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PhilosophyGround >> What makes a thing a thing?


6/9/05 11:33 PM
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Socrates
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Edited: 09-Jun-05
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I am sure that this has been discussed before, but I am bored, so... There is a table in front of me. I used it as a beer opener, and now it is missing a little piece of wood from the edge. Is it still a table? Is it the same table it was before I knocked a piece of wood off of it? If you claim that it is the still a table and/or the same table, please explain what makes it so (keeping in mind that PHYSICALLY it is not the same). If it is not a table and/or the same table, please expain how... ummm... well, anything is anything at all (after all, everything is constently changing).
6/11/05 5:23 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 11-Jun-05
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Socrates, You can check out my "macroscopic obj.'s = abstract obj.'s" thread, towards the bottom of the list, or my "there are no chairs" thread which is probably on the second page by now (i dont see it on this one). Both present the development of my view, from nothing to what it is now, which, i feel, is a bit more advanced then last i discussed this topic. My personal definitions of "table," "chair," and the like (macroscopic 'objects' in general) are as collections of other things, wholly explainable in other, smaller terms. The chair or table itself is not a separate ontological category, and does not exist as an individual object. Thus, when you put the aggregate of chair molecules together, nothing new is created, just the things that were have been rearranged. I feel that this is the correct response to your question, and to the Ship of Thesius, problem. I have also written papers on equating personal identity to material identity, and also solving this particular problem with the help of philo. of language (specifically, my referential theory). I thing the objects of reference are brain states, not the actual thing you mean to be referring to (especially, considering that macroscopic objects, under my view, don't exist). You construct a mental catalogue that stores the sense data from the collections of atoms, molecules and their interactions in a less than perfect way that manifests itself as singular object data in your mind (both because your sensory capabilities arent sharp enough to get enough of a resolution to sense things any other way, and because it makes sense to lump things into whole objects for comparative purposes). So when we talk or think about a thing, we are thinking about such a mental item, and not (exactly anyway, but most certainly inderectly) the molecules-arranged-chair-wise. Now that i've given a rather rushed overview of my opinion, i'll answer your questions in that framework: "Is it still a table?" It still is a collection of objects-arranged-table- wise, sure. "Is it the same table it was before I knocked a piece of wood off of it?" Since what we typically refer to "sameness" is a reference of the brain- states that comprise mental objects, like i said before, then it would be the same 'table.' However, in reality, there was no table to begin with, and some molecules were moved, and nothing more. "If you claim that it is the still a table and/or the same table, please explain what makes it so (keeping in mind that PHYSICALLY it is not the same)." I claim that it IS physically the same 'table' (the concept, which is the reference of our words). Here, by "physically" i mean that the states of the brain are physical. One of the biggest problems for metaphysicians is that they seem to not care much about a potential difference between what they talk about, and what actually exists. I think this is the root of the reason for so much confusion for the topic of material constitution. As to your very last question, i have apparently forgotten how to copy and paste on a mac, so please forgive me ;) There exists tables only insofar as there exists things to comprise them. Those things, are all i think exist ontologically, and the table is merely those things (van Inwagen calls them "simples," and my view on everything except living things is the same as his) organized in a particular way. So, strictly speaking, there was no table to begin with, but there is a 'table' and its identity can, roughly, be maintained. -doug-
6/11/05 7:40 PM
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DonnaTroy
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Edited: 11-Jun-05
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Don´t read Heidegger. You´ll never find out the answer there.
6/14/05 11:03 AM
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vermonter
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Edited: 14-Jun-05
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"I would say that all tables are the same idea" How can you account for different experiences for different tables then? I think your idea is the foundation for philosophies like Plato's in which everything conformed to some central thing, in his case they conformed to a perfect abstract object (and he accounted for difference in experience by imperfect copying of the abstract object), whereas your view holds that the central thing is certain brain states. I'll grant you that they are the "same idea" within a single person only to save you all sorts of problems, but you'll need to account different table experiences to hold your view. I think you are correct to some extent. We have a 'table' concept which holds some certain (what Aristotle would call) essential properties (also concepts) that we have agreed correspond to certain sets of experiences. The experiences are different, but they share enough in common to connect to our 'table' concept. So the experiences, like location, color, size, shape, time, and so on, are likely to be different, but there may be enough in common like, four-legged, flat topped, useful for certain purposes, and so on, that it forms connections to our table concept. You run into some pretty strong problems, i think, if say that all tables are a different idea, or all are exactly the same, but if you allow for a little bit of both, it works better, and it seems to actually be what happens in the real world, which is the most important part. This may be what you meant, i just wanted to clarify my position based on your post. A good example of my modification to your theory is the concept of 'wetness' which applies to very different things (you can have this concept about completely different elements, and molecules in nature, and similarly, depending on their state, this concept may not apply to certain elements or molecules under certain conditions, like frozen water). I just wrote a paper on this very concept for my language class. It was on both 'wetness' and 'clear.' On the surface it seems fair to say that wetness applies to liquids, but my theory is that wetness is a tactile sensation (seems sort of mundane a theory i imagine ;)) which explains why we wouldnt describe acid as being wet, despite being a liquid (i suppose some may argue that point, but i think they are getting 'liquid' and 'wet' confused). This also explains why touching some cold objects gives you a wet sensation, where no liquid is present. and where no one might confuse 'liquid' with 'wet.' The title of the paper i mentioned above was something like "What Blind People Mean When They Say "Water is Clear." My conclusion was that a person blind from birth doesn't really mean anything when he/ she says "water is clear" even though it becomes meaningful in the mind of a sighted listener. A blind person doesnt have the concept of clear (which fits, in most people, to a class of clear objects like water and glass) to apply to water, so his words have no meaning to him, but the particular vibrations that occur in the audio sense of a sighted listener to correspond to a concept that does apply to water and so it is meaningful to him/her. I know i just said a bunch of shit two or three times in a row. hahaha. i apologize. Thanks for the kind words thirdleg. -doug-
6/14/05 11:11 AM
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vermonter
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Edited: 14-Jun-05
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On a related note, for anyone interested, my writing sample for grad school is going to be on this topic as well. I think solving certain problems in philo of language will totally cut out dozens of major problems in other philosophical areas, like the metaphysical problem of identity that forum member socrates has presented. I do believe that my theory successfully solves Frege's puzzle as well. -doug-
6/14/05 11:44 AM
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vermonter
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Edited: 14-Jun-05
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The next time i'm in a comp lab at school (where the paper is saved) i'll do that :) Thanks again. -doug-
6/14/05 11:55 AM
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Socrates
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Edited: 14-Jun-05 12:16 PM
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vermonter, It seems to me that your position is very close to a Platonic stance, although it differs in some important ways. I have a few questions about your theory. You concede that things as we percieve them ("macroscopic things") do not actually exist. They are simply a collection of many smaller particles. You also say that we construct "mental catalogues" (what you later call an "idea" or "concept"), which result in our perception of macroscopic things. Now, I presume that these "concepts" must actually exist, right? (I think your theory runs into obvious problems if they too do not exist). But how do they exist according to your theory? It does not seem that the mental catalogues could merely be composed of particles, like a table (if so, each individual catalogue would have to exist in a definite location, so one could literally open up the brain and point to the concept of table). So, could you explain the way in which concepts exist? Second, you claim that the table does not actually exist, because it is merely a collection of particles. In your theory, do you actually exist? I suspect that these questions will get to the heart of my disagreement with you, and your disagreement with Plato.
6/14/05 12:56 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 14-Jun-05
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Socrates, I believe that you are right in the locus of our disagreement. I don't actually think that the concepts are any one thing, or separate ontological category. I suspect that the collection of things that comprise them function in a particular way, much like a television, microwave, or even a table (hey some things are just more complicated than others). Also, to clarify, the mental catalogue held for our collections of sensation, and they group together in certain ways to form concepts. So 'wetness' would be one such sensation (and ultimately a simple concept in its own right), and 'water' would be a more complicated multi-sensation item. Now i'll do a point by point: "You concede that things as we percieve them ("macroscopic things") do not actually exist. They are simply a collection of many smaller particles." Sort of. They do exist in some sense, as collections of things in "the real world" and as formed concepts derived from experiences of those things. However, as Peter van Inwagen points out, when you attempt to define a criteria for the creation of a new object, you run into a variety of problems. His description does a good job of detailing my own position. Even chemical reactions, he says, are not enough to generate a new ontological category all by themselves, when some atom is fused with another, or some other chemical change occurs. gotta go work for a minute, but i'll brb to finish the post. -doug-
6/14/05 2:52 PM
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vermonter
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OK, that was longer than i thought, but i have a little down time again. "You also say that we construct "mental catalogues" (what you later call an "idea" or "concept"), which result in our perception of macroscopic things." Right, and that perception gives us an illusion of a single table-object, but as you can see, if you start applying the table-object to your ontology then you encounter bottle-opener style problems. "Now, I presume that these "concepts" must actually exist, right? (I think your theory runs into obvious problems if they too do not exist)." The concepts exist just like the table exists. I realize that it borders on bizarre because the concepts sure do seem to exist as separate entities, but so do tables. They just happen to be very complex, and operate in a way that makes things easy to process (i think, evolutionarily speaking, they probably help us count things, since a little imperfection is needed to believe that there is more than one of something). "(if so, each individual catalogue would have to exist in a definite location, so one could literally open up the brain and point to the concept of table)" I feel certain that this is the case. Although i think that certain collections of sense receptors and other brain neurons would need to be combined to form this particular concept, and those collections may be a bit spread out (although i doubt very far) i do believe that if we had scientifically advanced enough equipment, that finding particular concepts located in particular spots in the brain would be the reality. Hopefully that is enough to give you my view on how concepts exist. I'm not sure, unless you believe in a separate mental entity how you account for concepts to begin with, if not as locatable physical objects. Although, judging by your name, you probably have little problem with abstract entities to begin with. " In your theory, do you actually exist?" Recall i stated that i wrote a paper combining my metaphysics with my philosophy of self (AKA personal identity), and i provide the same arguments. That is where van Inwagen and i diverge, since he believes that simples and living things are all that exist, whereas i don't believe that living things possess any sort of special quality that warrants a new category. Although a lot of people jump off the bandwagon when i go this far, but i dont think that, were i to be right, that it would be some scary meaningless existence. Quite to the contrary, its been this way all along, and i'm having a good time so far :) -doug-
6/14/05 4:53 PM
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Socrates
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Edited: 14-Jun-05
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I think that there are some fatal flaws in your theory, but it is hard for me to know how best to articulate them. I apologize if what follows is confusing. "Right, and that perception gives us an illusion of a single table-object..." So, the table (our perception of which is caused by a concept) is an illusion, because it is actually many particles. However, the concept of table is itself an illusion, because it is actually just many particles. So, our perceprion of a table is an illusion CAUSED by an illusion... but in order for something to be a cause, mustn't it actually exist, and hence not be an illusion? This, I believe, is the first flaw in your theory; I do not think that concepts can be thought of as an aggregate of particles, because a concept has many properties that are not different in degree than one particle, but fundametally different in kind; thus, it cannot result from particles simply. Let me try ask another question, which might clarify what I mean. When you see a green book, you have an experience of "green"; that is, there is a phenomenon of green. Does this phenomenon exist? If so, where is it located? (Keep in mind that this is a different question than where the idea of green is located). Basically, I think your theory cannot account for phenomena or consciousness. There is a fundamental unity that is "me" and not "you", which is manifest because "you" expereince different things than "me". I do not feel your pain :) According to your theory, though, this fundamental unity (consciousness) is actually an illusion; what actually exists is bunch of non-conscious particles. This seems absurd, though, because consciousness is a fundamental unity that cannot arise from an aggregate of non-conscious parts; it is different in kind. Sorry that my explanation was so sloppy. Basically, I think you are starting from the wrong side of the problem, trying to build up our experience out of its "parts", when you should really start by first taking our experience apart. Let me know how much of that made sense, if any.
6/14/05 6:19 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 14-Jun-05
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Although i disagree with your post, it was most certainly understandable, so have no worries :) "So, our perceprion of a table is an illusion CAUSED by an illusion..." I think this is the part of my theory that you have confused. You don't have a perception OF a table, but the perception IS the table. There is something real out there, namely a collection of things arranged just so that they are perceived by me in such a way that i have experience X. Experience X is the plethora of sense data (say the look of the table, which, i might mention, is a fraction of a second old, the sound of it being moved, the touch of it, the smell of the new wood, etc. etc. etc) which comes from the objects out there that do exist. However, my neurons and my sense receptors have only so much resolution and memory to play with, so i can't experience every single quark. In fact, my experience is pretty limited. The illusion is X (i dont even know if i like calling it an illusion, since it's all real, but the copy in my brain of the materials in the world is comprised of neurons, not wood and nails), but the concept itself (not the "concept of" but the concept) is a real thing, and so is the observed stuff that generates the experience of it. So, some real stuff (namely the aggregate), interacts with some other real stuff (namely what makes up your neurons), and the result is an imprint of the best sort of model (good enough anyway, i suppose) of the first stuff in neuron form. This model (the concept) allows me to interact effectively with things in the world and, probably the reason it came about, allows me to interact with YOU in reference to things in the world. So i can say to you, "Move the big table with me" and the concepts of 'big' and 'table' in each of our minds trigger the right sorts of things in such a way that you can then look at the same stuff i'm looking at and be able to interact with it and me in a desirable way. And now i pose the question to you: What sort of properties might a concept have that is not wholly expressible in terms of neurons and ultimately particles? Of course, neither of us is likely to be able to REALLY answer this question, but i suspect (obviously) that concepts and consciousness is indeed nothing more than particles. "Does this phenomenon exist? If so, where is it located? " I think your "green" example is easier to handle than most philosophers. Don't forget that my theory makes a distinction between things that exist outside of me, and the way they are perceived. The concept of "green" is little more than "wet," or "clear" for that matter. It can be divided into its concept 'green' and the things in the world that generate the sense data that corresponds to our sensations of it. Out in the world, microtextures (ie. the shapes and perhaps other nuances of atomic and subatomic geography) cause certain photon wavelengths to reflect, and others to absorb. This happens in every direction from the source, and if your eye happens to get in the way of visible wavelengths, then you will have an experience which is excited by the sensations. So when YOU say "green" it sounds to me like you are talking about the sensation, and not what happens outside of you. "This seems absurd, though, because consciousness is a fundamental unity that cannot arise from an aggregate of non-conscious parts; it is different in kind." I like this, but i'm not sure its all that convincing. I can't say that a particle can fly, per se, but i can say that planes can fly. The concept of flight is built on other concepts and experiences, like ground, air, plane, gravity (at least the way it interacts with large collections of things), and so on and so forth. Certain concepts are built from others. i gotta run for now. More tomorrow
6/15/05 12:10 AM
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Socrates
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Edited: 15-Jun-05 12:43 AM
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There are two important points that I disagree with (actually, they are the same point in the end, but I will present them as distinct for now). First, the point you said you found interesting. I still feel that you are misunderstanding something important about consciousness. Consciousness is a sort of self awareness (and because it necessitiates a "self", it implies a sort of unity). Now, I assume that the individual particles have no consciousness. They are not "self aware"; they are basically unconscious marbles, right? Now, they have many properties (size, shape, speed, etc...), and these can be made more or less complex, resulting in different effects. However, (unless you want to say that each particle is self aware) you will never get a conscious being from unconscious particles, because consciousness is a fundamentally different property. Self awareness can not simply be built from unaware parts. Here's an analogy: it's like you are saying that all shapes result from complex patterns of straight lines. What you would fail to see is that curved lines are fundamentally different than straight lines, and one can never make a curved line out of straight lines, no matter how many straight lines you have or how complex a pattern. Just as curved line is fundamentally different than a straight line, and thus cannot be composed of it, so too is a conscious entity fundamentally different than a non-conscious one, and thus cannot be composed out of it. (point two will follow shortly...)
6/15/05 12:42 AM
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Socrates
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Edited: 15-Jun-05
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Here is the second point, which boils down to the same thing as point one, I think. I believe you misunderstood what I meant to ask about the "experience of green". I assume we are agreed that expereinces are real, right? Now, because experiences are real, they must be composed of more primary particles (according to your theory), and these particles have definite locations. In response to my question about the expereince of green, you gave a physical description of what causes that experience. You can point to the particles of the "book", the light waves, the partcles of the eye, and the particles of the brian which cause the idea of green. But I am not asking about any of these things. I am askng about the "experience" of green; the phenomenon of green; that which a blind person will never expereince. If you could open up a person's skull as they looked at a green book, you would not see the green-ness that they are at that moment experiencing. Their experience of green is not located in their brain (although the brain might be necessary to cause the expereince, as are the particles of the book, the light waves, etc...). But the experience of green is real, and thus according to your theory it must have a definite location. So, where is it? I think this is the same problem as point one. Your theory ignores the difference bewteen non-conscious particles and conscious beings, and thus you also misunderstand the importance of experiences, or in other words "phenomena", which manisfestly exist and which REQUIRE conscious beings. Non-counscious entities cannot have an experience of green. ***In a world composed of only of non-conscious particles, there are no phenomena.*** In other words, I think you confound the fundamental duality of mind (experience) and body (the particles of the brain, eyes, ears, etc...).
6/16/05 4:07 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 16-Jun-05 04:29 PM
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Socrates, "consciousness is a fundamentally different property." By the logic you present, it seems to me that a lot of properties would be "fundamentially different." Take flight for example. It would probably be difficult to call the movements of a particular quark or electron (or whole atom for that matter) "flying." However, it SEEMS to me that i can safely say that planes fly, right? For you, that might be fine, and i might have just proven another fundamentally different property into your ontology. Let's add in skiing, jumping, shooting, falling, and burning too. However, it seems to me that all of these can be explained quite sufficiently in terms of mass action of particulate object, and, aren't necessarily new properties. As another example, in virtue of the appearance of 'water', 'gravity', and 'air' its safe to say that "water is falling" when you are experiencing a waterfall. However, as i discussed, water can only fall in virtue of our concepts of a singular river, and a single air or sky, and the apparent directions of 'up' and 'down' and so on. Once all of the materials out in the world are brought together in such a way as to yield a waterfall experience, does not necessitate an emergant property. Similarly, the actions and interactions between vast quantities of simples coming together to form a brain does not equate to a new sort of property. In fact, it seems to me that, although we have obvious reason to be a little biased, there isn't any reason to believe that this particular arrangement of particles (ie. the one the makes up this body and mind) is special at all. You will run into the problems of the Strong Emergence position in the topic of free will. Can you give any reason why this given arrangement of objects is enough to generate and access a non-material entity? What about Quine's problems with such abstraction? If such a non-material thing were to exist, how exactly would it interact with the material things that comprise the brain? It seems that either the Cartesian skepticism that erroneously assumes the ego/soul/mind and body are different things (which if he knew a few things about language, he might not have made such a mistake) or the current lack of knowledge on the subject of brain-generated 'self'- awareness is hardly sufficient reason to assume that a duality exists. I fail to understand why a mental pointer (the so called "self awareness") which sifts through active sense data, or recalls appropriate stored data has to be a new ontological item merely because of a "thats just the way it feels" response. I mean.... insnt that how a cd player or harddrive works too? Where the laser is pointing is the experience being had. When you remember something, the pointer selects it and experiences it again, but we all know that playing your favorite song is nothing like seeing the band live. The fact is, memories aren't at the resolution of current sense data, just like current sense data is only a coded copy of the real thing. The digital information stored on a disc is not actual instruments playing, now is it, but it certainly sounds real enough on the right speakers. I can imagine if the laser were complex enough, that it might someday wonder if the digital information it reads is really music, or just hardrive stored information. Well, it seems to me that your laser pointer is starting to wonder if the shit you've heard along is real too ;) Forgive my terrible discussion skills today... i didnt get much sleep. My friend got drunk last night and tried to have sex with the very professor who is helping me write my paper on language! I had to walk her home after she got kicked out of the bar and take care of her for a while. OOOKKK, so. on a final note RE: your first post, i think that lines and curves are also part of the mental catalogue, and don't actually exist in any non-conceptual way, since they would have to be abstract. I don't think that a line and curve example would serve as good ammo against my position. cont, in a bit. -doug-
6/16/05 4:22 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 16-Jun-05
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An additional note on part one: for a person-object (much like a table- object) to exist in the world, there would need to be some abstract person-relation (or table-relation, or what have you). Since no such relation exists in my view, it is going to be very hard for you to impart and experience-property onto billions of simples, since such a property, as you note, would require a particular entity to glom on to. (Keep in mind that i understand that this is the very reason that you intuit my position to be wrong, since you are starting from an assumption that there are singlular things having experiences, namely you, and me, however, unless you can find sufficient reason to refute my stance that a lack of abstraction assumes that macroscopic objects in general are non-existent, and that such a generalization seems clearly to extend to human bodies as well, my argument disputes the claim that there are singular things to begin with, making an experience property, as such, sort of moot.)
6/16/05 5:35 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 16-Jun-05 05:35 PM
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So, where is the experience of green? When i look in the brain of someone looking at someone green why don't i thusly experience his experience? Why is it so damn private? etc. etc... Well, when you look at someones brain you are looking at stored information, and an experience is more than just that. You don't see a movie when you look at the bottom of a DVD either, but that doesnt mean there isn't one stored in there. What do you need then? You need a player, namely the portions of the brain that process the sense data AND the part of the brain that brings it all together and determines its importance to our survival (i believe that some function such as this one is the one you are calling "self awareness" and "consciousness," a part of the brain capable of piecing together). Sense data all alone is pretty meaningless, but if you have the equipment to process it, then you've got your experiences. What are the consequences of this? Well, if there were a way to extract a particular set of green data from my brain and successfully implant it into yours, you would have qualitatively a very similar green experience to the one i had, since they are derived from qantitatively the same data. Even today we can study the effects on visual neurons when you see something, and then later when you remember it. Much of the same brain activity goes into reading external stimuli as it does to remembering it, and dreaming it. It seems like such a function would be fairly redundant if some sort of abstract conscious entity that follows my body around can experience and store the same sort of information. Additionally, i don't beleive that an experience is a singular thing either, which your view seems to need. In fact you'd be hard pressed to find a scientist (say a biochemist, or neurologist) who would say that consciousness is anything more then a collection of processes. I do realize the way things SEEM, but i that is not an adequate argument for ontological status in my book. I'm quite certain consciousness is defineable in terms of non-conscious entities, much like falling is defineable in terms of non-falling entities, and tables are defineable in terms of non-table entities. -doug-
6/16/05 6:37 PM
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Socrates
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Edited: 16-Jun-05
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"Forgive my terrible discussion skills today... i didnt get much sleep." I had my wisdom teeth removed this morning (I am sure there is a philosophy joke in there somewhere). Anyway, I am on oxycodone for the pain, so my discussion skills will propably be somewhat impared today aswell. But, in between naps I have some free time, and I would like to try to respond. We may have to go over the same ground in a day or two, however :) "By the logic you present, it seems to me that a lot of properties would be "fundamentially different." Take flight for example. It would probably be difficult to call the movements of a particular quark or electron (or whole atom for that matter) "flying." However, it SEEMS to me that i can safely say that planes fly, right?" I agree that planes seem to fly. I supose it would be a stretch to call the movements of a particle flight (but honestly I wouldn't really object to doing so). HOWEVER, the important part in this example is that "flight" is a sort of motion, right? It is when one collection of particles (plane, bird, etc...) move for a sustained period of time off of another collection of particles (the ground). Now, each individual particle has motion, so it is easy to think of flight as a complex type of motion. ***Thus, one can easily think of a flying plane as a the result of a comlex arrangement of particles, because all of the plane's properties (size, shape, motion, etc...) are also possessed by particles.*** This is why consciousness is fundamentally different than the other exaples you have used. There is no property possessed by the particles that is related to consciousness. Is consciousness a complex... motoin? That doesn't make sense. Or a complex shape? That makes no sense either? So, can YOU pexplain what property the particles have that could gice way to consciousness, just as I have done with flying? And if you cannot, I would ask you to think about why you cannot. "Similarly, the actions and interactions between vast quantities of simples coming together to form a brain does not equate to a new sort of property. In fact, it seems to me that, although we have obvious reason to be a little biased, there isn't any reason to believe that this particular arrangement of particles (ie. the one the makes up this body and mind) is special at all." I hope my reasons for disagreeing with this are clear from my above post. "You will run into the problems of the Strong Emergence position in the topic of free will. Can you give any reason why this given arrangement of objects is enough to generate and access a non-material entity? What about Quine's problems with such abstraction? If such a non-material thing were to exist, how exactly would it interact with the material things that comprise the brain..." I feel like these questions are getting ahead of where we are in the discussion. It seems to me like we should focus on your theory and see if it makes sense. IF in the end we agree that it doesn't, then we can try to explain it with a different theory. But, if you are stll persuaded that your theory is right, there is no need to fight a war on two fronts. (BTW, I don't know who Quine is. If we get that far in the discussion, you'll have to tell me). "I fail to understand why a mental pointer (the so called "self awareness") which sifts through active sense data, or recalls appropriate stored data has to be a new ontological item merely because of a "thats just the way it feels" response. I mean.... insnt that how a cd player or harddrive works too?" It is a little stronger than "that's just the way it feels". You see, there is no need for consciousness in what you have described. A robot could go through all the functions of a human with NO self awareness. It could merely be a complex system of cause and effect, just like your CD player. But self awareness does exist, and your theory must explain how we go from a nonconscious CD player to a conscious human. Now, I obviously don't expect for you to give a perfect explanation, but you must give something more than just "complexity". What proprties of your particles "build up" into consciousness? (Sorry, I am now just restating the first question of this post).
6/16/05 6:44 PM
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Socrates
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Edited: 16-Jun-05
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"...i think that lines and curves are also part of the mental catalogue, and don't actually exist in any non- conceptual way, since they would have to be abstract. I don't think that a line and curve example would serve as good ammo against my position." It was only meant as an analogy to clarify my objection. I don't think they need to exist in a non- conceptual way for the analogy to be illuminating. I just meant that straight lines (even just our conception of them) cannot ne complex enough to make a curved line (or just our conception of one). Perhaps the analogy is more confusing than illuminationg, in which case we can and should drop it. Sorry :) I am beginning to get a headache; time for some more oxycodone. I'm going to lie down for awhile, but I will return tonight to respond to the rest of your post, as there are some important things there.
6/16/05 11:01 PM
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Socrates
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Edited: 16-Jun-05
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I am back, albeit only for a moment. I do not think that I fully understand your "note on part one". Let me try to say it back to you in my own words to make sure I understand. It seems like you are starting from the premise that no "abstract person-relation" exists (by which you seems to mean someting like a 'form of a person'; is that right?). Therefore, I cannot calim that there is an 'experience' property exists, because it would require something like a person who experiences to actually exist (and this person, it seems, would require an abstract form to exist). Have I stated your position basically correctly? You go on to say: "...you are starting from an assumption that there are singlular things having experiences, namely you, and me..." I do not think it is merely an assumption that I am having an experience. Are you claiming that you are not having any experiences? If your theory leads you to the conclusion that you are not having any experiences, then I think that your theory is clearly flawed. That is like a reductio ad absurdum, isn't it?
6/16/05 11:15 PM
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Socrates
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Edited: 16-Jun-05
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Regarding your last post, when you do play a DVD, it is very easy to point to where the movie is. It has a definite location, i.e. on the screen. This seems to me to be the first problem with your analogy. You have a brain that is working as an elaborate DVD player (as you claim), which plays an elaborate movie (experience)... but this movie does not seem to exist in any one location, unlike the actual DVD movie on the screen. You point ot the brain, but that is like pointing to the DVD player. Where is the movie? There are one or two more tings I want to say about your last post, but I am beginning to feel pretty woozy from oxycodone combined with all the reading and typing. The end of my response will have to wait until tomorrow. Sorry to have to do this in so many parts.
6/17/05 10:14 AM
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Socrates
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Edited: 17-Jun-05
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"What are the consequences of this? Well, if there were a way to extract a particular set of green data from my brain and successfully implant it into yours, you would have qualitatively a very similar green experience to the one i had, since they are derived from qantitatively the same data." This still ignores the question of were the experience is. You are saying that if a similar DVD (info, which has a location) is played on a similar DVD player (the brain, which also has a location), a similar experience is produced... bt where is this experience? I am sorry to dwell on this question, but when you say everything that is real is made from particles, everything that is real must then necessarily have a definite location. Experience simply isn't like that. "Additionally, i don't beleive that an experience is a singular thing either, which your view seems to need." I agree that dividing experience (which always appears to be an organic whole) into parts (like the experience of green) is an artitificial way of speaking. I did so only for the sake of simplicity, but I do not think that my argument needs it. You can just replace the experience fo green with our organic complex whole of experience, and all my points still stand, I believe. "I'm quite certain consciousness is defineable in terms of non-conscious entities, much like falling is defineable in terms of non-falling entities, and tables are defineable in terms of non-table entities." Well, as I said earlier, I see how one could say this when thinking about "falling" and "table" (both of which seem to need only location and motion, which are possessed by particles). However, I do not see what properties possessed by particles could become complex enough to result in consciousness. Self awareness in just a fundamentally different property (unless you can explain otherwise). One final note about "seeming". I think that often theories ignore what seems to be. I mean, isn't "seeming" where we must necessarily start in all investagions? Now, we may eventually get a deeper understanding that goes beyond what merely seems to be, but our theories always be able to explain how what seems to be arises. That is the ultimate test of a theory. I feel like your theory went too deeply too quickly, missing some important aspects of seeming- important aspects of experience- that you are going to have serious trouble accounting for with particles. Anyway, I apologiize for my many posts in a row. I am enjoying this conversation, as I hope you are. I should warn you, though, I only have regular internet access for another day or two (I'm moving), after which it may be a while before I can post again.
6/17/05 2:00 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 17-Jun-05
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Well then, lets try to get this moving ;) Yes, i too am enjoying it, and i hope there are readers that are as well. I admit that i don't feel as though my opinion will change on this matter, but the subject is a challenge for me, to say the least. I also admit there are probably ways to argue your points more effectively, but i'm attempting to fit it into the framework i am developing. And no worries about the multiple posts. They dont bother me. Since they are on different pages, however, it will force me to make a few more posts of my own :) cont.
6/17/05 5:00 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 17-Jun-05
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The purpose of the "flight" and "falling" sorts of examples were to cushion some of the force of your "non-conscious particles can't make conscious collections" argument, since it seems as though non-falling particles can make falling collections of particles in virtue of a sensation based clumping mechanism in the brain which makes sense of collections of things by clumping them into singular objects, and thus appears to me (at least) to wholly account for falling objects in physical terms. This at least sets up a foundation in which its possible to say the same for consciousness or self-awareness in people (both falling and consciousness are events or experiences that happen to collections of things that appear to be unified things, and which can't be said per se for the things that comprise them). My burden then is to provide reasonable evidence that consciousness and self awareness can be explained in terms of actions and interactions of/between particles, which i think it can. Success would mean that there isn't significant different between consciousness and falling, flying, etc. First let me direct you to a book called "Wider than the Sky," which is a doctors attempt to do just that. I'm certain (haven't made it far into the book yet) that he does the project a far better justice than i am able. However, he isn't a philosopher, so take it for what it is. As a quick note, let me say that i do feel that a sufficiently sophisticated machine is capable of consiousness and self awareness. Such would be a consequence of my view, and such seems pretty likely to occur some day, given continued scientific advance. Now, lets look at the dvd player model again. I still can't decide if this is a good analogy, but it's the best i've got right now. The brain is a data storage and processing unit, much like a dvd player, and its dvds are. Imagine for a moment that your senses detected a moving table. However, we both know that the different types of sensory neurons (like those corresponding to the eyes, ears, nose, etc) in the brain that recieve and code the data are located in different sections. So, what if you didnt have a part to you brain that brought all that data into on cohesive experience. It might seem as though the appearance of the table, the sound it makes when you push it, the feel of it, the smell of the wood and so on would all be dissassociated, but they aren't. That's where the pointer comes in. It takes all the current data and pieces it together into one coherent event, with enough resolution to pick out unique sorts of collections, like those that make people and tables, and then stores into different sections for recognition or other recall later on. It's even more sophisticated than that, considering that with every collection of data recieved, the body produces neuron inhibitors and promoters, the promoters are fewer but longer lasting, so repetition enforces retention. The body also checks images with emotional centers (strong emotional responses encourage promoters), and to the more primative sections for instant action. In the latter case, you dont even need an experience to react to sense data, and the mechanism by which the higher functions (the pointer, the emotion centers and so on) are circumvented to ensure quick action is known. I'm pretty sure a neuroscientist or a brain surgeon could point you to exactly the places where the experiences happen. In fact, on MRI's you can clearly see the activated sections of the brain when certain stimuli are presented. It seems that science is pushing hard to tell us that consciousness is not some unified entity, but rather a collection of neuron driven events. Although i am hardly qualified to tell you in what way particles need to move for such a complex process to occur, but it seems likely to me that a sophisticated enough organic machine that can process and coordinate such a massive effort might have the ability to process similar information about itself. I see no reason why it can't be explained in physical terms. I CAN see how one might mistakenly believe it to be that way, but I can't see how a material system isn't at least a possibility. And if it is (and it sure seems like it, given the evidence) its an equivalent to the flying and falling cases. Wholly expressable in physical terms. "***Thus, one can easily think of a flying plane as a the result of a comlex arrangement of particles, because all of the plane's properties (size, shape, motion, etc...) are also possessed by particles.***" A movie requires size, shape, motion, etc. Why not an experience? Why wouldnt the transmition of photons, the reception, and the resulting brain activity not account for the generation and possession of an experience? Consider this for a moment: It is impossible to imagine something you have never sensed before. "What about unicorns?" you say. Well, such fabrications are just that, fabrications of real sensed things. According to your theory, it is feasible to say that you could experience something that has no corresponding stimulus ever experience, whereas with mine, such is not possible. Even artificially induced sensations would have to come from somewhere. Although this is more of an aside than any kind of argument, it seems to lend creedence to my view as a part of the way things actually are. "Is consciousness a complex... motoin? That doesn't make sense. Or a complex shape?" It doesnt seem to make any sense that emotions and a lot of other bodily activities depend on the shapes of things, and their motions when in fact their actions are WHOLLY dependant on those qualities. I'm not sure how much biology you've taken, but i was a major at one juncture and it opened up my eyes. The shapes and profiles of molecules of are the UTMOST importance to the way they function. In fact, the reason that acidosis or fever kills you is quite simply that it changes the shapes of the enzymes, aminos, hormones, etc so that they don't function the same. Given some of the considerations above, i think i've got a strong case as to how consciousness can arise from the shapes and motions of things. "BTW, I don't know who Quine is. If we get that far in the discussion, you'll have to tell me)" Quine is a philosopher ;) He's got some wonderful ideas, but he just so happened to have lost an argument on language with Gottlob Frege, a man who died many many years before! However, i generally support his views on abstraction. Basically there are physical and epistemilogical problems (which seem generally accepted to be impossible to overcome) with material and abstract objects. But that's all i'll say about that.
6/17/05 5:01 PM
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vermonter
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Edited: 17-Jun-05
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(SORRY LAST ONE WOUDNT FIT) "You see, there is no need for consciousness in what you have described." There is no need for consciousness in what you have described either. RE: your lines and curves example. No sorry's necessary. For a second i was like "shit, that's good" just before i realized i dont beleive in math ;) I whiped the sweat off and sighed some relief. cont. I have to work a bit, maybe tomorrow.
7/6/05 11:03 PM
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Jenny
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Edited: 06-Jul-05
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i don't understand the purpose of questions like these. a thing is itself.

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