Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Raving Atheist Critiques Aaron Kinney's Asymmetry Argument

Two posts at my blog today. I think I'm experiencing some kind of short-term posting binge! Anyway, on to the topic:

The Raving Atheist posted a few critiques of my "The Asymmetry of Immaterialism" post. Right off the bat, I want to thank RA for his consideration of my argument, and for the critique he provided. I hope to be able to answer his critique, as well as clarify a few ambiguities that he pointed out.

RA starts off with listing my four "asymmetrical" statements. I will repost them here for the convenience of my readers:

(1) For you to be in my line of sight, I need not be in your line of sight.
(2) To hold up this 10 pound object, I need not exert any force.

(3) It is wrong for me to murder you, but it is not wrong for you to murder me.

(4) I am your Son, but you are not my Father.


RA then begins his critique of each of my four statements:

I think this analysis is flawed for a number of reasons. Some of the statements may be false because they involve contradictions, but this has nothing to do with their symmetry or asymmetry.

First, the "asymmetry" of a proposition does not prove its falsity. AK seems to be asserting that the converse of every true statement must also be true, but that's not simply not the case. It may sometimes be the case, but that can only be determined by examining the nature of the proposition.


It may seem to be that I am asserting that the converse of every true statement must also be true, but that is not what I am asserting. What I am asserting is that when you make a statement involving two entities and their interaction between each other, both entities must conform to the preconditions that the interaction requires. In other words, both entities involved in the interaction must have symmetry in regards to the preconditions that each entity meets. A good example for this "symmetry" demand is in my first asymmetrical example.

Speaking of my first asymmetrical example, RA has this to say:

Example (1) is false simply because we know, empirically, that light travels in a straight line (mostly) and that two objects on the same line must thus be in the same line of sight. But if we preserve the "asymmetry" and change the statement just a little, we can form a true statement such as "for you to be looking at me, I need not be looking at you."


The straightness or curviness of the path of light is irrelevant to my statement (1), but it doesn't look like RA is challenging it on those grounds. In fact, RA is challenging it by tweaking my statement from having line of sight, to choosing to observe said line of sight. At this point, I am not sure if RA understands what I mean when I talk of "asymmetry".

It is logically impossible for entity A to be in the "line of sight" of entity B without entity B also being in the line of sight of entity A. Whether or not either of these entities chooses to observe or look through said line of sight is irrelevant. And as I said earlier, the straightness or curviness of the path of light is also irrelevant. Note that my argument from the line of sight is only making a claim of symmetry; of both entities being "symmetrical" by meeting the same preconditions required by the interaction in question.

To elaborate: For entity A to be capable of seeing (interaction) entity B, entity B must meet the preconditions of said interaction. In other words, entity B must be in the line of sight of entity A. However, entity B cannot be in the line of sight of entity A without entity A also being in the line of sight of entity B, because the interaction (seeing) has a precondition that both entities must meet (line of sight) before any interaction can begin. Whether or not both entities "choose" to "see" each other is irrelevant, and after all, without a line of sight available between the two, the "choice" of whether or not to "see" each other would not even be available.

RA continues to statement (2):

Example (2) is false because we know, empirically, in a gravitational field, force must be applied to keep an object from falling. But again, a slight modification -- changing the weight term to one of mass -- could convert it into an asymmetrical but nonetheless true statement: "To hold up this 10 kilogram object, I need not exert any force." Astronauts do that all the time in zero-gravity situations.


Actually, in a zero gravity environment, force must still be applied to contain or control objects, and that force must be equal to (or greater than) the object's force that one is trying to change. Just because a ten kilogram object is in outer space, doesn't mean that it needs no force applied to it in order to be contained, controlled, or otherwise interacted with. Even in zero gravity, fuel must still be burnt to change the velocity of rocket ships, for example.

Consider also the comment from Axel_621 in regards to force being applied to objects:

I'd like to point out that if an immaterial entity exerts force on a material object, then the material object is also applying force to the immaterial entity by default. If this were not so, then no force could be applied to the material object by the immaterial entity.


So true, so true.

Now we continue to RA's critique of my statement (3):

Example (3) is false (to the extent moral statements have a truth value) only because "murder" implies a wrong, or at least a legal wrong. But the symmetry of the "who kills who" aspect of it is irrelevant. There are plenty of situations in which it would be right for one person to kill another, but not vice versa -- a police officer would be justified in killing a sniper or suicide bomber. And statements of the "it is wrong for me to X you, but it is not wrong for you to X me" are true in countless situations despite the asymmetry. It's fine for a small child to sit on its parent's lap, but the adult doesn't have the same privilege.


I think RA got confused here between the words "kill" and "murder". RA is right that "murder" implies a wrong. In fact, it implies coercion, and I chose to use the word "murder" very deliberately. RA is also right that "[t]here are plenty of situations in which it would be right for one person to kill another, but not vice versa," because the word "kill" is not morally contextual; it is not as specific as "murder" is, for "murder" is a specific kind of killing - a wrongful one.

For a moral statement to be true, it must adhere to The Moral Razor. According to Francois Tremblay:

The Moral Razor is this :
A moral principle or system, or a political principle or system, is invalid if it is asymmetrical in application (to locations, times or persons).


Which means that if it is immoral for person A to initiate coercion (like murder, theft, or whatever), against person B, then it is also wrong for person B to initiate coercion against person A. What it means, is that all conscious entities must operate by the same moral rules in the same way that all material entities must operate under the same laws of physics.

In response to RA's charge that "a police officer would be justified in killing a sniper or suicide bomber," I again will quote from Francois Tremblay's Moral Razor argument:

There is one exception, and that is when we are looking at scenarios where a valid rule was already broken. Arresting someone when no crime was committed is asymmetrical, but arresting someone who initiated force is a different scenario. In this case we are looking not at a political principle - which is what the Razor is about - but rather at the consequence of breaking such a principle. In that case I would argue that, as long as no other asymmetry is present, singling out initiators of force should not be seen as breaking the Razor a priori.


In RA's critique, he mentions snipers and bombers. I am assuming that he means an immoral, coercive sniper like Lee Harvey Oswald, or an immoral, coercive bomber like the Unabomber. In this case, since these snipers and bombers already broke the rules of morality, then a coercive response from security forces is justified.

So what is my point about RA's critique of my statement (3)? That RA has failed to show that a moral rule can apply to person A but not person B, and that RA has failed to show a valid example of moral asymmetry. RA's use of the word "kill" was not contextual, his argument involving the police stopping a sniper or bomber is actually compatible with my moral argument (as well as Francois' Moral Razor), and my claim that symmetry is necessary is still valid: that for any interaction between two entities, both entities must adhere to the demands set forth by the interaction for said interaction to take place.

RA then continues to statement (4):

Example (4), as a commentor pointed out, may be true as it stands because the "you" may be the son's mother (I thought everyone knew this riddle). Furthermore, the effect of the symmetry in relationships between people is very fact-sensitive. "I am your sibling, but you are not my sibling" is always false, whereas "I am your brother, but you are not my brother" is only sometimes true (where there's a sister). And returning to the actual example given, we can see that "I am your son, and you are my father" is less symmetric than "I am your son, and you are my son," but experience teaches us that the first is true and the second is not.


RA really did get me here. He pointed out a problem with my statement that I overlooked. I mistakenly said "son" and "father" when I should have said "child" and "parent". Allow me to correct it right now:

Symmetrical:

(4) I am your child, and you are my parent.

Asymmetrical:

(4) I am your child, but you are not my parent.

Is it now more clear how the "symmetrical" statement is logically true, while the "asymmetrical" statement is not?

RA then addresses my claim that for material and immaterial entities to interact, both entities must be symmetrical in that they both meet the same preconditions required by said interaction:

Which bring us to the question of whether, as AK insists, there is a necessary symmetry between the ability of material and immaterial things to observe and test one another. I don't see why this would be so. This supposed rule doesn't even hold between material entities. I can observe and test a rock, but that doesn't mean the rock can observe and test me.


RA's statement regarding a rock is factually incorrect. For a human to test a rock, the human can touch it or see it (via light waves reflecting off of the rock), or something else. But does the same hold true for the rock testing a human? Of course it does! If a rock touches a human, isn't it true that the rock applies force to the human? And isn't it true that when a rock is within the line of sight of a human, that the human is also within the line of sight of the rock? Isn't it true that when light waves are reflecting off a rock and hitting a human, at the same time there are light waves reflecting off the human and hitting the rock? One may protest, "but the rock has no eyes!" But this is irrelevant, for the light waves are indeed reflecting off both the human and the rock and hitting each other nonetheless. The rock has visual observation of the human available to it whenever the human has visual observation of the rock available to him. And just as Axel_621 noted, whenever a force is applied, an opposite force is applied back. So if I were to touch a rock (apply force), the rock is touching me also (also applying force).

Again, we come back to the principle of symmetry. Between two entities (human and rock), both entities must meet the same preconditions (line of sight, application of force), set forth by the claimed interaction for said interaction to actually occur.

RA then critiques my claims regarding interaction itself:

AK also talks more broadly about interaction between material and immaterial things, again reasoning that if somethingness can't affect nothingness, nothingness shouldn't be able to affect somethingness. If I can't pick up a ghost, a ghost can't pick up me. The problem with this logic, is logic itself. Logic is immaterial, and yet AK insists that it governs the possibility of interaction between all things in all situations. And all of science is premised upon the existence of invisible "laws" which somehow infallibly direct the workings of all matter. Numbers, too, are immaterial, but play a large role in our interactions with the universe. I can't interact with the number 2, change the laws of gravity or violate laws of logic, but they still affect me quite profoundly (even if they're not omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent or even conscious).


We now come to a fundamental difference between RA and myself that runs deeper than I initially expected. RA believes that logic is immaterial. I could not disagree more. Logic is material in the same way that all meta-data is material. Properties of material entities are material as well, and that includes logic.

RA is also factually wrong about interacting with the number "2". RA interacts with the number "2" every time he imagines it. Concepts are just as material as software on your hard drive. It is meta-data, or data that describes data. Meta-data is just as material as the material that it is composed of. Are the songs on a Compact Disc immaterial? No, they are the meta-data of all the little bumps and valleys found on the surface of the disc.

Gravity is material, and the law of gravity is the concept that humans create in order to help understand gravity itself. The law of gravity is a material concept comprised of meta-data that is used to explain and understand a particular property of material matter/energy (that property is gravity). Just as the property of gravity is as material as the matter that produces it, concepts are just as material as the matter and energy that imagines them (the human brain).

I believe that my symmetry argument remains intact through RA's critique, in part because he didn't seem to fully understand it, also due in part to a bit of ambiguity and incorrect assumptions of entity descriptors (son instead of child, father instead of parent), on my part. I hope that I have cleared all that up. Note that my argument of symmetry does not mean that I claim that the converse of the given statement must be true. It only means that when two entities want to play together (interact), they must obey the same rules.

For clarification, my asymmetry argument against immaterialism's undetectability goes like this:

For two entities to interact, both entities must by symmetrical in that they both meet the same preconditions set forth by said interaction for the interaction to occur.

I would like to thank The Raving Atheist for critiquing my argument. I hope my response serves as good food for thought, and I invite more critiques from RA as well as anyone else who wants to take a shot at it. I am more than happy to listen to, and respond to, any critique of my arguments, so bring 'em on!

34 comments:

Zachary Moore said...

I'm a big fan of Stefan's Moral Razor also. It just makes so much damn sense.

Francois Tremblay said...

But what we really want to know is : does Raving Atheist still think that a toddler is the slavemaster of his mother, and is the mother in a similar scenario than a black slave in the 1700s ?

Anonymous said...

Dear Aaron,

You state: “Between two entities (human and rock), both entities must meet the same preconditions (line of sight, application of force), set forth by the claimed interaction for said interaction to actually occur.”

And then that, “We now come to a fundamental difference between RA and myself that runs deeper than I initially expected. RA believes that logic is immaterial. I could not disagree more. Logic is material in the same way that all meta-data is material. Properties of material entities are material as well, and that includes logic.”

This is where my secundum quid fallacy must not be ignored. Those preconditions and laws of interaction which you speak of are what is known of the material realm. In other words you saying “X operates under the laws of X. We know that Y cannot do Z because X cannot do non-X.” You state it is “illogical” for the immaterial to not operate under the basis of the material and yet this logic is based on the material and not under any known preconditions of the immaterial. In other words: “When X acts within X it acts under the preconditions of X. When X acts with Y it acts under the preconditions of X. Thus if Y acts it operates under the preconditions of X.” This is a hasty generalization because you do not know that X acts under the preconditions of it acting upon itself when it is being acted upon by a source outside of itself. Furthermore, you do not know what those particular interactions would be and thus you do not even know what the precondition would be for them to reciprocate.

Your argument only holds up if one allows that Y operates under the conditions of X operating within itself. So why should anyone accept this premise?

Secondly, and this may not be directly related but:

Could you explain the universality of logic under a materialist worldview?

From what I see, if logic is material then you are not describing an entity in itself, because logic does not grow on trees, but what you are describing when you describe ‘logic’ is the firing method of synapses in your brain. If this is the case then all your doing is saying that perception of reality (which is reduced to firing synapses) must comport with the method by which my synapses fire. In so doing you have destroyed any objective standard of logic and thus are guilty of arbitrariness. If you try to explain logic by the laws of physics and say that physics acts the way it does and the way it does is the thing we call “logic” - since all men operate by laws of physics then all men must operate by logic. Then how do you account for illogic and individuation?

Anonymous said...

"For two entities to interact, both entities must by symmetrical in that they both meet the same preconditions set forth by said interaction for the interaction to occur."
But how would you know how an 'immaterial' thing is supposed interact with other things?
Consider the weak law of action and reaction or Newton's third law of motion: "Whenever a body exerts a force on another body, the latter exerts a force of equal magnitude and opposite direction on the former."
That's simple enough and symmetric. But when does it apply? For example, electromagnetic forces between two moving charged particles may violate the law. Newton likely didn't know that.

Francois Tremblay said...

"this logic is based on the material and not under any known preconditions of the immaterial."

Did anyone else catch that ? What a maroon.

Anonymous said...

Basically, it seems as though the argument boils down to "When two or more entities interact they act according to their identities." (correct me if I'm wrong.)

There is nothing in this statement that the dualist cannot concede. What people know about an entity is not a property of the entity.

TheJollyNihilist said...

Very good response, Aaron. I always find that thoughtful critiques eventually strengthen my arguments, rather than weaken them. I particularly liked this passage:

"RA's statement regarding a rock is factually incorrect. For a human to test a rock, the human can touch it or see it (via light waves reflecting off of the rock), or something else. But does the same hold true for the rock testing a human? Of course it does! If a rock touches a human, isn't it true that the rock applies force to the human? And isn't it true that when a rock is within the line of sight of a human, that the human is also within the line of sight of the rock? Isn't it true that when light waves are reflecting off a rock and hitting a human, at the same time there are light waves reflecting off the human and hitting the rock? One may protest, "but the rock has no eyes!" But this is irrelevant, for the light waves are indeed reflecting off both the human and the rock and hitting each other nonetheless. The rock has visual observation of the human available to it whenever the human has visual observation of the rock available to him. And just as Axel_621 noted, whenever a force is applied, an opposite force is applied back. So if I were to touch a rock (apply force), the rock is touching me also (also applying force)."

It's very hard to refute that logic. And, indeed, some credit must go to Axel_621.

On another note, I'd never heard of the "Moral Razor" before, but it's certainly piqued my interest. I'd still probably classify myself as a moral relativist in that I don't think morality exists outside of each individual; that is, I don't believe any act is intrinsically moral or intrinsically immoral. However, discussions on Graveyard of the Gods have got a whole lot of ideas turning over in my mind.

Anonymous said...

Then the dualist can assert that the materialist does in fact 'test' the immaterial - simply without knoweldge or consciousness to the fact as the rock to the man.

The Schwa said...

Example (4), as a commentor pointed out, may be true as it stands because the "you" may be the son's mother . . . (Emphasis added)

Oh man! I am only referred to s "a commentator"??!! What a rip off!!

Aaron Kinney said...

anonymous:

Basically, it seems as though the argument boils down to "When two or more entities interact they act according to their identities." (correct me if I'm wrong.)

No that is incorrect. Try this instead: "When two or more entities interact, they must all conform to the requirements set forth by the interaction in question."

What that means is that you cannot have an immaterial entity applying force or control to a material one without force or control also being applied from the material entity to the immaterial one.

If a person believes in immaterialism, but also claims that immaterial entities CAN be observed and tested by material ones, then he has nothing to worry about from my argument.

This argument is meant to refute those immaterialists who believe that immaterial entities cannot be detected or observed by material entities a priori.

Aaron Kinney said...

fracnesthemagnificent:

On another note, I'd never heard of the "Moral Razor" before, but it's certainly piqued my interest.

Its a brilliant argument, and the real credit for the Moral Razor goes mainly to Stefan Molyneux, with credit to Francois for expounding on it in his excellent essay. If you get a chance, you should listen to Stefan Molyneux's podcasts. He will make you a moral objectivist and an anarchist in no time LOL

I'd still probably classify myself as a moral relativist in that I don't think morality exists outside of each individual; that is, I don't believe any act is intrinsically moral or intrinsically immoral.

BOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! HISSSSSS!!!!!!! ;-)

However, discussions on Graveyard of the Gods have got a whole lot of ideas turning over in my mind.

Dont give in to other views unless you are really convinced of their truth. If you ever wanna talk about morality and why its objective or relative, you can always talk to me or Franc or whoever at the Graveyard forums, or we can chat on Instant Message software. But one thing, Franc doesnt have as much patience for moral relativism as I do, hehe.

You do know that Im "MustangGT" on the graveyard forums, right?

Anonymous said...

You state "they must all conform to the requirements set forth by the interaction in question."

This is too vague to be an argument against the possibility of immaterialism. The requirements of the interaction are defined by the properties of the entities in question and the form of interaction in question. A rubber ball interacts with a brick wall in a different way than a metal ball interacts with a brick wall because the entities have different properties. “Interaction” isn’t a thing that exists independently. It doesn’t grow on trees and isn’t manufactured in a plant. In order to argue against the said interaction of immaterialism to materialism you must know the properties of immaterialism and the particular material including the form of action in question. You can’t argue against the properties of an interaction of a metal ball based on the interactions of a rubber ball. (secundum quid.) Lack of knowledge of a particular subject is not an argument against anything; a fallacy often committed by those adhering to Leibniz‘s law.

You state: "This argument is meant to refute those immaterialists who believe that immaterial entities cannot be detected or observed by material entities a priori."

Let me get this straight, this is an argument against subject P (immaterialists) who believe that I (immaterial) cannot be observed by subject M (material) a priori?? I must be going crazy because I was under the impression that a priori’s by definition are not observed which is by definition a posteriori. So now your argument is just true by definition?

Assume I’m really stupid, which I must be, and then explain to me why this is not a non-sequitur fallacy: “I am not aware of you thus you are not aware of me.”

or why this isn't just completely incoherent: "unknown variable 'U' can't interact with known variable 'K' on the basis of undefined interaction 'I'."

Anonymous said...

Where can I find the argument for moral objectivism?

Thanks.

Francois Tremblay said...

anonymous :
In the book "Logical Structure of Objectivism", by David Kelley

For a shorter and simpler version :
http://www.strongatheism.net/library/philosophy/case_for_objective_morality/

Francois Tremblay said...

"I don't believe any act is intrinsically moral or intrinsically immoral."

That is in fact correct. ACTIONS are not intrinsicaly moral or immoral. Values are. Biiiig difference.

Anonymous said...

It seems the book is in the process of revision? I have downloaded the "beta" version and will read your article. Thanks.

TheJollyNihilist said...

Aaron

Dont give in to other views unless you are really convinced of their truth. If you ever wanna talk about morality and why its objective or relative, you can always talk to me or Franc or whoever at the Graveyard forums, or we can chat on Instant Message software. But one thing, Franc doesnt have as much patience for moral relativism as I do, hehe.

You do know that Im "MustangGT" on the graveyard forums, right?


Thanks for the offer. I'd like to have that sort of a discussion sometime. As I said in other places, I'm very closed minded about some things (pro-abortion, pro-gay, atheist) but I'm open-minded about other things (my moral relativism). I certainly could be convinced otherwise, if a strong enough case was made. And, I definitely realize Franc isn't the biggest fan of moral relativism. I think on GotG I was once talking about it and Franc responded, "What the fuck are you talking about?"!

Francois,

That is in fact correct. ACTIONS are not intrinsicaly moral or immoral. Values are. Biiiig difference.

Thanks for weighing in. I'm going to read that link you provided.

At present, I think my stumbling block is this: Values, indeed, are objective. Nutrition is a value, and one can tangibly measure the consequences of proper nutrition or improper nutrition. However, I still do not see that as being at all prescriptive. I haven't been convinced that values, intrinsically, should be strived for. To me, you might be presupposing that one should strive for values.

Francois Tremblay said...

"However, I still do not see that as being at all prescriptive"

A value is a way to judge human action (as good or evil). So it is prescriptive in the sense that it helps to understand which actions are rational (based on facts) and which are undesirable (not based on facts).

"To me, you might be presupposing that one should strive for values."

That makes no sense. You cannot NOT strive for values - you always need to make choices, even if your choice is to do nothing.

Aaron Kinney said...

anonymous:

A rubber ball interacts with a brick wall in a different way than a metal ball interacts with a brick wall because the entities have different properties.

Not really. While the effects of the collision will be different between the two kinds of balls, they both have to conform to the same standards set forth by the interaction. Both balls have to come within physical contact with the wall, both balls have to exert force against the wall, and both balls will have force extered against them by the wall.

With the ball example, we can point to the laws of motion. Specifically, the one that says "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction". Im too lazy to look up which # that law of motion is.

In order to argue against the said interaction of immaterialism to materialism you must know the properties of immaterialism and the particular material including the form of action in question.

And in order to support the claim that immaterial entities even EXIST, you have to know the properties of immateral entities. If you cannot know these properties a priori because of the alleged nature of immaterial entities, then how can you even know that immaterial entities are undetectabel in the first place?

Actually, for the interaction in question, all I need to know are the properties of one of the entities: in this case the material entity. We know just how the material entity is restricted by its properties, and we know that for another entity to interact with the material entity, it must work within the restrictions set forth by the properties of that material entity.

If oil cannot mix with water, then how could water mix with oil? A restriction on one entity is a restriction on any other entity that wants to interact with it. Thats just logic.

I think youre missing the point. Its impossible for me to touch your hand without your hand also touching mine. Its impossible for me to have an immaterial soul interact with my material body without my material body interacting with my immaterial soul.

You can’t argue against the properties of an interaction of a metal ball based on the interactions of a rubber ball.

Im arguing about the interaction in question, not the balls in particular. If two objects are to come within physical contact with eachother, their interaction will be governed by the things that "physical contact" entails. We can rest assured that REGARDLESS of whether the entites are rubber balls, metal balls, blobs of monkey shit, or puffs of smoke, for these entities to come within "physical contact" will REQUIRE that force is being applied back and forth between the two entities and that their actual material selves will physically touch.

Are you going to tell me that because of your secundum quid protest, I cannot logically predict that two entities both must necessarily touch eachother when the interaction "physical contact" happens between them? Are you going to tell me that because of secundum quid, I cannot logically state that if I am to touch your hand with my finger, your hand must also touch my finger?

Isnt it silly to claim, as immaterialists claim, that my finger may touch your hand, but your hand will never come into contact with my finger?

Lack of knowledge of a particular subject is not an argument against anything

My argument is based on what we DO logically know, not what we dont. I am using what we DO know about reality and logic and physics to show that the CLAIM by immaterialists that immaterial entities cannot a priori be detected by material means is bullshit.

Let me get this straight, this is an argument against subject P (immaterialists) who believe that I (immaterial) cannot be observed by subject M (material) a priori?? I must be going crazy because I was under the impression that a priori’s by definition are not observed which is by definition a posteriori. So now your argument is just true by definition?

No. What my argument is, is a reconciling of the contradictory claims that immaterialists make. My argument is a RESPONSE to the immaterialist claim that immaterial entities can have their cake and eat it too. They cant.

My argument says that if I cannot be observed by subject M a priori (as immaterialists claim), then M cannot be observed by subject I a priori (which immaterialists deny).

You see, IMMATERIALISTS tend to claim that I cannot be observed by M, but M can indeed by observed by I. That is an asymmetrical claim and its total illogical bullshit.

So my argument is saying to the immaterialist: If you claim that M can be observed by I, then I must be observable by M. However, if I truly cannot be observed by M a priori, then M cannot be observed by I a priori.

I am telling immaterialists that they cannot have thier cake and eat it too.

Does that clear it up for you?

And if you want the argument for moral objectivism, a good place to start is www.whatisobjectivism.com

Anonymous, I want to let you know right now that I do appreciate your criticisms and I understand your frustration or confusion with what I am trying to say in this post. I think I may have straightened out my argument a bit better since I used your explanation with the Is and Ms. Let me know what you think of my response, and if my argument makes more sense to you now.

Anonymous said...

Aaron,

The claims your making do make more sense to me now. However...

Your response (sorry I don't know how to do italics):

~ "Not really. While the effects of the collision will be different between the two kinds of balls, they both have to conform to the same standards set forth by the interaction. Both balls have to come within physical contact with the wall, both balls have to exert force against the wall, and both balls will have force extered against them by the wall."

I suppose your statement is generally true while mine is particularly true... but then what does a materialist have to do with things such as universals and generalities? I have more to say concerning this issue but it regards the rest of your response so I will wait till the end.

~ "in order to support the claim that immaterial entities even EXIST, you have to know the properties of immateral entities. If you cannot know these properties a priori because of the alleged nature of immaterial entities, then how can you even know that immaterial entities are undetectabel in the first place?"

This is a half truth - In order to know a rubber ball exists I don't have to know the properties of rubber in a scientific sense. In fact I don't even have to know what "rubber is. I may point to the rubber ball and say "that's a rubber ball" but I don't actually know everything about its particular properties. All I have to know is that the object perceived is defined as a "rubber ball" - you don't have to know what cancer is or how it works in order to have cancer and know that you have a disease called cancer.

You may say "ah ha! got ya! you said 'perceived' and immaterial entities aren't perceived!" And this is my major problem with your argument that I have had at the outset, though I don’t know that I made my self clear. I don’t know of any dualist or immaterialist that claims that immaterial entities are not perceived or acted upon on the basis by which your argument could be valid. Any such dualist or immaterialist who claims that the material has no effect on the immaterial needs to be punched in the face and then asked “did your immaterial mind perceive that?” Well, let me leave that track alone for the time and get back to the previous one. So you say, “while a man may not know the detailed particulars of a rubber ball he would at least be able to describe the rubber ball’s most basic qualities (or properties) upon experience. And I would say, “So what is the problem? Logic is immaterial and you can describe the basic properties of logic?” And therein lies the problem perhaps, you are arguing against a form of immaterialism that I don’t believe anyone adheres to while I am defending a form of immaterialism which says that immaterial entities can be perceived, acted upon, influenced etc.

However, there may be more problems with your last statement than this. According to the immaterialist “spirit” or “non-material” is a property. The only reason why you reject these as properties is because you don’t believe they exist. That’s why whenever you hear someone ask a Christian “describe God” usually the first words out of their mouth is “a non-physical etc.” If immaterial entities exist then naturally non-physical would be a property distinguishable from physical. The only way to differentiate is by variance so naturally if there is no immaterial then one cannot make the differentiation between the material and non-material. If all that exists is ‘ball’ then I cannot distinguish ‘ball’ (requiring that “I“ does not exist either). This is one of the reasons why Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” statement is irrelevant.

So in order to know that a thing exists how many properties must you know? One? Two? - Sorites paradox.

~ “Actually, for the interaction in question, all I need to know are the properties of one of the entities: in this case the material entity. We know just how the material entity is restricted by its properties, and we know that for another entity to interact with the material entity, it must work within the restrictions set forth by the properties of that material entity.”

This is a very vague statement. If I throw a rubber ball into water the properties of the rubber ball react differently than they do if I throw it into a wall. We only know that rubber has elasticity because it interacts with other entities. Surely, as a materialist you will agree with me when I say that we only know the restrictions of the properties by its experienced interaction. Are you claiming that you can know that a rubber ball will bounce if all you know is the rubber ball and nothing else? If I’m going to discover the cure for cancer I don’t just stare at cancer. There can be no transference of knowledge from cancer’s properties to me unless there is interaction. In light of this I would say my argument still stands. **In order to state conclusively that material entities cannot ‘act such and such’ with immaterial entities there must have been interaction of some form in order to prove that in the first place. The only way to argue that immaterial entities cannot interact with material entities is to argue that they don’t exist: You cannot take their existence granted for the sake of argument.

Now I think we are arguing past each other… I do not claim that material entities cannot act upon immaterial entities. Why would any immaterialist believe such a claim? What would be the point of immaterialism? Nevertheless, let me address a few more things and then move onto a different aspect of your argument:

~ “If two objects are to come within physical contact with eachother, their interaction will be governed by the things that "physical contact" entails. We can rest assured that REGARDLESS of whether the entites are rubber balls, metal balls, blobs of monkey shit, or puffs of smoke, for these entities to come within "physical contact" will REQUIRE that force is being applied back and forth between the two entities and that their actual material selves will physically touch.”

I’m sure you saw the problem with this statement that since the issue in question is not interaction of two physical entities but physical and non-physical... You must be trying to make some other point but I’m not sure what. As I believe I have now made clear, I state that to know the laws of property interaction one must ’test’ the interaction (or know it axiomatically…) so to argue that you know the properties of interaction of immaterial vs. material based on what you know about material vs. material is simply flawed. Again, lack of knowledge isn’t an argument against anything.

~ “Are you going to tell me that because of your secundum quid protest, I cannot logically predict that two entities both must necessarily touch eachother when the interaction "physical contact" happens between them? Are you going to tell me that because of secundum quid, I cannot logically state that if I am to touch your hand with my finger, your hand must also touch my finger?”

By what experience do you base that prediction? On material vs. immaterial? On material vs. material? Either way you’ve already lost the argument. If you say that you have experienced it on material vs. immaterial then you merely concede my point that immaterial entities and material entities exist and interact. If you base it on material vs. material then you merely concede that you aren’t basing your prediction on anything but prejudicial conjecture -which doesn‘t fly in logical debates. So yes I am going to tell you that because of my secundum quid protest you cannot logically predict etc… By the way, “physical contact” happens between two material entities - I’m not sure what you would call immaterial/material contact (maybe “contact with the physical” or “contact with the immaterial“?)

~ “Isnt it silly to claim, as immaterialists claim, that my finger may touch your hand, but your hand will never come into contact with my finger?”

Yeah… assuming this isn’t a straw man since “fingers” and “hand” are physical.

~ “My argument says that if I cannot be observed by subject M a priori (as immaterialists claim), then M cannot be observed by subject I a priori (which immaterialists deny).”

If this is your argument then I agree. But I don’t think this is an argument against immaterialism - just an argument against a faulty statement by immaterialists. If the immaterialist was thinking straight or had any cogent view then they would realize that those things which they often claim are “immaterial” are being acted upon by the material.

~ “You see, IMMATERIALISTS tend to claim that I cannot be observed by M, but M can indeed by observed by I. That is an asymmetrical claim and its total illogical bullshit.”

Now here may be a real problem - What do you mean by observe? Do you mean to say that if I am not aware of you then you cannot be aware of me? Obviously this is the illogical statement. Do you mean that if I cannot feel you then you cannot feel me? This is an illogical statement. Do you mean that if I am without knowledge as to your properties then you are without knowledge to my properties? These statements are symmetrical but guess what? Illogical, or to be more precise non sequitur.

And I appreciate your argument. I had often heard similar arguments against Idealism but never applied to any form of dualism or immaterialism. It caused me to think about and more carefully define my own beliefs.

Aaron Kinney said...

Anonymous,

First thing is first: You said you didnt know how to do italics. Well in here, italics are done with HTML code. Basically if I want to put this word in italics, All I have to do is write it like this: [i]italics[/i] but with the [] replaced with <>. Gosh I hope those greater and less than signs appear normally on the screen after I submit this! Its actually really easy to do. If you ever get a spare moment, google "HTML italics" and you will get all the detailed instructions you will need to do it in the future.

Now on to the meat of your comment:

This is a half truth - In order to know a rubber ball exists I don't have to know the properties of rubber in a scientific sense... ...you don't have to know what cancer is or how it works in order to have cancer and know that you have a disease called cancer.

That is true. However, if one has cancer and can point it out - even without knowing the specifics of what it does or how it got there - that is alot more than an immaterialist can do with their claims of "souls" or other immaterial entities. Immaterialists suppose the existence of immaterial entities without the equivalent of cancer symptoms or legions on the skin to point out.

You may say "ah ha! got ya! you said 'perceived' and immaterial entities aren't perceived!" And this is my major problem with your argument that I have had at the outset, though I don’t know that I made my self clear. I don’t know of any dualist or immaterialist that claims that immaterial entities are not perceived or acted upon on the basis by which your argument could be valid.

What about the Christians who say that prayer cannot be tested, or that God can never be found through a telescope or through any other material means? What about the psychic fortune tellers who say that only THEY can detect spirits but no material instrumentation can? What about the mystics who insist souls reside within us all and float into the sky upon our death, while simultaneously insisting that these souls cannot be tested or measured or independently confirmed of existing?

Any such dualist or immaterialist who claims that the material has no effect on the immaterial needs to be punched in the face and then asked “did your immaterial mind perceive that?”

Hear hear! Well said.

So you say, “while a man may not know the detailed particulars of a rubber ball he would at least be able to describe the rubber ball’s most basic qualities (or properties) upon experience. And I would say, “So what is the problem? Logic is immaterial and you can describe the basic properties of logic?”

I disagree that logic is immaterial. I have consistently - as a materialist - maintained that logic is material. Logic is a conceptual tool that humans use to understand the properties of reality. Concepts are material, and properties of material entities are themselves material as well.

And therein lies the problem perhaps, you are arguing against a form of immaterialism that I don’t believe anyone adheres to while I am defending a form of immaterialism which says that immaterial entities can be perceived, acted upon, influenced etc.

Ahhhh. Well, I must tell you that in my original post, I argued against BOTH of these kinds of immaterialism. The kind of immaterialism that you "dont believe anyone adheres to" is the kind where my main argument is pointed at (and I do assure you that many people do hold to this kind of immaterialism, although they tend to be more of the average joe, uneducated kind of immaterialist). But for the kind of immaterialism that you are defending: the kind that you say can be perceived, acted upon, and influenced etc... I offered Randi's Million Dollar Challenge in my original post.

And after all, if an immaterial entity can be interacted with by material entities, then how can the former entity truly be considered immaterial?

If an immaterial entity can be acted upon by a material one, then the immaterial entity must have substance and must have mass and must obey the laws of physics, it must have inertia, gravitation, etc... so wouldnt it qualify as a material entity anyway?

However, there may be more problems with your last statement than this. According to the immaterialist “spirit” or “non-material” is a property. The only reason why you reject these as properties is because you don’t believe they exist.

You phrased that wrong. It is not my burden to prove their existence. I would respond to your statement by saying: "No, in fact the only reason why I reject these as properties is because the Immaterialists cannot - and have nothing to - support their claim that these properties exist. In addition, many of their various definitions of these properties are self-refuting, circular, etc..."

That’s why whenever you hear someone ask a Christian “describe God” usually the first words out of their mouth is “a non-physical etc.” If immaterial entities exist then naturally non-physical would be a property distinguishable from physical.

OF course! non-material is just another way of saying non-existing, really. They want to posit an entity that lacks all the properties of what an existing entity possesses! Material = existing; Immaterial = nonexisting. Its fancy verbage meant to repackage the absurd concept of an entity that exists but doesnt at the same time. Its a way of using language to hide a logical contradiction within the concept itself.

The only way to differentiate is by variance so naturally if there is no immaterial then one cannot make the differentiation between the material and non-material. If all that exists is ‘ball’ then I cannot distinguish ‘ball’ (requiring that “I“ does not exist either). This is one of the reasons why Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum” statement is irrelevant.

I dont understand what you are saying here, nor am I very familiar with Descartes. Nor do I know what cogito ergo sum means. Perhaps you could rephrase this part in laymens terms for me?

This is a very vague statement. If I throw a rubber ball into water the properties of the rubber ball react differently than they do if I throw it into a wall.

The particulars of hitting the water vs. hitting the wall are irrelevant to my argument. That is because my argument does not rest on whether the entity being hit is water or a wall, but whether the entity can even BE hit at all.

We only know that rubber has elasticity because it interacts with other entities. Surely, as a materialist you will agree with me when I say that we only know the restrictions of the properties by its experienced interaction.

Sure.

Are you claiming that you can know that a rubber ball will bounce if all you know is the rubber ball and nothing else?

No. Whether the ball bounces off another object or passes through it is irrelevant to my argument. In addition, I do not only know of the rubber ball and nothing else. True, I may know nothing of the entity that the ball will strike, but I will at least know about 1) the rubber ball, and 2) the rules of physics in which the rubber ball operates. Now, knowing the rules by which the ball operates, and knowing the ball itself, I can state that IF the ball is to strike an unknown entity, the ball must be able to apply force to the entity, and in turn the entity will apply force to the ball. That is because the ball operates under a given set of rules, and for the ball to interact with any other entity, BOTH entities must OBEY the rules for the dimension or existence in which the ball (and the unknown entity) are operating in.

**In order to state conclusively that material entities cannot ‘act such and such’ with immaterial entities there must have been interaction of some form in order to prove that in the first place. The only way to argue that immaterial entities cannot interact with material entities is to argue that they don’t exist: You cannot take their existence granted for the sake of argument.

Well I have no problem with your argument. Your argument actually appears to be an argument AGAINST the kind of immaterialism that I am criticizing anyway. And I think this underscores the fact that my main argument against asymmetry applies to a KIND of immaterialism that you do not believe in, nor are defending. In fact it seems that both you and I agree that the KIND of immaterialism that claims that material entities cannot detect or measure it in principle is absurd.

Now I think we are arguing past each other…

LOL I just read that line after writing my last line. Yes we are, but thats ok because I think we are figuring out that we agree with eachother more than initially known.

I do not claim that material entities cannot act upon immaterial entities.

Thank goodness. Now all I have to do is get you to admit that either 1) immaterial entities dont exist, or 2) immaterial entities are actually material entities anyway.

Why would any immaterialist believe such a claim?

Because they are stupid mystic superstitionists raised on fairy tales, ghost stories, bibles, tarot cards, and astrology charts. It is a more ignorant FORM of immaterialism, in my opinion. It is the more popular form of immaterialism that I believe is found more among the average joes than the kind you subscribe to.

What would be the point of immaterialism?

To provide a pseudo-rationalization for the empirically unverifiable belief in spirits and such, and to keep such belief intact in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. They change the rules and definitions of immaterialism to shield their irrational, and false, beliefs from being destroyed within their own minds by the facts of reality.

I’m sure you saw the problem with this statement that since the issue in question is not interaction of two physical entities but physical and non-physical...

Actually, the problem is not mine, but the immaterialists. That is because I dont believe that non-physical stuff exists anyway. And yes the problem is a big one, because the ONLY way ANY material entity (like a human body) can be interacted with is through MATERIAL means. So how the hell is a non-physical entity supposed to perform such a feat? Operate in a dimension (physical one) where it doesnt even exist? And conversely, how the hell is a material entity supposed to interact with a non-material one?

Again, the only way a material entity can be interacted with is through material means. Therefore, any entity that interacts with it, must be a physical entity; it must have a physical property to it, otherwise it cannot interact with anything physical.

Immaterial entites are a logical absurdity. They either self-refute, or they get redefined into the "physical" category.

As I believe I have now made clear, I state that to know the laws of property interaction one must ’test’ the interaction (or know it axiomatically…) so to argue that you know the properties of interaction of immaterial vs. material based on what you know about material vs. material is simply flawed. Again, lack of knowledge isn’t an argument against anything.

Okay, this helped me alot. It made your argument clearer to me, so thank you. Since you are coming from the "other" immaterialist perspective (the one my main argument wasnt directed at), Im not 100% sure how to respond to your argument, but I think I got a good idea. Im eager to read your thoughts on it:

You said "I state that to know the laws of property interaction one must ’test’ the interaction (or know it axiomatically…)" and I agree. But when you said "so to argue that you know the properties of interaction of immaterial vs. material based on what you know about material vs. material is simply flawed." I do not agree. You see, we need not know about the immaterial entity. We only need know about the material entity and the way it interacts (or the rules that govern its interactions). From here, we can say that if any entity "I" wishes to interact with entity "M", then both entities must obide by the rules. Furthermore, both entites must operate by the same set of rules in order to interact (symmetry). If both entities cannot obide by the same set of rules (asymmetry), then they cannot interact!

In fact, if two entities operate under different laws, then they do not reside within the same reality or dimension or existence. All entities in the universe operate under the SAME set of laws. Gravity is true on Earth, and it is true everywhere. The laws of physics are true on Earth, and they are true everywhere. If an entity cannot obide by these rules, then it cannot exist in this reality. In other words, if you cannot speak the language, then you cannot partake in the conversation.

Anonymous, do you claim that immaterial entities operate under different laws of nature than material ones? I do not believe that you are saying so, since you agree with me that if immaterial entities can interact with material ones, then they must be able to be interacted with by material entities.

Now Anonymous, if you do agree with me that all entities, material or immaterial, must abide by the same set of rules if they are to exist in the same reality, then isn't it safe to say that, in accordance with your earlier-stated argument, that we DO indeed know about, and are able to test, the "interaction", because all entities in this reality must obey the same laws of "interactuion"? (keep in mind that I dont mean that we need a level of knowledge of the interaction equivalent to a ball hitting water vs. hitting a wall, but instead all we need to know is that if a ball hits something, the something will indeed be hit; that if the ball applies force to entity X, that entity X will apply force to the ball in return).

But after writing that last parethesized sentence, I again realize that we may still be talking past eachother. I guess its because you and I define "immaterial" differently. What you define as immaterial, I define as material. And what I define as immaterial, you (thankfully) define as absurd. Do you agree with my analysis of our definition discrepancy?

By what experience do you base that prediction? On material vs. immaterial? On material vs. material? Either way you’ve already lost the argument.

Actually, I think that I am either in part or in whole, conceding with you, and becoming more aware of the difference between how we define "immaterial".

If you say that you have experienced it on material vs. immaterial then you merely concede my point that immaterial entities and material entities exist and interact.

This is true, and yes I would be conceding your point, if I claimed to have experienced it on material vs. immaterial. But that is, in fact, not my argument. And immediately I would state that, to me, this "immaterial" entity that interacts with, and is interacted with by, the material entity, is itself also "material". I would contend that "immaterial" just got defined out of existence (like God LOL).

If you base it on material vs. material then you merely concede that you aren’t basing your prediction on anything but prejudicial conjecture -which doesn‘t fly in logical debates.

I think that I am not basing it on either immaterial vs. material, nor material vs. material. I am basing it on the laws that govern "interactions" or causality. The laws of logic; of physics, etc... Like I said before, all entities are going to have to operate along the same laws. A material entity does not "switch" its set of laws it operates under just because an immaterial entity wants to play with it.

Imagine it like this: the "laws of nature" are spanish. You are a material entity, and I am an immaterial entity. All material entities speak spanish. So I want to talk to you. Can I talk to you in French? No, you only speak spanish. For me to talk to you, I have to do so in spanish. For the interaction (talking) to occur, ALL entities (both you and me) have to conform to the single, same set of rules (the spanish language) in order for the interaction to take place.

Im not sure how good that analogy is, but its the only one I could think of at the moment that didnt involve technical computer geek jargon.

By the way, “physical contact” happens between two material entities - I’m not sure what you would call immaterial/material contact (maybe “contact with the physical” or “contact with the immaterial“?)

And that is why immaterialism is an absurdity! Material entities can only be observed or interacted with through material means or material force. If entity "I" is going to interact with material entity "M", then entity "I" must by necessity have a material property to it! It must be material! Immaterialism gets defined out of existence or refutes itself every time you try to pin it down.

honestly, immaterialism is such a slimy creature. Its impossible to grab onto or pin down, like a greased pig. Materialism, on the other hand, is easy to grab onto, like a good solid handle.

If this is your argument then I agree. But I don’t think this is an argument against immaterialism - just an argument against a faulty statement by immaterialists.

Done give me a no true scotsman fallacy. It is an argument against a faulty statement, yes (but I contend that all immaterialism is faulty). However, this is definitely a popular belief held by many immaterialists, though maybe not the more intellectual ones, and it is definitely worth addressing, especially when the average churchgoing joe sixpack holds to these kind of absurd illogical notions.

If the immaterialist was thinking straight or had any cogent view then they would realize that those things which they often claim are “immaterial” are being acted upon by the material.

I agree.

But, I would like to take it one step further. If immaterialists was thinking straight then they would realize that those things which they often claim are "immaterial" cannot in fact escape the "material" category of existent things. Anything that exists is material, and if an allegedly "immaterial" entity is interacting with a material one, then it is material as well.

Now here may be a real problem - What do you mean by observe?

What I mean is the principle of detectability or the potential to have a relationship with the other entity, whether that relationship is merely being within the others line of sight or somehow measuring or manipulating the entity. I mean "observable" in the scientific sense, not the literal visual sense.

Do you mean to say that if I am not aware of you then you cannot be aware of me?

No. I mean to say that if you cannot be aware of me in principle, then I cannot be aware of you in principle.

Obviously this is the illogical statement. Do you mean that if I cannot feel you then you cannot feel me?

I mean that if you cannot, in principle, feel me, then I cannot, in principle, feel you. Its more of the potential to feel or observe; whether or not you exercise that potential is irrelevant.

This is an illogical statement. Do you mean that if I am without knowledge as to your properties then you are without knowledge to my properties? These statements are symmetrical but guess what? Illogical, or to be more precise non sequitur.

This is due to the confusion over my not-specific-enough sentences. My apologies. I am talking more about the principle of, or potential to, observe or touch or otherwise interact with another entity. The door has to be open both ways, and whether or not eitehr entity actually passes through that door, or excercises their ability to observe or touch the other entity, is irrelevant.

And I appreciate your argument. I had often heard similar arguments against Idealism but never applied to any form of dualism or immaterialism. It caused me to think about and more carefully define my own beliefs.

Thanx Anonymous, I appreciate yours as well. But I know so little about your views, while mine are exposed on this site for all to see.

So what do you believe exactly? You said you believe in immaterialism, but your version of immaterialism is just materialism to me. That is because I define any entity that can be observed or tested or detected through material means to be material itself.

What does immaterialism mean to you? And can you please explain to me how an entity that can be detected by a scientific instrument, and can interact with material entities, be "immaterial"?

To me, the ignorant brand of immaterialism is a logical absurdity, while your more intellectual brand of immaterialism actually defines "immaterialism" out of existence, and everything becomes material de facto.

breakerslion said...

I thought about staying out of this one. I suspect that Franc finds my style annoying, and you might also.

I thought about writing in the style of my imaginary friend that I just made up, Norman the Nitpicker. As Norman, I was going to go up and down your arguments with all-but-moot and amusing (to me anyway) parodies of some of the objections you have already received. Example: If I'm in your line of sight, but I'm on the other side of the International Date Line, does that mean that I can't observe you until tomorrow? Are you seeing me yesterday?

Just because I am not serious, that does not mean that I don't take you seriously, however.

"Logic is material in the same way that all meta-data is material. Properties of material entities are material as well, and that includes logic."

Nicely said, and I agree. I do have some difficulty understanding how exactly you define the terms "Physical", "Material", "Entity", and "Immaterial". To me, matter, or that which is material, is a subset of the physical universe. Energy and void are also components.

Playing the Devil's advocate here. Radio waves are not by my definition material, although they have a material source. Their point of origin is not in my line of sight, yet they are passing through me even now. They can interact with a material object (a radio). Other coherent energy structures exist. It is theoretically possible, though unlikely, for a higher-degree energy coherency to exist, and be self-aware, though I would be at a loss to describe the power requirements and the nature of the power source to make such a thing possible. It is possible, though unlikely, for a planet to develop the prerequisites to a sustained ecosystem.

Ok, If you replace your rubber ball with a radio wave, how does that affect your argument?

Scenario 2. Muffy is very superstitious. Muffy believes that there is a ghost in the house at 14 Bourbon St., and always crosses the street before walking past there. Muffy has never seen the ghost, and has no empirical proof that the ghost exists. Muffy has been told of the ghost's existence by others who also believe it is there for one reason or another. I don't think you can get any more immaterial than Muffy's ghost, but it is affecting her behavior.

What is the criteria for "existence" of the immaterial?

I believe, as I think you do also that the above statement is an oxymoron, but a psychologist would tell you that Muffy's ghost is real to her in a way that we can't accept. This then becomes an attribute of Muffy, and therefore material in the same way as your definition of the materiality of logic.

Your thoughts?

Francois Tremblay said...

Of course any discussion of the immaterial is pointless. Aaron's posts aim to show just another way in which the notion is meaningless, but it shouldn't be seen as a necessary argument. It is an intellectual exercuse, nothing more.

The only way to make any discussion of "immaterial" relevant would be to either define "immaterial" meaningfully, or to refute rationality. Either of these is, let's be honest, absurd to even consider.

breakerslion said...

Which is why, I guess, it brings out the absurdist in me.

I tried to post a correction last night, but the site was acting up. I should have said, "What are the criteria for the 'existence' of the non-physical?" This would have skirted the double meaning of "material".

Aaron Kinney said...

Beakerslion,

My responses to your comments:

Radio waves are not by my definition material, although they have a material source.

Then we are using a different definition of material. In my definition, radio waves are material, just like electrons and photons and xrays and all that stuff. Anything that is composed of any detectable stuff is material, and that includes energy waves and photons and such.

Ok, If you replace your rubber ball with a radio wave, how does that affect your argument?

It may affect the specifics, but not the principles. Radio waves are just as material to me, and to science, as a rubber ball is. "Material" does not mean something that you can grab or touch, but something that exists and can be detected and measured and quantified and defined. A radio wave falls into this category the same as a rubber ball does or even a lightning ball.

Muffy is affected not by an immaterial ghost, but by her peers or friends who told her that the ghost exists. She is being affected by material information from material entites, not from an actual ghost haunting her.

What is the criteria for "existence" of the immaterial?

Not sure if I understand the question? Do you mean how can we determine whether immaterial entities exist?

breakerslion said...

It is a trick question, and one that those who posit immaterial (by your definition) beings would do well to ponder.

Matter and energy are different states of the same thing. You can have any number of theoretical scenarios, but the simple truth is, if there is an invisible, untouchable, and omnipresent being that can so much as move one grain of dust, that being must expend energy to do so. If that being is capable of expending energy in the physical universe, then whatever protrusion through which the energy is expended, and the energy itself must be physical (material).

My money is on the wind as a cause. The Fundies might bitch about Darwin, but if they want to discard Newton Einstein, Bohr, etc., they might as well just sit around and pour gravy on their heads and watch Uri Geller reruns. Oh yeah, that's pretty much the same as....

breakerslion said...

I did say I was playing devil's advocate. I would love some time to hear how something that by definition does not exist (in the physical universe) can be known to exist.

I was also interested in how you would answer the Muffy scenario. It is a simple example of the transmittal of belief, and the role of imagination in that process.

Anonymous said...

Aaron,
This will probably be my last post, at least in regards to this methexis problem. The conversation is branching out into broad areas that would eventually require each of us to give a statement and defense of our entire metaphysic. As usual, I could go and do a comment by comment critique of your response but this seems to be what is branching the topic out in the first place.

Rather let me address the issue once again from an overall standpoint (in doing so I will have to address particular comments). You may notice me going back to things I said earlier… this is only because I believe they were not addressed or misunderstood.

You state that if two entities are going to exist then they must adhere to the stated laws. I have argued on materialist grounds that the stated laws are only defined by the entities in question - There is no abstract “law of physics” by which all entities must adhere to. Pre-hyperbolic geomtrists would have asserted It was insane to believe in anything other than Euclidean geometry. After all, Euclidean geometry was a LAW of mathematics! A “law” is only something we use to describe our understanding of how certain entities have interacted within the past. We have not observed all entities nor all entities interacting. Since the “laws” of interaction which you refer to are determined by BOTH (or ’all’) entities in question and not by an abstract predetermined law then it is simply an argument from ignorance to say that an unknown entity with unknown properties CANNOT interact in an undefined way with another particular entity. And this is where I have continuously stated that lack of knowledge is not an argument against anything. Simply because an immaterialist has not defined an immaterial entity to you does not prove that immaterial entities do not exist. Remember, any “pre-determined law of interaction” by which you may wish to refer to in order to defeat the idea of an immaterial entity interacting with a material one is not transcendent of the entities but contained by them and only known by observation of particular interaction. Furthermore, for you to say “we DO know X and the properties of X, therefore we KNOW it cannot act… [fill in the blank]” is still faulty logic because you only KNOW that X operates in such a way by particular interaction with another entity NOT by coherent knowledge of the entity interacting in all circumstances with all entities. I believe I have stated this a few times, though not in the same words… I‘m still not sure if I have made this clear enough yet.

You have said that any description of immaterial entities will morph them into material ones. I don’t believe you have yet even given a definition for material entities. While we, or I at least, don’t have time to go into this branch I will merely assert (in the tradition of Francois Tremblay within this conversation) two things: 1) This is a universal negative and 2) In order to allocate the term ‘material’ in such a way would merely destroy the word “material” as well as “immaterial” and not the argument for them. I’ll let you give your own assertions against this.

At this point you may ask me what reason do we have to believe in immaterial entities? Well, this is one of those branches that goes beyond the immediate scope of the original discussion and therefore I will leave it be.

If I feel too dissatisfied leaving the topic as is I may return.

Until next time,
Peace.

Anonymous said...

Let me correct something from my last post:

I mispoke and said that you haven't tried to define material yet when I see that you have.

Still, I believe I answered this in some earlier posts including the last one. To define material as existence is to explain it away or to make the argument "true by definition".

Francois Tremblay said...

"A “law” is only something we use to describe our understanding of how certain entities have interacted within the past."

No it's not.


"Simply because an immaterialist has not defined an immaterial entity to you does not prove that immaterial entities do not exist."

Burden of proof. You lose, sir.

Anonymous said...

No it's not.

Yes it is.

Burden of proof. You lose, sir.

Ummm... I already anticipated this response and gave my rebuttal in my previous post. I hope you're usually more cogent than you have shown yourself to be here Franc.

Beside the above you obviously missed the entire point of my correspondence. It was the critique of a particular argument's validity it wasn't meant to be a excursus on my metaphysic or the positive claimant of one.

Francois Tremblay said...

GOOD DAY SIR !

Anonymous said...

last.

The Celtic Chimp said...

For folk who claim to be logical, you sure do make a few leaps of faith.

The 'moral razor' keeps popping up. You surely cannot be so remiss as to not notice that it is a completely unjustified assertion.
Why is it invalid if it is asymmetrical in application? If morality is subjective it makes perfect sense.

It is patently absurd and kills any objective morality view instantly. If morality is objectivly true then surely one group of people may operate a correct (factually correct) morality and another group not do so. The razor neatly kills off the first groups morality because it is not applied universally. A baseless assertion.


2) To hold up this 10 pound object, I need not exert any force.

The point about gravity is a very good one. In your symmetrical statement, you said:

2) To hold up this 10 pound object, I must exert 10 pounds of force.

In the asymmetrical example it has morphed into this

2) To hold up this 10 pound object, I need not exert any force.

shouldn't it read

To hold up this 10 pound object, I need not exert 10 pounds of force

In low gravity, of course, you need not exert 10 pounds of force to hold up a 10 pound object. Gravitation force varies from one place to another. In deep space there is none. Does that mean that gravity can't exist anywhere.