The True Meaning of BS

Mar 16, 2016

Photo credit: Izhar Cohen

By Michael Shermer

Babble, bafflegab, balderdash, bilge, blabber, blarney, blather, bollocks, bosh, bunkum. These are a few of the synonyms (from just the b’s) for the demotic descriptor BS (as commonly abbreviated). The Oxford English Dictionary equates it with “nonsense.” In his best-selling 2005 book on the subject, Princeton University philosopher Harry Frankfurt famously distinguished BS from lying: “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction.” BS may or may not be true, but its “truthiness” (in comedian Stephen Colbert’s famous neologism) is meant to impress through obfuscation—that is, by saying something that sounds profound but may be nonsense.

Example: “Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation.” This is an actual tweet composed by Deepak Chopra, as quoted by University of Waterloo psychologist Gordon Pennycook and his colleagues in a paper published in the November 2015 issue of Judgment and Decision Making. The scientists set out to determine “the factors that predispose one to become or to resist becoming” a victim of what they called “pseudo-profound” BS, or language “constructed to impress upon the reader some sense of profundity at the expense of a clear exposition of meaning or truth.” I was cited in the paper for describing Chopra’s language as “woo-woo nonsense.” For instance, in a 2010 debate we had at the California Institute of Technology that was televised on ABC’s Nightline, in the audience Q&A (http://bit.ly/1PQqk6s), Chopra defines consciousness as “a superposition of possibilities,” to which physicist Leonard Mlodinow replies: “I know what each of those words mean. I still don’t think I know….”

Chopra’s definition of consciousness certainly sounds like pseudo-profundity, but I have since gotten to know him and can assure readers that he doesn’t create such phrases to intentionally obscure meaning. He believes that quantum physics explains consciousness, so invoking terms from that field makes sense in his mind, even though to those not so inclined, much of what he says sounds like, well, BS.

These are examples of what cognitive psychologist Dan Sperber meant when he wrote in “The Guru Effect,” a 2010 article in the Review of Philosophy and Psychology: “All too often, what readers do is judge profound what they have failed to grasp.” To find out if some people are more or less inclined to accept BS as legit based on their ability (or lack thereof) to grasp language (or lack thereof), Pennycook et al. began by distinguishing two types of thinking: one, intuitive—rapid and automatic cognition—and, two, reflective—slower and effortful cognition. Type 1 thinking makes us vulnerable to BS because it takes time and effort to think (and say), “I know what each of those words mean. I still don’t think I know….” Pennycook and his team tested the hypothesis that higher intelligence and a superior analytical cognitive style (analyticity) leads to a greater capacity to detect and reject pretentious BS. Employing standard measures of intelligence (for example, the Wordsum test) and analyticity (for example, the Cognitive Reflection Test), the psychologists presented subjects with a number of meaningless statements produced by the New Age Bullshit Generator (http://sebpearce.com/bullshit), such as “We are in the midst of a self-aware blossoming of being that will align us with the nexus itself” and “Today, science tells us that the essence of nature is joy.”

In four studies on more than 800 subjects, the authors found that the higher the intelligence and analyticity of subjects, the less likely they were to rate such statements as profound. Conversely, and revealingly, they concluded that those most receptive to pseudo-profound BS are also more prone to “conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.” Apropos of one of this column’s skeptical leitmotifs, detecting BS, according to the authors, “is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims.”


Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-true-meaning-of-bs/

565 comments on “The True Meaning of BS

  • Ah dear old Deepshit Crappa ! A slippery fish to shoot in the barrel ! His profound words of wisdom:

    Chopra defines consciousness as “a superposition of possibilities,”

    Yes it sounds profound, but to me at least, it means nothing. The guy makes a living out of such “sciencey” type speak. Just as the pastors make a living out of weaving their own webs of confusion.



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  • it is incumbent on us all to transduce our neuro-phonemic excitatory action potentials into laconic phonological resonances unencumbered by extraneous and obfuscating utterances.

    My very thoughts….

    I blame post-modernism, that concoction of try-too-hard words by French academics, feeling neglected and seeking to match the rhetorical clout of professional science-speak.



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  • It is only when you lack the clear understanding of a subject that you try to explain it’s essentials via BS. In some cases you may; through diligence, learn the subject thoroughly enough to articulate it without BS. But when the subject itself is based on nothing but BS (like, say, oh I don’t know… religion?), then you can never escape BS however diligently you try.



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  • Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation

    I love it. So poetic. Such excellent use of -tentions, resolving via alliteration the mechanism of man into his station. Lewis Carroll would have been delighted.

    It would look better in Headline Case: Attention and Intention are the Mechanics of Manifestation. Say it aloud, sounds great, doesn’t it? For best effect, try it over the PA system at any railway station in Britain.

    I want it on a T-shirt. Or maybe I should start a band, just to use the name, abbreviated to MoM. Nearly as good as the Axles of Elvis, or the Quan Tum Tuggers.



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  • ” Conversely, and revealingly, they concluded that those most receptive to pseudo-profound BS are also more prone to “conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.” ”

    This leads me to think that the intelligent people have to regard Deepak as BS and believe in what is wide spread, or mainstream. Any idea that goes out of the common path, if you leave the flock, you’re less intelligent. After this, would you be able to express any idea or doubt, even if you had any slight suspicion or questions upon widely accepted conclusions/stories ? No, you would be ridiculed.

    I’m not a Deepak fan, but if he uttered to me one of so-called pseudo-profound statements, I’d ask him to put it in a way for me to understand. Complex thoughts may be difficult to explain, so I’d try to find out what he exactly has in mind. I would challenge him to put his thoughts into more digestable terms.

    Conspiracy theories, alternative medicine, etc … Any hypothesis is good to me and I’d definitely look into them and openly and critically think about them. I’d point out whatever I find interesting or even convincing, without fear for being taken as a less intelligent person.

    Similarly, I’d certainly question everything we read in newspapers, everything I buy at the market as food, and any medicin I’m taking in.

    Michael Shermer is too keen to put people in boxes. Relax, you don’t have to jump into judging and considering people as less intelligent, because they don’t take mainstream media granted as truth.

    About the belief in God and religion, that doesn’t seem to hinder the most important scientific discoveries back in time, and even today there are believers in the scientific world. Making a link between the intelligence of people and religious beliefs doesn’t work for me.

    I think, rather than coming up with silly separations between intelligents and dumbs, Michael should put his efforts into respect, and issue an invitation for honest research and discussions among all people, about any kind of topic without any fear for being taken as a fool.



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  • Michael #14
    Mar 31, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Conspiracy theories, alternative medicine, etc … Any hypothesis is good to me and I’d definitely look into them and openly and critically think about them. I’d point out whatever I find interesting or even convincing, without fear for being taken as a less intelligent person.

    How could you possibly know if some carefully concocted deepity bullshit, was technical language or just meaningless semantics, unless you were familiar with the subject area?

    I think, rather than coming up with silly separations between intelligents and dumbs, Michael should put his efforts into respect, and issue an invitation for honest research and discussions among all people, about any kind of topic without any fear for being taken as a fool.

    Those who offer respect to the views of charlatans, who have a long track record of concocting bullshit, can be quite rightly taken as unintelligent or fools!

    That is why in science we look to peer-reviewed papers for expert advice, rather than guessing if something is technically complex information, or just pseudo-science junk!

    Perhaps you would like to critically examine this paragraph?

    RTGs are usually the most desirable power source for unmaintained situations that need a few hundred watts (or less) of power for durations {of years} too long for fuel cells, batteries, or generators to provide economically, and in places where solar cells are not practical. – This generator has no moving parts.



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  • “How could you possibly know if some carefully concocted deepity bullshit, was technical language or just meaningless semantics, unless you were familiar with the subject area?”

    If I’m not familiar with the subject area, what gives me the right to consider it BS ? This is why, I’d try to understand, but if I fail to understand, I’d refrain from having a final opinion, let alone judgment.

    Respect is always given for anyone who come up with honesty. Like Michael Shermer says, he thinks that Deepak Chopra believes in what he says. To me, calling him charlatan isn’t the right thing to do. Disagreeing with him, yes ! If people are forming and “selling” ideas to harm others, that should be fought with but if people show honesty nobody has right to call them charlatans, nor the ones who chose to believe stupid.

    Has science found the truths after the first peer-reviewed paper ? No, many peer reviewed papers and established truths became wrong at some point. Even, after some people who came up outlandish ideas, which became scientific truths with time. Some ideas were BS once upon a time.

    “Perhaps you would like to critically examine this paragraph?

    RTGs are usually the most desirable power source for unmaintained situations that need a few hundred watts (or less) of power for durations {of years} too long for fuel cells, batteries, or generators to provide economically, and in places where solar cells are not practical. – This generator has no moving parts.”

    To that, I would say : “I know what each of those words mean. I still don’t think I know….”

    If I have to critically examine this paragraph, I’d ask the author to help me understand in simpler terms.



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  • Re: Bullshit/Charlatanism

    Good question posted above. However (and there’s always a however), I would argue that men who are evil, who engage in evil (and of course this begs the question: what is evil?) do not think that they are evil. But that does not make them any less evil. I would apply this to most charlatans. If someone (like Chopra, who strikes me as a man who is half charlatan, half conscientious professional) believe what their own theories they still deserve to be called charlatans. If they are not aware that their ideas are unscientific, then that is irresponsible; irresponsibility is a choice; the implicit lack of interest in what is true is precisely what makes them charlatans; they may also be demented or stupid. But assuming that they are not – and in Chora’s case he clearly is neither stupid nor deranged, we are safe in attributing an egoistic motive to him. In other wand fewer words, he and people like him, should know better.
    One might then argue that he really does believe that atoms have consciousness, for example. But the judgment: so-and-so is a charlatan, is peddling Bullshit, is also based on our observation of such things as facial expressions, mannerisms, a wide variety of traits including defensiveness and evasiveness, etc.
    No, better to call someone a charlatan. If they can demonstrate otherwise then more power to them. Let’s call a spade a spade, and call it when we see it. No excuse for raking in all that money disseminating all that crap. And he’s a medical doctor! A quintessential charlatan, with some goodness mixed in, as I said before. That complicates things, and makes him (and others like him), all the more insidious and dangerous…as a charlatan, or quasi-charlatan.
    That being said, I would hate to be called a charlatan. It’s a very unflattering appellation . . . I think there is always the element of gain and profit. The charlatan always promotes, is always driven by some material or base, egoistic gain. Another sign.



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  • Michael #16
    Mar 31, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    “How could you possibly know if some carefully concocted deepity bullshit, was technical language or just meaningless semantics, unless you were familiar with the subject area?”

    If I’m not familiar with the subject area, what gives me the right to consider it BS ? This is why, I’d try to understand, but if I fail to understand, I’d refrain from having a final opinion, let alone judgement.

    That question is about investigation skills, so while it may be appropriate to suspend judgement on unclear issues, many matters can be simply resolved by consulting reputable sources of expertise.

    Respect is always given for anyone who come up with honesty. Like Michael Shermer says, he thinks that Deepak Chopra believes in what he says. To me, calling him charlatan isn’t the right thing to do.

    But he is a charlatan – as competent investigations show!

    Disagreeing with him, yes ! If people are forming and “selling” ideas to harm others, that should be fought with

    That is precisely what Chopra is doing!

    but if people show honesty nobody has right to call them charlatans, nor the ones who chose to believe stupid.

    Chopra is regularly transparently dishonest when his claims are examined by informed people, – either deliberately, because his is a sincere self deluder, or by simple incompetence.
    None of these point to there being any merit in his claims!

    Has science found the truths after the first peer-reviewed paper ? No, many peer reviewed papers and established truths became wrong at some point.

    The point of the peer-review process is that claims are examined in detail and tested by competent specialists.
    The difference between science and pseudo-science charlatan claims, is that science dumps refuted claims, whereas charlatans persist in pretending their claims are correct even after decisive refutation.

    Even, after some people who came up outlandish ideas, which became scientific truths with time.

    That progression is simply the process of moving from imaginative speculation, to objective measurement and testing.

    Some ideas were BS once upon a time.

    Some may have been initially perceived as bullshit, but objective testing and repeat confirmations fix that!

    Once the repeat confirmations mount up into hundreds or thousands only corrections of minor inaccuracies or different reactions under special conditions are likely make changes.

    RTGs are usually the most desirable power source. . . .

    To that, I would say : “I know what each of those words mean. I still don’t think I know….”

    If I have to critically examine this paragraph, I’d ask the author to help me understand in simpler terms.

    The test was not of an “all-knowing understanding of science”, but of basic investigation skills!

    To be properly informed all you needed to do was google “RTG generator Wikipedia” to discover if it is real science which has confirmed uses by reputable organisations!

    Give it another try!



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  • Ah Alan I looked up your quote and sure enough there it was on the Wikipedia page !

    RTG Generator

    It must have taken me all of a minute. So yes your quote makes perfect sense ! I won’t waste time looking up Deepshit’s definition of consciousness.



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  • In this case, if Deepak Chopra is willingly harming others in order to make money, this should be handled by legal ways. While this should be so easy to handle the issue, why do they bother calling him a charlatan ?

    But honestly, I must say Deepak Chopra is not my concern. I’m not really interested in his ideas, for the simple reason that he doesn’t seem to be willing to work towards proving his points. I spent hours watching him debating with Richard Dawkins, nothing comes out of such discussions.

    But my real problem is Michael Shermer’s comments about who is clever, who is more analytical, who is stupid, etc … You very rightly said Alan4discussion :

    “Some may have been initially perceived as bullshit, but objective testing and repeat confirmations fix that!”

    There is such pressure, due to such articles and hostility around ideas which seem to contradict the current views, so much that people are afraid of being destroyed before even their projects can take off. Many people wouldn’t want to be taken yet another Deepak Chopra. Michael Shermer started off with his favorite friend Chopra, but went into a generalization about “what kind of people believe in this or that” …

    This is why playing this game is dangerous. Scientific circles should be places where you can talk about any crazy project, also alternative medicine, conspiracies, anything and everything, freely. People shouldn’t be under pressure of being considered as woo woo or stupid. I’m sorry, the picture you give of science is not that nice. There is a lot of bias and agendas involved and any “controversial” project has tremendous opposition and they are not always considered fairly. It’s far from being the perfect picture we’re led to believe. In such circumstances people would even abandon ideas that might harm their career.

    Putting people into boxes like this is a toxic idea and it’s not productive at all.



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  • Michael #20
    Mar 31, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    There is such pressure, due to such articles and hostility around ideas which seem to contradict the current views, so much that people are afraid of being destroyed before even their projects can take off.

    It has nothing to do with “current views”. Science is about evidenced views and honest views. All views and opinions are NOT equal!

    I would hope that dishonest charlatans would be fearful of being exposed for what they are, but unfortunately many of them brazen it out and con enough of the ignorant and gullible to make themselves rich!

    Scientific circles should be places where you can talk about any crazy project, also alternative medicine, conspiracies, anything and everything, freely.

    We do that on this site, but asserted ignorance, dishonest claims and irrational arguments, are rapidly debunked. If people don’t like being wrong they should not present nonsense or dishonesty to scientists.

    People shouldn’t be under pressure of being considered as woo woo or stupid.

    Honest science is not about massaging egos or making people feel smug! It is about establishing correct information which works in the real world.

    People may well have “faith” in their half-baked pet ideas but if they don’t work in the real world on test, they are wrong and dangerous!

    There are detailed records of decisions people took on “feel-good faith”, as a substitute for rigorous scientific checks.
    They are called “Accident investigation Reports”!

    I’m sorry, the picture you give of science is not that nice.

    Accident investigations are a lot less “nice” than the hurt feelings of some incompetent who has had their pet hypothesis debunked because it was wrong!
    Post mortems on people who relied on Chopra type faith-cure quackery, instead of conventional medicine, are also “not nice”!
    http://skepdic.com/chopra.html

    As you are making sweeping statements about scientific evidence based views, I gave you the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to critically investigate the accuracy of a passage of text @#15, to confirm or refute its accuracy. – So far; – not much progress!

    We all have areas of honest ignorance, but with a willingness to learn can reduce these.
    The assertive ignorant of pseudo science, are not honest with themselves or anyone else, hence make no improvement in their levels of competence or understanding of how the world works. They are disasters waiting to happen!
    Chopra lives in a charlatan’s bubble of delusion, defending the indefensible and playing the martyr in response to valid criticism!
    Respect has to earned!



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  • Michael #20
    Mar 31, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    There is such pressure, due to such articles and hostility around ideas which seem to contradict the current views,

    In science there is indeed hostility to incompetent and flawed views, particularly so when people dishonestly posing as experts, persist with them after they have been competently refuted.

    so much that people are afraid of being destroyed before even their projects can take off.

    All projects should be competently evaluated, so as hair-brained schemes to no cause damage!

    Many people wouldn’t want to be taken yet another Deepak Chopra. Michael Shermer started off with his favorite friend Chopra,

    It is quite reasonable when considering opinions, to evaluate the competence of any investigations and research into the forming of those opinions.

    but went into a generalization about “what kind of people believe in this or that” . . . .

    The kind of people who are misled and exploited by Chopra et al, are those uneducated in science, who have not mastered the rational, critical thinking skills, needed to expose his false claims.
    They just accept and copy his asserted ignorance and his denials of properly evidenced science and medicine.

    Current views in science are classified by probability based on testable evidence:

    Speculations, hypotheses, laws, theories etc. giving an indication of the reliability and usability of the information presented.

    Many imaginative speculations, turn out to be wrong, while many laws and theories, can be up to 99%+ accurate in practical applications.

    Contradictions of information repeatedly confirmed by practical applications and testing, ARE bullshit!!!



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  • I think I’m having trouble to pass on the ideas properly. Ridicule, and vocabulary like “bullshit” doesn’t belong to science. Scientific proposals are made and evaluated using scientific tools and methods. There is not need to create hostility in addition, just because someone had a bad idea (if ever, it was a bad idea).

    Illegal/dishonest actions, if proven, can be punished by law.

    There are proven/disproven proposals. If you’re talking about stupid, delusional people, to me, that’s not science. Such qualifications don’t belong to the vocabulary of science. This is the way I see it.

    Your “opportunity” at #15, I really don’t see where you’re trying to reach at … I fail to see a link to the main message I’m trying to bring up.



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  • Michael #23
    Apr 1, 2016 at 7:14 am

    I think I’m having trouble to pass on the ideas properly.

    I think the basic problem is that they are bad ideas about respecting dishonest nonsense!

    Ridicule, and vocabulary like “bullshit” doesn’t belong to science.

    It certainly belongs in the descriptions of material dishonestly presented by those whose minds are closed to evidence and reason who promoting misleading nonsense while posing as experts!

    Scientific proposals are made and evaluated using scientific tools and methods.

    That is so! But many of the irrational and closed minded deny scientific evidence. No levels of proof will change their minds.

    There is not need to create hostility in addition, just because someone had a bad idea (if ever, it was a bad idea).

    Science and scientists don’t do that!
    They reply and respond to hostile attacks on valid science by pseudo-scientists and charlatans!

    Illegal/dishonest actions, if proven, can be punished by law.

    But for the most part, are not.
    Liars and charlatans are free to posture as experts as much as they like at meetings and on-line!

    There are proven/disproven proposals.

    That is how the debates go in academic circles and in professional journals, where honesty integrity is valued.

    If you’re talking about stupid, delusional people, to me, that’s not science.

    In blogs and public debates, stupid and delusional people, along with opinionated ignoramuses and liars, often participate, challenging scientific evidence with spurious claims. (Creationists, AGW deniers etc)

    They should be challenged, as I did here:

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/03/this-churchs-cancer-curing-elixir-is-really-bleach-federal-authorities-say/#li-comment-200087

    Such qualifications don’t belong to the vocabulary of science. This is the way I see it.

    Science deals with the real world where such people exist and their claims need to be accurately described to non-specialist audiences.

    Your “opportunity” at #15, I really don’t see where you’re trying to reach at …

    As I explained earlier, the sources of opinions need to be evaluated, so when people make claims about scientific evidence sources need to be confirmed to separate evidence based claims, for whimsical opinions just picked out of the air!

    I fail to see a link to the main message I’m trying to bring up.

    This site promotes science evidence and reasoning.
    I think the issue is that you fail to see the main points in identifying and debunking the false claims of pseudo-science.

    Your arguments appears to be, that as you can’t tell pseudoscience from specialist terminology, (where information is readily available), other people can’t possibly do so either, and therefore should not call out contrived misleading gobble-de-gook from the likes of Chopra!

    This is a very poor argument!

    Science quite correctly offers no respect to dishonesty or gratuitous posturing contradiction of soundly based knowledge.

    Nonsense is nonsense regardless of the semantic obscurity and packaging!



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  • OHooligan #13
    Mar 23, 2016 at 2:40 am

    Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation

    Say it aloud, sounds great, doesn’t it?

    According to the motorcycle handbook, all “the mechanics of manifestation” are all hidden inside the crankcase! 🙂



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  • You know what, it’s been quite a few times I read about an hypothesis, then I read about a critic on that hypothesis, trying to “debunk” it. The debate goes on and on, specially very hard questions where there is no evidence either way. Sometimes people make up their minds in advance (thanks to articles like this) and anyone having a “bad idea” is a pseudo scientist, charlatan, etc. But there is no evidence whatsoever, EITHER WAY !

    This is what I observe about the hardest scientific questions. And the “competence” is as subjective appreciation as what is called as “pseudoscience”. What is the measure of “competence” ? Education ? Achievements ? I have seen a few people who satisfy these criteria being called charlatans.

    And Michael Shermer’s generalization doesn’t help anything. If you come across some kind of “alternative medicine” that really works … By the time you’ll get recognition on its validity, you’ll suffer ridicule, suspicion and your life will be much harder than anyone coming up with an easier subject. This is exactly how it works in scientific community. Yet, each attempt should be a clean start until it’s proven or disproven. This is not the case.

    Even if Deepak Chopra is a dishonest charlatan, anyone who may have ideas on the limits of science shouldn’t suffer hostility just because of him. Michael Shermer’s article is toxic just because of that, because it goes beyond Deepak Chopra, and puts people with similar ideas or beliefs in the same box. So it’s not about Deepak Chopra, it’s about anyone who may develop an idea to test, or a conspiracy theory, or whatever … This is how I read this article.



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  • Michael #26
    Apr 1, 2016 at 9:37 am

    You know what, it’s been quite a few times I read about an hypothesis, then I read about a critic on that hypothesis, trying to “debunk” it. The debate goes on and on, specially very hard questions where there is no evidence either way.

    Your problem is that you do not understand scientific terminology.

    If there is no testable evidence the a notion is not a scientific hypothesis!

    http://ncse.com/evolution/education/definitions-fact-theory-law-scientific-work

    Science uses specialized terms that have different meanings than everyday usage. These definitions correspond to the way scientists typically use these terms in the context of their work. Note, especially, that the meaning of “theory” in science is different than the meaning of “theory” in everyday conversation.

    Fact: In science, an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as “true.” Truth in science, however, is never final and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.

    Hypothesis: A tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested. If the deductions are verified, the hypothesis is provisionally corroborated. If the deductions are incorrect, the original hypothesis is proved false and must be abandoned or modified. Hypotheses can be used to build more complex inferences and explanations.

    Law: A descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under stated circumstances.

    Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.
    Source – National Academy of Sciences

    Sometimes people make up their minds in advance (thanks to articles like this) and anyone having a “bad idea” is a pseudo scientist, charlatan, etc.

    No, – they make up their minds because they understand the topics and the reputations and false claims of the people involved.

    But there is no evidence whatsoever, EITHER WAY !

    Just because you are unaware of evidence, or are unable to recognise evidence, does not mean it is not available or that people well versed in the subject area do not know what is evidenced and what has been debunked.

    And the “competence” is as subjective appreciation as what is called as “pseudoscience”.

    Neither of these are “subjective”! Both are testable using scientific methodology.

    What is the measure of “competence” ?

    In science competence is the ability to follow scientific methodology, producing results which are accurate descriptions of the working of the real world, and which can be independently reproduced by other scientists.

    Education ? Achievements ? I have seen a few people who satisfy these criteria being called charlatans.

    When it comes to dishonesty, education or past achievements are no guarantee.

    I have seen a few people who satisfy these criteria being called charlatans.

    With respect, if you could not successfully investigate my RTG generator question, how could you possibly know if scientific work was honest and competent or not?

    If you come across some kind of “alternative medicine” that really works …

    I know of herbal remedies which work – and of many which are dangerous and do not!

    By the time you’ll get recognition on its validity, you’ll suffer ridicule, suspicion and your life will be much harder than anyone coming up with an easier subject.

    Nobody suffers ridicule for discovering new medicines. (One of my friends made a discovery a few years ago).
    Those who suffer ridicule are those persisting with false claims or promoting potentially, or actually dangerous substances, which are either untested. or actually proved to be dangerous!

    Even if Deepak Chopra is a dishonest charlatan, anyone who may have ideas on the limits of science shouldn’t suffer hostility just because of him.

    Scientists question and explore the limits of scientific knowledge all the time. I frequently link articles here which push at the limits of science.
    Critical and competent examination of speculations or new data, is an entirely different process to the pseudo-science assertions which only have ANY credibility with the ignorant and uneducated.

    This is exactly how it works in scientific community.

    In the absence of evidence, scepticism is the rational default position, not credulity!

    Yet, each attempt should be a clean start until it’s proven or disproven. This is not the case.

    It is very silly to assume that some treatment is effective simply because some enthusiast with a pet notion says so!
    Mainstream medical science is never going to knowingly launch untested dangerous drugs or useless treatments in place of proven ones, on the basis of waiting for them to be “disproven” when they injure patients, or cause deaths by lack of effective treatments.
    That would be unethical and totally irresponsible!

    Michael Shermer’s article is toxic just because of that, because it goes beyond Deepak Chopra, and puts people with similar ideas or beliefs in the same box.

    Those promoting quackery and pseudo-science belong in the box labelled “Unfit for honest scientific debate”! That is why reputable scientific journals will not publish the rubbish they unload on the poorly informed gullible. Once incompetent or mistaken nonsense is conclusively refuted it is binned by science.
    Most quackery and pseudo-science could not even pass high-school science levels of scientific competence!



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  • I think it is about Deepak. In other words, one has to treat each case individually when they are presented to one. It is all well and good to advocate suspension of judgment and tolerance in the abstract, but when you suspend judgment at the expense of your instincts regarding a particular person that you are forced to have dealings with in some capacity, then you are obligated to judge – rightly or wrongly– for the sake of self-protection, and the protection of others, and out of one’s sense of intellectual pollution and sense of right and wrong.—When that sense is offended one must act, speak out. When one acts during these moments, judges, speaks out, there are ramifications; one runs the risk of being unjust and of suppressing someone who might not yet be misunderstood. This has happened throughout history; but it is better to take that risk than remain a passive spectator.

    Isn’t it all about context when we make a judgment about someone’s character and motives? When a con man tries to sell us something and it sounds like a con man’s pitch, why question that impression? The extreme likelihood is that Dr. Chopra is a damned charlatan par excellence. I base this on his misuse of language, his obfuscation of meaning, and his absurd claims, and his demeanor. (He becomes agitated when confronted, for example.)

    Are we doing him and others a disservice when we judge them, keeping them in a box, as you say? Perhaps. But we keep ourselves in a box by refusing to judge and, yes, condemn. If he turns out to be right about all this stuff than the joke’s on us and he gets the last laugh – as truth is brought to light, finally. A possible, but an unlikely scenario.

    Bad people are not always bad and good people are often wrong. No guarantees; but silence, the suspension of one instincts, the suppression of one’s own impressions (which one has to trust, finally), and the dismissal of one’s own ideas of what is reasonable, in the face of perceived injustice (and the dissemination of lies is a form of injustice),—are not (on the whole) conducive to the production of a better culture. That can have dire consequences.

    Judge or don’t judge. It’s an individual choice.



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  • Mr DArcy #19
    Mar 31, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Ah Alan I looked up your quote and sure enough there it was on the Wikipedia page !

    RTG Generator

    It must have taken me all of a minute. So yes your quote makes perfect sense ! I won’t waste time looking up Deepshit’s definition of consciousness.

    It provides an interesting test, and interesting comparison of scientific and pseudo-science claims about “energy flows”.

    The real science is concise and precise, with links to practical examples and reputable studies.

    The pseudo-science is full of extensive, vague, obscurantist verbosity, which is contrived to look “deepity”, but is pretty well a meaningless confusion of terms!



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  • Michael #16
    Mar 31, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    “Perhaps you would like to critically examine this paragraph?

    RTGs are usually the most desirable power source for unmaintained situations that need a few hundred watts (or less) of power for durations {of years} too long for fuel cells, batteries, or generators to provide economically, and in places where solar cells are not practical. – This generator has no moving parts.”

    If I have to critically examine this paragraph, I’d ask the author to help me understand in simpler terms.

    Authors are usually not around to explain their books and papers, so we have to be able to investigate the reliability of published material for ourselves.

    However if you were to ask Chopra, he would just feed you more deepity bullshit, and then pretend you could not understand its “deep meaning” (rather than the fact, that the heap of word-salad, did not have any meaning). – That’s what charlatans do!

    To that, I would say :

    “I know what each of those words mean. I still don’t think I know….”

    However, to make such a claim about readily available scientific information with linked reputable sources, simply indicates a failure to conduct a one minute investigation and a dodging of the question, – suggesting that any opinion on the subject is lightweight, to say the least!



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  • Dan, thank you for your comment. I agree on your comments regarding Deepak Chopra, including the way he uses the language (or fails to express what he really has in mind) and above all, the way he gets aggressive and agitated. I reproach other scientists of such aggresivity … no matter whoever they are.

    But I doubt that the scientific community works as fairly and nicely as it seems to be believed here, when I come across stories of scientist who were pretty much crucified for things they worked upon and ideas they got. I’m not saying that they were necessarily right, but the harshness against such people was incredible. Even wrong, their ideas didn’t deserve such hostility.

    So sorry, if I’m told it’s all about the scientific rigor, or that scientific community is a fair, righteous community free from bias and even hostility, I’m not buying it. It’s normal, you will have this anywhere human beings are involved. This is my reason to react to this article.

    I don’t know everyone else figured it out already, but if someone comes up with an idea that “consciousness is fundamental in the universe”, I’d like to hear more of it. I wouldn’t like to see this guy laughed at just because “he sounds like Deepak”. I’d like to see any “crazy” idea worked upon and scientific community should support it, until it is lead to a result either way. And this, even if it attempts to change any existing paradigm.

    I wish the best of luck to any scientist who would have a Deepak-ish idea in the future … And I hope they will always be wrong …



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  • Michael #31
    Apr 1, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    But I doubt that the scientific community works as fairly and nicely as it seems to be believed here, when I come across stories of scientist who were pretty much crucified for things they worked upon and ideas they got. I’m not saying that they were necessarily right, but the harshness against such people was incredible. Even wrong, their ideas didn’t deserve such hostility.

    Without specific examples or links, it is impossible to tell if there is any basis for this, or if it is just some poorly informed gossip from a blog somewhere.
    Your earlier comments suggest this is the type of dubious source you are quoting.

    Even wrong, their ideas didn’t deserve such hostility.

    Once a claim has been conclusively refuted in science, it is binned! Repetitive assertion beyond this point is just dishonesty – especially if further dishonest or misleading claims are made about confirmed science which contradicts the claims.

    Hostility to dishonesty is a feature of all reputable organisations!

    I don’t know everyone else figured it out already, but if someone comes up with an idea that “consciousness is fundamental in the universe”, I’d like to hear more of it.

    If you want to study consciousness, or the universe, you have some serious study to do in the areas neuropsychology, cosmology and astronomy.
    Consciousness is pretty solidly confirmed as a property of brains!

    Most of those babbling bullshit about the universe, don’t know a solar-system from a galaxy, a nebula from a galaxy, or a galaxy from a universe!

    However, Deepak’s quackology has nothing to do with these subjects, as his arguments have no basis in evidenced science, or in logical reasoning.
    Scientists have better things to do than indulge in well debunked, delusional whimsicality because some quack thinks they should waste their time on his pet notions.

    Among scientists, some psychologists study of delusional thought processes, as a human mental failing or psychological disorder.

    I wouldn’t like to see this guy laughed at just because “he sounds like Deepak”. I’d like to see any “crazy” idea worked upon and scientific community should support it, until it is lead to a result either way.

    Rubbish like Deepak’s has been shown to be unevidenced whimsy or clearly refuted many times.
    It is the standard practice of pseudo-science and quacks, to continue to pretend that their debunked nonsense is valid, regardless of how many solid refutations have been presented.

    They usually succeed in persuading some of the naive uneducated, while the competent scientists pity their delusional self deception, or just laugh at their ignorant posturing being presented as “expertise”!!

    Again I come back to the examples identifying crazy sounding real science – such as RTGs, and distinguishing it from crazy meaningless nonsense from charlatans and scientific illiterates!

    Several people on this site have considerable skill at this, but so far you have demonstrated none, despite making various assertions about the workings of science!



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  • Michael #31

    if someone comes up with an idea that “consciousness is fundamental in the universe”, I’d like to hear more of it.

    So go listen to psychologist philosopher and proponent of panpsychism as an approach to solving “The Hard Problem of Consciousness” David Chalmers. I disagree with him but his is a great general effort of explication that strives for clarity in a tough, very tough area. Contrast with Deepak’s cut’n’paste usage of sexy scientific phrases trawled indiscriminately from all and sundry areas, with a poverty of any understanding of the original, then crafted to look like the pieces he has been snipping from.

    Chalmer’s is clearly striving for real insight. Chopra is clearly striving for book sales. I have never seen him achieve a clarification of his ideas when tackled, except when the concept is a pre-existing scientific one.

    Go look first at published and peer reviewed scientists. Many many choose to dance on those dangerous edges of the unknown. More than anything they want you to understand their hypotheses. They are not selling new age feel-good for first time agnostics who still feel a bit shaky and in need of a pantheist god-u-like, albeit diluted to homeopathic intensities and disguised as science.



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  • @ Michael #31

    I agree with you. I actually think that we are both right. Confession: I was watching a debate between Chopra and Harris. There were a few others there. At one point D.C. made the following remark: without consciousness the moon is a highly ambiguous entity. (Paraphrasing.) The entire audience burst out laughing, and Harris rolled his eyes. (He never smiles.) I actually agree with Chopra about that. (I am a convinced Kantian idealist, btw.—Now don’t laugh!) Nice to e-meet you.

    Correction (from my comment #28):

    suppressing someone who might not yet be misunderstood.

    Should read: suppressing someone who is not yet understood.



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  • An “ambiguous entity ” indeed ? That almost reaches to the level of a deepity. In law, ambiguity allows whatever interpretation can be put on it. A “highly ambiguous entity” even more so ! Stop playing with words and learn some science.



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  • Olgun #35
    Apr 1, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    without consciousness the moon is a highly ambiguous entity

    Last time I looked, it was the clearly visible regular satellite of the Earth, in its orbit following predicted phases, with its gradually increasing distance from Earth having been monitored by the Apollo laser reflector experiment being very accurately monitored for 40 years before it was turned off!

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2009/jun/21/mcdonald-observatory-space-laser-funding

    To what?

    Ambiguity is a property of brains’ attempts at understanding – particularly ill-informed confused ones!
    Projection on to inanimate objects, is also a property of delusional irrational brains!

    No wonder the audience was laughing at him!



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  • Michael #31
    Apr 1, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    I wish the best of luck to any scientist who would have a Deepak-ish idea in the future … And I hope they will always be wrong …

    The Deepak-ish ideas are usually too incoherent to even be wrong!

    without consciousness the moon is a highly ambiguous entity

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong

    Not even wrong

    The phrase implies that not only is someone not making a valid point in a discussion, but they don’t even understand the nature of the discussion itself, or the things that need to be understood in order to participate.



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  • without consciousness the moon is a highly ambiguous entity

    This is just fantastic. It takes a special mind to come up with this stuff. I’m not even close to capable of it but I intend to use this one every chance I get. Fair warning. 🙁



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  • Alan4discussion, you are jumping too much into conclusions when you’re debating, it’s surprizing for someone who cherishes the scientific method. Don’t make assumptions of people, I wouldn’t just look into a gossip blog and make up my mind. For your info, I even found and downloaded the “research” Shermer is mentioning, and I’ll read it whenever I have a moment. I don’t know if you did the same.

    Try to look up Jacques Benveniste. He had a hypothesis regarding the high dilutions and their effects.

    To make a long story short, because his ideas were potentially supportive (potentially ! it was not his main purpose) homeopathy, he paid the price for that. His article appeared in Nature, but exceptionally, with a hostile remark from John Maddox, saying that there were doubts on the validity (although the referees never found any issue, similar to any other articles, with Benveniste’s paper) and this would be double checked.

    They made a follow up visit to confirm the results. John Maddox chose Walter Stewart and …. James Randi ! Of course, who else better than a magician, to confirm validity of a biology experiment ? Why are there biologists anyway right ? So instead of chosing an alternative set of biologists to replicate the experiments (the original paper was already made with participation of several laboratories in France, Italy, Israel) Maddox found it more appropriate to bring a scientific fraud expert and a debunker/magician instead of biologists. Maddox’s scientific curiosity leaves me speechless. They stayed there a week, making life impossible to Benveniste and his team, and after 4 successful trials, a 5th failed. That was enough to judge the whole experiment as a failure.

    They left the lab and published a very nasty article on Benveniste. They questioned his abilities as a biologist, also his honesty, etc. But when you think of it, what if the first article’s publication was proposed by James Randi as scientist ? Would this be more convincing ? No, because Randi has no scientific credentials, but he was needed there and somehow, the experiment made by a magician counted more than a biologist’s, when it was about disproving it. Wouldn’t such a “repeat experiment” be made under similar conditions and conducted by the similar profile of experts ? You can feel free to check Benveniste’s track record as a scientist, all I know is that Randi is not a biologist.

    It killed his career and and some years later, it killed him too. The most horrible was the way he was mocked and given the Ig Noble prize (another nice feature of science I guess).

    After his death, his research project resumed with Luc Montagnier. He got the nobel prize for discovering HIV and he had some positive results (but of course, he was mocked too and even his Nobel prize didn’t help him too much from getting nasty remarks). On one of the interviews, an Italian physician was helping him and he was talking about the “difficulty” and “challenges” working on such controversial projects represented.

    Feel free to read, look up info and watch documentaries about it on youtube, I don’t know how much of it is available in English. I was really intrigued about this and I read as much as I found and I’m not done yet. But please, don’t assume things about people you don’t know.

    Shermer’s article seems to have a bad influence on you.

    Benveniste might be wrong with his hypothesis (yes, I’m using the word correctly) for high dilutions having an effect. Along the way, he even might have committed errors himself. But he didn’t deserve such rudeness. That’s the beauty of the wonderful perfect scientific world you’re talking about.

    I have the impression that we’re going in circles. Going back to the article in question :

    Something like “Conversely, and revealingly, they concluded that those most receptive to pseudo-profound BS are also more prone to “conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.” …..

    It’s only my own opinion, and I appreciate if it’s not everyone’s opinion, but this sounds quite antagonistic to scientific curiosity to me. I’m all with you about people with bad intentions, but such dogmatic approach made victims too.

    Now up to you – if you can show me that

    Consciousness is pretty solidly confirmed as a property of brains!

    Last I left on this subject, it was still the “hard problem”.



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  • Michael #41
    Apr 1, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    It appears that you are into conspiracy theories where science claims fail peer reviews!

    Try to look up Jacques Benveniste.
    He had a hypothesis regarding the high dilutions and their effects.

    To make a long story short, because his ideas were potentially supportive (potentially ! it was not his main purpose) homeopathy, he paid the price for that. His article appeared in Nature, but exceptionally, with a hostile remark from John Maddox, saying that there were doubts on the validity (although the referees never found any issue, similar to any other articles, with Benveniste’s paper) and this would be double checked.

    The failure of independent teams to replicate results, would indeed cast doubt on the original claims!

    When I come to check the account in Nature, it appears the criticisms were valid regardless of what conspiracy theorists say!

    http://www.nature.com/news/2004/041004/full/news041004-19.html

    After a lengthy review process, in which the referees insisted on seeing evidence that the effect could be duplicated in three other independent laboratories, Nature published the paper. The editor, John Maddox, prefaced it with an editorial comment entitled ‘When to believe the unbelievable’, which admitted: “There is no objective explanation of these observations.”

    Other teams were subsequently unable to repeat the effect, and the independent results that the reviewers had asked for were never published. Further experiments carried out by Benveniste’s team, in double-blind conditions overseen by Maddox, magician and pseudo-science debunker James Randi and fraud investigator Walter Stewart, failed to verify the original results.

    The details were not, Benveniste said, his responsibility. He was an immunologist, not a physicist.

    But his failure to simplify his experimental system so that he could clarify the precise nature of the effects he claimed to see, or the mechanisms behind them, fell short of rigorous science. Benveniste could surely have tested his radio-transmission theory at the level of simple, cell-free molecular systems.

    I have found no evidence that he ever devised such experiments: he stayed at the level of cells, tissues or whole organisms, where direct cause-and-effect is hard to track and statistical tests are needed to cope with the significant responses from control samples. The talk that I saw he and his co-workers deliver last June was a blinding blizzard of histograms.

    They made a follow up visit to confirm the results. John Maddox chose Walter Stewart and …. James Randi ! Of course, who else better than a magician, to confirm validity of a biology experiment ?

    When checking on trickery and fraud, magicians who are expert in trickery and deception. are commonly used to recognise tricks which regular scientists would fail to spot!

    No, because Randi has no scientific credentials, but he was needed there and somehow, the experiment made by a magician counted more than a biologist’s, when it was about disproving it. Wouldn’t such a “repeat experiment” be made under similar conditions and conducted by the similar profile of experts ? You can feel free to check Benveniste’s track record as a scientist, all I know is that Randi is not a biologist.

    You seem to be swallowing conspiracy-theory bullshit and show no understanding of how trickery is detected!

    When Randi was present to see that there was no trickery, the experiments failed to confirm earlier claims.

    This is quite common in tests on quackery which claim to have impressed scientists! (who failed to sport the deceptions).



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  • Michael #41

    It’s only my own opinion, and I appreciate if it’s not everyone’s opinion, but this sounds quite antagonistic to scientific curiosity to me.

    It would not be antagonistic to a great many scientists, often atheist, mostly medically mainstream, who could produce hypotheses with metaphysicics quite as mindboggling as DC yet argue for it in scientifically literate and collegiate ways.

    The hard problem and the willingness to address it amongst those in the field shows entirely todays scientist willing to engage in such profound metaphysics. I think you may have a vision of the scientist in 19th century garb rather than todays set, happy to accept that reality is non-local and an electron may go backwards in time during a photon, electron encounter….



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  • Alan4discussion #40
    Apr 1, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    From the OP

    “Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation.” This is an actual tweet composed by Deepak Chopra

    and

    Chopra defines consciousness as “a superposition of possibilities,”

    If you wish to be protected from brain damage,

    Sorry Alan, it’s too late for that. :’-(



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  • @ Laurie, Mr. DArcy, Olgun

    “Without consciousness the moon is a highly ambiguous entity.” – Chopra / Dan

    I am glad that you gave me an opportunity to clarify this: he was not referring to the moon’s consciousness, but to human consciousness in relation to the moon.—Without that consciousness, it is hard to imagine what the moon would be like. I agree a hundred percent. (No, the moon itself is not conscious. I think Chopra and I would have to part ways on that one.)

    Mr. Darcy, I challenge you (in a friendly way) to say something non-ambiguous about the old moon up there. But you have to first assume that there has never been consciousness anywhere in the universe. Now go ahead, please. Say something definitive about that unperceived, unknown, unseen, entity. And don’t say it’s circular.

    (Now I know how Chopra feels.)



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  • P.S. You can’t do it! All that is left is pure, formless matter (unless you want to throw energy in there). Pure matter is almost an abstraction; it certainly cannot be visualized.

    The moon is there! So it exists! No problem! End of story!

    Bravo! Now that’s deep!



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  • Dan,

    Mr. Darcy, I challenge you (in a friendly way) to say something non-ambiguous about the old moon up there. But you have to first assume that there has never been consciousness anywhere in the universe. Now go ahead, please. Say something definitive about that unperceived, unknown, unseen, entity. And don’t say it’s circular.

    This is a question with a spectacular number of variables not eliminated or not fixed. How could Mr DArcy answer it? Is Mr DArcy conscious? Is he as far as he is concerned the first conscious being? Is he new born conscious? Is he grown up? Is he without enculturation? How can he talk or understand? What sort of brain development did he undergo? Are you proposing some comedy caveman? Has he lived amongst animals. Has he hunted by night? Has there been no animal consciousness? Is he Mr DArcy of here and now transplanted to 4bn years ago?

    This is a question framed with so little consciousness about the possibilities of consciousness that it is mostly unrooted in its meaning.

    All cognitions are situated because only with shared experience can we readily hypothesise externality and reification. A solitary Mr DArcy begs your question.



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  • Michael #41
    Apr 1, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Alan4discussion, you are jumping too much into conclusions when you’re debating, it’s surprizing for someone who cherishes the scientific method. Don’t make assumptions of people, I wouldn’t just look into a gossip blog and make up my mind.

    I think this would be classed as a mixture of psychological projection and denial!

    After numerous vague posts disparaging science, you give no source reference or internet address, for the claims you present on Jacques Benveniste, which appear to be the basis of your earlier posts.

    Try to look up Jacques Benveniste. He had a hypothesis regarding the high dilutions and their effects.

    To make a long story short, because his ideas were potentially supportive (potentially ! it was not his main purpose) homeopathy,

    Your misleading account, has the appearance of some amateurish whingeing rant by quacks or homeopaths, denigrating the scientific methodology which debunks their claims and undermines their scams!
    Pseudo-science often latches on to flawed of out-dated refuted studies, if they appear to support their agendas.
    Its followers then concoct conspiracy theories to make some sort of martyrs out of failed or rogue scientists or doctors.

    he paid the price for that. His article appeared in Nature, but exceptionally, with a hostile remark from John Maddox, saying that there were doubts on the validity

    John Maddox clearly had reservations about the claims, but gave Jacques Benveniste the benefit of the doubt and pubished the article for scrutiny and evaluation by the scientific community.

    Jacques Benveniste’s results were not reproduced by independent teams, so he was fairly given the opportunity to demonstrate the reproduction of his results with his own team, – while under scrutiny of those skilled in detecting fraud.
    As my linked follow-up in Nature News, shows, no fraud was detected, but the experiments failed to replicate the claimed results under these conditions.

    If people present dishonest, sloppy or incompetent studies, for critical examination by the world’s experts, and reports on the follow up work gives them a score of zero %, ranting and denigrating peer-review in misleading and emotive terms, is simply not science, regardless of how many amateurs who don’t understand science, may be impressed, or how many quacks disparage science in their magazines or websites!

    They left the lab and published a very nasty article on Benveniste. They questioned his abilities as a biologist, also his honesty, etc.

    According to whom?

    Could your give your source for the article you are quoting.



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  • Dan

    See Phils post at #48. That is why I asked “To what”. If conciousness is not present then it does not apply and an unfinished sentence is not relevant if it is consciousness you are asking the question of.



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  • Michael #51
    Apr 2, 2016 at 7:23 am

    Thank you Alan4discussion, our exchanges have been revealing to me.

    I rather hoped they would be revealing to you and to others, but what about those sources of the claims you have posted?

    Where did they come from? Homeopathy promoters perhaps?



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  • In this case it is directed at some of Alan4discussion’s posts above.

    No safe space whatsoever in terms of the ideas that can be discussed.

    But certainly a safe space to the extent that ideas can be put forward, discussed, challenged and rebutted without the person holding them being subjected to a highly public exposition of their perceived personal failures. We are very appreciative of the amazing breadth and depth of knowledge shown and shared by many users here. We want newcomers who perhaps know less about science and how it works but are none the less interested in the topics discussed here to feel welcome and to have an opportunity to learn; but that won’t happen if they disappear again, having been met by responses that feel more like an outpouring of wrath for having dared to know less or see the world differently than a genuine attempt to explain and enlighten. Of course people who post here must be prepared to have their ideas challenged; but they should not need to have a thick skin on a personal level too. The quote from the Terms of Use is fairly clear on this, in our view.



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  • 57
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    “Today, science tells us that the essence of nature is joy.”

    Must remember that next time I see a struggling wildebeest having its backside chewed off by some lion.



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  • Dan #57

    say something specific about the appearance, form (qualities) of that
    never-before-perceived entity that we now call the moon

    You just did!!!!



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  • @ Sean, Mr. DArcy, Alan, Phil, Michael, Laurie, Olgun, everyone:

    We know that consciousness was late to arrive in the universe. The moon was there before consciousness. Of that there can be no doubt. I am just asking one or all of you good people to take my “challenge” seriously and to say something specific about the appearance, form (qualities) of that never-before-perceived entity that we now call the moon, and also explain to me why this question is ridiculous or pseudo-scientific!! And someone other than Phil (my regular interlocutor) go first (please).

    The first thing that you will have to confront is the fact that IT HAS NO APPEARANCE!

    Re Phil’s comment # 48

    Very good reply. But it obfuscates and renders the problem meaningless. What consciousness? I’ll make this simple: a consciousness (and an understanding) more or less equal to your own. When I say “your” own, I am addressing each reader individually.—Again: your own consciousness. You must assume that all consciousness is your very own consciousness. Otherwise we will succeed in pushing this question/problem under the rug, and its (possible) implications can never be brought to light.



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  • Dan #59

    Promise I won’t answer.

    But more clarification please.

    Is it your/my/their adult consciousness but with no experience at all, so no sensory experience and no cultural experience?

    No answer but a question though….

    Do you think you have created a useful analytical tool?



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  • Olgun # 58

    It’s not just about appearing or not appearing, if that is what you are referring to; it’s about Being. What qualities do remain? What qualities are left? Finally, what does it mean to say that something IS?
    I still maintain that we cannot distinguish most qualities from our own selves; they cannot be said to have an absolute, self-sufficient reality.
    Well this was my question of the week – although it was actually the central question of modern philosophy since Descartes’ time.
    (Has this ancient problem been all figured out – or has scientific realism unwittingly put a blanket over it?)
    Thank you, SC. I did check out the presentation. Was that a joke? True (critical) idealism, SC, is not “correlationism.”[!] That was a surprisingly superficial discussion, frankly – although it would give young kids something to think about, I guess.—But he talks, at the end, about objects existing without humans to perceive them, and is thereby merely reintroducing the very premise of the original question!
    And so my question (or this part of it) remains:
    How? How can we speak of an object without a subject?
    Anyone else?



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  • Phil 61

    Yes, Phil, it is you. Think of it as you, or someone close enough to you in all respects so as to make the question possible to address. For the sake of the argument, there is, culturally and intellectually, no difference between the consciousness of some other forms of intelligent beings, in my imaginary construction, and you yourself. I think I see where you’re going with this.

    And yes, I think this is a most useful question to ask.



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  • Dan

    Im not even sure I understand the question anymore but feel your question itself has no point in time or space, as Phils questions are showing.

    say something specific about the appearance, form (qualities) of that
    never-before-perceived entity that we now call the moon

    Is the highlighted bit a quality?



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  • Dan

    1.) But is it me with my experience…

    2.) or no experience whatsoever…

    3.) or just no experience of the moon?

    4.) Is it me, encultured?

    5.) Me with no contact with culture?

    6.) Encultured but a culture without words or knowledge of the moon

    7.) With language?…

    8.) or not?

    This is not in the least obfuscation but fair warning that like all other capacities to cognise and evaluate, consciousness here is a capacity we must entirely suspect as being formed by its first apprehensions. Indeed without experience it will not wire but indeed go into that energy efficiency mode of neural apoptosis or cell death that eliminates non functional wiring (use it or lose it) that leaves subsequent potential experience playing to an empty Cartesian Theatre. With nothing to think about, a newly sessile sea squirt devours its entire brain, much as a professor on achieving tenure….

    (Actually the whole scenario could be even more interesting than impoverished cognitions and conscious experience. The whole pruning process of after the 18month peak of wild and random brain growth from our premature infant selves will not be proportionately pruned back into the the useful mapping topiary of the associative corteces, but, suffering merely random and severe pruning, will net the ultimate in impoverished synaesthetes.)

    Some permutations of yesses and noes above will yield a meaningless me (not the first time) that will prove nothing of any actual cognising that may be considered to result.



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  • Tide comes in. Tide goes out . Dan seems to think it’s a mystery. Did I have to say something about the moon before I was born, or even knew about the moon ? Sorry Dan I didn’t mean to class you with Bill O’Reily, but your challenge is equally as worthless as O’Reily’s claims that we don’t understand the tides. No amount of clever philosophy ever discovered why tides happen roughly every 24 hours. It took a good dose of hard work observationally to be able to predict the tides, and even now those predictions can be wrong, but not by much. If the point of philosophy is to find “truths” in the world, then the philosophers had better bloody get on with observing it, rather than creating abstract and meaningless arguments.



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  • Dan:

    Mr. Darcy, I challenge you (in a friendly way) to say something non-ambiguous about the old moon up there. But you have to first assume that there has never been consciousness anywhere in the universe. Now go ahead, please. Say something definitive about that unperceived, unknown, unseen, entity. And don’t say it’s circular.

    Well I’m flattered to have been singled out ! As to whether there has ever been ‘consciousness’ in the cosmos before humans is rather a steep assumption. Just my view, but the odds favour the existence of intelligent life elsewhere other than Earth. If not in our galaxy, in others, but likely we will never know. But vee haff ways of finding out things, vee are asking der questions, no ?



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  • Alan4discussion #42
    Apr 1, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    The failure of independent teams to replicate results, would indeed cast doubt on the original claims!

    When I come to check the account in Nature, it appears the criticisms were valid regardless of what conspiracy theorists say!

    There is a whole string of claims (of varying degrees of wild speculation) related to “homeopathic water memory”, which fail to be replicated in independent tests, listed in Wikipedia!
    There are some positive results of some effect, but sloppy lab work along with the involvement of homeopathic entusiasts and para-normal investigators, hampers clarity.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Benveniste
    With the support of Brian Josephson, the experiments continued, culminating in a 1997 paper claiming a water memory effect could be transmitted over phone lines.[11] This culminated in two additional papers in 1999[12] and another on remote-transmission in 2000.[13]

    Intrigued by Benveniste’s claims that biological interactions could be digitized, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) asked Dr. Wayne Jonas, homeopath and then director of the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, to organize an attempt at independently replicating the claimed results. An independent test of the 2000 remote-transmission experiment was carried out in the USA by a team funded by the US Department of Defense. Using the same experimental devices and setup as the Benveniste team, they failed to find any effect when running the experiment. Several positive results were noted, but only when a particular one of Benveniste’s researchers was running the equipment.

    One of Benveniste’s machines was used, and, in the design and pilot project phase in 2001, Benveniste and other members of his DigiBio lab participated as consultants. Interviews at the time indicated study participants were satisfied with the way the study was being conducted. In the end, the authors reported in the FASEB Journal in 2006 that “Our team found no replicable effects from digital signals“.



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  • Michael #41
    Apr 1, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Consciousness is pretty solidly confirmed as a property of brains!

    Last I left on this subject, it was still the “hard problem”.

    The fact that understanding the details of how brains work, is “a hard problem” , in no way alters the fact that consciousness is generated by living brains in conjunction with associated sense organs.
    Of course if someone can produced convincing evidence of say, “an intelligent rock with awareness of its surroundings”, I am open to persuasion!



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  • 70
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    “That was a surprisingly superficial discussion”

    I was answering a surprisingly superficial question….as you do seem to be stuck on basics.

    You concede that objects existed before consciousness, but then demand to know ‘ how can we speak of an object without a subject ?’ …from which it is clear that your idealism is somewhat confused. The reason I introduced speculative realism is that it does deal with precisely the issue of just what properties an object has in the absence of there being anyone to ‘see’ it.

    Niels Bohr made the point that it is impossible to visualise an atom. We cannot have a conscious experience of ‘what an atom is like’. Instead we have to use the highly symbolic language of mathematics…matrix mechanics and so on, none of which ‘is’ the actual object itself. So here we have a direct example of a thing which we know exists yet we do not directly experience its nature and in fact cannot even visually imagine its nature.

    The fact that this occurs at the quantum level is indicative of the true nature of the problem, for when you ‘see the Moon’, for example, you are not actually seeing it at all. You are having a rather long winded interaction with photons that interacted with it 1.5 seconds ago, and then go through the whole rigmarole of retina and optic nerve and visual processing areas and ultimately consciousness of something that is numerous steps removed from the ‘it’ that the Moon is.



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  • I am afraid that none of you have understood the question. And Phil confused me with his question about “what kind of consciousness I am taking about” and his question about degrees and varieties of enculturation. Phil, NO CONSCIOUSNESS! That means NO CULTURE! NO CONSCIOUSNESS! NO CULTURE!

    Mr. DArcy, I am not like Bill O’Reilly. Listen again. And Phil, listen. And Schrodinger’s Cat, listen: this is not a superficial question. This is a profound question – with far-reaching implications. It has a highly respectable lineage. It is a subtly apprehended point, a very fine point. You may not be able to grasp it right away. You have to really think about this, a lot, in order to get it. One reason for this difficulty is this: it is the natural disposition of the intellect to start from the object and to forget the subject. (That, Phil, is a habit of mind that makes it virtually impossible for most people, regardless of their degree of understanding of the various empirical sciences, to take this question seriously when it is first presented to them.)

    Again: no consciousness anywhere in the universe. No intelligent life. Can you imagine that? Try. Now tell me something about your physically real moon. Tell me what qualities it would have when you separate the moon’s existence from perception and experience altogether. What precisely is left?

    You have compared me to a loathsome and detestable man, Mr DArcy. That’s okay. I don’t mind. I don’t mind at all. I just want to present this problem (the antithesis between the real and the ideal) to all of you. I want you to grasp it, to appreciate it. This is also an interesting study in the topic: “Bullshit.” Perhaps we need to listen more to each other.

    I never conceded that objects existed before consciousness, SC! I said that if something appears, is represented (such as the moon), then there has to be something (rather than nothing) that is being represented. I am considering what that thing-in-itself is, what we can say about it, what qualities it has – this something existing yet not represented to us in any way.

    That something is not an object. You are unwittingly putting words in my mouth, SC. It’s the very opposite. That is what I am refuting! The whole idea of an object existing without a subject is nonsensical, inconceivable. You have misunderstood me. You have all misunderstood me, and now I know how others feel, the good thinkers who are ridiculed and yet not understood. Chopra is a condescending charlatan par excellence, but I am not. O’Reilly is a sick, reactionary, narrow-minded guttersnipe.

    I feel disheartened (but not angry, except at myself. I have not expressed myself well enough on this thread, and elsewhere).

    This is perhaps futile, but my challenge is still open to anyone.

    Oh yes:

    As to whether there has ever [never?] been ‘consciousness’ in the cosmos before humans is rather a steep assumption.

    That has nothing to do with anything, Mr. DArcy. Read what I wrote (if you want to). I am simply asking you to try to imagine our universe without consciousness – past or present.— That is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask. I never said that there was consciousness before humans, although there was – and you know this. Is that a typo? Did you mean “never”? But whether there was consciousness or not before life appeared on earth is irrelevant! (A fascinating question but irrelevant.)

    The tides go in and out? I am, again, not saying that we don’t understand the tides. The tides (and their going in and out) are not the mystery.

    “Going in and out” implies a perceiver, doesn’t it? No? Yes? (I am getting closer to the mystery now.)

    By the way, I only “singled you out” because you had quite a strong reaction (#36) to my poorly phrased comment about ambiguity; it’s usually more worthwhile to address those who disagree with you the most.

    Sean, my question has not a whit to do with trusting reason and language. I am in fact employing language as I present a reasonable yet abstruse problem.



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  • SC 70

    If an atom can be said to be matter than I would say that matter without consciousness, i.e. pure matter, whether it consists of atoms or not, is not something that can be regarded as an an object. That was my point.

    This point here is rather interesting:

    “We cannot have a conscious experience of ‘what an atom is like’. Instead we have to use the highly symbolic language of mathematics…matrix mechanics and so on, none of which ‘is’ the actual object itself.”

    I am, unfortunately, not qualified at the present time to discuss what atoms are in themselves. I am trying to get you to say something definitive about the moon (or any other empirical object in nature) independently of consciousness – which includes vision. (So I don’t know why you felt the need to discuss vision in this context.)

    The moon, then, is essentially comprised of atoms that cannot be seen or experienced. The moon sounds highly ambiguous when one puts it that way.

    As I have said before, the scientist enters through one end of the tunnel; the (critical) philosopher enters through the other; if both are fortunate enough to stumble upon, or arrive at, truth, then they shall meet each other somewhere in the middle.



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  • Dan,

    Consciousness and culture co-evolve but at the level of the the individual enculturation profoundly forms consciousness’s capacities. Remember what is being roped in to “culture” in my questions. I include “experience”. I mean all experience here. Any input. Our neoteny is unique. Cognitions (as Richard Gregory rightly intuited) are built upon expectations and those expectations are formed first from cultural and personal saliency. Rain forrest dwellers taken on to the savannah for the first time ever see rihnos in the distance and think them ants. Distance scaling and perspective is totally undeveloped because their experiences were all comparatively close range.

    Perhaps now you can see why you have to answer my questions so I can take a stab at answering your question and we can make some progress.

    On culture.

    Ants automatic behaviours form a proto-culture such that if they developed a capacity for intelligence and an early period of hyper plasticity they would cognise and value and moralise and love and hate and notice entirely in a way consistent to their previous proto-culture and its subsequent evolutionary path.

    Dan, I wish you’d notice how seriously I take your question. Some of this material and some to come I believe may prove helpful to you. Its the only act of discovery happening in these threads right now.

    And don’t shout at me, please. I don’t deserve it. (Dammit, I need my Emotional Cognition Therapist to find the right emoticon here, tentative, worried, smiley but not guilty dog.)

    Todays invention. Emoticon generator that encodes (and decodes), say, up to five emotional states at once.



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  • @ Phil 48

    “Mr. Darcy, I challenge you (in a friendly way) to say something non-ambiguous about the old moon up there. But you have to first assume that there has never been consciousness anywhere in the universe. Now go ahead, please. Say something definitive about that unperceived, unknown, unseen, entity. And don’t say it’s circular.”
    -Dan

    “This is a question with a spectacular number of variables not eliminated or not fixed. How could Mr DArcy answer it? Is Mr DArcy conscious? Is he as far as he is concerned the first conscious being? Is he new born conscious?…”
    – Phil

    Phil, I got confused for a moment, and should have answered you this way: NO CONSCIOUSNESS. When I said “Say something definitive” I was making a point: he can’t, because he is not conscious. And that too is my question: what can we say (if anything) about something that is neither seen or thought or related to in any way? NO CONSCIOUSNESS.

    And this is not a mind-bender. That cheapens it.

    Olgun, I hope the question makes more sense now. I got thrown off. It happens.



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  • Phil 74

    I notice it, Phil, and I thank you.

    I am so displeased with myself. I got confused and probably confused everyone else even more and ended up sounding like a creep. Anyway, I did my best to clarify my question and the problem this past evening.

    Please read my last remark (#75).



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  • Sooo? (And I’m still a little concerned that I haven’t got deep enough here)

    No consciousness so no apprehension no language so no comment.

    But ants, lets presume all automatic for this so no consciousness, no apprehension in that sense, but the scout ants out of the nest may leave chemical “comments” to bring others out of the nest to forage because the moon is out to light their way. (This is like twilight sensing on my porch light.)The moonlight comment is indistinguishable from the sunlight comment perhaps, though the two may be distinguished by the coincidence of light, cold and light, hot, multiple comments.

    (I know ants don’t do this light thing. Bug X does.)

    Now there is a mountain to disentangle about this, not least that my oversensitive porch light “sees” and “comments on” the moons presence (at least when full and bright.) But these are not “signs” in W’s sense, for instance. There is no conscious observation until we observe our mooted automatic “observers”.

    Talking about the kind of consciousness is important because conscious cognition emerges in evolutionary and personal terms from the automatic. My claim is that there is no sense in which this burgeoning capacity is not made of the same stuff.

    I think the old metaphysical idea of conscious cognition as a singular and self contained capacity was increasingly shown to be false from the 1960’s on. These ideas are legacy stuff of creatures, of created beings, top down stuff that even today seems utterly reasonable and prevails in common exchanges.

    There is a lot more I can say, but I think we could progress more by saying only one or two things at a time. (4 here…too many.)



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  • Alan4discussion #68
    Apr 2, 2016 at 4:16 pm

    There is a whole string of claims (of varying degrees of wild speculation) related to “homeopathic water memory”, which fail to be replicated in independent tests, – listed in Wikipedia! (see earlier link)

    The July 1989 edition of Nature reported that INSERM placed Benveniste on probation following a routine evaluation of his lab. Although INSERM found that his laboratory activities overall were exemplary, it expressed severe discomfort with his high dilution studies, and criticized him for “an insufficiently critical analysis of the results he reported, the cavalier character of the interpretations he made of them, and the abusive use of his scientific authority vis-à-vis his informing of the public“.

    Benveniste has been awarded two Ig Nobel Prizes in Chemistry. They are a parody of the Nobel Prizes. The first in 1991 describes Jacques Benveniste as a “prolific proselytizer and dedicated correspondent of Nature, for his persistent belief that water, H2O, is an intelligent liquid, and for demonstrating to his satisfaction that water is able to remember events long after all trace of those events has vanished.” The second in 1998 cites “his homeopathic discovery that not only does water have memory, but that the information can be transmitted over telephone lines and the Internet.”

    It is clear that these examples are bad-science progressing towards pseudo-science, rather than Chopra-style bullshit!

    BTW: I am not sure how to debunk unevidenced, anti-science, anti-peer-review claims, without discouraging those who are promoting them! – Particularly in the absence of citations or linked sources which could be discussed in place of posts presented as purely personal opinions.



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  • I often wondered what the homeopathic qualities of resublimated thiotimoline might be. Its endochronicity might lead it to anticipate an infinitely large number of dilutions and become terrifyingly powerful…



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  • Phil 77

    You can’t tell me anything about what the moon would be like without a mind to relate to it in some way, based on your knowledge of science? You can use all the language you want now, you know. I hope you see what I mean. You are free to use your mind and use language now. But you must tell me what the moon (or whatever object you wish to describe) would be like, based on your knowledge of science, independently of the mind.

    And you mustn’t say the question is meaningless. Scientists are always saying things about objects that existed, presumably, in the absence of knowledge. But they never succeed in eliminating the conditions that make experience possible. They attach, unwittingly, qualities to objects that would not be there without a brain to experience them.

    Position and extension in space. How could something appear or be said to be an object if there is no inside or outside? How can matter exist without form? But form must occupy space. In order to occupy space it has to be known to occupy space.

    There is not a single person yet who has been able to convince me that an object can exist without a subject. I have heard of atoms that cannot be seen or experienced, of energy that is also objectless, and of pure matter.

    One of these days I will tell you why the failure to recognize the fundamental view of true (critical) idealism (as opposed to Realism, in all its many forms and incarnations) has ramifications – affecting the aesthetic, intellectual, and moral future of mankind.

    You have language and consciousness now, and, again, I ask you to use your mind and to use language. Understand? But you must tell me what qualities an object (any object) would have if you did not have consciousness, and if there never was consciousness. What qualities remain?

    What, finally, is a universe without objects? So much has been discovered by science. But what is an objectless object? That it has never answered.

    Are these question basic and superficial? Are they meaningless?



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  • phil rimmer #79
    Apr 3, 2016 at 6:02 am

    I often wondered what the homeopathic qualities of resublimated thiotimoline might be. Its endochronicity might lead it to anticipate an infinitely large number of dilutions and become terrifyingly powerful…

    Over a few billion years, the oceans of the world have been recycled through quite a few organisms, and more recently through quite a few sewerage systems!
    The homeopathic (or was that homeopathetic?) suggestion, that “their chosen substance dilution information memory”, is an exclusive transmittable molecular feature, is laughable, – but I suppose, a good example of wish-thinking and self-delusion!



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  • Dan #80

    You can’t tell me anything about what the moon would be like without a mind to relate to it in some way, based on your knowledge of science?

    I really don’t understand why this point exercises you so much, Dan.

    I get that without consciousness we would be unable to describe the moon. But that only tells you something about us (or about consciousness, if you like), nothing whatsoever about the moon.

    A rock has no way of knowing that the moon exists, let alone anything about its properties. But so what? The reality and characteristics of the moon are not altered by that fact. Nor were they altered when consciousness evolved.

    Are you suggesting there might more to the moon than can be adequately described by reference to the physical dimensions and characteristics that we are able to perceive? If so, how could you possibly know? Is this your point? That we cannot know if there is more to an object than our senses can perceive?



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  • Alan4discussion #79

    BTW: I am not sure how to debunk unevidenced, anti-science, anti-peer-review claims, without discouraging those who are promoting them!

    Indeed. You want to ensure the promoters of such claims have as much opportunity as possible to understand why they are talking BS. And just as importantly, for the wider audience (particularly other newcomers) to understand. Then again, you don’t want to appear “wrathful” 🙂 As I said in a previous post (which disappeared) this reminds me of the wonderful reply by Richard Dawkins to similar concerns from Neil DG Tyson.



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  • Marktony #83
    Apr 3, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Alan4discussion #79

    Indeed.
    You want to ensure the promoters of such claims have as much opportunity as possible to understand why they are talking BS.
    And just as importantly, for the wider audience (particularly other newcomers) to understand.

    While I would not wish to discourage newcomers from participating in science debates, drive-by salesmen for particular forms of woo, (with science-disparaging claims which look like cut and paste from quackery sites), have a habit of disappearing when requests for disclosure of their sources, call check-mate on their claims or denials of connections to woo!



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  • @ Dan

    Nope! Still confused.

    Coral release their eggs in one night when the moon is full. Not only the light but the fact it will also be high tide, can the coral feel the gravitational pull? They have been doing this for millions of years and could not wait for me to become intelligent enough for it to tell me. Is that the answer? The moon calls but we are not in, “Please leave a message and I will get back to you”.

    Telling me that we cannot comment because we do not exist and we can only comment on things after being says that only eye witness evidence is admissible and that simply is not the case.

    Olgun….still confused.



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  • @ Phil…

    There is no ‘one emoticon rule’ a series carefully picked does the trick. There is a danger though. On that forum you visited on the Cyprob, it became a weapons war. One ‘mocking’ emoticon was met with two and so on until a whole page was presented to show how much more mocking you were than the last response. I see similar discoveries here where it has been found to use too much memory to quote and re-quote every time you reply to someone. Long threads of repeats with, sometimes, short answers. This new system is tidier and consumes less power.

    The right words and a few emoticons, a developing language of the Net that I am keen to see progress/evolve.



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  • Alan4discussion, thank you again. Unfortunately, I get the impression that the discussion is not really fertile.

    If you think that you’re right about your points, including the case I wrote about (Benveniste) you can go ahead and think that you’re right, and I’m wrong. I don’t feel the need to spend more time on explaining or justifying you about my view of the issues, it would not head to anywhere and we’d keep turning in circles.

    What I did about Benveniste case was reading a first article, or a youtube video (I can’t even remember). Then I went to every source (among which the ones you mentioned excerpts from) and at each material, there were more references, and I went on checking them on and on and on. You can do the same.

    Then I said, “let me look into the ‘other side of the story’ … What does Benveniste and the ones who give him support say about it ? And also, what I read, is it the whole truth (even if it’s Nature, why should I stick to ONLY their point of view) ? Then I went on reading more material and see how Benveniste himself answers to many accusations and also provides with additional info with relevant details to the experiments and their biological effects themselves. A part of this material is not available in English. I’m sorry for this, if you don’t speak French it would be hard for you to have exposure to that side of the story (and maybe food for thought regarding your extent of research before making up your mind). I can’t say I’m at Benveniste’s side, there are also some questions that raise in my mind about some of his own actions in this affair, but at least, I do my best to have an as large landscape as possible about this topic.

    The question is not about homeopathy here. But indeed, its possible links that might be used for defending homeopathy was a delicate side of this whole affair. But it was not relevant to the experiments themselves.

    Still, your comments present some contradictions : You say that his results were not replicated elsewhere. First of all, even the first paper was the result of the collaboration of several laboratories (I mentioned that in my initial post). Secondly, his results were replicated elsewhere, at least this is what Benveniste writes in his book giving references. It’s not that I don’t want to write about them but I’m tired of it, because you seem to ignore some details I wrote above.

    One of the double blind experiments that worked, happened with Maddox, Stewart and Randi too ! And that very experiment was suggested by them ! What do you make of it ? So if they accuse him about his methods, they are also shooting themselves in their feet. In which part there was a flaw in approach and methodology, when the trial was made under their orders ? You would say it’s not determinant, and I agree, but if someone accuses him of methodical flaws shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that a part of the experiments were made under their conditions. What if I take this as an argument and disregard ALL their opinion about that visit they did ?

    But the real contradiction is this : If the experiment cannot be replicated elsewhere, this would be enough to ‘get rid of the hypothesis’ that high dilutions had an effect ! This is how you can prove him wrong. This is why you don’t need a magician in the lab and a fraud busters squad !!! This is not the way you treat a researcher, even if you have heavy doubts on the accuracy of his methods (did I forget to say that Benveniste actually published in Nature before ? So it was not about the man, it was about the area of the research).

    And again, if Randi worked with his pals on the original experiment, aiming at proving that “water has memory”, his experiments would be countered with suspicion, mostly because he’s not a qualified scientist. I mean, they accused Benveniste of all kinds of reasons, why wouldn’t they say “hey, Randi is even not a scientist, what is he doing in the lab ?”. Somehow, his involvement in a research experiment is perfectly OK, when it aims at disproving it, while this additional control could have been made by an independent lab, using the protocols and all relevant input, by independent scientists. What made them choose the Randi option while any other regular way you could do in such a situation ?

    To be honest with you, when I go through the whole story, what raises my suspicion is the way he was “debunked”, not the way he allegedly prepared a fake experiment and had the stupidity to propose it to the most prestigious and rigorous scientific revue ! Specially after he published quite a few times on that same revue.

    I’m not saying that Jacques Benveniste was right. If you remember, I said that in the scientific community there is politics and agendas as well, and this was my example, because I thought that he was treated unfairly – NOT because he was right, because as a scientist you have the right to be wrong and still bring out your ideas for scrutinity. Not for witchhunts, which is exactly what occured, in my opinion.

    As I said, if you think your view of this is the correct one and I missed the whole point, go ahead and think so. I took the time to address some points I thought I should write about, that’s all. No need to clutter the thread with copy and pastes and make this thread even longer. As I said, you’re free to think what you like, including that you’re right and I’m wrong, but as I wouldn’t like to sound unpolite, I’d like to say that it would be fine not to go in circles with this and I hope you don’t mind I no longer answer in this thread.

    Thanks again.



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  • @ Micheal

    I agree with you on some points but feel you have not made your point clearly. The first mistake is to take the logic of science and mix it with the politics/human behaviour traits without making the line between clear. Scientist are human and competitive. The industry is competitive and I believe some industrial espionage exists but it has no bearing on whether a theory can be proved or not. This to-ing and fro-ing between the two is has had me confused from the start. I don’t know if you have ever seen the TV series “The Dragons Den” but it has entrepreneurs present ideas to investors which they either invest in or reject. It is when the entrepreneurs waffle and try to cover the gaps in their research/knowledge that the Dragons get angry and the fact that the entrepreneurs have deceived themselves. Deception is Randis expertise and in order to prove we were not deceiving ourselves, he had every right to be there and without him it could be said that the experiment was incomplete.

    Why the debunking? Benveniste obviously did not have a complete provable theory that he must have been told many times before. There must come a time when we have to say, “Lets just settle this once and for all” and the experiment is set up. They could have just ignored it and it would have cost nothing. So to even considerate is a sort of compliment with the onus on the proposer to prove his theory. No tears after when it all goes wrong. Maybe’s are not good enough once past that stage.

    You are, in a way, doing the same thing. You put all scientists (and I think you even put all science in that up there somewhere?) on a pedestal of perfection and then knock them down (debunk) with their politics and human traits. Maybe starting with lower expectations is the key? If you try to go through the mine-field of science by stamping your front foot on the ground with each step then sooner or later……………….



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  • @Michael #89

    One of the double blind experiments that worked, happened with Maddox, Stewart and Randi too !

    Can you provide a link for this confirmation?

    Have you watched the BBC Horizon programme on the homeopathy test? Here is a link to the relevant part of the programme describing the experiment:

    BBC Horizon Homeopathy The Test Part 4

    See part 5 for the results and why Horizon did not win Randi’s $1M.



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  • Sean, my question has not a whit to do with trusting reason and language. I am in fact employing language as I present a reasonable yet abstruse problem.

    And they’re exempt from the implications of your question because?



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  • Dan #80

    We’re not half done yet.

    There is not a single person yet who has been able to convince me that an object can exist without a subject.

    My ant commented on the moon. Its fellow ants acted upon that comment. (I can go to cells if needed.) There is no mind in play, yet minds grow seemingly without sudden transition into existence from these automatic behaviours.

    Position and extension in space.

    My astronomer ant has terrible image forming optics. The quality of the moon’s presence or non-presence requires no “extension” infered but merely an enhanced ability of the astronomer ant to cognise its immediate surroundings.

    We have done the metaphysics discussion here. I have claimed like Popper that it is a thing that all scientists do. I have claimed that explanations (often the main mode of wrangling these fuzzy shapes into a compelling form) are part of the mode that concludes by utterly stripping away such stuff in favour of the rigour of the mathematical model. Extension is say a value of x and this may lead us where ever the mathematics takes us, most especially into the mathematics of dimensions where “extension” produces utterly unimaginable results YET though we cannot conceive an actuality for this “extension” it sits within a process that is satisfyingly predictive.

    The properties being invented for mooted entities beyond our world of direct experience have no real meaning. Quarks have been allocated properties of up, down, sideways, sex appeal and peppermint (unless I’m confusing it with something Terry Pratchett wrote.)

    The experience of our middle scale existence is not based in any sense on some consciousness and spurious artifact, but on the effects it has on pre-conscious automatic actors. Extension is experienced as a duration or energy use, for example. The interaction “out of its own nature” of stuff with other stuff and effects with other effects builds a substrate of pertinent and informative stuff-effect-behavioural metaphor. which forms a launch pad metaphysics which we try and and extend as far as we can. All since 1905 is to be whipped away at the limit when we achieve our best scientific models.

    Enough for now.



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  • If Dan feels I have been unkind to him, that was not my intention. IMO Dan’s absurd question about the moon reminded me of O’Reilly’s ridiculous comments about the tides. Philosophy might be your bag, Dan, but it ain’t mine. Oh and most of the observable universe has no “consciousness” that we are aware of, but the universe doesn’t care. ( AFAWK) ! And what is this nonsense about object and subject ? Are we talking grammar or science here ? Science ASSUMES the universe exists independently of us. It can’t be proved, but there are compelling reasons to believe that assumption to be true.



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  • Hi Olgun,

    If we assume he was told his data wasn’t robust before, would this by default mean fraud ? Also, the team who went there did not report fraud, but argued about methodology issues. But the question is this : You go there one physician, one chemist converted into scientific fraud investigator, and a magician. You come back with results indicating, not a fraud (for which the experts were selected), but scientific method related issues.
    Instead of this, demanding further replications by independent scientists acting on the same area, wouldn’t this be a more logical track to take ?

    Secondly, if you already go with “fraud” in mind, how much it can be said that you are unbiased or neutral ?

    When you read everyone’s take on this (both Nature, Benveniste, and others involved) it’s quite a deep subject and it appears to me like neither Benveniste was fraud, or incompetent, nor did he take it too lightly before going ahead with submitting to Nature.

    Then of course, there is the response from Nature and their arguments, but the whole story goes on and on, including Benveniste giving very detailed explanations to defend himself.

    Actually this high dilutions issue is still unfinished business and there are quite a number of scientists supported this idea, as well as the ones who disagreed. It’s perfectly OK, but I get the impression that the only fault of this issue was it was controversial.

    I wonder if there could be a third option : It could be said that there may be something going on, but it requires more investigation. This whole story is quite confusing but I don’t think it’s really clear cut either way, so my personal take on this, it should not be such a costly thing to a scientist venturing into a controversial area.

    Olgun, your second point is a thought provoking one. I apologize if I sounded as you described, like putting science on a pedestal and debunking it. It’s a human endeavour, of course there will be any human traits that goes with it, it doesn’t change a thing to the beauty of the scientific work. Actually I was reacting to my other friend, who seemed to give such a picture that it’s all perfect in scientific world.

    And I actually didn’t really want to talk Benveniste neither 🙂 My main point was (maybe I failed to express it properly) the issues I see with propositions like “people who believe in conspiracy, alternative medicine, religious beliefs are so and so …” – now that we talk Benveniste, how do we know a similar judgement in advance didn’t cause there was first a fraud squad sent over there, rather than independent experts in the field …



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  • Hi Marktony,

    The series of experiments were described in John Maddox’s report in NATURE VOL. 334 28 JULY 1988. It’s title is “”High-dilution” experiments a delusion”.

    Benveniste also wrote about his comments to that in his book but not sure if it’s available in English.

    http://www.amazon.fr/Ma-v%C3%A9rit%C3%A9-sur-m%C3%A9moire-leau/dp/2226158774/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459707171&sr=8-1&keywords=jacques+benveniste

    Regarding James Randi’s 1M $ prize : I’ll check it out and I’m sure homeopathy claims weren’t successful.

    However, unlike many, I don’t pay too much attention to James Randi’s prize. If there is a preliminary selection process, which is not open for all to see, I don’t know why I should take it seriously, I even don’t have visibility to everything that happens, only the ones “after the preliminary selection”.



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  • Michael #88
    Apr 3, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Alan4discussion, thank you again. Unfortunately, I get the impression that the discussion is not really fertile.

    If you think that you’re right about your points, including the case I wrote about (Benveniste) you can go ahead and think that you’re right, and I’m wrong. I don’t feel the need to spend more time on explaining or justifying you about my view of the issues, it would not head to anywhere and we’d keep turning in circles.

    The point is that you have produced no evidence to justify them, and that you either did not diligently investigate as far as the wikipedia article i posted or you failed to notice the string of experiments published in more than on scientific journal where Benveniste’s wild claims about results failed to replicate when independently tested.

    What I did about Benveniste case was reading a first article, or a youtube video (I can’t even remember). Then I went to every source (among which the ones you mentioned excerpts from) and at each material, there were more references, and I went on checking them on and on and on. You can do the same.

    Perhaps you are unable to tell reputable science sites sources from promoters of quack nonsense. All opinions are not equal and all claims are not equally competent.

    Then I said, “let me look into the ‘other side of the story’ … What does Benveniste and the ones who give him support say about it ?

    INSERM – linked @#78 made a clear expert view when they put him on probation, as did the Journal Nature, on Benveniste’s public claims, when they reported this.!

    And also, what I read, is it the whole truth

    How would you know?

    (even if it’s Nature, why should I stick to ONLY their point of view) ?

    The Journal Nature is on of the world’s top scientific journals noted for its integrity, the excellence of the evidence based material it publishes, and the critical analysis of presented material.
    It in no way resembles casually presented materials in books, magazines, or newsapapers.

    As I said, all claims and standards of statements are not equal!

    Then I went on reading more material and see how Benveniste himself answers to many accusations and also provides with additional info with relevant details to the experiments and their biological effects themselves. A part of this material is not available in English. I’m sorry for this, if you don’t speak French it would be hard for you to have exposure to that side of the story (and maybe food for thought regarding your extent of research before making up your mind).

    The extent of the research is the key issue! Nature insists on the highest standards.
    Benveniste is noted as a rogue scientist who makes cavalier statements and persists with refuted claims.

    I can’t say I’m at Benveniste’s side, there are also some questions that raise in my mind about some of his own actions in this affair, but at least, I do my best to have an as large landscape as possible about this topic.

    Ordinary members of the public are in no position to tell the concocted stories put about by plausible rogues, and they probably don’t, or can’t, read highly specialised science papers which require quite high standards of specialist knowledge to gain understanding.

    The question is not about homeopathy here.

    If you read the Wiki article I linked earlier, a whole list of his claims are very much about homeopathy, even though they pretend to be science.

    But indeed, its possible links that might be used for defending homeopathy was a delicate side of this whole affair. But it was not relevant to the experiments themselves.

    This claim shows a laughable level of lack of comprehension!

    Still, your comments present some contradictions : You say that his results were not replicated elsewhere. First of all, even the first paper was the result of the collaboration of several laboratories (I mentioned that in my initial post). Secondly, his results were replicated elsewhere, at least this is what Benveniste writes in his book giving references.

    That is where the lack of integrity comes in if you are taking information from his book! The properly monitored double blind tests failed to replicate claimed results in multiple cases wasting many people’s time and money. Some tests appeared to support his claims, but were deemed too sloppy to give conclusive answers.

    One of the double blind experiments that worked, happened with Maddox, Stewart and Randi too ! And that very experiment was suggested by them ! What do you make of it ?

    Multiple experiments often have the odd fluke result, some contamination in the samples, or a fault with the equipment.
    That is why they run multiple tests!

    But the real contradiction is this : If the experiment cannot be replicated elsewhere, this would be enough to ‘get rid of the hypothesis’ that high dilutions had an effect !

    A whole string of his experiments including later claims, could not be replicated.
    An honest and competent scientist would have dropped the claims unless he could devise new tests, and publish ONLY AFTER consistent results had been obtained.

    This is how you can prove him wrong. This is why you don’t need a magician in the lab and a fraud busters squad !!!

    You really don’t get it despite my earlier explanation. Fraud busters and magicians are used to spot the deceptions used by charlatans when falsification of experiments is suspected.

    The evidence is that Benveniste was simply cavalier, sloppy and incompetent in making claims, which were not supported by experimental evidence. He is also a rogue scientist, in that he has persisted in making public claims which have been repeatedly shown not to be supported by the replicatable evidence.

    This is not the way you treat a researcher, even if you have heavy doubts on the accuracy of his methods

    You seem to be preaching this as a personal opinion, based on I’m not sure what!
    Your criticisms of Randi would indicate you do not understand fraud investigation procedures. (see Wiki link to Uri Geller)
    Benveniste’s experiments were subjected to the normal review and investigation procedures of the journal with the highest standards, and found to be below the acceptable standards expected. Failures of replication tests of other later claims were recorded in other journals.

    To be honest with you, when I go through the whole story, what raises my suspicion is the way he was “debunked”, not the way he allegedly prepared a fake experiment and had the stupidity to propose it to the most prestigious and rigorous scientific revue !

    I don’t think anyone claimed he prepared a faked experiment, but suspicions were raised because replication testing failed in multiple instances. He was debunked, because his claimed conclusions were not supported by experimental evidence and could not be consistently reproduced.

    His succession of further even wilder unreplicated claims of transmission in telephone lines have only further made him a laughing stock!

    Scientists are well aware of many forms and states of water, but homeopathic wish-thinking quackery, is about placebo effects in humans, not about properties of water or fairy stories about “memory”!

    The descriptions in the Ignobel awards sum up his antics quite clearly.

    Scientific journals and their investigations uphold standards of competence and integrity, regardless of rogues not liking this.



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  • Michael #88
    Apr 3, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Alan4discussion, thank you again. Unfortunately, I get the impression that the discussion is not really fertile.

    Many attempts to educate people in science are not fertile once they have bought into martyrdom stories from exposed rogues.

    Exposed rogues whose flawed works are convenient props for large groups of people who like conspiracy theories, quickly discover there can be more money made from writing books on anti-authority conspiracy theories, than in doing the honest research they are not very good at.
    The topics are well known: anti-vaxers, AGW deniers, creationism, homeopathy, other quackery, “Out of body” experiences, and various paranormal claims. Science regularly debunks these, but conspiracy theorists don’t let inconvenient facts get in the way of marketable stories!

    Those who come to this RDFS site with minds open to evidence and reason, can learn much!
    Others come with fixed agendas and learn nothing!



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  • @ Marco (# 72) and others

    “Characteristics of the moon…”

    Here is a quote from a famous book: ” ‘[…] how early this basic truth was recognized by the sages of India, since it appears as the fundamental tenet of the Vedânta ascribed to Vyasa, is proved by Sir William Jones in the last of his essays: “On the Philosophy of the Asiatics” (Asiatic Researches, vol. IV. p 164): “The fundamental tenet of the Vedântic school consisted not in denying the existence of matter, that is, of solidity, impenetrability, and extended figure (to deny which would be lunacy), but in correcting the popular notion of it, and in contending that it has no essence independent of mental perception; that existence and perceptibility are convertible terms.’ These words adequately express the compatibility of empirical reality with transcendental ideality.”

    Marco, your objection is the principal abjection that is almost always raised when one is first introduced to such a radical and seemingly bizarre view. (Kant, by the way, referred to his own philosophy as the Copernican revolution in philosophy.)

    The doctrine of transcendental idealism, which considers the world, the whole universe, in fact, from the point of view of the subject) is an important doctrine (and you are free to reject it or regard it as bullshit); it dates back the “sacred” writings of the Hindus, is implicit in Buddhism, was has been expressed directly by many of the ancients, including Plato, e.g. the (Allegory of the Cave), by a number of highly eminent modern philosophers; most notably John Locke , Kant and Schopenhauer. Traces of this fundamental view can in fact be found throughout the whole history of philosophy (although it has, to my knowledge, never been positively enunciated by any 20th or 21st Century thinkers – except for me! It has been discussed, however).

    I like to, when I can, and without sounding like a broken record, present this doctrine, which everyone seems to despises and instinctively, as it were, revolt against, to the minds of the other members of this site, who have imparted their knowledge and insights to me and others. I too would like to teach them something once in a while (although this isn’t an online seminar). In fact, I myself have grown (temporarily) weary even of this topic and need a rest.

    Marco, you are absolutely correct, and from that perspective it does seem as though this idea is really without substance or merit. But you are making a very common mistake. It is as common as it is natural. Everything you have described is real. It is as real as real can be. But I am distinguishing between absolute reality and empirical (experienced) reality. The rock has no senses, no brain, no consciousness, and therefore no reality is presented to it. It is not a living thing, has no will and no intellect. We, on the other hand, see and observe all those things that you’ve described, and they are real. All I want (and I don’t want to sound condescending!) is for people to think about what reality is. “The tides come in and out.” Of course they do!

    Life has been compared to a dream, and it is like a dream – but only in so far as one confuses empirical reality with absolute reality.

    Olgun, what you have described is real, as I said above. Those things are no less real than the activity of our own bodies, and your argument that it is real is granted; this realness applies to every conceivable observable phenomenon in nature. But it doesn’t end there, and this distinction between empirical reality (which Is real!) and absolute reality is a highly subtle one, as I have said numerous times.

    There a great many things that I do not understand – like just about everything that has to do with mathematics and physics. But there is always time to learn, if one has the will and the time – which we both do. I have taken too much space on this thread already – although I will say that this: it has been an interesting study in reactions by very bright people to a foreign idea that may or may not be “bullshit.”

    So this online thread on “Bullshit” has been a crucible of sorts!

    I said early this morning, that the failure to recognize this basic truth will have ramifications, “will affect the intellectual, aesthetic and the moral future of mankind.” A bit dramatic and portentous, but without getting into these other facets of this multi-faceted theory, I will just say, laconically, if not cryptically, that that has to do with the vanity and suffering of life, with philosophical enlightenment, and with resignation, respectively.

    Bye for now.



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  • Dan #99

    Sorry Dan. So many words, but I’m afraid I still don’t have a clue what you’re trying to say. I thought perhaps I’d hit on it earlier, but apparently not.

    So what if this alleged problem has been written about by Indian sages through the ages? The Indian so-called sages have written all sorts of hokum. The fact that someone wrote about it means nothing, does nothing to bolster your case. On the contrary, the reference to ‘sacred’ writings only heightens my suspicion that it’s all deepity nonsense. Why on earth should they have any special insight into reality?

    Two key questions remain:

    Whatever the musings of philosophers through the ages, what test could you possibly devise to demonstrate the truth of your claim that there is an absolute reality that is distinct from our experienced/perceived reality?

    and

    Why should anyone even care? You are, after all, proposing the existence of something we cannot experience or otherwise perceive. That being so, it could not possibly have any effect on us, even if it did exist. For the moment it had any effect on us or influenced it in any way, we would be able to experience/perceive it.

    It seems to me you are arguing on and on and on for the existence of something whose existence could never be demonstrated and which could have no possible significance for us, even if it could. It’s clearly a notion that holds considerable fascination for you, but I cannot for the life of me see why.



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  • @ Michael

    The series of experiments were described in John Maddox’s report in NATURE VOL. 334 28 JULY 1988. It’s title is “”High-dilution” experiments a delusion”.

    I see the Nature article was published back in 1988 and it is the opposite of confirmation! The conclusions from the article included:

    We conclude that the claims made by Davenas et al. are not to be believed. Our conclusion, not based solely on the circumstance that the only strictly doubleblind experiments we had witnessed proved to be failures, may be summarized as follows:

    The care with which the experiments reported have been carried out does not match the extraordinary character of the claims made in their interpretation.

    The phenomena described are not reproducible, but there has been no serious investigation of the reasons.

    The data lack errors of the magnitude that would be expected, and which are unavoidable.

    The climate of the laboratory is inimical to an objective evaluation of the exceptional data.

    And in the postscript:

    We presented the substance of these conclusions to Dr Benveniste and his colleagues immediately after the strictly blinded experiments were decoded. The discussion that followed was inevitably tense. Benveniste acknowledged that his experimental design may not have been “perfect”, but insisted (not for the first time) that the quality of his data was no worse than that of many papers published in Nature and other such journals.

    This article was published well before the BBC Horizon investigation of 2002 that I linked to in #90. You really should take a look. Horizon commissioned experiments by British experts overseen by The Royal Society. The homeopathic dilutions were prepared by University College London, Guys Hospital analysed the cells for any effect of the homeopathic water – this analysis was also performed in parallel by The Royal London Hospital. Here is the link again:

    BBC Horizon Homeopathy The Test Part 4.



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  • Marktony #102
    Apr 3, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    I see the Nature article was published back in 1988 and it is the opposite of confirmation!

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

    The July 1989 edition of Nature reported that INSERM (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (INSERM,) placed Benveniste on probation following a routine evaluation of his lab.

    Ovelgonne et al. – A group of Dutch researchers reported their failure to duplicate the results in Experientia in 1992:

    Hirst et al. – A group of English researchers reported another failure to duplicate the results in Nature in 1993:

    The study is a replication of early high dilution experiments, in collaboration with Inserm U292.
    Although the new findings fell substantially short of confirming the patterns previously claimed by Benveniste, writer Yves Lignon quotes study co-author and statistician Alfred Spira, who said that “the transmission of information persisted at high dilution”, and acknowledged that a “weakness in the experimental procedure was possible”.

    Benveniste and other members of his DigiBio lab participated as consultants. Interviews at the time indicated study participants were satisfied with the way the study was being conducted. In the end, the authors reported in the FASEB Journal in 2006 that “Our team found no replicable effects from digital signals“.

    A veritable catalogue of errors! – But hey! Benveniste says in his book, everyone else is wrong, – and the homeopaths love him!



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  • @ Mr DArcy 94

    I don’t feel that you’ve been unkind at all, and I fully appreciate and respect your thoughts, arguments and feelings with regard to this peculiar issue. I say this without any condescension.



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  • @ Marco and Phil

    “Whatever the musings of philosophers through the ages, what test could you possibly devise to demonstrate the truth of your claim that there is an absolute reality that is distinct from our experienced/perceived reality?”

    Yes, and the sun (which is usually yellow and very, very hot indeed and also round) revolves around the flat earth. What does it matter if one says otherwise? And why would one care about something so contrary to everything our infallible senses and our judgment tells us? I see a rose. That rose smells sweet. But to who? to what? No one’s here, in Dan’s crazy imaginary scenario. Maybe God smells it!

    What does it matter if the will is free or not? What does it matter what the nature of reality is? Love of truth.—What’s that?

    “Musings.” Hmm.

    Ants! Ants! They have knowledge, evasive man! (Sorry, Phil.)

    Minor correction: the view of idealism was expressed directly and indirectly by the ancient Greeks. Plato’s immortal “Allegory of the Cave” was an indirect expression, I would say. (Comment #99)



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  • Ants! Ants! They have knowledge, evasive man!

    Where’s the evasion? Dan, I have given you a clear proposition-

    It does not take consciousness for useful information of the universe to be embedded in entities that only later may become conscious. Automatic actors mediate the quality of extension etc.

    As for the shadows on our cave wall. These truly mean we do not have direct access to most entities and must model their qualities and how they act out of their own natures. We find that we can form a variety of overlapping models that seem equivalent at points in their explanatory and predictive power. These models (some of which work over different ranges) may represent particles and waves say. We strangely find our accounts of a substantial universe is as well accounted for in mathematical modelling as if it where a holographic projection from the edge of the universe. (Very cave wall!) The substance of what we know if we know anything lies in the predictive reliable mathematics. The rest are the guesses of metaphysics that we use to grope our way to those gleaming but workable (dehumanised!) abstractions.



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  • Michael #41
    Apr 1, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    . . . .

    Michael #31 – Apr 1, 2016 at 1:27 pm – But I doubt that the scientific community works as fairly and nicely as it seems to be believed here, when I come across stories of scientist who were pretty much crucified for things they worked upon and ideas they got. I’m not saying that they were necessarily right, but the harshness against such people was incredible. Even wrong, their ideas didn’t deserve such hostility.

    Alan @#32 – Without specific examples or links, it is impossible to tell if there is any basis for this, or if it is just some poorly informed gossip from a blog somewhere.
    Your earlier comments suggest this is the type of dubious source you are quoting.

    Alan4discussion, you are jumping too much into conclusions when you’re debating, it’s surprizing for someone who cherishes the scientific method. Don’t make assumptions of people, I wouldn’t just look into a gossip blog and make up my mind.

    Thank you for clarifying that you are using Benveniste’s book of excuses, and denial of valid criticisms from independent researchers, as your source. Rogues, love looking for sympathy by playing the martyr when held to account.

    In the absence of information and citations, I confused the similarity of the misleading content of this material, with the type of similar disparaging fanciful content on anti-science and pseudo-science blogs!

    Indeed, looking into the detail, it showed that the peer-review system went to extraordinary lengths to fairly test and check his dubious claims, while the rogue scientist continued to make unsupported assertions to mislead the public, (despite a warning on professional standards, and being put on probation by INSERM ), when he had failed to produce acceptable evidence or experimental methodology, to persuade a succession of competent scientists.



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  • Dan #105

    Yes, and the sun (which is usually yellow and very, very hot indeed and also round) revolves around the flat earth. What does it matter if one says otherwise? And why would one care about something so contrary to everything our infallible senses and our judgment tells us?

    What does it matter? Why should we care?
    If the sun revolved around a flat earth, it would affect transport, which means the ability to visit other countries, experience other cultures, import or export foodstuffs and raw materials, and and and and and …. It would affect space travel and satellites, which in turn would mean no internet and no ability to have this conversation in the first place. And that’s just for starters.

    What equivalent significance can you provide for your claim that absolute and empirical reality are two distinct things? What difference would it make? You’ve predicted moral collapse if we don’t accept your claim – why? How? How do you know? For goodness’ sake, get specific, man!

    And what evidence can you provide for this duality between absolute and perceived really being so? The evidence for a spherical Earth revolving around the sun is readily available to you. Where should we look for the evidence for your claim? (NB. ‘Written in a book’ is not evidence. Not even when it was written by Indian sages.)

    I see a rose. That rose smells sweet. But to who? to what? No one’s here, in Dan’s crazy imaginary scenario. Maybe God smells it!

    Scented flowers (unless they have been specifically bred by humans for their fragrance) are merely a means of attracting specific pollinators. No pollinators, no scent. Not because there’d be no pollinator to detect the scent, but because without pollinators there’d have been no need for the scent to evolve. The scent that smells so sweet is the result of chemical processes within the rose that will take place whether there’s anyone in your garden or not.

    All you have come up with so far is an idea. And all you’re presenting is words, words, words, but with no attempt to demonstrate how they tie in to reality. But words alone can’t prove the existence of anything. You seem to be obsessing about something you cannot prove exists and that wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to anything even if it did.

    Sorry, Dan, I think you’re wasting everyone’s time. I’m out, as they say.



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  • Sorry, Dan, I think you’re wasting everyone’s time.

    I don’t. I think he has two interesting propositions. One, we have dealt with before, where I agree with Dan (and Kant etc.) Reality and our experiences of it are always divergent and sometimes spectacularly so. Second, that consciousness in some way creates the universe (a venerable philosophical trope), for which, so far, I see no evidence or credible metaphysics.

    I sometimes think scientists may be better at imagining themselves out of the picture than the metaphysics-only wranglers of old school philosophers, for whom creators and the anthropocentric mindset still prevailed.

    Philosophy lost its way after Wittgenstein cured it of both Theology and a metaphysics of itself proving something outside of that metaphysics. But the brute fact of wildly successful physics predicting like crazy and well the weirdest things (reality is non-local etc. etc. etc. etc.) meant that philosophy had to recognise that one of its key deliverables had, in fact been safely delivered and that it must face a collection of lesser problems (getting scientists to take better care of their metaphysics, confusing explanations with proofs or rather disproofs etc.) and square up to the biggy…The Hard Problem. Interestingly, so far it has been the philosopher-scientists that are keen on it…



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  • Hi, Marco (and others…Hi, Phil)

    I understand that this subject does not interest you, Marco.

    I appreciate your refusal to allow yourself to be impressed by the argument of authority. Mere references to the sages of India and their sacred writings doesn’t impress me either.—One would have to study these writings, although I never did.—But that is the first part of a passage that I quoted which ends with a well-articulated statement that I wanted very much to use.

    Sometimes citing eminent scientists and thinkers who agree with what you are trying to get across can get someone’s attention, so it is not completely useless as a technique. I have to admit, however, that I sounded a bit like a charlatan myself; I seemed to be almost boasting about all the corroboration (and there has been some) throughout the history of philosophy, etc. (That’s what the Transcendental Meditation people do when they want you to sign up: they tell you how widely accepted it is and show you massive books filled with nothing. Pure manipulation, woo, as they say here. Truth is: there are far more realist than idealist throughout the history of ideas, so you’re in the majority.—Not that you care.)

    Locke, I must say, was truly a great philosopher, as were others, so I think it behooves one to maybe perk up their ears just a bit when he hears someone say: Locke said this – or Kant said that. Same with science and history. Certain scientists and historians have attained eminence while most have not: so those names represent something earned, that should warrant more attention rather than less. Doesn’t mean their right. Just means: “I didn’t make this up; listen, etc.”

    You asked me about my moral prediction. Is that what I called it? Maybe I did. “Moral prediction” is just too high-flown. Anyway, sorry.— Some other time. (I also referred to “enlightenment” and alluded to mental freedom.) There is no way that one can possible make these thoughts in any way intelligible unless you have a strong interest in the subject of the antithesis between Realism and Idealism, which you don’t.

    I don’t know enough about physics to envy physicists, M27Holts. I’d like to learn more. Hard to start so late in life (not that I’m old). Maybe some envy. More like frustration with myself for having had, thus far, such a lopsided education (the price that many autodidacts pay for educating themselves willy-nilly).

    If you ever do, later in life, develop some curiosity about all this I would recommend The World as Will and Representation, (Volumes 1 and 2, E.F.J. Payne translation), by my favorite philosopher: Arthur Schopenhauer.

    Finally, with regard to proof and evidence, the onus, I believe, is not on me alone; it is on others too to prove that there is no difference between empirical reality and absolute (mind-independent) reality. That would be quite impossible, however.

    Asking me to prove that a-tree-is-a-tree-is-a-tree (to keep this simple), or to prove that a tree, a landscape, a stone, the moon, the waves, the sun do not exist in some way independently of the mind is not what I am saying (and I’d rather not have to repeat that again). What I am saying is that there is, at the very least, a difference between what appears and what MUST BE but does NOT APPEAR. And it is actually illogical to confuse a simple, common-sense assumption that that which appears to us is no way different than that which IS, independently of that appearance. Not to recognize that there is even a problem, or something there worth considering, and to almost cavalierly assert the identity of the two is, frankly, a knee-jerk reaction of sorts, and also completely natural, as I said before.



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  • Phil 106

    You are always talking about models and mathematics in relation to the universe and our knowledge of it, and you feel that after W. metaphysics was left with no standing. What are you saying that we can know about a physically real “thing-in-itself”? Are any of these model based on maths a model that proves the existence of something physical and yet never capable of being perceived by anything?

    (Sorry. I ask for your patience. I am as confused by what you said, as Mr. DArcy was confused about Idealism – after hearing about it from me.)

    So we learn from beings that are not yet conscious? Okay, I should have said: “never was, is not, and never will be, consciousness in the universe.” Nothing to teach and nothing to learn (in my game). How’s that? (But, again, you can, you must, use your consciousness now and make use of what has been learned, to make a case for a physically real quality that must remain in spite of this permanent absence, and make it one that I can understand.)

    The Allegory of the Cave is just that: an allegory. (That, and his Allegory of the Metals, are wonderful allegories.)



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  • @ Marco and Phil, others

    Re: My comment 114

    As usual, in spite of my best efforts, I made a couple of glaring grammatical errors which render one sentence almost meaningless. Here it is corrected:

    Asking me to disprove that a-tree-is-a-tree-is-a-tree (to keep this simple) is an absurd request, as it is far too easy. And to prove that a tree, a landscape, a stone, the moon, the waves, the sun, do not exist in some way independently of the mind was never my intention. What I am saying is that there is, at the very least, a difference between what appears and what MUST BE but does NOT APPEAR. And it is actually illogical to confuse a simple, common-sense assumption that that which appears to us is no way different than that which IS, independently of that appearance.

    P.S. I brought up the smell of flowers to make a point: that sensible quality is dependent upon perception. This idea can be applied to the other sensible qualities. But thanks for the information.



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  • @ Phil # 110

    “I think he has two interesting propositions. One, we have dealt with before, where I agree with Dan (and Kant etc.) Reality and our experiences of it are always divergent and sometimes spectacularly so…” – Rimmer

    Thanks, Phil. Well said. I’d have liked even more but I’ll take what I can get. (The need for validation.—Human frailty?)



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  • 118
    Olgun says:

    @ Dan

    I thought I was back on track with your first post #115 only to be derailed by post two #116?

    Where does the fact that we can see stars shake in their orbit and work out the size of the planet(s) that orbits them without seeing the actual planet itself fit into your model?

    What I am saying is that there is, at the very least, a difference
    between what appears and what MUST BE but does NOT APPEAR

    I don’t think anyone has said any different and keep asking you to specify the observer. Phil (and others) have shown we use technology to see these other versions of the moon etc..By superimposing these alternate versions we come closer to the ‘real’ but that has no effect only in understanding???



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  • To be fair, Dan – I Bet you’ve been dying to get the word “autodidact” into a sentence – made me smile. Marvellous stuff……I have read quite a number of philosophy books – but none by Schopenhauer – I find the metaphysical meanderings of philosophers amusing….but unfortunately none of them has come close to proving mathematically (and empirically) – what physicists have managed to do with the standard model. Yes we really can’t prove that tiny tea-pots existence – and with that simple statement Russell did his Oolon Colluphid and shot down all metaphysical arguments with one simple statement.



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  • Dan #105

    and you feel that after W. metaphysics was left with no standing

    The sentence, from which I presume you took this as the basis of the above, was about the rather humiliated state state of philosophy after W. To repeat (for the 6th, 7th? time) Popper got us to see that such musings (i.e. metaphysics, even with their uncertain “signs”) are the very grist for the mill of disruptive hypotheses, though they alone could never conclude an investigative journey as the Theologians had once imagined.

    Are any of these model based on maths a model that proves the existence of something physical and yet never capable of being perceived by anything?

    Again not reflecting what I said. Science doesn’t prove, in philosophical terms, anything. It disproves absolutely or it accumulates certainty. The models represent the mooted elements and their mutual processes of an entity. We may measure in actuality and from our model in a way we believe affected, mooted elements may cause such measurements. Certainty, of the model representing reality, is increased with each novel test of the model in actuality. Certainty is also gained if the model incorporated into another or greater model proves to be accurately predictive. Etc. I refer you to the recent piece on “mastery and understanding” for my views on whether this constitutes “knowing”.

    So we learn from beings that are not yet conscious?

    Again, no. We evolve into beings that are conscious and as I said before we do that personally as well as as a species. I said-

    conscious cognition emerges in evolutionary and personal terms from the automatic.

    I take a very long time writing this stuff because all the detail matters. The property of extension, say, as I illustrated, may as well emerge from a use of energy or time and quite embed itself in our early automatic ant selves through evolution. Some leaves are a glucose homeostatic offset too much. Leaf-too-far “distance” is measured in ant fungus meals, say. Our hopeless subjectivity of observation precedes consciousness. The edge detection that evolves in the mostly blind infant retina does so unconsciously and automatically. The spectacular errors of comprehension that our automatic pre-conscious detectors make quite obviate the need for consciousness to be the generator of perceptual error.

    The shadow on the cave wall is a great model to adapt. It is a model of mapping and profound. The Myth of the Metals is a crass just so story from a self important “guardian”. Metaphors may range from the fruitful to the crass. Simply use them to find out.



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  • Hi @Marktony

    Many thanks for the BBC link, and I will take a careful look at it. I know very little about homeopathy in general and I never had enough exposure to it to think about it. Many thanks again, I will carefully watch the material you suggested.

    About Benveniste, yes, the Nature article is negative about the experiment that resulted during their visit. This is why I’m so interested about this whole topic :

    I came across Benveniste’s story totally by chance, quite a while ago.
    There are comments and practices that raise questions on my part, from BOTH sides. This is why I kept on reading about it. There are heavy arguments about Benveniste’s book on this thread – including his attempts to make some money with it (although it would make a meager one, and for his kids actually as the book came out posthumously and so far, only in French and Japanese ) – but for me, I need to see the both sides of the story to have a better idea. I think any skeptic would do that. It really goes on an on but it’s quite interesting.

    That’s all really. My strong comment though, which started all the discussions in this thread, is about the drama that this seems to result, also from both sides. The reports and comments seem that Benveniste was under heavy suspicion in such a way to harm his career. And as it can be read on the reports, the fraud squad actually didn’t find fraud, although, if you read the whole Nature article, they make hints of “stepladders changing position” … I fail to understand what they were trying to say there …

    I don’t know what to make of it, but I find it quite dangerous to make up my mind only on one side’s comments. As for the Benveniste’s comments in his own reports, I hope I could find some evidence too, because the things he writes are equally disturbing.

    That’s really the whole story. For this whole Benveniste saga, I just would like to find out the bottom of the issue. Some people seem to have made up their minds, but I’m new to this issue and I see really weird details, and I’d like to see what’s more about it.

    If this makes me a conspiracy theorist, so be it 🙂

    Thank you very much again, I appreciate, both your reply and the references you included.



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  • @ Olgun (118), Phil

    This whole business about models established through various technological processes and measurements, has me confused, Olgun. I admit it. I need time to investigate and reflect.

    I have, however, yet to relinquish anything.

    Just a question: something is either perceived (in some way) or not perceived. I have no doubt that the shaking and orbiting you have referred to is real. I have no doubt that we can prove this. Physicists, with the help of what must be enormously sophisticated technologies, have established, proof of this. But are these proofs, of real shaking and real orbiting, still within the realm of perception and experience (however far removed these perceptions are from the naked eye, so to speak)? or are you suggesting that the physical objects themselves that shake and orbit are shaking and orbiting in my scenario: a universe without consciousness?

    You asked me earlier, the following question about an unperceived moon: “ambiguous to what?” I ask you now: shaking and orbiting with no mind to perceive it.—What is shaking and orbiting? What physical qualities in themselves, apart from everything sensible, do these moving and shaking colossi have as they move and shake?

    (I also question the idea of motion without time. And time, in my exceedingly humble opinion, is not absolute. Time is in us. Empirically, we are in time.)

    But as I said before, I am confused. These infernal models!

    This thread has been a crucible, as I also said previously. Interesting to note the variety of responses to my own most unpalatable “model.”



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  • Michael #122
    Apr 4, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    but for me, I need to see the both sides of the story to have a better idea. I think any skeptic would do that.

    You seem to have been sucked into the fallacy of the middle ground, sometimes called the balance fallacy. http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Balance_fallacy

    The balance fallacy is a logical fallacy that occurs when two sides of an argument are assumed to have equal or comparable value regardless of their respective merits, which (in turn) leads to the conclusion that the answer to a problem is always between two extremes. It is effectively an inverse false dilemma, discarding the two extremes rather than the middle.

    While the rational position on a topic is often between two extremes, this cannot be assumed without actually considering the evidence.

    That’s all really. My strong comment though, which started all the discussions in this thread, is about the drama that this seems to result, also from both sides.

    The problem with the balance fallacy is that it is necessary to weight the evidence behind the statements and also the weight of integrity and expertise in evaluating and presenting the evidence.

    The linked wikipedia article quotes enough reputable independent sources and further links, which confirm the inadequacy of Benveniste’s work and his failure to refrain from making public claims, which were not justified by supporting evidence, plus failures of his experiments to replicate.
    When official bodies give warnings to individuals about professional standards as when INSERM placed Benveniste on probation following a routine evaluation of his lab, these issues need to be taken seriously as they carry a lot more weight than some individual making excuses for their behaviour.

    The reports and comments seem that Benveniste was under heavy suspicion in such a way to harm his career.

    Professional misconduct does have a habit of harming careers!

    And as it can be read on the reports, the fraud squad actually didn’t find fraud, although,

    They did not find fraud while the experts on fraud were watching but earlier claims were not supported by observed results.

    I don’t know what to make of it, but I find it quite dangerous to make up my mind only on one side’s comments.

    Your initial comment on this thread, suggested you had on the basis of Benveniste’s book.

    As for the Benveniste’s comments in his own reports, I hope I could find some evidence too, because the things he writes are equally disturbing.

    Rouges and the self-deluded making excuses, are quite creative in their accounts of events.

    There are numerous books of this sort, disparaging science and professional bodies, which have told people things they don’t like to hear, or conspiracy theories made up by nutty groups grasping at straws to support their delusions.

    They are easy to find – Moon Landing deniers, Young Earth Creationists who claim the Earth is between 6,000 and 10,000 years old. The extent of the pseudo-science based on ignorance and the market for books, is quite staggering.

    As far as Benveniste’s team goes, I frankly don’t think anyone is going to find out this long after events, what sort of intermittent sloppy mistakes, contaminated samples, dirty equipment, or or fiddles to achieve wanted results, caused the anomalies he latched on to and stretched to make unjustifiable claims. They are most unlikely to be found in answers in his written excuses and denials!

    Careless scientists can become very frustrated, so wish thinkers with preconceived notions of results which do not appear, can be very disappointed and embarrassed, – with dishonest ones (cold fusion) faking results, or just blustering about results they HOPED would appear.
    Science journals do not tolerate such conduct being involved in articles they publish or endorse!

    Let me tell you a little story about a VERY disappointing experiment:-

    A group of researchers spent two years working on the properties of human DNA.
    Unfortunately at the end of the two years a close examination of their samples, indicated that they did not have any human DNA in them!

    They were 100% rat DNA ! – A miraculous transformation???

    No! They were contamination which someone had not properly removed when cleaning some of the equipment before they started!

    Benveniste was working with ultra dilute organic materials in water.

    Any careless operators could have produced different concentrations, or solutions of other substances producing anomalies, when not being scrutinised by observers!



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  • Re: Bullshit, woo, deepity, horse-shit, Dunning-Kruger, etc., etc.

    I’ll tell you who I think is full of shit: Wittgenstein. Reading his so-called masterpiece: Philosophical Investigations. Filled with nothing but horror and disgust.
    He was either a genius or vastly overrated. I suspect it’s the latter.
    One of the great hoaxes of the Twentieth Century.
    A mind destroyer, a twisted man, a master obscurantist. He hoodwinked a generation, was the father of post modernist drivel, and derailed transcendentalism, which can be reason-based. Transcendentalism is often nothing more than superstition. Not one or the other. It all depends on who is writing or speaking.
    Wittgenstein put an end to metaphysics and transcendentalism once and for all, I hear. (Russell too.) Sure.

    “It is conceivable that I feel pain in a tooth in another man’s mouth; and the man who says that he cannot feel the other toothache is not denying this. The grammatical difficulty we are in we shall only see clearly if we get familiar with the idea of feeling pain in another person’s body.”
    -From the great and profound Blue and Brown Books

    Thanks, Bonnie. I keep forgetting to google stuff.



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  • @ M27Holts #119

    Oh yes! I remember reading about Russell’s parable of the teapot in Dawkins’ marvelous book The God Delusion. I love the parable of the teapot!



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  • Michael #122
    Apr 4, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    I know very little about homeopathy in general and I never had enough exposure to it to think about it.

    I am pleased to see you are starting from an honest position of enquiry.

    Homeopathy is a quack medicine the production of which starts with some small quantity of a herbal product, and then repeatedly dilutes it many times until there is virtually nothing (in many cases not a single atom) of the original product left. They claim that the increasing dilution and diminishing quantity of the original makes the product MORE effective and pretend that the water “remembers” the original product!

    They sell this product which is essentially pure water as liquid medicine, or put a few drops in a sugar tablet.

    These products are widely promoted with misleading claims, not because they have any useful medical properties, but because lots of money can be made selling water and sugar tablets as “medicine”! Some of their fans feel better when they THINK they are getting some help with their sickness (Placaebo effect), and of course many people recover naturally from minor ailments.
    Unfortunately people with serious conditions such as cancer, die of these, when they are persuaded to use useless quackery instead of modern medical treatment.

    This example I posted in an earlier comment, is not homeopathy, but is similar quackery! If you read through the discussion, you will see that even after criminal convictions, the know-it-all fans, will try to deny aspects of the problem!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/03/this-churchs-cancer-curing-elixir-is-really-bleach-federal-authorities-say/

    You will appreciate that honest scientists making mistakes, accept evidence based criticism of their published work, and set about correcting it or withdraw it, and it is quietly forgotten.
    Deluded rogues, set about trying to rubbish the criticism and concoct plausible stories which SOME less well informed people will accept.

    Quackery fan clubs and those profiting from quackery, will actively promote views which promote their products, regardless of their validity or dishonesty.
    They will also denigrate any science or scientists who refute their claims.

    Benveniste’s wild claims are hailed as controversial, not because they have any scientific merit, but because they lend some credibility to to a hugely profitable market for quackery!

    I hope this helps with your investigations.



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  • 129
    Olgun says:

    @ Dan #123

    I was doing well until:

    a universe without consciousness?

    I have no idea what that is? The question you repeat asks me; can you close off all your senses and describe this ‘thing’ when you know the answer is going to be ‘NO”. Maybe thats the slight of hand that has us both confused?

    The sun shakes/wobbles because of the planet orbiting. they effect each other. Are they doing it for real? YES! Because they probably have an effect on every single star in that cluster/galaxy which has an effect on the universe which has an effect on everything.



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  • Olgun #129
    Apr 5, 2016 at 6:01 am

    I was doing well until:

    a universe without consciousness?

    I have no idea what that is?

    If ET does not exist, and humans achieve a total extinction of all life on Earth, there could well be “a universe without consciousness” or brains – as there was before life evolved!



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  • 131
    Olgun says:

    @ Alan

    I know what it means in scientific terms but not in philosophical. Dan has now(?) said that things exist without us but keeps asking if it is ‘real’ and that seems like a contradiction to me?



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  • A lot of philosophy has been written about events not actually being an event without an Observer to witness the event. But again, this metaphysical gibberish can be obliterated by the application of Occam’s razor. The problem with trying to apply the razor when in conversations with person who refuse to think critically (usually the religious it has to be said) is that they simply do not understand the negation of their argument in terms of the disregard of unnecessary hypotheses….At that point I usually just get myself another pint…..



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  • Olgun #131
    Apr 5, 2016 at 6:22 am

    @ Alan – I know what it means in scientific terms but not in philosophical. Dan has now(?) said that things exist without us but keeps asking if it is ‘real’ and that seems like a contradiction to me?

    Yep! Scientific clarity and philosophical word juggling, are two different forms of presentation! 🙂

    Still – I think we are on the right thread for that!!



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  • Dan.

    A mind destroyer, a twisted man, a master obscurantist. He hoodwinked a generation, was the father of post modernist drivel, and derailed transcendentalism, which can be reason-based.

    I think we need to put some sand down here before someone steps in it…

    Jeffrey Skilling former boss of Enron had a favourite book. He loved it because it proved him right. Selfish was right. The book? The Selfish Gene. He may have been very, very clever, but confirmation bias makes people idiots.

    Lyotard took one small application of W’s language game and went from there for right or wrong. (Yup, wrong probably best describes it.)

    I won’t correct the mis-statements yet again, but retire, pending the restart of conversation.



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  • Hi again @Marktony,

    Thanks again for the BBC Horizon video which I watched. Quick question : Is there a way to find out the experiment protocol and details ? The reason why I’m asking this, I’d like to see if it was a similar experiment to Benveniste’s, and it was following the similar protocol and even, verifying the same parameters …

    I don’t know it by heart as I write this, but I am not sure if Benveniste’s original protocol was with histamine, also, not sure if the experiment details are exactly the same. This could be interesting to check out.



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  • M27Holts, Olgun, Phil, others

    I am frustrated by my own inability to convey to Olgun and others, the meaning of my question. So I have taken a bit of time to simplify this:

    No consciousness in the universe. (Alan acknowledged that this scenario is quite thinkable and it is.)

    M27Holts thinks that I am playing with words and thinks that I am creating a lose-lose situation, when I am merely presenting a a hypothetical scenario in order to ask a question, setting the stage, as it were.

    Forgot then that you do not have consciousness. That is what is causing the confusion. You think that if you remove consciousness you are not still free to use it in order to answer the question. No, you can use it as you try to answer the question, but you have to describe something that cannot be known and yet is.

    (That is presenting a challenge to you, I see. That is really my point in a way! — There isn’t much left to think, is there?)

    If you cannot do that then describe a twig or a stone or a piece of furniture or we can stick with the moon if you wish and if you can, please eliminate all sensible qualities from your answer, as there is no way that even the most stubborn realist can assert reasonably that a tree is brown or hard, or that it provides shade, or is soft to the touch, or that it gives off a pleasant smell, etc. in this scenario where there are no existing beings with senses to apprehend those qualities and effects! (Do you believe in consciousness without beings that are conscious?) But if you think you can reasonably assert that, then do so. (Remember: you do have senses and consciousness now, but you must be careful to keep the object you are now describing separate from those senses and that consciousness.)

    I hope that’s a bit clearer.

    Or, if you prefer, describe for me as many of the physically real qualities that any article of nature might have had before there was consciousness (which you now have, although you must be careful to keep it separate from the object(s) in question whose qualities I have asked you to describe). Got it?

    (Occam’s Razor. Not sure precisely what that is. But I don’t think there is any violation of logic here. None whatsoever. I am not anti-Reason or anti-science. On the contrary. This question is, historically, a philosophical one, but it is not bullshit. If you think it is then so be it.)

    Sorry, Phil, I am unable to comprehend at the present time all of your points in your comment, # 120.



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  • 137
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    “I am afraid that none of you have understood the question”

    I think the point being made by many of your respondents, myself included, is that the person who does not understand your question is you.

    It is nonsensical to ask how could one imagine the universe in the absence of anyone existing to imagine it. Kant dealt with all this 250 years ago in his proof of the sky not being the blue that we experience…when he asked ‘ what colour would the sky be in the absence of anyone to experience it ?’ The point being that it is impossible to imagine a conscious experience in the absence of a conscious observer. This is not a proof that the world does not physically exist….rather ( as Kant related ) it is a proof that conscious experience requires a conscious observer, and thus that our conscious experience is not a one-to-one awareness of the external world. In other words what the question actually proves is that the ‘blue’ we experience does not exist as such in the external world. It is a very subtle proof…many don’t grasp it.

    What you are trying to do is twist the whole thing around and provide the idealist argument from George Berkeley that was precisely what Kant was responding to. But Kant ( and others ) long ago refuted Berkeley and science moved on. Though most scientists would not go as far as Kant’s transcendental idealism ( the idea that there are zero one-to-one direct perceptions of the real world )…most agree that the bulk of conscious experience is of stuff that exists solely in the brain and is ‘correlated’ to the real world rather than being a direct experience of it.

    So asking ‘can you imagine’ there being no conscious experience in the universe is on par with some question by the Red Queen. It is about as scientific as ‘ have you stopped beating your wife yet ?’ or the sound of one hand clapping.



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  • 138
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    “I am trying to get you to say something definitive about the moon (or any other empirical object in nature) independently of consciousness – which includes vision.”

    So you have to look at the Moon and see it in order for the tides to come in and out ??

    And insofar as the very act of describing anything is itself a conscious activity, asking anyone to describe the world in the absence of conscious activity is on par with asking a person to imagine being dead.

    Semantics and sophistry.



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  • 139
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    Incidentally, Dan. if you go back a few years on this forum ( if the archives still exist ), there’s several very lengthy ( one was 3000 posts long, I recall ) discussions on the whole consciousness issue between myself and Steve Zara in which I myself take the same ‘ the whole of science is dependent upon conscious experience’ line that you have done. It got very lengthy and heated…and most would agree Steve Zara won the argument. Very much worth reading if you can still find it….much of it in the form of me arguing the David Chalmers view on consciousness and Steve Zara arguing the Daniel Dennett view ( which I have since converted to ).



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  • Dan.

    So this IS about the Hard Problem!

    The more usual question is to posit p-Zombies.

    p-Zombies have all our brainstates, actions, language, culture but lack the singular vivid wakeful experience of qualities. Their brains, subconsciously process all this stuff. They act indistinguishably from us having the same brainstates.

    Are p-Zombies philosophically possible?

    We and p-Zombies are evolved to be detectors of our environment for our survival. When developing culture, sharing our detections gave us huge advantage. Common labels, tags, signs for these allowed us the exchange of experience whilst leaving the actual internal nature of our qualia (if we are human not zombie) entirely private. We share them at the level of the detectors and what they respond to out of their own (physics) nature.

    I had thought the question was abount Kant’s dichotomy

    Things as they appear, or “phenomena”, which constitute the immanent world of common experience, which (according to Kant) is illusion.
    Things in themselves, or “noumena”, which (according to Kant) constitute a transcendental world to which we have no empirical access, which is reality.

    And the proposition that phenomena dissappear without experiencers?

    Saying clearly what you seek to prove would help here.



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  • Re: # 138

    No, no, SC. No. Listen: you say that objects (like the moon) exist without anyone there to perceive it. So use your conscious mind now and simply describe that moon, but eliminate all of the qualities that are subjective, such as all of the senses. And while you are at it, eliminate any quality that one can be conscious of. Get to what you no doubt regard as the real thing.

    Are you saying that there has to be a conscious observer in order for every quality to exist? Is that what science has taught us? Well if you don’t think that, then please describe what qualities (if any) would remain.

    For example, you might think that matter, or energy, or solidity, or motion, exists without a conscious participant, as it were.

    So do you get it now?

    Look, I presented this question as well as I can in # 136. If you cannot grasp it, then so be it. It is not a trick. I can assure you of that, and I have no wish to cause vexation.

    I am sympathetic to your confusion. It is very hard to describe what something is like, to describe what something is, without confusing empirical reality with non-empirical reality. That is because science, and the disposition of the human intellect, is empirical. It starts from the object, you see. But good philosophers do not take such things as objects for granted. But I ask you to try (as I want to learn) what all this is when you remove all qualities that are essentially subjective, and are left with only what is absolute and objective!

    Not semantics. Not sophistry. I am asking a question worthy of the respect of any scientist. I know about Berkeley and his solipsism. I am aware of Kant’s refutation. Forget about those guys and be a scientist and tell me what is left over after all of the sensible and other qualities associated with objects (and you can pick any object you wish) are eliminated.

    One ought not to just dismiss this or evade it, and at the moment, I don’t care, frankly, what others have said on the other thread or elsewhere. I would like someone here and now to either tell me that they have tried and failed to answer the question, or to provide me with a positive, satisfactory and conceivable answer.

    Btw, your analogy, SC, about a living person describing a dead person is apt. You cannot describe a sound in a scenario where there are no ears. You have expressed, unwittingly, a sensible analogy. I like that.



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  • Michael #88
    Apr 3, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Unfortunately, I get the impression that the discussion is not really fertile.

    I have certainly presented enough scientific evidenced links and quotes to make it fertile, should you chose to make use of them and address this issues!

    If you think that you’re right about your points, including the case I wrote about (Benveniste) you can go ahead and think that you’re right, and I’m wrong. I don’t feel the need to spend more time on explaining or justifying you about my view of the issues, it would not head to anywhere and we’d keep turning in circles.

    Perhaps you should try harder at understanding the detailed evidence I have provided, if you are going to comment about the quality of scientific studies and the peer-review process.

    What I did about Benveniste case was reading a first article, or a youtube video (I can’t even remember). Then I went to every source (among which the ones you mentioned excerpts from) and at each material, there were more references, and I went on checking them on and on and on. You can do the same.

    This is the sort of claim which causes problems of credibility when I examine the evidence of expert evaluations and repeated failures to replicate, which you do not seem to understand.

    Then I went on reading more material and see how Benveniste himself answers to many accusations and also provides with additional info with relevant details to the experiments and their biological effects themselves. A part of this material is not available in English. I’m sorry for this, if you don’t speak French it would be hard for you to have exposure to that side of the story (and maybe food for thought regarding your extent of research before making up your mind). I can’t say I’m at Benveniste’s side, there are also some questions that raise in my mind about some of his own actions in this affair, but at least, I do my best to have an as large landscape as possible about this topic.

    While I do speak basic French, I think this French (which you have not commented on following its earlier posting), is all that is required!

    INSERM (Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale ,) placed Benveniste on probation following a routine evaluation of his lab.

    The question is not about homeopathy here.

    Really!
    To what extent have you compared Benveniste’s claims with those of homeopathy?

    But indeed, its possible links that might be used for defending homeopathy was a delicate side of this whole affair. But it was not relevant to the experiments themselves.

    Really?
    In view of your following comment: – How would you know?

    Michael #122
    Apr 4, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    I know very little about homeopathy in general and I never had enough exposure to it to think about it.

    Perhaps you should have addressed this issue first BEFORE making the earlier claims on this thread!



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  • Re 140

    Phil, you were right the first time. Not about zombies. This is about what we can know (if anything) about objective existence.
    I personally think that objective existence is an oxymoron, but you know what I mean. Language must be employed here, and there is no other word to use but existence. So describe an object’s existence, but eliminate the subject entirely. Choose something specific, if you can. Doesn’t have to be an object even; that would be unfair and would limit you. Matter, for example. Or atoms, or energy.— Something.



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  • SC

    me arguing the David Chalmers view on consciousness and Steve Zara arguing the Daniel Dennett view ( which I have since converted to )

    Good man!

    I remember the exchanges clearly.

    Why the conversion? SZ’s argument for the inability of Chalmer’s epiphenomenon to develop reports of its own action rendered the Chalmer’s “solution” as ineffective. It also spuriously added the requirement of some fancy unlocking of the effect with brains like thus but not so. Either of those?

    Incidentally welcome back. I trust you are well?



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  • Dan #143

    Why? Why would I attempt to do that? Communicate with no-one? What new or useful will I learn?

    That I communicate with experiencers, means, to do so, I must build first on the common substrate of experience, to proceed to the abstraction of mathematical and logical models (to break free of mere parochial experience), means I (and they) must, like Wittgenstein use a prosaic ladder to leave behind as much vestige of parochial experience that colours our respective descriptions. Anyone I may want to “talk” to, I will be able to talk to, experiencers the both of us.



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  • 146
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    “Look, I presented this question as well as I can in # 136. If you cannot grasp it, then so be it.”

    Ah…the time honoured ploy of making out that your opponent disagrees because he simply hasn’t ‘understood’ what you are saying.

    I actually fully understand what you are saying. You would be better defining it ( as I did with Steve Zara ) as ‘ there is no third party perspective on consciousness itself ‘. In other words you cannot step outside of consciousness and make an observation on consciousness itself. It requires consciousness to make any observation about consciousness…or indeed anything.

    But ultimately….so what ? Daniel Dennett’s ‘heterophenomenology’ deals with the issue perfectly. It deals with the issue of what people can share in common…and the whole point about science is that it is about repeatable experiences. Thus if 10 million apples fall off 10 million trees and 10 million observers all observe the apples accelerating downwards with a specific rate that never changes…it can be assumed that a phenomenon called gravity exists !

    The issue then becomes that it is easier and simpler to conjecture that gravity is an external force that operates independently of the observer than it is to conclude that 10 million observers all share some idealism mind that never makes a mistake!!



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  • 147
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    Actually I think I hit the nail right on the head. It is the sheer consistency of the laws of physics in all situations that is the strongest argument that the physical world is external to us. If there were instead 7 billion minds in some idealism matrix….you would expect there to be errors now and then and for people to experience different things. It is much easier to explain ONE force of gravity existing externally than it is to explain 7 BILLION minds all conspiring in some matrix that never does a blooper.



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  • Ah, yes the Dennett “multiple drafts” hypothesis V a sort of homunculi in the brain looking at images played out in the Cartesian theatre – Consciousness explained – is a very good book and Dennett is one of those philosophers who is well worth reading!



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  • 149
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    “I remember the exchanges clearly.
    Why the conversion?”

    Ah….loads of arguments elsewhere about whether a copy of a person is really ‘that’ person’s consciousness ( it isn’t ). But also, I came to realise that a sheer stroke of genius is the idea that consciousness exists as a trick by which the mind generates a virtual reality in which it exists…which is essentially what Dennett is saying and which totally circumvents the ‘hard problem’.



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  • 150
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    “the idea that consciousness exists as a trick by which the mind generates a virtual reality in which it exists”

    A little elucidation…as it is actually fascinating :-

    I can imagine square planets. Now we all know that square planets do not exist. Thus…I can imagine things that do not physically exist. All one then needs to do is ask…why does one need to look any further than this for an explanation for consciousness ?

    Nobody demands that square planets must exist because I can imagine them…so why should anyone argue that some ‘essence of consciousness’ must physically exist because my mind can imagine red or blue or the smell of mothballs ? Those sensations are just as made up as unicorns…yet we don’t get entire teams of neuroscientists searching the brain for essence of unicorn.

    In other words the very nature of the brain is a device that invents stuff that does not exist. Consciousness is one of those things. There is no more a hard problem of consciousness than there is a hard problem of unicorns. I think this is essentially similar to what Daniel Dennett is saying.



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  • 151
    Olgun says:

    @ SC

    Thus if 10 million apples fall off 10 million trees and 10 million
    observers all observe the apples accelerating downwards with a
    specific rate that never changes…it can be assumed that a phenomenon
    called gravity exists !

    Actually I think I hit the nail right on the head.

    You certainly hit me on the head….Thanks!!

    Philosophy is such a lonely sport…



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  • Olgun #151
    Apr 5, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    *Thus if 10 million apples fall off 10 million trees and 10 million
    observers all observe the apples accelerating downwards with a
    specific rate that never changes…it can be assumed that a phenomenon
    called gravity exists !

    Philosophy is such a lonely sport…

    And after the apples fall and ferment a bit, it can be assumed alcohol exists, so those eating them, or drinking the cider, can also slide to the ground and contemplate philosophy!
    http://news.discovery.com/animals/drunk-swedish-moose-110909.htm
    Hopefully missing landing in the elk-shit or moose-shit! 🙂



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  • @ Phil 145

    Phil, this is infuriating! You and others have argued repeatedly that Kant’s distinction between the the thing-in-itself and the phenomenon is an erroneous one. Therefore, you think that there is REAL existence without the mind. So describe that “object.”

    Just employ your knowledge of science and tell me what is left over after all of the subjective conditions associated with our experience of the objective world is eliminated and you are left with the “object-in-itself.” What is it? Tell me what it is.

    Even you? Not even you can grasp this question. No one can.

    I told you, a number of times, that that this doctrine is an enormously subtle one, and apparently I was right.

    If you think that the objects that we see and study and observe and think about have a mind-independent, real existence then say something about it. Describe it. Name one quality that can be said to exist prior to, or independently of, all knowledge, all consciousness, all sensibility.

    Think about this. Read Schopenhauer if you have to. I want you to get this! Get back to me when you can.
    Sorry guy, you don’t get it. Have some humility.—I have plenty, don’t know a damned thing about physics.

    Regards to one and all.



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  • Cat #150

    Ever the engineer, I was a confirmed supporter of the idea that the Hard Problem was only apparently and not actually a problem by the fact that none of my neurosience sources in fifty years had found an informational defecit that required this meta-experience to be singled out for study.

    I’m currently re-reading “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” having recently commended it. Its so rich in recent historical detail of the evolution (!) of some of these ideas. In thinking there is something to explain about consciousness, a class of scientist was keen not to choose the reactive, blind engineer of evolution, but the nobler clean driving principles of physics.. Thus, mighty Penrose, invents quantum gravity in tubules (or some such). This still does service as a bookstop for me. Astonishingly, Dennett reveals in this class of scientist also is Chomsky. He always remained fairly schtumm on how “the Language Module” that he posited giving a speeding leg up to language acquisition could have possibly come about. Dennett reveals Chomsky thought (hoped) it would have the nobility of a Principle of Physics behind it.

    My own view now is evolution of multiple staged language modules, with the human key lying in the very recent development of the post natal growth of the brain areas around the linking, associative corteces, the result of our remarkable neotony.

    Great book.



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  • Schrodinger’s Cat 146

    In other words you cannot step outside of consciousness and make an observation on consciousness itself.

    No ploy, and that is NOT what I am saying at all. I am not asking anyone to make an observation on consciousness outside of consciousness. I am asking you to tell me what we can say about an “object” (any object; pick one) if there was no consciousness. I am asking you to describe that object. (If you can’t you can’t.) I am merely asking you and others to first eliminate the sensible qualities and consciousness altogether, and then tell me what science has taught us about what, say, the moon would then be like.

    Is Man really the measure of all thing? I thought the universe didn’t care about us! That’s what everyone says. So let’s get rid of our paltry little brains in this (entirely plausible) scenario. Tell me what science has taught us about this vast world, this object-filled universe – prior to, or independently, of all of the qualities associated with, and derived from, experience.

    The moon did exist before consciousness, right? Let’s assume it did. So what was it like? I am trying to get you and others to tell me what is known (if anything) about the thing-in-itself (Kant).

    And you do not understand the question, and I would never use a ploy. I resent that. But it’s okay.

    I’ll help you out. You can say: without consciousness everything would be the same as it is with consciousness. Or you could say: there would be pure energy, or maybe pure matter, pure this, pure that. Just tell me what we can say about phenomena independently of perception and knowledge. What have we learned about the “objects of nature,” the universe, prior to the emergence of consciousness?

    This will be my last attempt (for a while) to explain what I mean.

    No ploy. No tricks. You have my word, friend.



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  • You… have argued repeatedly that Kant’s distinction between the the thing-in-itself and the phenomenon is an erroneous one.

    I agree with Dan (and Kant etc.) Reality and our experiences of it are always divergent and sometimes spectacularly so.

    So, so tired of the continual misrepresentation of my position, Dan. You don’t have to reset to zero your view of the other each time you don’t get compliance.



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  • 157
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    “No ploy, and that is NOT what I am saying at all. I am not asking anyone to make an observation on consciousness outside of consciousness.”

    You haven’t answered my question…..why do the tides go in and out regardless of whether people are looking at the Moon ?



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  • 158
    Olgun says:

    Dan

    Can I offer this:

    The light reaching us from distant stars and galaxies are billions of years old. They existed before consciousness but the light is only reaching us now. Our consciousness has no effect on that perception although we view it today and with conscious minds.
    Is that something described pre conscious state?



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  • 159
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    ” I am not asking anyone to make an observation on consciousness outside of consciousness. “

    That is precisely what you are doing. Just a few sentences later you say

    “I am merely asking you and others to first eliminate the sensible qualities and consciousness altogether”

    Given that one cannot make an observation without being conscious, you clearly ARE asking people to make a conscious observation ( whether on consciousness itself or anything else ) outside of being conscious. You just keep on contradicting yourself….that is half the problem. I think it’s apparent that the only person confused by your conundrum is you. It’s not that other people don’t grasp your dilemma…it’s that you don’t.



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  • 160
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    Phil.

    Thus, mighty Penrose, invents quantum gravity in tubules (or some such).

    Ah yes….the re-invention of phlostigon is what it all is. Exactly the same sort of thinking lies behind Hameroff and Penrose. Some sort of ‘fire-like substance’ must make consciousness….and obviously dead people have been de-phlogisticated.



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  • @ Dan

    Hi, Dan!

    You wrote, “Name one quality that can be said to exist prior to, or independently of, all knowledge, all consciousness, all sensibility.”

    Forgive me, please, as I know I’ve asked this before: what difference does it make? I honestly don’t see any value in the wondering. Maybe I’m more shallow than I’d like to think?



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  • 155

    We model the unseen both in time and place or scale. We can know with a specifiable degree of reliability what phenomena might have been experienced by experiencers when there were no experiencers in time and place and using metaphor we can conjur meta-phenomena at scales of being otherwise unavailable to experiencers.

    If I were dropped back in time by 4bn years the phenomena I could expect would be some version of our model of it.

    Iceland, jagged basalt cliffs with a huge moon zipping across the sky and tides 100 times higher.

    We always model as if an experiencer/experimenter is present because we must parse the output.



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  • Phil, SC, anyone and everyone

    It is nonsensical to ask how could one imagine the universe in the absence of anyone existing to imagine it.

    I am not asking what something would look like if there were no eyes in the universe, or anything like that. That would be nonsensical and a trick-question. Nor am I asking you to imagine the universe without employing thought or “imagination” in the process. You may do so. But what you describe must be separate from what can be perceived through the senses, or known in some way by a conscious entity. Therefore, such qualities as bright or big or soft would have to be eliminated. But not everything is dependent upon sense impressions or even knowledge, is it? Aren’t there some primary qualities that you can think of? Well describe these primary qualities. Extended? solid? in motion? Please try to grasp this question.

    What has science established about the qualities of the moon (or anything else for that matter) before the emergence of consciousness?

    Employ thought, employ imagination if you need to, use language, and simply tell me what qualities any object (and you can take your pick) can be said to have, if there was no knowledge in the universe. Has science advanced so little? Is there nothing you can tell me about any object in nature as a thing-in-itself?
    Has there always been consciousness? Obviously not.

    We know about prehistoric times. So what have we learned about pre-consciousness times? Tell me what the moon was before there was consciousness, perception, brains, etc. It is obvious that it didn’t look like anything. But is that all the moon is known to be, something we look at? Come on.



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  • Dan #163

    OK. To put us out of our misery I’ll offer tidal bivalve evolution. Though I was perfectly happy with my first offering of light to cut leaves by.

    So it can’t be extension, or solid or movement because those can be perceived by the senses.

    A quality not perceived by the senses and not known by other means…

    Goddess-like? Cheesy? Some lie or other? Charm?

    You got me. Now what’s the point?

    And why do you talk about the moon then only ask questions about observers?



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  • 165
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    “I am not asking what something would look like if there were no eyes in the universe. That would be nonsensical and a trick-question. Nor am I asking you to imagine the universe without employing thought or “imagination” in the process. “

    Followed just two sentences later by….

    “What has science established about the qualities of the moon (or anything else for that matter) before the emergence of consciousness?”

    Tell me…..you didn’t once promise ‘no new taxes’ did you ?



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  • What a long dry and mostly humourless topic this has become. Who knew BS could be so unfunny!

    Until Phil takes the pulse of the moon. Thank you Phil, that’s somehow Poetic.

    And Alan (#25) who said:

    According to the motorcycle handbook, all “the mechanics of manifestation” are all hidden inside the crankcase!

    That handbook would be Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I presume.

    Hoping to restore the balance of humour, anyone heard of the Australian Philosopher, Arthur Happyhour, who couldn’t tell his nose from his willy?



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  • @ Vicki 161

    What difference does it make?

    Hi,

    No. That is an excellent question. I do not have the energy to address it now, and it is a very large question indeed. I will make a note of it, and will definitely get back to you at some point, if I can find an appropriate place here to do so.

    Hell, I can’t just say nothing, but this will be quite inadequate. The Will in nature is metaphysical. Our own will is metaphysical. (More on this some other time.) And if there is a knowable thing-in-itself as opposed to the Will as thing-in-itself, there can be no true moral goodness. The false claims of Realism confuse the mind and bar the way to enlightenment and to an understanding of the true nature of morality (compassion), thus inhibiting its expression. (Exhausted. Sorry. Wish I could talk more. There are several reasons why it matters. I am merely touching on one.) Read carefully (please).

    The assertion of an empirical freedom of the will, a
    liberum arbitrium indifferentiae, agrees precisely with the
    doctrine that places the inner nature of man in a soul,
    which is originally a knowing, and indeed really an
    abstract thinking nature, and only in consequence of this
    a willing nature — a doctrine which thus regards the
    will as of a secondary or derivative nature, instead of
    knowledge which is really so. The will indeed came to
    be regarded as an act of thought, and to be identified
    with the judgment, especially by Descartes and Spinoza.
    According to this doctrine every man must become
    what he is only through his knowledge ; he must enter
    the world as a moral cipher come to know the things in
    it, and thereupon determine to be this or that, to act
    thus or thus, and may also through new knowledge
    achieve a new course of action, that is to say, become
    another person. Further, he must first know a thing
    to be good, and in consequence of this will it, instead of
    first willing it, and in consequence of this calling it good.
    According to my fundamental point of view, all this is a
    reversal of the true relation. Will is first and original ;
    knowledge is merely added to it as an instrument be-
    longing to the phenomenon of will. Therefore every
    man is what he is through his will, and his character is
    original, for willing is the basis of his nature. Through
    the knowledge which is added to it he comes to know in
    the course of experience what he is, i.e., he learns his
    character. Thus he knows himself in consequence of and
    in accordance with the nature of his will, instead of
    willing in consequence of and in accordance with his
    knowing. According to the latter view, he would only
    require to consider how he would like best to be, and he
    would be it ; that is its doctrine of the freedom of the
    will. Thus it consists really in this, that a man is his
    own work guided by the light of knowledge. I, on the
    contrary, say that he is his own work before all know-
    ledge, and knowledge is merely added to it to enlighten
    it. Therefore he cannot resolve to be this or that, nor
    can he become other than he is ; but he is once for all,
    and he knows in the course of experience what he is.
    According to one doctrine he wills what he knows, and
    according to the other he knows what he wills.
    -Arthur Schopenhauer (WWR Vol 1., Bk IV)



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  • 169
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    “Goddess-like? Cheesy?”

    Apparently goddesses consume vast quantities of 2000 mile wide cheesy balls while nobody is looking.



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  • Dan

    Will is first and original ; knowledge is merely added to it as an instrument belonging to the phenomenon of will. Therefore every man is what he is through his will, and his character is original, for willing is the basis of his nature.

    Dan. I recognise this is the kind of world you want to live in. But it simply doesn’t comport with actual knowledge of how brains appear to work. There are two few mooted entities to create the varieties of observed behaviours. Like souls, it makes for handy metaphors to tell simple stories. But by its simplicity it necessarily generates non-real artifacts when over applied.

    I really, really, have to leave you here until the day you discover Google and the new metaphysics. and its continual journeying after (say) 1905.



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  • Michael #88
    Apr 3, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Alan4discussion, thank you again. Unfortunately, I get the impression that the discussion is not really fertile.

    Rationally evaluated scientific evidence is a better basis for conclusions than impressions.

    If you think that you’re right about your points, including the case I wrote about (Benveniste) you can go ahead and think that you’re right, and I’m wrong.

    Scientific conclusions are not made by choosing what we want to believe or recycling confirmation biases in circular arguments or unevidenced assertions.

    I don’t feel the need to spend more time on explaining or justifying you about my view of the issues, it would not head to anywhere and we’d keep turning in circles.

    Indeed! Until you take the scientific evidence from a professional body and several scientific journals seriously, you will just keep recycling confirmation biases you have picked up from dubious sources!

    What I did about Benveniste case was reading a first article, or a youtube video (I can’t even remember).

    A youtube video or blog article, and a book of excuses from a rogue scientist who was given an official warning about his behaviour, really do not look like reliable sources of information, and are certainly not a basis for ignoring reputable researchers, with articles in several highly rated scientific journals or, official bodies commenting on professional standards!

    Michael #122
    Apr 4, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    I know very little about homeopathy in general
    and I never had enough exposure to it to think about it.

    A string of assertions and opinions about tests purporting to support homeopathy, really have no credibility, when those opinions are from someone who freely admits to making no study of the the subject of homeopathy at all!

    To then use this as a basis for making sweeping statements about the standards of peer-review in general, is laughable!



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  • I think Dan should ponder on something more important – Like why is it that, after each pint of Holt’s bitter I imbibe, the female attractiveness increases. But is the increase in direct proportion to the amount of beer molecules I ingest or is it logarithmic? I usually come to the conclusion (after 10 pints) that all the women are now Hollywood starlet quality…this is usually known as the Shallow-Hal effect……..



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  • Phil, OHooligan and SC, Alan

    “…until the day you discover Google and the new metaphysics.”

    Phil, I did not want to get into the Will. I can’t do justice to the idea of the Will as thing-in-itself. I would need weeks, months! I was obligated to respond to a question. Forget the Will.

    Now you still have not answered my question. (I am not sure that you even understand it.) Nor have I misrepresented you.—Not entirely. You and I have had long exchanges about this: the unknowability of the thing-in-itself. You have never, to my knowledge, conceded my point. You have consistently maintained that what we do not know just isn’t known yet. Perhaps by forgetting your “yet” I have misrepresented you a bit. But let’s talk about what we can or cannot conceive of now.

    OHooligan, hi! I don’t think that this is a bullshit question. Listen. Listen everyone:

    You may think that I am asking something like this: what would a sound sound like without an ear.

    That would be meaningless. That would be BS.

    My question once again (and everyone here, that has spoken, has indicated that they regard this question itself as ridiculous): what can we say now about any object if we remove all sensible qualities? what is left?
    can we distinguish between an “object” as it IS and that same “object” as it appears? And if the former is possible then I ask you to simply say something anything, about the qualities that we are justified in, as it were, attaching to this unperceived entity.

    Clearly the objects (irony) existed prior to their being observed in some way; so what can we say about this “preconsciousness” object, as I have been forced to call it? For example, is it pure energy? pure matter? is it solid? is it large? Can we say anything? Remember: no subject. No brain.

    My point is that it may be impossible to do this, and Kant was right: we only know that which appears: we can say nothing about what an object is in itself. But it must BE: hence the famous term thing-in-itself. As soon as you say anything about any object it implies some kind of perception or knowledge.

    Reply to this, and spare me (or yourselves) the jokes, as it only sounds like you’ve had a taste of sour (bitter) grapes.



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  • @ Phil (and Alan)

    You got me. Now what’s the point?

    I don’t know if you are being serious or just vexed. The point? The point? We (including many teachers, scientist, physicists, as well as the rest of us) are all deluding ourselves and each other when we imagine the world and the universe, its past and possible future, without brains; as we imagine, we make the error of retaining these illusory images, and of assuming that the very same qualities that we merely associate with these images do actually inhere in the things themselves. This is something I have alway been against.

    So it can’t be extension, or solid or movement because those can be perceived by the senses.

    Again, I don’t know if this is sincere or not. (Motion is a tough one; why would you throw that in like that?)

    So when speaking about the “objective universe” in this way, through custom and habit, it behooves us to maybe reflect for a moment, and consider it from the perspective that I have, in good faith, presented, and make room in our minds to acknowledge that there is a virtually incalculable difference between what is and what appears.— It behooves us to consider refraining from scoffing at (what I still consider to be) an important, vitally important, contribution to the history of Thought: Kant’s doctrine of the distinction between the thing-in-itself and the phenomenon. It remains valid, may in fact be quite irrefutable.

    Confession: after reading all of the comments I am not sure that I am not the one who is deluded. (Well we all doubt ourselves, don’t we?)



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  • 178
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    Dan,

    You could have saved about 200 posts if you’d simply stated at the start that you are espousing transcendental idealism.



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  • 179
    Schrodingers Cat says:

    “The philosophers could consider video evidence of consumption of an even bigger cheese ball. “

    ( In my best ‘Up Pompeii’ impersonation )…’It is a well known fact that the gods had cheesy balls’.

    Titter ye not.



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  • @ Phil

    “I really, really, have to leave you here until the day you discover Google and the new metaphysics. and its continual journeying after (say) 1905.” – Phil

    What! You give me condescending and ambiguous replies on a subject dear to my heart and you expect me to be open to this? And this is way too broad. I wouldn’t know where to begin!



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  • @ Schrodinger’s Cat (And what kind of a name is that? Hard to write.) #178

    It is transcendental idealism, but there has been much confusion about it ever since it was first presented and that confusion has persisted to the present time. — And it cannot be understood by merely saying the words “transcendental idealism.” Perhaps it can (in some cases), but experience has taught me otherwise. (Also, there are forms of idealism that I disagree with and these are often confused with true (critical) idealism. You mentioned Berkeley. Case in point, although he is quite rightly called the father of idealism.

    Thanks.

    Regards,
    DR



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  • @ Phil #170

    “Like souls, it makes for handy metaphors to tell simple stories. But by its simplicity it necessarily generates non-real artifacts when over applied.”

    Phil, this will be my last comment for today. You were responding to my quoted passage about the will. This criticism is just bad. You are comparing Schopenhauer’s profound conception of Will to that infernal object of superstition: a soul! (by insinuation at least), and that is exactly the opposite of what S was trying to establish. The intellect was always equated with knowledge of God or spirit or what have you, and had a kind of halo around it, if I may borrow a phrase from W (although I am taking that out of context). That is what S is against. You are free to reject the idea of the will as primary and knowledge as secondary, but why don’t you believe me when I say that he arrived at that painstakingly, methodically, and was exceedingly precise and careful every step of the way? You condemn too quickly and always refer to “what we now know and didn’t know then.” You take a passage, glance at it (in this forum you’ve done that), make zero attempt to understand it, and then tell me it’s bullshit. It is not possible to arrive at such a conclusion (in this case) so quickly.

    You asked me to read modern metaphysics. Why don’t you read On the Will in Nature and then respond, or just say it doesn’t interest you? But you misrepresent my ideas as much as you say I misrepresent yours! You’re as bad as me!

    Bye, for now.



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  • @ Alan

    Alan, my good man, I have apparently exhausted the patience of all of these fine people here, as far as this matter is concerned. You, however, have been strangely, uncharacteristically, silent.

    This is perhaps the last and maybe the best opportunity I will have on this site to discuss this issue (so dear to my heart) at such length. (Where else but on a BS thread?)

    Is my premise: things that appear are entirely different than things as they are a valid one? And if it is, how far, based on your considerable knowledge, do you think we can go, at the present time, in describe any given object (pick anyone) in nature in isolation? Obviously when you look at a tree and turn away the tree is still there (as an image of an image, as it were). But if a tree had never been seen or perceived or known about in some way, and yet still exist independently of the mind, as you say it does, what, pray tell, is left of it even after the sensible qualities alone are eliminated? You have described things in the past: waves, vibrations, have referred to processes that involve mathematics and technologies of various kinds, which prove the real existence of all kinds of phenomena. But what can a human being know of, say, a tree by examining such data, and what, finally, IS a tree in itself?

    And what is real existence, finally? What constitutes it? A vibration (something you have adamantly maintained is real in the past): is that real? Real to what? to who? Or is reality not defined that way? If it isn’t then would you agree that this reality-in-itself is not so wholly removed from Kant’s thing-in-itself?

    (“The thing-in-itself is a posited object or event that is known (if at all) without the use of ordinary sense-perception. The term thing-in-itself is generally used in contrast with, or in relation to phenomenon, which refers to anything that can be apprehended by, or is an object of the senses.” -Good old wiki)

    Note: I substituted the word noumenon for Kant’s thing-in-itself.



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  • After “…extraneous and obfuscating utterances.”, there are plenty of “Imaginary, transcendental and irrational numbers.” I challenge Michael Shermer to try his hand at Euler’s Constant or some other type of mathematical BS? And that’s no compound interest.

    GL



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  • Dan #185
    Apr 6, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Alan, my good man, I have apparently exhausted the patience of all of these fine people here, as far as this matter is concerned. You, however, have been strangely, uncharacteristically, silent.

    This is perhaps the last and maybe the best opportunity I will have on this site to discuss this issue (so dear to my heart) at such length.

    I left it largely alone, because we have covered many aspects of this “perceived mental models V underlying material realities”, earlier on other threads, so I have little to add.

    Also I was busy with the rogue scientist / homeopathy issue.

    I put the Schrodinger’s Cat link on, as I thought you would find it interesting – only to find Steven007 had beaten me to it while my link was awaiting moderation.



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  • Schrodinger’s Cat # 146

    Hello,

    Dennett’s heterophenomenology (a real mouthful), as you have presented it, deals with nothing close to the issue that I am discussing. (And I like Dennett a lot; don’t get me wrong. Perhaps he does deal with it well. I only know what you just presented).

    “Thus if 10 million apples fall off 10 million trees and 10 million observers all observe the apples accelerating downwards with a specific rate that never changes…it can be assumed that a phenomenon called gravity exists !

    “The issue then becomes that it is easier and simpler to conjecture that gravity is an external force that operates independently of the observer than it is to conclude that 10 million observers all share some idealism mind that never makes a mistake!!”

    You have added absolutely nothing here, and do not understand this issue. I have no doubt that you’re an exceedingly smart person and quite capable of understanding it, but, again, it is obvious to me that you do not (yet) understand this issue.

    Gravity is real: Granted. (It is empirically real.) External force: Impossible to conceive of in a world of Actual Being where the division of subject and object has no place. External? External to what? What is moving through space in this world you are conjuring up? What objects? What can they be said to be? Do you mean that red apple that just fell? that nice, red, sweet-tasting apple?

    Sorry. I just want to get my point across: there is a problem.—The antithesis between the Real and the Ideal is a legitimate problem. Not BS.

    Okay.



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  • @ Alan 184

    Yes, I understand. But this thread was different. I have to say (and I don’t want to flatter myself) I think I did a fairly decent job this time representing my thesis, presenting my argument / question.

    Do not feel constrained, but could you perhaps briefly reiterate your position? (I have built-in forgetters.) When sensible qualities are eliminated (and there can be no sensible qualities inherent in “objects-in-themselves” and no objects without subjects, for that matter) what is left? What is the nature of the underlying “material reality” you have just referred to . . . and what is V?

    P.S. Homeopathy is for the birds. No offense to the birds.



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  • Dan #189
    Apr 6, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    What is the nature of the underlying “material reality” you have just referred to

    It is the physical nature of matter, energy and forces, to which science tries to match its models of the workings of the universe. (at various levels of accuracy).

    It can also be the basis for objective, probabalistic constructions of mental models in individuals, but of course individuals can also construct fanciful imaginary models which are pure fiction or “castles in the air”!

    . . . and what is V?

    “perceived mental models Versus underlying material realities”,

    Which are usually less than a 100% match.

    Bullshit and semantic word-salad, are of course, usually too incoherent to even be wrong, or to have any probability score allocated to them.



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  • @ Schrodinger’s Cat and others (Alan?)

    A bit more on gravity and other forces (and then I will give you guys
    a much needed vacation from what you all clearly regard as metaphysical
    mumbo-jumbo).

    (To be bullshit, or not to be bullshit, that is the question.)

    “let us think of some kind of machine
    constructed according to the laws of mechanics. Iron
    weights begin the motion by their gravity ; copper wheels
    resist by their rigidity, affect and raise each other and
    the lever by their impenetrability, and so on. Here
    gravity, rigidity, and impenetrability are original unex-
    plained forces ; mechanics only gives us the condition
    under which, and the manner in which, they manifest
    themselves, appear, and govern a definite matter, time,
    and place. If, now, a strong magnet is made to attract
    the iron of the weight, and overcome its gravity, the
    movement of the machine stops, and the matter becomes
    forthwith the scene of quite a different force of nature
    — magnetism, of which etiology again gives no further
    explanation than the condition under which it appears.”
    -S.



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  • P.S. Okay, I understand that what is stated in the above-quote is out of date, and may not be the last word on the subject (of forces). But that does not mean that everything the man said is wrong in its entirety. Nor does it mean that everything I have said is entirely wrong. That would be an unreasonable conclusion to draw.

    I will leave you with this: “Do not understand me too quickly.” — André Gide



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  • I think you’re forced to exclude the mind from the universe as we commonly think of it in order to justify your beliefs about the unknowable essence of things. That’s what I was getting at with trusting reason and language.



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  • @dan

    Is my premise: “things that appear are entirely different than things as they are” a valid one?

    (I’ve added quotes to make the parsing easier, I hope I didn’t destroy the meaning.)

    Since you asked, my answer – if you don’t want humour – has to be NO.

    And after that NO, the rest of your writing, no matter how well backed up by quotes from respected thinkers/writers of long ago, ceases to mean anything to me. Sorry.

    I also think that humour better addresses many of the unresolved issues of Life, the Universe, and Everything than does the kind of thinking that you appear to support. Monty Python, Black Adder, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett work far better for me at exposing truths than anything I’ve seen cataloged under “Philosophy”.

    What I find interesting, though, is that your quotes seem to pre-date the upheaval in science that led to relativity, quantum mechanics, and all that followed, putting Schrodinger’s cat among Skinner’s pigeons, to mangle a metaphor. Maybe you’re suggesting these philosophers had an inkling of what the scientists of their day had yet to encounter.

    I shall try to take your advice, and not understand you too quickly. Actually, I don’t understand you at all, but that won’t stop me answering at least some of your more rhetorical questions. Don’t take it as criticism, because, since we’re doing quotes: “Don’t criticize what you can’t understand” – Bob Dylan.



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  • @ OHooligan

    I love humor. Please use it, as much and as often as you can, and don’t feel constrained on my account; I just got a little uptight before. I’m human.

    As for the Dylan quote, I think mine is a little better, frankly – although I do appreciate the sentiment. But we can’t ever understand anything entirely, can we? Hell, you don’t have to understand everything you criticize. If we had to wait to gain a perfect understanding of things we’d never criticize anything.

    It’s all about balance (a nice, trite cliché); most of us criticize and judge and condemn too damned much, and too damned quickly! So Dylan is definitely on to something.

    Best,

    Dan



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  • @ Sean_W

    “I think you’re forced to exclude the mind from the universe as we commonly think of it in order to justify your beliefs about the unknowable essence of things.”

    I would put it this way, Sean: in order to get my interlocutors to appreciate a very subtle and (in most cases) strange and unfamiliar theory, concerning the unknowable essence of things, I must try very hard to get them to exclude, to the best of their ability, the qualities that are essentially subjective from any description of objective phenomena (so-called). Otherwise they will continue to mix up what is of subjective origin with whatever qualities may actually inhere in the objects of the universe themselves.

    Well I tried and failed. Best Wishes.—DR



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  • 197
    Olgun says:

    Dan

    My decision is not to follow up on what I have learned about philosophy in this introductory crash course because I have come to the conclusion it really is BS. I am not sure if its the first time you have used the word essence but I think it has (has to) mean something different in philosophy than it does normally and I probably have to find the essence of philosophical essence, which will take too long (a lifetime) to make any sense out of.

    Final words on this subject (I think).

    Take away what we do know and we are left with what we don’t. As we know more, your essence gets smaller. What was claimed by philosophy in 1905 has shrunk to almost nothing and will stay at that level for ever. If you take away all we know and see about the moon you get a point in space with nothing in it because the combined is what interacts with the rest of the universe not the essence?….

    The most annoying is the word salad questions with no answers. It reminds me of the poster Saif who asked Laurie to write psalms as good as Allah. I bet he’s on a high going around boasting that he asked us but we could not answer and that proves that god exists. A con trick that has him fooled first.



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  • Dan #182

    I am fully aware of the complexities of S’s thoughts on the will and how that leads him to incorporate it into his vision of solipsistic universes. This is the very essence of my complaint. Mooting an entity without parts makes it far too generative and unconstrained.

    I want to get back to your question to explain why I think you are half right but only half.

    My brother was a maths professor. He specialised in low speed fluid dynamics and claimed he could not readily converse with a high speed fluid dynamics specialist. It would take many days and weeks of mutual teaching to learn the particular maths needed.

    To most closely approach the noumenal we build models of what we think it might be and using mathematics we make the the model run. Most data it produces we really have no idea how to even think of it. The up, down, charm, sex appeal and peppermint of quarks etc., though these elements feed back into the grinding cogs of our mathematical model. A few parameters we know how to measure (at least, our models seek to enfold any errors of perception we suspect) and working from these we seek to fine tune the model to make it yield perfect prediction. Having done so we may reasonably think we have, in our model (this super charged and logical metaphor), glimpsed some of the noumenal. As we get closer and indeed master this stuff the less we seem able to understand it as once we did. We can conjur and predict in a reality that is non local but it may take us generations before we get a glimmer of understanding of it.

    So here’s the thing. Describing our best models of the noumenal takes much grounding in the phenomenal and slow and detailed growth to create these abstracted machine analogs. There is no lingo noumenese hidden in everyday speech. Our phenomenal language is a wonder of metaphor, teasing the start of abstraction out of our physical experience, but no noumen.

    No-one answered you because these is no single thing to say. But we could take you (with a lot of experiential laden and metaphorical exchanges along the way) slowly into a world of abstraction and finally get you to see a beautiful mathematical machine producing the most curious and unexpected results.

    You’ll whisper, “So is that how things in themselves actually look?”

    And I’ll look a bit shifty and say, “Yes, well, er, formally so.” I’ll shift metaphorical gears and say, “Its not the territory but it is the map of it, seemingly complete in all its un-seeable parts, the sinuous rills, the sunless seas….”



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  • @dan

    Interested in “how things work” more than the (to me) complicated and not useful word manipulation that seems to be what philosophers write, I explored maths and engineering, understanding (to my own satisfaction) the workings of governors on steam engines, bimetallic strips in thermostats, and the simple-but-complex if-then-else and while (or repeat-until, for those who recall that one) languages of programming, and I built and understood and fixed systems that did tasks useful enough for someone to pay for them.

    Then one day I examined a traffic light controller, I don’t recall if it was an actual installed one or a model, but it worked well at managing traffic flows in busy and in quiet times. And I saw the source code. It was a neural net, with the vehicle sensors and a clock as inputs, and the traffic light colour settings as outputs, and nothing in between but a small set of nodes linked to each other by very arbitrary looking numbers.

    It had been “trained”, and these numbers gave an optimal, or at least good-enough, result. I have no idea how it “works”, and neither, I suspect, do the engineers who built and trained it. I mean, “why” do those particular numbers make it work well, but other numbers don’t. I couldn’t look at it and tweak a number to make it better, or to modify its behavior (for example, by adding a pedestrian push-button to the mix), it would have to be “re-trained” in simulations, and against recorded data representing actual traffic flows, and would, presumably, find itself a new set of numbers that would work best, or at least well-enough.

    And all it needed to operate was a circuit board far less complex than the one in your phone.

    It reminded me of Richard Feynmann on QED, in which he described HOW to do the calculations, but nothing about WHY the calculations worked. They just did, and very accurately.

    I accept that I can’t understand everything, and neither can anyone else, but that doesn’t stop us. We get by, make do, make stuff happen, and learn from the results, intended and otherwise. Like that neural net, we are trained to get “good enough” results to survive. Mostly.

    I don’t think there’s any deeper real truth to be found under it all, and I don’t think there even can be one, but I don’t want anyone to stop looking.

    Dan, I think you’re barking up the wrong tree, but, hey, I could be wrong. It might be the tree that suits you best, and maybe there’s something up there after all. On the other hand, if you decide to try other trees, I’d be very interested to hear about it. Cheers.



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  • @Olgun 197 (Phil?)

    First of all, thank you, Ohooligan (if you’re reading) for that interesting comment. I enjoyed reading it.

    Olgun (and Phil if you’re reading), I didn’t want to continue this, wanted to put this aside for a while, as it may be an exercise in futility.

    Please listen: if I asked you to tell me what a flower looks like to a blind person that would be a “con trick.” If I asked you what a person without knowledge knows about a flower that would be a con trick. Okay? I am not asking what a a person without knowledge knows! I am asking what a person WITH knowledge (you) can tell me about any object independently of a subject.

    What I am asking you to do is this: try to separate the qualities that are clearly and unmistakably of subjective origin, from the qualities (such as energy or pure matter, or atoms) that may inhere in the object itself (flower, moon – take your pick).

    This might clear things up: I ask you to describe a pencil but you must eliminate all of the qualities that we see. So you would say: hard, long, etc. Now! Take that and extend it. Describe what qualities inhere in the pencil when touch and sight are eliminated. Then eliminate sound. (One could tap it or poke you with it). Now eliminate knowledge. Science is realistic. (It rejects Idealism.) What does realism mean? What has it taught us? What is that based on? So tell me what is left over. What is the unperceived pencil? What qualities does it have? (Is it solid, for example? Maybe solidity remains. So tell me about solidity. What is it?)Tell me you’re stumped but don’t tell me that this is gobbledygook.

    You don’t think that the sun is round do you? You are able to understand this concept, aren’t you? There is, I say, a difference between that which appears and that which is, although I am raising the question as to the nature of that “scientifically real” universe of objects that you and others are always talking about.

    The universe doesn’t care! That’s all I hear. Okay, then it doesn’t care; it existed before us and will continue to exist after we (all living things) are extinct and knowledge is no more. So tell me! For God’s sake, tell me what remains when our inconsequential minds are no longer there. What is left of the object? Is it matter? Is it energy? Is it possible to say anything definitive about any object in nature independently of the senses and the understanding? Try, try very hard to exclude, to the best of your ability, the qualities that are essentially subjective from any description of objective phenomena (so-called). Otherwise you will continue to mix up what is of subjective origin with whatever qualities may actually inhere in the objects of the universe themselves. Is the sun yellow? The universe doesn’t care whether we perceive it or not, but what can we say about this universe that is indifferent to us.

    Name one quality! Just one! What is left when you take away the qualities that are of subjective origin. Someone above said something about atoms. Okay, atoms. Tell me about atoms. Tell me anything. I am waiting.

    I said in the past that the subject of the distinction between what IS and what APPEARS is subtly apprehended, and I was right. (In fact, Schopenhauer tells the readers about this, says that people cling to realism and reject idealism out of force of habit, and because this is the natural disposition of the intellect; it operates empirically, starts from the object and forgets the subject. — And it is almost impossible to get them to alter this view, this way of thinking.)

    This is NOT word salad. You have my word of honor, sir. This is a profound question and I am a profound man in my way, and a truthful one.

    Kind Regards,

    Dan



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  • @ Phil

    Sorry, Phil. I hadn’t yet read your comment 198. Sorry if I appeared to ignore what you said there in the above-comment. I will try to reply a bit more thoroughly in a day or so. I did glance at it just now, and noticed the word “noumenal,” which you have used before. You also have said that there has been or will be “glimpses” of it. What do you mean by noumenon? Perhaps we aren’t so far apart on this. Perhaps we are.

    You’ll whisper, “So is that how things in themselves actually look?”

    This bothered me. As I said, we cannot see what cannot be seen or know what cannot be known! That is nonsensical, of course. I am asking you and others something entirely different – and this has been almost impossible for me to make clear but I will try yet again!

    Hmm. How should I put this?

    Just how far can knowledge go? What are we capable of knowing at this point in time about so-called objects independently of the senses? If we eliminate the senses are we still justified in calling them objects? What can we know about objects independently of perception? What can we know about anything is like, what its nature is, when knowledge is absent. There was a time, Phil, when there was no consciousness. That is a reasonable assumption, unless you believe in an eternal, all-knowing God. So are we able to say anything concrete (Irony intended) about this universe and the objects that fill it?

    If you are not a transcendental idealist like me then it is incumbent upon you to provide a satisfactory answer.

    “The moon is an infinitely ambiguous entity, without a conscious mind to apprehend it in some way.”

    We are back to my original (paraphrased) quote. Full circle.



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  • Dan.

    Let me only put the most accurately guessed at words in your mouth.

    You’ll whisper, “So is that how you claim things in themselves actually look?”

    I will await you commenting on the internal parts of that post.

    Are gluons objects?

    O’Hooligan.

    Feynman and Quantum Electro-Dynamics. This is the perfect example of mastery where understanding trails sadly behind. Quantum Electro Dynamics, Dear Granny, is the most precise map, the most exquisitely precise working model we have ever made. We have every reason to believe, to date, it comports with this little sector of reality. Our understanding of the thing though necessarily lags well behind and may never catch up because understanding is so rooted in our physical experiential selves.

    Feynman was always making physical models (in his head) and testing them often by taking the system to extremes to see the results, to test, in effect, the universality of the model. The precession of a wobbling dinner plate thrown in the air and its mathematics formed the basis of his modeling of electron behaviour in QED.

    But understanding is the process of finding entities and causal processes familiar. Further we curiously pay extra attention to the causal processes underwritten by the “intention” of an agent. (All part of our wired hyper vigilance for agency). The desire for this reassuring “Understanding” is a powerful motor that projected us additionally on the path of mastery.



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  • Dan #189
    Apr 6, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    P.S. Homeopathy is for the birds. No offense to the birds.

    But unlike birds, and more like creationists or AGW deniers, its advocates insist on doubt-mongering science, by seeking to investigate pseudo-controversies which may massage their confirmation biases, while ignoring the soundly researched evidence which is right under their noses!



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  • “The moon is an infinitely ambiguous entity,

    To whom?

    without a conscious mind to apprehend it in some way.”

    A conscious mind excluded but not excluded….

    “The moon is an unapprehended entity, without a conscious mind to apprehend it in some way.”

    at least can mean something and is a help in defining a possible property of conscious minds.

    It can of course be unwittingly experienced, just as we do when sightless we feel the tide rush around our feet. We have been essentially unwitting in our experience of what we have chosen to call quarks, yet experience them we do. “Witting” yet still unconscious ants experience the moon and respond to it. The blind sight lunar phobic will not acknowledge why he will regularly not go out of the cottage door some nights.

    “Conscious” used in this kind of metaphysical deliberation, because of the inadequate nature of the signs for it, (in my terms lacking detailed parts) is overly and spuriously generative in its outcomes.

    To his great credit, though his later work was a bit of a failure for Wittgenstein, it was nobly so. He embarked on the idea of aspect-perception. Before the psychology was in, he was imagining the kind of parts that may go to build up consciousness. (He would have loved to know about my aunt Brenda, her ability to recognise precisely my brother’s form, but not recognise the man’s bodily familiarity to her.)

    All things interact with all other things by their natures even when some things are conscious (however, defined) and despite the inevitable attraction of solipsism.



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  • @ Phil

    “The moon is an unapprehended entity, without a conscious mind to apprehend it in some way.”

    I never said this. This is not what I am positing, and I have been laboring to get you and others not to interpret my idea in this way. The moon IS an apprehended entity. If you are not a transcendental idealist than you are a realist. I am the former and you are the latter. No? You believe that what you and other observers and scientists study is real. My question, for the umpteenth time: what can you say about any real quality that exists independently of the mind? If you cannot answer this once and for all, then I will conclude that you are (without knowing it) an idealist just like me. (And idealism is not solipsism, btw.)

    Gluons. Are they objects? You tell me.



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  • Why don’t you address anything I say? You just reset or block. I gave my concession to answering the question quite a while ago and have been trying to get some further exchange from you on why the thing is of interest.

    Science attempts to do what you ask in a more complete fashion. It attempts to entirely write Qualia out of its accounts. It is a slow process and has been going on for years, with most of its work still ahead. What you are asking me to say is quite beyond any one person because it is a very long process and it must start, disappointingly for you stuffed with Qualia-invoking steps on the lower rungs of its ladder. And after the centuries of account Methusela Dan may be pissed off that all he got was this lousy map instead of the direct view.

    A philosophical account is of no value if it can’t affect our daily thoughts and actions. I can’t see the affects of yours. Though my account is partially observational and not strictly philosophical I think it can have an affect.



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  • @ Phil 207

    “You just reset or block.”

    I might be doing that a little. Sorry. You do it to me too. I feel that you don’t respond to some of the fine points but act as though they were never stated. I could be wrong about that too, and will try to improve, read your comments more carefully. Perhaps I am unconsciously avoiding the pain of some kind of psychic death at the foot of an irresistible and unceasing avalanche of opposition and derision. But I shouldn’t present my ideas and then avert my eyes; a timorous attitude is unworthy of a member of a site such as this, or of a serious student of ideas and of truth.

    I do recall a concession (number?), but it sounded flippant; you were conceding too much, or so I thought. So I asked you if it was sincere, and didn’t hear back from you.

    As for the reason why this is important, I hesitate again to open up that can of worms at the moment.—But just for the record, my conception of sympathy and the all-important subject of freedom versus determinism, is inextricably bound up with my repudiation of Materialism (Realism) as I have come to understand it.

    Let me ask you this. You made an interesting comment about W. in comment 204. “Before the psychology was in, he was imagining the kind of parts that may go to build up consciousness.” I am reading the Investigations now and was prepared to scoff at his discussion of “Nothung”, the old Norse sword. He asks whether we are justified in naming the sword a sword if it had been rendered to bits. I thought this was bullshit and it may be, or not be: is this perhaps an example of something from his late work that might have led to some insights re “consciousness-building” or do you not recall W’s “Nothung”?



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  • @ Phil

    P.S. Freedom vs. necessity, compassion, beauty, the possibility of transcendence or enlightenment, (universal vs particular and the apprehension of the Ideas), establishing a view of existence, pessimism vs optimism, affirmation or denial of the will to live, resignation / suffering, wisdom, insight …Those are all just words, and as I said I do not wish to explain why all this is so important at this time, but there are some words for you. That’s all I wish to do/say now.



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  • Michael #41
    Apr 1, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    Alan4discussion, you are jumping too much into conclusions when you’re debating, it’s surprizing for someone who cherishes the scientific method. Don’t make assumptions of people, I wouldn’t just look into a gossip blog and make up my mind.

    Michael #88
    Apr 3, 2016 at 8:50 am

    What I did about Benveniste case was reading a first article, or a youtube video (I can’t even remember).

    Mmmmm!

    Michael #135
    Apr 5, 2016 at 11:08 am

    I am not sure if Benveniste’s original protocol was with histamine, also, not sure if the experiment details are exactly the same. This could be interesting to check out.

    While enquiry is to be commended, this does seem to be a strange question to be asking, after claiming to have checked out all the links to the relevant peer-reviewed studies and Wiki in your comment @#88 (quoted below)!

    Michael #88
    Apr 3, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Then I went to every source (among which the ones you mentioned excerpts from) and at each material, there were more references, and I went on checking them on and on and on. You can do the same.

    This quote also suggests severe limitations in the diligence of your “checking on and on and on”!

    Michael #122
    Apr 4, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    I know very little about homeopathy in general and I never had enough exposure to it to think about it.



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  • @ Phil

    “A philosophical account is of no value if it can’t affect our daily thoughts and actions.”

    Philosophy is like art. It is quite dispensable. But that which produces inaction and yet enriches us mentally and emotionally has value.

    Pragmatism. I am not impressed.

    How does Wittgenstein affect our daily thoughts and actions, other than by producing irritation?



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  • 212
    Cairsley says:

    To Dan #168

    … According to one doctrine he wills what he knows, and according to the other he knows what he wills.

    This final sentence of your excellent quotation from Arthur Schopenhauer summarizes nicely what he is discussing in that passage. Phenomenologically, both options are found to occur in the experience of any one human being. In some cases one forms the will for something on the basis of what one knows, and in other cases one finds in what one wills what one knows. Willing and knowing are two different functions we are at least sometimes conscious of in our lives, and philosophers have favored various ways of describing how these and other functions of “mind” and the like might be related to each other in the workings of the personality. What was always lacking in these deliberations until the emergence of neurology and the cognitive sciences was any real evidence of the mind, what it consists of, and how it actually operates. Whether “knowledge” precedes or follows “will” was, given the lack of real evidence one way or the other, an open question over which much ink was applied. Schopenhauer, being a latter-day Augustinian on this matter, goes one way, whereas someone like Kant, a latter-day Aristotelian, goes the other way. You will never resolve the matter by harping on about what philosophers wrote on it before any real evidence was available on what a mind is (a generatum of the brain) and how the brain and nervous system, which generate mind, actually work. What scientists are discovering in this field now is very interesting and well worth a look-in. They are now beginning to explain how it is that we will anything, know anything and even ask questions (will to knowledge!) about it all.



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  • To Cairsley # 212

    Hello again!

    I’d like to know how we will. Can you give me a hint? “They are beginning to explain” how we will. I’d like to hear what “they” have to say, even if they are just beginning to explain this. (Is explaining how we will something the same as understanding the true nature of the will? I am skeptical. Everything produces some observable activity in the brain. Thoughts, decisions, not thinking, not deciding, desiring, not desiring.—All of this can be observed by studying synaptic responses. This explanation of “how we will” would be given by people who can only talk about neurons and chemical messages and synaptic moments in the brain.)

    I do need to make something clear, if it isn’t already. Willing, according to Schopenhauer is NOT a function of the mind or brain. (I’m fine with “brain.” Btw, I looked up the word generatum. No definition to be found. What does it mean?) He differed from other “philosophers” in that regard. I know you think that the brain wills and that therefore the will is IN the brain, and maybe you’re right, but Schopenhauer never thought it was, and I don’t either. (“The brain wills.” Sounds somewhat absurd when one puts it that way, doesn’t it? To be precise and fair, you did also say that “we” will.)

    Have you ever seen a film of someone undergoing brain surgery? Perhaps you’re an MD. Ever had a look inside there? Not too pretty. It’s hard to imagine that acts of good-will, acts of kindness, emanate from that organ in our skulls. It is like saying that goodness comes from the heart in a literal sense. No different, as far as I am concerned. Are we our organs? Is that what we are? Maybe so.

    What are we? Does anyone really know?

    In spite of your interesting and informative comment – and you have a most forceful style of writing, as do I – I am, as I said, not (yet) convinced that willing is a mental act.

    Augustine believed that knowing was secondary and that willing was non-mental and primary? Well my opinion of Augustine just went up a few notches.



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  • Dan

    generatum is Latin for generated, so in this instance a thing generated by the brain.

    “A philosophical account is of no value if it can’t affect our daily thoughts or actions.”

    and

    But that which produces inaction and yet enriches us mentally and emotionally has value.

    My phrase corrected to reflect my intention.



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  • Dan #208

    W’s (seriously intentioned) language “games” were an attempt at testing the rigor of signs under a variety of usage conditions. This was all much earlier than his thoughts on aspect-perception etc. and I’m not sure how the two might connect, if at all. I need to think about it.

    Broadly what emerges from his consideration of what he came to term language games, is that language is not the rigorous rule governed behaviour some philosophers would propose, but has a plasticity, an interactive give and take with its users, shaping and being shaped.

    Polysemous language is the bane of the professional user of language, who seeks its elimination and ever greater precision in the signs she employs, but does so at the expense of the endless tiny prompts to creative thinking and the inductive motor of metaphor.

    All professional language is a work in progress. The greatest philosophical rigor is achieved in formal logic, set theory and maths. These qualia-stripped signs are our cultural and intellectual jewel, the machine that works the same for all conscious living entities in the Universe we presume, but ruthlessly stripped as they are, they can only map experience not provide it.



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  • 216
    Cairsley says:

    To Dan #213

    Hello again, Dan.

    You write: “I’d like to know how we will.” Is this an admission on your part that Schopenhauer has not answered this question for you? Well, in that case, you are in the same boat as the rest of us. No philosopher can answer that question, unless he or she or (in a future time) it gets down and dirty with facts and evidence. That is what neurologists and other cognitive scientists are working on, and they have already made some significant progress. You can do your own homework on that.

    I quite agree that Schopenhauer did not regard the will as a function of mind or brain. In #212 I was expressing my thoughts, not Schopenhauer’s, but I can see how my use of ‘mind’ there could imply, quite incorrectly, that I thought Schopenhauer understood will thus. In any case, I see no reason to constrain one’s thinking on this topic to the terms set down by Schopenhauer, who, after all, offers no reason why his exposition of his own intuitions should be accepted as an account of how things really work. Indeed, this is one of the striking characteristics of Schopenhauer’s writing. Take an excerpt from your excellent quotation at #168:

    … According to my fundamental point of view, all this is a reversal of the true relation. Will is first and original; knowledge is merely added to it as an instrument belonging to the phenomenon of will. Therefore every man is what he is through his will, and his character is original, for willing is the basis of his nature. Through the knowledge which is added to it he comes to know in the course of experience what he is, i.e., he learns his character. …

    Thus wrote Schopenhauer. So what? Nowhere does he provide any reason why anyone else should accept his account of human nature. He merely asserts it. At least the cognitive scientists of today are actually working on finding out how it is that we are conscious and do things like reasoning and willing, both apparently appearing in consciousness only after much has already happened subconsciously in the nervous system and brain.

    You write: “I know you think the brain wills and that therefore the will is IN the brain…” I think no such thing, dear fellow. Willing is a phenomenon of the organism (the soul), as Schopenhauer thought and most other philosophers have thought. How that comes about, however, is the result, as we now know, of immensely complex cerebral processes. Brains do not will or reason, only organisms with sufficiently complex brains have such conscious experiences.

    You ask what ‘generatum’ means. Go on, Dan! You can do better than that.

    Whether willing is a mental act or not depends very much on the sense in which you are using the term ‘mind’. Schopenhauer, writing in German and therefore understandably using the word ‘Geist’, which is usually translated as ‘mind’ in English, quite naturally set ‘Geist’ and ‘Wille’ side by side as two different functions. Another English translation of ‘Geist’ is ‘intellect’, which is probably closer to the usual semantic range of the German word. The English word ‘mind’ has been used in a much broader sense, for example by the British empiricists, as the conscious entity that experiences all manner of impressions, sense-data, images, ideas, desires, intentions and so on. The seventeenth-century rationalists also used ‘mind’ (Descartes’ ‘esprit’) in a similarly broad sense, that encompassed anything of which one could be conscious, including acts of will. Obviously, Schopenhauer, using ‘Geist’ and ‘Wille’, and insisting on the priority of ‘Wille’ over ‘Geist’, hardly saw ‘Wille’ as an act of ‘Geist’.

    But what is all that to us, who just want to know how come we experience will and knowledge and all those other things we experience, like imaginings, desires, hunches, emotions, inclinations, intentions, concepts and so on, along with perceptions of the world around us? No philosopher is going to provide us with answers to such questions. To answer such questions, we need facts, empirical evidence, and the rigor of the scientific method of enquiry.



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  • Hello, Cairsley,

    “You write: ‘I’d like to know how we will.’ ”

    Alluding sarcastically (sorry) to the neuroscientists (who sound like they are, in a Faustian sense, on their way to amassing the totality of knowledge), and what they are beginning to explain. I think I know at least one essential thing about how we will. (This applies only to the will in relation to our conscious actions, however. We must, as you know, have a much broader understanding of Schopenhauer’s will.) The motive, presented through the medium of knowledge, acts upon the will, and we then act. That’s it in a nutshell. Disagree?

    “You write: ‘I know you think the brain wills and that therefore the will is IN the brain…’ I think no such thing, dear fellow. Willing is a phenomenon of the organism (the soul), as Schopenhauer thought and most other philosophers have thought. How that comes about, however, is the result, as we now know, of immensely complex cerebral processes. Brains do not will or reason, only organisms with sufficiently complex brains have such conscious experiences.”

    I am sorry that I put words in your mouth, but the rest is, in my honest opinion, meaningless, and many, many people, by the way, have said that about my comments, so you are in excellent company. (Read this thread and you’ll see). Please do not be offended, and try to have the humility to consider the possibility that you are saying very little here. I am referring to the above quote.

    “Willing is a phenomenon of the organism (soul).”

    How could it not be a phenomenon associated with the organism in some way? Action, not willing, is phenomenon.—The will itself cannot be perceived, can it?

    ”(Soul)”

    S. never confuses the animal organism with soul—or with will, for that matter.

    “How that comes about.”

    How what comes about? willing? If we do something, raise our hand, we attribute it to will, do we not? That is how we associate will with the body. But what determines the will and what is the will and what is it that wills?

    “…as we now know.”

    I thought we were “just beginning to explain” how willing works.

    “Brains do not will or reason, only organisms with sufficiently complex brains have such conscious experiences.”

    So what is it that wills and what precisely are we conscious of other than our actions?

    “Whether willing is a mental act or not depends very much on the sense in which you are using the term ‘mind.’ “

    No, it depends on whether it is a mental act or not.

    “…we need facts, empirical evidence…”

    Schopenhauer did attempt to answer these and other questions. I think he is not given enough credit, and to say that because he was a 19th Century philosopher (a label) and not a modern-day neuroscientist he was incapable of shedding light on this subject and others, seems to me unfair. Schopenhauer’s theory of the will as something entirely separate from the intellect, and as the thing-in-itself, present in everything “from the magnet and the crystal up to man,” is also very interesting and also well worth a look-in. He was a highly responsible and logical thinker (assumed nothing, took nothing for granted). His conclusions are no less logical than the conclusions of any scientist worthy of the name. He never presented groundless assertions, despised groundless assertions:

    “[…] since the terms of the question [concerning the basis of morality, a question posed by the Danish Royal Society of Sciences] enforce the separation of ethics from all metaphysics, there remains nothing but the analytic method, which proceeds from facts either of external experience, or of consciousness…”

    Please remember: he was a critical idealist; he eliminated from phenomena those qualities that are rooted in perception (his method to a large extent), and his conclusions regarding the will as something incapable of being observed by itself, has much to do with what it is not, as opposed to what it is. But establishing what something is not, is as important as establishing what something is. In other words, the act of will is empirical. He observed the actions of his own body. His conclusion that his own will could not be conceived as a representation of perception, i.e., empirical in nature, not capable of being observed, is a conclusion based on logic and reason, arrived at through painstaking, careful analysis. We’re talking about one of the greatest thinkers that ever lived.

    Have you studied his work carefully?” I urge you and others to do so.

    “Thus we see already that we can never arrive at the inner nature of things from without. However much we investigate, we can never reach anything but images and names. We are like a man who goes round a castle seeking in vain for an entrance, and sometimes sketching the facades. And yet this is the method that has been followed by all philosophers before me.

    “In fact, the meaning for which we seek of that world which is present to us only as my representation, or the transition from the world as mere representation of the knowing subject to whatever it may be besides this, would never be found if the investigator himself were nothing more than the pure knowing subject (a winged cherub without a body). But he is himself rooted in that world; he finds himself in it as an individual, that is to say, his knowledge, which is the necessary supporter of the whole world as representation, is yet always given through the medium of a body, whose affections are, as we have shown, the starting-point for the understanding in its perception of this world. For the purely knowing subject as such, this body is a representation like any other, an object among objects. Its movements and actions are so far known to him in the same way as the changes of all other perceived objects, and would be just as strange and incomprehensible to him if their meaning were not explained to him in an entirely different way. Otherwise, he would see his actions follow upon given motives with the constancy of a law of nature, just as the changes of other objects follow upon causes, stimuli, or motives. But he would not understand the influence of the motives any more than the connection between every other effect which he sees and its cause. He would then call the inner nature of these manifestations and actions of his body which he did not understand a force, a quality, or a character, as he pleased, but he would have no further insight into it. But all this is not the case; indeed the answer to the riddle is given to the subject of knowledge who appears as an individual, and the answer is Will. This and this alone gives him the key to his own phenomenon, reveals to him the significance, shows him the inner mechanism of his being, of his action, of his movements. The body is given in two entirely different ways to the subject of knowledge, who becomes an individual only through his identity with it. It is given as a representation in intelligent perception, as an object among objects subject to the laws of objects. And it is also given in quite a different way as that which is immediately known to every one, and is signified by the word will. Every true act of his will is also at once and without exception a movement of his body. The act of will and the movement of the body are not two different things objectively known, which the bond of causality unites; they do not stand in the relation of cause and effect; they are one and the same, but they are given in two entirely different ways, first quite directly, and again in perception for the understanding. The action of the body is nothing but the act of the will objectified, i.e., passed into perception. It will appear later that this is true of every movement of the body, not merely those which follow upon motives, but also involuntary movements which follow upon mere stimuli; indeed, that the whole body is nothing but objectified will, i.e., will become representation. All this will be proved and made quite clear in the course of this work.” (A.S., WWR, Vol. 1, Bk 2, End of §17, §18)

    Sorry about generatum. No college degree . . . The mind is generated by the brain? Never thought of that. That is interesting. (Seriously.)



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  • P.S. We have discovered mind thru science? Generatum? When did that happen?

    We know very little about representation to and of the self, or as the self, which we ordinarily mean by mind, from science. We know more about the brain, and correspondences between pulses etc in the brain and states of awareness, vividness, mood, etc., however nothing to resolve the discrepancy between matter (bag of meat) and awareness that is “generated” (!!)



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  • Dan #218

    In saying a mind is a product of a brain (which is attested to by every piece of hard evidence so far) we must not forget it sits at the end of wires sensing all manner of things arrayed across our bodies AND that it is a container of experience and pre-thought thoughts, its own and others. That it cognises primarily in terms of its own body’s properties and secondarily in some metaphorical mode based on that and thirdly in some shared cultural inferencing based on those.

    Try Damasio The Feeling of What Happens.



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  • Cairsley 213

    “Nowhere does he provide any reason why anyone else should accept his account of human nature. He merely asserts it.”

    Nowhere? His entire chief work (along with his treatise on the principle of sufficient reason) is a prodigious attempt to provide reasons why his readers should do just that. It is a rich work, a complete philosophic system, and while you might not agree with his theory of the moral character or feel that he has presented it to your satisfaction, you cannot say that he provides no reasons. That is just false. In fact your statement is a “mere assertion.” Nothing more. I see no point in continuing this exchange, frankly.



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  • @ Phil

    To be honest, Phil, I am all confused about this mind-brain issue (which I have never thought about). I didn’t know that neuroscientists and had been working on this. I don’t really see the problem. The word Mind has various uses; it is virtually synonymous with the brain in many cases, and largely metaphorical in others (like the word heart). We don’t say: “I am going to operate on his mind,” do we? But we could say: “use your brain and imagine!” In fact, one could say that the mind has conceived of the brain, but that is simply saying that the brain has conceived of the brain, etc. But solve the problems of the brain and you’ve solved the problem of mind, and vice-versa; both are functions of the animal organism.

    There is no mind-body problem. That was one of S’s achievements; he drove the last nail into the coffin and we now know that consciousness (which is still the hard problem) is physiological through and through. But since no one read him then and no one does anything now but attack, it’s as if we’re back in ancient times, as far as that false duality is concerned.

    I do think that the issue of self, or what we are, is an equally hard problem, and one that neuroscience may or may not be able to address, as self may not be observable in any ordinary scientific sense. Let’s say that what we are, in the final analysis, can be conceived of as what we do (will!); our self, perhaps, is the sum total of our actions; being is acting. Perhaps not. In any case, how could neuroscience address something like that? That is a moral answer to a scientific question. In other words, if what we are can only be understood in a moral sense (we are good, or seeking the good, are bad, something in-between, etc.) how could that possibly be discovered or demonstrated? That would be a judgment based on one’s values and one’s philosophical life-view, or one’s theory of what gives life meaning or purpose.

    A non-physical explanation like that would not necessarily be the wrong explanation.

    Just thinking aloud.



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  • Comment 213

    Cairsley, don’t feel constrained. You can tell me that you think Schopenhauer was full of shit and that I am confused (which I am, although not altogether confused). After all, this is a unique thread: the official BS thread.

    It’s just hard to reply to a statement like “S. makes assertions.” when the man wrote so much. All I can say is read him, in his entirety and carefully. You can always find selections that appear to be groundless if you take them out of context. Now he might be wrong, but his assertions are never (or hardly ever) just mere assertions, i.e., groundless.

    I don’t think what language he wrote in is, in this case, significant. His meanings are clear enough. Mind (knowing) is mind and will is will, and the twain (according to S) shall never meet, or more precisely, are not identical. So why bring in all of that stuff about the ambiguity and confusion associated with the word mind? That has nothing to do with anything; we’re not talking about British empiricists or Descartes, are we? That’s just willful obfuscation, disguised as important historical facts.



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  • A different perspective, for what it’s worth:

    “Scientists cannot use brain scans to look into the brain and see what you’re thinking. Brain scans and the pretty pictures associated with them, are not at all what they seem. Right now, beyond a doubt, if you see the root neuro- attached to any term at all, suspect pseudoscience bullshit. Period.

    “And so enters Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience, by Sally Satel and Scott O. Lilienfied:

    “You’ve Seen The Headlines: This is your brain on love. Or God. Or envy. Or happiness. And they’re reliably accompanied by articles boasting pictures of color-drenched brains — scans capturing Buddhist monks meditating, addicts craving cocaine, and college sophomores choosing Coke over Pepsi. The media — and even some neuroscientists, it seems — love to invoke the neural foundations of human behavior to explain everything from the Berne Madoff financial fiasco to slavish devotion to our iPhones, the sexual indiscretions of politicians, conservatives’ dismissal of global warming, and even an obsession with selt-tanning.” –Author of these words unknown

    http://www.gustrength.com/books:brainwashed-seductive-appeal-of-mindless-neuroscie



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  • @ Phil

    Damasio

    Read review. Many extracts. Mostly medical stuff, incomprehensible to me. The rest is liking pouring words from one vessel into another vessel.

    (In Damasio’s terminology, “object” may refer to a thing external to the body but also to a toothache or a state of bliss; this may be the source of some unnecessary confusion, which I will try and avoid).
    The thesis is an elaboration on his former claim that feeling is “the realization of a
    nexus between an object and an emotional body state” (Damasio, 1994, p. 132).

    From review by Aldo Mosca

    Is this a joke? Feeling is a realization? I think we have to feel a feeling in order to feel it, and if we do not have a realization we can’t realize it. So far so good. Feeling is an emotional body state? Not a feeling? Nexus? In other words, we know that there is a connection between an object of knowledge (pain) and our knowledge of the pain? Object “may” refer…? But everything known is an object of knowledge. This is BS, imo. Thanks but no thanks.



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  • Dan #221

    In philosophical terms I think the self is trivial at the scale of “The Hard Problem” as defined by David Chalmers (the coiner of the term).

    One proposal for the self is as a result of us forming models of agents (other people, creatures etc.) so that we can run simulations in given or imagined circumstances to better predict the future. The realisation that the simulation was incomplete until we provided a usable model of ourselves led (the hypothesis goes) to the habit of the self. As we have discussed about the will, it is the recognition that it is ourselves letting down the plan by not blithely doing as we had expected that leads to an introspection of what it is that we are and want to be.

    Fairly recently (as well as periodically before) I wrote here about my exchanges with Dennett and my suggestion that a lot of the quality of self conscious experience comes comes from the second by second maintenance of a compact self model.

    The Hard Problem, by contrast ranks with the other Philosophical biggy (why is there something rather than nothing?) being- why does experience consist of qualia? Why aren’t we p-zombies?

    224

    Somehow you have has missed Damasio’s key definition. Feelings are emotions introspected upon. D points out that emotions affect our cognition but the fact of then is not always cognised. (We can be stressed with high levels of cortisol without realising it.) We learn to read our body state, we learn to introspect upon it and the result is feelings. These are realised (the objects made real out of inferences upon inferences drawn together from our various outlying bodily conditions, muscle tension, heart rate, breathing, inability to settle, etc. etc. etc. hence his use of nexus). Lest you think otherwise this is not the totality of his thinking on feelings and their sources, but he does see it as some kind of substrate. This, incidentally, is the same substrate that Sapolsky uses for our metaphoric cognitions. Those root feelings/introspections are the very stuff of the metaphorical extensions of good and bad, safe and scary, disgusting and attractive and as reflected in much of our language.



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  • @Phil

    Interesting comment above.
    Please disregard my own comment. (224) I did read part of a review which included quotes.
    That comment, however, was unworthy of me.
    I didn’t read Damasio’s book and don’t want to discourage others from reading it.
    I just get tired of people who haven’t read great philosophy saying that it’s “great but we now know this and that,” etc.
    But two wrongs don’t make a right.
    As for feelings, Schopenhauer has said (and I have mentioned this) that a feeling alone cannot produce knowledge of an object, or of a source. That requires understanding. Is this a valid distinction?
    I haven’t missed anything; I made no real attempt to understand Damasio in the first place, was turned off from the get-go. My bad, as some of the commenters here say.



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  • @ Phil

    “As for feelings, Schopenhauer has said (and I have mentioned this) that a feeling alone cannot produce knowledge of an object, or of a source. That requires understanding. Is this a valid distinction?”

    Distinction: Knowledge / understanding. Not knowledge as opposed to feeling.
    You have to know (experience, have) a pain in order to feel the pain. Many forms and gradations of knowing.
    Questions: Must all feeling be accompanied by knowledge? What is knowing and when does it cease to be knowing?
    All object-recognition requires knowledge, but must a feeling (in order to be felt) necessarily be an object of some form of knowledge? You say no, right?
    “Having a feeling and not knowing it as in stress from raised cortisol.” Questionable. It is experienced and therefore known in some way. The sufferer would say: “Oh yes, I was more stressed than usual, wasn’t I”? In the heat of the moment he is not reflecting, however. Many forms and gradations of knowing.
    (I do think I got the gist of his point without knowing it.)
    These questions can be answered just as well by a good philosopher.
    I will try to read the book and get back to you (if I can) at some future time. Too many medical terms, like hippocampus, etc. I am not a doctor.



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  • Must all feeling be accompanied by knowledge?

    Damasio’s “feelings” are necessarily self knowledge.

    “Having a feeling and not knowing it as in stress from raised cortisol.” Questionable. It is experienced

    No it truly often isn’t as any GP (family doctor) will tell you. It will not be something you are aware of if the subconscious heuristics used to judge potential salience have not judged it so. This status which confers awareness and the cortical inference generations that accompany introspection is used sparingly as we have discussed before. Too much stuff will crowd in if potential salience isn’t triaged and energy use is, as we know, conserved by some of our most primitive drivers.

    Some of the most important aspects of our humanity reside in the hippocampus. It is a gatekeeper of our memories, valuing them, linking them, forming that aspect you most treasure about our intellect-our teasing out and addiction to causality.

    It is what makes us more than anything Homo Memorator, Man the Narrator.



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  • 229
    Cairsley says:

    To Dan

    Hello again, Dan. Sorry for my delay in returning. I see Phil Rimmer has put in a word or two on my behalf in the course of his own exchange with you; which was kind of him. Apologies if ‘generatum’ actually caused a problem — Google would have put you right.

    Your complaint about British empiricists and Descartes being irrelevant overlooks the fact that I referred to them in clarifying my position after you had misattributed a certain view to me regarding will and mind. So, no, it was not wilful obfuscation, though you readiness to attribute such mischief to others is noted.

    First, I must say it is unfortunate that I left you thinking I had a bad opinion of Arthur Schopenhauer. I actually think of him as one of the saner nineteenth-century German philosophers, among whom he is one of the clearest and most readable writers. His writing gives one a sense of his own personal integrity. Although I do not accept Schopenhauer’s account of will and intellect, I certainly do not regard it as bullshit or even as nonsense.

    As I indicated before, my problem with Schopenhauer, as with all philosophers working independently of the scientific method and without the basis of scientifically established facts, is the lack of testable evidence in support of whatever hypothesis is being maintained. This was what I had in mind when I maintained that Schopenhauer gives us no reason to accept his account as a reliable guide to what will and intellect are and how they really work. I see, however, that you do not wish to continue this discussion, so we can leave it at that.



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  • I have to endorse Cairsley’s view of S.

    For me he is at his most valuable as the most astute of observers of the real world.

    I think I also need to defend S, though, in relation to his science compatible mode of working. His work on colour vision (we discussed it here a while back) was teetering on the brink of a psychological/physiological breakthrough. He was close to an understanding of the oppositional nature of the colour experience and our understanding of a (triangular) colour space.

    Being a man with a philosophical theory, however, I fear stopped him short of seeing that there were two crucial aspects composing the experience of colour, not just the internal detector responses and algorithmic internal representation. What he overlooked in his enthusiam to have Qualia be the “projection”t of the subject, the observer, was that (some) colour was in some substantive way entirely physical and external. Keen to trash both Hooke and Newton elsewhere he neglected the significance of Newton’s (Hooke’s) Rings and the clear demonstration of physically differentiatable colours by means of a dimension, (these more clearly so than the use of an angle and a prism).

    It strikes me that the primarily philosophically inclined seek the simple and the singular. Pragmatic scientists see astonishing complexity, expect it and look for it, becoming “philosophical” only when observations dry up.

    I notice that most of my complaints about the philosophical is its lack of parts, of sufficient internal structure.



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  • I notice that most of my complaints about the philosophical is its
    lack of parts, of sufficient internal structure.

    The one thing that Dan won’t or doesn’t seem to understand.

    From what I have seen, philosophy is an intellectual pastime. There are two conversations on this subject. One is about actual life and the other a search for which philosopher said what and totally to do with that and nothing to do with the task at hand. I have not read anything that may suggest there is a crossover?

    And as Cairsley said:

    as with all philosophers working independently of the scientific
    method and without the basis of scientifically established facts



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  • @ Cairsley, Phil, Olgun

    Hi, nice to hear back from you, Cairsley. I welcome that, and I am not unwilling to continue (as I said in comment 222). Did you read my comments carefully? Have you read the “great” Schopenhauer carefully?

    Some thoughts:

    First of all, “great” philosophers do not just say whatever suits them independently of whether it is logically sound! Are you saying that only a scientist can establish truth, that no one else can say anything true about anything in nature? (And how can you prove something when the condition of the proof is presupposed by the the act of proving it? Try proving that space is not external, for example. You would have to remove yourself first, which cannot be done. That is where some scientists may be at a disadvantage, and where some philosophers have an advantage. This is not a superficial or erroneous point. Nor is it dogmatic. Maybe you think it is. But enough of that.)

    I am sorry if I sound a bit agitated at times. I am all alone with all this. (That’s okay.)

    So what are the will and intellect. I suspect (although I could be dead-wrong) that you do not have a clear idea of how S arrived at his conception of the will, or what proofs he provided, and if you do, you have tell me where he has erred.— If you know so much about both these things (the nature of will and mind in S’s writing) then say something specific about that, please. “He was great but wrong” doesn’t impress me. His greatness, his introspective genius and ability to penetrate into the inner meanings of things, lies precisely in his being right or at least partially right, and so intuitive and ahead of his time. There is an essay, a good one, about the similarities between S’s theory of the will and aspects of Darwin’s theory. (Intuitive, but also a mighty discoverer.) Freud himself “stumbled upon the shores of S’s philosophy.” (Beyond the Pleasure Principle). I suppose Freud is passé too. (They said of him that he wasn’t a scientist. Still do.)

    No one way to arrive at truth. You just need to assume nothing, and proceed carefully and analytically. Scientific method: a philosopher says “this is a hand: am I justified in saying that it is a hand independently of the senses?” How is that crude example not one that can result in useful knowledge, in truth? A scientist just accepts the hand as a given empirical object and then proceeds to do whatever he does, e.g. explains its origin, its physiology, etc.

    You would not have to distinguish between will and mind (the way you did in your comment 212) to me, or anyone, if you understood S and are assuming that others, myself in particular, understand him. He has made it very, very clear why one cannot conflate one with the other.

    The onus is on others to point out his mistakes (if any) in a precise way rather than just saying that he didn’t use the scientific method.

    There is another thread now about “the brain seeing.” So “attention to” (defined a certain way), and being able to say that you see something, i.e. feeling that you see something, may be separated. Big deal. Supposed it is further found that when blood or nerve pulses hit a very particular part of your brain, all of a sudden, one would be aware, and say, yes I saw the dot.

    You think this investigation has said anything about the nature of consciousness? It doesn’t say very much about awareness itself, and one can point to external influences that create awareness with great ease, much more readily than one can point to internal parts of the brain that must be lit up in order for consciousness to occur. In either case, has one actually made inroads into the nature of consciousness or what we mean by meaning, as experienced and given a further place in our lives? No.

    Freud actually came the closest to saying what consciousness actually is in an astonishing passage. Was he a scientist? (Can’t remember what he said about cs! Sorry. Still looking for it.)

    And you didn’t address any of my replies to your assertions. For example you said: “Brains do not will or reason, only organisms with sufficiently complex brains have such conscious experiences.” I said that you have said nothing here about where the organism ends and the brain begins or vice-versa.

    What’s all this about the mind? Mind is just a word, an expression. It does mean something, but the difference between mind and brain is of no interest to me, and shouldn’t be to others. “My heart is filled with love! Use you mind!” You can say that the mind created the brain (the concept, the word), etc. But the mind seems more like a concept, or a poetic term, as opposed to a generatum, in the purely scientific sense; it (like the intellect) can’t not be part of the body; it is body through and through.

    Enough w/ Descartes. Great as he was, he is outdated but did start the conversation; his work was the point of departure: the antithesis between the real and the ideal was now a bona fide problem; a thesis (real) and antithesis (ideal) was now established. Descartes established that self-consciousness is immediately given (although his famous “I” which has caused so much confusion is not the absolute subject; it is a knowing subject!), and that knowledge of objects (“therefore, it is”) is mediately given. This is his great contribution to epistemology (and he wasn’t a neuroscientist either). Neuroscientist still talk about the mind-body problem, still take descartes to task. They haven’t read S! There is no mind-body problem! But none of them understand this. (There is a mind-self-will problem, however; a very real one.)

    P.S. I wrote this at lightning speed, hope it’s not completely unreadable.

    -Dan (who is related to Einstein, and very proud of that. Fritz Lebrecht, my maternal grandfather, was born in Ulm, was his cousin.)



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  • @ Phil

    I think I also need to defend S, though, in relation to his science compatible mode of working.

    I took that in. Thanks.

    the most astute of observers

    Took that in too. (Contradiction?) Not just an observer; a formulator, dissector, a theoretician, a discoverer – mode of working no less compatible with science than an archeologist’s mode of working. Gross understatement. I still suspect, my friend, that you have not read S in many years (and maybe only read a few things) and have been so absorbed with your many interests and pursuits (which is good) that you have simply forgotten about poor Artie, or simply don’t know what he said and how he arrived at what he arrived at (which is not good).



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  • Dan,

    Neuroscientist still talk about the mind-body problem,

    Nah. Only in some introductory remarks about the history or if talking to the potentially religious.

    I read most of my philosophy in the mid seventies, shortly after University then topped up with most modern philosophers in the naughties. I have only twenty or so philosophy books currently on my bookshelves. Rather more are up in the attic. On the server I have five or six by S including World as Will and On Human Nature and countless other philosophy tomes in PDF and ebook forms mostly thanks to The Guttenberg Project.

    For me there is so much new to take in that retrospection has to be more than of some clever prescience by a thinker, it has to bring me genuine novelty.

    Most of my reading of things retrospective (and I do a lot of it for leisure) is about scientists, artists, writers, industrialists, adventurers. I like the role they have in shaping their societies. Somehow philosophers with a few notable and incidental exceptions, don’t achieve such substance.

    Sorry.



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  • No apology is needed.
    The mind-body duality is alive and well.
    Maybe neuroscientists are over it for the most part, but I still hear it mentioned all the time, as though the mind was something other than something physical. (I sound like a materialist now. I am not.) People are always invoking Descartes’ “mind-body problem.” Annoys me.
    The mind knows (objects of knowledge). That which knows can never know itself.
    Just thought of something funny.— Imagine, a year from now, you had re-read WWR and wrote to me saying: Dan, he was right! The world IS will and representation! I am now a Schopenhauerian!
    (Anything can happen.)
    And then I write back and say: no evidence, no proof. What did that little man know about neuroscience?



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  • @ P.R. 207

    “Science attempts to do what you ask in a more complete fashion. It attempts to entirely write Qualia out of its accounts.”

    Well that’s precisely what I thought and precisely what I am against. What I ask? What have I asked? What I’ve asked is that it not do that. You can’t start from the object and simply forget the subject. But this is all too much for people to get their heads around. So be it.



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  • Dan (to Laurie on another thread)

    I can’t think of an answer, goddamn it. Thanks a lot. I will come up
    with an answer, and a good one. Give me some time

    Dan 236

    But this is all too much for people to get their heads around

    Too eager to be right and not listening Dan. That has been my problem with what you put forward. If you didn’t get my laser analogy I can explain again?



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  • (232 continued and concluded.)
    @ Cairsley

    “… According to one doctrine he wills what he knows, and according to the other he knows what he wills.”

    “This final sentence of your excellent quotation from Arthur Schopenhauer summarizes nicely what he is discussing in that passage. Phenomenologically, both options are found to occur in the experience of any one human being. In some cases one forms the will for something on the basis of what one knows…”
    – Cairsley

    What he is discussing is the difference between the former doctrine, which is a deception enjoyed by the unenlightened, and the latter correct doctrine. They do not both occur unless you take the word “know” and use it it in an altogether different sense. Obviously we cannot desire something that we do not know about; but we cannot know what we want to will and then just decide to will what we will, regardless of a stronger counter-motive acting upon us. And you have yet to tell me what the will is, by the way. Something we have a conscious experience of, you say? Yes, we are conscious of it at times.

    “You would not have to distinguish between will and mind (the way you did in your comment 212) to me, or anyone, if you understood…”

    I do owe you an apology: I said this (above) twice and you already addressed it the first time. You were “expressing your own thoughts.” I forgot. I stand corrected, again.



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  • Dan, #236

    First you are quote mining and using material out of a specific context.

    Well that’s precisely what I thought and precisely what I am against.

    We know well enough what you feel about this stuff.

    What have I asked? What I’ve asked is that it not do that.

    No, you asked this-

    You can’t tell me anything about what the moon would be like without a mind to relate to it in some way, based on your knowledge of science? You can use all the language you want now, you know. I hope you see what I mean. You are free to use your mind and use language now. But you must tell me what the moon (or whatever object you wish to describe) would be like, based on your knowledge of science, independently of the mind.

    Science, however, tries not to get hung up on feelings but pulls its best trick of certainty by creating negatable hypotheses and showing an instance of their failure. The hypothesis is broken for good and all. If we assume that qualia are necessary in themselves for an account of all/any behaviour external and mental and then we have scientists find (time after time for each behaviour) that non qualia based models are sufficient an account of what is observed, then we have a growing certainty that qualia (the qualities of an experience) have no additional affective power than the experience itself.

    Besides my account in 207 was entirely about how we seek to build a non-subjective model of reality. My response to your admirable negatable hypothesis of a question was how we create maps (at least) of the universe that are non-mind dependent by starting a process at first mind dependent then later increasingly independent. To simply tell me my answer doesn’t suit you is of no deliberative consequence.

    But this is all too much for people to get their heads around. So be it.

    Can’t fault you on your silencing rhetoric.



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  • Phil 239

    Phil, we’re not getting along right now. Why can’t we get along? Anyway, I am sorry you think it is “silencing rhetoric.” (!!) We have a misunderstanding and that is that.

    Saying that I “feel” this way or that I am “quote mining” is a conversation-stopper. You are the one silencing.

    (I do actually feel that my entirely reasonable point, almost child-like in its straightforward simplicity, although subtle, about the errors that would inevitably ensue if you were to leave all consideration of qualia behind, is in fact valid, to be precise and honest. I can’t be certain of that, however. My point is bound up with other points that may have eluded me. Perhaps in one context I would be right and in another I wouldn’t!)

    Why would I want to win a damned argument for the sake of winning it and by blinding or tricking my interlocutor? That’s worthless.

    And you still don’t get the question, and my comment about your qualia (an ambiguous-sounding word that I just recently learned) applies still to this eternal question I am posing. I am asking what the moon is! Get it? A large question, yes. But in order to address it I think it behooves any reasonable person (philosopher or not) to consider to what extent its qualities inhere in the moon itself independently of our paltry human senses, and to what extent it does not! If the moon is what it appears to be (or is a close approximation of that), however, than say that and proceed from there – and while you’re at it, stop attributing “tricks” to me. I don’t like that. (But that is your impression at times, so I have to accept it.)

    Science! There are a million-plus ways to go about doing science. Ask a hundred great scientists and you’ll get a variety of answers about the method. I did some quote digging on that. (You were an actor: is there a method, or is that not BS, as Steiger said, the greatest “method” actor of all times).



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  • Why would I want to win a damned argument for the sake of winning it?

    Dunno…Why are you unwilling to embrace philosophers after S. or psychologists after Freud or any neuroscientists? Why do we have to have this bizarre exchange with three quarters of the field out of bounds? (In fairness to you you have been recently venturing out of your quadrant a little at least to acknowledge there is a greater space…)

    You cannot deny you have tastes in knowledge. I have never come across this before. I don’t understand why it is such a powerful and specific disposition. It feels like you want to make S a champion, not so much yourself, but certainly not further our collective insight into an interesting area.

    For the life of me I don’t understand why you think I don’t understand your question. I have gone back to the sources several times. And again I am flummoxed how I have granted your point that I cannot comply with your request as stated, (but can do something different, less?, more?) and you fail to pick this up and move the conversation on, but endlessly circle back like something must change.

    Its like you have run out of script, or I have failed to pick up my cues.



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  • I lost Dan at the moon question. Completely. It appeared to be a deliberately constructed unanswerable. It did make me wonder a bit: Why would somebody ask a question like that? Shrug, don’t know that one either.

    Then I thought it was rhetorical, and I enjoy answering those, but no, it seems to be central to whatever it is that Dan is trying to get us to see. Puzzled. But not puzzled enough to re-read this whole thread. I would re-read specific items, it’s good that they’re numbered.

    Oh, belatedly: is it to do with the discovery/realization that in quantum physics, the Observer is part of an Observation, that nothing can be Observed without interaction, thereby altering the state of the Observed, leading to Hisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle? I’m not sure 🙂 I am sure there’s a better way to summarize this, help me out somebody? You can never see what something looks like when it’s not being watched.

    Maybe: the longer a thread the less likely it is to inform.



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  • Transcendental idealism might be connected to the idea of the quantum observer…

    I recall that very well, Phil. I didn’t know what was meant by that or what specific conclusions were reached, if any. It sounded like you were throwing me a bone with – nothing substantial on it to absorb or extract.

    I have read a certain work multiple times over the course of many years. If you were to do so you might see that the question about the moon or the tree, or any object that one can possibly name in the universe for that matter, any object which has entered our experience as knowing participants engaging in some form of perception, or indeed any force of nature (such as gravity) which manifests itself in some way, is a question that compels one to consider the inescapable fact that that object or force has two sides: it appears and it is.

    The former (appearing) is a form of existence but the latter belongs to an order of things that is toto genere different from the latter, and while nothing that is can be said not to exist, absolute existence is an altogether different species of existence, and if it has been proven that the absolute existence of objects cannot be denied, then present your defense of this proof. This is where people get muddled, or suspicious, or begin to suspect that this a mere mind-bender. But if you think about it enough it will dawn on you that this is not the same as asking what a deaf man hears or what a blind man sees, etc.; it is asking (to continue the analogy) what a deaf scientist can say about sound, or what a blind scientist can say about color –if anything; but he must assume that all people are deaf and blind. This is an old question; I did not invent it.

    If it is the goal of science to attribute qualities to things, it must be prepared to eliminate the qualities that are essentially subjective or at least separate them from the object in itself.

    What has you and others stuck is the concept: object-in-itself. Well this is quite natural; this idea goes against every intellectual instinct we have; to consider an object such as the moon in this light is asking one to consider something that cannot be perceived and yet surely must be.; but once you have grasped this fundamental proposition, i.e. the difference between objects as they appear and objects as they are, you will have acquired a rich philosophical insight (and one not without interest to science).

    It is not a trick question; a pure object is an oxymoron; objects must be presented in some other way insofar as objects implies subjects, and subjects imply objects.—They are reciprocally dependent and give us what we call reality, what in fact is, empirical reality.—But they do not give us knowledge of things-in-themselves.

    There is no need to prove this; it is a thesis. It is a question, a view. I challenge anyone to refute this. Short of that I await a simple acknowledgement that the question is good and valid. That would suit me fine.
    All I ask is that you recognize the logical nature of the question; you need not come up with an answer, although some have tried: pure matter, consisting of atomic particles and energy, waves, vibrations, are common answers. Not wholly satisfying, but attempts nonetheless. . .

    I hear this objection a lot: “it is logical to assume that if we all experience gravity, it would still be real even without us: the law of gravity, and the universe itself doesn’t care, etc.” To that I say: your argument is granted; gravity is real. So is space and time and so are all the objects that appear in it and which act according to all of the laws of nature.

    But without a conscious perceiver there is nothing that I for one can think of to say about any of these objects that fall through space. But if you can enlighten me please do: what can you tell me about the qualities of, say, an apple-in-itself that has just fallen from the tree as a result of the force of its weight?
    The answer is: precisely nothing – unless science (which is empirical) has discovered something about the non-sensible qualities of an apple or a tree or a bone or a moon or any object, that I do not know about (which is possible).



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  • @dan #247

    Thanks Dan for attempting to clarify your position, and for accepting that it’s not readily comprehensible.

    if it has been proven that the absolute existence of objects cannot be denied, then present your defense of this proof.

    See, the “if” at the start of that? Well, I have no idea if such a thing has been “proven” at all. It is more like an assumption, an inference, the simplest explanation for certain observations that Occam’s Razor can help us find.

    No proof, therefore no defense. As in The Matrix, all our sensory inputs might be rigged by some alien virtual reality. If it was done well enough, we wouldn’t know, and would simply assume – if it quacks like a duck etc.

    So the scientist pokes around using sensory inputs, integrating them, and building a model of an alleged universe of alleged objects, and testing it for veracity — does it have predictive power, does it explain what is observed, and also explain what is NOT observed? Nowhere does it prove the “absolute existence” that you speak of.

    All this works fine until we enter the Quantum Realm, you should really read up on this stuff because it undermines the commonsense model with its simple, unproven assumption about absolute existence of objects.

    Instead, what you see depends on what you’re looking for, and the sensory results — observations — of experiments are no longer completely consistent with the assumption (unproven) of absolute existence.

    Instead we get uncertainty (which can be very accurately measured) and contradictions, and the best model the scientists have come up with is one that has to include the observer in the observation. All our observations are Selfies.

    If it is the goal of science to attribute qualities to things, it must be prepared to eliminate the qualities that are essentially subjective or at least separate them from the object in itself.

    Once more, that “if”. But is that the goal of science? I thought it was to “make sense” of observations? Once more, all observations are subjective. Science has managed to integrate many subjective observations into a mostly consistent and fairly concise description of an external universe that would give rise to these observations, were it to exist. Once again, all we have are Selfies.

    what can you tell me about the qualities of, say, an apple-in-itself that has just fallen from the tree

    I’m trying to treat your questions as reasonable, Dan. So, a scientific response might be to observe a great many instances of apples falling, and other things falling, and come up with an accurate description, one more precise than natural language can provide, a mathematical description. A formula that accurately matches up with observation, and that can be used to predict what would be observed when another apple falls, sometime in the future. It’s velocity upon impact, how much it heats the ground on impact, how high it bounces, how badly bruised it is. All this assumes an actual apple, indeed, a supply of apples. The result would be a body of knowledge about apples-in-general, allowing predictions to be made about specific apples, or about certain classes of apple, which might lead to improvements in orchard management, reducing spoilage of apple harvests in future, and improving the quality of life of the orchardist and his customers.

    At the core – pun intended – there is nothing to be said about nothing. There are no “non-sensible qualities”. There are only Selfies. Here’s one of me eating an apple….

    On the other hand, there may be “sensible qualities” that have as yet gone un-noticed. Un-sensed. Measurements, microscopic observations, chemical analysis, reports by many people tasting many apples, skin thickness, market research, how naming affects sales, does Royal Gala really sell better than just plain Gala, even if they’re otherwise the same?

    I know, I slip away into practical matters, observable matters, every time I try to come near your question. I think the topic that you’ve been gnawing at is somehow akin to a black hole. You can only see its effects, you can’t — by definition — see the “thing in itself”. But you can, by theoretical modelling and by careful observation of the effects, deduce a lot about the behaviour of matter that gives rise to these effects.

    Thought experiment: when you get close to this topic you have been trying to tell us about, is it like a Black Hole? Does time slow down? Do you feel you’ve been reading for just 10 minutes only to look up and find that hours have gone by? Is it ever harder to pull away?

    Sorry for the long response. I’d hoped I could be more concise. I also hope I get Peer Reviewed, and corrected where I’ve erred.



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  • Dan

    I didn’t know what was meant by that or what specific conclusions were reached,

    Nothing was discussed about it because you didn’t take up the idea.

    Again you mistake me. I understand the question. I understood it when I first came across the idea decades and decades ago.

    Scientists understood precisely this pre-experiential profound existence, most particularly from 1905 onwards

    this idea goes against every intellectual instinct we have;

    Not for physicists particularly. The idea is commonplace.

    If it is the goal of science to attribute qualities to things, it must be prepared to eliminate the qualities that are essentially subjective or at least separate them from the object in itself.

    Today, I would have said defined variables rather than qualities as quality is quintessentially experiential. Scientists have long known that experiential qualities (in some fields particularly) are meaningless and simply don’t start there. But Hurrah!! This is my point exactly. These definitions necessarily become relative to others losing any viable experiential meaning except through tenuous metaphor.

    But without a conscious perceiver there is nothing that I for one can think of to say about any of these objects that fall through space.

    Granted ever such a long time ago, but…

    No conscious perceiver……

    Ever? Who cares? Why?

    Introduce a perceiver after 13.73bn years and we infer history without perception of the specifics.

    You still need a specific and novel point to deal with this-

    “Without consciousness the moon is a highly ambiguous entity.” – Chopra / Dan

    I am glad that you gave me an opportunity to clarify this: he was not referring to the moon’s consciousness, but to human consciousness in relation to the moon.—Without that consciousness, it is hard to imagine what the moon would be like. I agree a hundred percent. (No, the moon itself is not conscious. I think Chopra and I would have to part ways on that one.)

    Mr. Darcy, I challenge you (in a friendly way) to say something non-ambiguous about the old moon up there. But you have to first assume that there has never been consciousness anywhere in the universe. Now go ahead, please. Say something definitive about that unperceived, unknown, unseen, entity. And don’t say it’s circular.

    (Now I know how Chopra feels.)

    You have to say why it matters to this concocted observer who bears no resemblance to an observer living or dead or even possible.



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  • @dan (via Phil #249)

    Mr. Darcy, I challenge you (in a friendly way) to say something non-ambiguous about the old moon up there. But you have to first assume that there has never been consciousness anywhere in the universe.

    See, Dan, this makes no sense at all to me. Why first assume….?

    But, ok, suspending disbelief for a bit, I can infer (from the science founded on many observations and some excellent thinking) the history of the moon, that it is made of the same stuff as the earth, that it used to be closer and take less time to orbit, that it took a terrific battering since it first solidified, and that none of these things involved consciousness, which – as far as we can infer – emerged within life on earth only much more recently.

    And, yes, that it’s approximately spherical, because that’s what the stuff of planets apparently does when there’s enough of it gathered together, independent of consciousness. We can also predict that other as-yet-unseen objects of planetary size will also seem to be approximately spherical, once we get a look at them.

    This, I suspect, is not what you’re driving at, and is not a satisfactory answer to you. Are you still trying to see past the Event Horizon?



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  • OHooligan (and others)

    “[Kant] eliminated theism from philosophy; for in philosophy, as a science and not a doctrine of faith, only that can find a place which either is empirically given or is established through tenable and solid proofs.”
    (WWR, Vol. 1)

    Ohooligan, regardless of what I am driving at, and regardless of whether I agree that the qualities you have named really do inhere in the object we call the moon, I thank you for addressing my question and for attempting to provide an answer. You (alone) have named some qualities: spherical, solid, same stuff.

    “Goal of science” was a mistake. I wish I hadn’t put it that way. As you know, once something is posted it’s posted.

    I should have said it this way: “science attributes qualities to things, does it not?”



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  • Dan #251

    You (alone) have named some qualities: spherical, solid, same stuff.

    But these you pre-emptively disallowed in the category experiential. Besides these are not apprehendible as such and must be infered.

    You continue to confound.



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  • @dan

    consider something that cannot be perceived and yet surely must be

    Dark Matter. Dark Energy. Cannot be perceived, yet are required to make the sums work out in accordance with observation of other things. Or, at least, unless/until someone comes up with a model of the cosmos that doesn’t require it.

    Will that do?



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  • @ Phil

    “But these [qualities] you pre-emptively disallowed in the category experiential.”

    Not at all! If you think such things as solidity and shape can be said to exist without perception (as opposed to being said to be perceivable without a perceiver!) then say so. I have not asked you what the unperceived qualities appear as! I have asked you what the unperceived qualities could possibly be!

    Too subtle for you, ol’ boy? A little friendly jab ’cause you said this problem/question is “commonplace.” (249) Commonplace indeed.

    @ OHooligan

    Not bad, OHooligan. You get it. At least you don’t think I am asking a trick question like “what would a deaf person hear?” My question is more along the lines of “is a sound without an ear still a sound?”



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  • ” My question is more along the lines of “is a sound without an ear
    still a sound?”

    Either here or on the other thread this conversation spilled into, you said the exact opposite Dan??????

    I don’t want to be deliberately rude Dan but I think it is you that has not understood the question and its BS-ability.

    If a radio station has no listeners, is it still a radio station?
    How many listeners does it need to be a radio station?



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  • Olgun, you do not have to be wary of appearing rude; I know that you are not a rude man; but I have never been inconsistent on this issue, ever. Said the opposite of what?
    This did come up a while back and it was argued by Alan and others that a sound may be defined as a vibration, and that a color is a wave.
    I am less clear in my own mind as to where a wave ends and a perceived hue begins but I have never conceded that a vibration can be heard (perceived).
    A radio station? That’s a lot of stuff not to exist, isn’t it? Well, it does exist. The qualities that give it its existence, however, are dependent, at least in part, on our ability to perceive them and not only do they not exist independently of perception they can’t be conceived of as existing in this way. If you isolate the various qualities and separate them from each other you will see, I think, that it is absurd to assume from the get-go that such qualities as hardness exist IN THE SAME WAY as when we determine such a quality, i.e. by placing our hand on a flat surface, etc, and judge it as 1. external. 2. hard. These are subjective judgments. Hardness does not inhere in the desk or the wall. But if you think it does I would be open to hearing you explain how you or others had arrived at that. (When you see a floater it appears external, but it is isn’t. So neither is the radio station, although it does have reality. It is not an illusion, like a mirage or a floater. The difference is attributable to what our judgment tells us, not our senses, i.e., the station IS real; the floater APPEARS real. But in the former case, its realness IS its appearance in space, and it really does have all the qualities we experience; the floater appears real (external) but is judged to be an illusion.
    Sorry if I sound like I am trying to confound you, or pig-headed or obtuse.It is not, in my honest opinion, a BS question, never has been. It is a sound and reasonable question with far-reaching implications.
    The radio station is real. I see your point. I have never said that it and other things aren’t real.
    This subject is not of interest to everyone. It may not be your cup of tea; but it is not BS. I can assure you of that.



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  • P.S. re BS:

    I think I know what you may be alluding to. I did say earlier that the question is not “what would a deaf person hear.” That would be a BS question.
    But that is not the question; it is this: “if a sound is not defined as something heard (and many people do not define it this way) then what can we say about the unheard sound? If it is a vibration, but not a sound, how then would a vibration be perceived? And if it cannot be perceived then what is it? It would then be something existing independently of the senses.— What form would this take? We can prove now that such a thing as a sound-vibration “exists,” but if it can never perceived, has no form or manner of being, but exists nonetheless, yet in relation to nothing or no one, are we not then stretching the meaning of the word existence past any acceptable usage of the word?
    I am distinguishing, you see, between absolute (or pure) existence from empirical existence.
    I will concede this: matter cannot be thought away. All the sensible qualities can be thought away. But Pure Matter remains. Take away all the sensible qualities, and matter is still there, although indeterminate with regards to its imagined inherent qualities, i.e.,– shape, form, size, texture, hardness, softness, extension,solidity, and so on. We are left with pure matter. Hardly more than an abstraction, and yet I cannot conceive of its non-existence: in other words, no object without the mind, AND no mind (knowledge) without matter. At this point my understanding comes to a stand-still.
    But to argue, as many have done, that there is no problem at all, that the Subject and Matter are not permanently and inextricably combined and reciprocally dependent upon each other, that we can eliminate Mind and still have Matter, or that we can eliminate Matter and still have Mind (which is also completely untenable) and that a door or a tree or the moon, or this sound or that image, are exactly as they appear to be with or without a mind to perceive them, is as natural to argue as it is futile.



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  • But to argue, as many have done, that there is no problem at all, that the Subject and Matter are not permanently and inextricably combined and reciprocally dependent upon each other, that we can eliminate Mind and still have Matter, or that we can eliminate Matter and still have Mind (which is also completely untenable) and that a door or a tree or the moon, or this sound or that image, are exactly as they appear to be with or without a mind to perceive them, is as natural to argue as it is futile.

    Minds need matter. To say others claim otherwise here is a strawman and misdirection. Nor has anyone argued that things appear anything without minds.

    You sometimes treat words so carelessly. (How could you think anyone would say “appear” in that situation?) I think that’s why you may impute falsely. I argue in support of half your case yet you seem to insist I am implacably opposed to all of it. That just beats me.

    This thread has become hugely indulgent. Maybe you and I can have another crack at the issue on a later thread?

    Sorry to interject.



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  • Feel free to interject, at any time, Phil. I usually write “and others” but sometimes forget.
    I wanted to be fair: that is why I said “no subject without the object (as opposed to the usual no object without the subject.) “Minds need matter.” Of course. Minds are matter and need matter in order to be aware of an internal existence and the external world
    A solipsist might think that mind is separate from matter and that matter does not exist. But you’re right; that was a bit unclear. Most people do understand that minds “need” matter, although that is an odd way of putting it, also unclear.
    No one is arguing that things appear without minds, you say, but they are in their ignorance! And everyone is always saying that the goddamned universe doesn’t care. So I am asking what this goddamned universe that contains the moon and the stars and the planets is filled with? What exists within it and what can you tell me about these existing things? I repeat this question over and over and over, and yet everyone (including you) thinks I am asking what an unperceived object would appear as!! (Except OHooligan who seems to sort of get it). No. I am asking you to tell me ANYTHING about it (any object) as an existing thing yet not perceived! Not self-indulgent. No straw-man. I am an honest thinker. And I started this but I am not the one continuing it; if someone has a comment I am obliged to reply.
    As far as you and I go, perhaps we can discuss this some other time when an opportunity presents itself. That’s your choice.
    I try to use words precisely and I am careful to the point of obsessive.
    I do try to express myself clearly. I often fail.



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  • @ Phil (et al),

    Just respond to this, please (if you want to). I think I have now made my question confusion-free. (Wishful thinking, perhaps.)

    No one is arguing that things appear without minds! My question: what is there without minds? Be specific and descriptive. Is it solid? Is it big? small? I await, with great anticipation, your reply (although you are not obligated to reply.)



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  • @dan

    I think you mistake me for someone who understands what you’re trying to get at. But at least I tried, and got past my initial impression that it was confusing word-salad-BS.

    Here, maybe, is your core question:

    My question: what is there without minds? Be specific

    Answer: I have no idea. Specifically, none at all. Not the faintest. And not only do I not know, I don’t think I CAN know. I don’t think (by extrapolation from myself) that anyone CAN know. So when they say they do, I think they’re lying or deluded, and I maybe distracted into the secondary question of why are they lying, or who deluded them.

    Will that do?



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  • The vast majority, OHooligan, of the scientific and philosophical world (what’s left of it) adheres to some form of scientific realism. That’s fine; but what bothers me is that no one among them (that I have ever spoken with) even understands this problem, is even able to acknowledge that there is one. They think it’s out-dated bullshit.
    “We now know, neuroscience teaches this and that, modern physics says this and that, … bla, bla, bla.” We now know, we know now. What do they know now?
    I’d be more inclined to listen to their arguments (in the context of this debate) if I felt that they understood, respected, and appreciated the opposing view, the anti-realist position.
    Even this fellow (quoted below) who wrote an article for an encyclopedia of philosophy has presented the problem poorly! Of course the external world exists! “There is no world external to and thus independent of the mind.” No. Poorly phrased. The world is external to the mind, and to the mind alone! —Externality implies the division into subject and object; again, the eternal failure to distinguish between empirical reality (which is external to us) and absolute reality (which cannot be). Apart from that, I think what he (or she?) says is correct. That is why I quoted him.
    I suspect at times that I am one of the last remaining human beings on earth that truly understands the doctrine of true, i.e. critical, idealism.

    […] “realism is committed to the mind-independent existence of the world investigated by the sciences. This idea is best clarified in contrast with positions that deny it. For instance, it is denied by any position that falls under the traditional heading of ‘idealism’, including some forms of phenomenology, according to which there is no world external to and thus independent of the mind. This sort of idealism, though historically important, is rarely encountered in contemporary philosophy of science, however.” [!!]
    – Anjan Chakravartty, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2011



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  • Dan #260

    No one is arguing that things appear without minds! My question: what is there without minds? Be specific and descriptive. Is it solid? Is it big? small? I await, with great anticipation, your reply (although you are not obligated to reply.)

    Why don’t you try to accurately reproduce my answer to this?

    In the meantime, tentacled civilisation A are wiped out and their planet sterilised by the gamma ray burst of a nearby super nova. Arthropod civilisation B on the same planet 3 billion years later map out what happened in the past. They stumble into a library of Civilisation A. One of the unremarkable things they note is that the accounts they (A) gave in their models of the universe from that time comport reasonably well with their own (B) models 3 billion years later given the three billion year gap. (In relative terms this cluster of energy releasing objects has moved relative to that lot in just the way their (A) model said it would.

    The fun thing is that civilisation A were echo-locators and also able to feel warmth on the skin of a tentacle if they poked it out of their supporting fluid, with but no high resolution coherently mapped detectors. The arthropods had crappy low resolution arthropod vision, coherently mapped then but mostly dependent on antennae for surface chemistry attribute sensation. Both had good plastic brains though substantially unwired in parts and Hebbian and Bayesian wiring and unwiring. (Brains like us , because I don’t know how else it could happen). Both civilisations built maps of the universe with the help of their detecting tools, but B are not yet advanced enough to recognise that one enormous model is the start of a wave equation for the orbitting planetoid, (the one that brings them out for the traditional leaf cutting get together), once being being assembled by civilisation A’s copy device slicing through the moon. They’ll eventually learn what it is if they are lucky with the gamma ray bursts. Ant Shroedinger is already at work on an equation for those tiny field sources that seem to make everything up yet are only probably precisely there ….Learning to create and work with abstract models takes a very very long time. What would those tiny fields feel like to our antennae? Ha, Folly. Our antennae are made of these things. Tiny fields just act from their own nature.

    No minds for 3 billion years and no surprises.



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  • @phil
    Lovely. Reminds me of Greg Egan’s “Incandescence”. If you’ve not read it you’re in for a treat.

    @dan #263

    Sorry, you’ve lost me again. Really. I got nothing but added confusion from reading that post. Please try harder. Short sentences would be good. Don’t fail to avoid double negatives. (That was a hint).

    What I do have is this: my experience of me, and the universe I find myself in, including all I’ve read or heard about it, and the mental model I have of my home town and outside it something vast with planets and galaxies and such, all of that is contained inside my mind. Which, according to the model, is contained inside my head. Which is contained in the Real Universe that is the origin of my sensory experiences. So, like the Tardis, am I bigger on the inside? Or, conversely, the universe is so much vaster than you imagine. And, by definition, vaster than you CAN imagine, you being but a small part of it.

    Running on empty here, Dan. You don’t seem to have brought any refreshment to this thread for a long long while.



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  • Dear Phil and OHooligan,

    This time I didn’t read what you wrote in its entirety, Phil. Not interested in reading sci-fi right now. I have Asimov’s novels and stories on my shelf. (Complete works.)

    I have accurately reproduced your answer: you don’t get it. (This is nothing to be ashamed of.)

    Why won’t you answer me? “Models that predict” is no answer, by the way. I am asking a very specific question. You see, OHooligan, a model is always based on what is empirically given. The models prove this and that and we can make accurate predictions based on them. But these proofs do not prove that we can conceive of mind-independent reality. Nor does it provide us with any idea of what that reality IS!

    I have enough humility to admit that I may not be able to fully appreciate at this time what models may be able to tell us about the universe in itself. As I have noted before, I am an “ignoramus.” —And like Galileo and Socrates themselves – and these are apt comparisons – I am resigned to my fate of being regarded as a lunatic or incompetent, or both.

    OHooligan, I have added nothing new to this thread for a while. True. It is not my fault that no one understands the question. Yes. That’s the truth. (I thought you got a piece of it. What happened? I thought I had won a disciple!)

    Poor me. (LOL)



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  • @dan

    It’s slowly dawning on me that you’re showing us a working example of the human trait that allowed religion to take root in the first place. Trying to know the Unknowable. A task I believe to be inherently impossible.

    Weaker minds than yours would have been swept away into Faith by some charismatic BS artist by now, and you’d happily be imagining you somehow contacted the Unknowable, and now have some Knowledge of It. See, it gets religious real fast.

    Disciple, hah. Definitely you’re barking up the wrong tree mate. You’d have to knock out a few miracles first. Hint: Water to Wine always goes down well. And get someone to mistranslate your writings. And get tax exemptions.



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  • @ Phil, Alan, et al

    OHooligan,
    Know the unknowable? I am asking what can be known. I am trying NOT to know what is unknowable!! You have it backwards. If you are not an idealist then that makes you a realist. So tell me what is real and what we can say about this realness. Sorry. Slippery stuff, I guess.

    IS THIS OUTDATED, UNSCIENTIFIC, RELIGIOUS BULLSHIT? (S. on a priori knowledge and the faculty of understanding.)

    “Thus touch and sight have each their own special advantages, to begin with; therefore they assist each other
    mutually. Sight needs no contact, nor even proximity; its field is unbounded and extends to the stars. It is more
    over sensitive to the most delicate degrees of light, shade, colour, and transparency; so that it supplies the Understanding with a quantity of nicely defined data, out of which, by dint of practice, it becomes able to construct the shape, size, distance, and nature of bodies, and represents them at once perceptibly. On the other hand, touch certainly depends upon contact; still its data are so varied and so trustworthy, that it is the most searching of all the senses. Even perception by sight may, in the last resort, be referred to touch; nay, sight may be looked upon as an imperfect touch extending to a great distance, which uses the rays of light as long feelers; and it is just because it is limited to those qualities which have light for their medium and is therefore one-sided, that it is so liable to deception ; whereas touch supplies the data for cognising size, shape, hardness, softness, roughness, temperature, &c. &c., quite immediately. In this it is assisted, partly by the shape and mobility of our arms, hands, and fingers, from whose position in feeling objects the Understanding derives its data for constructing bodies in Space, partly by muscular power, which enables it to know the weight, solidity, toughness, or brittleness of bodies: all this with the least possible liability to error.

    “These data nevertheless do not by any means yet give perception, which is always the work of the Understanding. The sensation I have in pressing against a table with my hand, contains no representation of a firm cohesion of parts in that object, nor indeed anything at all like it. It is only when my Understanding passes from that sensation to its cause, that the intellect constructs for itself a body having the properties of solidity, impenetrability, and hardness. If in the dark, I put my hand upon a flat surface,or lay hold of a ball of about three inches in diameter, the same parts of my hand feel the pressure in both cases; it is only by the different position which my hand takes that, in the one or in the other case, my Understanding constructs the shape of the body whose contact is the cause of the sensation, for which it receives confirmation from the changes of position which I make. The sensations in the hand of a man born blind, on feeling an object of cubic shape, are quite uniform and the same on all sides and in every direction : the edges, it is true, press upon a smaller portion of his hand, still nothing at all like a cube is contained in these sensations. His Understanding, however, draws the immediate and intuitive conclusion from the resistance felt, that this resistance must have a cause, which then presents itself through that conclusion as a hard body; and through the movements of his arms in feeling the object, while the hand s sensation remains unaltered, he constructs the cubic shape in Space, which is known to him a priori. If the representation of a cause and of Space, together with their laws, had not already existed within him, the image of a cube could never have proceeded from those successive sensations in his hand. If a rope be drawn through his hand, he will construct, as the cause of the friction he feels and of its duration, a long cylindrical body, moving uniformly in the same direction in that particular position of his hand. But the representation of movement, i.e. of change of place in Space by means of Time, never could arise for him out of the mere sensation in his hand ; for that sensation can neither contain, nor can it ever by itself alone produce any such thing. It is his intellect which must, on the contrary, contain within itself, before all experience, the intuitions of Space, Time, and together with them that of the possibility of movement; and it must also contain the representation of Causality, in order to pass from sensation which alone is given by experience to a cause of that sensation, and to construct that cause as a body having this or that shape, moving in this or that direction. For how great is the difference between a mere sensation in my hand and the representations of causality, materiality, and mobility in Space by means of Time! The sensation in my hand, even if its position and its points of contact are altered, is a thing far too uniform and far too poor in data, to enable me to construct out of it the representation of Space, with its three dimensions, and of the influences of bodies one upon another, together with the properties of expansion, impenetrability, cohesion, shape, hardness, softness, rest, and motion: the basis, in short, of the objective world. This is, on the contrary, only possible by the intellect containing within itself, anterior to all experience, Space, as the form of perception; Time, as the form of change ; and the law of Causality, as the regulator of the passing in and out of changes. Now it is precisely the pre-existence before all experience of all these forms, which constitutes the Intellect. Physiologically, it is a function of the brain, which the brain no more learns by experience than the stomach to digest, or the liver to secrete bile.”



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  • Dan #266

    sci-fi

    Strawman

    Asimov

    Deflection

    I have accurately reproduced your answer: you don’t get it.

    Wrong: condescending

    I’ll repeat (third time). I half concede your point. What we can say cannot be said in any quick or trite way but is a long journey into abstraction and the end result even then is not of course any direct perception of reality but an abstract proxy that maps. I have illustrated how this abstraction may straddle two entirely different and non congruent phenomenologies. I have repeated that things act out of their own nature in the absence of minds and that were minds to be suddenly created this would be validated by deductive observation.

    Now what you have to say is why your point matters in any shape or form. Why mind “creating” phenomenology, as it does, of this our that type matters at any other than this phenomenological level.

    I suspect my parable (in best philosophic tradition) of phenomenology A and phenomenology B will have you wanting to propose a deeper level of phenomenology.

    A model, a map is the only form that knowledge can take.



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  • Dan

    This is precisely the root of S’s error.

    This is, on the contrary, only possible by the intellect containing within itself, anterior to all experience, Space, as the form of perception; Time, as the form of change ; and the law of Causality, as the regulator of the passing in and out of changes. Now it is precisely the pre-existence before all experience of all these forms, which constitutes the Intellect. Physiologically, it is a function of the brain, which the brain no more learns by experience than the stomach to digest, or the liver to secrete bile.

    We know now how all three are learned.



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  • “We know now how all three are learned.”

    I guess I deserve that.

    On a serious note: Sure! Externality (S’s “space”) is learned from the outside in. Remove the subject and space is still outside of us. Very good!

    And tracing an image or a sensation back to a cause is learned too. Then why is it that only beings with understanding (sufficient intellect) can do that? A sensation by itself can never give us knowledge of a cause; the knowledge of causality alone allows us to distinguish between internal sensations and causes.

    How do we learn about causality, Phil? If that formal condition was not an innate function of the intellect then how could anything be learned? It is the pre-condition of learning, and of all perception. And infants can differentiate between itself and something that is not itself. Infants have perception of space. Not learned. They have knowledge of causality in so far as they know that, say, the water it is bathing in, or the arm that holds it, or the food it takes in, is not part of its own body. This is intuitive knowledge and at that stage (the infant stage) must be very indistinct. (I admit it must be very indistinct as knowledge, but it is there.)

    True story: I was fourteen seconds old. Dr. Weiss slapped me. I looked at him and said: “wha…wha…why?” In Guinness Book of World Records. Youngest talking baby.

    I am no expert on infant psychology, but I think it is absurd to suggest that the knowledge of Causality is of empirical origin.

    “Straw-man.” Sorry if I seem obstinate, or careless, or if I am not hearing you. Not intentional.



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  • @dan

    I think it is absurd to suggest that the knowledge of Causality is of empirical origin.

    Well I think the opposite. I’m glad we got this far. We can, of course, agree to disagree.

    It’s all learned. Learning cause-and-effect, before-therefore-because-of (whatever the Latin). Nothing innate but the ability to learn, the network of neurons that will become a human intelligence. And at some point it stops learning so much, and acts solely on its sensory inputs and its stored collection of guidelines, rules-of-thumb, practical responses to common situations. And the lamb stops playing and becomes a sheep. Us “smart” monkeys keep on playing, longer at least than most species, but that’s about it.

    On sight, btw, ours is abysmal. Imagine having a hearing range of just a single octave, and only 3 tone detectors, so that all notes in an octave “appear” as varying emphasis on a single 3 note chord, relative intensities of only 3 notes. Where’s the majors and minors, where’s the 7ths, the diminished and augmented…. Where’s Beethoven and Bach and the Blues and the Beatles and the Beach Boys (and I’ve only gotten as far as B…)

    Our sense of light is pitiful. Even with decent lenses, the detectors are really quite shoddy, and clearly are only-just good enough to get by with, in the world where we evolved.

    Imagine – I know, you’ll probably call this sci-fi and stop reading – but try to imagine an alien intelligence with a sense of electromagnetic radiation that’s equivalent to our sense of pressure waves in the air around us – 10 or more octaves, and able to tell a blend of red and green from the single pure frequency emitted by sodium lamps. Able to see the cosmos directly in all the frequencies that we can only detect via our machines. What would it make of us earthbound creatures with our paltry senses, and our – by implication – paltry concept of the universe?

    In summary, I’d have to say, yes, there’s something Out There that we are perceiving, dimly. But we can say nothing more about it than what we can deduce, infer, surmise, and guess from what we experience, what we sense. Is that Realism (as opposed to Idealism)?



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  • @OHooligan (and others)

    Hi, my lost disciple (kidding),

    Let me just say one thing about cause and effect, and perhaps I will address the rest of your rich comment tomorrow. (It is the wee hours of the morning where I am. )

    There is knowledge of cause and effect as it relates to particular things in life (how things work), and there is the knowledge of causality itself as a pure intuition. The latter conception of causality is not often discussed or contemplated. Of course we learn how to apply our understanding and learn how to figure out how particular things follow upon others. That is something that develops and evolves. Also, the idea of cause and effect, that is, the concept, is abstract and therefore must be learned. But causality as a pure intuition, a pure, intuitive perception (as opposed to the idea in the abstract, or the application of our understanding to problems of mechanics –in the broadest sense) is this (and I will borrow from the quote above, written by a twenty-five year old Schopenhauer): “The sensation I have in pressing against a table with my hand, contains no representation of a firm cohesion of parts in that object, nor indeed anything at all like it. It is only when my Understanding passes from that sensation to its cause, that the intellect constructs for itself a body having the properties of solidity, impenetrability, and hardness.”

    That ability to trace back is innate. All perception of objects (which most of the animals have, as they have understanding in this sense) implies this ability to trace a sensation, e.g., the visual sensation of a predator (the fear of which cannot be explained by instinct alone; it must also be perceived) back to a cause (simply an object outside and apart from its own subjectivity). I wish I could elaborate further as I haven’t even approached doing any kind of justice to this thesis. But I wanted to give a cursory reply rather than not reply at all.

    One proof of the non-empirical nature of the knowledge of causality (as a pure intuition) is the very fact itself that it constitutes a law. If it were learned it could be unlearned, but that is not possible. Every cause must have a preceding cause and every effect must in turn produce a cause. This “law of causality” is a law of the human mind, and not an abstract principle, but is first and foremost a perception, and an inseparable and essential lineament of the fabric of reality. It constitutes an infinite regress and an infinite progression, and, like space and time, cannot, as I said, be separated from empirical reality. That is why we cannot conceive of a first cause or an end to space. The knowledge of space, time, and causality (pure and immediate intuitions), are rooted in our minds themselves from birth onwards. This is no doubt a product of evolution.

    Not sure I grasped your music theory analogy, which got my attention: a two-note chord can be a minor chord: B to D is a minor interval. The triad B, D#, A is a B dominant 7th chord. (I will look at your comment again.)

    “I’d have to say, yes, there’s something Out There that we are perceiving, dimly. But we can say nothing more about it than what we can deduce, infer, surmise, and guess from what we experience, what we sense. Is that Realism (as opposed to Idealism)?”

    I don’t actually “perceive” anything – dimly or otherwise – but neither do I think it’s productive to understand what people say too quickly or to be too quick to refute and argue. In other words, I see what you mean. —And I am prepared to say that there is something Out There too. (Fuck the solipsists.)



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  • Dan #271

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for a non dismissive reply.

    The quality of passing time and its directionality is learned from thermodynamics. Entropy (chaos, except in special cases) increases. Water is spilled from a cup but we never get to see the film run backwards and water fly from the table into the cup. Things get in a mess and it takes us to tidy up. (An adjunct to this is continuity of existence. Babies need to learn that objects sustain through time.)

    Causality is learned by that combination of Hebbian learning and Bayesian weighting. Hebbian learning is neurons that fire together wire together (an evolutionary trick simple enough to happen from very few mutations early on in animals say 500million years ago). Inference generation is a later trick evolved from this first trick and used together with coincidence becomes a primitive form of causality. Many humans even now cannot distinguish coincidence from causality. (It takes cultural evolution to create logical abstraction and a rigorous causality.)

    A sense of externality is never entirely achieved. Solepsists exist. As W luckily hypothesised we do actually experience another’s aching tooth. We (apart from marsupials) are born with the least pre-wired brain. Our brains grow 300% after birth. We are consequently the least viable younglings of the mammals. Mirror neurons are wildly more present in us than other mammals. These are our apron strings, they allow us to be more completely managed and more completely wired after birth. They are why our cognitions are better described as situated. Mirror neurons have us smile back at mum and coincidence detect the soft voice and the surge of oxytocin released by the cuddling and the stimulation of the c-tactile afferent nerves. Mum, baby, happy, mum smiles, baby smiles…every time. Minds appear connected. You feel your mum’s feelings. Even now feelings are infectious. Externality is only a slowly realised.

    There are books-worth of information about all three of these and I can only give you a flavour here. S’s hypotheses are false about a priori knowledge. Now I think if he were to step back from his simplified entities of human attributes to how something like thermodynamics drives the phenomenal he would be on to something but then it would be less anthropocentric. It is the legacy of the anthropocentric view that ultimately confounds much of earlier philosophy in my view. This is understandable because of the lack of opportunity of insight into how mentality (neologism?) actually could work.



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  • @dan #273

    As I recall when I looked closer at this, the “chord” represented by our 3-sensor colour vision system has the frequency relations of the notes of a simple major chord. All you get are relative volumes of the same 3 notes. Try making music with that, a 3-key piano or a 3 string guitar, and no using the left hand.

    That, btw, explains why it is well nigh impossible to generate a satisfactory visual representation of music. Tangerine Dream did pretty well in their day, and Fantasia was good too, but there was a lot of creative visual imagination in that work.



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  • @ Phil 271

    I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, frankly. I see you have no less than two “likes’, by the way. That’s a sign that you’re wrong right there. The truth is seldom popular. (Kidding.)

    “A sense of externality is never entirely achieved. Solepsists [sic] exist. As W luckily hypothesised we do actually experience another’s aching tooth.”

    That’s very enlightening.

    Re: causality as innate:

    I’m trying to distinguish between the raw material that the senses alone receive and what S. calls the faculty of understanding, that is able to (immediately and intuitively) trace that effect (the sense impression/data) back to a cause (the perceived object). Not all living organisms can do this!

    Externality is as innate as the organs of sense themselves and the understanding itself. Why do we have hands and eyes and ears and noses – not to mention brains?

    Solipsism denies the reality of our knowledge of the external world, and confuses that reality with illusion. It is superficial although hard to refute with proofs.

    Thanks for your non-dismissive reply to my reply.



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  • Dan

    That’s very enlightening.

    I can’t figure out if this is a problem, if, perhaps, you are being facetious but don’t care to be enlightened anyway because there is no substantive point or question related. My style tends to run with a provocative headline unpacked through the paragraph or the piece. That was a typical paragraph headline explained later.

    I’m trying to distinguish between the raw material that the senses alone receive and what S. calls the faculty of understanding, that is able to (immediately and intuitively) trace that effect (the sense impression/data) back to a cause (the perceived object). Not all living organisms can do this!

    Certainly not the young. All en-brained animals (non sessile animals) employ coincidence detection. The snap of the twig was caused by another agent (prey or predator). But the innocent young learn causality through experience.

    Externality is as innate as the organs of sense themselves and the understanding itself.

    and yet there is the possibility

    Solipsism denies the reality of our knowledge of the external world, and confuses that reality with illusion. It is superficial although hard to refute with proofs.

    A sense of self (to distinguish from the rest) takes a long time to form. It follows from the discovery of agents in your universe. This isn’t so immediate or clear to infant us when these agents feel our feelings and do our bidding.

    At some point a precis of how a priori knowledge could exist would be good. This could allow you to round out with a fuller treatment of idealism and the implications of your original question.



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  • @dan #277

    You lost me.

    Hah, shoe’s on the other foot for a change.

    OK, what I meant was this: expressing our sense of light in terms of our sense of vibration, we have basically only 3 detectors. Scaling the different frequencies to get something comparable, light having a much higher frequency than sound, I found this:

    One (call it L) is triggered by tones in the range of D to G (in the octave above middle C), and is most sensitive to F natural.
    One (call it M) is triggered by tones in the range E to A, and is most sensitive to F#
    One (call it S) is triggered by tones in the range G# to B, and is most sensitive to Bb.

    All our hearing would be varying emphasis on the notes F, F# and Bb. We’d hear nothing below D and nothing above B, within a single octave.

    So, for example a G natural note will trigger M, and to a lesser extent L

    While a G# note will trigger M and also S.

    B and Bb (or A#) are barely indistinguishable, they both excite S only.

    Not a lot of musical scope with these 3 very inaccurate detectors. That’s all. When people extol the wondrous perfection of human vision, I like to remember this.

    BTW you need nothing more to reproduce this for yourself than a couple of Wikipedia pages (“Piano key frequencies”, and “Color vision”) and a calculator or spreadsheet for the arithmetic, that’s all I had. You could scale it differently (like using a capo) but the overall meaning stays the same.

    Or you might find I’d made a mistake somewhere. It always helps to have someone check your facts.



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  • Phil,

    You said:

    “We appreciate another man’s toothache, as W hypothesized.”

    I am sick of Wittgenstein. Yes, I was being “facetious” (sarcastic) when I said “enlightening” in response to the extraordinary statement above.

    W said (in his Blue Book, I think) that we “feel” another man’s toothache. He didn’t say “appreciate.” I don’t think he was alluding to empathy.

    As for a more thorough exegesis of the doctrine of a priori knowledge, I will need some time, as I am not sure how to address the issue of infant cognition. In the mean time, I will say this: a newborn infant can see. That I know. If it can see then the “knowledge” of space must be as innate as its ability to see – for how could it possibly see except by seeing into, or intuiting in some other way, external space, which cannot be said to exist except in relation to something looking (or feeling) from the inside out?

    Moreover, “the most profound change at birth is [a] baby’s first breath[…]The first few breaths after birth may be the most difficult breaths [a] baby will take for the rest of her life.” (A. James) Does this process of “learning” imply that the ability to breathe is not an innate ability?



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  • W said (in his Blue Book, I think) that we “feel” another man’s toothache. He didn’t say “appreciate.” I don’t think he was alluding to empathy.

    “Feel” another’s pain IS empathy and what I should have said. Appreciation is purely an intellectual process (to understand fully etc.) We empathise from the earliest ages with the help of mirror neurons. They appear to be more subdued later on as we assume a greater autonomy. The decline is seen in the falling off of the attribute of “overimitation”.

    Take any amount of time on a priori. If you can deal with it in little steps that would possibly be best for me to focus on the detail.

    Breathing is a fascinating muscle action falling between automatic like peristalsis and fully controlled like biceps flexing. When young it is probably fully automatic driven by homeostatic needs of oxygenation….But I need to research a little more..



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  • Go back to The Blue and Brown Books, Phil. You will see that W did not have feeling in that sense (empathy) in mind at all in that asinine toothache section. He also said that vowels have shades. That’s right. He also used the word thought and the word feeling irresponsibly, just substituted one for the other. (“When I feel that one and one makes two,” etc. Made that up but that’s the kind of thing he often says.) He wasn’t really irresponsible; I suspect that he was trying deliberately to confuse, conflate, confound, and paralyze us.

    Feeling as empathy would have made sense but W, you see, did not like to make sense. No, that he did not like. Read what he wrote. You will see that he is, as always, saying precisely nothing. He even suggests that machines can have headaches. Why not? (That’s from either the Blue Book or On Certainty.) Everyone thinks this is all very profound.

    W was a charlatan, hoodwinked a generation. He was worse than Deepak Chopra, but cut from the same cloth. Both are obscurantists par excellence. I could be wrong, but I have been reading him for a year and a half and have discovered nothing of value anywhere. He just plays with words, thrives on the inevitable ambiguity and imperfections associated with language, doesn’t appreciate language, seems to hate it. Language (like art and philosophy) is really the fruit of man’s emergence from a mere animal existence; it is one of our most noble inventions, or creations. He was a monster, a destructive and insidious man with a cruel streak a mile wide. He trampled on truth and beauty. A degenerate. I detest W. He wanted to take us back to the year zero. His anti-philosophical mode of philosophy is regressive, anti-intellectual.

    W: the epitome of “deepity.”

    Sorry if I sound vitriolic.

    Personal remark: I Have a friend (Paul) and our 40 year friendship is on the verge of permanent destruction right now because I just don’t “get” W and I continue to write “crap.”

    Talk to you soon.



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  • Dan, sorry to hear about your friend. Friendship shouldn’t come to hinge on this stuff.

    I was not in any way invoking W as an authority on empathy. You will see I described W’s choice of words as lucky (not wise). It simply served as a recent image used that encapsulated a (seemingly evidenced by science) truth I wanted to employ. I’m sorry I used that image. I should have stuck to smiling mothers etc. I strive constantly to see through authority to better attend to evidence and reason.

    I looked back at what I wrote which was “experience” another’s toothache, which I stand by. W actually played the word game, I think, “had” another man’s toothache, which was the rather shocking image I actually wanted to use, to kick off the paragraph.



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  • Phil, thank you for clarifying that. Could you please reiterate your point about empathy when you can? I missed something. Is this related to our discussion of a priori knowledge? Perhaps we should stick to causality for the time being. Empathy is inborn too, in my opinion, but adding this subject on top of causality will complicate things.
    Regardless of whether it complicates things I am still curious to know what your point about empathy was, and will get back to you about that.



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  • @Phil 279

    A sense of self (to distinguish from the rest) takes a long time to form.

    I am not suggesting that babies are born with a sense of self that approaches anything like an “I”. That is indeed learned. I agree. —But I am talking about something much more basic. A cat or a dog has no sense of self in the way you mean it, presumably; nor do they ever develop an I consciousness. But both dogs and cats as well as babies (before the I is developed) have Understanding, that is, the ability to trace a sensation (whether it be visual or felt as a touch of the hand) back to a cause – however indeterminate this cause may be. The data of sense-impressions (felt by mice and birds, by most, if not all, animals with brains, if I am not mistaken) may be a sound, may be a visual object; it produces a feeling, a sensation, of some kind. Only beings with the capacity to understand (as a result of sufficient brain capacity) that this feeling-producing data has a cause that has arisen from outside of its own self – and I am using the word “self” in an elemental, non-psychological sense – has any awareness of the reality of an external “world.” Opposed to this are the many organisms with no such innate faculty – such as cells, which live in an enclosed, solipsistic, internal world. No distinction between their own existence and an outer one is made.

    Sense of self: straw man (Unintended, but still a straw man.)



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  • Dan

    But both dogs and cats as well as babies (before the I is developed) have Understanding, that is, the ability to trace a sensation (whether it be visual or felt as a touch of the hand) back to a cause

    Is this conscious?

    Is your thesis of a priori knowledge damaged if a connection process which we agree exists from the earliest moments is conscious or not, necessarily causal or not or merely coincidence detection strengthened by repitition of occurrence?

    Why would a priori knowledge in S’s terms not be now better understood by processes like Hebbian learning with Bayesian weighting as an automatic process of all brains?

    Your biggest ally in this is Chomsky arguing for non-evolved “a priori” Chomskian language modules that dismay the biologists as it (seemingly to them) pushes back any sensible account of their occurrence. A wonderful account of Chomsky’s thinking on this convincingly suggests these modules are hoped by him to be the result of properties of physics. What Chomsky is unaware of is the work of folk like Andreas Wagner who are analysing the solution space available to evolution (the entire theoretical range of all possible proteins etc.) and revealing deep and repetitive structures of all viable solutions, this by tackling the problem as a pure physics/mechanical issue. In other words Chomsky’s distaste for evolution being insufficiently primal is unwarranted and evolution is (of course) ordered by physics….it just needs computers using large complex models to discover the ordered tendencies.



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