is not what we can imagine, but how we check that what we imagine has any bearing on reality. That is where we differ. “As for guessing, you are guessing that science holds the answers to your questions. We all guess on some level.” I’m not guessing, I’m inferring from the history of science and how it has been able to open up areas that we thought were inaccessible to us. But I don’t have an issue with guessing. Guessing is one way of coming up with hypotheses. The important thing is how you check your guesses match reality. You have no checks for CE. You’re not even close. At least the physicalist view has all the history of science in every detail to show that everything we have encountered and investigated successfully so far does not contravene the physical laws, or that the physical laws, or our models of them, are adapted to what we find to be the case. Where are your models that go beyond a guess? “I just see both of us as employing different grades of guessing.” If you want to stretch the meaning of ‘guessing’ then fine. Your guess is a pure guess, whereas mine is influenced by the whole of science. You have zero science, only your guess. I may well have guessed that the universe is physical, and as long as I then verified that guess as best I can with known science then that would seem reasonable. As it is I don’t think I did guess. I think I was persuaded by physicalist arguments from the evidence of science. “It seems to fit the best within the constraints of my assumptions, which are based on things I have experienced and have learned in the sciences.” What science possibly supports your view about CE? “To me, no support means no reasons at all, thus implying that the belief is truly un-caused, random, or similarly so.” This seems an odd view. I certainly don’t think your belief is CE is uncaused or random. I can’t investigate your brain, but my guess about your view is that it is influenced by panpsychism that have been bandied around for centuries, and perhaps by a slight anti-science, or perhaps a postmodern relativism that doesn’t really appreciate the difference between the lack of support for imagined ideas and scientifically supported ideas. But though that’s just my guess, even that guess is supported by much of the language you use, which is also used by many postmodern relativists that make stuff up and believe it. I really do recommend the Sokal and Bricmont book, ‘Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. You’ll see much of your own language picked apart in there. “First, I believe that a universal consciousness exists because I believe consciousness/awareness (of some type) is necessary for existence (this is a philosophical starting point of mine, one of my core principles).” This is the first time you’ve used ‘necessity’, I think. Why is it necessary? “I think that the universal consciousness would have to be consistent, conserved, etc., (just as energy is) in order for existence to be consistent and conserved.” Why? The scientific view of the conservation of energy is an observation, not a necessity. We discover laws (or we build models that we think best describe reality) and we see that these laws show a conservation of energy. But where is there any knowledge of other possible universes and other possible laws of nature that insist that energy must be conserved? And where do you get the idea that because energy must be conserved that consciousness must be too? Where is the physical law in which we can observe consciousness being conserved? “Second, I believe that an attribute/property such as consciousness, even if it were not necessary for existence, would not spontaneously emerge, but would rather come about due to a more fundamental property.” Physicalism already accounts for this. Consciousness isn’t a spontaneous acquisition of some new property, but some emergent behaviour that comes about because of the novel arrangement of matter in brains. The extent to which the onset of this behaviour is quick enough, evolutionarily, to be labelled as spontaneous is an unknown of evolution. The best estimate is that conscious behaviour would have emerged to greater or lesser extents in various animals with brains, just as we see variation in animals now (including human animals). “Just as some scientists think that a slab of material and its properties can be broken down into basic fundamental parts which explain those bulk material properties…” You’re going to have to be more specific here. While it is true that H and O make water, and that water has added nothing new to H and O, the behaviour of H and O when combined in bulk water is not so obvious from our observations of the behaviour of H and O in isolation. The physical relationships are there in the basic atoms, and in their sub-atomic components, but the behaviour of water emerges as behaviour of H and O in certain configurations of molecules when in bulk. It is an epistemological problem for us that if given H and O and no evidence of having seen water, could we estimate the properties of water? We wouldn’t say, “Hey, look, this mass of H2O is different from H + 2 x O, because, wow, there’s a nanogram of wateriness added.” But, what does this type of emergence have to do with your view of CE? “our mental-consciousness would have a similar consideration – that is, be explained by some fundamental property of consciousness that eventually displays something recognizable” You offer nothing to demonstrate CE in the first place, let alone this subsequent belief of the consequence of there being CE. “I see consciousness as non-physical in that symbolism, intentions, and subjectivity exist, and I see no place for these things in an objective physical model (e.g. things that can be treated as objects, etc.).” Then why don’t you reject all science and go straight to solipsism, where there is only your own consciousness and its symbolism. You have provided no barrier to this route, and nothing to prefer your particular belief. For all your lip service to science you reject it all as the product of some imagined consciousness. “One of my core principles is property conservation” Why? What about the property of height? What about the height of a compressible gas column where the height isn’t conserved as it is compressed? What are you talking about? This is gibberish. “My view of “other ways of knowing” involves our current knowledge of the unconscious mind and our lack of certainty in how it operates.” God of the gaps type reasoning. Or Creationism of the gaps reasoning. Science can’t give every detail, therefore my crackpot idea must be true? Nothing we know about unconscious behaviour of the brain suggests anything of the sort. “I would say that our unconscious knowledge acquisition mechanisms have evidence to indicate they exist” How would you know? How did you ask them? What did they say? They are unconscious to you after all. But this is so bogus. Subjective experience of the unconscious is unavailable to us personally, because it is unconscious. But the activity of the unconscious brain is revealed through much of brain science. You focus on the subjective view, which reveals very little about mechanisms, and for some strange reason reject 3rd party science perspectives just on matters of the brain, and yet agree with science in may other respects. This seems like a totally wrong minded view. “…yet no certainty in what those mechanisms are.” No indication of ‘other’ mechanisms existing, first or third party, and no conscious subjective indication or physical mechanisms of physical unconscious activity. What do you have that demonstrates any supposed other way of knowing actually working? “It is support in my view.” And the Bible is support for God’s existence. “It is better to assume that our knowledge is lacking something rather than assuming its complete. If we assume it’s lacking something, then I believe we are safer assuming that there are other ways of knowing, even if we don’t know what they are.” Then assume that. But don’t then pretend you have used them to discover your CE. Because this latter move isn’t just assuming there might be something else, but moves on to a claim that you have access to this something else. “Assuming WHAT the other ways of knowing are is purely speculative” As is assuming THAT there are othere ways of knowing. Take this analogy. Suppose there two routes from Paris to Rome by plane – one direct, and one via Milan. Jack knows of the direct route, and Jill knows of both. Jill supposes that because Jack knows of only one route, he clearly does not know of the route via Milan, and therefore has an incomplete knowledge. Jill knows Jack’s knowledge is incomplete. But now she suspects her knowledge is incomplete. Perhaps there is another way to get to Rome from Paris. It is perfectly respectable for Jill to imagine that there might be, since she already knows that knowledge of routes can be incomplete. But it would be quite wrong of Jill to believe there is another route, and even less reasonable for her to believe she knows what that route is (via Madrid), based on her knowledge that incompleteness in knowledge is a possibility. Jill was using a gap in Jack’s actual knowledge to infer a gap in her knowledge, and then using that to think she can guess the Madrid route exists, when it does not. Your case is a little different, but I hope the above illustrates the point. The problem in your case is that we are talking about knowledge of routes to knowledge, not just about knowledge. We know we are limited in knowledge (our one known route to knowledge does not give us complete knowledge), but we don’t know we are limited in routes to knowledge (our one known route to knowledge may be the only rote there is, even if it produces incomplete knowledge). Just as Jill might imagine there could be other routes, you too imagine there could be other routes to knowledge. But you have no reason to believe there is, no evidence of them. “but assuming that there are other ways of knowing (due to our knowledge of the unconscious mind, etc.)” But if your assumption about the knowledge of mind is incorrect it cannot be used as an assumption about routes to knowledge. You have not show that your assumption about the unconscious mind bears on reality, or that these two assumptions are linked even if you had. “”if you want strict scientific answers” then you should go to a strict science blog” I see Neil’s blog as one interpretation of scientific views. I agree with some of his ideas and disagree with others and come here to discuss them. I simply find your views to be anti-scientific and dispute them. Are you suggesting I go to science blogs just so that I can find agreement? I’m in discussion with you because you present views that are anti-scientific, and I’m trying to find out how you come to those views, to see if I can find any merit in them. I can’t as yet. “I have reasons for believing what I believe, and my views of consciousness are strongly influenced by my reasoning” But you start with the assumption about CE, even its necessity. Although assumptions form part of reasoning, your assumption also appears to be your conclusion, that CE. This is no different from theists assuming God (often as a necessity), having it that God inspired the Bible, and then using the Bible as reasons for believing God. “I’ve mentioned the unconscious mind several times now.” But you’ve given no evidence for a mind, conscious or unconscious. There is evidence for a brain, and it appears to have behaviours, some of which are conscious of their own behaviours. There is no evidence for anything else. “What I BELIEVE (and with good reason) is that science will not be able to explain the non-physical attributes of consciousness with a physicalist model.” Again, doesn’t that first require some sort of demonstration that there is anything non-physical? Of course science will not explain the non-physical if there is no such thing. How does the physical you persuade yourself that there is anything non-physical? “What certainties are you referring to?” Your certainty that science will not be able to explain consciousness using a physical description. Your certainty that there is the non-physical. Your certainty about epistemological solipsism. “I accept science for being able to provide us with useful information.” But why? According to you science, which is something humans indulge in, being part of the physical world, is conjured into existence by some CE. Why is science reliable in anything at all? This is where I see your imagination failing. Try to imagine that all the science is not real, but just some fleeting imagined dream of a conscious entity, your CE, where any of the precision of science is just a ghostly impression, a false impression. Just as human dreams seem real while we’re dreaming, but then seem bizarre when we come out of them, how do you know that all of your life isn’t just a figment of memory of some consciousness, CE. If you are going to go down the route you take on CE, why is it that all of your science, all of mine, all of the worlds, is nothing at all? Why are you busy picking and choosing which bits of science you’ll accept and want to incorporate into your CE ideas? How do you choose which bits of science are informative, and which are not? “What I disagree with is the extent of causality implied by science and scientists.” And yet you think you can dream up some causal explanation for CE effect, as when you say CE causes or creates the physical reality we perceive? How does that work? How is it that thousands of scientists doing really hard empirical work can’t use the notion of causation to describe consciousness as a caused behaviour of a physical brain, but you can imagine some causal link without any evidence of the CE itself, let alone the causal link to our perceived physical reality, as if these views are on anything like a remotely equal footing? Causality is a difficult thing to explain, but let’s not pretend that it is not the best way we have of describing some correlated events, or pretend that you are not using it too. Your worries about causality have nothing to do with our differences here. “We can differentiate causality from correlation by manipulating an independent variable and seeing if the dependent variable changes (and repeatably so).” What independent variable have you manipulated, and what dependent variable have you seen change as a result, to arrive at your CE? Well, none of course, because as you have said, your view doesn’t rely on evidence. So, what has causality to do with it at all? And if, as you say, you do not rely on evidence, then how do you introduce the causality you see? How does CE cause the physical reality? “You like many others take it for granted that causality is causality.” Yes, because we have to. But let’s not get carried away with the philosophical distinction. If you like, you could reject causality as describing real causal relationships as we usually understand them and simply say science shows only correlations. Well then, the correlations that science shows are simply far more consistent correlations than those that science can’t show. So, what correlations can you show for CE? “The fact that you call my objection weak further demonstrates your assumptions of causality.” It does not. I can be sceptical about causality and rely on correlations. Scientifically discovered correlations are far more consistent than the lack of any correlation whatsoever in claimed other ways of knowing, or your CE. Where are your correlations? Your objection is weak in that the causality/correlation problem applies to your ideas too, but more so, because you offer no evidence of causation or causality. “I just doubt that we can confidently say (A caused B).” How about, “A correlates with B so consistently that we choose to give it the label ‘causal’ connection, even though we reserve some philosophical scepticism about what causation is.” Then using something like that, the evidence from science still beats the evidence (i.e. none) from your ways of knowing and CE. “Given the findings regarding quantum randomness, causality in general has to be questioned.” I agree. But this still does nothing for your two ideas. I’m not sure why you bring it up. These two cartoons sum up your case: http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2012/05/29 http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2012/05/30 And just to illustrate how arbitrary your ideas are, one myth can always be replaced by another: http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2012/06/01 The trouble is, for those that want to insist that the logical possibility of an alternative tend not to like it when their own means of coming up with them are used to invent another that they disagree with. When Creationists insist on teaching an alternative the possibilities are endless. I suppose panpsychism is another alternative with just about the same amount of credibility and evidence: http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2012/06/18 LikeLike
    • “I think you are being picky here.”

      You are entitled to your opinion. I feel that I’m being thorough so we fully understand each other’s position.

      “And, in agreeing with the contingency you misrepresent your own, since you have specifically said that you believe your case (e.g. consciousness everywhere)”

      My idea that consciousness is everywhere has nothing to do with “other ways of knowing”. Please understand this as you seem to want to hang onto it with regard to our conversation on other ways of knowing.

      “For example, when did you last use any other way of knowing to come to know anything?”

      It may have happened the last time I unconsciously acquired knowledge. We can’t be sure what faculties the unconscious mind uses, but we can be fairly sure that the unconscious mind acquires knowledge and does so in a way that we are not conscious of (and thus, can only know so much about said knowledge acquisition mechanisms).

      “You really do offer no reason to either accept your position particular, or to distinguish it from any other unevidenced case.”

      I have given you reasons, albeit reasons you think are inadequate. We will have to agree to disagree.

      “My statement that “there is only one way of knowing” has been made in the context of uncertainty all along. There’s nothing new to my position here.”

      Yes, I see that there is nothing new to your position, so let’s move on.

      “But where is the practical application of them – or even where are they, what are they?”

      I am not looking for practical applications, nor am I looking to specify what they are. These are your interests, not mine.

      ” “Now it is obvious that generally when we speak of “what we know”, we are referring to what we know consciously.” Sometimes we are that specific, but not always obviously so.”

      Exactly why I brought it up, because the existence of the unconscious mind is important to the position I hold.

      “So, there is every reason to think that intuition is the coming into consciousness of ideas that have sufficient unconscious stimuli.”

      Right, and depending on our definitions, one may consider this to be another way of knowing. Clearly you don’t feel this way, but I think that this unconscious way of knowing should be given its own label even if the mechanisms are unknown. That’s how I feel about it. There is evidence for unconscious knowledge acquisition, but we can’t be sure it utilizes “reason and the senses”, as we can be more sure of in the case of the conscious mind’s knowledge acquisition.

      “We seem confident that we have a part of our mind that is inaccessible to our conscious perspective, so we can’t say much about it.” But this only relates to our personal subjective introspective view. It is not the view of science.”

      I do not only care about the view of science. This does not matter. When we are discussing knowledge, the mind and the faculties we use, our conscious perspective provides actual validation of your case based on experience and USE of that mind. This is not the case with the unconscious mind. Mind has non-physical elements, and science can only talk about the physical elements. Thus we need to experience with our mind to answer all of these questions about the non-physical. When we speak about the unconscious mind, there is a lot to infer but it’s not accessible to validate certain claims as is the conscious mind. Science can only talk about the physical aspects of the unconscious mind and that is all. Even within that, the unconscious mind is still puzzling and largely unexplored. Mind is a subject unlike any other in that getting different “tools for the job” to explore the mind isn’t sufficient to explore the non-physical aspects of un/consciousness and experience. When we are talking about something non-physical (in my opinion), you can’t use any physical tools (i.e. science) to fully explore and answer questions. It’s unlike all the other “specimens” that science CAN explore. One must use introspection to answer some of these questions regardless of if introspection is deemed “unreliable”.

      “That the tools we have available at the moment give us only limited access is no reason to claim philosophical certainties, such as the claim that science will never understand consciousness.”

      That is not my “certain” claim. My certain claim is that a physical science can never explain the non-physical elements of mind. It’s pretty cut and dried. That is it. I never said that we won’t learn countless new things about the PHYSICAL aspects related to the mind (i.e. the correlation between it and the physical brain). I’m fairly confident that science will continue to find new things that help us understand the brain in different ways and how this correlates to our conscious experience.

      “You really need to start making this distinction, because it seems to be your reliance on the subjective experience that is dictating what you think is possible to know. While science may not yet have the details of how consciousness works, how the conscious and the unconscious interact, there really is no reason to suppose it will not be possible, contrary to your claims that it won’t be possible.”

      I have made a distinction. I’ve made a distinction between a physical body (brain) and a non-physical mind. A physical science can’t explain the non-physical regardless of how much faith you have in that physical Science and its capabilities of answering these questions. I prefer to use science as a complementary tool for my understanding of the universe, rather than the only tool. Some ideas are outside the scope of science to explore, and I believe that this is one of them.

      “That we can manipulate the unconscious and that this has an effect on conscious actions implies that they are so connected. ”

      I never said that they aren’t connected. Once again, you’ve missed the point. Connections between A and B do not explain A and B. You are mistaken if you think they do.

      “We can interact physically with consciousness to a limited degree already.”

      Yes, we can interact with at least some of the physical aspects related to consciousness.

      ” “I’m more comfortable saying “reason and the senses” are the only way of knowing that we explicitly know.” That’s precisely what I’ve been arguing. ”

      Good. This is an important distinction because there may be implicit knowledge that we are not aware of. You never specified if you meant both implicit and explicit knowledge. This is at least more clear. So when you say “reason and the senses are the only ways of knowing that we know of” you mean “reason and the senses are the only ways of knowing that we explicitly know”. This is better than the former because we may know other ways of knowing implicitly (and you are only referring to explicit knowledge). I think that this is probably the case.

      ” “do you think that unconscious perception is “reason”” I think it’s part of or contributes to the reasoning process.”

      I disagree. I limit reason to conscious processes. This is part of our disagreement (although only part of it). It is partly based on how we define things.

      ” As an aside, at this point, I note again the odd mix of your ideas. You believe in CE, and yet you also believe in an individual person’s consciousness, and their unconsciousness. ”

      I wouldn’t calI it odd. I diversify. An individual’s consciousness is not the same as the universal consciousness that I spoke of. They are two different things, but both have the quality of “awareness”. I believe that individual consciousness which I previously referred to as “mental consciousness” is a way for the universe to manifest another level of awareness stemming from the universal. Most people refer to my term, “mental consciousness” as simply “consciousness”. However I see consciousness in general as a type of awareness. I believe that an awareness in the universe has been present all along in all matter and has just manifested into a seemingly different type or level of consciousness (presumably through the process of evolution). What’s amazing is the fact that we have a sense of self when we are clearly not a concrete being. We are constantly exchanging atoms with the world around us and yet maintain the illusory boundaries of the self. We change in terms of personality, etc., and after several years of life, have little or none of the original atoms/cells that we started with and yet we see ourselves as constantly “me”.

      “You do after all say you accept much of what science shows. ”

      I accept it in that it provides data and a type of explanation for the world around us. It helps us to organize patterns that we observe in the world around us such that we can better control causality and predictability. I see it as much more limited than you do however.

      ” I think I asked before, if you split a rock, does that rock then become two independent consciousness’s”

      I don’t think so. I think that idea is silly. Perhaps you at least agree with me there.

      ” “So I’ve reasoned that it is a safer assumption to assume that something has been filtered out, as opposed to the alternative assumption that nothing has been filtered out.” This is rather ambiguous. What are you saying is filtered out here? Knowledge?

      Yes. Knowledge of our own faculties included.

      “The degree to which our senses and reason are unreliable? If so then yes, knowledge is filtered by our fallible faculties, as I’ve said all along. ”

      Yes, as have I.

      “But you can’t then use that to say that because some knowledge is filtered out that this implies that we also have filtered out some hidden faculty.”

      Actually, yes, I can and I have done just that.

      “You need to give explicit support for the claimed faculty, not just its logical possibility which comes about because of the incompleteness of our knowledge generally.”

      No I don’t. This is a requirement that you assume is necessary, and I disagree with this assumption when it comes to the topic of knowledge and our perspective of ourselves and of our faculties.

      ” “Because language is a bottle-neck for all possible ideas, concepts, and knowledge.” Red herring.

      Sorry to say, but this is the case with language — like it or not. It affects what we can communicate and what knowledge we can share with others.

      “Does a smile not communicate knowledge?”

      A smile is still a form of language, even if it is not verbal (body language in this case). The same limits apply to body language as with that of verbal language.

      ” You are using limitations of language as a barrier to hide your presupposition of non-communicables.”

      Limitations of language imply that there are things that can’t be communicated — period. You may not like this as you can’t successfully argue against it, but that doesn’t change a thing (what language is).

      ” “Do you honestly think that every concept or idea can be successfully communicated to everyone else?” Do you think they can’t? What evidence do you have to support this?”

      Umm. Are you serious? Language barriers from one culture to another are a huge piece of evidence for one. There are languages that have words for concepts that do not exist in other languages. You need to read up on linguistics, and you will see that language has created barriers for expressing ideas to one another for millennia. Most basic concepts can be translated from one language to another (we assume so but can’t know for sure), but there are some that are not equivalently translatable. Second there are qualia that can’t be described objectively from one person to another (experiences such as colors, feelings, emotions, etc.). Third and probably the most important piece of evidence is what we know language to be. Language is something with a surface structure that has an underlying semantic structure implied or attached to it. We can never know that a person truly understands a word the same way that anyone else does. We have faith that it does and try to somehow “check” for that common ground by observing people’s behavior and how it correlates to the language they use. It seems like a good check and one that is adequate most of the time, but it is imperfect and we can never know for sure that two people understand a word the same way. You can ask both people for a definition of a word, and it opens a can of worms because those words have their own definitions, etc., and we are still left asking the same question. It seems adequate, but it is far from complete, far from being limitless, etc.

      ” “If you don’t, then you must acknowledge that there are concepts or ideas that exist which are not communicable.” Quite wrong again. You see, your are, as I suggested, inferring there is something else, from the logical possibility that there might be something else. This is so flaky.”

      You are quite wrong once again. It’s amazing how we can both be so convictious about our beliefs isn’t it?
      You are assuming that any idea or concept that has ever been formulated or thought of has been put into words. This is a ridiculous assumption. People can think non-linguistically and in doing so, concepts/ideas/thoughts can be created that are not communicable. An attempt can be made to TRY and communicate them, but full and complete communication is dependent on them being put into a communicable format. More importantly, even if the only thoughts/ideas/concepts were those that were created with linguistic means, you still haven’t overcome the problem of confirming that two people share the same semantics in the case of one word or many. This is the most important thing to remember when I mention the limitations of language. It is the lack of our ability to confirm that we all have the same meaning for words, concepts, etc. That in and of itself is reason enough to doubt the successful communicability of ideas, concepts, etc. If you don’t see this then there’s probably nothing more I can say to show you this is the case. It is a matter of WHAT language is.

      “There may well be many things going on in the brain that we are unable to communicate, to each other or to ourselves individually by introspection. But this does not mean you have hit on something that is uncommunicable in principle.”

      Actually it does. At the very least it provides evidence that certain non-communicables exist. As I said before though, non-communicables don’t matter as much as the limitations of language that I mentioned in my previous comment above.

      “I claim only that empiricism is the most persuasive, and appears to be the only way of knowing”

      If all you claimed was that empiricism was the most persuasive, this conversation would have been resolved long ago.

      ” I do not claim that there is no other way of knowing, only that there is no evidence or reason to think there is.”

      Even if there is no evidence, it does not mean there are no reasons. We disagree here. I’ve given reasons, even if they are not evidence. I acknowledge that my reasons are not evidence. Reasons and evidence are two different things.

      ” You on the other hand seem to take a very similar position, except that form the same basic uncertainties you not only believe there is some other way of knowing, but also that this other way of knowing informs you that there is CE. Can you not see the distinct difference?”

      In general, I do not claim that this other way of knowing informs me that there is CE. I have reasons to believe that CE is the case (although no scientific evidence), even if there may be another way of knowing complementing this realization. Where we differ is that you think that scientific evidence is needed to have a belief, whereas I value both scientific evidence as well as reasons.

      “So, do you say, “I do not believe them to be facts, but I believe them anyway,” or “I do not believe them to be true, but I believe them anyway”? If you were to say something like, “I know there’s no evidence, but I rather like the idea that there is consciousness everywhere, because it seems a neat idea”, then I would say fine.

      I would say that what I believe is not a fact (as we tend to define a “fact” as something that is scientifically proven to be some state of affairs), although I have reasons to believe they are true. A neat idea? Yeah it goes far beyond that.

      ” “I think that our knowledge of an unconscious mind is evidence for another way of knowing” Really? Why? Do you reject the examples I’ve given above about how the unconscious can be manipulated in quite straight forward predictable ways?”

      Why? Because I think that unconscious perception is another way of knowing (in some form distinguishable from our conscious use of reason and the senses). I do not reject the common examples you gave. I’m well aware of various studies within the fields of neurology, etc.

      “You’re just attributing ‘other ways of knowing’ to natural events in the same way that the religious attribute God’s action in the process of evolution. It’s a rather cheap claim to make, as is demonstrated by equally ridiculous claims made about the FSM”

      It’s not nearly the same, except for the fact that you disagree with both. Ron, ALL events are natural in my opinion. I do not believe that it is possible for me to have ideas that differ from you that are not natural. There’s no way around this. You might prefer I claim that other ways of knowing are supernatural or not natural, but I think that everything is natural in that it is a part of the universe and exists.

      “”Can we explain how our unconscious mind comes to know things” Yes. Our brain consists of neurons and other cells which work on physical principles with no evidence of anything else.”

      No. This is a theory. This is not THE explanation. Evidence shows what we are looking for and what we can see with our instruments…nothing else. It does not prove that our unconscious mind comes to know things through the process X.

      “And we know the mechanisms by which areas of the brain communicate. What we haven’t been able to show is the detail of how these processes work.”

      Exactly.

      “How do you come to choose CE as opposed to sensus divinitatis? They are quite distinct. The latter is claimed by Plantinga to reveal his very specific God, not your CE, so your equivocation on what people call God is irrelevant.”

      I have never deeply contemplated Plantinga’s SD. However I do not think that my belief of CE in any way contradicts or is incompatible with a general version of SD. Also my point on what people “call God” is completely relevant as SD can apply to any type of God. Plantinga’s version of SD refers to his conceptualization of “God”, but other versions do not have to. Plantinga’s version of a “wholly good God” is incompatible with my views of moral subjectivity and general subjectivity. I do not believe that good and evil exist in an objective sense and the reasons for this are that I believe them to be relative constructs of humans (and perhaps some other animals as well). This seems to be the case simply by looking at the fact that there are deontologists and consequentialists that co-exist and they are incompatible views. Neither are right or wrong. They are subjective and different. So I have many reasons to reject Platinga’s SD if I am to accept his assertion of what “God” is. My belief of CE makes no claims to objective morality or a God that is somehow separate from the rest of the universe. My idea of CE IS the entire universe (what drives it, etc.), with no separate God needed. I find my belief to be more parsimonious and consistent with this moral subjectivity that has evidence in support of it (different religions existing, deont. vs. conseq., etc.).

      “”It would be better to say that the only ways of knowing are “reason and the senses” as well as the “unconscious way of knowing”” But there is sufficient evidence, from manipulation of the unconscious by natural means, to include it in our one way of knowing.”

      You think the evidence is sufficient and I don’t.

      “”My grounds for this are partly based on assuming that we have implicit knowledge acquisition from the unconscious mind ” Well, as I’ve said, this is quite a natural process.”

      I never said it wasn’t a natural process. That misses the point. As I’ve said before, if we acquire knowledge unconsciously, we are not nearly as sure about how that knowledge was acquired, nor are we even sure of what we unconsciously know.

      “And, you seem to have shifted from your core principles now. You are simply labelling the unconscious activity, which is part of the physical brain processes, as another way of knowing. This is a bogus attempt.”

      I can see that you not getting very far in this argument is frustrating you, but you must accept that we disagree on this issue. I have not shifted from my core principles. I am offering ADDITIONAL reasons to support my case, aside from my core principles. It is far from bogus even if it prevents you from making any advancement in your argument.

      “Anyway, I must say that you now seem to be reiterating much of what I’ve been saying, but you somehow think that this change of tack now supports your case.”

      Well if you dig deep enough Ron, you can find some common ground. Change of tack? Hardly. I am merely providing ADDITIONAL reasons for why I disagree. The conversation involves multiple levels which means we must talk about “other ways of knowing” in all ways we have considered. I have my core principles of incompleteness, my view of the unconscious mind, how I define “reason”, etc. All which support my case, and still allow you to support your own.

      ” But without evidence to support some idea you have no way to distinguish it from other contradictory ideas, so you have no *reason* to believe that particular idea over the others. They remain competing ideas.”

      I do actually. My reasons just differ from yours. As for competing ideas, all scientific theories that explain the world in a different way are “competing ideas”. It’s all a part of our exploration. We find what we think makes the most sense to us as individuals.

      “There is no evidence or reason to support a belief that there is CE. There is zero weight behind those ideas. You have even less weight behind your ideas than does astrology, because at least astrology relies on patterns of behaviour of planets.”

      There are reasons even if there is no evidence. You just disagree with my reasons. Less weight than astrology, because it at least relies on patterns of planetary motion? What a ridiculous statement.

      ” Like making up a story about the past and believing it is true: Jesus Christ. Many false beliefs can actually be made to do work – or perhaps a better way of saying that is that many false beliefs can make us do work in living our lives as if they are true.”

      You can do whatever work you see fit from my ideas. I never told you to do anything with them. What work you do based on my beliefs or your own is your business, not mine. My beliefs have no moral prescription attached to them which makes them very different from claims concerning Jesus Christ, Satan, or Santa Clause. They are completely different types of ideas whereas mine have no prescription for manipulation. My beliefs don’t tell you to do anything Ron. If you fail to see this, then you haven’t been paying attention.

      ” The implication of what you’re saying is that science can’t start some investigation until it has the evidence to support the conclusion it is going to reach, before it begins the investigation. This is nonsense.”

      What you have just inferred is nonsense. Science can start an investigation, but it must have evidence before science can SAY anything about said investigation. It is limited by the “evidence box”.

      “OK, let’s start there then, at your starting point. Do you have anything that links consciousness to energy?”

      Yes. Energy drives motion. Mental-Consciousness is a secondary driver of motion (i.e. mental-consciousness is another control mechanism for allocating energy to the body, it’s motion, etc.). You could even look at mental-consciousness or living systems as being secondary “laws of physics” in that they are a more complicated system of directed action/response to other forms of energy. Most physicists see energy as the ultimate building block of everything (all mass is energy, so everything is energy). I see consciousness as a form of awareness and one that is necessary for existence (i.e. I think that existence implies consciousness or awareness is necessary). If we lose all mentally-conscious beings, the experience we have of existence goes away. What is left? Well, the “experience” of all energy that remains. Since the universe is composed of energy, I see this energy as being conscious in order to exist. The laws of physics which drive all processes and motion (i.e. describe or predict the behavior of that energy) describe how energy responds to other energy. I see a form of awareness as essential to this response. Thus, I see consciousness as essential to or closely equivalent (if not equivalent) to the laws of physics which drives the response of all energy (ultimately these laws of physics create the energy because they are necessary in order for all energy to exist (potential, kinetic, etc.). These are a few links I have. Any more questions?

      ” The only thing I can think of is the energy consumption of a human brain (about 20W)”

      I’m not at all surprised by your answer.

      “But seriously, life didn’t come from inanimate matter. Though we have traditionally used the term ‘inanimate’ as a means of distinguishing what we call life from non-life, matter was already animated. Chemical reactions where already the norm. The life/non-life distinction is one that we humans make. ”

      I agree with you here. The life/non-life distinction is one that we humans make, just as the me/you distinction is one that we humans make (among other life forms). We are exchanging atoms with others around us and yet we still make this distinction. And?

      “You are not thinking deeply enough about the details of life and the chemical nature of life, and the dynamic nature of chemistry and physics. Nothing we know of is actually inanimate in any sense that distinguishes what we label as life and non-life.”

      I have probably thought as deeply as yourself when it comes to these details, and I agree with your comment here.

      “”Why can’t consciousness be similar to this “emergence of life”?” It is, if you understand it in its physical form and don’t invent magic souls or consciousness or life forces. Life isn’t something spiritual that exists in its own right, like a soul. Life is just a certain type of activity in certain collections of chemicals.”

      Invent magic souls? What are you talking about? You seem to know more than anyone else about life. Perhaps you should update the Wikipedia entry to fit your definition, with claims like those.

      “”When I am told that some property is new or has emerged, I tend to think that it was already there but has just become noticed.” Then you misunderstand emergence in this context. Nothing has come into being that was not there already. There is nothing like a soul that has suddenly come into being.”

      I don’t believe that I misunderstand it. Rather I say that news properties have NOT emerged, but previously present properties are just noticed. Obviously. I’m not talking about a soul. I’m talking about the emergence of a new property.

      “Think of life, and consciousness like a pendulum. The components, when lay on a table, do nothing. But when the LAWS OF PHYSICS bring them together (to form life, and brains, for the organic stuff, that in turn forms a pendulum from its parts) then the activity of being a pendulum ’emerges’ once it has been brought together and set in motion.

      Exactly. And I see the laws of physics as the universal consciousness that drives all energy (see above comment about energy/consciousness links).

      “”Humans are excellent at recognizing patterns, but that means we sometimes look for patterns that aren’t there or see patterns that aren’t there.” As you are doing. As theists do.”

      Actually I’m not doing this. I’m suggesting that what seems to have emerged is really just something that was there all along. Quite different from theists. You just disagree with theists as well as me, because you disagree with my reasons. And that’s ok. I don’t expect you to agree. I expect you to lump me in with a larger group of people you disagree with, even though my positions on issues differ greatly, and am unable to be categorized as neatly as you were hoping for.

      “”We see life as unique but it is difficult to define.” I just defined it. ”

      You are unique, as the scientific community has yet to agree on a definition. LOL.

      “”We see consciousness as unique but it is difficult to define.” Not quite.

      Yes quite. Ask 20 scientists around you and I bet you’ll get some different answers.

      ” “As I said before, to me it seems the more parsimonious explanation to assume that properties or things analogous to energy are conserved; to assume that the properties needed for life, consciousness, etc., are ingrained in all matter as something waiting to be recognized, rather than new properties emerging.” But this isn’t what you’ve said before.”

      It is actually. Read my previous comments and you will see.

      “Why? The scientific view of the conservation of energy is an observation, not a necessity.”

      I see it as a necessity because I don’t believe in creationism (although you may, in some weird non-theistic sense). I see the universe as having always existed for eternity because it is the most parsimonious explanation. Thus all energy is conserved for eternity. Otherwise it is created, and thus something would have had to create it. I’m not a Creationist, even if you are.

      “”You like many others take it for granted that causality is causality.” Yes, because we have to.”

      I don’t think we have to. And I don’t take it for granted like you do.

      “”Given the findings regarding quantum randomness, causality in general has to be questioned.” I agree. But this still does nothing for your two ideas.”

      Actually it does. All of the evidence seen in science regarding the brain, and all of science is about predictability and the presumption of causality. If causality itself can be questioned, then all of science, reasoning, etc., can be questioned. This is so incredibly obvious.

      It may be beneficial to begin a new topic of discussion at this time since we’ve come full circle.

      Have you seen any good movies lately? I broke my finger and my martial arts and lifting days are on hold for a few weeks. I need something to do to fill in those gaps. Normally I read when I’m not doing those activities, but I need a good movie to watch. Any suggestions? Or are you not a cinema enthusiast?

      Like

  13. Lage,

    “My idea that consciousness is everywhere has nothing to do with “other ways of knowing”.”

    You brought up your ‘consciousness everywhere’, as an example of what you know by some other way of knowing.

    “We can’t be sure what faculties the unconscious mind uses, but we can be fairly sure that the unconscious mind acquires knowledge and does so in a way that we are not conscious of”

    How can we be sure that the unconscious mind acquires knowledge? You can’t be sure what the faculties are that it uses. If the unconscious mind is unconscious, how do you know that it comes to know anything?

    “one may consider this [intuition] to be another way of knowing. ”

    Only in the trivial sense that it is another aspect of the physical brain at work. You are equivocating again. The whole point of ‘other ways of knowing’ is that it is associated with claims specifically that are not about processes of the physical brain. It’s a point of view held by dualists of various kinds that think consciousness is something other than the physical behaviour of the brain, such as theists. Plantinga’s claim to sensus divinitatis is specifically a way of knowing about the supernatural. But there is no evidence to support this, and plenty of evidence to suggest that intuition isn’t something different, non-physical.

    “this [intuition] unconscious way of knowing should be given its own label even if the mechanisms are unknown.”

    It has its own label, ‘intuition’. But there is no reason to suspect it might be associated with some quite different way of knowing that is non-physical.

    “There is evidence for unconscious knowledge acquisition”

    What evidence?

    “I do not only care about the view of science.”

    This seems to be counter to your other statements about the evidence for unconscious knowledge acquisition.

    “When we are discussing knowledge, the mind and the faculties we use, our conscious perspective provides actual validation of your case based on experience and USE of that mind. ”

    No it does not. Does it provide evidence for God? Because plenty of people have spiritual mental experiences that they claim are divine. Out of body experiences that are demonstrated to be false, but remain convincing to the person having the experience? Yes, I can see you ignore science when it suits you.

    “Mind has non-physical elements, and science can only talk about the physical elements.”

    How do you know that?

    “Thus we need to experience with our mind to answer all of these questions about the non-physical.”

    But how, when the unconscious is unavailable to the conscious mind?

    “When we speak about the unconscious mind, there is a lot to infer but it’s not accessible to validate certain claims as is the conscious mind.”

    Not accessible to the conscious mind, I agree. But then that counters what you said with:

    “our conscious perspective provides actual validation of your case based on experience and USE of that mind.”

    How does the conscious mind, which you agree cannot access the unconscious mind, tell you anything at all about the unconscious mind? How does using the conscious mind do anything of the sort?

    “Science can only talk about the physical aspects of the unconscious mind and that is all. Even within that, the unconscious mind is still puzzling and largely unexplored.”

    Largely unexplored, but explored enough to demonstrate the physical relationship, the control of the unconscious mind by physical intervention, the closest thing to cause and effect, even allowing for your sceptical view of cause and effect, which of course should be applied to your own view.

    “Mind is a subject unlike any other in that getting different “tools for the job” to explore the mind isn’t sufficient to explore the non-physical aspects of un/consciousness and experience.”

    How do you know this?

    “One must use introspection to answer some of these questions regardless of if introspection is deemed “unreliable”.”

    So, you suppose that have out of body experiences are right, even though demonstrated wrong? You think those that have had the brain stimulated to invoke specific unconscious decisions are right in thinking it was their conscious decision? You think Plantinga is right in his introspective view that he has sensus divinitatis? What makes your view so reliable that you deem to call it sufficient evidence in one breath, then reject the view of far greater evidenced science in the next?

    “My certain claim is that a physical science can never explain the non-physical elements of mind.”

    OK. But you haven’t given any evidence or reason for thinking that there is the non-physical. So by what faculty do you know of the non-physical? If you think your non-physical mind is telling you that it is non-physical, then how do you verify that it is right, and that it’s not just a physical brain thinking it is a non-physical mind?

    “Connections between A and B do not explain A and B. You are mistaken if you think they do.”

    Then by what means do you explain the mind? With the mind? How do you know you have a mind and not a physical brain that thinks it has a mind?

    “This is an important distinction because there may be implicit knowledge that we are not aware of.”

    If they are implicit, and the mechanisms are unknown to you, how do you check their reliability and distinguish them from illusion and delusion?

    “This is better than the former because we may know other ways of knowing implicitly”

    How do we know of something that we do not know? I think that the physical activity of the unconscious brain reveals that, provides evidence that the physical brain, even the unconscious parts, contain information that we classify as knowledge. But how do you know that when you reject that evidence, and when you say your conscious mind can’t get at the unconscious?

    “An individual’s consciousness is not the same as the universal consciousness that I spoke of. They are two different things, but both have the quality of “awareness”.”

    How do you know all this? Even your own personal unconscious self is beyond your investigation, according to your rejection of science for investigating it, and its inaccessibility to your conscious mind. How then do you acquire knowledge of CE? You seem to be expressing limitations in science and your purported conscious mind, and yet it is only your conscious mind that you rely on to tell you that you have a non-physical mind, and unconsciousness that knows stuff, and that you know of CE. How does all this work? It seems far more obvious that you don’t know any of these things but simply choose to believe them.

    “I believe that …”

    Yes, I get that you believe it. But why?

    “What’s amazing is the fact that we have a sense of self when we are clearly not a concrete being.”

    It would be amazing, if you could show that. You’re just making it up.

    “We are constantly exchanging atoms with the world around us and yet maintain the illusory boundaries of the self.”

    All understood physically. The self as an entity is related to the proximity of the brain body system. We can identify self as a concept that applies to any entity we describe as living. Individual bacteria acts as individuals in their individual action. It’s quite natural for animals with brains to acquire self-identity. There is no need for your mysticism, and no evidence for it.

    “I see it [science] as much more limited than you do however.”

    Yes, I see that you see that. You believe in the non-physical after all.

    “I don’t think so. I think that idea is silly. Perhaps you at least agree with me there.”

    Why is it silly? A rock is a bunch of atoms. Split it and you have two bunches of atoms. Two brains are two bunches of atoms, and have individual consciousness. Split a single brain and it too seems to have two consciousnesses. How do you come to know so much about ‘mental consciousness’ and CE such that you can not only make the distinction, but also are able to label one concept of consciousness individual and the other not? You mock your own ideas it seems.

    “Actually, yes, I can and I have done just that.”

    Well, OK, you can say it [because some knowledge is filtered out that this implies that we also have filtered out some hidden faculty]. But you have no logical justification for saying it. It does not imply that at all. They may be quite independent.

    “No I don’t [need to give explicit support for the claimed faculty, not just its logical possibility]. This is a requirement that you assume is necessary, and I disagree with this assumption when it comes to the topic of knowledge and our perspective of ourselves and of our faculties.”

    You just make it up as a logical possibility, that has no more reason or evidence to support it than many other unevidenced and unreasoned possibilities, and you single yours out; you just state it is so and that’s that?

    “Limitations of language imply that there are things that can’t be communicated – period.”

    Then how have you communicated them to yourself? If spoken and written language, and body language and all language is inappropriate, what do you use?

    “You may not like this as you can’t successfully argue against it”

    It is difficult to argue against non-arguments, blanket assertions made up and unreasoned and unevidenced.

    “Umm. Are you serious? Language barriers from one culture to another are a huge piece of evidence for one.”

    So, the evidence of the limitations of language are sufficient to show that some things can’t be communicated. But evidence of limitations of our known ways of knowing are no barrier to your claim that there are other ways of knowing. You seem to be applying rules about what can and can’t be inferred to suit your case only.

    “You are assuming that any idea or concept that has ever been formulated or thought of has been put into words.” and “A smile is still a form of language”

    So, are you limiting your criticism to words or not? You make stuff up as you go along.

    “At the very least it provides evidence that certain non-communicables exist.”

    No. It provides a suggestion that they might exist, not that they do. Remember, you are the one rejecting evidence. You mix possibility and actuality again. And, just because they might exist does not give us any clue as to what they are. You are seeing a possibility that some things in the brain might not have been so far communicated, then you make statements that this is evidence that they exist, despite your rejection of evidence in these matters, and then you go on to make claims about what these uncommunicables might be, such as a way of knowing. All pure invention on your part.

    “If all you claimed was that empiricism was the most persuasive, this conversation would have been resolved long ago.”

    No, for two reasons. First, that’s all I’ve ever claimed. Second, this is more about your bogus claims to other ways of knowing, and your CE.

    “I’ve given reasons, even if they are not evidence. I acknowledge that my reasons are not evidence.”

    But you also just claimed evidence. Make up your mind.

    “I have reasons to believe that CE is the case”

    You have explained what you believe, and in the non-logical sense you give belief as a reason, a cause, and you cloak it in some unrelated assertions. But that can’t be called a reasoned argument.

    “Where we differ is that you think that scientific evidence is needed to have a belief”

    I think I’ve made it clear that I don’t think that. You can hold false beliefs that are not backed up by scientific evidence, quite clearly. You can have beliefs that may or may not be backed up by scientific evidence because for now they remain unknowns. I have pointed out the distinction between holding a belief and the content of a belief.

    “whereas I value both scientific evidence as well as reasons.”

    No you don’t. You specifically reject evidence when it suits you: you reject all the evidence of the physical nature of the brain’s responsibility for what we perceive as the mind introspectively and assert there is a non-physical mind without evidence. You specifically twist reason when it suits you: you infer actuality from possibility when it suits you, and reject possibility when it suits you.

    “I would say that what I believe is not a fact, although I have reasons to believe they are true. A neat idea?”

    No. The antithesis of reason, and an example of irrationalism.

    “You might prefer I claim that other ways of knowing are supernatural or not natural, but I think that everything is natural in that it is a part of the universe and exists.”

    But you claim knowledge of the non-physical. In what way is that natural. OK, you’re equivocating again.

    “Evidence shows what we are looking for and what we can see with our instruments…nothing else. It does not prove that our unconscious mind comes to know things through the process X.”

    Then how do you come to know what you claim to know about ways of knowing, CE, the non-physical?

    Me: “What we haven’t been able to show is the detail of how these processes work.”; you: “Exactly.”

    Exactly what? here you are again inferring specific things from gaps in our knowledge. This is God of the gaps stuff again.

    “I have never deeply contemplated Plantinga’s SD. However I do not think that my belief of CE in any way contradicts or is incompatible with a general version of SD.”

    This is an example of your flaky thinking. You profess that your CE is not incompatible with a generalised version of something you haven’t deeply contemplated. Since your claims are based on a supposed non-physical mind’s faculties I’d think contemplation was the only route open to you. How can you infer a generalisation from a specific if you haven’t contemplated it sufficiently? You really do just make stuff up.

    But let’s suppose you’re right that a generalised SD could be compatible with your specific CE and Plantinga’s SD, then it doesn’t seem very reliable at specifics, because you come to quite different beliefs to those of Plantinga. Your specific beliefs are not compatible, unless you choose to adapt your definitions further to make them so. But this is again a flaky move. Defining your beliefs to be out of reach of any checking whatsoever you can assert anything you like about them. Just like FSM, fairies and any other imagined idea.

    “Less weight than astrology, because it at least relies on patterns of planetary motion? What a ridiculous statement.”

    Yes, it was intentionally ridiculous. This is how ridiculous your claims appear to be. You make assertions and call them reasons. Astrology refers to things like planets, which we observe, and makes claims about them that cannot be supported. You refer to conscious behaviour, which we can observe, and make claims about it that cannot be supported.

    “My beliefs don’t tell you to do anything Ron.”

    The analogy isn’t that they tell you to do things, it’s that you come to quite different beliefs by the same means and have no means of distinguishing them. The only means available to us to distinguish ideas, evidence and reason, you reject. And again, don’t equivocate on ‘reason’ – your use of the term for your ideas simply means a list of things that contribute to your belief and not a reasoned logical argument.

    “but it must have evidence before science can SAY anything about said investigation.”

    If by SAY you mean it can take ideas to be facts only on evidence, then yes. That’s fine. But what you are doing is taking ideas to be facts without evidence, and without logical reason.

    “Mental-Consciousness is a secondary driver of motion”

    How do you know that? How does this non-physical faculty drive the physical? What is the impact on the conservation of energy? The conservation of energy is a physical idea that has evidence to support it. But you reject evidence for your ideas about the non-physical. How do you know then that there is any relationship at all (once you have established that there is the non-physical)?

    “I see consciousness as a form of awareness and one that is necessary for existence”

    How do you come to that sight? You reject evidence, so what do you have? It seems like just an assertion.

    “I see this energy as being conscious in order to exist.”

    Why? You are inferring this from the example of animal consciousness that seems to vanish when a human dies? How do you come to reject the idea that the physical is required for consciousness, and specifically something physical and complex, and from current evidence something physical, complex, that is a brain. What persuades you, from our limited example of conscious behaviour in animals, and no apparent consciousness in rocks, that there is indeed a broader consciousness, and that it necessitates everything else?

    “I see a form of awareness as essential to this response [energy responding to energy].”

    How do you come to see that? This looks like a simple assertion of something you want to believe? What faculties are you using to come to this understanding?

    “Invent magic souls? What are you talking about?”

    I’m comparing the notion of a soul that theists think exists as a non-physical entity, to your non-physical entities of mind and CE. If you reject the soul on what grounds do you do so? What gives you reason to reject that and not your particular ideas of the non-physical?

    “I’m not talking about a soul. I’m talking about the emergence of a new property.”

    Again, I give the soul as a counter example that is attributed by similar means to your own ideas of a mind. How do you justify your ideas while rejecting the ideas of a soul. Both are unevidenced descriptions of something non-physical that the proponents assert without evidence and without logical reason.

    “Exactly. And I see the laws of physics as the universal consciousness that drives all energy”

    Why? Why not just use the idea of energy without suggesting that it is related to CE? Since you ideas lack evidence, and we have evidence of energy, how can you tell whether energy is the end of the road or that there is CE behind it? This really is just like inventing some other notion, like souls.

    “Actually I’m not doing this [interpreting patterns].”

    Really? It seems a bit of a coincidence that your idea of CE, while different from ‘mental consciousness’, as you put it, seems to have some of the ‘awareness’ and maybe other characteristics of observed human conscious behaviour. Just as God is made in the image of man, so seems your CE. How can you be sure that you are not merely perceiving something that isn’t there at all? How do you distinguish your unevidenced perception from all the others, such as gods and souls?

    “You are unique, as the scientific community has yet to agree on a definition [of life]. LOL.”

    Well, you seem very free with definitions I didn’t think you’d mind. But I’m not unique. Many scientists do provide definitions for life such as the one I’ve given.

    “Ask 20 scientists around you [to define consciousness] and I bet you’ll get some different answers.”

    Putting the dualists mystics and the Chalmers aside and focusing on physicalist scientists, then I’d think you’d get much agreement. There are variations on the degree to which consciousness is computational, and if so what form of computation is involved, but that revolves around the definitions of computation. There are also disagreements about what emergent properties are, but the disagreement tends to come from those that aren’t comfortable with a completely physical explanation of consciousness – their motives are usually revealed in some remarks or other about their fears for the consequences on human behaviour. But disagreement on the way to finding out the details isn’t a problem.

    “As I said before, to me it seems the more parsimonious…”

    Only because you have been equivocating again. One of your points has been that nothing is added if it is already their (CE). But you have already rejected the parsimonious route by suggesting CE is there in the first place. Without evidence there is no reason to do so. It’s already something added, prior to anything we have evidence for.

    “are ingrained in all matter as something waiting to be recognized, rather than new properties emerging.”

    Waiting for any evidence whatsoever. How can it be recognised if there is no evidence of it? And, you still imply in this statement that the physicalist view adds properties, when it does not. The emergence is one of behaviour of dynamic matter. Nothing is added in the physicalist perspective, either as consciousness emerges, or at the beginning by added the precursors of CE.

    “I see it as a necessity because I don’t believe in creationism…”

    There’s no need to believe in creationism, atheistic or otherwise. The conservation of energy is an observed characteristic of this universe. We don’t know anything about other universes, or precursors to this one. We don’t know how the laws we observe came about. That applies to you too. You have nothing to offer that suggests otherwise, and nothing to suggest CE.

    “I see the universe as having always existed for eternity..”

    A guess? An uncommincable communication from your non-physical mind? How do you know this stuff?

    “…because it is the most parsimonious explanation.”

    Parsimony relates only to explanations we have available, and it is only a guide. We have evidence of only the physical, and so the parsimonious route is to work with that. Why add a precursor of consciousness? Why is that the bit that gets to be eternal? This is just the same as the argument for the necessity of God and an uncaused eternal cause. You cannot make a case for your CE that does not coincide with that for God or fairies or anything else. Your use of parsimony here is entirely misplaced.

    “Thus all energy is conserved for eternity. Otherwise it is created, and thus something would have had to create it. I’m not a Creationist, even if you are.”

    First, you ‘creationist’ has now turned to ‘Creationist’ which is usually reserved for Young earth Creationists. I don’t know if this is a mere slip of a scurrilous implication. But nevertheless, you don’t have the foggiest about whether energy exists for eternity (whatever that actually means beyond a human invent gap filler) or if energy just appeared from nothing (whatever that means). Our total ignorance in the matter of universe creation applies just as much to you as anyone. Your claims about CE in relation to conservation are entirely unfounded guesswork.

    Your rejection of causality does no work for you. If you question causality you must question it for your claims about CE being the prime mover: ” I see the laws of physics as the universal consciousness that drives all energy”. Your scepticism about causality is irrelevant.

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    • Ron,

      ” How can we be sure that the unconscious mind acquires knowledge?”

      That is what implicit knowledge is — unconsciously acquired knowledge. It is knowledge we do not consciously acquire. This means two things: we can acquire knowledge and not know how we’ve acquired it; and we can acquire knowledge and not know it consciously. There is evidence to support this within the field of psychology.

      “Lage, “My idea that consciousness is everywhere has nothing to do with “other ways of knowing”.” You brought up your ‘consciousness everywhere’, as an example of what you know by some other way of knowing.”

      What specific claim of mine are you referring to so I can respond accurately? Quote me if you will. It’s more important to note that I have reasons within the way of knowing that we both agree exists, to support my belief. Don’t confuse reasons for evidence. There are reasons, there are better reasons, and there are worse reasons (this is a subjective scale). Either way, reasons are reasons if they have some motivation and are not completely random/out-of-the-blue. You have reasons to believe that there are minds that exist independently from your own, even though there is ZERO evidence to support this belief. You may also have reasons to believe that you are or are not a brain in a vat (BIV), even though there is ZERO evidence to support this belief. However, you DO have reasons for why you believe that other minds exist. Any thing that you try to present as evidence for believing that independent minds exist is pure speculation (not evidence), even if you are drawn to the idea strongly. Both Solipsists and non-Solipsists have equally justifiable reasons for why they believe what they believe. You are no exception to having beliefs without evidence. So get over it, unless you want to be seen as nothing but a hypocrite. If you want to avoid being a hypocrite, please drop it.

      ” “one may consider this [intuition] to be another way of knowing. ” Only in the trivial sense that it is another aspect of the physical brain at work.”

      Regardless of if you think of it that way, my point still stands. When people refer to intuition, it is contrasted from discursive reason. I’ve already mentioned this before. If you want to say that intuition is another type of reason, fine. I don’t define intuition as reason, because I see reason as a conscious faculty. Regardless of intuition, I believe that my view of incompleteness suggests that the knowledge of how we know things (i.e. what faculties we have) is incomplete and thus implies that there are other faculties (even if we can never know what they are). I’ve mentioned this before, and while you say that an incomplete view does not imply that other faculties exist, I believe it does because it involves knowledge about knowledge. It implies other ways of knowing exist ipso facto. I am clearly aware that you disagree with this, and that is fine. We have different philosophical beliefs, and neither of us are “right” or “wrong” even if we disagree with one another — because we both have different philosophical starting points and beliefs. Once those personal philosophical starting points and beliefs are accepted by us as individuals, we can be justified in our positions held. I want to point out that I do not believe this “ipso facto” exception is a universally applicable situation. It is only because we are talking about knowledge combined with the fact that we are subjective beings that filter out things that are really there in our knowledge acquisition. Knowledge acquisition is so fundamental, it is an exception that makes my claim an ipso facto circumstance. I do not think for example that if we have a closed box with unknown contents (or lack thereof), that this implies that there are objects in the box when in fact there may not be. That is when we can say, there is only evidence for a box, thus there are no objects in the box that we know of. As well, every other circumstance that comes to mind would follow your assertion that incompleteness does NOT imply anything else existing. It is only in the case of something as fundamental as knowledge about knowledge, that I believe we can make this exception. This is my opinion, but I have strong philosophical grounds for believing it (good reasons even if no evidence). I would basically agree with you if you said “Reason and the senses are the only ways of knowing that we have defined” (if I accept your definition of reason as including anything unconscious as well). This is not what you’ve said however, and thus I still disagree (and have reasons for believing so).

      This is enough to resolve this argument. This discussion started with my claim that other ways of knowing exists. I’ve given you the reason why (based on one of my philosophical starting points concerning knowledge about knowledge). If you fail to accept this, we will just keep going in circles. Do you know how much longer it takes to type with one hand? As I mentioned, I broke my finger — and I am in a cast and do not have voice recognition software. If I did, I may be slightly more inclined to keep going in circles with you. For now, I think its best if we accept our philosophical differences on this particular issue and begin a new topic as I don’t think we are gaining any more productivity within this topic. On a side note, you never mentioned any new movies that may be worth watching. I’m in the mood for a good show and I haven’t been to a theater in months. Any “now in theater” suggestions for this fellow philosopher? I like drama, action, documentary, etc. I prefer reviews/suggestions from those I intellectually converse with, and you are in that category Ron — as are you Neil.

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      • That is what implicit knowledge is — unconsciously acquired knowledge.

        I don’t think that’s at all correct.

        I take “implicit knowledge” to be knowledge that cannot be accounted for in terms of explicit beliefs.

        As far as I know, there is a lot of controversy and disagreement among psychologists as to what implicit knowledge really is, and how important it is.

        It is not how the knowledge was acquired that makes it implicit knowledge.

        Incidentally, I am inclined to think that “the unconscious mind” is an oxymoron.

        A comment

        Maybe you ought to think about coming up with a clear thesis that you can defend, and posting that on your blog.

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        • Neil,

          You are right that there is some controversy over what explicit knowledge is. If we think about remembered skills, implicit memory, etc., we can look at some of that as being a form of knowledge. And it would indeed be unconsciously acquired knowledge. Just like procedural memory, taste aversion, etc. If we don’t know why we avoid certain things or what all motivations are for our behaviors (i.e. they are not conscious to us), then I see that as being explained by the unconsciously acquired implicit knowledge.

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