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Everything posted by Spearmint

  1. Betsy, could you clarify what you mean by identifying a cause please? When I drop an apple I've no idea what causes it to fall to the ground - I know very little about modern physics and current explanations of gravity (as far as I know, theres no current consensus amongst physcists regarding what causes gravity, although I could be wrong). I just know that apples fall to the ground when dropped. The same applies to most other things in my day to day life - when I've got a sore head I take aspirin and I feel better. I don't know why this is the case - I'm sure someone with a degree in medicine could explain it to me, but at present it is beyond the boundaries current knowledge. Does this mean that my inductive inference that aspirin cures headaches is invalid?
  2. If atoms in the human head are behaving in the _exact_ same way as atoms composing a substance without volitional consciousness, then the volitional consciousness is obviously having no effect or influence on them. This is an empirical prediction. If science discovers that atoms in the brain behave in the same way as atoms anywhere, then it does seem to have shown that consciousness doesnt affect the brain (or anything else for that matter).
  3. This is all true, but the choice to focus is at some stage going to have to affect physical matter. When I choose to move my arm, my arm moves - consciousness is in some way going to have to cause atoms to move, in a way that cannot be explained by simple interaction of atoms (in the way we explain the movement of atoms in a table or chair for example). Also, it seems that conservation of energy isn't going to hold inside the human head either, since (I assume) the energy required to move atoms is going to have to come from somewhere.
  4. This doesnt make sense. If atoms in the brain behave the same as elsewhere the consciousness does not have casual efficacy. The 2 claims are contradictory - consicousness cannot both influence matter and not influence matter. If matter in the brain 'does what it does' without being affected in any way by consciousness, then your consciousness obviously plays no casual role whatsoever in your arm raising. The raising of the arm is caused by signals transmitted from the brain, and consciousness would not play a role in generating these signals.
  5. I agree with this, but I'm not talking about consciousness as simply 'awareness', I'm talking about consciousness being able to interact with matter. Volitional consciousness doesnt just have the property of observing reality, it must also have the property of influencing the movement of physical matter.
  6. I'm not 'baiting', as I said I think that dualism gives the most intuitive account of how consciousness works, I'm just not entirely convinced about the conseqences. If experiments showed that the atoms inside a person's head behaved in the exact same way as anywhere else, would this refute the claim that consciousness has causual eficacy? It certainly seems that it would.
  7. It may well be a scientific question but science so far has found no direct evidence of it, nor do I know of any current physical theories which require it in order to make accurate predictions. Dualism of this sort seems to necessitate that the equations which predict how the atoms constituting a table behave will break down when applied to the atoms constituting a person's brain.
  8. How can they be derived from observation? We dont 'know' the law of identity yet, how can we possibly derive either it or anything else? If someone 'knows' no principles of logic whatsoever, by what means could he possibly derive anything?
  9. How can logical principles be derived from observation? Logical principles are necessary to do the deriving in the first place, this argument is going to descend into circularity...
  10. I was rereading the OPAR section on consciousness, and there's one part I dont entirely 'get'. Objectivism is dualistic, in the sense that it regards consciousness and (what we call) matter to be irreducible primaries, but not in the sense that it claims that consciousness can be seperated from matter (man is one indivisble entity, mind depends on brain, etc etc). I agree with this, and I think most variants of strict materialism are nonsensical. However, I'm not entirely sure how this answers the standard problem of dualism which has existed since Descartes, namely how non-material consciousness has casual efficacy in the brain. If consciousness is not reducible to matter, then how is it able to affect matter, through exerting forces on it?
  11. There are several occassions where it may be best to take an arbitrary statement as being true. I'm not even talking about actual truth here, I'm talking purely about what is useful to believe. If belief in God was likely to make a person in happy in the long term, then it would be a good thing for them to believe. I would dispute that this is actually the case however, as I mentioned in my original post. On a sidenote, the classification of a statement as arbitrary is not always that simple, since what counts as evidence will vary from person to person. A Greek took an instance of thunder to be evidence for the existence of Zeus. Someone who survives a car crash may take this as being evidence for the existence of a God watching over them. The correct response here is not to simply label the statement as arbitrary and dismiss it, but to explain why the given facts are not sufficient to provide proper support for their theory.
  12. When we say that nothing exists in a region of space, we dont mean that there is a thing called 'nothing' which occupies the region, we mean that there is no existing thing within the region ("For all x, 'x occupies this region of space' is false"). I think in normal language it is best to think of space as the 'possibility' of existence more than anything else - ie a region of space can contain an existing thing, or it can remain empty. Its actual nature remains a question for science though, as stephen correctly pointed out.
  13. In very general terms, yes. A small business will normally be unable to fight a price war with a large corporation, due to the extra resources it is going to have. Obviously specialist shops and places where customer service is all-important will be different.
  14. Coulter is an idiot and her writings occupy an even lower intellectual plane than those of Michael Moore. I don't think you can judge the reactions to her based on how sympathetic people are towards the modern right however - there are other populist religious/pro-war conservative pundits such as Limbaugh and Hannity who arent despised in the way Coulter is, mainly because they occassionally offer something of substance rather than poorly written emotionalist diatribes. In her defence, I doubt she believes even 10% of what she writes. Most of her stuff reads as a quite blatent appeal to a certain audience, rather than an authentic portrayal of beliefs. I imagine she takes her own writings a lot less seriously than her average reader. edit: I haven't read either of her books to be fair (nor do I care to), and I am judging her solely on a number of articles which she has written.
  15. No, but because the belief was believed. Its actual truth value was irrelevant - what was important was the effects it had on the believer. Well of course. Truth isnt some platonic value to be pursued for its own sake - truth has value precisely because it is useful; "nature in order to be commanded must be obeyed". But we are not talking about faking reality here - we are talking about situations in which the truth is unavailable due to the absence of evidence. In these situations, it makes perfect sense to believe whatever is going to be most beneficial to your long term happyness - if you are faced with 2 alternatives with no rational reason to prefer one to the other, you might as well pick the one with the best consequences.
  16. Assuming there was life on Jupiter wouldnt really give the average person much of a psychological boost, so not really. If someone was trying to design a spaceplane to fly to jupiter or something then believing that there was life there may well increase his motivation. False beliefs can often inspire people to great feats.
  17. The creation of the huge house wont result in me no longer being able to afford my own house and having to instead rent a room within the bigger house in which to live. I understand the point youre getting at here but this is a really terrible analogy.
  18. I would agree with the claim that in the absence of all evidence the best belief to have would be the one which makes you happiest, but would disagree with the claim that the God hypothesis constitutes the best belief by this standard. I would imagine that a person who believed they had complete control over their existence would be happier than someone who always had their mind turned to what happens in the 'next life'.
  19. I thought the first half was ok, but the second was kind of boring. As far as dystopian novels go, I preferred Brave New World, which I also think is a lot more relevant to the problems society will face in the next 100 years or so. 1984 has probably been more important from a cultural point of view however, since it's caused people to become slightly more distrusting of government and surveillence, which is always a good thing. Wouldnt it have been naturalistic by Rand's classification of art, out of interest (or at least expressed a bad sense of life)? I found newspeak to be the most interesting part of the book, since it was the first time I had encountered ideas like that. I think the books were more against the USSR and totalitarianism than they were against communisism per se. Animal Farm certainly limited its criticisms to the concrete events of the soviet revolution, rather than the ideology behind them. Having said that, I don't understand how anyone could interpret either book as being pro-communist (or pro-any-system really) - they were more anti-statist than anything else. Orwell clearly defines what he doesn't want, but doesn't really describe what he does (this isnt a complaint, just an observation). A (rather long) essay on George Orwell's personal political beliefs, and how they changed through time, can be found here, although I dont believe that a person's character or intentions should affect the interpretation of their work. The novel was about the russian revolution. I assume the farmer/pigs would have represented the Russian czars and the corrupt communist party rather than some idealized capitalist businessman.
  20. So then how do you justify the glorification of professional athletes and sportsmen (take Andrew Bernstein's "Open Letter to Michael Jordan")? Can it seriously be claimed that a basketball player is more 'concerned with reality' than a chess grandmaster?
  21. Is there any actual difference between a 'cult' and a 'group of people with similar strongly held beliefs', othar than that the first term implies derision on the part of the speaker?
  22. I've never been entirely happy with the parrot example, because I dont think the distinction between an arbitrary collection of sounds' and a 'grasp of reality' is anywhere near as pronounced if we consider a computer instead of a parrot. Could a computer capable of passing a Turing test utter a true statement? What about a robot? It seems a bit arbitrary to say that a 'false' statement made by a character such as Rimmer in Red Dwarf "isnt actually false" on the grounds that Rimmer is a hologram that (supposedly) lacks a conceptual faculty, even though its conversational skills are completely indistinguishable from those of a human. Or what about the output of a computerized prediction program? We talk about weather forecasts as being 'true' or 'false', but obviously the computer which produced them had no 'grasp' on the facts of reality when it made them (and dont reply that it is a human that grasps these predictions once they are made - a human would not have the mental powers to process all the information that the computer did when it made them, and the human has no reason for thinking the prediction is true other than because 'the computer said so'). The same applies to the many results that have been produced by artificial intelligences. Are these 'true'? Or consider the original proof of the four color theorem in mathematics. This proof is currently impossible to validate by hand, and requires a computer to check it. A human certainly doesnt 'grasp the truth' of this proof - he only knows that it is true because the output of a computer program proclaims that it is. Can we really say that a 'fact of reality' has been grasped here? I do agree that the notion of truth should go beyond being a property of propostions, and that there must be _some_ kind of 'grasp of reality' involved; I'm just not entirely sure what it constitutes.
  23. It's wrong, her theory of concepts was fairly unique, as was her approach to aesthetics (I think). I also don't know of any other philosopher who took contextualism in epistemology to the extent she did, although this may well just be my lack of knowledge.
  24. I haven't heard the quote before, but it sounds similar to some of Epicurus' statements ("Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not.")
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