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Am I A Materialist?


VacuumFlux
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On another thread (I'll find the link later, I just want to get this started), I was asked the following by Antlerman:

 

Edit: Here's the link: http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/49065-what-form-of-spirituality-do-you-studypractice-these-days/page__view__findpost__p__707333

 

What I'm curious about and perhaps this can be a discussion for another topic, is how you identify yourself as a materialist. I'm not seeing that in how I understand the term materialist. You go into these deeply subjective spaces, mystical experiences, and yet the term materialist says that only the material world is valid and reliable, the only 'real' world. Mysticism is part of an epistemological pluralism. The materialist sees the 'eye of flesh' as the only true knowledge. An integral approach takes the eye of flesh, the eye of mind, and the eye of spirit together into a whole, not making category errors such as trying to understand philosophy or spirituality in terms of reductionist methodologies applied to the material world.

 

Regardless, we can have a separate discussion on this if you wish.

 

P.S. I think the problem is where people see Spirit and think supernatural. I don't. I consider it very much part of what is. It is part of this natural system, but it is not material in nature. There are plenty of 'immaterial' realities we function within on a daily basis, such as our value systems as one example.

 

I haven't replied yet because I've been thinking a lot about it and getting a crash course in philosophical terms from Wikipedia. But it's been very interesting and useful to think about, and I've generated enough paragraphs of rough drafts I think I need to just start posting and add more later.

 

The title of this post isn't exactly asking whether I am "really" a materialist, but rather whether there are more accurate words for me to use to make communication more clear. Wikipedia suggests "supervenience physicalism" might communicate what I believe more accurately to people who know those words. I'd never heard those terms until I found them on the internet a day or two ago.

 

One reason I like the term "supervenience" is that it can mean non-reductionist. Since I really don't know what I'm talking about, here's a quote from Wikipedia:

 

Supervenience has traditionally been used to describe relationships between sets of properties in a manner which does not imply a strong reductive relationship.[1] For example, many hold that economic properties supervene on physical properties, in that if two worlds were exactly the same physically, they would also be the same economically. However, this does not entail that economics can be reduced in any straightforward way to physics. Thus, supervenience allows one to hold that "high-level phenomena" (like those of economics, psychology, or aesthetics) depend, ultimately, on physical substance, without assuming that one can study those high-level phenomena using means appropriate to physics.

 

And now, for some bad analogies!

 

Edit: In the following paragraph, read my humor mostly as being entertained by the way the world works, but underneath there's a touch of hysteria from a burnt out physics student.

 

First of all, the idea that science is deterministic in any practical sense or has things solved is hilarious. I mean, science does great stuff, and we have lots of information about how our world works. But we can't even solve many quantum three body problems analytically! We get great answers using numerical methods, and can use quantum mechanics to study chemistry, but, uh, our chemistry modeling still requires a good bit of art. For a good laugh, check out the Wikipedia page on the three-body problem at http://en.wikipedia....ee-body_problem and count how many times you see words like estimate and approximation in one paragraph. Physics has a lot to do with learning what approximations are valid for the desired accuracy of the answer and reducing the real problem to something easier to solve. Those spherical cow jokes are funny becuase they're so true.

 

Also, physics itself comes in multiple levels that don't reduce. No one models the tides by modeling every water molecule involved, and no one calculates the trajectory of a baseball using quantum physics. The lower level, the "truer" description of reality, is useless when describing large enough systems. But that doesn't mean that there's any conflict between them, just that large numbers of stuff are much better, perhaps even more "truly", described in aggregate. So even the very physical ocean displays emergent, non-reductionist properties.

 

To apply this to the mind-body question, I really really hate the computer analogy where the brain is the hardware and the mind is the software. I used to like it, but the more I think about it, the more I find it misleading. Rather I'd say that the mind is a piece of embeded software that rewrites its own hardware every time it is run. Computers don't do that. Computers are way too simple to desribe how the human mind/brain works. And it's not like you can realy say that it's just the physical brain that gives rise to the mind; the brain is too connected to the rest of the body's chemistry, and hard-wired to external sensory input. And the brain has feedback loops, so it's also senstive to itself along the time axis. Every thought you have leaves physical changes in your mental wiring. To use the computer analogy to describe how babies learn, it's not a matter of writing new data to a hard drive. It's an actual physical process of changing the wiring. Every sensory input, every thought, strenghtens some mental connections, leaving lasting physical changes is the brain. So you can't reduce the human mind to the state of the brain at a single moment in time. You have to include the feedback loops, the sensory input, blood sugar levels... and as soon as that brain thinks a thought, it's physical configuration is different. The most poetic descriptions of the feedback loop/highly dynamic brain concept I've actually found in some Buddhist and Hindu writings, even if the writers aren't materialists and don't mean it in exactly the same way I hear it. It's the idea that the "you" that exists right now isn't the "you" that exist just a second ago, and both are different from that "you" that will exist in the next second. It is a little scary to think that continuity of self is an illusion, but it's also comforting in that I do change, and becuase I change I can become a better person.

 

To discuss later: I grew up with a Christian dualistic view where the soul was more valuable than the material, though both were real. As a Christan, I also got a warped view of Eastern philosophy and still don't quite get the concept of Maya, which in some versions says that the material world is an illusion. Both of those concepts seem to say that spirit > body, which can lead to unhealthy mind-over-matter things like faith healing instead of chemo treatment, or telling people with mental illnesses that they're just lazy or immoral for not getting over it. I have personally found great comfort in the non-dualistic bottoms-up view, because it make me feel validated. My body matters because the physical world is the only reality, and my mental states matter because they are actual physical things (in the sense that the tides are an actual physical thing, even if you can't bring a bottle of it back to the lab). It lets me quit feeling guilty for not being strong enough mentally to force myself to not have problems.

 

Another topic that might be useful later: I see "myself" in three levels. In the narrowest sense, I am my conscious mind. That limited sense of self leads to much anxiety, because when I only identify with that part of me, I freak out when my subconscious makes decisions without me. And it makes lots of them. I'm better off thinking of my conscious mind as the referee who's only there to pick which part of my subconscious needs to be in charge (connected to the body) at the moment. Like a switch board operator. Then there's the me in the largest sense, which includes my whole body. I lean towards a ghost in the machine view of myself, which messes me up sometimes, so thinking in materialist terms helps me be more of an integrated whole.

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Ok, some more thoughts, mostly pulled in from other threads on this site I've read since the first post.

 

First of all, when I kept calling myself a materialistic atheist, I didn't realize the deterministic connotations that come with that. I've never seen materialism as deterministic in the way some other people seem to, and in fact I've gotten into debates with another science major friend (different specialty) who insists that quantum mechanics can't be "true" (missing variable or something) because he's sure the world is more deterministic than that. I don't understand why he feels compelled to insist that nature is deterministic, because I never have never seen it that way.

 

Even if nature is deterministic, it's not in any way that's meaningful to us, since we don't have any computer and measurments outside of the system that could calculate the future; if you build a computer to calculate "the universe" then it is part of the universe and the process of building it changes the universe it is trying to calculate; and each calculation it does changes the universe, so it would have to consider itself as part of the equation, and.... I think someone has written a more coherent explaination of that than I have, but I can't remember enough details to look it up. A similar analogy works to explain why I do not see any conflict between materialism and free will; my thoughts are part of the physical world, so when I have a thought the physical world changes. Having a physical thought gives me power over the physical because they are all part of the same... plane of reality, I guess.

 

Another big reason I'm a materialist is because (as came up in another thread) I've had a lot of dissociative tendencies, where I hide inside my head to run away from painful experiences. I got lonely. When focusing on what I think other people would call my spirit, I never sensed any other beings like me. I had to come back to the mundane, the physical... and only through the physical world could I connect to any other human beings. I only know other people have minds because their physical actions, their physical words (text or speech, they all come to me through my physical senses), display actions similar to mine, and I have a mind. I've often wanted to be telepathic, to be more spiritually sensitive, and I never pulled it off. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but all my pure mind ever had access to is my own mind. I need my body to be able to get to anything else. And my physical body interacts with physical things that don't have a mind, while I've never encountered another mind that wasn't attached to a body. So it seems that physical material can exist without a mind, but a mind cannot exist without a physical body. And that's why it's very intuitive to me that the basic unit of reality is materialistic, and that minds like mine are emergent properties of matter.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm sorry I just saw this topic tonight. There's a great deal of respectable thought that went into all this and I'll need some time to offer some response as time permits.

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Oh wow, this sat here for how many days? I didn't see it either.

 

Just as Ant... I'll be back.

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I really really hate the computer analogy where the brain is the hardware and the mind is the software. I used to like it, but the more I think about it, the more I find it misleading.

Ah! I gotta hit this real quick.

 

Hate is kind of a strong word, but I can definitely agree that it's a very, very poor analogy, if indeed it can even be called an analogy. And I think it's a shame that the idea gets as much play as it does.

 

Rather I'd say that the mind is a piece of embeded software that rewrites its own hardware every time it is run. Computers don't do that. Computers are way too simple to desribe how the human mind/brain works.

Now this is remarkable in my opinion. Yeah.

 

VacuumFlux do you have interest in biology at all? If not, why not?

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On another thread (I'll find the link later, I just want to get this started), I was asked the following by Antlerman:

 

Edit: Here's the link: http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/49065-what-form-of-spirituality-do-you-studypractice-these-days/page__view__findpost__p__707333

 

What I'm curious about and perhaps this can be a discussion for another topic, is how you identify yourself as a materialist. I'm not seeing that in how I understand the term materialist. You go into these deeply subjective spaces, mystical experiences, and yet the term materialist says that only the material world is valid and reliable, the only 'real' world. Mysticism is part of an epistemological pluralism. The materialist sees the 'eye of flesh' as the only true knowledge. An integral approach takes the eye of flesh, the eye of mind, and the eye of spirit together into a whole, not making category errors such as trying to understand philosophy or spirituality in terms of reductionist methodologies applied to the material world.

 

Regardless, we can have a separate discussion on this if you wish.

 

P.S. I think the problem is where people see Spirit and think supernatural. I don't. I consider it very much part of what is. It is part of this natural system, but it is not material in nature. There are plenty of 'immaterial' realities we function within on a daily basis, such as our value systems as one example.

 

I haven't replied yet because I've been thinking a lot about it and getting a crash course in philosophical terms from Wikipedia. But it's been very interesting and useful to think about, and I've generated enough paragraphs of rough drafts I think I need to just start posting and add more later.

 

The title of this post isn't exactly asking whether I am "really" a materialist, but rather whether there are more accurate words for me to use to make communication more clear. Wikipedia suggests "supervenience physicalism" might communicate what I believe more accurately to people who know those words. I'd never heard those terms until I found them on the internet a day or two ago.

 

One reason I like the term "supervenience" is that it can mean non-reductionist. Since I really don't know what I'm talking about, here's a quote from Wikipedia:

 

Supervenience has traditionally been used to describe relationships between sets of properties in a manner which does not imply a strong reductive relationship.[1] For example, many hold that economic properties supervene on physical properties, in that if two worlds were exactly the same physically, they would also be the same economically. However, this does not entail that economics can be reduced in any straightforward way to physics. Thus, supervenience allows one to hold that "high-level phenomena" (like those of economics, psychology, or aesthetics) depend, ultimately, on physical substance, without assuming that one can study those high-level phenomena using means appropriate to physics.

 

And now, for some bad analogies!

 

Edit: In the following paragraph, read my humor mostly as being entertained by the way the world works, but underneath there's a touch of hysteria from a burnt out physics student.

 

First of all, the idea that science is deterministic in any practical sense or has things solved is hilarious. I mean, science does great stuff, and we have lots of information about how our world works. But we can't even solve many quantum three body problems analytically! We get great answers using numerical methods, and can use quantum mechanics to study chemistry, but, uh, our chemistry modeling still requires a good bit of art. For a good laugh, check out the Wikipedia page on the three-body problem at http://en.wikipedia....ee-body_problem and count how many times you see words like estimate and approximation in one paragraph. Physics has a lot to do with learning what approximations are valid for the desired accuracy of the answer and reducing the real problem to something easier to solve. Those spherical cow jokes are funny becuase they're so true.

 

Also, physics itself comes in multiple levels that don't reduce. No one models the tides by modeling every water molecule involved, and no one calculates the trajectory of a baseball using quantum physics. The lower level, the "truer" description of reality, is useless when describing large enough systems. But that doesn't mean that there's any conflict between them, just that large numbers of stuff are much better, perhaps even more "truly", described in aggregate. So even the very physical ocean displays emergent, non-reductionist properties.

 

To apply this to the mind-body question, I really really hate the computer analogy where the brain is the hardware and the mind is the software. I used to like it, but the more I think about it, the more I find it misleading. Rather I'd say that the mind is a piece of embeded software that rewrites its own hardware every time it is run. Computers don't do that. Computers are way too simple to desribe how the human mind/brain works. And it's not like you can realy say that it's just the physical brain that gives rise to the mind; the brain is too connected to the rest of the body's chemistry, and hard-wired to external sensory input. And the brain has feedback loops, so it's also senstive to itself along the time axis. Every thought you have leaves physical changes in your mental wiring. To use the computer analogy to describe how babies learn, it's not a matter of writing new data to a hard drive. It's an actual physical process of changing the wiring. Every sensory input, every thought, strenghtens some mental connections, leaving lasting physical changes is the brain. So you can't reduce the human mind to the state of the brain at a single moment in time. You have to include the feedback loops, the sensory input, blood sugar levels... and as soon as that brain thinks a thought, it's physical configuration is different. The most poetic descriptions of the feedback loop/highly dynamic brain concept I've actually found in some Buddhist and Hindu writings, even if the writers aren't materialists and don't mean it in exactly the same way I hear it. It's the idea that the "you" that exists right now isn't the "you" that exist just a second ago, and both are different from that "you" that will exist in the next second. It is a little scary to think that continuity of self is an illusion, but it's also comforting in that I do change, and becuase I change I can become a better person.

 

To discuss later: I grew up with a Christian dualistic view where the soul was more valuable than the material, though both were real. As a Christan, I also got a warped view of Eastern philosophy and still don't quite get the concept of Maya, which in some versions says that the material world is an illusion. Both of those concepts seem to say that spirit > body, which can lead to unhealthy mind-over-matter things like faith healing instead of chemo treatment, or telling people with mental illnesses that they're just lazy or immoral for not getting over it. I have personally found great comfort in the non-dualistic bottoms-up view, because it make me feel validated. My body matters because the physical world is the only reality, and my mental states matter because they are actual physical things (in the sense that the tides are an actual physical thing, even if you can't bring a bottle of it back to the lab). It lets me quit feeling guilty for not being strong enough mentally to force myself to not have problems.

 

Another topic that might be useful later: I see "myself" in three levels. In the narrowest sense, I am my conscious mind. That limited sense of self leads to much anxiety, because when I only identify with that part of me, I freak out when my subconscious makes decisions without me. And it makes lots of them. I'm better off thinking of my conscious mind as the referee who's only there to pick which part of my subconscious needs to be in charge (connected to the body) at the moment. Like a switch board operator. Then there's the me in the largest sense, which includes my whole body. I lean towards a ghost in the machine view of myself, which messes me up sometimes, so thinking in materialist terms helps me be more of an integrated whole.

That has to be one of the best posts I have ever read.

 

I'm on a very slow tablet so I can't address it like I want to yet, but I will tomorrow. For now I just want to have you look into Process Philosophy and see what you think.

 

Man, I wish my computer would boot...damn thing!

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How on earth did we miss this jewel?

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Oh wow, I have replies.

 

VacuumFlux do you have interest in biology at all? If not, why not?

 

Interest, yes, but my knowledge is minimal. I do try to poke around at wikipedia and talk to biologists, but since I went to a YEC/creationist high school, I'm a bit behind. I also had some serious mental blocks against real science even when I realized that it was probably true, so that also puts me a few years behind what I'd like to know. I took an athropology class (mostly human evolution) in college to try to learn more, and lied to my parents and told them I was taking intro biology.

 

And NotBlinded, I found the Wikipedia page on Process Philosopy, so I might have something to say about that later.

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How on earth did we miss this jewel?

 

I saw it when it first posted but didn't have anything meaningful to contribute. I hoped others would get into a discussion about it, though, because it really is a very thoughtful post.

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Interest, yes, but my knowledge is minimal.

Ah, well it may be that your relative lack of knowledge in biology may be a good thing.

 

VacuumFlux, if you care about acquiring an education worthy of the 21st century and beyond then I highly recommend the book Life Itself by the theoretical biologist Robert Rosen. I recommend it to all contemplative people.

 

Therein a report can be found of a pioneer biologist on his findings towards answering the question "What is life?". The question itself is examined and rephrased, and some steps towards some answers are elucidated.

 

I strongly suspect that if you read this book and digest it for yourself, then it will provide some scientifically valid expansions or additions to a reductionistic or materialistic view of nature.

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VaccumFlux: Your post is one of the deepest and most interesting posts I have ever read on this forum and I am not sure how I missed it either.

 

You are a very thoughtful and perceptive person. I may want to comment later.

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First of all, the idea that science is deterministic in any practical sense or has things solved is hilarious. I mean, science does great stuff, and we have lots of information about how our world works. But we can't even solve many quantum three body problems analytically! We get great answers using numerical methods, and can use quantum mechanics to study chemistry, but, uh, our chemistry modeling still requires a good bit of art. For a good laugh, check out the Wikipedia page on the three-body problem at http://en.wikipedia....ee-body_problem and count how many times you see words like estimate and approximation in one paragraph. Physics has a lot to do with learning what approximations are valid for the desired accuracy of the answer and reducing the real problem to something easier to solve. Those spherical cow jokes are funny becuase they're so true.

I was trying to find an article I read earlier last year by a physicist who talked about just this. To your lay person science appears to have all the answers and so beliefs such as Positivism remain popular in the public sphere, while scientists themselves long ago mostly abandoned that. The illusion is created in just what you say, they do not try to answer questions they can't, and they tackle only what they can to some degree of satisfaction. To the lay person, this appears as if science is the key to understanding everything because of this type of appearance of success. I liken this to the masses wishing to find for a new central authority of knowledge to replace Holy Mother Church with. The priests were wrong, but scientists are being proven right. The new priesthood for the laity, in their minds. Science becomes Scientism.

 

Also, physics itself comes in multiple levels that don't reduce. No one models the tides by modeling every water molecule involved, and no one calculates the trajectory of a baseball using quantum physics. The lower level, the "truer" description of reality, is useless when describing large enough systems. But that doesn't mean that there's any conflict between them, just that large numbers of stuff are much better, perhaps even more "truly", described in aggregate. So even the very physical ocean displays emergent, non-reductionist properties.

 

To apply this to the mind-body question, I really really hate the computer analogy where the brain is the hardware and the mind is the software. I used to like it, but the more I think about it, the more I find it misleading. Rather I'd say that the mind is a piece of embeded software that rewrites its own hardware every time it is run. Computers don't do that. Computers are way too simple to desribe how the human mind/brain works. And it's not like you can realy say that it's just the physical brain that gives rise to the mind; the brain is too connected to the rest of the body's chemistry, and hard-wired to external sensory input. And the brain has feedback loops, so it's also senstive to itself along the time axis. Every thought you have leaves physical changes in your mental wiring. To use the computer analogy to describe how babies learn, it's not a matter of writing new data to a hard drive. It's an actual physical process of changing the wiring. Every sensory input, every thought, strenghtens some mental connections, leaving lasting physical changes is the brain. So you can't reduce the human mind to the state of the brain at a single moment in time. You have to include the feedback loops, the sensory input, blood sugar levels... and as soon as that brain thinks a thought, it's physical configuration is different.

This is wonderful. I've always had a problem with the software analogy because it is more than that, as you point out so well. I first began getting at this many years ago as I began exploring language and culture and aesthetics in the role of human evolution. My first venture into trying to explain that back then was in a topic here I started called Language, Truth, God, and Humanity. (It'll be interesting now for me to read that again after this many years). But it touches on exactly what you are talking about, and what is also now becoming revealed in the field of Epigentics. These things are sort of common sense, how the mind effects the body, and even drives evolution itself. Particularly when it comes to the more sophisticated forms of intelligence. I find reductionist, deterministic models almost laughable as it fails to account for all these immaterial influences - such as thought itself. I prefer more integral understandings.

 

 

I'll offer more thoughts later as I continue a response to you. For the time being, I'm out of time....

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Just a footnote. I just re-read my topic I linked to above which I wrote almost exactly five years ago. As a personal note, I'm rather amazed at seeing the genesis of the thoughts I've exploded into how I understand things now. There are some areas I would refine and deepen, but it still amazes me to see that small kernel of thought that was somehow intuitively seeing all this I see and can articulate much clearer today. Very cool. GONZ9729CustomImage1539775.gif Sorry, it's just like reading a journal entry from my distant past to see the genesis of who I was becoming today.

 

I'll get to my other thoughts later. Hopefully, that old topic might spawn some discussion points in this thread as it does very much relate.

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This is wonderful. I've always had a problem with the software analogy because it is more than that, as you point out so well. I first began getting at this many years ago as I began exploring language and culture and aesthetics in the role of human evolution. My first venture into trying to explain that back then was in a topic here I started called Language, Truth, God, and Humanity. (It'll be interesting now for me to read that again after this many years). But it touches on exactly what you are talking about, and what is also now becoming revealed in the field of Epigentics. These things are sort of common sense, how the mind effects the body, and even drives evolution itself. Particularly when it comes to the more sophisticated forms of intelligence. I find reductionist, deterministic models almost laughable as it fails to account for all these immaterial influences - such as thought itself. I prefer more integral understandings.

 

 

I'll offer more thoughts later as I continue a response to you. For the time being, I'm out of time....

Oh my god...I loved that thread! It shows me how dumb I have become in the last 5 years! HA!

 

I have been thinking about this thread last night and today and I've even been reading some philosophy sites but for the life of me, I can't think of a response that is deserving of Flux's post. I'm hoping some inspiration will come to me soon.

 

Sorry Flux. sad.png

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I find reductionist, deterministic models almost laughable as it fails to account for all these immaterial influences - such as thought itself. I prefer more integral understandings.

Okay... now.... I'm trying to find the words.

 

I think some understandings predict future events. I am a compatibilist, meaning I believe in free will and determinism both. If we can prediict future events with some degree of accuracy then I think in some sense the future already exists. Not only that but we often base our behavior on predicted events (e.g. if I continue to eat from my kitchen then the cubbards will soon be bare.) Alright, but this does not remove choice from me. I can go through the day in any number of borrowed styles and attitudes, and each is a choice. Here's another monkey wrench though. If someone understood me in my environment better than I do, how much of my behavior could they explain and predict? Also, if they conveyed these understandings to me of my own behavior, wouldn't it likely affect the choices I make, and thus change my behavior?

 

Just a few thoughts...

 

Edit, but yes, I do think a reductionistic approach to the study of nature has some rather severe limitations. I think we'll always want it to be available to us as a method and body of work. But for me personally it's out with reduction and in with relation.

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Just a footnote. I just re-read my topic I linked to above which I wrote almost exactly five years ago. As a personal note, I'm rather amazed at seeing the genesis of the thoughts I've exploded into how I understand things now. There are some areas I would refine and deepen, but it still amazes me to see that small kernel of thought that was somehow intuitively seeing all this I see and can articulate much clearer today. Very cool. GONZ9729CustomImage1539775.gif Sorry, it's just like reading a journal entry from my distant past to see the genesis of who I was becoming today.

 

I'll get to my other thoughts later. Hopefully, that old topic might spawn some discussion points in this thread as it does very much relate.

OMG! AM, you were getting all sciency on me in this post: http://www.ex-christian.net/topic/15020-language-truth-god-and-humanity/page__view__findpost__p__280323

 

Oh, the good ol' days!

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OMG! AM, you were getting all sciency on me...

Ant went and got all inward and outward on us. GONZ9729CustomImage1539775.gif

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I'm sorry Flux...I feel very bad that I can't post back to you yet. I think I'm afraid that I can't intellectually get up there with your thoughts!

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OMG! AM, you were getting all sciency on me...

Ant went and got all inward and outward on us. GONZ9729CustomImage1539775.gif

Yes, yes he did!

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OMG! AM, you were getting all sciency on me...

Ant went and got all inward and outward on us. GONZ9729CustomImage1539775.gif

Yes, yes he did!

Well, I wish he'd stop dissin' on my precious explicit understandings. :)

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My first venture into trying to explain that back then was in a topic here I started called Language, Truth, God, and Humanity. (It'll be interesting now for me to read that again after this many years). But it touches on exactly what you are talking about, and what is also now becoming revealed in the field of Epigentics. These things are sort of common sense, how the mind effects the body, and even drives evolution itself. Particularly when it comes to the more sophisticated forms of intelligence. I find reductionist, deterministic models almost laughable as it fails to account for all these immaterial influences - such as thought itself. I prefer more integral understandings.

 

Thank you for posting that link AM. I paged through it and see i did not respond at the time. That shows how far both of us have come since those days.

 

I particularly like that you started with beauty. I always thought on some level that aesthetics is an overlooked area of philosophy. Maybe because in college I took a whole course on aesthetics and was impressed with its importance.

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To apply this to the mind-body question, I really really hate the computer analogy where the brain is the hardware and the mind is the software. I used to like it, but the more I think about it, the more I find it misleading. Rather I'd say that the mind is a piece of embedded software that rewrites its own hardware every time it is run. Computers don't do that. Computers are way too simple to describe how the human mind/brain works.

I always get a kick out of the artificial intelligence community. Every decade or so it claims to be on the cusp of machine consciousness. This from machines that still present the Blue Screen of Death on a regular basis just trying to load a frigging spreadsheet? Yeah, right.

 

The current manifestation of this is The Convergence, a simple-minded idea that the raw gigaflops of computer power in the world will, within a few years, exceed the raw computing power of all the human brains in the world. People dream of immortality by uploading their consciousness into computers or backing up copies of themselves. Talking like this is like imagining that just because we have eight billion horsepower in gasoline powered engines we can break the light barrier or make skyscrapers tap dance. Just because you have raw power doesn't mean you can do anything in particular with it.

 

I have personally found great comfort in the non-dualistic bottoms-up view, because it make me feel validated. My body matters because the physical world is the only reality, and my mental states matter because they are actual physical things (in the sense that the tides are an actual physical thing, even if you can't bring a bottle of it back to the lab). It lets me quit feeling guilty for not being strong enough mentally to force myself to not have problems.

I'm not sure how a view that the physical world is the only reality is non-dualistic. Can you elaborate?

 

As far as feeling validated by being able to identify myself as physical phenomena in a concrete material environment, I don't know that this really does anything for me personally one way or the other. I guess I'm not sure how germane the question is: if I am really asleep in the Matrix, does it change the reality of my experiences or my feelings, to me? Probably not.

 

Another topic that might be useful later: I see "myself" in three levels. In the narrowest sense, I am my conscious mind. That limited sense of self leads to much anxiety, because when I only identify with that part of me, I freak out when my subconscious makes decisions without me. And it makes lots of them. I'm better off thinking of my conscious mind as the referee who's only there to pick which part of my subconscious needs to be in charge (connected to the body) at the moment. Like a switch board operator. Then there's the me in the largest sense, which includes my whole body. I lean towards a ghost in the machine view of myself, which messes me up sometimes, so thinking in materialist terms helps me be more of an integrated whole.

I think I get where you are coming from. You want control. And I don't think this is inherently a Bad Thing. My objection to surrendering to things like alternate modes of consciousness or peak experiences probably speaks to that issue as much as it does to anything; why would I want to blindly investigate a highly subjective and ineffable realm presented to me by a universe which has not already done its part to earn my trust or respect? Sorry, I want to see such realms and evaluate them as readily as I can see and evaluate what I read on my computer screen.

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VacuumFlux, I wanted to briefly return to the OP. Here's my take...

 

Your formal education, especially if you're majoring in physics, is tilted towards reductionism and/or materialism. However, you are still very human, and I trust that there are many aspects of your thought processes which remain, and will continue to remain, immune to this formal beating.

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Still have more to read, but a few replies for now.

 

First of all, I've read some of the wikipedia page on process philosophy. One concept in particular stood out:

 

Process thought describes truth as "movement" in and through determinates (Hegelian truth), rather than describing these determinates as fixed concepts or "things" (Aristotelian truth). Since Whitehead, process thought is distinguished from Hegel in that it describes entities which arise or coalesce in becoming, rather than being simply dialectically determined from prior posited determinates.

 

An entity that people commonly think of as a simple concrete object, or that Aristotle would think of as a substance, is, in this ontology, considered to be a comoposite of indefinitely many occasions of experience.

 

I think I've assumed that that's the stance of science ever since I learned about relativity. An object may have an intrinsic rest mass and rest length, but that all changes when it's moving. If something that basic about matter can change just because of how it's moving compared to something else, and there is no single "real" reference frame, then you cannot describe any object merely in terms of itself. And then there's the concept of not being able to reach absolute zero (temperature); it's impossible for a quantum particle to hold completely still, because if it's not moving it doesn't exist (which is related to Heizenberg's uncertainty principle). And wavefunctions only collapse to particles when they interact with something. That's when I figured that science says that the relationships between pieces of "stuff" is at least as important as the pieces of stuff themselves.

 

And on another topic, I wanted to mention something about common understandings of science and science education. Real science is crazy open-ended; science education, especially at the lower levels, is all about getting the right answers. I used to like science because it gave me answers to things. I liked the idea of experiements because you could get the satisfaction of knowing you'd done your math right. Then I got involved in real research, and was rather intimidated by the concept that no one could tell me if I'd gotten the right answer. Because the whole point of research is to play with something that we don't know the right answer to, to generate new "answers", or to add more measurments to make the existing answer a little more precise, a little more right. But even all the "right answers" that we're sure of come with error bars. Science isn't about find the True Answer; it's about find truer answers than we had before. And double checking them, and ripping other people's work apart just be be sure.

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