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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Throwing out the bait

John C. Wright explains why Sam Harris's latest crusade is misplaced; empiricism is useless with regards answering non-empirical questions, thereby rendering the derivation of "ought" from "is' impossible:
Here is my proof.
  1. Do you agree that the international scientific community has reduced all empirical entities to certain basic constants, namely mass, length, duration, temperature, current, candlepower, moles of substance, such that any empirical subject (such as the acceleration due to gravity of a cannonball or color defined as light-frequency) can be expressed in terms of these measurable quantities or some calculated derivation of these quantities?  (I do note that for subatomic particles, some additional fundamentals are needed, but these are also quantities, and not qualities, and therefore do not effect the argument.)
  2. A quality is a judgment concerning an imponderable entity, such as true or untrue, valid or invalid, comely or ugly. A quantity is a multitude of magnitudes, or in other words, a quantity can be measured against a standard or counted with numbers or both. Do you agree that no quality can be reduced to quantity by any means whatsoever?For example, do you agree that counting the number of vowels used to express a given sentence written in ink in Esperanto will not necessarily tell you whether the sentence is true or false, fairminded or slanderous, self-evident or self-contradictory, lovely poetry or ungainly prose? That also measuring with utmost care the jots over the small I’s and small J’s even to the extend of counting every ink molecule will not give you sufficient information to make these judgment?
  3. If all empirical statements can be reduced to measured fundamental quantities, and no statements about imponderables such as good and bad, valid and invalid, fair or foul can be reduced to measurable fundamental qualities, then they have no overlap whatsoever in topic or probative value, Ergo no imponderable can be proved or disproved by purely empirical statement, no matter how numerous or complex.

To head off an obvious objection, the quantities facts about the molecules and atoms in a man’s brain have some sort of unknown relation to his ability to make qualitative judgments. Drunkenness or drugs or a blow to the head can, for example, impede the operations of memory and judgment and other cognitive powers, or drive him mad, or kill a man altogether. There is, however, not a single iota of evidence showing a relation between the imponderable cognitive content and any quantitative facts about brain molecules.
WRF3, you are now formally invited to do your thing.  But if you don't mind an observation, this "Rolf Andreassen" at Mr. Wright's site is presenting arguments that sound remarkably similar to those you have made here in the past.

This should be interesting.  "How much does a thought weigh?" has always struck me as being a question akin to "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" or "why does purple?"  But perhaps we shall be convinced otherwise.

Labels: ,

157 Comments:

Anonymous VryeDenker June 26, 2013 5:08 AM  

With a little mental elbow-grease*, this could be used as a basis of defining what we mean by Soul.

*this is not a synonym for mental gymnastics.

Blogger Heuristics June 26, 2013 5:26 AM  

Physics (or natural phislosophy, natural science) as it is done post Newton/Descartes takes our sense perception and divides it into two camps. The first camp consists of the one property shared by all or most senses (sight, hearing, touch etc) and that is the property of spatial position. The other camp is all the other sense properties (color, pitch, pain etc). Post Newtonian natural science states unargumented for and a-priori that the first camp actually exists in the real world and that the second camp only exists in the mind and is not to be spoken of.

So we end up with a natural science that is only interested in how things spatially behave, how they move about. Empirical evidence from natural science always comes in terms of movements of entities. Here is the problem of power of construction from this basic building block:

Spatial position does not determine the meaning of pain. Spatial position does not determine the meaning of logical chains of resoning. Spatial position does not determine moral correctness.

Empirical evidence cannot even in principle determine truth, empirical evidence always by itself underdetermine truth. No matter how much empirical evidence for a proposition you have you can always come up with an alternative proposition that also fits the available evidence.

This is similar to how physics does not determine syntax and syntax does not determine semantics.

https://mywebspace.wisc.edu/lshapiro/web/Phil554_files/SEARLE-BDC.HTM

Blogger Rantor June 26, 2013 5:28 AM  

Depends on the size of the thought and the medium through which it is expressed. With over 100 bound volumes, Luther's thoughts weighed hundreds of pounds. Of course unshared and unpublished thoughts weigh much less, a sliver of a percentage of three pounds. Internet thoughts wax and wane depending upon the number of servers and computers they are stored. Obviously Vox' Internet thought s weigh more than mine, and they are qualitatively different.

There's the rub, the qualitative difference in thought can't be determined by weight or any other physical measure. A copy of a Dan Brown novel may be printed at the same size and weight of a Bible, but the Bible is qualitatively superior (different will suffice for you non-believers)

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 5:33 AM  

I was just thinking about this myself the other day. What exactly is it that differentiates between qualitative experiences? We can count the atoms that comprise a chemical associated with anger as distinct from sorrow, but the more you reduce the matter involved the more it all looks the same.

You can't do it with numbers alone, you have to determine meaning and establish patterns (i.e laws).

You can say one pattern is different from another, but how do you assign meaning to that? How do you describe the difference between the law of gravity and the law of motion in a purely quantitative sense?

And furthermore, to say that something is a pattern, is to assign a qualitative meaning, inferring a telos and an order, and some meta-numerical (I can make up words) phenomenon that says these numbers all mean something to each other, and that they all mean something together.

A brain, for example. When does chemical and ion exchange become intelligence? At what point do the patterns become entities?

-

I would actually counter his counter argument by saying that he's describing not just a quantitative change (braincells damaged), but a qualitative one, that they're damaged, and under certain conditions resulting in loss in faculties. We decay braincells constantly without our judgment being impaired. (That may be the point he's trying to get across though.)

Throwing a spanner into an engine and seizing up the works isn't a quantified interference as in '100 - 100', it's qualitative as in 'you broke it, sarge'.

You always need to pair up a quantity with a qualification. I.e. 100 * apples. That's because apples are not described quantitatively, and '100' by itself has no meaning. You have to explain 'apple', and you can't do it with all the numbers in infinity.

In fact even pure quanitities have no value. In the real world, an isolated 100 is not greater than a 10, because in absence of an entity to apply the scaling to the equation looks like this:

100 * 0 = 0
10 * 0 = 0

And so they mean exactly the same, which is nothing.

-

That's a little rambley, but just sharing my thoughts.

Anonymous Koanic Mimsy June 26, 2013 5:44 AM  

purple-green.

Depends. Mine are wayyyyyyyy.

Anonymous Koanic Mimsy June 26, 2013 5:59 AM  

"How many angles can dance on the head of a pin?"

That would be 4pi steradians doing the lavolta around a pole.

Blogger tz June 26, 2013 6:06 AM  

On evolution, TENS or whatever, which are imponderable or empirical statements? Are there any empiracal statements or fundamental constants?

Anonymous FrankNorman June 26, 2013 6:31 AM  


This should be interesting. "How much does a thought weigh?" has always struck me as being a question akin to "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" or "why does purple?" But perhaps we shall be convinced otherwise.


Q: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
A: As many as wish to, since God can make the pin arbitrarily large or the angels arbitrarily small.

Q: Why does purple?
A: Because molecules.

Q: How much does a thought weigh?
A: Zero mass.
(detailed explanation available on request)

Anything else I can help with?

Blogger njartist June 26, 2013 6:59 AM  

I'm sorry, I cannot measure the "proof" other than in the number of letters, number of syllables, number of words, number of phrases, number of clauses, number of sentences, the number of paragraphs, and etc: I cannot measure the "meaning" of the series of statements or that they are statements (to make a statement is to express a meaning) as meaning is a "quality" not a "quantity."

Anonymous realmatt June 26, 2013 7:10 AM  

Rolf Andreassen is annoying

Blogger njartist June 26, 2013 7:17 AM  

This should be interesting. "How much does a thought weigh?"

A scientific experiment* ** to quantify how much a thought weighs: First acquire a college sophomore who has volunteered to be tested as part of his psychology degree requirements; extract brain and weigh it; reinsert brain and give student lecture on psychology; re-extract brain and determine if brain has gained weight. As a control, capture a physics major and perform same measurements but give an astrophysics lecture. Caution: under no circumstances are you to use an art student's brain as the is a danger of inhaling toxic fumes of alcohol and pot.

* Experiment is a re-examination Dr. Welljung's classic experiment on blonds.
** Dr. Welljung's experiment for some unquantifiable reason had a more pleasant outcome.

Anonymous Incurvatus June 26, 2013 7:44 AM  

Empiricism is simply false in pursuit of absolute truth and knowledge claims, since not every instance can be tested. How would one even know if their senses were reliable? How can a Empiricist consider his thoughts reliable if he thinks he's just a giant chemical accident?

The Empiricist cannot state with absolute certainty (to borrow an example) that there will be air at the end of the hallway when he arrives. He can attempt to make general conclusions after a lifetime of observation, but he doesn't have absolute knowledge. Christians can and do trust our senses and observations-using logic to identify truth and science to understand Creation-, because God has promised to uphold and sustain His Creation.

Blogger Crowhill June 26, 2013 7:49 AM  

I agree that *if* all of reality can be explained in terms of quantities, then you can't derive an ought from an is.

The more interesting discussion (IMO) is that if you reject empiricism and believe that things have other properties (qualia, or whatever), what are they, how do you define them, etc.

Blogger Nate June 26, 2013 8:07 AM  

We now pause our regularly scheduled blogging for Mental Masturbation.

Granted... it will probably be more like bukkake... and wrf3 is about to be on the receiving end...

Anonymous Orville June 26, 2013 8:07 AM  

You cannot objectively identify and define quality since it is a perception based on the observer's level of awareness and intelligence.

I could however, measure a quality against a standard of perception and truth given by the Creator. If we accept that given standard then perception of quality, on some things, can have a mostly uniform agreement in spite of the differing levels of awareness or intelligence of the observer.

Anonymous Catan June 26, 2013 8:10 AM  

On that page's comments, I am fascinated by how there is absolutely no mention of quantum mechanics.

Aren't we living in the 21st-century, as these people would be so wont to say? Does quantum mechanics not currently show us that we cannot perfectly observe and measure the universe without altering it in some way, rendering perfect observation scientifically impossible with our current understanding?

And if this is true, aren't these supposed scientific materialists actually being anti-science?

Anonymous Myrddin June 26, 2013 8:16 AM  

"We now pause our regularly scheduled blogging for Mental Masturbation."

I was under the impression that all Vox's blogging was self-stimulation.

Blogger Nate June 26, 2013 8:17 AM  

Reading Rolf's comments makes me wonder what kind of work he's actually done with the brain. He appears to think we're a great deal more advanced in that area than we actually are.

At this point.. He is asserting that science can explain why the owner of a particular house in Paris may choose to paint it blue or red... when science right now is barely capable of determining if france is in europe or Asia.

Blogger VryeDenker June 26, 2013 8:17 AM  

And if this is true, aren't these supposed scientific materialists actually being anti-science?

Ssshhhh... You're giving away the ending.

Anonymous boomer June 26, 2013 8:21 AM  

E=MC2 It takes energy to have a thought The gravity of this requires to much thought. It becomes a very heavy subject for my two bit processor to handle.

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 8:39 AM  

extract brain and weigh it; reinsert brain and give student lecture on psychology; re-extract brain and determine if brain has gained weight. As a control, capture a physics major and perform same measurements but give an astrophysics lecture.

You're assuming that thoughts about psychology and astrophysics have an equal (or at least an equivalent) weight - what if psychology has negative mass?

Anonymous JoeyWheels June 26, 2013 8:41 AM  

Q: Why does purple?
A: Because green haz cheeseburger.
...blue no haz chilli.

Blogger Joshua_D June 26, 2013 8:42 AM  

realmatt June 26, 2013 7:10 AM

Rolf Andreassen is annoying


Yes. I'm surprised John still tolerates his repetitive arguments.

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 8:46 AM  

On that page's comments, I am fascinated by how there is absolutely no mention of quantum mechanics.

There was, but only to dismiss it. Rolf's thought experiment evaporates in a puff of indeterminacy but really, he just wanted to slip determinism in right at the beginning, so he could pull it out of the hat at the end.

Classic is/ought error methodology.

Anonymous Catan June 26, 2013 8:52 AM  

I am amused to no end by a supposedly "scientific" thinker dogmatically asserting the ability to measure every particle in a person's body without altering or disturbing the subject, when science not only has absolutely no stated ability to do so, but the bleeding edge of our particle knowledge seems to state the OPPOSITE, that chance and probability are imbedded deeply into the universe, and that perfect observation is not currently possible.

Just another dogmatic leftist desperately trying to prove to himself that the universe he already hates is meaningless, too. So take that, all you religious doodieheads!

I would bet good money that his zeal for materialism sources from his hatred of some kind of organized religion.

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 9:01 AM  

At this point.. He is asserting that science can explain why the owner of a particular house in Paris may choose to paint it blue or red... when science right now is barely capable of determining if france is in europe or Asia.

A few years back I was reading a rather clever study using super- and subliminal visual stimuli to track conciousness (or more specifically, awareness). It was all good until you realized that they were doing the experiments in brain slices, so if the animal was aware the researchers should be shot.

Their model was irrelevant unless you presuppose life after death.

Anonymous Tallen June 26, 2013 9:16 AM  

A scientific experiment* ** to quantify how much a thought weighs

This is akin to taking two hard drives, rearranging the 1's/0's to add a different mp3 file to each of them and then weighing them on a scale afterwards. Furthermore, the hard drives are not static in volume, their maximum capacity can increase or decrease in an effectively random manner.

Anonymous boomer June 26, 2013 9:37 AM  

Why purple... Because it attracts stupidity of like kind to perform acts of stupidity.

Anonymous boomer June 26, 2013 9:42 AM  

Does a dead person have thoughts?

Anonymous Question June 26, 2013 9:47 AM  

The origin of the is-ought problem was David Hume in A Treatise of Human Nature:

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.

Hume was an atheist and it is funny to see people cite the is-ought problem like it's some type of Christian apologetic. Any theory of ethics using religion must overcome the is-ought problem. About John C. Wright he's a doctrinaire Catholic and Aristotelianism has made a mush of his brain. It's also funny that VD makes a jab about angels on the head of a pin since that is one of the things commonly said about Aquinas, the churches Aristotelian doctor, to make him look foolish. And yes I know Aquinas never actually talked about angels on the head of a pin but the Summa Theologica is filled with similar garbage. The whole emphasis on the difference between quanity and quality is straight out of Aristotelian categories and the mind working in parallel with the brain but not detectable empirically but still somehow having an effect only really makes "sense" with the four causes of Aristotle. Note that this is the same Aristotle that couldn't be bothered to check if men and women had different numbers of teeth in their head and thought that there was no such thing as velocity and an arrow in flight moved by the air rushing into the place the arrow was just at forcing the arrow forward. And why would the air rush to fill the void? The same reason rocks fall to the ground, because the air was meant to be there. Teleogical causes are a fundamental part of Aristotelian physics. Most admirers of Aristotle just ignore his biology and physics and skip right to the good stuff the metaphysics but his metaphysics is written just as an extension to his physics, Aristotle did not have the hard demarcation between the two that modern people do. Why does any of this crud about Aristotle matter? Because it is what is propping up claims to philosophical respectability for a good amount of Christian theology. It was the dominant philosophy for much of the Dark Ages in Europe but now it has only historical interest for anyone besides a certain type of Bible thumper.

Anonymous the abe June 26, 2013 10:06 AM  

Alas, the prosaicness and philosophical poverty of the scientific materialist. They're incapable of distinguishing ontology from epistemology, for to forego the realism is to forego the argument. I blame Dewey's education philosphy.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 10:09 AM  

Thank you, Vox, for this opportunity. I'm familiar with Wright's argument, as well as Andreassen's counter-arguments. John's argument has a number of problems; so does Andreassen's position.

It looks like I have two tasks: one, to answer how much a thought weighs and, two, to show how "ought" can be derived from "is". Both are actually conceptually very easy, but they do require a couple of "aha!" type moments.

I take an engineering approach to the question; what I'm going to say works whether one is a theist, as I am, or an atheist, as Andreassen is. It also doesn't matter if one is a Platonist: that "universals" exist independently of matter, (cf. The World of Universals) or a reductionist (only material things exist), or the flavors in the spectrum. After all, we know that matter and energy are equivalent (E=mc^2); maybe at a lower level matter and ideas are the same thing. Maybe they aren't; I can't prove it either way.

That's one problem with John's argument. Yes, the scientific community has reduced "all empirical entities to certain basic constants" (there are either two or three. See, for example, Trialogue on the number of fundamental constants). But those basic constants are themselves ideas (e.g. Physics and the Integers). So one can answer John's question in #2, but still not have solved the real issue.

The second problem with John's argument is in #2: "Do you agree that no quality can be reduced to quantity by any means whatsoever?" In the terms of his argument, of course quality can be reduced to quantity. All software is hardware. It doesn't matter whether it's in the brain or in a computer. John has previously asked, "what is the physical representation of checkmate?" A computer plays chess. Take it apart. It's nothing but particles. Take the brain apart. It's nothing but particles. In fact, the NAND gates in a computer are functionally equivalent to the neurons in the brain. That is, neurons can be constructed from NAND gates, and NAND gates can be constructed from neurons (cf here). The only real difference between the brain and today's computers is in the number and arrangement of the neurons and axons. Brains have more wires.

So if you want to answer how much a thought weighs, look at the circuit that implements that thought. It depends on the material and the number of connections used (there's more than one way to achieve the same result).

Wright and Andreassen are looking at a circle and arguing about where it begins. To continue the computer analogy, a wire or a pipe is the material equivalent of the identity function f(x) = x. That is, what goes in the pipe comes out the other end unchanged. A NAND gate (or a neuron) is the material equivalent of the the ideas of "logical and" and "logical not". Two inputs go in, something (perhaps different) comes out. String enough of these together the right way and you have a circuit that recognizes that a wire is the identity function and a NAND gate is the logical "not and" operation. Break the circuit and the idea is gone.

The typical response to this is that "yes, but NAND gates are things created by human agency and so are somehow special". But NAND gates are created by neurons wired together certain ways. But neurons are just particles, so how did that arrangement come about? And so on. Which comes first? The laws of physics, or the matter in motion that the laws describe? How do you know?

That's enough fodder for now. I'll write up how to go from "is" to "ought" later.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 10:09 AM  

Hume was an atheist and it is funny to see people cite the is-ought problem like it's some type of Christian apologetic.

Since when? Everyone uses it.

It was the dominant philosophy for much of the Dark Ages in Europe but now it has only historical interest for anyone besides a certain type of Bible thumper.

Philosophy doesn't have an expiry date. Your anecdote is entertaining but mostly irrelevant.

Anonymous FrankNorman June 26, 2013 10:10 AM  

There's no need to have any "is-ought problem". If you want an "is" you have to start with one. Same for "ought".
Both existence and moral obligation derive from God. But they do not derive from each other. They do interact though.

Anonymous VD June 26, 2013 10:12 AM  

Why does any of this crud about Aristotle matter? Because it is what is propping up claims to philosophical respectability for a good amount of Christian theology. It was the dominant philosophy for much of the Dark Ages in Europe but now it has only historical interest for anyone besides a certain type of Bible thumper.

I do so enjoy how you just sold out every atheist and agnostic admirer of Aristotelian logic. But it does explain a lot about your predilection for illogic.

It's also funny that VD makes a jab about angels on the head of a pin since that is one of the things commonly said about Aquinas, the churches Aristotelian doctor, to make him look foolish. And yes I know Aquinas never actually talked about angels on the head of a pin but the Summa Theologica is filled with similar garbage.

You have an odd sense of humor. It's funny because something Aquinas never wrote is cited to make him look foolish. The thing is, Question, it's not Aquinas who looks foolish there....

Anonymous Daniel June 26, 2013 10:12 AM  

Thoughts may not occur in the brain. The substance of a thought could conceivably exist anywhere in the nervous system. It could exist in the blood or the heart.

Perhaps a thought's substance is external to the body. Maybe, just as the human body transforms external oxygen into external carbon dioxide, there is a tiny but measurable effect where the substance of a few oxygen molecules in close proximity to the thinker are transformed into an element of unstable thought molecules.

Thoughtonium.

Perhaps the soul is similar: associated with the body, but not bound to a body's total mass. This would explain why the experiments regarding the weight of the soul (as measured by an expiring human pre and post-mortem) were inconclusive.

Perhaps we should first identify where the locus of a thought's substance might be found, before attempting to measure or discredit its substance.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 10:12 AM  

"what is the physical representation of checkmate?" A computer plays chess. Take it apart. It's nothing but particles. Take the brain apart. It's nothing but particles.

That does not represent checkmate.

Your argument is merely that checkmate does not exist.

Anonymous FrankNorman June 26, 2013 10:13 AM  

And people like "Question" always seem to think that opposing arguments can be dealt with just by throwing insults or declaring them "garbage".

Blogger Nate June 26, 2013 10:15 AM  

""what is the physical representation of checkmate?" A computer plays chess. Take it apart. It's nothing but particles. Take the brain apart. It's nothing but particles. "

That's brilliant.

Now that you've taken the brain apart... put it back together and try to get it to play chess again.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 10:26 AM  

Nate wrote: Now that you've taken the brain apart... put it back together and try to get it to play chess again.

Can you explain how this is at all relevant? Some things are irreversible by nature, some things are irreversible by inadequate technology. I have the technology to take a brain apart, I don't have the technology to put it back together. So what?

Anonymous Bgil June 26, 2013 10:28 AM  

Forgive my ignorance but don't [good] scientists generally reject something [namely a theory] as "false" if what the theory predicts does not coincide with what is actually observed? or more generally if an observed phenomenon occurring precludes the validity of a particular theory?

Theories and observations can both be of a non-empirical nature and still prove "True" by this criteria, although certainty about it being true or untrue will always remain imprecise. A serious natural scientist would not [and probably should not] accept a non-empirical theory this way, but there might be less resistance to rejecting [or at least starting from a position of doubt against] a non-empirical theory based on non-empirical observations that contradict it.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 10:28 AM  

Mudz wrote: Your argument is merely that checkmate does not exist.

No, it isn't. Of course checkmate exists. The issue is the form in which it exists. Can checkmate exist without particles? Plato says yes, materialistic reductionists say no. Please show your work.

Anonymous VD June 26, 2013 10:31 AM  

It looks like I have two tasks: one, to answer how much a thought weighs and, two, to show how "ought" can be derived from "is". Both are actually conceptually very easy, but they do require a couple of "aha!" type moments.

I'm less concerned with you answering those questions, particularly the latter, and more interested in allowing you to put forth your case for materialism or however you would describe your perspective.

Blogger Nate June 26, 2013 10:32 AM  

" I have the technology to take a brain apart, I don't have the technology to put it back together. So what?"

That's the point. You DON'T have the technology to take the brain apart. You only think you do. You cannot tell what you're observing because you've changed it in the dismantling process. Your whole premise is fail.

Anonymous Some fun June 26, 2013 10:37 AM  

https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn2/q71/1044318_671554652860068_1384392127_n.jpg

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 10:47 AM  

Nate: wrote: You cannot tell what you're observing because you've changed it in the dismantling process. Your whole premise is fail.

Whether dismantling, or observing, the observer affects the observed. After all, Heisenberg. Taking your statement to its logical conclusion, no knowledge is therefore possible.

Do you really want to claim having the knowledge that no knowledge is possible?

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 10:48 AM  

No, it isn't. Of course checkmate exists. The issue is the form in which it exists. Can checkmate exist without particles? Plato says yes, materialistic reductionists say no. Please show your work.

You did not show that particles were what represented checkmate. Just that they were used in order to create the physical situation in which checkmate was perceived.

And you are now stating that particles is a necessary condition for checkmate to occur, but that is also true of gravity, and it does not describe or represent the meaning of the arrangement of particles, which is checkmate.

Is the game in progress? Are there players involved? What are the rules of the chess game?

As an example, if the chess pieces were made out of ice particles rather than photons, does that qualitatively affect the checkmate?

I say no, because it's not dependent on the medium or the nature of the parts that comprise it, it's dependent upon the assumptions of the observer.

Blogger Nate June 26, 2013 10:53 AM  

"Do you really want to claim having the knowledge that no knowledge is possible?"

Sloppy thinking as always. It doesn't mean no knowledge is possible. It means no perfect knowledge is possible for us. Observation from outside time and space... would of course blow Heisenberg all to hell. Meaning that perfect observation and perfect knowledge are possible. Just not by us. Imperfect knowledge is absolutely possible for us. And we have tons of it.

Anonymous Daniel June 26, 2013 11:00 AM  

wrf3 - The assumption that you make is that the brain can be put back together to function as before. While I suppose it is possible that that could be the case, you really need to make the scientific case that, given sufficient technology, the brain can be fully reconstructed to boot up as normal.

What do you have that supports this assumption?

Anonymous Roundtine June 26, 2013 11:10 AM  

A piece of paper with ink spilled on it. A piece of paper with information on it, written using exactly the same quantity of ink. They both weigh exactly the same.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 11:12 AM  

Nate wrote: Sloppy thinking as always. It doesn't mean no knowledge is possible. It means no perfect knowledge is possible for us.

Once again, you make an absolute claim about imperfect knowledge. Do you not see the inherent contradiction in what you're saying?

Anonymous Question June 26, 2013 11:14 AM  

I do so enjoy how you just sold out every atheist and agnostic admirer of Aristotelian logic. But it does explain a lot about your predilection for illogic.

This statement right here shows you have no formal training in logic. Aristotelian logic is taught in a historical context but the syllogism has been made obsolete by modern propositional and predicate logic. It does everything the syllogism does but includes quantifiers to allow for reasoning about additional things. An admirer of logic would acknowledge Aristotle but much more admire the recent improvements. I'm not surprised you're not aware of this since you seem to have a severe problem with confusing rhetoric with logic.

You have an odd sense of humor. It's funny because something Aquinas never wrote is cited to make him look foolish. The thing is, Question, it's not Aquinas who looks foolish there....

I do have and odd sense of humor. Question 52 Article 3 in the Treatise on Angels is titled whether several angels can be at the same time at the same place. Like on the head of a pin. Ha Ha.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 11:15 AM  

Daniel wrote: While I suppose it is possible that that could be the case, you really need to make the scientific case that, given sufficient technology, the brain can be fully reconstructed to boot up as normal.

No, I don't. All I need is the claim that brains are mostly alike (with variations due to brain plasticity, size, etc...). That the information gleaned from many brains is applicable to most brains.

Too, since we now that neurons and NAND gates are functionally equivalent, we can talk about one in terms of the other.

Blogger Nate June 26, 2013 11:18 AM  

"Once again, you make an absolute claim about imperfect knowledge. Do you not see the inherent contradiction in what you're saying?"

The problem here is that you really think this is an intelligent response... and you're genuinely confused when everyone reads it... rolls there eyes... and says.. "God wrf3 is a moron."

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 11:21 AM  

Mudz wrote: You did not show that particles were what represented checkmate. Just that they were used in order to create the physical situation in which checkmate was perceived.

Ok, so take the particles apart. Where is the checkmate then? In the physical world, there is no information without bits, and there aren't bits without particles. And there aren't particles without quantum fields, and there aren't quantum fields without... ? What?

And you are now stating that particles is a necessary condition for checkmate to occur, but that is also true of gravity, and it does not describe or represent the meaning of the arrangement of particles, which is checkmate.

But the meaning, as well as the recognition of the meaning, are arrangements of particles. Meaning is a calculation, and calculation isn't possible without motion, and motion isn't possible without something moving.

As an example, if the chess pieces were made out of ice particles rather than photons, does that qualitatively affect the checkmate?

No.

I say no, because it's not dependent on the medium or the nature of the parts that comprise it, it's dependent upon the assumptions of the observer.

Said assumptions being an arrangement of particles in the brain or computer CPU/memory.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 11:22 AM  

@ Question

I read an article on the Pauli Exclusion principle discussing whether two particles can occupy the same position. Like inside your bum. I doth chortle.

Anonymous The Deuce June 26, 2013 11:29 AM  

WRF3, you are now formally invited to do your thing.

Wright has tried to converse with that particular context-free grammar generator before in a vain attempt to get a coherent thought out of him, fwiw: http://www.scifiwright.com/?s=wrf3

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 11:38 AM  

The Deuce wrote: Wright has tried to converse with that particular context-free grammar generator before in a vain attempt to get a coherent thought out of him.

I'm here. Take your best shot.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 11:41 AM  

Ok, so take the particles apart. Where is the checkmate then? In the physical world, there is no information without bits, and there aren't bits without particles. And there aren't particles without quantum fields, and there aren't quantum fields without... ? What?

All you are doing is describing necessary conditions, not that the conditions in themselves represent checkmate.

Taking particles 'apart' does nothing, unless by taking them apart, you have changed them in such a manner that the observer no longer perceives a checkmate. Having a person stand by with a microscope will have no effect on a chessgame.

But the meaning, as well as the recognition of the meaning, are arrangements of particles. Meaning is a calculation, and calculation isn't possible without motion, and motion isn't possible without something moving.

Respectfully, I must disagree. For the following reasons.

1) Calculations are processes, not results.

2) Calculations only result in quantities. It does not produce a meaning, meaning must be inferred.

Also, I did not see where particles were necessitated. Apparently both space and time move, and they're not particles.
No.

Then obviously the physical qualities of the material has no bearing, and it's not a matter of structure at all.

Said assumptions being an arrangement of particles in the brain or computer CPU/memory.

That's an assumption, and it creates a circle. I simply ask how you represent checkmate with the particles in my brain.

(I'd love to see you show how a computer assumes it has achieved a checkmate. Rational introspection isn't listed among my computer's attributes.)

Anyway:

So,you're now saying that the checkmate is an illusion, and does not exist in fact of the particles it is comprised of. You're shifting the focus.

So if there are more people watching the game, does that mean that more checkmates then exist? If they stop watching the game, does the checkmate continue or cease to exist?

Do you agree that the checkmate is a matter of perception and interpretation, rather than the material used to create the situation being observed?

The fundamental thing to understand here, is that the method by which a thing is created, is not the thing itself. I can make a castle out of sand, or stone, but not all sand and stone is part of a castle.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 11:42 AM  

Then obviously the physical qualities of the material has no bearing, and it's not a matter of structure at all.

Let me amend that to 'structural components'.

Blogger Kentucky Packrat June 26, 2013 11:46 AM  

Q: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
A: As many as wish to, since God can make the pin arbitrarily large or the angels arbitrarily small.


The question is simultaneously very silly and incredibly theologically relevant, in a theology geek kind of way. The fundamental question is: are angels entirely spiritual, and physical manifestations are illusionary or secondary, or are they beings of this universe who are tied to a physical manifestation? If the latter, then even if angels can shrink to one quantum of size (whatever said quantum is), then there is a maximum to the number of angels who can dance on a single pin. If they are spiritual, then an infinite number could dance on the same pin at the same time.

For those of us not debating the minutia of advanced Christian theology, the question is quite silly. OTOH, people thought that quantum uncertainty might never be useful practically, until computer circuits got small enough for electrons to "jump out" of transistors.

question: Any theory of ethics using religion must overcome the is-ought problem.

You have it exactly backwards. A religious ethic system never has an ought problem, because "oughts" are imposed by the system.

"Why shouldn't I do X?" (where X is a bad deed) "Because you will go to Hell/be reincarnated as a dung beetle/etc."

"Why should I do Y?" (Y==good deed) "Because God wants you to/you'll be reincarnated as a higher caste/etc."

They have a pat, non-negatable answer for ought: the higher power said so.

It is non-religious systems that can't deal with ought problems. I personally call it the 2 year old problem:

"Don't do X"
"Why not?"
"It's bad"
"Why?"
etc.

Every non-religious moral system I've seen devolves into a big fat "because I said so" or "because I want it that way". Occasionally, they devolve into "it works better that way", but that's not morals; that's efficiency.

Blogger njartist June 26, 2013 11:47 AM  

@ MendoScot June 26, 2013 8:39 AM
You got the internal joke.

Anonymous the abe June 26, 2013 11:48 AM  

The problem here is that you really think this is an intelligent response... and you're genuinely confused when everyone reads it... rolls there eyes... and says.. "God wrf3 is a moron."- Nate

Put differently WRF3, Nate doesn't ascribe to the validity of global skepticism or the subjective singularity and implores you to read Robert Nozick's "Invariances" chapter one for further discussion on the matter.

Anonymous Daniel June 26, 2013 11:49 AM  

Question, you just agreed with Vox, you didn't dispute him.

He said that Aquinas did not say "angels on the head of a pin," but that his opponents did, to make his treatise sound stupid.

Then you say Aquinas did not say "angels on the head of a pin," but that his opponents did, to make his treatise sound stupid.

Did you mean to do that or was it just a random occurrence?

Anonymous Daniel June 26, 2013 11:53 AM  

Daniel wrote: While I suppose it is possible that that could be the case, you really need to make the scientific case that, given sufficient technology, the brain can be fully reconstructed to boot up as normal.

wrf3
No, I don't. All I need is the claim that brains are mostly alike (with variations due to brain plasticity, size, etc...). That the information gleaned from many brains is applicable to most brains.

Ok. I'm asking you to do it then. What information gleaned from many brains indicates that a thought resides there? How is a brain like a computer if a computer can be easily reassembled but a brain is not?

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 11:54 AM  

TLDR:

Ok, so take the particles apart. Where is the checkmate then?

So does it exist or not? You cannot find it in the particles, so where is it?

Anonymous The Deuce June 26, 2013 12:05 PM  

wrf3:

I'm here. Take your best shot.

No need. It's pointless to continue debating someone who consistently rejects even elementary standards of logic, and since nearly everything you say is utterly incomprehensible nonsense, I don't really have to worry about you persuading anyone.

Anonymous VD June 26, 2013 12:29 PM  

An admirer of logic would acknowledge Aristotle but much more admire the recent improvements. I'm not surprised you're not aware of this since you seem to have a severe problem with confusing rhetoric with logic.

Whereas you denigrate Aristotle. Thus demonstrating, as I pointed out, you have a predilection for illogic.

I do have and odd sense of humor. Question 52 Article 3 in the Treatise on Angels is titled whether several angels can be at the same time at the same place.

That's as silly as discussing if thoughts have weight!

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 12:49 PM  

Mudz wrote: 1) Calculations are processes, not results.

They are processes that produce results. (nand x y) -> result

2) Calculations only result in quantities. It does not produce a meaning, meaning must be inferred.

Meaning is a calculation. It's an "equality" calculation between two things. As a simple example, when your brain sees a wavelength of light and hears someone speaking, it (can) make an association, i.e. equality relationship, between those two things.

Also, I did not see where particles were necessitated. Apparently both space and time move, and they're not particles.

From an engineering perspective, your brain has electrons, which are particles, moving through the neurons and axions (which are also particles) in your brain. We could use photons and fiber optic cables. Could we use something else? Someone built a digital computer out of logic circuits that use water. I'm sure this isn't an exhaustive list.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 12:53 PM  

Daniel wrote: Ok. I'm asking you to do it then. What information gleaned from many brains indicates that a thought resides there?

Already covered at June 26, 2013 10:09 AM:

"That is, neurons can be constructed from NAND gates, and NAND gates can be constructed from neurons (cf here). The only real difference between the brain and today's computers is in the number and arrangement of the neurons and axons. Brains have more wires."

Please read the referenced article.

How is a brain like a computer if a computer can be easily reassembled but a brain is not?

Because neurons, axons, and electrons are functionally equivalent to nand gates, wires, and electrons.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 1:05 PM  

Mudz wrote: TLDR:

Ok, so take the particles apart. Where is the checkmate then?

So does it exist or not? You cannot find it in the particles, so where is it?


That's the question, isn't it? The Platonist, citing Russell, would say "The world of universals, therefore, may also be described as the world of being. The world of being is unchangeable, rigid, exact, delightful to the mathematician, the logician, the builder of metaphysical systems, and all who love perfection more than life." (cf. The Problems of Philosophy, chapter 9).

The reductive materialist might say something like this. The universe exists and it is in motion. There are at least four types of motion: the completely random (cf. quantum observables), i.e. fundamentally unpredictable; the chaotic (predictable in principle, but too complex to do in practice); the predictable (e.g. the orbits of the planets); and the combinatorial (i.e. motion combined with state changes that can be chained together to produce calculations). Then the idea of checkmate exists kinetically in the circuits of our brains, but potentially in the overall motion of the universe.

As a Christian, I have to say that word proceeded matter. As an engineer, I don't know how to separate one side of the coin from the other. It would be interesting if Stickwick would jump in and render an opinion as to whether the laws of physics preceded the big bang, or they came into existence at the same time.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 1:08 PM  

Question 52 Article 3 in the Treatise on Angels is titled whether several angels can be at the same time at the same place.

I'd ask if angels have half or integer spin, but it looks like Mudz beat me to it.

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 1:10 PM  

Too, since we now that neurons and NAND gates are functionally equivalent, we can talk about one in terms of the other.

They are not functionally equivalent. Not even close.

You could make a better argument for a synapse being equivalent to a gate, but the closest functional analogy to a NAND gate would be a single ligand-gated ion channel and, even then, the channel is substantially more sophisticated.

The consequence of this is that each neuron should be considered as an individual processor in its own right, one that could contain 10exp5 synaptic gates, or 10exp10 channel gates.

Remember that to a man with a hammer, every problem is a nail. Neural network modelling is the software nail to a man who has a computer. Real neuroscientists look at the brain.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 1:13 PM  

[Calculations] are processes that produce results.

Yes.

Meaning is a calculation.

No.

It's an "equality" calculation between two things.

Again, no. You do not quantitatively determine meaning. You form a judgment. You can calculate factors that inform your judgment, but your judgment in of itself is not a quantitative calculation.

Whether a girl is pretty or not, is not a quantitative calculation of prettions, it's a qualitative judgment.

As a simple example, when your brain sees a wavelength of light and hears someone speaking, it (can) make an association, i.e. equality relationship, between those two things.

This is also wrong. Association is not even remotely like an equation. And people don't speak light. To say there is an association is also to assign meaning, another qualitative judgment.


From an engineering perspective, your brain has electrons, which are particles, moving through the neurons and axions (which are also particles) in your brain. We could use photons and fiber optic cables. Could we use something else? Someone built a digital computer out of logic circuits that use water. I'm sure this isn't an exhaustive list.


Still not showing how 'checkmate' is represented by material reductionism.

I don't need a list of all the kinds of materials that exist. That's not the question.

Where is 'checkmate' itself to be found in the particles? Not what was used to make the chess pieces.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 1:16 PM  

Me - So does it exist or not? You cannot find it in the particles, so where is it?

wrf3 - That's the question, isn't it?


Well, yes.

You said the checkmate obviously exists, but you have been unable to show how. Have you changed your position?

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 1:28 PM  

Mudz wrote: You said the checkmate obviously exists, but you have been unable to show how.

Because I'm trying to show you how it's put together in principle. Trying to make a drawing of NAND gates and wires is beyond practicality. But all software, whether in a computer or brain, comes down to three elements.

Have you changed your position?

No.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 1:34 PM  

MendoScot wrote: They are not functionally equivalent. Not even close

"The activity of networking neurons is largely characterized by the alternation of synchronous and asynchronous spiking sequences. One of the most relevant challenges that scientists are facing today is, then, relating that evidence with the fundamental mechanisms through which the brain computes and processes information, as well as with the arousal (or progress) of a number of neurological illnesses. In other words, the problem is how to associate an organized dynamics of interacting neural assemblies to a computational task. Here we show that computation can be seen as a feature emerging from the collective dynamics of an ensemble of networking neurons, which interact by means of adaptive dynamical connections. Namely, by associating logical states to synchronous neuron's dynamics, we show how the usual Boolean logics can be fully recovered, and a universal Turing machine can be constructed." Computation Emerges from Adaptive Synchronization of Networking Neurons

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 1:36 PM  

Because I'm trying to show you how it's put together in principle. Trying to make a drawing of NAND gates and wires is beyond practicality. But all software, whether in a computer or brain, comes down to three elements.

Which is why you're having real issues with the attempt, because you cannot physically 'put together' an abstract concept by re-arranging material parts. Someone has to look at it and go 'huh, looks like checkmate, buddy'. What you are attempting to do is impossible in principle.

I'm not asking for constituents. They don't mean anything by themselves, and that's the issue. You can make all the schematics you like, but they don't mean anything unless I think they do.

No.

Then it's not a question? You believe that checkmate does exist materially, and you can show me where and how? Proceed.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 1:47 PM  

Mudz wrote: because you cannot physically 'put together' an abstract concept by re-arranging material parts.

Really? What's a NAND gate?

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 1:53 PM  

Really? What's a NAND gate?

This demonstrates the chief misconception you're laboring under.

It's a physical device that reacts in physical ways. It is not an abstract concept, nor does it produce one. Rather, we project abstract concepts onto it's operation. For example 'it's just like a brain, only dumber!' or 'that's one sexy logic gate!'.

Try and think of it this way, and see if it appeals to your judgment:

When a chess game begins, there is no checkmate.

When it ends (typically) there is a checkmate.

Where did the checkmate come from?

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 1:54 PM  

@ MendoScot June 26, 2013 8:39 AM
You got the internal joke.


I suspected it was meant to be, although something similar (without brain extraction) has actually been done on medical students, measuring size rather than weight.

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 2:15 PM  

Here we show that computation can be seen as a feature emerging from the collective dynamics of an ensemble of networking neurons, which interact by means of adaptive dynamical connections.

They might as well call them calculons - they are still nothing like neurons. I read this this stuff all the time, since it's relevant to my work. The paper you linked I won't even bother to download, the authors show no grasp of what synchrony means in a neurophysiological context. Like most work on neural networks, the relevance to biological organisms is tenuous at best, and most likely non-existent.

"A theory has only the alternative of being right or wrong. A model has a third possibility: it may be right, but irrelevant." Manfred Eigen.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 2:19 PM  

Mudz wrote: It's a physical device that reacts in physical ways. It is not an abstract concept, nor does it produce one.

Really? "logical and" and "logical not" are not "abstract concepts" (i.e. a "universal" in Russell's terminology)? They most certainly are.

Rather, we project abstract concepts onto it's operation.

And yet that projection requires the physical machinery of your brain. So, where do those "abstract concepts" exist?

When a chess game begins, there is no checkmate.
Equivocation. The description of the end goal certainly exists in the wiring of your brain, even though the end goal hasn't yet been instantiated in that particular game.

Where did the checkmate come from?
Which one? The end goal that the computer worked toward, of the end result when it beat you?

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 2:48 PM  

Mudz wrote: Again, no. You do not quantitatively determine meaning.

You most certainly do. Quoting Hofstadter in Gödel, Escher, Bach: "When a system of 'meaningless' symbols has patterns in it that accurately track, or mirror, various phenomena in the world, then that tracking or mirroring imbues the symbols with some degree of meaning -- indeed, such tracking or mirroring is no less and no more than what meaning is." (P-3).

He continues, "As a matter of fact, there are still quite a few philosophers, scientists, and so forth who believe the patterns of symbols per se ... never have meaning on their own, but that meaning instead, in some most mysterious manner, springs only from the organic chemistry, or perhaps the quantum mechanics, of processes that take place in carbon-based biological brains. Although I have no patience with this parochial, bio-chauvinistic view, I nonetheless have a pretty clear sense of it's intuitive appeal. ... Only if one keeps on bashing up against this disturbing fact can one slowly begin to develop a feel for the way out of the mystery of consciousness: that the key is not the stuff out of which brains are made, but the patterns that can come to exist inside the stuff of a brain." [P3-P4]

The pattern matching in the brain is just a more sophisticated version of what we currently have in computers, and it's more sophisticated because of the number and arrangement of connections. That's it.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 2:49 PM  

MendoScot wrote: The paper you linked I won't even bother to download...

Ok, so what can a neuron do that a collection of NAND gates cannot do?

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 3:20 PM  

Really? "logical and" and "logical not" are not "abstract concepts" (i.e. a "universal" in Russell's terminology)? They most certainly are.

I may have expressed it poorly.

Yes, the abstract concepts are abstract. The physical constituents of the device (itself an abstract term) are not. The material of the device is material, the relevance of the device is not.

But the meanings and values we give to the arrangement of physical matter are not in themselves physical matter.

This is the differentiation you must comprehend.

And yet that projection requires the physical machinery of your brain. So, where do those "abstract concepts" exist?

That's the very question I want you to answer. I can say 'in my mind'. You can say 'in the particles'. But of the two, only my answer is even theoretically possible, unless you can show how meaning can be literally comprised of particles.

Moreover, show that the 'projection' requires physical machinery. That's an assumption.

Equivocation. The description of the end goal certainly exists in the wiring of your brain, even though the end goal hasn't yet been instantiated in that particular game.

-

Which one? The end goal that the computer worked toward, of the end result when it beat you?


What on earth? It was as straightforward as anything could be, and you skittered right off the racetrack. It most certainly was not equivocation. Where does it 'certainly exist'? This is precisely the sort of thing you're trying to prove. But you cannot go 'neurons, therefore meaning.'

And the material manifestation of 'checkmate' in the situation described, if you please. The desire is not relevant.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 3:24 PM  

When a system of 'meaningless' symbols has patterns in it that accurately track, or mirror, various phenomena in the world, then that tracking or mirroring imbues the symbols with some degree of meaning

Read that whole quote more carefully.

Short version. He just assigned meaning to it. And he explicated his idea in a decidedly non-quantitative fashion.

Patterns are not particles.

That whole quote supports my argument. 'Arrangements' is not a material, it's a relationship between material.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 3:33 PM  

To try and make this as clear as possible.

When you say an 'arrangment of particles', arranged in what sort of fahion? What does the arrangement mean?

You can say that 'this arrangement of particles produces anger in a person'. But the you cannot explain anger by showing the arrangement of particles. There is a leap here that only intelligence can make by use of concepts that don't rely on material reductionism.

With material reductionism, everything save for particles ceases to exist, including meaning.

Anonymous Anonagain June 26, 2013 3:42 PM  

Neither neurons nor nand gates can manifest free will, that is, the driving force initiating the energy through the neural network in the first place, then recognizing (paying attention to) that a rational thought or information has been reached at some point in this traversal of the neural net.

The fact that we have autonomous functions controlled by the brain without the CONSCIOUS input from the individual is indicative that the super user is not part of the hardware itself but exists outside of it.

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 26, 2013 3:49 PM  

What is this, midnight in the freshman dorm at Oberlin? Don't bogart that joint, man.

Not very many chess players here, I think.

Let me straighten it for you, babies:

There is no such thing as "checkmate." There are chess positions, millions of them, which satisfy the requirements of checkmate as per the rules of chess. There is no point in asking "Does checkmate exist?" As an abstraction, no. As a specific position, yes.

Since minds are caused by brains (viz., there is no mind/body duality, your mind is in your brain, and your brain is in your body, therefore your mind is in your body), it requires your brain to perceive whether a position is checkmate or not. Let's assume that it is.

Checkmate exists physically, and ONLY physically, in two ways:
a) in the representation of the position, whether it be on the board, on a computer screen, or on a postcard in a by-mail game, one way or another, it exists physically. Unless they play chess in heaven, eventually the position must somehow be physically represented in this, our physical world; and
b) in your brain, as you perceive the position. Since your brain is physical, so is your perception physical.

Mudz says:
"But the meanings and values we give to the arrangement of physical matter are not in themselves physical matter.

This is the differentiation you must comprehend."

Guess what! It's a floor wax! It's a dessert topping! It's a floor wax AND a dessert topping!

In other words, you're both sort of right, and you're both sort of wrong. Because it's fundamentally a stupid question.

A little Wittgenstein, and a little Chuang-Tzu, and you guys should both be right as rain in a fortnight.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 3:51 PM  

Anonagain wrote: Neither neurons nor nand gates can manifest free will...

You're assuming that free will exists as something other than a mental illusion -- the strongest mental illusion that we have. Which happens to be related to the is-ought problem, IMO.

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 3:55 PM  

Ok, so what can a neuron do that a collection of NAND gates cannot do?

The point is, wrf3, that there are an uncounted number of classes of neuron each of which does a different thing. Even if you look at a single class of neuron - say the cortical layer V pyramidal neuron - they do not process information the same way in different in different parts of the brain. Trying to reduce this diversity of function to a notion like a NAND gate goes well beyond simplification - you are removing the functional characteristics of neurons that allow them to behave in the way they do. What you have left, call it what you like, is not a neuron.

As I posted above, the closest functional corollary to a NAND gate is a single ion channel, and thus each individual neuron should be modelled as a processor containing as many as 10exp10 gates of mixed type.

Then you have to start wiring those processors together.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 3:57 PM  

@ scoobious doobious

To say that a specific position is a checkmate is to assign an abstract meaning.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 4:00 PM  

* dubious

Anonymous Anonagain June 26, 2013 4:03 PM  

Toss a coin - heads you face north, tails you face south. You have just used your free will to abide by the rules of your coin toss. This is not an illusion.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 4:06 PM  

Mudz wrote: But the meanings and values we give to the arrangement of physical matter are not in themselves physical matter.

Yes, they are. You body converts external phenomena: light waves, sound waves, pressure, etc..., into the biological equivalent of bits. Your brain, via physical circuitry, sets up a physical association between these things, so that when you hear the word "red", your ears convert it to bits, which your brain then compares against it's list of associations for sounds related to colors, and produces the bits for the color red. Your brain learned to associate the bits for the sound "dog" with the bits for what you saw when you looked at your household pet.

... unless you can show how meaning can be literally comprised of particles.

Diassemble your computer. All you'll find is particles: nand gates, wires, and electrons. And I'll wager that your computer can trounce you at chess.

Patterns are not particles.

Pattern recognition is a computation performed by physical circuits in a physical machine.

When you say an 'arrangment of particles', arranged in what sort of fahion?
It depends on what you want to calculate. NAND gates arranged one way perform addition. NAND gates arranged another way can recognize whether an arrangement of NAND gates performs addition or not. And so on.

But the you cannot explain anger by showing the arrangement of particles.
So what? The anger in the person is the result of a calculation done by neurons acting on physical data. Showing someone that circuit may, or may not, produce anger in the person. In other words, showing the person the physical arrangement is not (necessarily) the same data that causes the circuit in the person to trigger.


Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 4:09 PM  

MendoScott wrote: Then you have to start wiring those processors together.

Fine. Like I asked, what can a neuron do that a collection of NAND gates cannot do? It doesn't matter to me if the collection is one NAND gate or a trillion. So far, it sounds like the answer is "nothing".

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 26, 2013 4:09 PM  

"To say that a specific position is a checkmate is to assign an abstract meaning."

Yes of course, but the meaning MUST be assigned physically -- or, more accurately, through a physical process. And in order to even make the judgment call, you first must somehow perceive the position, which means that the position itself is a physical thing, no matter how you choose to represent it. A checkmate position does not exist in the horrifying other dimension of Yog-Sothoth and the Outer Gods, it is right here, in our actual world.

There's no getting around it: as Sting once sang, "We are spare-ribs in the material world." Or at least, I *think* that's what he sang.

Anonymous Anonagain June 26, 2013 4:11 PM  

Like I asked, what can a neuron do that a collection of NAND gates cannot do? It doesn't matter to me if the collection is one NAND gate or a trillion.

What initiates the flow of electrons through your nand gates or your neurons in the first place?

Anonymous Daniel June 26, 2013 4:17 PM  

Scoobius, you son of a pun. Making Mrs. Malaprop very proud, and me laugh. You've made your point and simultaneously ruined the Police for me.

Not as bad as the girl who ruined the Ramones by singing "I wanna piece of bacon," but darn close.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 4:19 PM  

You're talking about what the brain does without seming to realise that you're saying the brain is acting on meaning , but where does the meaning come from?

You're talking about red, an associations, converting, and producing the bits, which is all very lovely, but nowhere did a bunch of 1s and 0s create actual meaning. You're just saying that it sorts information, that it operates on meaningful symbols.

But where is the meaning itself located? You're just giving the brain all the wonderful qualities of intelligence, as if that somehow solves the debate. But show me the meaning, dude. Show me where 'checkmate' is, and why particles make it checkmate instead of just particles.

Diassemble your computer. All you'll find is particles: nand gates, wires, and electrons.

And no meanings.

Look, simple as this:

1) You cannot find the material particle of 'checkmate'.

2) If you believe everything is material then 'checkmate' does not exist.

Pattern recognition is a computation performed by physical circuits in a physical machine.

No, it doesn't reocgnise anything. We recognise the patterns and give them meaning, the computer is blissfully unaware.

So what? The anger in the person is the result of a calculation done by neurons acting on physical data. Showing someone that circuit may, or may not, produce anger in the person. In other words, showing the person the physical arrangement is not (necessarily) the same data that causes the circuit in the person to trigger.

That just makes no sense. At all. And it has absolutely nothing to do with what I said, which is that you cannot explain anger that way.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 4:20 PM  

Yes of course, but the meaning MUST be assigned physically

How do you physically assign meaning? Is there a special sticky-tape for it?

Because I need eyes to see beauty, does not make beauty a physical phenomenon.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 4:30 PM  

Anonagain asked: What initiates the flow of electrons through your nand gates or your neurons in the first place?

Why is the universe in motion?

Anonymous Anonagain June 26, 2013 4:41 PM  

Why is the universe in motion?

Figured you'd weasel out.

The laws of physics, specifically the laws of motion keep the universe in motion - momentum, inertia, etc.

The motion of a rock is not related to the motion of the universe. Neither is the inertia nor momentum of a thought process.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 4:48 PM  

Mudz wrote: You're talking about what the brain does without seming to realise that you're saying the brain is acting on meaning , but where does the meaning come from?

From the circuitry in the brain that performs the calculation "this input is equal to that input", "this other input is not equal another internal state." Just like a NAND gate means "(not (and x y))".

Show me where 'checkmate' is, and why particles make it checkmate instead of just particles.
First, it isn't just "particles", it's particles in motion that undergo certain state changes. And checkmate is in the calculation performed by the circuitry of a chess playing machine, whether human or computer.

And no meanings.
Then how does the computer beat you at chess?

You cannot find the material particle of 'checkmate'.
But I can create a circuit that understands checkmate. Every computer program that I've ever written (and I've been doing it for 37 years) is just a collection of NAND gates, wires, and electrons.

No, it doesn't reocgnise anything. We recognise the patterns and give them meaning, the computer is blissfully unaware.
That's simply an artifact of the number and arrangement of NAND gates. The brain, for the moment, simply has more connections. That's why it's so important for MendoScott to answer the question, "what can a neuron do that a collection of NAND gates cannot do?" If he can really show something, then I'll have to concede defeat.

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 26, 2013 4:48 PM  

"Because I need eyes to see beauty, does not make beauty a physical phenomenon."

Sure it does.

Esse est percipi.

Give me an example of something "beautiful" that does not need to be actually physically perceived, by you, in person, in order for you to judge it so. And no, God, heavenly things, and non-existent Platonic ideas don't count.

Give me an example of something you find beautiful, which has absolutely no physical existence whatsoever. How did you even know it was there?

Like I say, I reject this duality and I think it's a stupid question, but now that I'm here in the Oberlin dorm room, I may as well stay and chat because there's a cute co-ed over on the couch who I'm trying to make.


Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 4:52 PM  

Anonagain wrote: The laws of physics, specifically the laws of motion keep the universe in motion - momentum, inertia, etc.

I think most of us are familiar with Newton's laws of motion. Your answer addresses why the universe continues to move -- it doesn't address what started the motion in the first place. Remember "objects at rest...". Why is the universe in motion instead of at rest?

The motion of a rock is not related to the motion of the universe.
It isn't? The motion of the rock is somehow outside the universe? It isn't a part of a big system?

Neither is the inertia nor momentum of a thought process.
Why is that?

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 4:55 PM  

scoobius doobius wrote: Give me an example of something you find beautiful, which has absolutely no physical existence whatsoever.

The cause of the Big Bang.

How did you even know it was there?

Science, bitches!!!! (Is it Aug 11, yet? ;-)

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 26, 2013 4:55 PM  

"Then how does the computer beat you at chess?"

That's a silly question. The computer isn't thinking at all, it just has a vast storage of moves and lines of play. Every time you make a move, it just consults its encyclopedia of lines of play for that position; it can calculate more moves ahead than most (normal) players can, so it just picks a move that, in ten more moves, is likely to give it an advantage. The computer isn't beating you, its programmers, and the chess experts they consulted to write the program, is beating you.

Similarly, there are lots of human players who aren't all that thoughtful or brilliant, but they have memorized a lot of the classic openings and middle-game lines, and they just know more than you do. That isn't very creative, but if you're a nerd, it can work.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 5:00 PM  

scoobius dubious: The computer isn't thinking at all...
That's one way to look at it. But it's the same physical processes as the human brain. Turing machines are turing machines are turing machines. The brain just has more connections.

Anonymous Anonagain June 26, 2013 5:02 PM  

A rock sitting on my patio, I pick it up and throw it out into the yard. It's in motion, then it's no longer in motion. That motion was not directly related to the universe - it was me that caused it - not the universe.

You're a disingenuous little weasel. And I'm done with you. Gazing into your navel is beginning to turn my stomach.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 5:08 PM  

Just like a NAND gate means

You're doing it again. You can't avoid having to outright provide the meaning. I don't know if you noticed, because you're making a qualitative, not quantitative, description of the logics involved.

First, it isn't just "particles", it's particles in motion that undergo certain state changes. And checkmate is in the calculation performed by the circuitry of a chess playing machine, whether human or computer.

So you confess there's more than particles involved in your argument. What does 'state changes' mean?

And how is checkmate 'in the calculation'. You can say 'this calculation means you have been checkmated', but it's still just a meaning that you've derived through intelligence, not because the universe started producing checkmate particles.

You keep skirting around the actual isue. You're effectively just pointing to a black box and saying 'it happens in there somehow'.

Then how does the computer beat you at chess?

Hypothetically, by using the 'right moves'. It happens to mean something to me. It doesn't mean anything to the computer.

But I can create a circuit that understands checkmate.

No, you can't. Crikey, is that a ludicrous claim. You might as well say that you can create God out of twigs and chewing gum. Conceptually impossible and laughable at the same time.

Every computer program that I've ever written (and I've been doing it for 37 years) is just a collection of NAND gates, wires, and electrons.

That's wonderful. Also irrelevant. Try showing me that it's a wonderful program by telling me how many NAND gates, wires and electrons you used in it.

That's simply an artifact of the number and arrangement of NAND gates.

So again, we're back to 'it doesn't exist'. Stop flipping back and forth, man. Pick a position, argue for it, and stick to it. Don't appropriate wildly incongruous arguments on a whim.

Does 'checkmate' as an entity, exist materially in the ontological sense?

Yes or no.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 5:12 PM  

Give me an example of something "beautiful" that does not need to be actually physically perceived, by you, in person, in order for you to judge it so. And no, God, heavenly things, and non-existent Platonic ideas don't count.

You guys are mixing up categories.

I would need to use my physical eyes in order to see something I deem beautiful.

But beautiful itself is not a physical phenomenon. This is distinct from saying that something physical is beautiful, or that something is physically beautiful. This is the very concept itself, of beauty. It's not water, or air, or skin, or nail polish. Whether or not you believe that a sense of beauty is merely an epiphenomenon of the reactions of physical matter, it's still remains that was beauty is not is a physical thing.

Do you understand the distinction I'm trying to make?

The concept of beauty, as opposed to the existence of a beautiful thing.

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 26, 2013 5:21 PM  

"The concept of beauty, as opposed to the existence of a beautiful thing."

Don't go all Plato on me, man. The reality is, no two people have the same idea of what "beautiful" or "beauty" means. Your judgment of what is beautiful belongs only to you, and you are a physical being. So your conception of "beauty" exists in your mind, and your mind is a physical thing, so in effect your conception of "beauty" is a physical thing. There is no thing called "beauty" that exists outside of time and space, distinct from physical objects. You know the line about "sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt", right? Some people like Helen Frankenthaler, and think Robert Motherwell was an idiot, or vice versa... but the two of them were *married*.

Which only goes to show. Smoking... can ruin yer health.

"Do you understand the distinction I'm trying to make?"

There *is* no distinction. Light is both wave and particle, yadda yadda yadda.


Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 5:37 PM  

You body converts external phenomena: light waves, sound waves, pressure, etc..., into the biological equivalent of bits.

But that's the elephant in the room - does it? We can represent that information as bits, but we don't know how the central nervous system encodes information (the peripheral nervous system, which is essentially a transmission system, largely encodes information as frequency) in an individual neuron, but there is also spatial and chemical coding. Thus the three grand areas of the neurosciences - neurophysiology, neuroanatomy and neurochemistry. No model of nervous system function that doesn't satisfy all three aspects has a believable claim.

Fine. Like I asked, what can a neuron do that a collection of NAND gates cannot do? It doesn't matter to me if the collection is one NAND gate or a trillion. So far, it sounds like the answer is "nothing".

Thus the Eigenquote, above. A model is not the same as that being modelled, by definition. To make matters worse, they are modelling the wrong thing. The output of these models (the synchrony in the paper you linked is a particularly poor example) has an unknown relationship to the conciousness that you are suggesting can be modelled by a linear expansion of the same error.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 5:41 PM  

Anonagain wrote: That motion was not directly related to the universe - it was me that caused it - not the universe.

I know that's what you want to claim, but you haven't shown it to be the case. Look up superdeterminism as one possible refutation. Furthermore, you haven't shown that "me" is independent of the motion of the universe.

I'm reminded of this Dilbert cartoon.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 5:49 PM  

The carriages on your train don't all link up. And you're assuming I'm arguing for something I'm not. I'm not arguing that beauty literally exists somewhere as an entity, I arguing that it doesn't physically exist.

The reality is, no two people have the same idea of what "beautiful" or "beauty" means.

Actually I think we do. You may have meant to say that no two people have exactly the same ideas of what is beautiful, but I think we're pretty much all have the same idea of what it means.

Your judgment of what is beautiful belongs only to you, and you are a physical being.

Two different things. My car belongs to me too.

So your conception of "beauty" exists in your mind, and your mind is a physical thing, so in effect your conception of "beauty" is a physical thing.

I'll assume you really meant 'brain.'

'In effect'? There is no 'in effect'. Either it's physically present in my brain, or it isn't.

Are you saying it is physically in my brain? So Beauty physically exists?

There is no thing called "beauty" that exists outside of time and space, distinct from physical objects.

Did I say there was? My argument is to explain that beauty doesn't physically exist. Not where it might exist.

So. No such thing as beautiful poetry, then? Is 'poetry' a physical thing too? What size is it? What colour?

Either beauty physically/materially exists, or it doesn't. I think either of us believes that it does, and that's the point I'm making.

It's a term that has no meaning in a purely material context.

There *is* no distinction. Light is both wave and particle, yadda yadda yadda.

Debateable. But even if so, a wave is not a particle.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 5:50 PM  

^ @scoobious dubious

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 5:56 PM  

MendoScott wrote: No model of nervous system function that doesn't satisfy all three aspects has a believable claim.

Coding is coding. Can a collection of NAND gates perform the same coding, even if it's in different ways, as neurons? Doesn't the existence of the NEURON program show that the answer is "yes"?

A model is not the same as that being modelled, by definition.
It is when what we care about is the result of a computation. It doesn't matter if the processor is big-endian or little-endian, uses software or hardware floating point, has 8-bit, 32-bit, or 60-bit registers, or is made of carbon or silicon. A turing machine is a turing machine is a turing machine.

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 6:14 PM  

No, wrf3. It never is. Models are, as said, by virtue of definition never that which they are modelling. It's just logically incoherent. Taking photos of Hawaii doesn't mean you can bring Hawaii back to New York in your pocket.

A turing machine is a turing machine is a turing machine, but it doesn't have a sense of humour.

You seem to be completely missing the concepts involved here.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 6:20 PM  

Mudz wrote: You're doing it again. You can't avoid having to outright provide the meaning.
What I'm saying is that the meaning cannot be detached from the physical object.

I don't know if you noticed, because you're making a qualitative, not quantitative, description of the logics involved.
What I'm doing is performing calculations with the mental machinery in my brain. Physical machinery. If we were silicon based, instead of carbon based, we couldn't describe nand gates without nand gates. The only reason you're having a problem with this is because you think a carbon-based computer is somehow fundamentally different from a silicon-based computer. That collections of neurons can do something that collections of nand gates can't do.

The brain has 100 billion neurons; 1,000 synapses/neuron; can perform 100 operations/second/neuron, or about 10,000 trillion operations/second. That's 10 petaops/sec. We're only now able to do that with computers and it isn't clear that there's a 1-1 correspondence. So not only do our machines not yet have the horsepower to equal the brain, they don't yet have the right arrangement of wires. But it's just a matter of time.

So you confess there's more than particles involved in your argument. What does 'state changes' mean?
In the case of a NAND gate, it's high voltage to low voltage. For photons, it would be spin (I think. I'd have to look it up). For water circuits, it would be the presence/absence of water.

... but it's still just a meaning that you've derived through intelligence, not because the universe started producing checkmate particles.
How it works is a different argument from how it came about. How do you know that the universe didn't start producing checkmate circuitry (or, at least, circuits that can create and recognize checkmate)? Your thoughts are electrons in motion through neurons connected by dendrites and axons. There's a lot of motion in the universe. How do you know that your thoughts aren't a subset?

Does 'checkmate' as an entity, exist materially in the ontological sense?

Yes. Just like a wire is the identity function and a NAND gate is a physical logical not-and. If you think that you can escape the physicality of your brain and separate the idea from the arrangement of neurons, then please demonstrate how. If you want to point to Russell's argument in chapter 9 of "The Problems of Philosophy", that's fine. I can work with that.



Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 6:24 PM  

Mudz wrote: Taking photos of Hawaii doesn't mean you can bring Hawaii back to New York in your pocket.

I never said you could, nor would I agree that you could.

A turing machine isn't a photo. But calculating 2+2=4 with an abacus gives the same answer as calculating 2+2 in binary on a silicon device or in the neurons of your brain.

A NAND gate gives the same result whether is done in silicon with electrons, carbon with electrons, or pipes with water.

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 26, 2013 6:26 PM  

@Mudz -- well sorry if I misrepresented some of what you were arguing. Like I say, what you gents have been fighting about is simply not the way I view things, so I'm considering the question simply for the pleasure of your conversation.

You're right, I meant "what beauty is" not what it means.

The line about your car is a diversion, and no, they aren't two different things. We live in a physical world, full stop. I believe in God and a heavenly world too, but we're not in it. Everything we perceive and experience, unless we have a divine revelation, exists in a material context. That's all I'm saying, I'm not denying the idea of a metaphysical world, but its proper context is the Divine, and that's not where we are. Minds aren't magical, and consciousness isn't either. Like Searle says, very simply, "Brains cause consciousness." That doesn't give ammo to atheists, b/c God gave us consciousness so that we can think and act, and brains simply happen to be the vehicle He chose to do it with. But, that IS the vehicle, and not some metaphysical process. (I know this is tangential to your argument, I'm just ranting.)

"Are you saying it is physically in my brain? So Beauty physically exists?"

Beauty as a universal abstraction doesn't exist at all, but *your* personal ideas and experiences and tastes and memories about beauty are all in *your* personal mind, and your mind is caused by your brain, and your brain is a physical thing, so in that sense, your conception of beauty does indeed physically exist. As Frank O'Hara put it, "the kingdom of your self, sailing..."

"So. No such thing as beautiful poetry, then?"

There's plenty of beautiful poetry. It's just that I love James Schuyler and I think Adrienne Rich is a bore. Others would argue the reverse. My ideas about poetry are lodged in my mind, and theirs in theirs.

"Is 'poetry' a physical thing too? What size is it? What colour?"

Well, the "poetry" as a word and as a concept are things that we can understand, and so insofar as they are in our minds, yes, poetry is physical. Note that poetry can be more easily defined than Beauty. Poetry is a literary category, not a Platonic ideal. Some debate exists about what is and is not poetry, but on the whole, we all know it when we see it. With Beauty it's a bit harder. But more importantly you'd say a particular poem exists as a physical thing, lodged in the minds of anybody who took the trouble to love it or to memorize it.

"But even if so, a wave is not a particle."

Misses the point. If light is both wave and particle, then it partakes of some aspect of reality in which both are somehow one. wrf3 has been arguing that everything reduces to particles. You've been arguing that no, to derive meaning requires a process as well (let's compare that to a wave). I'm saying well, gents, guess what, the distinction may as well not exist; or rather, for us to trouble ourselves making the distinction doesn't get us anywhere as a matter of philosophy. It may be very helpful in some area of neuroscience, but for purposes of principle, c'est bien un cul-de-sac.

Now pass me the Cheetos, man, I got the munchies. What time is it anyway? Holy shit, it's 3 o'clock in the morning! And I have a 20-page paper due tomorrow, that I haven't even *started*!!




Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 6:32 PM  

@ wrf3

You got it backwards. You cannot use the term 'checkmate' without invoking meaning independent of material existence. Materialism provides no meaning by itself, you have to invoke the non-material in order to arrive at a meaning. That's just how it works.

If you think that you can escape the physicality of your brain and separate the idea from the arrangement of neurons, then please demonstrate how.

It's simply an illogical equation you're trying to create. You cannot go '5 + 5 = Awesome', it's just nonsense. The idea is seperate from the arrangement of neurons because they occupy two separate categories of existence. What is there to connect them? One is abstract, the other is physical.

You are making a completely incoherent argument. And the biggest problem, is that if you don't grasp this intuitively, it probably means that explaining it logically will simply continue to have no meaning to you. It's effectively like explaining why apples aren't oranges.

Yes.

Where?

Anonymous Daniel June 26, 2013 6:33 PM  

But it's just a matter of time.

This is the assertion that you make repeatedly, but you have offered no evidence that this is true. The fact is that you now have computers that can simulate the number of connections in a human brain, something that the transhumanists have been arguing for ages was the tipping point...and yet you don't have a computer that can experience meaning to the level of a human being with Down's Syndrome.

...and you never will.*

* those last four words are my unsupported assertion. My point is that when you have two unsupported assertions in conflict, the debated assertions demand support.

You have not yet even tried to support the megaton bomb assertion that "computers will replicate human brains as soon as they figure out the proper connections and wiring."

Everything you argue hinges on this assumption. This is an assumption that simply must be proven before you can hang your hat on it. Please prove it, or, at the very least, defend it.

The simplest, but by no means only, demonstration that separates the idea from the arrangement of neurons is this: take three people, one who can read, but not comprehend, written esperanto, and the other who can read and comprehend esperanto but cannot comprehend new ideas, and a final one who can read and comprehend esperanto and is capable of comprehending new ideas.

Have them each read the same sentence in esperanto, expressing a new idea.

By neurological pattern, what is the quantity of neurotransmissions sufficient to determine whether or not the third person comprehended the new idea, vs. the content of the other two?

Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 6:47 PM  

@ scoobious

My car and I are two different things. 'Possessing' the idea, and the supposition that I am physical, does not mean that the idea is physical, and in fact possession itself is an idea.

If light is both wave and particle, then it partakes of some aspect of reality in which both are somehow one.

I happen to think that wave/particle duality is also logically incoherent.

I'm saying well, gents, guess what, the distinction may as well not exist; or rather, for us to trouble ourselves making the distinction doesn't get us anywhere as a matter of philosophy. It may be very helpful in some area of neuroscience, but for purposes of principle, c'est bien un cul-de-sac.

And I don't know what this serves either.

-

Then your position is that beauty does not in fact exist, in a purely material system.

Everything we perceive and experience, unless we have a divine revelation, exists in a material context.

What material context? How does anything material give anything context? It's a fundamental error.

Look, you can say that everything that exists is all made up of bits and pieces of matter if you like. But this means essentially, that there is nothing else. There is no context, there is no meaning. No beauty, no compassion, no honour, no love, no wrath, no purpose, telos, nor order.

It really means that it's some sort of magical (somehow purely physical too) illusion that gifts us with the right rotatations and movements of our particles that 'creates' the illusion and the illusion to interpret the illusion as a thing that is real.

It's means that meaning cannot actually be explicated, because the context in which it would be explicated is non-existent, and material existence is just sort of 'giving' a pseudo-platform to create what we might (if our intellectual faculties truly existed) would perceive as sense, intellection and the like (except in reality we don't, we just 'think' we do), but there is nothing in the whole universe to actually say that anything means anything except matter.

If that's your position, then go for gold. I'm just telling you that's what it means, in case you decide that meaning does exist after all.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 7:05 PM  

Mudz wrote: You got it backwards. You cannot use the term 'checkmate' without invoking meaning independent of material existence. Materialism provides no meaning by itself, you have to invoke the non-material in order to arrive at a meaning. That's just how it works.

So, say, Hofstadter wasted his time with GEB? How do you invoke the "non-material"? What part of your brain is immaterial? If it's all material, how does the material brain make the jump to immaterial?

Where?

Now I need a diagram. Please go here and look at the circuit constructed of NAND gates for an adder. It takes two inputs, doesn't matter if they are electrons, photons, or water, and produces two outputs: a sum and a carry. They can be strung together to add any number of bits.

Nine gates and a bunch of wires arranged a certain way. Wire them up differently and something else happens.

Got that?

Now, let's create a circuit that takes as input a circuit and determines whether or not it is an adder. It's less complicated than checkmate but the principles are the same. For simplicity, we'll consider circuits without loops.

At this point, I'd produce a program, about 50 lines of LISP, that recognizes these types of circuits. That program is equivalent to a collection of NAND gates, wires, and electrons in a silicon computer. But there are so many that I can't draw it. But that's all it is.

Whether its "this circuit is an adder" or "this is checkmate" it's all wires, NAND gates, and electrons in different arrangements.

You can't separate what a NAND gate does with what it means.


Anonymous Mudz June 26, 2013 7:26 PM  

Now I need a diagram. Please go here and look at the circuit constructed of NAND gates for an adder. It takes two inputs, doesn't matter if they are electrons, photons, or water, and produces two outputs: a sum and a carry. They can be strung together to add any number of bits.

Try as I might, I did not see a 'checkmate'. All that page shows was lines and letters, it did not magically create a meaning. Dude, it's simply impossible. You keep trying to explain mechanics as if that somehow will automatically imbue it with ontological meaning. It doesn't. Meaning has to be created via intelligence.

You see these words and you see words that mean things. An alien looks at it and says "$%&*%^&".[1] The words do not create meaning by themselves.

[1] - 'It doesn't mean anything.'


Nine gates and a bunch of wires arranged a certain way. Wire them up differently and something else happens.

That's amazing! Except that doesn't mean anything except the meaning you just provided me.

At this point, I'd produce a program, about 50 lines of LISP, that recognizes these types of circuits.

Impossible proposition. You can describe it as 'recognition' but it relates no actual facts about the programs cognitive abilities, which are non-existent.

Whether its "this circuit is an adder" or "this is checkmate" it's all wires, NAND gates, and electrons in different arrangements.

Looks like English to me. I bet you could have written the same with a pen on paper too.

You can't separate what a NAND gate does with what it means.

Well, yes you can, but it's irrelevant.

The distinction is between what it what it is and what it means, which are absolutely different things.

It's is a 'NAND gate' (or to materialists, 'there are particles in particular positions'), it means "Negated And or Not And" logic gate. (What it does is perform/allow boolean functions.)

Agreed?

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 26, 2013 8:12 PM  

@Mudz 6:47 pm

Gee wiz, for a guy who keeps going on about meaning, you're not very good at it. You misunderstood practically everything I've said.

Maybe you can get wrf3 to build you one of those NAND gate thingies he keeps talking about. Ah, I'm being snarky and I don't mean to. (Zonkers! There's that MEANING word again! Will it never leave us alone?!?)

Too much twine to unravel here, so I'll leave you and your principal antagonist to keep on. But sincerely, thanks for a fun and informative chat.

Anonymous Sigyn June 26, 2013 8:35 PM  

Since minds are caused by brains (viz., there is no mind/body duality, your mind is in your brain, and your brain is in your body, therefore your mind is in your body)

Prove this.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 8:52 PM  

Mudz wrote: Try as I might, I did not see a 'checkmate'.

That's because said I wasn't going to do that; I was going to pick something simpler so that we don't get overwhelmed by the sheer number of connections. Do you, or do you not, agree that all computer software is equivalent to electrons flowing through NAND gates wired in certain ways? Electrons flow one way, you get an adder. Electrons flow another way, you get something that recognizes circuits. Electrons flow yet another way, you get a program that plays chess. Agreed?

it did not magically create a meaning.

Of course it wasn't magic. It was the circuits in your brain setting up associations between the input from your eyes and the bits of memory where certain other associations have been stored.

Meaning has to be created via intelligence.
You can't claim your conclusions as an argument. You have to show why.

Well, yes you can (separate what a NAND gate does with what it means), but it's irrelevant.
Then demonstrate it. And do it without using the neurons and axons in your brain, which are just neurons in another form. Break the circle.

...

An alien looks at it and says "$%&*%^&". The words do not create meaning by themselves.
So communication with aliens is impossible? If that were true, we couldn't even communicate with people who don't speak English.

Blogger tz June 26, 2013 8:52 PM  

Why does Purple? Go ask Alice ... Walker, or just see the movie.

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 26, 2013 8:59 PM  

"Prove this."

Ever known a person who you liked or even loved, who you used to talk to all the time, who had a heart attack, or lung disease, or a broken bone, and after they were healthy you could still talk to them and they were the same old person they always were? Most of us have had that experience.

Now... ever known a person who you liked or even loved, who then suffered from Alzheimer's disease or other organic brain disorder, and after a while their mind deteriorated to the point where you no longer recognized their personality and they didn't know who you were, and then after a while longer they could no longer even express themselves? I've had that experience. And the person's mind did not somehow exist independently of the health of their brain. It wasn't somehow emanating, same as it had always been, from a healthy part of the body, like say the stomach.

What do you think a reasonable person would infer?

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 9:09 PM  

To Mudz:

Then demonstrate it. And do it without using the neurons and axons in your brain, which are just NAND gates in another form. Break the circle.

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 9:47 PM  

Coding is coding.

Agreed. But how do you code hundreds of dimensions into a NAND gate? Every synapse on a neuron receives that order of inputs. Any single ion channels can respond to at least 10 inputs whose effects cover time scales from microseconds to years.

Doesn't the existence of the NEURON program show that the answer is "yes"?

No. The NEURON program was developed in the Neurobiology Department of Duke (where I spent 5 years as a postdoc while it was being developed) to attempt to model the activity of a single neuron. It's lovely for what it does, what it does not do is support your deterministic arguments.

A model is not the same as that being modelled, by definition.
It is when what we care about is the result of a computation.


Then all you care about is the model, not the reality.

wrf3, I work at the interface between basic and clinical neuroscience. My part is to provide the theoretical underpinnings that would justify using crazy ideas to confront problems that kill people daily. As an engineer you can understand what that means. When I look at the theoretical models that you base your claims on, I simply cannot see any relationship between the theory and reality. Neural networks are a minor branch of theoretical neurophysiology that I have been following for a quarter century because I think the field has potential, but that potential has never been realized. It may still or it may be stillborn.

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 9:51 PM  

There's no getting around it: as Sting once sang, "We are spare-ribs in the material world." Or at least, I *think* that's what he sang.

Or as UB40 sang, "I'm a prima donna".

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 10:13 PM  

MendoScott wrote: Agreed. But how do you code hundreds of dimensions into a NAND gate? Every synapse on a neuron receives that order of inputs. Any single ion channels can respond to at least 10 inputs whose effects cover time scales from microseconds to years.

By using a lot of NAND gates. It isn't a one-to-one correspondence.

[NEURON is] lovely for what it does, what it does not do is support your deterministic arguments.

What is does support is the functional equivalence between one neuron and many, many NAND gates. So multiply both sides by 100 billion. Where does the mysterious creep in?

Then all you care about is the model, not the reality.
The model shows what the reality is. I can't build a Saturn V and put a man on the moon. The best I've ever managed is model rockets. But the principles are the same. Yes, one has to worry about life support systems, and material strength, and all of the other differences between a model rocket and a Saturn V. But whether it's a model rocket, or Goddard's first rocket, or Von Braun's V2, the principles are still the same.

I can no more build a human level AI than I can a Saturn V. But that's an engineering problem, not one of basic principles. The brain has a complexity that it will take a lot of people and a lot of computers to overcome. But the complexity is that of wiring, not of fundamental principles.

Neural networks...

We're not even to that level. I'm not advocating how to do the wiring, simply the equivalence relationship.

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 10:17 PM  

That's why it's so important for MendoScott to answer the question, "what can a neuron do that a collection of NAND gates cannot do?" If he can really show something, then I'll have to concede defeat.

The obvious, if trivial answer is, organize themselves so as to produce their own culture. There are a great deal more NAND gates in existence than humans and I, for one, am not keeping them down.

But seriously, the point returns to the question of modelling. Given any biological function, can you produce a collection of NAND gates that will give the same output for the input? If it does, can it then take a completely different input and then produce the output that the model organism would?

Think that the flatworm C. Elegans has a defined nervous system of 302 neurons; could you reproduce all its <a href = "http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1000028>behaviours</a> with 302 NAND gates?

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 10:40 PM  

MendoScott wrote: Think that the flatworm C. Elegans has a defined nervous system of 302 neurons; could you reproduce all its behaviours with 302 NAND gates?

No and I've never claimed that there is a one-to-one mapping. The claim is that there is a one-to-many mapping.

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 10:51 PM  

The brain has 100 billion neurons

80 billion by the latest estimates, and they are stimates.

1,000 synapses/neuron

From 1 to a million. The average, whether mode, mean or median is irrelevant because each processor has the inputs that corresponds to its function.

can perform 100 operations/second/neuron

The currently accepted limit of information transfer is 1000/s. Many species have the ablilty to distinguish auditory information at frequencies that would require codification well above that limit, by several orders of magnitude. We currenlty have no explanation for this.

or about 10,000 trillion operations/second.

You are still working on an analogical assumption of how a nervous system procceses information. If the codification is multidimensional, your calculation explodes.

Blogger wrf3 June 26, 2013 10:58 PM  

MendoScott wrote: You are still working on an analogical assumption of how a nervous system procceses information. If the codification is multidimensional, your calculation explodes.

Which is fine. Doesn't bother me in the least. It just means more wiring to deal with. All it does is make the engineering harder; it doesn't change the fundamental principle of the equivalence between what neurons do and what NAND gates do.

Signing off for the night. Back tomorrow.

Anonymous MendoScot June 26, 2013 11:01 PM  

No and I've never claimed that there is a one-to-one mapping. The claim is that there is a one-to-many mapping.

Then we are agreed. NAND gates are not a good model for neurons.

G'nite.

Anonymous Mudz June 27, 2013 1:34 AM  

That's because said I wasn't going to do that; I was going to pick something simpler so that we don't get overwhelmed by the sheer number of connections. Do you, or do you not, agree that all computer software is equivalent to electrons flowing through NAND gates wired in certain ways? Electrons flow one way, you get an adder. Electrons flow another way, you get something that recognizes circuits. Electrons flow yet another way, you get a program that plays chess. Agreed?

No.

This also means you didn't answer my question of where 'checkmate' materially exists. You're trying to slip past simply by qualifying something as checkmate.

Of course it wasn't magic. It was the circuits in your brain setting up associations between the input from your eyes and the bits of memory where certain other associations have been stored.

It has to be magic, because there's no rational explanation for how meaning suddenly appears in your system.

Material can never, not even in theory create actual meaning, unless some mysterious factor simply pops it in there. Your statement is the equivalent of:

"The brain does stuff, and it makes meaning."

Do you not understand the concept of meaning? It is not a material product. It is not a physical thing, it cannot theoretically, potentially, in principle even possibly exist in a purely material universe.

You keep trying to say it exists, but your line of logic is operating along the terms of it not actually existing, but you can just insert the word somewhere because you personally feel it fits.

You can't claim your conclusions as an argument. You have to show why.

I claim it as an axiom. And it's the only one that works. There is no why, it's just logic. There is no why for logic being logical.

You cannot materially deduce an abstract quality, it's is only theoretically possible with abstract thought.

The point here, is not that I can prove that you can create meaning with intelligence, the point here, is that you can't do it with particles only. It logically requires the medium in which abstract concepts exist. It presupposes intelligence, by definition, because the concepts are a subset of intelligence.

If particles is all that exist, then these abstract concepts simply do not. Whenever you go, 'well these configurations are these abstract concepts' you are yourself forming abstract meaning from them. The particles have absolutely no meaning to the particles.

Whenever you say that an abstract exists, you are presupposing the existence of the non-material.

This is logic, dude. And this is why you are wrong, because you're trying to subvert it by just inserting abstractions to fill the places you claim that material does it alone.

Then demonstrate it. And do it without using the neurons and axons in your brain, which are just neurons in another form. Break the circle.

You're conflating two completely different things. I have to take my car to get to work, but my car is not my work. I need my hands to type on the keyboard, but my hands are not my braincells.

I have to use numbers and symbols to express mathematical formula, but those formula do not require me to express them in order to exist.

It's completely irrelevant. How I express it to you is unimportant, the fact is that you perceive the meaning in my expression, and work it backwards yourself. This is precisely because it's an abstraction, I cannot throw understanding at you in buckets, I have to try and reason with you on the assumption that reason exists, and it requires you to accept the logic involved in order to understand the argument.

You're confusing conditions necessary for a situation, for the situation itself.

Anonymous Mudz June 27, 2013 1:34 AM  

So communication with aliens is impossible? If that were true, we couldn't even communicate with people who don't speak English.

Again, you're missing the point. You don't even realise that you're arguing for my position, without understanding what it is that you're saying.

Yes, we can theoretically communicate with other intelligent beings, this is because meaning is not an actual material. They can derive the same meaning from an entirely different set of particles, and derive no meaning from the particles from which we derive meaning. But if we teach them English, then suddenly it has meaning.

And this qualitative difference cannot be explicated materially, because material cannot explicate.


This is utterly tiresome. You haven't even demonstrated a basic awareness of the concepts involved here. I really don't know how to make it any clearer to you.

It doesn't matter if you think material is required for anything, material cannot by definition explain that which is immaterial.

Something has to go, you cannot say the universe is both only material, and also has the immaterial, but in a material way. That's a bullshit answer.

It's either material all the way, or it isn't. You're trying to demonstrate the impossible, that you can arrive at meaining simply by existtence. it just can't work that way. It doesn't matter if you don't think it can't work any other way too, in all possible scenarios, the abstract cannot materially exist it's a logical contradiction.

Do you understand that the abstract and the material are categorically two different things?

Anonymous scoobius dubious June 27, 2013 7:06 AM  

"you cannot say the universe is both only material, and also has the immaterial, but in a material way. That's a bullshit answer."

I 'unno, I kind of think that's the correct answer.

"Do you understand that the abstract and the material are categorically two different things?"

Only if one accepts your ideas about categories as the actual truth, rather than as a useful (if incomplete) model of the truth, which is what I'd say is closer. Logic is a useful tool, like a monkey wrench or the Cliff's Notes guide to Gravity's Rainbow. Logic helps us understand the world, but it doesn't build the world: I believe any quantum physicist will tell you that. Maybe the abstract and the material exist on a continuum, or maybe they have some other relation besides being "categorically two different things". I don't consult Sherlock Holmes for my metaphysics, and neither should you.

Put it this way: in theory, the idea of an isosceles triangle is an "abstract" notion. But an isosceles triangle didn't actually exist in the minds of humans until the first geometer actually drew one.

Sorry, I said I wouldn't get back into this, so I'm going to butt my head back out now. But if you have a riposte and you want me to reply, I will. I just think what I'm saying is relatively unimportant in the context of you guys' larger conversation.

Blogger wrf3 June 27, 2013 8:14 AM  

MendoScot wrote: Then we are agreed. NAND gates are not a good model for neurons.

Depends on the goal. If the goal is to construct an artificial neuron then using thousands of NAND gates to make a neuron might not be the best choice. But if the goal is to understand what neurons are doing, then the model shows that neurons, like NAND gates, are one way to build a Turing machine. And that's the key point.

Blogger wrf3 June 27, 2013 8:35 AM  

Mudz wrote: Again, you're missing the point. You don't even realise that you're arguing for my position, without understanding what it is that you're saying.

Yes, we can theoretically communicate with other intelligent beings, this is because meaning is not an actual material.


Tie that in with the earlier conversation at June 26, 2013 5:08 PM: You can't avoid having to outright provide the meaning.

Here is the key concept that I think you're missing: with a NAND gate, I don't have to provide the meaning. It's inherent in the thing itself. It takes two inputs and combines them in a certain way. The only reason for anyone to provide the meaning is to save time... but that hides the fact that you, or an alien, could discover it yourself without being told.

Just like you, or the alien, could discover, without being told, what the circuit diagram previously referenced does.

That one little bit of "meaning" (what the physical device does) is strung together to produce another meaning.

And then you realize that the neurons in your brain is equivalent to a mind-bogglingly large number of those little NAND gates. And the circle is complete.

So if you're going to say that meaning exists independently of material, instead of being part and parcel with it, then you're going to have to show how you determine meaning apart from the physical mechanism in your brain.

Just to drive things home, you wrote: They can derive the same meaning from an entirely different set of particles

Sure. There's more than one way to achieve the same meaning. One could use a NOR gate. Or separate gates. Doesn't matter.

and derive no meaning from the particles from which we derive meaning.

Sure. But a NAND gate is a universal device. If they can't derive meaning from it, then perhaps the wiring in their brain isn't sufficient for them to do so. Certainly my dog can't discover the meaning in a NAND gate, but that's not because of the NAND gate.

QED.

Blogger wrf3 June 27, 2013 9:43 AM  

Mudz wrote: It's either material all the way, or it isn't.

Or it's both. Can't have one without the other -- unless there was something before the Big Bang; e.g. the laws of physics preceded the universe.

Anonymous FrankNorman June 27, 2013 10:31 AM  

I'm getting the impression that one side of the debate simply does not understand the point the other side is making.

Okay, some comments of my own:

A neuron is a living cell. A eukaryotic cell at that, with its own complex internal systems. The idea of treating living things as being nothing more than complex machines is commonplace, but that does not prove it true.

Wrf3 asks, what can a neuron do that a NAND gate cannot?
How about - Repair itself? Grow new connections. (the axon and dendrites are really just pseudopods, the cell can reposition them at need.)
There are even nerve cells that retain the ability to undergo mitosis.

An individual neuron might have hundreds of "incoming" connections, some of them additive, others subtractive. Its not a Turing machine, or anything remotely like one. Nor is an entire brain a Turing machine. There's no linear "program" being executed sequentially.

And then of course, we come to the point that Wrf3 apparently denies - that human beings are beings of spirit as well as matter. The physical brain being interacted with by something else, something that the material sciences cannot directly study.

Blogger wrf3 June 27, 2013 10:46 AM  

FrankNorman The idea of treating living things as being nothing more than complex machines is commonplace, but that does not prove it true.

It doesn't prove it false, either. That's why this discussion. Reasons.

How about - Repair itself? Grow new connections.
That they "break" and have to be repaired, and that this affects the thinking process, shows the physicality of thinking. But it says nothing about the essence of the system, what it can calculate, and whether or not it's equivalent to another system. As for growing new connections, pick an upper limit. Make the equivalent number of connections in another medium. You still have two equivalent turing machines.

Its not a Turing machine...
Except that none of the reasons you listed have any bearing on whether or not it's a Turing machine.

The physical brain being interacted with by something else, something that the material sciences cannot directly study.
The brain is a pattern matcher. Sometimes it matches things that correspond to the shared external world. Sometimes it doesn't. That is, it fills in the gaps with notions that, in some sense, feel good, but have no bearing on what is actually happening.

So, show us that your claim is more than the figment of a pattern matcher filling in the blanks where there isn't enough data.

Blogger Shibes Meadow June 28, 2013 3:19 AM  

The brain is a pattern matcher. Sometimes it matches things that correspond to the shared external world. Sometimes it doesn't. That is, it fills in the gaps with notions that, in some sense, feel good

Qualia alert! Sorry, but the brain has no capacity for feeling, either good or bad. Neither can it "match" anything, since matching is a cognitive process. The brain is just meat capable of existing in a variety of electrochemical states. The states themselves are just arrangements of molecules and electrons, with no meaning in and of themselves.

A book cannot read itself. For a book to be anything more than a given configuration of ink and wood pulp, a reader is required -- a meaning-assigning entity external to, separate from, and different in substance from the book. Likewise with the brain: the thing that "reads" the various molecular/electrical brain states, the thing that assigns one meaning to molecular/electrical configuration 68698698 and another to molecular/electrical configuration 7976986, cannot be the brain, but must be a meaning-assigning entity external to, separate from, and different in substance from the brain. This is the nous, the mind, the soul.

Or, to use a more modern analogy: the brain is not a "consciousness engine" or a "consciousness generator", it is a "consciousnesness browser", an interface between the supernatural "cloud" (the world of the spirit) and the natural world of matter, energy, time, and space.

To assert that the brain "matches" things, "feels" things, etc, makes no sense. There is no little man in the brain going "Aha! That thing matches the other thing! I feel great!" Unless you are asserting that the brain somehow has a physical "brain" of its own (which just kicks the metaphysical can further down the road), any talk of "the brain" feeling or thinking anything is meaningless.

Blogger wrf3 June 28, 2013 11:45 AM  

Shibes Meadow wrote: Qualia alert!

The more I listen to the immaterialist camp talk, the more the notion that they are complete lunatics is reinforced.

"Qualia" is nothing more than the result of an analog to digital conversion in the brain, that is, the wavelength of light, or sound waves, or pressure values, etc... into the brain's internal representation. There's nothing special or mysterious about qualia.

Sorry, but the brain has no capacity for feeling, either good or bad. Neither can it "match" anything, since matching is a cognitive process.

Matching is a computational process. Your brain can compare the it's "qualia" for red and it's "qualia" for green and compute that they aren't the same. Likewise, the brain can create an association between the qualia for "red" and the qualia for the audio wave of the word "red". It can then do a lookup based on this association. After all, that's how infants learn language. You show them a cat, or the picture of a cat, the letters "cat" or "кошка" or "katze", and the sound for the word. Over time, the brain creates the association between the qualia,

The brain is just meat capable of existing in a variety of electrochemical states. The states themselves are just arrangements of molecules and electrons, with no meaning in and of themselves.

Do pay attention to what has already been presented here before repeating the same old tired arguments. Meaning is isomorphisms between qualia, and isomorphism are calculable via NAND gates and, therefore, neurons.

A book cannot read itself.

That's because a book isn't a Turing machine. It's part of the tape used by a Turing machine.

And, I'm disappointed that no one, on purely pedantic reasons, has said, "the brain isn't a Turing machine because Turing machines have a tape of infinite length." Right. The brain is a finite state machine, but the universe is the tape, so it's effectively infinite.

...but must be a meaning-assigning entity external to, separate from, and different in substance from the brain. This is the nous, the mind, the soul.

No, it's a string of NAND gates, or the neuronal equivalent.

To assert that the brain "matches" things, "feels" things, etc, makes no sense. There is no little man in the brain going "Aha! That thing matches the other thing!

But there are neurons, which are functionally equivalent to NAND gates. And NAND gates, and therefore neurons, have intrinsic meaning.

Anonymous Albert June 28, 2013 12:08 PM  

The discussion finally enters substantive territory with the last few comments.

wrf3, do you believe consciousness is completely reducible to material arrangements? How about life itself? Yes or no is adequate; I just want to understand what your position is, not challenge it. I may have time for that later. But your answers will help me understand your other comments.

I note you are a theist; as such, do you believe God is similarly completely reducible to material arrangements? Yes/no is adequate here as well for the same reasons.

Lastly, are human beings reducible to material arrangements; that is, is there an immaterial component to the human being?

To be forthright with my own position, I think humans are psychosomatic (spirit-body) unions where the spirit can (generally) only act and be acted upon while in the union and in so far as the union ("the human being") acts. But rather than understanding a human being as a mere sum of two parts (spirit + body), a human being is more accurately the union of those parts, which is more than the sum of the two parts, having emergent properties arising out of the union, life and consciousness being a couple examples.

This means for the most part, materialist empiricists are correct that empirical observation will never directly access the immaterial spirit, and therefore empiricists might plausibly claim that all that exists is material.

But then I don't believe in the existence of immaterial realities for strictly scientific and empirical reasons, nor do I believe the only kind of valid evidence/knowledge is scientific and empirical in nature.

Thanks,

Blogger wrf3 June 28, 2013 1:47 PM  

Albert asked: wrf3, do you believe consciousness is completely reducible to material arrangements?How about life itself? Yes or no is adequate

Yes or no isn't adequate, because there is what I can show and what I believe. What I can show (or at least, I claim is possible) that matter and meaning are inseparable. For example, a NAND gate is a physical device with intrinsic meaning. Furthermore, this physical device is used to discover the meaning in the physical device. It's a circle.

Can that circle be broken? It can be broken by fiat (that's what my worldview demands, dammit!) or ignorance (we don't know how all this stuff works, so we'll make something up), or by revelation ("Hi, I'm God and I exist outside space and time), or maybe by science (did the laws of physics exist before the big bang)? Maybe it's undecidable.

I note you are a theist; as such, do you believe God is similarly completely reducible to material arrangements? Yes/no is adequate here as well for the same reasons.
Well, let's see... "In the beginning was the Word" (immaterial) "... and the word became flesh and dwelt among us" (material). As a trinitarian Christian, I have to hold to the full deity of Christ. So the Bible says that the immaterial God is fully representable (I prefer that to reducible) by the physical. There's an equivalence relationship in there that I'm not sure is rightly expressed as reducibility.

Lastly, are human beings reducible to material arrangements; that is, is there an immaterial component to the human being?
Is there an immaterial component to a NAND gate? If so, how do you know apart from using the neurons in your brain?




Anonymous Mudz June 28, 2013 11:56 PM  

I 'unno, I kind of think that's the correct answer.

To say it clearer. What I was saying is that the immaterial cannot materially exist. If it exist in a material way, it isn't material. And the analogy doesn't work because one is not like the other. It's like saying 'rocks exist, but only gravitationally.'

Or it's both. Can't have one without the other -- unless there was something before the Big Bang; e.g. the laws of physics preceded the universe.

That's not 'material' all the way. That's material and the immaterial both existing.

So, in essence you have agreed with me. Materialism cannot account for our understanding of the universe. It would necessitate the denial of virtually everything but 'stuff exists'.

I'm happy to conclude the debate thus.

Anonymous Mudz June 28, 2013 11:56 PM  

it isn't material

*immaterial

Blogger wrf3 June 29, 2013 11:34 AM  

Mudz wrote: So, in essence you have agreed with me.

No, I haven't.

Our brains don't do a great job of truly understanding nature. We think that the burner on the stove is different from the heat the burner gives off. But E=mc^2. We think that the distance to the TV is different from the time spent watching it. But {insert space-time formulas}. We separate them in our minds but, in reality, you can't. Our intuition tells us that local actions have local effects (localism) and that reality exists before it is observed (realism). But quantum mechanics isn't compatible with local realist notions. To paraphrase Feynman, anyone who thinks they understand quantum mechanics, doesn't. Oh, sure, one can learn the formulas, but trying to grasp what the formulas represent is possibly impossible.

So you start by using terms, such as "quality" and "quantity", assume they are distinct, and then go on your merry way constructing circular "proofs" ad nauseum. You say things like, "With material reductionism, everything save for particles ceases to exist, including meaning." But this is nonsense, because you don't even know what a particle is. You are assuming that a particle is distinct from other things. But we don't really know what particles are. The smaller they become, the more incomprehensible they become.

When presented with a NAND gate, which is a "physical" device, you say things like "You can't avoid having to outright provide the meaning." Yet you run away from the idea that it has intrinsic meaning, comprehensible to any human or alien with the wiring in the brain to understand it.

You ignore Hofstadter's position that meaning is an isomorphism between things, and isomorphisms are just calculations: equality operators between arbitrary objects. And calculations are performed by Turing machines. And brains built out of neurons and computers built from NAND gates are Turing machines. You end up with a loop where physical devices are used to calculate the meaning of those physical devices. When asked how to break the recursion in order to decide which position is ultimately correct, you don't respond.

So, no, I don't agree with you.

And, while we probably shouldn't get into it here, it isn't impossible to get "ought" from "is". It's conceptually very easy to explain.

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