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Old 17th November 2019, 03:42 PM   #481
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Originally Posted by Steve View Post
As does materialism. Any position assumes a starting point. There is no evidence that any proposed starting point is more or less valid than any other.

My own starting point is 13.7 billion years ago at the initial expansion of the universe. Physical matter came into existence very shortly after that event and has continued to exist ever since.
Okay, if you think that particular position is so self-evident that it cannot be doubted, have at it.

The advantage of the empiricist starting point is that it is the minimum needed for any reasoning at all. One must be aware of his own conscious thoughts in order to reason. The assumption that some of these thoughts are caused by distinct physical stuff is not evidently a prerequisite for reason. Hence, they have the more minimal assumption.
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Old 17th November 2019, 03:59 PM   #482
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
Okay, if you think that particular position is so self-evident that it cannot be doubted, have at it.

The advantage of the empiricist starting point is that it is the minimum needed for any reasoning at all. One must be aware of his own conscious thoughts in order to reason. The assumption that some of these thoughts are caused by distinct physical stuff is not evidently a prerequisite for reason. Hence, they have the more minimal assumption.
Or course my position can be doubted. Why would you say that I think it cannot. All starting positions can be equally doubted. There is really nothing special about the assumed starting point of empiricism. There is no evidence that reason exists. Just thinking that your thoughts make sense means nothing.
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Old 17th November 2019, 06:45 PM   #483
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Originally Posted by Steve View Post
Or course my position can be doubted. Why would you say that I think it cannot. All starting positions can be equally doubted. There is really nothing special about the assumed starting point of empiricism. There is no evidence that reason exists. Just thinking that your thoughts make sense means nothing.
I suppose that if you want to doubt whether or not you are currently aware of your own conscious thoughts, please feel free. Empiricists decided that the fact they were having particular thoughts was self-evident and indeed a necessary condition for reasoning. Since they were attempting to reason, they went with that assumption.

As I've said before, I'm not an idealist, but I do think that they've chosen a reasonable starting point. It's more or less the same starting point for empiricists ever since, far as I can tell, though later empiricists did not apply the same standard of doubt that was adopted back in Berkeley's time. The logical positivists were an outgrowth of empiricism, if my foggy memory serves correctly, and drew the conclusion that idealism, materialism and the like were utterly meaningless, neither true nor false but without any meaning at all.

Indeed, they drew the same conclusion about the majority of philosophy.

I'm pretty sympathetic to that view, though positivism has fallen out of favor for good reasons, none of which are relevant here.
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Old 17th November 2019, 07:03 PM   #484
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The problem with idealism isn't the starting point, it's where you can get to. Sure, idealism is compatible with empiricism, but to have a model as accurately predictive as materialism one must resort to ideals that carefully mimic the same properties attributed to materials in a materialist model.

Idealism would be more attractive if the study of the nature of thoughts (whether one's own or some other entities') were more successful at explaining and predicting the world we perceive than a materialist model. Plato expected that exact result. Or at least, roughly equally successful. But, it's been a while since I've read an interesting new research paper in the Journal of the Contemplation of Ideal Forms.
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Old 17th November 2019, 07:58 PM   #485
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
The problem with idealism isn't the starting point, it's where you can get to. Sure, idealism is compatible with empiricism, but to have a model as accurately predictive as materialism one must resort to ideals that carefully mimic the same properties attributed to materials in a materialist model.

Idealism would be more attractive if the study of the nature of thoughts (whether one's own or some other entities') were more successful at explaining and predicting the world we perceive than a materialist model. Plato expected that exact result. Or at least, roughly equally successful. But, it's been a while since I've read an interesting new research paper in the Journal of the Contemplation of Ideal Forms.
Seems to me that the same inductive procedure, applied to the raw mental experiences, leads to the same scientific laws. As I've said previously, the idealist laws may be a bit kludgy to account for the consistency of temporarily unobserved phenomena, but aside from that hack, the predictive power is the same.

Both the idealist and the materialist observe that objects are attracted to one another. Both of them hypothesize a law of gravitation consistent with previous observations and expect the law to probably be reflected in future observations. This is all one needs to do science, far as I can tell.

Indeed, the lack of practical differences is precisely why the positivists regard both theories as meaningless.

Some day, I should look up Russell's discussion of idealism. He dismissed it, of course, rather curtly as I recall, but I don't recall his argument. I read his History of Western Philosophy recently, but it's a big, thick book and I don't recall the section on Berkeley much at all.

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Old 18th November 2019, 03:04 AM   #486
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
As soon as you agree that we are incapable of proving things about the world around us with certainty (aside from statements that a certain perception is occurring at this moment), you are more or less in agreement with Hume. And I agree with this view. It does not require any real results from science to conclude much of this. It would require merely familiarity with the principle of induction to conclude that our conclusions that the sun will rise tomorrow, etc., are merely probable (to a very high degree).

I think it does, and has, required results from science. I have no idea what Hume said about claimed "proofs" of anything, but prior to the discovery of quantum theory "all" scientists thought that the world was deterministic in the sense of being able to precisely determine any outcome providing you had all necessary information ... it was only after QM that science (and everyone else) realised that (if QM is right) it's not possible to ever have all the necessary information (not even in principle) ... I'm pretty sure none of that was known to Hume.

But I also think you are deflecting here (and in the following paragraphs), where it seems you are trying to maintain a relevance for philosophy as a subject. But philosophy is no longer the way we determine what is likely to be right vs what is likely to be wrong for the things we regard as apparently real events and real processes (ie everything apart from mere thoughts, ideas, speech etc.) ... if you want to know whether what you detect is "real", and you want to know it's properties most accurately, then the only way mankind has ever discovered to do that, is by science (not by philosophy).


Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
But, of course, at the time that Berkeley was writing, these issues were not so clear. He was being appropriately skeptical that one could conclude that material substance exists independently using only our perceptions and deductive reasoning.

Are you saying they were clear when Hume was writing? Is that what you just said above? That Hume had shown (or argued) some compelling reason why it was impossible even in principle to prove anything as a matter of actual “certainty”? For example to prove that things we detect (and which all animals also detect, in fact all plants as well, and even all inanimate objects), even exist at all in any sense of the way we recognise them?

Well whether we can actually prove it or not, are you arguing that so-called “material” objects, do not exist? Or that, it's in any way likely that detected objects and events have no actual existence? If you are arguing that we should regard any objects and/or events as likely to be only imaginary, then what is your evidence for any such conclusion?

What is said to be Berkeley's or Hume's evidence for any such claim?


Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
The question is not whether we have evidence of thoughts without minds, but whether there is any undeniable argument that thoughts require minds. Here, I mean mental substance persistent over time, having a sequence of thoughts and perceptions and whatnot. But while I have certain thoughts that I call memories and which suggest I have persisted, I must admit that these thoughts are no more reliable than my perceptions of physical stuff. I have no perception that allows me to conclude with certainty that I have indeed existed over time and possessed a succession of different thoughts.

Thus, from the evidence of my perceptions at this moment, I cannot conclude that there is some thing, a mind, distinct from the perceptions and currently aware of those perceptions.

Well without getting to the rest of that sentence – the question most definitely is whether or not you can provide evidence for any claim of saying that we could have thoughts without a brain + sensory system + a functioning body etc.

If any such claim is made, then you have the burden of explaining how it could be possible for any thoughts ever to occur without any mechanism such as a brain?

But just to go to the next part of that first sentence where you say the question is “whether there is any undeniable argument that thoughts require minds”. You begin by assuming that an “undeniable argument” is possible for things … but that in itself is again assuming that a proof of actual certainty is possible … and as I just explained, we now know from QFT/QM (but certainly not from any philosophers), that such certainty of “undeniable argument” is apparently not possible in a universe like ours where all the underlying forces of particle/field interactions are only ever probabilistic.

So the question remains – if you are ever suggesting that thoughts can exist without a brain etc., then how is that possible? What, in that case, is claimed to be producing any such thoughts? What is claimed to be detecting any such thoughts?


Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
I've probably bungled Hume's argument considerably here, since it has been a long while since I read it, but this is at least how I recall it.

I don't mind whether you have bungled any argument from Hume or any philosopher. The point is that Hume was not in a position to know what is likely to be true vs untrue about the fundamental nature of what we call “reality” for this universe. Because he, like your other named philosophers, was entirely ignorant of what we have since discovered through science.


Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
I don't see the argument as circular. I am aware of thought. To be aware of thought requires that I exist. (Hume denies that consequence, obviously.) What you've just said amounts to the same thing: a necessary condition for thinking is the presence of a mind (or brain, if you prefer). Hence, once one considers whether he exists, his very ability to ponder the question answers it in the affirmative.

The argument is circular because, before it claims to show that you exist, it first assumes that you definitely do exist!

It first says that you definitely do exist (it simply assumes that as a fact), and then it says that because you have thoughts you must therefore exist … but it already assumed you certainly existed even before any thoughts were mentioned at all.


Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
By your own previous argument, it seems to me that you must admit the proposition "perceptions require some analytical apparatus" is merely probable. Since the philosophers of the day were looking for certainty, such probable conclusions would be rejected.

Indeed. Though “probable” is probably the wrong/misleading word to use there. But, yes, indeed, we cannot actually “prove” as a matter of literal “certainty” that a brain + sensory system + supporting body etc. is essential in order to produce what we call thoughts. But we cannot literally prove anything in that absolute sense! So the question is not whether or not we can “prove” it. The question can only ever be to ask what actual “evidence” do you have for any such suggestion … such as the suggestion of saying “perhaps thoughts can exist without any brain etc” … if you make any statement like that, then you have to explain how that could be possible …

… how is it possible ever to create thoughts and/or detect thoughts, without any brain etc?


Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
I agree that looking for certainty about the world about us is a fool's errand (though note how many folks in this thread say that the material world is a certainty). Philosophy has abandoned this too strict criterion since, at least for the most part.

I apologize for a much more curt response than your post and I'm sure that there's much more I could say, but I hope that this is sufficient. If there's a particular point in your post that I failed to address and you'd like a response, let me know.

It's not merely a fools errand, as if it were simply too difficult to achieve, or just not practical or something. What we found out from 20th century science (and very strongly supported ever since), is that it would appear to be impossible ever to show anything as a matter of literal certainty. It's a scientific discovery. Not a mere idea that someone once had.

The question is therefore -

- if you ever claim that reality might not actually exist, meaning that what we detect and perceive, ie all the world around us which science explains, then what evidence do you produce to show that all such things (whether you like to call them “material” or not), are actually non-existent?

Point is – if you make claims like that, then the burden is entirely upon you to support it. Otherwise such claims are worthless.
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Old 19th November 2019, 01:56 AM   #487
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Warning:

Idealism is not opposed to materialism, but to realism. Idealism affirms that there are only ideas in the mind and realism asserts that (some) ideas are referred to things that exist outside the mind. Materialism is only a subset of realism.

It is true that idealism has been used as an ideological weapon against materialism. But this is another story.
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Old 19th November 2019, 02:10 AM   #488
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
The problem with idealism isn't the starting point, it's where you can get to. Sure, idealism is compatible with empiricism, but to have a model as accurately predictive as materialism one must resort to ideals that carefully mimic the same properties attributed to materials in a materialist model.

Idealism would be more attractive if the study of the nature of thoughts (whether one's own or some other entities') were more successful at explaining and predicting the world we perceive than a materialist model. Plato expected that exact result. Or at least, roughly equally successful. But, it's been a while since I've read an interesting new research paper in the Journal of the Contemplation of Ideal Forms.
Idealism is as predictive as realism. The same laws and the same scientific predictions are maintained in idealism and realism. Otherwise, some (great) scientists like Heisenberg or Mach would not have been idealists. The difference is that realism thinks that scientific ideas predict facts and idealism thinks that scientific ideas predict ideas we call "facts".
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Old 19th November 2019, 02:21 AM   #489
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post

Some day, I should look up Russell's discussion of idealism. He dismissed it, of course, rather curtly as I recall, but I don't recall his argument. I read his History of Western Philosophy recently, but it's a big, thick book and I don't recall the section on Berkeley much at all.
I don't remember Russell being very powerful at this point. The most convincing refutation of idealism was given by Hume. Simply put, idealism doesn't really exist. Human beings have the "instinctive" belief that the world exists and that perceptions are of something external. There is no reason to stop thinking on this basis. Berkeley himself was not really an idealist since he admits that there is something outside that causes my ideas: God. This is because consequent idealism leads to solipisism, which no sensible person is willing to tolerate, much less the foolish who believe in God. (Berkeley was a bishop).

Since idealism does not exist in reality it has only one relative interest: to analyze the practical weakness of metaphysical realism.
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Old 19th November 2019, 02:29 AM   #490
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
Originally Posted by Steve View Post
As does materialism. Any position assumes a starting point. There is no evidence that any proposed starting point is more or less valid than any other.

My own starting point is 13.7 billion years ago at the initial expansion of the universe. Physical matter came into existence very shortly after that event and has continued to exist ever since.


Okay, if you think that particular position is so self-evident that it cannot be doubted, have at it.

The advantage of the empiricist starting point is that it is the minimum needed for any reasoning at all. One must be aware of his own conscious thoughts in order to reason. The assumption that some of these thoughts are caused by distinct physical stuff is not evidently a prerequisite for reason. Hence, they have the more minimal assumption.


As soon as you say “one must be aware of his own thoughts ….”, you have already admitted that “you” must exist in some capable form in the first place, and it's only after that acceptance of reality that you then proceed to conclude that any such thoughts can be experienced.

So that already loses the philosophical argument (I'm not really arguing about it in any confrontational sense … I just mean it denies it's own philosophical claim)

But I think that the more you stick to any philosophical argument such as this, the more you descend into making the claim that the reason why we cannot be certain that any external reality exists (ie “external” to mere thoughts), is because our only way of experiencing anything, is through our brain and sensory system, ie as a matter of so-called “consciousness”. And for that reason, some philosophers began to claim that it might be the case that no other reality existed (just the thoughts of one disembodied mind, and nothing else).

But what that argument does, is to imply that we require some other means of detection that is different from the only means that is apparently possible (and the only means that we have). So philosophers making that argument really have a burden of proof evidence to show how it could be possible to have any other means of detection such that this other means would not need its own method/means of detection in order to detect anything! …

… IOW – philosophical arguments like that, are trying to rule out the only possible way of anything ever detecting anything at all. Because as soon as you have any means of detection (such as a brain and sensory system), that is inevitably your only means of detecting anything. Humans have of course invented other methods of detection, all manner of scientific instruments and experiments for example, but still the only possible way to examine the results of those instrumental observations is by using our conscious brain etc. …

… so, whatever anyone ever does, we will always be reduced to relying on our one fundamental method of detecting or experiencing anything. How could it be possible for anything else to be the case? … can you think of any way for any living or non-living thing, to detect or experience a world around it, without using something equivalent to a brain and sensory system? What other means do philosophers suggest could be possible?

The other accusation that you often see from philosophy is that science assumes that reality exists. But science (and scientists) has/have no need to make any such assumption. All that science needs to do, is to study whatever any of us claim to experience or detect. It does not have to make any claims about reality or non-reality … it just deals with whatever appears to be detectable.

Then you can ask whether or not the things which science detects, are in fact real in the sense of being external objects and events (ie ”external” to any mere thoughts), and the evidence to show why we accept that all such things are of course real external objects and events is explained in vast detail in literally thousands of millions of research papers published in all the genuine scientific literature/journals …

… you could still claim, yet again (as just explained above) that all of that published evidence and explanation from science, is still only evident to any scientists (or anyone else) purely because of what they can experience as thoughts in a “mind” … but then you are just back to the need for philosophers making any such claim, to show how it could ever be possible to have any other means of detecting or experiencing anything … and you are also back to the fact that science does not need to claim any reality anyway – it just explains what has been detected, and from there the results are used to devise all sorts of things to improve the lives of everyone on the planet (and to study the universe further in a level of detail that is vastly beyond the imagination of anyone here … and vastly beyond the understanding of any ancient philosophers such as Descartes, Berkeley or Hume).
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Old 19th November 2019, 03:30 AM   #491
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
The question is therefore -

- if you ever claim that reality might not actually exist, meaning that what we detect and perceive, ie all the world around us which science explains, then what evidence do you produce to show that all such things (whether you like to call them “material” or not), are actually non-existent?

Point is – if you make claims like that, then the burden is entirely upon you to support it. Otherwise such claims are worthless.
You can't put the burden of proof on a claim of nonexistence. You cannot prove that invisible dragons do not exist.

There are two entities at stake: ideas in the mind and facts outside the mind. The idealist and the realist agree on the former. But only the realist asserts that there are facts outside the mind. The burden of proof falls on existential statements. Therefore, the burden of proof falls on realists.

Moreover, your question is flawed. The idealist doesn't deny a single scientific proposition. He only claims that all propositions are about ideas. There are ideas of reason and ideas of perceptions, but both are different kind of ideas. Otherwise, great scientists like Heisenberg or Bohr had not been idealists. If you have a proof of the existence of external world show it.
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Old 19th November 2019, 03:43 AM   #492
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
The other accusation that you often see from philosophy is that science assumes that reality exists. But science (and scientists) has/have no need to make any such assumption. All that science needs to do, is to study whatever any of us claim to experience or detect. It does not have to make any claims about reality or non-reality … it just deals with whatever appears to be detectable.
Philosophy accuses science of nothing. Idealists (scientists and philosophers) accuse realists (scientists and philosophers) of using an unproven assumption: that behind empirical knowledge there are things.

Stop mounting your usual logomaquia with philosophers against scientists and go down on earth.
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Old 19th November 2019, 08:46 AM   #493
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
You can't put the burden of proof on a claim of nonexistence. You cannot prove that invisible dragons do not exist.

There are two entities at stake: ideas in the mind and facts outside the mind. The idealist and the realist agree on the former. But only the realist asserts that there are facts outside the mind. The burden of proof falls on existential statements. Therefore, the burden of proof falls on realists.

Moreover, your question is flawed. The idealist doesn't deny a single scientific proposition. He only claims that all propositions are about ideas. There are ideas of reason and ideas of perceptions, but both are different kind of ideas. Otherwise, great scientists like Heisenberg or Bohr had not been idealists. If you have a proof of the existence of external world show it.
What is this “mind” that you refer to? Please provide evidence that it exists.
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Old 19th November 2019, 09:56 AM   #494
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Originally Posted by Steve View Post
What is this “mind” that you refer to? Please provide evidence that it exists.
The mind is the consciousness that thinks. If you are thinking, it is evident that you exist, whatever you are. It would be absurd for you to say "I am thinking but I don't exist". Or "I am thinking but I am not thinking".

Pure logic.
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Old 19th November 2019, 01:17 PM   #495
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Maybe Phiwum or someone else will have a half-way sensible reply, however in the absence of anything approaching that -

I don't suppose there is anyone here (is there?) who actually believes that there is a realistic likelihood that what we detect as a world of apparently “real” objects and events, is actually no more than mere imagination taking place in some disembodied brainless “mind” (whatever a “mind” is supposed to be without any brain?).

So why does anyone here, or anywhere, think it's worth endless time debating? Who is it that is really claiming that the world is likely to be non-existent? AFAIK, it's only some (long dead) philosophers. And also, apparently, some philosophy supporters here … though they also appear to be saying the opposite at the same time (i.e. saying that they do not really believe there is any realistic likelihood of everything being purely imaginary, whilst also saying that we should spend our time treating it as a serious suggestion).

But just because anyone (any philosopher or anyone else at all) can suggest that anything at all might be untrue, e.g. maybe evolution is not true, maybe QM and Relativity are not true, and maybe all of history is completely wrong, maybe anything at all … just because any idiot can say such things, and then attempt to get everyone else to prove that it's all true, that does not mean there is any great merit in wasting everyone's time on such claims of non reality.

However, if anyone does claim the universe is not real, then the burden of proof evidence is entirely there's. Neither science, scientists, nor anyone else has to claim that what we detect and experience is all “real” … all that science (and the rest of us) need to do is to describe the things we detect (ie things we experience in our conscious awareness), and then we can try to think of explanations for any of those things … and if any thinking entity then wants to think of ways that such explanations can be turned into useful applications, then they can do that too (whether it's just a notion in their consciousness, or whether it's something with genuine external “reality”) …

… but neither science nor anyone else has to make any definitive pronouncements about so-called “reality” … we just engage in thoughts and explanations for whatever we think we detect.

Beyond that, if philosophy and/or it's proponents here claim that what we detect may be a fiction with no reality outside of mere thoughts, then that is their claim, and that is their burden for evidence to support that ...

… so what evidence do they produce to show that the universe we detect, is all an unreal fiction? Where is their evidence?
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Old 19th November 2019, 01:24 PM   #496
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
Maybe Phiwum or someone else will have a half-way sensible reply, however in the absence of anything approaching that -

I don't suppose there is anyone here (is there?) who actually believes that there is a realistic likelihood that what we detect as a world of apparently “real” objects and events, is actually no more than mere imagination taking place in some disembodied brainless “mind” (whatever a “mind” is supposed to be without any brain?).

So why does anyone here, or anywhere, think it's worth endless time debating? Who is it that is really claiming that the world is likely to be non-existent? AFAIK, it's only some (long dead) philosophers. And also, apparently, some philosophy supporters here … though they also appear to be saying the opposite at the same time (i.e. saying that they do not really believe there is any realistic likelihood of everything being purely imaginary, whilst also saying that we should spend our time treating it as a serious suggestion).

But just because anyone (any philosopher or anyone else at all) can suggest that anything at all might be untrue, e.g. maybe evolution is not true, maybe QM and Relativity are not true, and maybe all of history is completely wrong, maybe anything at all … just because any idiot can say such things, and then attempt to get everyone else to prove that it's all true, that does not mean there is any great merit in wasting everyone's time on such claims of non reality.

However, if anyone does claim the universe is not real, then the burden of proof evidence is entirely there's. Neither science, scientists, nor anyone else has to claim that what we detect and experience is all “real” … all that science (and the rest of us) need to do is to describe the things we detect (ie things we experience in our conscious awareness), and then we can try to think of explanations for any of those things … and if any thinking entity then wants to think of ways that such explanations can be turned into useful applications, then they can do that too (whether it's just a notion in their consciousness, or whether it's something with genuine external “reality”) …

… but neither science nor anyone else has to make any definitive pronouncements about so-called “reality” … we just engage in thoughts and explanations for whatever we think we detect.

Beyond that, if philosophy and/or it's proponents here claim that what we detect may be a fiction with no reality outside of mere thoughts, then that is their claim, and that is their burden for evidence to support that ...

… so what evidence do they produce to show that the universe we detect, is all an unreal fiction? Where is their evidence?
With apologies to movie fans everywhere:

"Evidence? We don't need no stinkin' evidence!"
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Old 20th November 2019, 12:17 AM   #497
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
Maybe Phiwum or someone else will have a half-way sensible reply, however in the absence of anything approaching that -

I don't suppose there is anyone here (is there?) who actually believes that there is a realistic likelihood that what we detect as a world of apparently “real” objects and events, is actually no more than mere imagination taking place in some disembodied brainless “mind” (whatever a “mind” is supposed to be without any brain?).

So why does anyone here, or anywhere, think it's worth endless time debating? Who is it that is really claiming that the world is likely to be non-existent? AFAIK, it's only some (long dead) philosophers. And also, apparently, some philosophy supporters here … though they also appear to be saying the opposite at the same time (i.e. saying that they do not really believe there is any realistic likelihood of everything being purely imaginary, whilst also saying that we should spend our time treating it as a serious suggestion).

But just because anyone (any philosopher or anyone else at all) can suggest that anything at all might be untrue, e.g. maybe evolution is not true, maybe QM and Relativity are not true, and maybe all of history is completely wrong, maybe anything at all … just because any idiot can say such things, and then attempt to get everyone else to prove that it's all true, that does not mean there is any great merit in wasting everyone's time on such claims of non reality.

However, if anyone does claim the universe is not real, then the burden of proof evidence is entirely there's. Neither science, scientists, nor anyone else has to claim that what we detect and experience is all “real” … all that science (and the rest of us) need to do is to describe the things we detect (ie things we experience in our conscious awareness), and then we can try to think of explanations for any of those things … and if any thinking entity then wants to think of ways that such explanations can be turned into useful applications, then they can do that too (whether it's just a notion in their consciousness, or whether it's something with genuine external “reality”) …

… but neither science nor anyone else has to make any definitive pronouncements about so-called “reality” … we just engage in thoughts and explanations for whatever we think we detect.

Beyond that, if philosophy and/or it's proponents here claim that what we detect may be a fiction with no reality outside of mere thoughts, then that is their claim, and that is their burden for evidence to support that ...

… so what evidence do they produce to show that the universe we detect, is all an unreal fiction? Where is their evidence?
Discussions are useful when participants are open-minded and listen to opponents' arguments and ask questions and give answers. When a participant is like a closed block and just repeats his catechism, the debate becomes really tedious. It's like Groundhog Day, but it doesn't make you laugh.

It doesn't matter. Let's go back to the beginning.

When someone writes long comments on a topic we can assume that this topic has some interest for him. But Ian is a regular participant in this debate and doesn't care. Anyway, I will answer the same I usually answer to Ian's usual assertion about lack of interest in this topic. Many of the great scientists of the 20th century were very interested in this subject. And this theme is recurrent in some debates among scientists today. How is it possible that Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr and many others were passionate about a "philosophical" question? Because this question calls into question the link between science and reality. Of course, if you think you have an absolute truth about this problem, the question would be of no interest to you. Science reflects reality. And full stop. But they thought the answer was not so obvious. If I have to choose between some positivists who have no idea of the complexity of modern science and Einstein or Heisenberg, I have no choice.

That is why I have read some things - including some books by Einstein and Heinseng - and I have understood the reasons for this interest. Basically they were interested not because the subject was about current science, but because they were interpretations of science. It was not a problem about the methods of normal science, but about the meaning of science in human knowledge as a whole. Idealism or realism is not an alternative to the Boyle-Mariotte law or the principle of indeterminacy, but theories about what kind of reality science is talking about. That is why the problem of idealism interested and continues to interest theoretical physicists and can leave indifferent the practical scientist who works in a laboratory with no other problem than his test tubes.
Therefore, stop saying that the idealist says that the scientific truth is not true. This is rigorously false! What the idealist questions is your philosophical belief that science is the knowledge of reality itself.

It must be explained that in contemporary debate idealism is not the same as Berkeley's in the 18th century. Current idealism defends that scientific entities are fictions that do not reflect reality in itself. This is a position closer to phenomenalism, pragmatism, Kantism, etc. than to old idealism. But it defines itself from it or against it.


Finally, the idealist should give evidence that the real world doesn't exist the day that you present evidence that invisible dragoons are not flying over Vancouver. Answer to this if you can.
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Old 20th November 2019, 12:30 AM   #498
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Originally Posted by Steve View Post
With apologies to movie fans everywhere:

"Evidence? We don't need no stinkin' evidence!"
You need evidence if you say something exists, not if you deny it. That's why the Sierra Madre "federales" needed to present their badges, the unbeliever doesn't need to present proof that God doesn't exist, and the idealist doesn't need to present proof that reality exists.

Your turn.
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Old 20th November 2019, 02:00 AM   #499
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What people need evidence for, is whatever claims they make. If they claim something is true, or that it's reasonably likely to be true, then they need evidence to support their claim.

This is a case where some philosophers have been named (all dead long ago, and long before modern science) as people who are claimed by some here to declare that what we detect as reality, is purely an imaginary fiction … that puts the burden of evidence and explanation entirely upon those here who try to repeat or make that claim of saying that perhaps nothing actually exists except for something called “thoughts” …

… they have the burden of first showing how any such “thoughts” could ever occur without a functioning brain. And beyond that, they also need to show how those “thoughts” are not derived from experience of a real world outside of their mere thinking.

That's entirely the responsibility of those here who are making those claims.

Just as another explanatory point about any of this – when we think about things, that includes highly complex details about all sorts of things that we actually cannot detect directly with our human sensory system … e.g., all sorts of complex details about astronomical discoveries for example using spectroscopic analysis of stars and galaxies (or in fact, most discoveries in science)… so how is it possible for us (as educated humans) to think of all those highly complex details (things beyond our sensory detection), if those instrumental observations never had an real existence? … why and/or how would anyone ever imagine all of that vast un-sensed complexity, unless we got it all from real instrumental observations of real objects and events? That's just not credible to suggest we'd have any reason to think of any such undetected complexity, without real observations of real things.

How could it be possible to think of such complexity and astonishing levels of detail, about things that we cannot actually detect in any way at all through any animal sensory system (unless of course the observations are indeed real, just as every indication shows)?
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Old 20th November 2019, 03:52 AM   #500
David Mo
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
What people need evidence for, is whatever claims they make. If they claim something is true, or that it's reasonably likely to be true, then they need evidence to support their claim.

This is a case where some philosophers have been named (all dead long ago, and long before modern science) as people who are claimed by some here to declare that what we detect as reality, is purely an imaginary fiction … that puts the burden of evidence and explanation entirely upon those here who try to repeat or make that claim of saying that perhaps nothing actually exists except for something called “thoughts” …

… they have the burden of first showing how any such “thoughts” could ever occur without a functioning brain. And beyond that, they also need to show how those “thoughts” are not derived from experience of a real world outside of their mere thinking.

That's entirely the responsibility of those here who are making those claims.

Just as another explanatory point about any of this – when we think about things, that includes highly complex details about all sorts of things that we actually cannot detect directly with our human sensory system … e.g., all sorts of complex details about astronomical discoveries for example using spectroscopic analysis of stars and galaxies (or in fact, most discoveries in science)… so how is it possible for us (as educated humans) to think of all those highly complex details (things beyond our sensory detection), if those instrumental observations never had an real existence? … why and/or how would anyone ever imagine all of that vast un-sensed complexity, unless we got it all from real instrumental observations of real objects and events? That's just not credible to suggest we'd have any reason to think of any such undetected complexity, without real observations of real things.

How could it be possible to think of such complexity and astonishing levels of detail, about things that we cannot actually detect in any way at all through any animal sensory system (unless of course the observations are indeed real, just as every indication shows)?
Except for a few exceptions that do not apply in this case, it cannot be shown that there is no x.
I am waiting for you to prove that there are no invisible dragons flying over Vancouver or that there is no orbital teapot. You seem to have forgotten Carl Sagan.

The idealist asks for proof that the real world exists. When you are not given proof, then and only then he affirms that either it does not exist or you cannot know if it exists. This is basic skepticism and logic.


You repeatedly fail to tell the truth when you say that idealism is only the work of old philosophers. I have cited several cases of scientists who claim to be idealists or who take idealism into consideration. Your repeated refusal to take these cases into account is either bad faith or a logical fallacy big like a horse.

Let us supose you've seen a brain. Everything you know about a brain, the idea you have of it, is because you have been given a series of ideas and because you have observed it. Ideas are ideas in your mind. Observation is a set of more or less organized sensations in your mind. So far an idealist agrees with you. But you say that the brain is a thing that exists apart from those ideas in your mind. Well, the idealist tells you: prove the existence of that thing behind the sensations that form the idea of brain.
And you talk again about the idea of brain you have. I mean, you go back to the beginning.

My friend, you have a problem: you don't even understand the problem.

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Old 20th November 2019, 06:28 AM   #501
caveman1917
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
You need evidence if you say something exists, not if you deny it. That's why the Sierra Madre "federales" needed to present their badges, the unbeliever doesn't need to present proof that God doesn't exist, and the idealist doesn't need to present proof that reality exists.

Your turn.
Anyone who makes a positive claim needs to present evidence.

"God exists" -> evidence
"God does not exist" -> evidence
"I don't know whether God exists or not" -> no evidence

To be precise, whoever asserts a probability distribution over possibilities with lower entropy than the maximum entropy distribution must provide evidence. For example, let G = "God exists."

"I don't know whether God exists" -> P(G) = P(~G) = 0.5 -> max entropy -> no evidence required
"God exists" -> P(G) = 1, P(~G) = 0 -> lower entropy -> evidence required
"God does not exist" -> P(G) = 0, P(~G) = 1 -> lower entropy -> evidence required
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Old 20th November 2019, 07:56 AM   #502
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Originally Posted by phiwum View Post
Seems to me that the same inductive procedure, applied to the raw mental experiences, leads to the same scientific laws. As I've said previously, the idealist laws may be a bit kludgy to account for the consistency of temporarily unobserved phenomena, but aside from that hack, the predictive power is the same.

Both the idealist and the materialist observe that objects are attracted to one another. Both of them hypothesize a law of gravitation consistent with previous observations and expect the law to probably be reflected in future observations. This is all one needs to do science, far as I can tell.

Indeed, the lack of practical differences is precisely why the positivists regard both theories as meaningless.

That might be true of the present-day positions of the idealist and realist camps. But it started out as an argument about methodologies, not only about the nature of reality at some inaccessibly deep and methodologically irrelevant level. Plato's cave was an explicit mockery of empiricists, those silly fools chained to the floor who were unjustifiably proud of themselves for being able to occasionally predict which shadows would appear on the cave wall before them. Those who metaphorically unchained themselves and ascended into the metaphorical real world did so by disavowing empiricism and embracing the contemplation of ideal forms (such as the unseen performers before the fire -- i.e. the gods -- used to project images onto the cave wall).

We see a reflection of that argument today in questions such as whether mathematics models reality or underlies it. Pure mathematics generates equations and patterns that match empirical observation, sometimes in advance of those observations. That's something like contemplation of pure forms to learn about the world. But mathematics also generates an infinite variety of equations and patterns that don't describe reality. Empirical observation, due attention to the shadows on the cave wall, is needed to distinguish a useful mathematical model from an arbitrary abstraction. Emotionally and poetically, I have no objection to describing the Mandelbrot Set as a suitable toy for an infant god. But that doesn't mean it constitutes or even describes reality. Cosmology is in the mess it's in right now because it's so difficult to make enough empirical observations to compare abstract mathematical models against.
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Old 20th November 2019, 08:35 AM   #503
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Originally Posted by caveman1917 View Post
Anyone who makes a positive claim needs to present evidence.

"God exists" -> evidence
"God does not exist" -> evidence
"I don't know whether God exists or not" -> no evidence

To be precise, whoever asserts a probability distribution over possibilities with lower entropy than the maximum entropy distribution must provide evidence. For example, let G = "God exists."

"I don't know whether God exists" -> P(G) = P(~G) = 0.5 -> max entropy -> no evidence required
"God exists" -> P(G) = 1, P(~G) = 0 -> lower entropy -> evidence required
"God does not exist" -> P(G) = 0, P(~G) = 1 -> lower entropy -> evidence required
You don't know if centaurs, flying dragons, green little Martians or orbital teapots exist. You are a very radical skeptic. I'm not going to argue with you about your radical principles. For the moment.

According to your principles:
Evidence that the real world exists: No
Evidence that the real world does not exist: No
So: you don't know if the real world exists. Like Pyrrho of Elis.

Well, it's an option. It's called phenomenalism.

I don't know what you mean by "entropy". May you explain it or send me to a site where it is explained? Thank you.

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Old 20th November 2019, 09:17 AM   #504
caveman1917
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
You don't know if centaurs, flying dragons, green little Martians or orbital teapots exist. You are a very radical skeptic. I'm not going to argue with you about your radical principles. For the moment.

According to your principles:
Evidence that the real world exists: No
Evidence that the real world does not exist: No
So: you don't know if the real world exists. Like Pyrrho of Elis.

Well, it's an option. It's called phenomenalism.

I don't know what you mean by "entropy". May you explain it or send me to a site where it is explained? Thank you.
The entropy of a probability distribution is defined similarly as in statistical mechanics, see here.
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Old 20th November 2019, 09:32 AM   #505
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Two men (ok, women) start to cross a street. They see a speeding bus coming toward them.

The materialist knows the bus is a dangerous physical object. He also knows that he is a physical object that could be irreparably damaged by the bus. He stops, and his real world continues to exist for him and everybody else.

The idealist knows the bus is not real. He also knows that he is not real and that a physical interaction between two imaginary objects cannot occur. He continues to cross, and his imaginary world along, with the real world, ceases to exist for him. The real world continues to exist for everybody else.

Living life as a materialist is the only sane thing to do. Living life as an idealist would quickly lead to a severe shortage of idealists.

Some may find idealism as an interesting device for discussion. No sane person will live their life as an idealist regardless of how intellectually convincing they claim to find the theoretical argument.
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Old 20th November 2019, 12:50 PM   #506
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Originally Posted by Steve View Post
Two men (ok, women) start to cross a street. They see a speeding bus coming toward them.

The materialist knows the bus is a dangerous physical object. He also knows that he is a physical object that could be irreparably damaged by the bus. He stops, and his real world continues to exist for him and everybody else.

The idealist knows the bus is not real. He also knows that he is not real and that a physical interaction between two imaginary objects cannot occur. He continues to cross, and his imaginary world along, with the real world, ceases to exist for him. The real world continues to exist for everybody else.

Living life as a materialist is the only sane thing to do. Living life as an idealist would quickly lead to a severe shortage of idealists.

Some may find idealism as an interesting device for discussion. No sane person will live their life as an idealist regardless of how intellectually convincing they claim to find the theoretical argument.

Well, no. Both the materialist and the idealist know the bus will harm them unless they get out of the way.

The difference is, the idealist has no idea why that is. It is (and will forever remain) an unfathomable mystery how objects that exist only in the mind can harm or be harmed by one another.
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Old 20th November 2019, 01:18 PM   #507
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Originally Posted by David Mo View Post
Except for a few exceptions that do not apply in this case, it cannot be shown that there is no x.
I am waiting for you to prove that there are no invisible dragons flying over Vancouver or that there is no orbital teapot. ...

I'm sorry, David Mo, but as far as this specific issue, it seems to me that IanS has nailed it (and caveman1917 as well).

Any claim made needs to be proven, evidenced. Irrespective of whether the claim's positive or negative, existential or non-existential. True, negatives cannot always be proved; but that does not take away the burden of proof from negative/non-existential claims, it only means that those negatives that cannot be proved must not be claimed (not if one cares about being rational).

This, you might recall, is the very crux of the soft atheism debate we'd both taken part in some months back. You might recall the Innocent-vs-Not-guilty analogy I'd presented then. (Not that I want to revisit that particular discussion here, since, apart from being kind of off-topic, I doubt we'd have anything new to say on it now, beyond what had already been said then.)

You demand of IanS and caveman1917 that they prove to you the non-existence of invisible dragons and of Russel's teapot. They aren't required to, not unless they make that claim; but my point here is, clearly you present this demand as an attempted argumentum ad absurdum. Well, I ask you, then, to prove to me the existence of the city of Paris. Every proof you present, I can counter using the very arguments that have been presented in this thread in favor of idealism. Which would be my own argumentum ad absurdum against your position on idealism. (And my argument is based, ultimately, on the principle of parsimony. My own answer to this apparent paradox, that has been discussed in this thread, is to simply keep to the operational hypotheses, to working models, without worrying about deeper realities, first because that is a meaninless -- because ultimately unanswerable -- rabbit hole, and secondly because there's no end to how many levels of deep you might posit once you go down the Plato's Cave route.)

*

While agreeing with your argument as far as the burden of proof, caveman1917, I (continue to) disagree with your views on idealism. I expect you'll disagree with the second portion of my argument here. Please feel free to discuss, if you wish, why you (might) disagree with my argumentum ad absurdum, and explain why in this case the non-existence of Paris might not violate the principle of parsimony.

I'm going out of my way to bring this up, because I sense something of an inconsistency in how you're viewing these two issues; and also because I guess there might, conceivably, be an inconsistency somewhere there in my own position on these two issues. To repeat, my particular answer is to treat all of this at the level of working models, and leave aside alleged deeper realities, and on that basis to appeal to parsimony.)
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Old 20th November 2019, 01:40 PM   #508
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
Well, no. Both the materialist and the idealist know the bus will harm them unless they get out of the way.

The difference is, the idealist has no idea why that is. It is (and will forever remain) an unfathomable mystery how objects that exist only in the mind can harm or be harmed by one another.
Yeah. This parallels actual experience a lot better than my story.
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Old 20th November 2019, 02:32 PM   #509
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
Well, no. Both the materialist and the idealist know the bus will harm them unless they get out of the way.



The difference is, the idealist has no idea why that is. It is (and will forever remain) an unfathomable mystery how objects that exist only in the mind can harm or be harmed by one another.
So the materialist can explain why certain combinations of particles are associated with a feeling of, for example, pain?

Can explain why those combinations of particles could not just happen without there being any associated feeling of pain?

I would be interested in hearing that explanation.
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Old 20th November 2019, 02:52 PM   #510
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Originally Posted by caveman1917 View Post
Anyone who makes a positive claim needs to present evidence.

"God exists" -> evidence
"God does not exist" -> evidence
"I don't know whether God exists or not" -> no evidence

To be precise, whoever asserts a probability distribution over possibilities with lower entropy than the maximum entropy distribution must provide evidence. For example, let G = "God exists."

"I don't know whether God exists" -> P(G) = P(~G) = 0.5 -> max entropy -> no evidence required
"God exists" -> P(G) = 1, P(~G) = 0 -> lower entropy -> evidence required
"God does not exist" -> P(G) = 0, P(~G) = 1 -> lower entropy -> evidence required
Suppose John says: "MMR vaccines cause autism" and Mary says "There is no link between MMR vaccines and autism" and Andy says "I don't know whether or not there is a link between MMR vaccines and autism".

Is it really the case that Andy's position carries no burden of evidence that it is reasonable to not know this?
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Old 20th November 2019, 03:38 PM   #511
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
So the materialist can explain why certain combinations of particles are associated with a feeling of, for example, pain?

Can explain why those combinations of particles could not just happen without there being any associated feeling of pain?

I would be interested in hearing that explanation.
The topic is not pain. The topic is death, destruction, ceasing permanently to have any form of awareness. If the particles combine at a rapid enough rate pain would be irrelevant.

When not dead there are particles that combine and react to maintain viable system of thinking and awareness. Those particles can attempt to combine with another system of particles in a manner that interrupts the support system for thinking and awareness and the thinking and awareness permanently ceases to function. This tends to happen whether the dead system believed in the existence of particles or not.
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Old 20th November 2019, 03:43 PM   #512
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
So the materialist can explain why certain combinations of particles are associated with a feeling of, for example, pain?

Can explain why those combinations of particles could not just happen without there being any associated feeling of pain?

I would be interested in hearing that explanation.

There is an entire medical research specialty regarding discovering and explaining the material causes of pain, and material interventions that prevent pain.

For full explanations you would have to study that specialty, which is based on neuroscience, which is based on biology, which is based on chemistry (via biochemistry), which is based on physics, which concerns the behaviors of particles.

Since you want an explanation in terms of "combinations of particles" I suppose you'll have to study the whole curriculum all the way up. It's a bit like explaining how the Google search algorithm works in terms of combinations of ones and zeros. I'm certainly not going to cover the entirely of all of those fields in a forum post.
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Old 20th November 2019, 04:29 PM   #513
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Suppose John says: "MMR vaccines cause autism" and Mary says "There is no link between MMR vaccines and autism" and Andy says "I don't know whether or not there is a link between MMR vaccines and autism".

Is it really the case that Andy's position carries no burden of evidence that it is reasonable to not know this?
Well yes. John and Mary carry the burden of evidence but not Andy. Of course, Mary will be able to actually meet that burden (studies showing no link between MMR vaccines and autism, etc) and John will fail, at which point John and Andy should update their belief to coincide with Mary's.
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Old 20th November 2019, 05:19 PM   #514
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
So the materialist can explain why certain combinations of particles are associated with a feeling of, for example, pain?
Awareness of damage is beneficial for survival. What it "feels like" is how that is represented in our brains through the firing of neurons.

Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Can explain why those combinations of particles could not just happen without there being any associated feeling of pain?
Not being aware of damage to our bodies would not be beneficial for survival. That would leave only unthinking reflexes to deal with potentially fatal situations.

Originally Posted by Robin View Post
I would be interested in hearing that explanation.
See Myriad's post above to learn what we have figured out so far of the details.
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Old 20th November 2019, 06:26 PM   #515
Robin
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Originally Posted by jrhowell View Post
Not being aware of damage to our bodies would not be beneficial for survival. That would leave only unthinking reflexes to deal with potentially fatal situations.
I don't think you see the problem. I am not doubting that this has evolutionary use.

But I still can't see how all of that stuff could not happen just the same and for there to be no feeling of pain. All the atoms would behave in the same way.
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Old 20th November 2019, 06:28 PM   #516
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
There is an entire medical research specialty regarding discovering and explaining the material causes of pain, and material interventions that prevent pain.

For full explanations you would have to study that specialty, which is based on neuroscience, which is based on biology, which is based on chemistry (via biochemistry), which is based on physics, which concerns the behaviors of particles.

Since you want an explanation in terms of "combinations of particles" I suppose you'll have to study the whole curriculum all the way up. It's a bit like explaining how the Google search algorithm works in terms of combinations of ones and zeros. I'm certainly not going to cover the entirely of all of those fields in a forum post.
You can give me the gist. Give me an example of some combination of atoms that would fail to behave the way they do if there was no feeling of pain.
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Old 20th November 2019, 06:33 PM   #517
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Originally Posted by Steve View Post
The topic is not pain. The topic is death, destruction, ceasing permanently to have any form of awareness. If the particles combine at a rapid enough rate pain would be irrelevant.
Do you think I could not create a computer program which simulated a bunch of organisms who avoided destruction?

Would it not work if the atoms in the simulated train heading for the simulated organism did not exist? Would the simulated organism retain it's structural integrity when the simulated train crashed into it because the atoms in each did not actually exist?

If it did lose its structural integrity, would the reason why be a mystery?
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Old 20th November 2019, 06:51 PM   #518
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Originally Posted by jrhowell View Post
Awareness of damage is beneficial for survival. What it "feels like" is how that is represented in our brains through the firing of neurons.







Not being aware of damage to our bodies would not be beneficial for survival. That would leave only unthinking reflexes to deal with potentially fatal situations.







See Myriad's post above to learn what we have figured out so far of the details.
Interestingly there are people that cannot feel pain, these people often die young and will suffer severe injuries, which explains why we evolved to feel pain, it is a very important survival mechanism. . And we now know what "group of particles" they don't have (or for at least some of the conditions). This means we now know the feeling of pain is indeed simply a matter of chemistry. The "feeling" of pain is pain.
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Old 20th November 2019, 06:54 PM   #519
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Interestingly there are people that cannot feel pain, these people often die young and will suffer severe injuries, which explains why we evolved to feel pain, it is a very important survival mechanism. . And we now know what "group of particles" they don't have (or for at least some of the conditions). This means we now know the feeling of pain is indeed simply a matter of chemistry. The "feeling" of pain is pain.
It still doesn't explain why that group of particles could not behave in just the same way and for there to be no feeling of pain.
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Old 20th November 2019, 07:54 PM   #520
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
Do you think I could not create a computer program which simulated a bunch of organisms who avoided destruction?

Would it not work if the atoms in the simulated train heading for the simulated organism did not exist? Would the simulated organism retain it's structural integrity when the simulated train crashed into it because the atoms in each did not actually exist?

If it did lose its structural integrity, would the reason why be a mystery?
You could create such a program.

There would be no actual structural integrity. It would be simulated only. There would be no mystery because you would have complete control of the process.

This has nothing to do with idealism or materialism. There is no thought process, simulated or real, within the simulation.
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