Archive for August 20th, 2013

August 20, 2013

On Nagel at The Stone

by Neil Rickert

Thomas Nagel has a recent post up at The Stone (the New York Times opinion site), where he presents an outline of the major ideas of his book.  Having already discussed some of Nagel’s ideas (do a search for “Nagel” on the main blog page to find the relevant posts), I shall now look at some of what Nagel says in that post.

Nagel begins with these words:

The scientific revolution of the 17th century, which has given rise to such extraordinary progress in the understanding of nature, depended on a crucial limiting step at the start: It depended on subtracting from the physical world as an object of study everything mental – consciousness, meaning, intention or purpose.

I see that as a seriously mistaken view of science.  By way of example, scientists use a lot of mathematics.  And mathematics is very much an intentional activity.  Most mathematicians agree that mathematics is not about reality.  And then there is computer science, which studies ways of processing information.  Information is an intentional entity, not a physical entity.  The physical computer is an electro-magnetic device, but much of our study of computation is in terms of bits (binary digits) which exist only as an intentional interpretation of the electro-magnetic signals.  The claim that intention and purpose have been abolished does not fit the evidence of what we see coming from science.

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August 20, 2013

Why I started this blog

by Neil Rickert

I have not posted much lately, so perhaps the background that I shall try to present here will partially explain that.

During my own study of human learning, I have come to understand how the mind works.  I could be mistaken about that, of course, though my understanding continues to hold up rather well.  Readers of this blog will doubtless be skeptical, since I have never published an explanation of how the mind works.

I have made attempts to present an explanation.  But my attempts are not successful.  People react as if what I write is obviously wrong, yet they are never able to tell me what is wrong.  What becomes very clear, is that the way I am looking at the question is very different from the way that they are looking at the question.  And that observation is where I came up with the idea for the title of this blog.

There’s a message here, about thinking outside the box.  If you think too far outside the editor’s box, you won’t get published.

I started the blog, to have a place where I could present some of my ideas.  And I have been doing that, though with care to try and stay not too far from the terminology that is commonly used by others discussing the mind.  But it does become frustrating, after a while, to be unable to communicate what I see as important ideas.

My best guess is that I shall never succeed in presenting my understanding of the mind.  I am not allowing that to bother me, though I do occasionally need to take a break from thinking about the related issues.  Hence my recent lack of posting.